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Cam Reid of Blue Cross
by Arpie Shirehorse
(Photo by Stace Robertson)
Hamilton punk band Blue Cross play a show at Nivara Lounge this coming Friday July 29th, together with Kitchen's Floor and GPOGP. HUP caught up with the band's drummer Cam Reid to talk about the band’s history, its future plans, the Hamilton music scene and his involvement in Press Gang Records.
What was the catalyst for starting Blue Cross? Blue Cross is myself on drums, Sam Willoughby on guitar, Chris Yousef on vocals and Ash Spittal on bass. I moved from Wellington to Hamilton in late 2013, and Sam got in touch right away about starting a band. Sam wanted to play guitar in a band again as he was only playing bass in Wizz Kids at the time. I really liked his guitar work in Wasteland and The Vrill, so of course I was keen on the idea. Instead of doing anything about the proposed band, I filled in on drums for PCP Eagles for a few months, reformed Old Loaves, and kept up writing and playing with Phone Sex Robots in Wellington.
At Punkfest 2014 in Christchurch, me and Chris bonded over a shared love of noisy and ugly heavy music which was probably brought on by an excellent set by Log Horn Breed, and he said that he was in on the plan to make a band with Sam. We decided we wanted to go for an AmRep noise-band sound, try and make something sinister, ape our heroes a bit, like the Jesus Lizard, Big Black and Unsane. We met Dean later in 2015 as he was a regular at all of the shows in Hamilton, taking photos, filming stuff and just being an all-round awesome guy. It turned out he was desperate to start a band before he had to go back to the U.S. as he was over here studying at the university on an exchange, so we enlisted him in the band and called ourselves [band] for a bit until we came up with Negative Capability. Unfortunately for all of us in the band, we formed not long before Dean had to leave, so writing, rehearsing, playing shows and recording was all done in a matter of a few weeks, maybe a month at most. The band wasn’t much of a departure for me, I’d played bass in a couple of bands by then, but it was great getting to move away from the drum throne for a bit and work with people I’d never played with before.
All too soon, Dean moved home to the U.S. so we decided to start again under the name of Blue Cross. We asked our friend Ash to play bass for us and I moved on to the drums. I’m a much more robotic drummer, so our Blue Cross material is a bit heavier and simpler, at least drumming wise. With the new name, we’ve started to touch on a bit of an industrial influence. For me, this stems from my time playing in the band Society in Wellington, and prior to that, a band called DIAL. One of the challenges for this band, though, is that we’re not allowed to use drop tuning at all. Everything has to be in E-standard, and it must be heavy.
The EP on Bandcamp was released just over a year ago (under the moniker Negative Capability) – any plans to record further? The plan for 2016 was initially to play no shows, and instead write and record a 12” LP, but somehow we caved and agreed to a few shows. We haven’t managed to drop the Negative Capability material entirely just yet, which is something we will look to do in the future once we’ve written more songs. It’s definitely my plan for this band to get into the recording studio soon, or at least start demoing some material for an album. We do have two new songs that I’m especially proud of, shifting into a more industrial approach compared to the previous material. I’ve been listening to a lot of Ministry, Killing Joke, Headless Chickens, early Shihad and UK post punk bands for inspiration. Massive riffs, repetitive structures.
What is your writing process typically? Other than Ash, we’ve all got other commitments as well, with Sam in Love Mess and Wizz Kids, and Chris in Wizz Kids as well, so we don’t spend as much time in the same room as each other as we’d like, so our preferred writing method of writing in the jam space hasn’t been possible for us for a while now. A lot of that also has to do with Sam losing his jam space on Ward Street. Being able to walk in with everything set up meant for a very productive session. We’ve been using a space at the uni recently, thanks to Kat from Cheshire Grimm, which has served us well for practising for shows, but that has been taken back by the student union, so we are on the hunt for a new space again.
To answer this from my own perspective, if I have a song for the band, my current process is to demo everything myself: bass, drums and guitar. I have a very rudimentary setup that allows me to record on my computer, and an electric drum kit also makes that much, much easier, otherwise I just programme simple beats to go along with the track. I then send it out to the band to learn, then when we’re in the jam room together, we can work on additions and deletions. But that’s just how I work. Sam’s approach is to bring a riff to the band and flesh it out in the room. I prefer a much more hands on approach as I very rarely get to dictate a song from the drum kit in any of my other bands.
What are your feelings about the Hamilton indie/punk scene at the moment? Would you say it’s in a healthy state? I still feel like a bit of an outsider in regards to the Hamilton music scene, as I’ve only been here for two years now, so I don’t feel I can really comment too accurately on the music scene here. This city has always produced some of the best bands in the country, and this has not changed. I wish that attendance at shows was higher, but I don’t want to discredit everyone that does come out to shows. I frequently see the same faces at shows, which makes me very happy. There’s certainly a desire for things to happen in this city and it seems that there are more touring bands coming through as well. I’d like to see more new bands, more indie bands as well. Just, more. That said, with bands like Wizz Kids, Contenders and Spiteful Urinator calling this place home, I feel very lucky knowing I can see them as often as possible.
Tell us about Press Gang Records! Who runs it, what’s the ethos, is there a masterplan for world domination? I started Press Gang Records in 2012 and I run it by myself at the moment. It’s a means for me to put out material from the bands I’m in, and also to put out releases from bands that I love, like Chalk Horses, Viking Weed, Odd Bodz and Hollywoodfun Downstairs. It isn’t genre specific, the only requirement for me to want to put something out is whether it’s good. I don’t take any profit or ownership of any of the releases. Everything always goes to the bands. They’re the ones who invested all that money in instruments, writing, practising, and recording, so they deserve to retain it all. I’ve mostly released cassette-only releases, but have also put out two 7”s and a 12”. I’d like to release more vinyl, and after having great dealings with Zenith Records in Melbourne, I think that is highly likely to become my main focus in future.
I have no master plan, definitely no desire for world domination. For my own bands, I’d much prefer to work with like-minded labels in different countries, so for something I might put out on Press Gang, then we’d release it on a different label in Australia, another label for Europe/UK and another label again for the U.S. I’d be happy if I can achieve at most something that resembles that, so that international consumers don’t have to pay a fortune in shipping. I really appreciate my customers in Europe, but I always feel so terrible when I see how much they’ve had to pay to receive the goods.
Is Britain doomed after voting to leave the EU? I don’t feel like I can answer this as I just don’t know enough about it, but from what I see in the media, it sure looks like it.
Any favourite Aussie bands? Royal Headache, Masses, Leather Towel, No Class
Which member of Blue Cross is the sportiest?! Sam rides bikes, so he wins that award.
What’s your favourite Blue Cross song to play live?
One of the newest with the working title of Ministry/Shihad Rip Off.
Which other NZ bands should we be listening to?
Rackets, Bargain Bin Laden, Big Tipper
You can curate a show anywhere in the world with any three bands, dead or alive, and there’s only one thing to drink…who/where/what are we quaffing?! PJ Harvey, Supergrass and Randy playing in my backyard, we are drinking wine and smoking a million cigarettes.
I N T E R V I E W
Matt Kennedy of Kitchen's Floor
by Arpie Shirehorse
(Photo by Korren Winters)
Basic lazy research tells me that Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, a big city with warm temperatures, reached freezing point for the first time ever in July 2007, reaching minus 0.1’C. In that same year, one of the city’s coolest bands was formed. It is entirely plausible that these two events are inextricably linked, and I for one am choosing to believe it. The band in question go by the name of Kitchen’s Floor, and their lo-fi DIY punk tunes are a veritable delight, reminding me of some of my favourite bands, particularly ‘Westing’ era Pavement and Guided By Voices. Luckily for us Hamiltronians, they are visiting our city on July 29th for a show at Nivara Lounge as part of a nationwide tour. HUP caught up with the band ahead of their visit.
You’re finally coming to NZ! What took so long? There were a few failed attempts over the years to organise something, and we were booked to play Camp A Low Hum in 2012 but instead I had to go to a friend's funeral the day we were meant to fly out which was depressing to say the least and then we were rejected each year after that for some reason. It definitely wasn't through lack of wanting to or trying. Up until I met Michael McClelland who organised this tour for us NZ just seemed a hard nut to crack. Communication and enthusiasm between both countries seems much better now though and I really hope it leads to more Australian bands touring NZ and vice versa.
Tell us about the Brisbane scene…are there a lot of bands/venues and is it generally well supported? Sure it's a place that has its own "sound" and is big enough to have a few unified musical circles but small enough that everyone is still connected in some way. We got the venues and our bands are damn good, hey NZ bands come play Brisbane! If I like and believe in a band from anywhere that wants to play Brisbane I'll go out of my way to organise stuff or help them out in any way as much as possible and I'd expect any other place to do the same. Community and duty.
Do Brisbane bands get overlooked at times in favour of those from Melbourne, Sydney etc. in terms of press coverage and getting their name out there? If you're making the kinda downer punk music we make it's kinda obvious we ain't gonna reach the heights of our Australian contemporaries say Royal Headache or Blank Realm. I mean I'm 30 and have been doing this band shit for ages and have only reached a certain level of whatever the heck this is. I think I've written at least a few decent albums which should theoretically make me as big as Beyonce right now but the world doesn't work that way so whatever. It doesn't matter if you're from Brisbane or Melbourne or Sydney or Kyogle, if you're making music independently and even if it's amazing and unique it ain't gonna take you to any greater heights than your own creative satisfaction unless you luck out like Courtney Barnett or whatever, and even that has it's obvious limits.
What was the catalyst for starting Kitchen’s Floor? I was 21 and had been in some silly bands and wanted a stable band that I had total control over and one that sounded like the world I saw so Kitchen's Floor was and is the sound of how I perceive the world.
You’ve been going for almost ten years which is quite an achievement…what’s the secret? The secret is that Kitchen's Floor is basically just myself so technically it can keep going as long as I live. The line-up has changed so many times, people have left or quit or I've kicked them out and by now half of Brisbane has played in the band at one point or another but throughout that drama the songs and intent remain the same so Kitchen's Floor just trudges on toward eventual ruin.
What is your writing process typically? Most of the songs tend to be written late at night alone by myself with an acoustic guitar. I often get quite drunk before and during the song writing process which helps bring out the demons.
Is Britain doomed after voting to leave the EU? I'm mainly concerned for the people I know over there and what impact it will have on them. If you wanna get all historically minded then nationalism is an awful concept that leads to so much unnecessary bullshit so events like this that divide countries and cultures can never lead to good things.
Any favourite NZ bands? I've been obsessed with GPOGP since hearing the Scrying LP last year, what they are doing is so unique and awesome. I'm looking forward to seeing Hex when we play Wellington, "Witches Of The Hex" is such a fkn cool anthem that I've been listening to daily lately. A lot of NZ bands at the moment seem to be embracing the occult and I am for it. We're playing with NZ legends Axemen as well who I've had some good times with when they toured here in 2011. Looking forward to seeing Pumice, Kraus, and The Trendees as well. I'm really excited to watch every band we play with. Obviously the Flying Nun catalogue is a massive influence on Australian bands, myself included. The Bats "Daddy's Highway" is one of my favourite albums of all time, it is total perfection.
Which member of KF is the sportiest?! Glen rides his bike around Brisbane like a champ. I am really good at walking long distances and Liam can bench press 600kg without a sweat.
What’s your favourite KF song to play live? "Strength" off our latest album Battle Of Brisbane. It's a short tight tune with some of my personal favourite lyrics which I get to scream the whole way through, and it seems to confuse the conservative punks out there which I get a kick out of.
Which other Brisbane bands should we be listening to? The crop of 2016: 100%, Bent, Scraps, Cannon, Piss Pain, Primitive Motion, Blank Realm, Teva, Hexmere, Extra Foxx, Clever, Per Purpose, Thigh Master, Rebel Yell.
You can curate a show anywhere in the world with any three bands, dead or alive, and there’s only one thing to drink…who/where/what are we quaffing?! More than anything it would be a show of the bands of my friends who are no longer on this earth - Meat Thump, Chrome Dome, and Clag. We'd be drinking Canadian Club fkn Whiskey, Bulmer's fkn Cider, and Oettinger fkn beer.
I N T E R V I E W
Ivan Muir from Nivara Lounge
by Ian Duggan
In 1916 Hamilton’s Band Rotunda first started hosting bands. Moving forward 100 years, and just down the road, Hamilton’s primary band venue today is Nivara Lounge. We talked to Ivan Muir, the owner of Nivara Lounge, about his vision for the venue, how he got into music, and where the Nivara Lounge name came from.
HUP: Ivan, firstly, what is your vision for Nivara Lounge?
Ivan: I see Nivara Lounge as a music hub. I’m trying to have live music, and I am selling records and t-shirts here. I want people to come down and have coffee and cake with things going on in the background. They might not even like what they see, but I want them to just experience it. Many people don’t like jazz, but I still want them to experience it. For people to see how they get the different sounds out of their instruments, and think “oh, that’s how they get that sound”.
Bands come and play originals down here. I have had teachers, lawyers and rubbish collectors come and play. Young bands can play here. I just love live music. I shut at 12, which lets bands from Auckland get home at a reasonable time. A venue can’t do it without the bands, and bands can’t do it without the venue. It’s a win-win for everyone. I would love to get to the point to hire staff. I’m never going to get rich from it, but I don’t class it as ‘work’.
HUP: You opened ‘Jazz, Blues Concept’ (a.k.a. J.B.C.) in 1997 on the same site that Nivara Lounge is in today, converting an old pool hall into a venue. You met a series of challenges there, and around 2000 you had to shut your doors. What are some of the lessons you learnt from running J.B.C that you are using to ensure the success of Nivara Lounge?
Ivan: Primarily, I run it as a business first instead of a hobby… even though it is. We are open four nights a week instead of seven, and I am running it as a one man band, except for some friends who work for free.
HUP: What made you want to go back to the same site, rather than somewhere else?
Ivan: The main reason is I have a passion for live music, and it is a great room for sound. Other than that, they are building a concourse with an amphitheatre next door with a few restaurants and cafes around it. I knew this was happening before I went back into the site, but it was supposed to be finished two years ago. It should be finished in May.
HUP: What is your preferred genre of music, or your favourite bands, and in your opinion who are the best bands you have seen play Nivara Lounge?
Ivan: It sounds like a cop out, but I have no preferred genre. Jazz is up there, but I like all music. I enjoy all types of live entertainment. It enriches ones life and takes you on a journey. I had five sisters and they took me to concerts; Leo Sayer, the Beach Boys, David Bowie, Rod Stewart. That’s how I got into music.
HUP: Where did the name 'Nivara Lounge' come from?
Ivan: I had used the [Nivara] name at a previous time, as Nivara Promotions. I wrote my full name down, Ivan James Muir, moved the letters around and removed some. I’m really pleased I got all of the letters from ‘Ivan’ in there.
I N T E R V I E W
The Joint Chiefs
by Arpie Shirehorse
Wellington’s The Joint Chiefs play Nivara Lounge on Friday July 8th. One half of the band is The Datsuns drummer Ben Cole. Arpie Shirehorse caught up with the duo ahead of their first Hamilton show.
Who are The Joint Chiefs?
TJC: We are Ben and Heidi. Drums and keys respectively, and we both do vocals.
How long have you been together and what was the catalyst for the band's existence?
Ben: We've been playing together as The Joint Chiefs for about.... 5 years? Or thereaboots. We work slow! We first met at jazz school in Wellington about 16 years ago tho, so we've been playing together on and off since then.
Heidi: Neither of us had played in bands where we were the songwriters before, we'd only ever really played other people’s music. We had lots of ideas for songs and thought "F*** it, we can do everything with just the two of us, so let's do it." It's so easy with two people to organise things too. "Shall we have band practice?" "Yes." "Ok then."
Ben: There's no arguments about songs either. If we're working on something and one of us doesn't really like it, we don't do it. It's not like there's a finite amount of ideas to pick from and the well's gonna run dry. We play exactly the kind of music that we wanna play.
Are there any main influences that you guys draw from, any bands/artists that inspire you to do what you do?
Ben: Not really influences in the sense of wanting to sound like a particular thing, but more musicians who do their thing in a genuine way. Flaming Lips, PJ Harvey, Meatbodies, Thee Oh Sees, Black Diamond Heavies, Tom Waits, Reigning Sound. The list really does go on. Artists that sound like themselves regardless. They'd probably sound the same even if no one had ever heard of them.
Heidi: Between us we've got a pretty eclectic mix of stuff we like. We've introduced each other to loads of different bands. The combination of all those things comes out sounding like us.
What are the immediate plans for TJC - shows/releases etc?
Heidi: We're currently recording songs on a telephone. It's pretty low rent. We bring them home and do vocals in Garageband on our dying 8-year-old laptop.
Ben: We wanna play more shows, but these days most venues, in Wellington at least, wanna charge bands to play, even if it's a free show. I guess they're just trying to survive. But that's the goal, play more shows!
You're playing in Hamilton! Have you played here before as TJC?
TJC: Nope! Hopefully it won't be the last time either.
What would be the favourite show you’ve played as TJC?
Heidi: We played a show here in Wellington with our friend Death Disco. A dude was so moved by us he gave us $20. Now that's cutting out the middle man!
Ben: We opened for Jakob, and it was our first time with pro lighting which was cool. Heidi's pedal did something weird and blew people's heads off too. That was excellent.
Life in TJC is probably quite different to being in The Datsuns. Do you get time on the road with The Datsuns to think about TJC stuff?
Ben: Yeah, I've usually got ideas wandering about in my head. There's lots of travel time so it's a good way to spend that. There's always cool stuff to see and cool people to meet which certainly gets the old brain fizzing.
I would imagine the buzz from playing in front of thousands at a time is very different from maybe tens or hundreds...do they both have their own charm and do you have a preference?
Ben: The two bands are really two totally different things. I don't really mind how many people are there. I just love to play and if anyone comes along to whoop it up, that's great.
Have the other Datsuns heard TJC, and if so what do they think of it!?
Ben: Phil's daughter Siggy is a massive fan!
Finally...will we be able to grab any merch at the show on July 8th?
Heidi: We're hopefully gonna make some shirts. Someone bought our album off bandcamp the other day, our first sale ever. A cool five bucks! That was pretty swell. Maybe we'll put it on memory sticks. The sky's our oyster!