I N T E R V I E W
Skinny Hobos : Big Riffs, Big Drums
By Terianne Grady
When I first heard of the band Skinny Hobos, I was instantly intrigued. I genuinely wondered if they were real life skinny hobos; the image of emaciated homeless vagrants began to manifest inside my head. After seeing them play live, I have to admit I was a little disappointed they weren’t in rags playing with pans and spoons. Fortunately, they made up for it with their unique saturated blues rock sound and larger than life stage presence.
Alex Elvis Ferrier and Sam Texas Holdom are big personalities who create big music; between the two of them they manage to produce an energy that surpasses many fully fledged bands. They have a party on stage, and that party is contagious.
I managed to have a chat with the Hobos ahead of their recent Hamilton show at Nivara Lounge.
Why Skinny Hobos? Where did the name come from?
Alex: I wish that we had a better story for it. I was trying to come up with a band name for my older band, and Skinny Hobos came up when I was drunk with my buddies. I can’t remember why - because I was drunk. It was a name that I really liked the sound of, but it didn’t really suit the last band. As soon as me and Sam played together I knew that it really suited the style of music that we were doing. It was easy to get behind and it was a fun name so yeah. Where it came from I’m not entirely sure. I just had it and I wanted it to be a band.
Sam: The best band names kind of come out of nowhere you know. You can use band name generators and think of puns - that kind of thing. If you really calculate it you can come up with something good, otherwise the best ones are just completely off the cuff.
Alex: We are really lucky to have it because it’s really difficult to name bands these days, and most importantly its really difficult to find one that hasn’t already been done. Skinny Hobos if you look that up on google were the only thing that comes up. Especially when you are trying to establish yourself, you’ve got to be accessible and easy to find.
Sam: When we first applied it to the band we’d have people come up to us and ask what’s your band name, and we’d say Skinny Hobos; people would just crack up laughing like Skinny Hobos that’s ridiculous! I love it!
How do you describe your music?
Sam: I’ve been saying is heavy blues rock, that’s kind of the easiest way to describe it. It is loud and heavy, there’s elements of blues and its rock and roll. That’s putting it in the most generic terms - or the easiest way to describe it so that people can identify with it. I mean There’s elements of a lot of things in there though. There’s blues, rock, there’s punk, there’s stoner aspects there’s even some grunge I guess you could argue as well.
Has the band always been a two piece - was that always the plan?
Sam: Yip, from day one. We’ve had a jam with a saxophonist, that was quite cool, but he just totally blended in with Alex’s guitars.
Alex: I make so much noise that there’s not exactly room for another musician.
Sam: I was playing quietly with my lighter sticks and he was still just like “you guys are way too loud I don’t know how you actually do anything” and it was like well - be louder! That’s the only thing we have.
Alex: We worked together at a music store, and we jammed together after work one time. It just kind of worked right away, ya know the riffs and the sound of the drums. I’ve always wanted to be in a two piece, so it was kind of nice to come across it organically.
Sam: With the whole two-piece thing you think of bands like The Black Keys and The White Stripes - who are two pieces, but they do a lot more on their studio records. When we first started jamming I was a little bit hesitant, because I didn’t really know what was going to become of it. At the same time, I fully trusted what Alex was doing with his sound. I was quite happy just jamming guitar and drums. Then he started adding bass and it was like ok we can start making a really full sound without having to add any extra bits and pieces; no studio trickery backing tracks that kind of thing. Adding backing tracks is the last thing I want to do, so the fact we can make as much noise as we do with just the two of us, ended up being a really happy coincidence.
Alex: It was a long process to get the sound to a point where we didn’t sound quiet or bland compared to other full bands that we were playing with. We’ve always really respected bands who sound the same on the record as they do live, because to us a record is supposed to be a way of capturing your band’s sound. The more you do with it the less true to your band; so we’ve found this way of making a whole bunch of noise and just being honest with our music.
Did your sound start out as loud as it is now?
Alex: No, I just played through a guitar amp at first. Then I got the Electroharmonix Pog, but that was still going through the same amp as the octave pedal. To make the sound bigger I added a second guitar amp, but it was missing the low end. Then it was a bass head through a guitar cab or a guitar head through a bass cab. I mean there was a lot of different set ups, before we found the one that’s worked the best for us. We’ve been touring since March/ April last year and it has basically been the same since then.
Sam: There was a lot of hours spent at band practice, just him fucking around with pedals and amps and tones – that sort of thing, trying to find a sound.
Alex: I come from an audio engineering background. I actually put down my guitar for a couple years and was working in studios, producing electronic music and hip hop as well as recording bands. From that background I’ve found my way of treating my guitar tone the same way that I would treat something that I’m audio engineering. So I’m looking for something that will take up the various different key points on the frequency spectrum. I’ve got my low end covered, my high end covered, and the drums and everything has its place - the same way that it would if you were recording an album. I look at that live and I think that’s helped us to have a sound that’s tight and it pretty much tends to sound good where ever we are: big stages with the big PA’s or small rooms with no PA’s - we can get the sound that we’re going for everywhere. It’s become really easy to play shows literally anywhere and be happy with what we’ve got going on, and convey the sound that were trying to get across.
Do you think that being a two piece holds you back, or do you think it gives you an advantage?
Alex: Both, I’ve always thought that constraints can help your creativity. If you set limitations on what you can do your forced to be more creative to try to overcome those limitations. In saying that, there’s obviously quite a bit holding us back. If there were other members we could do other things, but it works really well for what we do. I do a bit of looping ya know I’ll loop the bass through the bass amp or the guitar through the guitar amp and play something through the other one. It’s almost like having a third person for a little while just jamming along. so yes and no.
Sam: The other thing about the whole two-piece thing is that it adds a point of difference to most other bands. When we’d rock up to gigs in our early days, people would ask “how many are in your band - is there any more of you to turn up?” and we were like nope this is us. People were really surprised like oh you’re a two piece ok sure what ever. Then we get on stage and play - 99% of the other bands were like whoa I did not expect that amount of sound to come out of just two of you. If anything it takes people by surprise when we sound like a full rock band with only two of us.
Alex: I think it’s kind of a little bit more accessible for the average person in the audience, you get a good feeling from just seeing two people on stage doing their thing. I think it gives hope for people. I mean what I play is not overly complicated, and I guess it’s like an everyman kind of thing.
Sam: I think the other thing as well is the dynamic between us. Because there’s only two of us, we’ve got to bounce of each other, and a lot of that energy and personality comes across on stage. We banter back and forth and its easy for the crowd to connect with one or the other; rather than having four or five different points to look at. There’s one sort of apex in the middle of us where it’s like you can focus on the harmony between us rather than having to bounce between individual members. So it’s a connection thing between us and from the audience to us as well.
Only one person to fight with?
Sam: Yeah, or agree with.
Alex: We don’t fight very often.
Sam: Yeah we don’t! we’re very harmonious.
Alex: Because I played drums before I played guitar, I’ve clashed with a lot of drummers as a result. I’ll have an idea in my head of what I want to be there. Sam tends to play what I would play if I was him; so it naturally just worked really well and we get along great. Our personalities gel and musically we gel.
How did you guys meet?
Sam: Well we met at High School and we played in different bands and played gigs together. We met up at Rockquest and jammed at various gigs throughout that period of time. Then later went on a tour with our separate bands as well. Then he went back to Canada, I moved to Dunedin, so we kind of separated, and didn’t keep in touch. Then at the end of 2013 we started working at the Rock Shop together, purely coincidently. I took the job from Dunedin - I moved up to be assistant manager. Then this guy ended up being a full time staff member there.
Alex: Yeah it was just like I got there and day 1 it was like “Sam mother fuckin Holdem! “
Sam: “Alex fuckin Farrier!”
Alex: Jesus Christ.
Sam: It had been four or five years since we actually had anything to do with each other. Then yeah we got into the same building and started getting along. Had that jam, and was like well this is kind of cool – let’s do something with this. It was very serendipitous, I don’t want to call it fate, but there was something along those lines going on there.
Where did the inspiration for the song Merchant of Tirau come from?
Alex: The name came from the liquor store The Merchant of Tirau. The only liquor store in Tirau. At the end of 2014 we played a festival just outside of Tirau. There were technical difficulties, so we went to the town just to kill some time and we found the merchant of Tirau. It had this great sign, the signs not there anymore, but it was this wooden sign with letters falling off of it. It just evoked this image, for me anyhow, that the merchant of Tirau was like rumple stiltskins cabin in the woods, like some evil dark twisted fairy-tale kind of imagery - all just from looking at that sign. But we spent some time inside and we talked to the lady that owned it, and she was lovely and in all honesty we needed a song name for the song.
Sam: Yeah it was ‘the new song’ at that point and we were calling it that between ourselves, so when that came up it seemed to fit the aesthetic of it without really trying to. I think that’s been a real constant, we don’t try to make anything fit, it just sort of does. Which is really nice, it makes life easy.
What’s next for skinny Hobos?
Alex: We’ve got an album that’s on the way.
Sam: There’s a second single that’s coming out soon, we don’t have an exact date.
Is there a name so far? We’re still deciding on what song is going to be the second single.
Alex: We’re down to like three, and were trying to make up our minds which one it’s going to be.
Sam: all the decisions go through us; because there’s no manager making the decision for us, or an agent saying this song is your best song. We’re just deciding on past experience and drawing from what we’ve done in the past. You know what works and what doesn’t and what we think people will enjoy. Basically a couple more releases, and there’s some more gigs in the pipeline too. The big thing for the end of the year is getting the releases out and pushing those as hard as we can.
Alex: We’re definitely going to tour again. Probably two times I’d say.
Sam: Ideally two, nothings solidified but those are the plans for now.
Alex: your talking to us now as we’ve just finished our most recent tour. If it was up to me we’d be on the road every day.
Sam: Likewise, there’s nothing more fun than going to a place you haven’t been before and playing gigs to people that haven’t seen your music. I mean that’s what we do it for ya know, to get the reaction from the crowd and to get that energy from them back. If we could, we’d be on the road all the time.
I N T E R V I E W
Diploid / The World At A Glance
By Chris Yousef
Chris Yousef conducted a double interview, featuring the two Melbourne bands - Diploid and The World At A Glance - who are playing tonight at Biddy's along with Auckland's Markdown and Wizz Kids.
How did the band come together? What was the rubric when initially forming the band?
TWAAG: Both bands were formed in high school, for The World at a Glance it was because we really wanted to play in a band like At The Drive-In and Rites of Spring. I (Scott) had only just picked up the guitar as I was originally a drummer and I really wanted to play in a band like my idols. Our bassist Liam is our second bass player, but was a bright spark to our playing as our first bassist left and we were unsure if it was going to keep going. And we have been playing music ever since!
DIPLOID: We all went to high school together and Scott and I were in TWAAG together. I was massively into punk and hardcore and wanted to do something fast and noisey. We were friends with Mariam and she had been playing guitar for years and was keen to be in a band, so she joined on guitar and vocals. I really wanted to do duel vocals similar to F-Minus and Nausea so that's where the idea for having dual vocalists came from.
What are the ideas and politics which motivate your band?
TWAAG: We aren't an overly political band in terms of lyrical content, but we strongly believe in supporting marginalised people in and around our scene, including acknowledging the rightful custodians of the stolen land of Australia that we perform on.
DIPLOID: Same as above really. Our guitarist Mariam is mixed race, her father is from Tunisia, and in Australia recently there has been a lot of Islamaphobia in parliament and attacks on Muslims, so it's definitely something she is vocal about.
What themes or subject matter do your lyrics revolve around?
TWAAG: usually around dreams and how the subconscious plays such a heavy part in influencing who you are and what you do. There is also quite a heavy science fiction theme, as we are all fans of various space related films, books, TV shows. We tend to use those as metaphors in our lyrics to describe how we feel. Like most people we all suffer a form of mental illness and using these metaphors helps us articulate how we feel and relate to the world around us.
DIPLOID: Our lyrics tend to focus on negative and dark aspects of life. Usually focusing on horrible people or terrible events in history. We also write a lot about feminism and sexism in our society and in recent history. We also have a lot of songs about mental illness and it's impact on your life and how it can make the simplest of tasks impossible. We have a few personal songs about different things that have happened in our lives, but yeah, we don't tend to write about positive things.
What inspired the latest Diploid album?
DIPLOID: Mariam and I watched Snowtown together, which is a filmed based off of the Snowtown murders which happened in Adelaide during the 90s. After watching it and studying other serial killers and other horrific things, which happens to be a personal interest for us both, we couldn't help but feel negativity towards a lot of society, we decided to write an album about a lot of these stories and the lead up to these events. We in no way endorse or glorify the behaviour by the people we have written about, but it's really interesting to think about and talk about some of the horrific things humans are capable of.
Which bands past and present have influenced your songwriting?
TWAAG: At our core we have always been influenced by post-hardcore bands like At The Drive-In, but recently we have also slowly been incorporating a wider range of influences into our sound, such as Godspeed, You! Black Emperor, Tera Melos, The Blood Brothers, Melt-Banana and Envy.
DIPLOID: Our influences change pretty regularly, Mariam and I are always looking for new music, but a few major ones are: Iron Lung, Bongripper, In/Humanity, F-Minus, Extortion, Neil Perry, Black Flag, Discordance Axis, Useless Children and Infinite Void.
Is there any music which you’ve discovered recently and would recommend?
DIPLOID AND TWAAG: Just yesterday we saw HEX and Hollywood Fun Downstairs, we all thought they were amazing. Definitely check them out. Between all of us this is what we've been listening to lately: Angel Olsen, Stockades, SECT, Mort Garson, Friendships, Jay Reatard, Leviathan, Iron Lung, Oathbreaker, The Body, Full Of Hell, Courtney Barnett, Crass, ANOHNI, Useless Children, Clipping, Melt Banana, Animal Collective and Infinite Void.
What have been your best or most interesting playing/touring experiences as a band so far?
TWAAG: probably the most interesting was touring South East Asia, everything is really legit there. They absorb punk into every part of their being, and the shows were nuts because of that. It's so cool and refreshing to see how dedicated people are to their scenes in places like Malaysia and Indonesia. They are beautiful and unique countries as well, it was a great time.
DIPLOID: Same as above
Which Melbourne bands do you most enjoy playing with/seeing live?
TWAAG: bands like Shiny Coin, Stockades, Infinite Void, Two Steps On The Water, Hideous Towns and Fourteen Nights At Sea and Celiac are bands we always like to see and hear! There are heaps more but we've drawn a blank because there are so many good bands.
DIPLOID: We play with Sick Machine a lot, they are great PV band. Some of our favourite local bands are: Umbilical Tentacle, Internal Rot, Whitehorse, Manhunt, Scab Eater, Older Men, Shiny Coin and Mutton.
Is there a place you haven’t played yet which you would really like to?
DIPLOID: We really want to take Diploid everywhere we can. We will most likely be hitting up Japan and South Korea next year, we really want to go back to South East Asia and maybe even hit up Nepal and Vietnam. We also want to go to the USA, Europe and South America. If anyone reading this can help us out, please contact us! We're just trying to do as much as we can before we get proper full time jobs and have mortgages to pay off.
TWAAG: We'd love to play Japan! We have friends who have toured there and it looks amazing. But same as above really, if anyone can help us out with booking and whatnot please let us know!
Other than playing shows, is there anything else you particularly want to do while you’re in New Zealand?
TWAAG AND DIPLOID: Scott and Liam are only here for 5 days so we're going to fit as much sightseeing as we can. There will probably be a fair bit of record buying and eating a lot of vegan food. We want to come back for longer and do some camping. Mariam and Reece are heading to the South Island to go travelling and camping and seeing the amazing landscape!
I N T E R V I E W
Jared Ipsen of Barracks
By Arpie Shirehorse
HUP caught up with Barracks vocalist Jared Ipsen to talk about the release of their latest EP 'Lovestay', life in the band, and all things good here in The People's Republic of Hamiltronia. There's also a very interesting take on a question that leads us to the possible super hero alter-egos of John Key and Donald Trump! As we are utter professionals, we started by talking about the music...
Tell us about Lovestay - where did you record, with whom and where can we buy it? Nate tracked all the drums at this cool little studio in Tauranga - we had a bunch of songs the boys had demoed out, maybe 20 or so, so we chose 5 and just went for it. We did all the guitars and bass in Martin’s garage in Rotorua. The songs sort of evolved as we went - they were just jamming and trying new shit, so the process took a little longer than expected, but I'm glad we did it that way cos we were really able to take our time with the songs and ‘wank over them’ as Nate would say. All the vocals were done in his dungeon over a few weekends. After we finished I realised I hadn't sworn at all in any of the lyrics - it wasn't on purpose, I just didn't actively think about putting them in. I even thought about going back in and just sliding a sly ‘fuck’ in there. The whole EP is coming out on October 13 for free on Bandcamp and also Apple Music and Spotify and all that shit. We probably won't do physical CDs, or if we do they'll be pretty limited. We don't really care about making heaps of money off of Lovestay, we just want people to hear it.
How was the recording process for you? Painful, joyous, or somewhere in between? It was pretty cool for me this time because there wasn't a lot of screaming so I didn't feel like I was gonna die when we were tracking vocals. The amount is a really cool place to go and it was sick being able to go down to the beach and get ice cream after recording.
What plans have you got to support the EP - individual shows? tour!? Physical copies? We are in the middle of sussing a new drummer so we haven't been able to book a tour yet - probably some more acoustic shows for sure, we've gotten pretty positive feedback for the ones we've done recently. We’re gonna do tapes. We just did a live to air for bFM which was so fucking cool, shout out to them for having us. It’s on our YouTube (below - Ed) or their site if you want to have a geez as.
How does the writing process work in Barracks? Lovestay has been really cool to write because we all had a hand in the songs - with Ghosts, some songs were more Hunter or Tom or Martin’s track, but these songs have parts of all of us in them. I'll usually get the tracks as a demo with drums and all that and record rough vocals over the top, and from there we can change the structure or melodies to make it more ‘song-y’.
If I understand correctly not all of you live in Hamilton - how often do you get to jam together and is it a pain in the arse travelling all the time? Yeah, I live here in the promised land, and the rest of them live in Rotorua, although we've been in Auckland, Tauranga, Whakatane.. It isn't really a big deal for us. I see everyone in the band as my brothers and sometimes there's more important shit than jamming every weekend and being able to get together for photo shoots. I actually like it this way because we’ve been able to meet and play with amazing bands from all over the place - I don't think we would have had some of the opportunities we have without all being from different places. I've seen some of the coolest bands over my time with Barracks - Super Narco Man, Dad Jokes, The Gaze, Reaving - bands I probably never would have come across if it wasn't for being so spread around the place. We also get to go do a lot of cool nature shit which is mean.
Name 5 must visit places in Hamilton for people that have never visited (Cafes/shops/parks whatevs..)
1. Best coffee from SL28 in the new Riverbank Mall, go have a geez if you haven't already and Browsers is there now too. Rocket in the CBD and Grey Street Gardens are all goods, and Crate makes a good brew (especially on $2 Fridays).
2. The Arboretum over in the Dale is like the secret gardens but they have chickens and other cool shit too. Trees and shit.
3. Thai House Express on Victoria Street is our go to for dinner when we do gigs in Hamilton. Cheap as and quick for when you didn't realise you were on in half an hour.
4. A little biased seeing as I work there but come and check out Zeal - we have a performance space, recording studios, practice rooms, a cafe area and a screen printing press which is pretty cool.
5. Shoutout to Lola in Dinsdale for always feeding us after a show. If you’re even keen for brunch, go check them out.
Do you remember your first live show in Hamilton? I think the first show I ever went to was at Upsett Records on Victoria Street - The Warpath played and I was like 13 and all I remember is just being scared of them, I know the singer now but I'm still scared of him. I saw Zed at the lake but that doesn't really count. The first proper gig I ever played here was with my high school band at Yellow Sub which was the coolest venue, those were the days with like Defy and shit, you could get those belts that you could spell out words on, and Salmas in Garden Place, and Havok and that shop that had Slipknot and Metallica shirts.. I think we are actually pretty lucky that we are in this little city on an island at the bottom of the world and still have all these sweet venues and such a cool little scene.
Who would you rather gain power at their next general elections - John Key or Donald Trump? It really depends what you mean by power. I would love to see them both infused with super powers, like hero powers. I feel like John Key would be a really campy guy, like Adam West or something. Nah, he’d be like a mix of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy from Spongebob. Do you know what I mean? Trump would be like Jerry’s Mytholog from that Rick And Morty episode or like an orange Jabba The Hutt, not so much in personality, just body type.
If you could put on a show anywhere in the world and have any three bands playing...who/where/what are we drinking? I want to see Hammertime three times in a row at Biddy’s.
For more Barracks goodness head on over to their FACEBOOK and BANDCAMP
A R T I C L E
The Outsiders II: What Memories do Bands that Toured Hamilton have of us?
By Ian Duggan
Hamilton has hosted a number of notable bands, including those from elsewhere in New Zealand and international visitors, although the rate at which really significant bands have toured here has slowed somewhat in recent years. I approached musicians from some of the noteworthy bands that played here in the past, and posed a single, simple question: “Do you have any lasting memories or impressions of playing in Hamilton?” I wasn’t sure what to expect. Were we remembered? Was it worthwhile them coming here? Would anyone actually respond? Happily, for the latter, they did!
In early August we published Part I of our responses, with a theme that emerged strongly being that Hamilton crowds were enthusiastic. That did come through again, yes. But interestingly, many of the responses for this article were also quite different. In particular, answers this time around included many quite specific memories, regarding things such as the food, the motels… and the smells.
From a personal perspective, one of the most exciting musicians that got back to me was Jonathan Jamrag (a.k.a. Jonathan Griffiths), vocalist for late-‘70s punk band Proud Scum, known for songs such as ‘Suicide’ and ‘I am a Rabbit’, which appeared on the classic AK79 compilation. Of course, I was polite in my approach. “Dear Proud Scum”, he repeated my introductory message back to me; “the punks of today are so polite”. Interestingly, Proud Scum’s only gig outside of Auckland before heading to Sydney was at Jupiter’s, a short lived venue at 474 Anglesea St: "It was an ugly concrete box, which had the worst acoustics in the Southern Hemisphere" he informed me. Unfortunately, the band wasn’t met with the enthusiasm others musicians have noted, observing that they “play[ed] terribly to an indifferent crowd”. To his chagrin, rival punk band The Terrorways had played at Jupiter’s a few weeks earlier, a gig for which fans travelled down from Auckland to support. “None came to support Proud Scum”. In common though, both bands were paid less than the agreed rate by Jupiter’s…
Our enthusiastic crowds didn’t go without mention though. I spoke with Glenn Robson, guitarist and keyboardist for These Wilding Ways, about their time playing Hamilton in the early 1990s. These Wilding Ways, if you don’t remember, were a band who unfortunately never became as successful as was anticipated, especially considering they were led by former Screaming Meemees guitarist Michael O’Neill. I was at their gig at The Club, now the site of Briscoes on Ulster Street, where they supported the Exponents, and I managed to find myself backstage hoping to get some merchandise. “No, we never had any merchandise. We were never that organised of course. Plus we were always a bit pleasantly surprised if anyone actually liked us, let alone came to the gigs!”. He did remember The Club gig though:
“It had like a mezzanine balcony all around the sides. We had finished playing. I think we went down alright but like the Exponents were on and the joint was packed and the crowd were just going mental. We were kind of watching from the side of the stage or something and the whole balcony was just bouncing up and down with the crowd dancing. And we just thought... shit it's going to go at any time... It didn't, but it must have been pretty touch and go there for a while”.
Someone I got a number of great responses from was Nick Sampson, guitarist, vocalist and one of the primary songwriters for Netherworld Dancing Toys, who are widely remembered for their 1985 #3 hit, ‘For Today’. Among his memories was the high energy of Hamilton crowds. “I can’t remember if our first experience of Hamilton was an Orientation Tour gig at the Varsity in early ‘83 or a normal pub gig at the Hillcrest a bit later in the year. Either way, we played those venues many times until the band broke up in 1990”. Regarding playing at the University, Nick gave me a comparative rundown of the pros and cons of playing the various campuses. Regarding the university, he stated: “We played there a lot. We played all the varsities. Otago was nuts… well we were from there. Canterbury was also pretty crazy. Lincoln was mad — always packed, but an awful place to play. Violence, flying glass jugs and so much urine and vomit on the floor. Vic was always a bit hit and miss. Massey was great fun. Auckland was also pretty up and down. But Waikato was a good solid gig. Always high energy, usually packed to the rafters. And very receptive. Good times. Driving into the grassy, tree lined, leafy grounds was always a nice respite after days or weeks of vans, motels and grimy venues”.
Pete Warren (a.k.a. Rooda), drummer for the Dave Dobbyn-led DD Smash in the early ‘80s, felt the Hamilton crowds were not just enthusiastic, but discerning. “I always loved playing in Hamilton. Hamiltonians are big music fans and the gigs always went OFF! Packed venues and the punters partying the night away... no compromise. Hamiltonians know their music and let you know if they love what you’re doing. They also let you know if they think your crap! If you ain't real, they see right through you. They don’t suffer fools – [or] shite bands – easily. Great people. Great town. Love you Hamilton!” Jeremy Eade, lead singer of Garageland, spoke similarly of Hamiltonians astute nature; “If you can't win over Hamilton, you don't have it. It's the litmus test of rock ‘n’ roll”.
Enthusiasm is a great thing to be remembered for, but David Kilgour’s strongest memory was of an audience member who was ‘creepily’ enthusiastic. Kilgour played here solo, with Great Unwashed, several times with the Clean, and as part of USA artist Barbara Manning’s band. He remembered playing “Ward Lane with The Clean, where after the show we were followed back to our hotel by a strange fan called ‘the Hairy Beast’. That’s probably my lasting impression”. Scary!
As a final mention of Hamilton crowds, Grant Fell, bass player from Headless Chickens — who also played Hamilton numerous times — similarly remembered the "wild crowds", but also "Aotearoa's best stage divers", and the "DB Waikato"!
The importance for bands visiting Hamilton in the ‘90s of Contact 89FM, Hamilton’s defunct student radio station, also got a mention. Jeremy Eade, singer and guitarist from Garageland, and regular visitors to Hamilton from the mid-‘90s to the early-2000s, stated “Hamilton had bigger audiences for us than Auckland at one stage. I would say Garageland strongholds were Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch. Never felt at home in Wellington or Dunedin".
"Contact radio was a very important station for us. They pumped us up big in Hamilton. To this day I don’t know how they got our music because we didn't send it out. BFM, Contact and RDU were our stations. Those three cities made our band bro”.
My most left-field correspondent was Oliver ‘Olllie’ Green, MC for hip hop crew Urban Disturbance, who played at the campus pool in the early ‘90s, and who also supported Supergroove here early in their career. I had talked to Urban Disturbance DJ Rob Salmon in Part I, who only had very vague memories of playing here. “I hope your memory is working better than Rob's”, I offered. “Rob who?”, Oliver joked. Things went seriously downhill from there, however, and I strongly suspect the remainder of his memories were invented. These included, “Playing hip hop to farmers. One girl came to a gig and took of her high heels and her feet were muddy”, and “I got an STD from a very good looking girl with low standards”. Spoiling the final story for him, however, was that he had already told me that this had occurred in New Plymouth…
Moving back to real memories… an important venue in the ‘70s and early ‘80s was ‘The Lady H’ (a.k.a. Lady Hamilton), which now lives on as Altitude. Hello Sailor guitarist Harry Lyon stated, “I have plenty of great memories of gigs in Hamilton, but most centre on The Lady Hamilton. The Lady H was an almost perfect venue; it was kinda Goldilocks in size. Not too big and not too small. It had an upstairs mezzanine floor which meant the audience was almost floor to ceiling and that there was enough height to hang a good light show. And importantly, it had great acoustics. Add to that wonderful Hamilton audiences and a few hard case owners, including the inimitable Peter Bernie who insisted on paying us more than anyone else and providing a 'top shelf' rider”.
Interestingly, Hello Sailor members Graham Brazier and Dave McArtney came up in conversation with Netherworld Dancing Toys’ Nick Sampson, while telling me about Hamilton’s accommodation. “There was a motel where all the bands stayed at the top of a hill on a busy main road. I think it was called the Hillcrest too. The Dance Exponents, or maybe Doug Hood from Flying Nun, put us onto it. We stayed there so often it’s indelibly burnt into my memory. The Hillcrest had a great line in unfriendly staff and single beds with orange/brown ‘70s covers. I vaguely remember attempting to write a cheesy radio jingle for a Nelson hardware store sitting on one of those beds with Grant Hewson [trumpet player in the Milton Stowaways]. He roadied for us on a few tours and also played on an early EP. Surprisingly, the tune got used in an ad and Grant paid me the princely sum of $25 at some point down the track… my one and only excursion into jingle writing, if you don’t count ‘For Today’… The other thing I remember about the motel — apart from some terrible ‘80s photos taken outside with Annie Crummer, etc — was driving in once as a van with Graham Brazier’s Legionnaires pulled out. They were the enemy. The old guard. They represented everything we stood against. Sitting in the back staring out the window, to my young arrogant eyes, was a gaunt, wasted looking, Keith Richards-like, Paul Hewson… recently ex-Dragon. Tragically, he was dead a few days later. After I grew up and got over myself, I became friends with Messrs Brazier and McArtney, acknowledged that Hello Sailor are one of the best bands we have ever produced and became a lifelong Dragon fan, understanding how cool and talented poor ‘young’ Mr Paul Hewson was”.
The Hillcrest was of course a major Hamilton venue. Another band that played there in the late ‘70s and ‘80s was Pop Mechanix. Bassist Paul Scott stated, “Hamilton? It was our first gig outside of the South Island and the first of our first tour. We played the Hillcrest Tavern. My abiding memory is that people came along to see us. I think this must have been a generous Hamilton thing because we had slightly less than zero profile. They clapped along politely to our selection of new wave covers and may have been a little nonplussed by the originals. We never announced them as original songs; in fact Richard [Driver] would often attribute them to other well-known acts: "here's a song by Willie Nelson”, for example. However, when we played one of my tunes, 'Spanish', and got to the line 'everybody’s got a conscience - even in New Zealand', there was a hearty cheer from the crowd. The penny dropped! It was a special moment. We always played the Hillcrest whenever we could after that”.
Netherworld Dancing Toys’ Nick Sampson had some different, again quite specific, memories of the Hillcrest, which revolved around the food! “A good traditional pub venue. Not the best. But good to play. The stage was a bit boxy… and the crowd could be a bit wooden until they got enough drink in them. But it did have the only ‘eat-all-you-can’ smorgasboard restaurant on the touring circuit. We used to look forward to the gig just for that. The problem was that after driving all day, loading in, setting up and sound checking, then racing back to the ‘friendly motel’ to wash and change, we’d be back lining up for dinner about an hour before start time… Eyes bigger than stomachs, far too much would be eaten. Pretty hard to sing and jump around after that. So maybe it wasn’t the local punters being wooden in the first set — yes we used to play sets in those days — maybe it was us…”.
Tim Mahon, bass player for Blam Blam Blam, gave me many stories, the first of which I presented in Part I of this series. One thing that he remembered about the Hillcrest Tavern, not mentioned by others, was the smell — while also referencing the serious accident following a show in Taranaki which cost him several fingers, that effectively led to the end of the band: “I remember playing the Hillcrest and some bogan asking us to play Led Zeppelin. Wished we could! I remember the smell of old beer and stale cigarettes as we packed in. I still remember that revolting smell, even though the Blams car accident robbed me of my sense of smell in 1982. Gee, I can use a portaloo at a festival in high summer in the middle of the day and be immune”.
I N T E R V I E W
Chris Johnson of Moofish
(and ex- of Grok, Love & Violence, Department of Corrections….)
by Ian Duggan
Chris Johnson (a.k.a. Chris Fish) has been part of the Hamilton music scene since the late ‘80s, despite for the most part not living in Hamilton. He has gone from the pop of Three Men Missing and the hard rock of Hoola Troupe, through the synth-driven Love and Violence, Grok and Department of Corrections, to the ‘acoustic hypnotic folk’ of Moofish; a band he has been part of with his wife Rhonda Johnson since 1998. Moofish have been releasing a few videos recently, so HUP felt it was a good time to catch up with Chris about his genre hopping, Moofish's international attention, and their recent activity.
HUP: Chris, you have done a lot of genre hopping through time. Do you have a broad appreciation of music, or is this progression is simply part of the aging process?
Chris: I came from West Australia in ‘84 after hearing New Zealand music — early Flying Nun — and thought I had better come see what the fuss was. I formed a punk band in Tauranga called 'Some Social Deviants', and moved to Hamilton in 1986 after releasing an EP, ‘Snearing a Pig’. It got too rock ‘n’ roll and disintegrated. We gigged a lot, believe or not, with [country music singer] Richie Pickett; he loved punks. The singer’s dad drummed for Pickett.
We’ve always jumped genres, I think because we have never paid attention to genres, which most likely comes from the appreciation of music. Our latest Moofish project has jumped from ‘acoustic hypnotic folk’ to….? We had all intentions of releasing a collection of our hypnotic folk songs that we wrote from our eight years in Canada, even going to far as to video them so we would remember them when it came to recording them. We recorded an album worth, but by that time I was ready to push it somewhere else.
In June this year we began writing with piano as the main melody, and also with electric and acoustic guitars and bass, and experimenting with sawn off capos, a trick I learned while in Canada. The resulting mix is quite surprising. Not exactly ‘acoustic hypnotic folk’, oops! Sawn off capos are interesting, to say the least. It opens a world of new soundscapes. I’ve been sending Mark Tupuhi our new songs. This guy is awesome; his multi-talented background made perfect sense. I met him in the Schrödinger's Cat days. He can play anything, and his talent sits in well with our discordia, set against Rhonda’s vocals and harmonies. I tell you, it’s heaven for me, and hell for someone trying to figure out the score. He simply nails it. Rhonda is amazing to write with; her sense of melody and originality keeps a balance between wandering off into chaotic discordia to beautiful in between quiet spaces.
HUP: Soon after you started Moofish in 1998, you released a self-titled album in the USA, which entered the CMJ (College Music Journal) College Radio Charts. How did that achievement come about?
So, before Moofish we were called Beat Angels; Max [Ward], Rhonda and myself. We recorded a few songs in the Rock 93 FM days up at the studio. After that we moved to Otorohanga for a while, and we decided that we would record an album. I approached the local council for some arts funding, and they gave us $1000 towards it, so I rushed out and bought a decent sound card from Germany for my PC. We recorded it at the farm house, and then took it to [studio engineer] Zed Brookes, who kindly layered all the bass tracks and also mixed and mastered it. At the start I had the idea it might be fun to find a publicist who focused on the College scene in the U.S. There was some interest from media arts at Wintec, so we did a presentation on how we recorded and then our marketing in the U.S. I remember Roger Westbury and Midge Marsden were there. I felt nervous; after all, he was a legend. He said, “what the fuck are you doing farming”.
We got some traction from the west coast colleges, probably because the students had no idea where New Zealand was. The problem we had was with our band name, ‘Beat Angels’. We received numerous notifications from some other band in the U.S. named Beat Angels at the time, threatening us with vile to change our name, so we did; to Moofish.
Those were also the days of MP3.com. You actually got paid. We made a modest amount, enough to cover the publicist and marketing costs. From our publicists we got several placements into advertising, elevators and an obscure indie film. Overall, it was a great experience. Hadn't a clue what we were doing, but it was a lot of fun. We did U.S. radio interviews over the phone, etc. They liked our accent! In fact, they spent a lot time going on about our accent. So ‘Moofish’ came about because we needed a new name to market in the U.S.
We performed around the Waikato for a number of years as Moofish; it included Max Ward, Chappy Farrelly, Sooz Brookes, Rhonda and myself. Other versions of Moofish have included Jane Blackler, who plays violin, and bassist Lott Larson. Sometimes we called ourselves ‘Dak Jandels’, a kinda side project.
HUP: You have moved from Te Awamutu to Tokoroa, via Ottawa. It looked like you were quite active in Moofish while in Canada. When and why did you return to New Zealand, and what are your aspirations for Moofish back in New Zealand?
Chris: Yes, we spent eight years in Canada. Ottawa was our base, but we travelled a lot. Winters are killer, -25°C. Just can’t get used to that. Ottawa is very blues orientated; I love the blues, but I am not a good blues player. However, I did play with the bluesy crew at Irene’s, a very popular bar. Anything from blues, country, blue grass, Americana, etc. You can play somewhere any given night. We did a lot of open mics, and a lot of festivals pass through there. Moofish got a gig at the Ottawa Folk Festival. Unfortunately, Rhonda ripped both her shoulder tendons ice skating and returned to New Zealand for surgery.
It became clear we yearned to be back home end of 2014. I had spent eight years working with eight Cuban professors and a few Canadians on a project working in the indigenous reservation system. I got despondent with the state of education and the obvious lack of government willingness to help those who needed it most. On a lighter note, jamming at pow wow is life changing.
HUP: It was fantastic seeing Grok playing in Hamilton again last year, a band you were part of - and won the Contact 89FM Battle of the Bands with - in the mid-1990s. With Moofish being acoustic, I understand it was the first time you picked up an electric guitar in a number of years! Unfortunately, however, you injured yourself, and then Grok's front-person Scott Brodie moved back to England. How did you find that experience, and are you sad it came to a premature end?
Chris: Yeah GROK; such an adventure with these guys. You never know where it’s going. Love them to bits, and it was sad to see him off again. Yeah, I injured my hand last September 2015, ripped the tendons. Just starting to come right a year later, so we had to improvise with some electrical tape. Unfortunately it has limited my guitar playing for some time. We have loads of material from the Southern Hemisphere Grok, and he has an equal amount from the Northern Hemisphere Grok. Time and timing is the issue I guess. I am sure our paths will cross in the future. Scott lent me an electric – it was a long time since I had touched one. So now I have bought a 1980 Ibanez electric, all original, and it growls wonderfully. Thanks Scott!
HUP: Many people know you better as Chris Fish than Chris Johnson. When and why did you start calling yourself Chris Fish?
Chris: Chris Fish, ha! Comes from the young man days. It kinda stuck, I guess... to be honest I can't remember. Suffice to say it's a best kept secret that not even my wife knows. Does that mean I'll get into trouble? Lol!
I N T E R V I E W
Nick Feast of Louder Louder
By Arpie Shirehorse
(Photo by Ngamihi Pawa)
HUP caught up with Nick Feast from Cambridge indie rockers Louder Louder ahead of their show with Half Eaten Pie and Skymning at Nivara Lounge this coming Friday September 9th.
When did Louder Louder form/how did you all meet? Three of us have known each other since high school and took guitar lessons together (Pat, Joel and Nick), and following a stint as our sound man, Will joined a couple of years ago when we realised he was wasted out the back checking levels, and Zak started hitting calfskin in anger for us about a year and a half ago.
You recorded some songs at The Porch a while back - tell us about those. Any future recording plans or plans to release an EP/LP? We put together a bit of money from some pub gigs and decided it was time to get a few of our originals we had been playing recorded. We had a day at Porch recording a couple of songs (Waiting and Chelsea) that we had started slipping into our covers gigs, and were chuffed with the result and to finally have something of our own laid out. We have actually recently been recording a couple of songs at Wintec with a couple of Zak's mates who have been doing an awesome job. Once they are all done and dusted, we will have four songs recorded and will have to think seriously about putting them together as an EP.
How do Louder Louder songs come to be? Louder Louder songs are pretty organic - someone plays something, someone else says that sounds cool and jumps in, then everyone tags in. If it sounds good enough, we will play it again, maybe record it on someone's phone and....probably play it completely differently at our next jam having forgotten how it went! If we get any further down the track we will think about writing a few lyrics (Pat, Will and Nick have all contributed lyrics to our songs) and we eventually end up with a finished product.
What has been the best show you have played to date? Our last gig at Nivara Lounge (HUP’s April show with El Jay Hall and The Scones). It was the first time we had played a full set of our own music and we loved it.
Any favourite songs to play live? Some of the favourites would be Chelsea and Diplodocus, which also happen to be the first and last songs of our set on Friday night.
Who is the sportiest member of Louder Louder? On Saturdays in winter Pat can be found directing traffic in the Cambridge football midfield with the captain's armband on. #stalwart
If you could curate a show anywhere in the world, which three bands would play, where would it be, and what are we all drinking? I'd say there'd be a few traditional pre-gig shots (tequila perhaps?), and we'd slap together a show featuring Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys and the Strokes. We'd have it at Joel's place so that a) it could double as his housewarming, and it'd be his shout and b) the other bands would have no choice but to let us play too, seeing as we'd be providing the venue.
I N T E R V I E W
Rebel Sound Radio
By Terianne Grady
Rebel Sound Radio play Nivara Lounge this weekend, Saturday September 3rd along with Wolf Wizard, Red Light Runners and Skinny Hobos. Terrianne Grady caught up with singer and guitarist Jessie James to find out what’s been happening with the hard-hitting heavy rock ensemble.
How long have you guys been making music as Rebel Sound Radio and what inspired you to create the band? Rebel Sound has been in existence since mid/late 2014. We spent a lot of time practicing and writing during our first year so we only played a small handful of gigs, and worked on our first single Liberation. I guess the band was mostly created out of boredom. A couple of us had been sitting around not doing anything musical for a while. We decided to start something fresh and just play whatever felt right to us. We felt we had something different to offer as we take inspiration from a lot of the older bands who threw caution to the wind doing their own thing.
What does Rebel Sound Radio represent? Does your music have any particular message? We are all about being the hungry underdog that is fed up with the daily shuffle to work and all the mundane things that we occupy our lives with. It is about wanting more than what is on offer and offering an honest perspective. It sounds negative but we focus more on the idea of coming together, tackling our problems as one and creating something new that works for everyone. There are so many groups of people in society that feel this way, so I guess we are just trying to reinforce that feeling of unrest. Many of our songs reflect the previously mentioned but some are also about achieving personal victories or feelings about a particular event. I write what I feel and if it’s not honest then it does not make it into the mix.
Could you tell us about the video for the single Liberation? We worked with Joe Murdie of Murderman man productions in early 2015. He has previously done some awesome work with bands such as Devilskin, Sinate and Killing Yourself For Profit. It was a one day shoot at the Meteor in Hamilton. Being 100% self funded we didn’t have a huge budget and wanted to keep it pretty simple. We went with a straight performance video; It was literally just Joe with a couple of cameras and the band. We played the song for four hours and worked up a healthy sweat as it was the middle of summer, it was heaps of fun.
You are currently recording an E.P - how is that going? Does it have a name yet, and can you tell us any favourite tracks to look out for? So far we have done one weekend at The Depot in Devonport. We have done all the drums and most of the bass and guitars. It’s sounding huge and aggressive and we are taking our time to add those little tweaks to it as we go. We are still working on a name. So far “Regret Nothing” is leading, but until it’s stamped on the cover it could be anything. We are pretty non-committal with naming things, sometimes songs will be on the set list as “new song” and “fast song” for months! I do not know what the standout tracks are right now, it all sounds epic to me, but If I had to pick one track - there is a song called “Welcome to the Badlands” that is going to be killer.
Under what circumstances/ conditions do you find you are at your most creative?
I find myself most creative while hidden away from the world. Self-isolation is a wonderful thing for creativity and sometimes I will be stuck inside my own head for days on end. It’s not something that I do on purpose, it’s just how I am. It sounds totally selfish but I get a bit obsessive about ideas and if I am working on something I subconsciously block everything else out. It can have a detrimental effect on other areas of my life such as personal relationships / work but I am a bit more aware of it than I used to be.
How important do you think visual aesthetics are to the success of a band?
They are super important. The music is only one side of the triangle, so if you don’t put work into the visual aesthetics of the band it has a detrimental effect. I am not saying that you have to be super models but you need to create an image and a “look” for the band. It needs to be consistent and support the musical content. Album artwork and imagery are powerful tools for conveying a band's ideology without listening to a single song. People also remember music better if it has strong supporting visuals. A perfect example is when a song is used in a TV show, movie or commercial; the two will be forever associated if the link between them is strong enough.
It is common for new emerging bands to try and break genre barriers by incorporating many different styles of music when describing their ‘sound’. Why did you choose to keep it simple and describe the bands genre as ‘Rock and Roll’?
It wasn’t really a decision that we consciously made, we just ended up playing what we enjoy playing. We all bring our own varied influences but there is enough variation underneath the Rock umbrella already to have options for days. I could say we are a mix of Hard rock, Punk, Grunge, Classic Rock and Metal with some Blues and Pop influence; but it’s just easier to say “Rock” and wait for someone to come up with a better genre description. As previously mentioned we are not very good at naming things haha.
If you could share the stage with any NZ band, who would it be?
That is a tough one because there are so many great options. I can’t pick one so I’ll narrow it down to: The Datsuns, Shihad, I am Giant, Villany, Devilskin or Supergroove. That said, there are also loads of NZ bands that are not massive that I want to play with.
How would you describe the music scene in Hamilton? Probably about the same as the rest of N.Z . The number of good live venues is still dwindling. The four and five piece covers bands have become acoustic duo’s and it’s hard to get people out to watch live music. There are still times when it all comes together and epic nights happen with lots of local support and audience interaction; but it’s unpredictable at best. The people that do come out to watch us play are awesome, and we always make sure that we give them 100% no matter how many people are in the venue.
What does Rebel Sound Radio hope to achieve? Every band wants to be the next big thing and feel validated for their efforts, and we are no different. Ideally we want to be able to do music full time and give it our full attention, getting to that platform alone would be a huge achievement. Our E.P will be out in a few months and we will be hitting the road. For now we just want to make some great music, play some epic shows, get out amongst it and we will go from there.