I N T E R V I E W
‘A State of Mind’: An Interview with Hand of Glory
With Ian Duggan
Hamilton’s Hand of Glory are releasing their second album, ‘29 || 92’ – a follow up to their self-titled debut album from 1991 – through German tape label Thokei Tapes on the 23rd or 24th of this month. I talked to the band to find out why this material had never seen the light of day until now, what the title referred to, what became of everyone… just simple things, really… but I was left as something of a bewildered mess. Did I even get the answers I sought? Did I? Read about the experience, below.
This is an amalgam, a blend, a coalesce of thoughts, words and memories initiated by Ian Duggan when he interviewed Hand of Glory.
But before we start, the band would like to collectively intone : ‘we are not competing for your undivided attention : so if you have other things to do .. please …’ …
Well, the interview began with the tape recorder being switched on and the video camera focussed. And this is the ‘no1 best transcript’ of what then ensued.
Firstly, introductions and masked hellos – Peter, Kent, Martin, Gillian, Sean and Alec, and of course Ian – and so the bubble was fully rounded. Seats were taken and beer was served .. and the masks neatly folded.
‘29 || 92’ Ian began .. ‘ahh yes the time signature of the band’ Alec interjected.
Undeterred Ian continued with the thorny question as to ‘why it has taken the band so long to release this the second album ?’ The question almost answered itself. Peter though strode purposefully into another other answer – ‘it was a different time, the age of the CD, not downloads, it was cash up front, not file sharing, and well, we didn’t really fit into any record company model’. There was a wry, almost rueful smile from Peter at this point. ‘The band did try – but didn’t get anywhere .. that gig - remember, when we knew that some Flying Nun A & R types would be there - and I convinced you all to dress in cowboy outfits ? he continued.
Time is a great healer, for most things. Not all. The recollection still induced a slightly sharpish edge to the general laughter. The band drinks some more.
‘We had no money’ says Peter – attempting to move the collective memory on - away from those bloody hats. ‘That’s how we began – with no money .. Martin had a guitar and an amp, and Kent a bass .. and music .. well .. it was an entertainment for ourselves and our friends’. This seems to be working, the tension is easing, the collective band shoulder is softening. Peter seized the opportunity - ‘the kitchen at Memorial Drive – hitting pots and pans in glorious abandon ..’.
Looking at the video of the interview, it is just possible to see, at this point, a certain confusion in Ian’s eyes - what has this to do with the why ? What has happened to my question .. ?
So, before the band could fully settle into a hazily self-referential golden reflection of the past, Ian leaned purposefully forward, and asked : Thokei Tapes ?
Scanning the faces of the band as they mentally staggered and stumbled back into the present, Ian settled on Gillian – as she seemed the first to arrive. ‘Yes’ says Gillian. Pausing slightly – for effect. ‘It’s a long story’.
Ian relaxes slightly - this sounds promising.
‘The tape came to be released by Thokei Tapes entirely by chance’ Gillian begins.
Ian relaxes some more.
‘I saw that Alec Bathgate had released a recording and I decided to buy a download’ Gillian says. ‘I saw that it was also available on cassette tape, so I decided to buy the cassette from Thokei Tapes .. well .. the tape got lost in the mail. Thomas had emailed to say the tape was on its way and then checked a few weeks later to see if it had arrived. It hadn’t.”
Ian is now quite happily relaxed. Some actual, useful, copy he thinks.
‘One day I received the Thokei Tapes newsletter and discovered that Thomas had made the Bandcamp page for another band I was in – I never knew. In my next email communication with him – regarding the missing tape ( he was now offering to refund me ) – I mentioned this. He then asked me if I was involved in any other bands and I mentioned that I had just completed mixing HoG. He asked if he could hear it’.
‘A month later he emailed to remind me to send him a Dropbox link to the album. So I did. A month after that the Alec Bathgate tape finally turned up.’
Spontaneously the band toast Gillian.
More beer is passed around.
Ian senses that the interview is in a delicate position. Having just got it back on track, Ian can see it slipping away again – but ever the nimble interviewer, he asked - ‘So you mixed the album Gillian ?’
‘Yes’ says Gillian. Pausing slightly for effect. ‘It’s a long story’.
The band laugh. And toast Gillian again. And then settle back and share the second cigarette.
Externally Ian remains steadfastly focussed on Gillian – but internally he is thinking .. I’ll just get this story down, a couple of simple questions for the rest of the band and then I can get the hell out of Dodge ..
The band – who never tire of hearing this story – are now listening intently .. waiting for the first note to be strummed ..
‘In 1998’ Gillian begins – in the key of E – ‘I transferred the 1992 recordings from analogue tape to a digital magnetic tape format – Adat – to archive them as it was beginning to get difficult to find machines that would play back ¼ inch 8 track tapes.’
‘To Greg and Orange’ called Martin. ‘To Orange and Greg’ the band responded. The collective clink of bottles caused the tape recording to red-line at this point.
Gillian continues .. ‘And then the tapes were put away in a box in my studio archive. Then last year, during lockdown, I was working on a children’s show, and remembered that in the ‘90s I’d recorded the sound of a synthesiser frying its outputs – as a sound effect – on Adat. I thought that it might fit into the sound design – so I dug out the box of tapes.’
The band are happily hanging onto each note in the story.
‘Well’ says Gillian, ‘there in that box were the Hand of Glory tapes. When I saw them, a thought instantly jumped in my head – it’s time to mix this .. and now !’
A metaphorical crash of cymbals smash around the room as the band thrash into the chorus.
Even just a quick look at the video showed that there was no need for a lip-reading expert to decode what Ian muttered under his breath at this development.
Frantically thumbing through his well-prepared notes looking for something solid to grab a hold of, Ian’s eye falls on the favourite songs question .. he does not hesitate – ‘what are your favourite Hand of Glory songs ?’ he asks – surprising himself with the calm tone of his voice.
The band falls silent. Ian slowly breathes out. Everything is just hanging, as if suspended in mid-flight. The band look at each other – each daring some-one else to speak. The silence descends, searching out all the nooks and crannies in the room ..
‘Benson & Hedges’ – it was Peter who first grabbed the silence by the scruff of the neck, quickly followed by the rest of the band, in a rising cascade of suggestions by ‘Eva Braun’s Holiday’ – ‘Fly’ – ‘Hit the Ceiling’ – ‘Chromatic Tune’ – ‘The Same’ – ‘Thing …’
‘Stop’ declared Ian.
As one the band turned to look at Ian. Ian stared back. ‘You are just listing all the songs on the album’ he says, quite correctly as it turns out. The band sheepishly then drink some more beer.
‘Ok then’ says Kent ‘listening to 29 ||92 for the first time with all the band, that was exhilarating’. ‘Extraordinary’ echoes Sean. ‘I can’t remember, I was drunk and stoned the whole time’ offers Martin.
There is a silence.
Then there is not.
[ editorial note : at this point, it is beholden on the band to say two things – it is time to turn the cassette over, and as it is 2021, the band are required to repeat the health and safety message ( as it is a new side ) so - the band are still not competing for your undivided attention .. and .. well .. you know the drill … ]
Pushing play, Kent is the first to emerge through the babble – ‘performing Cage’s 4’33”’. Sean then changes everything, opening up the conversation to .. well almost anything – ‘Peter snapping the neck of his guitar off at the Ward Lane Tavern’ and ‘Kent climbing over the drums to adjust the lights in Dunedin’ he continues, sliding effortlessly through the scales, ‘waiting endlessly on stage for Martin to start playing Gloria’. But before Martin can respond, Alec jumped in with ‘that moment in the gig, generally at the second break when the realisation gently lands that after the last set .. all the equipment will have to be packed down and taken back to the rooms – up a flight of stairs’. Martin, who by his own admission has carried more black boxes than anybody else ever – nods. ‘Kafka’ says Sean. Everybody sighs gently in agreement with that most favourite of memories.
Foolishly as it turned out, Ian read that as a mellowing of the mood. That brief lapse of judgement, combined with the interviewers mantra of ‘keep going - ask the important questions’ emboldened him to ask - ‘so .. what’s the difference between the first album and the second ?’
The cacophonic response is deafening. The band are in full voice. Ian curses inwardly that he hadn’t chosen the seat by the door.
Martin bellows ‘Sean – the addition of Sean .. there was more trumpet’. Peter loudly counters with ‘no change’. Alec thunders agreement with them both ‘more trumpet yes – which meant that I got to play more guitar .. and ha! one of the songs from the first album is also on the second – no change there !’ ‘We play as we play !’ says Peter ‘with deep friendship and excitement’. Sean, in true trumpet player style then “honks” in with ‘HoG are not a band but a state of mind’. ‘Indeed’ replied Martin as he placed the bottle of port on the table.
Reviewing the film footage, this is when the genie was truly let out of the lamp .. as the band passed the bottle round – and the metaphorical lights were dimmed.
‘The bus’ said Peter as he held the bottle aloft. As one the band are back on the road. Ian calculates the distance to the door. ‘Reefton’ ‘ Penguin Club’ ‘ Manawatu Art Gallery’ – these are the only recognisable words that have been able to be salvaged from the maelstrom of memories that surged and slammed around the room. In amongst all this, Ian has quietly stood up.
Like all storms, there is a lull. A caesura. The brass section seize the day ‘writing charts on the back of the bus in Dunedin’.
The band drive on ..’go to the bridge’ is heard. The band do. Visually the guitars are shoegazing, the horns are heaven bound, the rhythm section are on the 1 and the 2 and .. Ian however, is not to be seen.
Then, as suddenly and surprisingly as the band stopped - Ian re-appeared. Just by the door. ‘I just have to go outside’ he said .. ‘I may be some time’.
Different rooms have different reverberations. Kawhia was close and tight, 32e warm and crisp and the old bank building full and inclusive – this room was different again. Ian opened the door – the air rushed in and out .. almost imperceptible except for the VU meter needle which shook and swayed.
With impeccable timing, Ian turned, and looked back through the door, just as the silence overwhelmed the reverb, and casually asked ‘what happened to you all - do you still play music ?’
The tape then records a confused smile, a small wave and the beginnings of a look of relief as Ian disappeared from the frame.
For the band, it was as if Ian was still in the room, for they answered his question – ‘Some loose outfits and constricting garments’ – ‘could be folk, could be impressionism’ – ‘not too far, some to either end of Te Ika a Maui, but we always come back’ – ‘in our minds’ – ‘everyone is still playing’ – ‘the jazz principle’ …
The tape continued to record another 1 hour and 17 minutes of freely forming syllabic slices of gustoso sound, droits and plops, slow shimmering shuffles of gustoso feedback, double deep scatendo echoes and long, long vamp lines of capriccio colla voce.
The tape then closed, slowly, to a small black dot.
Transmogrified by Hunter S.T.