THE HUM 106.7FM
Hamilton's latest radio station, THE HUM 106.7FM has been up and running for a few weeks now. Since the demise of Contact FM, the lack of a radio station that plays 'our' music has been quite a hole in the Hamilton musical landscape, so when HUP learned of THE HUM's creation, it had us positively quivering at the knees. THE HUM plays an eclectic mix of Hamilton-made music and is the brainchild of long-time Hamilton muso Mark Tupuhi. Arpie Shirehorse caught up with Mark for a wee yarn...
HUP: What is your earliest Hamilton gig memory?
I had arrived from Invercargill in November of 1992, I’d just finished High School and was waiting to start Uni the next year. During my first week here I got stoned and went out for a walk and got completely lost. We lived in Hillcrest and it was like a rabbit warren of streets and I had no way of finding my way home. Out of the gloom came a sign from Speights and the Hilly became one of my best friends from then on. That night I met some people who were going down to see a band at The Riv, up the other end of Clyde street, and that's pretty much how it all started. The music was cool and weird and original and the people were all clever and crazy and fun to be with and I thought Id really lucked out. As a southland boy I had always dreamed of going to Otago, becoming a scarfy and being a part of the Dunedin punk thing. I never expected to wind up here, it came as quite a disappointment at first but I soon learned that there was an equally interesting and diverse scene here and, well, I just sort of stuck around.
HUP: What would be your most memorable Hamilton gig?
There was this one Battle of the bands that always stuck out to me. 'Dept Of Corrections' played a real face-melter, they had grinders and welding gear onstage with them and it really made the acid I’d eaten pop nicely. I dunno who else played that night or even when it was (1996?) but it was a turning point, I joined bands not long after that and started writing songs.
HUP: What would be your favourite show that you played at in Hamilton?
The first Circle Jerk was a really cool night, as people started filling the place up I realised that it was actually working and it was a great night for both the audience and the bands. The other one was when 'Schrodinger's Cat' played up on the balcony above Scott's Epicurean on Victoria St on New Years Day 2000. We played as the contestants of the worlds first Marathon of the new millennium were running along the street below us and we managed to get some great reactions from people. That was a long night, we played again at Whangamata that night and I think I was awake for a few days, I think half the planet was...
HUP: What made you leap into action and start The Hum?
I love Hamilton music. I guess it came from a desire to not see some of the songs I love slip away into obscurity without the patronage of Contact Fm. I hoped to fill the void left by student radios demise but in a uniquely Hamilton way. When I first started up at UFM all those years ago I remember asking Scott Newth why they didn’t just play Hamilton music and one of the reasons was that there just wasn’t enough content back then. Well there is now. Its not always the easiest station to listen to but it has a heart, albeit a black pirate rock n roll heart…
HUP: How did it get to this stage?
At first I just went out and bought some antenna and transmitters and started making plans to just broadcast from home. I quickly learned that there was going to be more to it than that and what Id intended to be a five minute “Set in motion and forget” kind of operation was going to need a little more time and care. Ive had help from Phil Grey up at Free FM as well as Paul T and Zed Brookes who helped me assemble the 60 odd gb of data in our playlist. Other than that I just set little goals and tried to get one done every week. There's no sponsorship or funding so it all had to be done by me, cheaply. I'm really proud of it. People seem to like listening and that means that I haven’t done to bad a job. One of the common responses I get is “Oh yeah I thought it was going to suck but its actually pretty cool”… I’ll take that… Maybe there's a slogan in that!
Future plans? The launch is on the 23rd Jan at Nivara Lounge, the Battle of The Bands starts on March 17 and goes for 4 weeks culminating in the final on the 7th of April and there is a fringe event in planning at the moment. There are shows being developed and also I'm constantly on the scrounge for Battle of the bands prizes and sponsorship. The most exciting thing at the moment is the prospect of getting access to Kerry Cooper's stash of live to airs and interviews. Even if he can only track down a few, they will really be great to broadcast. Between Kerry's show on Contact and Jane Pierard's Sunday show, there were some really great broadcasting moments and I love the idea of giving some of them a new audience. We want more local music and plan to use the production studio to help facilitate that for bands that have no gear or funding plus we want bands to send us their stuff. We aren’t here to judge it or categorise it, it all goes into the playlist and it all gets played! Arpie Shirehorse
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R E V I E W
In the wake of Shihad winning their umpteenth NZ Music Award, it seems reasonable to assume they’ve got rock in little old Aotearoa sewn up. Not so, say Auckland five-piece, Tablefox. Taking on a slick, indie vibe with their debut album, Objects, these rockers are ensuring they’ll be filling up all kinds of ears and minds this summer. And hey, Shihad have to retire at some point… right?
Opening with the title track, Tablefox build driving choruses over purring guitars and snappy hi-hats. Vocalist, Clinton Bell, holds his lyrics with a smooth affection as his band mates prop up the harmonies. It’s a striking opening number and paired well with the slower and smokier next track, Right or Wrong strung out by guitarist, Matt Carson. Tablefox hold indie sensibilities with woven guitar lines and stark lyrics, but there is some real power pop underneath it all. You and I Will Find a Way Home and lead single, Something Better, have all the key elements to take over radio waves.
The standout track is not filled with the big friendly choruses that dominate this album. It might simply be the refreshing change in tone and timing, but ballad Cigarette Glow, complete with falsetto vocals in places, really holds up in a record that could fool you into thinking this band have been swinging out pop hits for years.
With Tablefox heading down to Hamilton’s own Nivara Lounge on November 27th, it’s a great chance to catch these guys live and with a refreshing beverage in hand. Hp
CLICK TO STREAM 'OBJECTS' AT SOUNDCLOUD
Gig Review: Glass Shards, Hide and Tallow, The Goth and the Pixie, New Millennium Beatniks, DJ Burning Sound
Glass Shards, Hide and Tallow, The Goth and the Pixie, New Millennium Beatniks, DJ Burning Sound @ ALTITUDE 19/11/15
A small but enthusiastic crowd managed to push past the bars on Hood St, resist the lure of Ed Sheeran and Lynyrd Skynyrd covers, to swing around the corner and reach Altitude & Gravity Bar. On a damp Thursday night in Hamilton, this happened to be the venue for some good ol’ fashion originality and eccentricity.
What else is one able say about the New Millennium Beatniks that hasn’t already been revealed by the probing Mutchison Hiller documentary “Symbolic Headgear”? On this particular night, the Altitude Bar was graced by a full line up of beatniks who filled the stage and soaked the venue with a genuinely free and unrestrained musical performance. The audience watched on as the band produced music to match, respond and sonify Richard Selinkoff’s poetry performance stanza by stanza. Stand out performance came from Chelsee’s discordant guitar playing and her typical effortless delivery which really elevated the show and served to ensure that the anti-conformity that once characterized beatnik jazz, was still very much evident thanks to the punk rhythms and angular tones of her playing.
Next up was The Goth and The Pixie, Hamilton’s hardest working duo (although for this performance they were joined on drums by beatnik Lott Larsson). This band have really evolved over the last 12 months, not allowing themselves to be restrained by any one particular style, frequently switching things around with different instrumentation and writing an impressive range of original compositions. Now electric, the set was awash with clever effects, delicate bowing, cute ukelele and an all out Eddie van Halen lead break! A constant in their live performance is the interplay between darkness and sweetness, in which dark lyrics are to be found veiled by the gentle nature of their melodies. The occasional song seemed to loiter a bit too long, but this almost appeared a conscious decision to let their music creep up slowly on poor innocent listeners.
Northland’s Hide and Tallow returned to the Tron for a third time this year. The man is simply a genius and quite possibly the most coordinated performer on the planet. My best efforts to describe what he is capable of have ended with a description of a Frankenstein-esque monster and assemblage of body parts owned by different virtuosos. Watching Hide and Tallow live is like witnessing Keith Moon on the drums. Yet there is a twist. While the right foot is kick drumming the left leg has talent of Ray Manzarek concentrated within it allowing him to play keys with his feet. All this occurs while he balances unsteadily on his drum stool and wields his mic stand like Iggy Pop to deliver lines like “Ones' tanning hide, From this rigid heat. Those yellowing eyes, From the filthy drink” as if channelling the spirit of Samuel Coleridge.
Last but not least, a masked Glass Shards takes the stage, bearing the appearance of Slipknot and Marilyn Manson bastard child, to take up his position between an impressive bank of dials, buttons, pads and drums. The intensity evident in each act gets dialled up to ‘unwise’ and so eyes begin to bleed, eardrums burst and faces begin to melt (as promised on the poster). Mind-bending noises, glitches and screams cap off an eclectic evening of musicians that were perfectly grouped for their candid performances – not an Oasis cover in earshot. Gee Ttochs
I N T E R V I E W
Gareth Schott : sink \ sink
by Ian Duggan
‘sink \ sink’ was formed in 2010, and have to date released two albums — 2012s ‘the darkest dark goes’, followed by 2013s ‘a lone cloudburst’.
Going on hiatus for a time, with primary songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gareth Schott spending much of this time playing in ‘Ancient Tapes’, sink \ sink have recently begun recording again. I talked to Gareth about the project, including their sound, how they get their music heard, and a fixation on lower case.
HUP: Gareth, sink \ sink’s music is difficult to accurately categorise. The descriptions of the band’s genre on your Bandcamp page include lo-fi, shoegaze, ambient and post-rock, although all of these could be debated. For example, your recordings are of high quality and complex, while post-rock is just such a diverse genre to really give any clear idea of style. To help readers get a better idea of your sound, are there bands that have particularly influenced you, or that you consider your sound to be similar to?
Schott: I guess the answer to this is a bit historical really. sink \ sink was initially 4 Hamilton based guys playing in various rehearsal spaces around the city. We were gearing up to play our first gig, had 4 or 5 songs that made up a 25 minute set, and then things just fell apart. No dramas, just a variety of things that prevented us continuing.
When that happened I was left with nothing to do, so Alicia [Merz] from birds of passage, who at the time was releasing her first album via her European label Denovali, persuaded me that I should start recording my own material. She really inspired me for her capacity to make music on her own and secondly by the huge international following she had for her music.
So back to the question, the genres were part of generating an audience online. I didn't feel there was one here for me in Hamilton at the time. I became part of a very real community connected to the lo-fi, experimental and ambient genres on Soundcloud. I also tagged my work with those genres to attract the kind of listeners I thought might be more open to what I was doing, rather than describe the work itself. I was made Soundclouder of the Day during that period too, which was nice exposure for my work given that 10 million people were using Soundcloud at that point. The majority of my albums were sold in the US and Europe. I got a bit of a kick from having success without having to necessarily fit in with what was happening in the local scene.
In terms of my influences going into sink \ sink, I initially wanted to make soundtrack music, as I can't sing. So I was inspired by Clint Mansell's work on The Fountain, and John Murphy's work on 28 Days Later and Sunshine. I have been a big fan of Sigur Ros since the start as I could hear the UK indie and shoegaze influences on their first album. From a post-rock perspective I wanted something instrumental that could go from intimate to epic. No sink \ sink songs are ever written with singing in mind, which I think what makes them interesting when vocals are added to them! There are no obvious verses or choruses to them. I turned being on my own into freedom rather than a limitation. I didn't have a drummer and I didn't need one – bands like Sigur Ros taught me that you don’t have to have all instruments going all the time on every song. I admire bands with those kinds of dynamics, where members are prepared to drop out, or come in late in the piece for the benefit of the song.
HUP: Given you have found some success internationally, without needing to have engaged with the local scene, would you recommend to others going down the Soundcloud (or similar) route? And on the flipside, do you think there are advantages to playing, and having a following, locally?
Schott: From my experience the local scene always moves in ebbs and flows, sometimes active, sometimes less so, conditional on venues and activity levels of bands. For me Soundcloud was a way of reaching people whose tastes extended beyond what people seemed to be wanting in the local scene at the time. I am not criticizing local bands, they just weren't doing what I was doing and so I wouldn't have fitted neatly into any gig lineup. A lot of bands matched each other at the time. A lot of garage rock. I could have seen sink \ sink and Sora Shima on the same bill for sure, but they weren't active live at the time, as they were finishing off their debut album You Are Surrounded. In 2013 I decided to put sink \ sink on hold while I played in Ancient Tapes (A shoegaze influenced band). We were a 100% local and live band. We initially struggled to find venues and other bands to play with, as there was nothing going on. Within that time period though, things started to happen again, gig organizers became very active (HUP, and Chumz and Cam), venues opened their doors to a broader range of music genres and we got a number of gigs in a short space of time. With that it was a matter of winning people over. With no shoegaze scene or similar bands in Hamilton it was a matter of trying to convince people. That was a completely different challenge. Not that people aren't receptive, they just took a bit of time to understand what we were trying to do (e.g. our mix preferences which purposefully de-emphasized the vocal as a focal point). It was healthy for us as a band, we had to play often, be consistent and play to people who weren't necessarily out to see us. The advantage of playing live was getting to know and play with other New Zealand bands — some amazingly talented, yet humble people out there who have since become great friends. Building an audience is hard though. People come out to see specific people. There are few people who just go out and catch whatever is on. So while we played to a lot of people we found it hard to build momentum. It was always different pockets of people at each gig really. Next May I am playing in birds of passage at the Further Future Festival in the US. That gig is about translating Alicia's recordings (taken from her 3 albums) and playing them live. That will be interesting as people will be there to see her based on her recorded work and will have their own expectations for the set. That will be a completely different experience that melds the recording / live thing.
HUP: Despite being based in Hamilton, you have used international collaborators. How has that come about?
Schott: The international collaborations came out of being active primarily on Soundcloud, as I wasn't a live act. I was approached by a producer based in Chicago who also had a singer, Kim [Schulke]. Together we made the first album. I wrote and recorded the music, sent it to them and they wrote and recorded the vocals and mixed and mastered the whole thing. It was a cool experience getting your song back not having had a part in some elements of the process. For the second album I wanted a much more minimal approach and more control or access to the songs during the process, so I spoke to Callum [Plews] (producer) and Kim and told them I'd like to do something different. I have continued to collaborate with both of them since that first album. Kim is on the soundtrack I did for Julia Reynold's short film 'Returning', and I recently recorded some guitar parts for Callum's band Sleeves, which should be coming out this month. For 'a lone cloudburst' I approached Ylva [Krantz], who is based in Sweden, as she had a voice very similar to Rachel Goswell from Slowdive. I grew up watching Shoegaze bands back in the UK and wanted that kind of sound. She also sang in Swedish on the album, which was great as I have no idea what she is singing, but it fits with the mood of the song whatever it is! I also started working with Sean Lynch from Conway on that album. He produced the whole thing here in NZ, which meant I was much more involved in the mixes. He makes the odd appearance on the album too. He was wonderful to work with. When we recorded the Hummingbird EP with Ancient Tapes we asked him to engineer and produce it as I trust him 100%.
HUP: The members of the band have changed between albums, with you remaining the constant. Has that been a conscious decision, and do you have all new contributors on your latest recordings?
Schott: Yes, line up changes have been a conscious decision based on the songs that I have written and recorded. There are some lovely versions of ‘a lone cloudburst’ songs that have Kim singing on them. But I had a very strong idea for that album and the same vocal approach that worked on the first album didn’t really match what I had in my head for the second album. I do have a consistent cello player in Catherine [Milson] who has been with me a while now. She is also on the Hummingbird EP by Ancient Tapes. Rob [Shirlow] (Sora Shima, Ancient Tapes) has guested on bass, on a track that I have yet to release. While I can do most things myself, it is nice to have someone come in with different ideas and a different style of playing. At the moment I have basic ideas and recordings for new songs but nothing too developed. I am torn at the moment, as I have loved playing live over the last two years. Plus I am in the process of starting a new project locally with some familiar faces from bands I have already mentioned in this interview. These days I have to think is this a sink \ sink song or should I try it out with the guys in the new project? I have never played any sink \ sink songs live. It is something I'd like to do one day.
HUP: On the naming of your band and its releases, and in common with Alicia Merz from 'birds of passage', you have a love of using lower case at the start of your titles. What it the deal with that?
Schott: Yes, I have an unreasonable dislike for title case! I don't know where that has come from. The name itself was chosen for our eventual proximity to other bands in iTunes (e.g., Sigur Ros or Slowdive) and also its look on posters, album covers, etc. In choosing sink \ sink we were bouncing band name ideas about and I suggested “sink [insert word] sink”, but couldn't decide what the word should be that should go in the middle, and then the graphic designer among us (Mr Alan Deare) came up with the idea of using a symbol. I think too much emphasis was placed on how it looked and not how you pronounce it. Is it “sink sink” or “sink backslash sink”, and if so, what the hell does that mean?! No one ever presented it correctly or as it was intended, people used title case anyway and forward slashes instead of backslashes! Lower case is also simple and seems to match the uncomplicated and understated nature of the music. A stupid name in retrospect.
I N T E R V I E W
John Worsley : The Romantic Andes
by Ian Duggan
A major aim of Hamilton Underground Press is to promote and enable musical and artistic happenings in Hamilton. One way of facilitating this is if new bands can gain insights from bands that came before, on how they become successful in their time.
In this interview I am talking to John Worsley, former guitarist and vocalist for ‘Romantic Andes’, later known simply as ‘The Andes’, who were a very popular live band in the early to mid-1990s. Besides attracting large crowds to their gigs, they won the Contact 89 FM Battle of the Bands in 1994, played support for popular singer-songwriter Jan Hellriegel, released one album (To Understand the Animals), an EP (Rocket), and also appeared on a number of compilations.
HUP: John, firstly, my memory of your gigs was you playing to some big crowds, and there being lots of dancing. The crowds you attracted weren’t there to just stand and stare. Do you have any memory of the sizes of your audiences, and how did you initially build this following?
John: I think our biggest crowd was close to 1,000 people at one of our release gigs at [former University of Waikato venue] the Wailing Bongo. We can’t claim all the credit though as we had the Able Tasmans playing with us that night.
We started out busking, then doing gigs in people’s houses with some other local bands. They were pretty crazy nights, playing in kitchens and lounges, wherever we could all fit. We played a number of gigs at the Wailing Bongo, Ward Lane and a few other bars around Hamilton. Most of our gigs were free or pretty cheap, which along with the cheap alcohol helped draw the crowds. We had a lot of promotion on the student radio (Contact 89 FM) and newspaper (Nexus), which helped a lot. We also had some pretty dedicated mates that loved coming along to support us and the bar!
HUP: Even without playing support to out-of-towners, I remember you were pulling pretty good crowds on your own accord! A lot of it was obviously on the strength of your songs, such as the popular ‘Anaconda Funky Limbo’, ‘Half a World Away’ and ‘Happy Hug Song’. I remember you also wore costumes. How important do you think having a gimmick was in being noticed, and were there any other unique things you did?
John: It was fun to dress up, but I don’t think it’s that important. That said though, I always remember one of Mobile Stud Unit’s (MSU) gigs where the lead singer, Rohan [Marx], set himself on fire and one of his band mates extinguished him. Probably not advisable, but it was pretty cool to watch. I can’t think of any other unique things we did… Having a cellist in the band kept things interesting, and a mate Matt rapped with us a couple of times.
HUP: Other than the Able Tasmans and Jan Hellriegel, did you play support for anyone else?
John: Yes, we played with The 3Ds, Garageland, Alastair Galbraith, Pansy Division, and probably a few others.
HUP: What do you consider the greatest achievements of the Romantic Andes?
John: Making a couple of CDs and seeing people enjoying themselves at our gigs were probably our best achievements.
HUP: Looking back, what do you regard as the Romantic Andes best songs, and how were they written? Did you and [other guitarist and vocalist] Dylan Parry write together or separately?
John: Our best songs were probably Slow Trip to the Moon, Half a World Away and Anaconda Funky Limbo Music. Pretty much everyone in the band contributed to Anaconda Funky Limbo Music. Dylan wrote Slow Trip to the Moon, and I wrote Half a World Away. Everyone came up with their own parts though, so it was pretty much a band effort for most of our songs.
HUP: There was a push on Facebook for a potential Andes reunion about seven years ago, driven largely by ex-drummer Mike Clarkin, and from memory I think all three drummers from the various line ups were keen, at least! People were willing to attend from all over. Were you aware of this, and is there any chance you guys might at least jam together again one day?
John: I heard a little bit about it. I’m sure everyone in the band would like to, but it’s pretty hard finding time when we’re living in different countries, etc.
HUP: You haven’t played in any bands since the Andes broke up in 1996. Do you still pick up your guitar, and are there any regrets you didn’t stick at it longer?
John: The only time I pick up a guitar these days is to play some songs with my children, or to stop them from breaking it. After University we all left Hamilton and went our separate ways, so it wasn’t really possible to keep the band going. I don’t have any major regrets other than that I wish we had spent some more time and money on recording. We had fun playing in the band and met lots of great people, so I can’t complain.
I N T E R V I E W
Geoff Doube : The Shrugs
by Arpie Shirehorse
The Shrugs, as many readers will know, were stalwarts of the Hamilton live scene until almost two years ago when Geoff Doube, the band's only constant throughout its various guises, shifted across the ditch to Melbourne. HUP recently caught up with Geoff via modern communication methods, had a bit of a yarn, then wrote this stuff...
HUP: How did The Shrugs begin its life?
I was mucking around with a cassette four-track and casiotone, and jamming with friends, when my girlfriend told me that I'd better start a 'proper' band (or what, she never told me). We rehearsed in the Cambridge town hall because our drummer Richie could get the key from the Datsuns. We played a battle of the bands and a couple of parties and then Richie left the band. I remember him saying, 'well, that's the end of The Shrugs then', and me stubbornly thinking, 'actually, no it isn't'.
HUP: What was your greatest achievement?
Getting to play our own songs to people who sometimes enjoyed them, and travelling around meeting and playing with lots of talented musicians.
HUP: What are your best/worst memories about being in The Shrugs?
I can't think of anything terribly bad... if it had stopped being fun I would have quit. One great memory I have is finding out we were being played on the radio in towns other than Hamilton. That was a real buzz for a small-town boy like me.
HUP: What was the best show you ever played?
We played a lot of shows so picking one would be hard. I have fond memories of playing the Cambridge Road Guy Fawkes parties. Any gig out of town where we would get a bunch of people dancing and cheering (despite not knowing who we were) was great.
HUP: What is your favourite Hamilton music memory?
I can't tell you that in a family publication.
HUP: Do you feel being based in Hamilton helped or hindered The Shrugs?
It hindered us mostly in terms of our ability to get gigs and radio play outside Hamilton. There was a brief moment during the popularity of The Datsuns where it wasn't a hindrance (apart from the fact that then everyone expected us to be The Datsuns). But most of the time there was a perception that Hamilton was pretty backwards and that bands from there would be crap. Every time I did an interview with an out of town radio station or magazine the first question would be something to do with Hamilton. In the end I was like, you know, it's just where I live, it's not a big deal! Besides, Paul and Gordon (drums/bass) don't even live in Hamilton... But Hamilton had a really good supportive scene, so in that sense it was a help when we were starting out.
HUP: How do we 'fix' the Hamilton music scene?!
Oh dear. The thing that fucked 'the scene' was the loss of Contact FM - I mean the original loss of it as a result of ideological elements in the student body. It's true that radio as a medium has lost relevance now, but Contact was more than merely a broadcaster - it had lots of functions in organising gigs & parties, providing recording providing recording facilities, training young people, and just as a hub around which a whole lot of activities could revolve. So, to 'fix the scene' I think what is required is another hub, although what that would be in the internet age I can't really imagine. Certainly it needs to strike the balance that Contact struck between being well-run and organised and being chaotic, dangerous, and fun. Unfortunately, well-meaning grown-ups are a hindrance to a genuine scene, no matter how much money they throw at it. The elements of a healthy scene are: underage drinking; disaffected smart young people; cannabis; someone a bit older who knows how to work a PA and has a van.
I N T E R V I E W
Dan Satherley : Radio Over Moscow
by Ian Duggan
‘Radio Over Moscow’ is the prolific indie-electro project of ex-Hamiltonian, now Auckland based, Dan Satherley (aka Dan X). Dan began his music career in Hamilton, with a brief appearance as a guitarist in indie-rock band Sequester, followed by the short-lived brit-pop inspired group SophieXEnola, and then the even shorter-lived Planet Claire. In 2000 he formed his first long-term venture, the indietronic solo project ‘luna spark’, which continued following his move to Auckland in 2004. He changed the name to ‘Radio Over Moscow’ in 2009, to reflect a change in sound.
HUP: Dan, your output in Radio Over Moscow has been prolific. Where does your inspiration come for your songs?
Dan: I used to write largely about what I knew; it took years to figure out no one was interested in that! Nowadays the inspiration can come from anywhere, particularly if it happens in February. That's not as strange an answer as it sounds. I'm a regular at fawm.org – February Album Writing Month – which is kind of like Nanowrimo [National Novel Writing Month], but for people who think they can write songs. Okay, maybe it is as strange an answer as it sounds.
I used to write whenever was convenient, which pre-kids was whenever I wanted to. Now, I tend to collect bits and bobs through the year – riffs, melodies, song titles ripped from great tweets, the news or the Fortean Times – then come February, take some time off work and bang it all together for a few weeks and voila, there's another twenty or so demos of wildly varying quality. No, I don't know if I'll ever get time to record and release them all (the world sighs in relief).
The Dharma Police project of mine – which incidentally, has more followers on Facebook than Radio Over Moscow, if that means anything – is 90% old-school synthpop songs about the TV show Lost. The rest are about super-volcanoes and questions like, 'what if the moon was sentient?' But taking that idea kind of seriously, if that's possible. I've actually got another couple of records' worth of Lost-themed material sitting in the nearly-finished basket, I must warn...
As for Radio Over Moscow, the past couple of albums have had songs about Brian Tamaki, Michael Laws, John Key. Yeah, the hate flows strong, I guess, but there's also stuff about flood mythology, biotic resistance, interstellar conspiracy, Hone Harawira, hyperinflation, Stargate, and er, Lost. Really accessible stuff. I'm expecting a call from Adele any day now.
HUP: Your sci-fi and interstellar conspiracy references are pretty clear! One of my favourite recent tracks is ‘The Wow! Signal’, named after the signal picked up by the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project in 1977, which had the characteristics that might be expected to come from an extra-terrestrial source. It is a song that is seemingly about the paranoia of aliens coming to Earth, mentions panspermia, the theory that life on the Earth originated from materials originating from outer space, and has a recurring line of “the truth is out there”, the tagline from the X-Files. What do you rate as your favourite song from a lyrical perspective?
Dan: 'The Wow! Signal' fits into this little niche of songs I've accumulated which lyrically, pretty much wrote themselves. As I mentioned earlier I do most of my writing in quite concentrated bursts, which has taught me to trust in whatever fate delivers. Write drunk, edit sober, you know? For many of these tunes, they're not comedy as such. I mean, there's nothing which you would call a joke in them. But if a line brings a smirk to my face as it manifests, I'd usually consider it worthy of making the cut.
But as an air quotes 'serious artiste' who grew up with grunge, I like the humour to bite. Songs like 'Kid Fud', an outright tribute to Hone Harawira's failed 'Feed the Kids' bill, and 'Antediluvia', which takes climate change to the illogical conclusion the seas will rise so high they'll engulf the solar system... they definitely fit into that category.
Favourite lyric of my own is probably 'Hide the Decline'. The recording could be better — the production is all kinds of wrong — but it's probably the catchiest song you'll ever hear about alleged meteorological fraud. I'm nearing the completion of a new record made up largely of songs I wrote back when I was barely done being a teenager -- and god, the lyrics were awful. I've literally had to rewrite 35 minutes of millenial teenage 'feelings' into... whatever it is I do now.
HUP: What other artists would you describe your sound as being similar to?
Dan: I wouldn't say my music doesn't sound like anyone else 'cause it's wholly unique. It's more a result of not being half as talented as those I'd like to emulate, and insisting on doing everything myself; writing, recording, mixing, mastering, "promotion" (i.e., tweeting a link once).
The influences are probably obvious - my problem is usually deciding which one to rip off! Computers these days make the production choices essentially endless. I spent most of my free time trying to get Billy Corgan's guitar sounds, but unfortunately my guitar skills are closer to Lil Wayne's. I think I'm pretty close to getting a half-decent 'Abbey Road' Ringo drum sound too, but that doesn't mesh so well with the 'Melon Collie' guitars, you know?
I'd love to make a sound combining the best of New Order, Nirvana, the Beatles, Devo, Nine Inch Nails, early '90s U2, the Human League, Kraftwerk, Joan Jett, Cheap Trick, Trans Am, the Manics on 'The Holy Bible', Gary Numan, Ultravox and Duran Duran... but it ain't gonna happen.
Fuck, if anyone could pull that off, I'd be impressed...
HUP: What are your aspirations for the project?
Dan: Aspirations are something I should have given up on by now. If I was better at the people and business side of things, who knows. By the time I release a bunch of songs I'm pretty much sick to death of them (third verse, lead vocal, take 42...) and halfway through recording the next album anyway! I secretly don't like leaving the house and dealing with the real world. There's a small part of me that thinks one day, when I least expect it, one of my tunes will pull a Gangnam Style – divided by about a billion of course. In other words, someone might listen to one.
HUP: You were highly supportive of Hamilton music when you lived there, setting up the now defunct websites Hamiltron Yahoogroup and htown.co.nz, edited the Hamilton Music zine Clinton, briefly supplied Rip It Up with a Hamilton column, and were integral in launching the Hamilton Music Wiki. What have been your favourite Hamilton bands, and have you kept up with the scene since your move to Auckland?
Dan: The Datsuns of course were fucking amazing back then. Probably still are, I wouldn't know. I haven't seen them in probably a decade. But, a) they're never playing Ward Lane again, and b) I'm about 15 years — and kilograms! — past the sweet spot for hitting that dance floor.
I really dug Tweeter. So glad they managed to get an album out. It's like Weezer with synths. Something I've been trying in vain to pull off since figuring out the '80s weren't the enemy. Daisy Chain Halo were unfairly maligned by a lot of the cool kids. So disappointing they never managed to get a proper album together. The EP is good though. There's not a better song you'll ever hear out of Hamilton than 'Soft Light Serenade'. There are loads of old bands from those pre-MySpace, pre-DAW days that now only exist through a handful of tracks, if more than just a single recording. The EP Schrodinger's Cat did was great, Stadium kinda fell apart before getting anything really decent down on tape, and I don't know of any Nervous Wreck recordings at all. Handsome Geoffrey had some great songs, but can't say I've got anything that does them justice sitting on my hard drive.
I remember being pissed off the year Dogs on Prozac won the Battle of the Bands. I had the holy attitude a 'comedy' band shouldn't win competitions 'serious artists' like myself had entered. A few years later in Auckland, I spent a year with (lead singer) Kent [Briggs] kicking ass in Kittyhawk, a band with songs like 'Big Stick'! The Dogs knew how to lay down a weird fucking groove though.
So obviously, I haven't really kept up with what's happening in the Tron the past decade or so. Put it down to getting old and boring, I dunno. I've often wondered if I moved back, would I go out again? Is it still acceptable to stash drinks in the alley behind Ward Lane?
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M U S I C R E V I E W
Die by the Axe LP
Hamilton has a bit of a reputation of bringing out some of the best and heaviest rock music this country has to offer. Whether that’s breakthrough four piece Devilskin, the rock and roll kings of H-Town, The Datsuns or the hardcore heroes of Hamtown Smackdown, Hamilton knows heavy. Lining up in this tradition is Hamilton heavy metalers, Deathnir (pronounced Death-near), who after strong showings in the Battle of the Bands comp have arrived with their first full length album. It’s true to the traditions of riff heavy metal and varied enough to draw in rock fans across genres.
Opening track, The Summoning, displays Deathnir’s skill for rocking lead breaks and guitar driven traditional metal. Yes, there are Satanic references, yes there are references to killing and dragons and all that has stood on the shoulders of metal gone before. And that’s just the opening track. Guitarist and vocalist Andrew Carter growls out his lyrics with the best of them. The tempos change up too with tracks like Never Go filled with thrashing drums, while The Void is almost delicate in its introduction and maintains a ballad feel even when the distortion kicks in.
For all those sludgy nights at Biddys where these guys were onstage, getting their chops down and honing songs, this album is a real testament to their hard work. Hp