Last time we spoke with Andrew Wilson from Die! Die! Die! the band was touring New Zealand in support of a new single, and we had a long, wide-ranging chat about everything. This time around there’s a whole new album, but we could only fit in a quick Q&A. Funny how things turn out.
This is Not an Island Anymore has been out for a few months now (nice to see it in the album charts when it was released, too!). What’s the reaction been to the album so far?
Initially the reaction was super positive, especially from people who appreciated our earlier material. I am still getting the odd email now about people appreciating the album which is lovely after it’s been out for 6 months.
The video for 'Losing Sight, Keep on Kicking' is a pretty unforgettable watch. Where did the idea come from?
From Lachlan’s friend Jonas, who directed the video. He said he thought of the idea when he was in the gym….. go figure.
Your setlists usually have a pretty deep spread of old and new songs. This tour is celebrating the new album so will we hear more of This is Not an Island Anymore than anything else?
Haha, yeah I think the set will be focused on the new album. I don’t want to give away too much though. People will have to come to the show to see ;)
What else can Hamilton expect to see from you on August 5?
I can only speak for myself but I have some lovely new pedals I am excited to try out for the first time live.
You’ve said that “This will be the last chance to see DDD for a while”. Why’s that? What have you got planned once this tour’s over?
We have a new EP coming out very soon. But to arrange a tour with the three of us has been quite challenging so these shows will be it for a while. We’ve played a lot over the last 19 years. But you never know…..
Die! Die! Die! will open their This Is Not An Island Anymore Tour at Never Project Space on Friday August 5. Tickets from Ticket Fairy.
R E V I E W
The Dolby Brothers; ‘The Nightclub Scene’, ‘Supermarket Stories’ and ‘Radio Dolby 89.6FM’
By Ian Duggan
How to describe ‘The Dolby Brothers’?
The Dolby Brothers are a mysterious duo who have released three concept albums to date - ‘The Nightclub Scene’ in October 2021, followed by ‘Supermarket Stories’ in December, and most recently ‘Radio Dolby 89.6FM’ last month. But their Bandcamp doesn’t give a lot away about them. To break a little of the mystery, however, one I know was a member of a band popular from the Waikato University scene in the early 1990s. Don’t expect any indie pop songs here though.
The sound of the Dolby Brothers is probably best described, as their Bandcamp tag suggests, as ‘experimental electronic’. A touchstone, perhaps, is the early disco infused French synth band ‘Space’, but with a little added inspiration from ‘elevator musak’. The lyrics, though, are observational, which at my age makes ‘Supermarket Blues’ resonate far more strongly than ‘The Nightclub Scene’ – a regular chore versus a now distant memory. The opening track, of that EP, ‘I Shop Alone’, provides a good example of the lyrics that will unite introverted or focused supermarket shoppers everywhere:
“I need to get the supermarket shopping done real quick;
I want to get out of here as fast as I can;
My wife has written the list;
This is going to be easy.”
….only for the shopper, Dylan Dolby, to run into Denise from work and then another acquaintance who wants to chat about the rugby, while poor Dylan is just wanting to get the shopping done in peace. The lyrics are delivered as a mix of spoken and sung, and I’m going to have to go with William Shatner here as the most relatable comparison for vocal style. The newest of the releases, ‘Radio Dolby 89.6FM’, is the music associated with a mockumentary-style podcast recorded by the duo, based on the broadcasts of Radio Dolby 89.6 FM, “a fictional radio station based in Dolby city, a dystopian post-apocalyptic metropolis”. On this, which can be found on Spotify, “Dylan and Drew Dolby host a late night radio show featuring music, street interviews and talk back calls from the eclectic residents of Dolby city”.
To hear more, check out the releases on Bandcamp, and other good online musical outlets.
R E V I E W
‘Total Eclipse of my Brain’ EP by Belladonna
By Ian Duggan
“The time has come to open thy heart/wallet” Bandcamp tells me, as I listen freely to Belladonna’s ‘Total Eclipse of my Brain’ EP one too many times. We have been a bit quiet at HUP recently, with seemingly little happening in the music scene to keep us excited, but here is an EP that has pulled me out of my unintentional slumber.
Belladonna is Bella Cook, an ex-Hamiltonian, who despite moving to Wellington at the age of 16 still reflects on the misunderstood city with a genuine fondness. No Kirikiriroa-associated cultural cringe to be seen here, thank goodness. ‘Total Eclipse of my Brain’ is a wonderfully coherent EP - Bella knows her sound – and it features four songs from the top shelf. This isn’t surprising, when looking at her past releases; ‘Hands’, from her 2020 ‘Salty Dog’ EP, was one of the twenty finalists in the APRA Silver Scroll Awards that year, while I hate to think how many times I’ve personally listened to wonderful ‘Kiss Me’ off that same release. Bella knows how to write a great pop song. On the new EP, Bella comes across as a sensitive and nostalgic type, with emotive lyrics and mentions of Hamilton (and suburb Hillcrest) never too far away.
The first track on ‘Total Eclipse…’, ‘Slow Motion’ is representative of songs on the rest of the EP as a whole, with lyrics indicative of Bella’s overtly reflective nature - “I’ve been thinking about my old house…” she sings, and it is at this point she gives us the first mention of her former hometown also. Here she taps into universal feelings that will resonate with anyone with a heart, but it also hits hard at my own personal emotions; the mere mention of my long-term home of Hamilton, a city about which there aren’t nearly enough songs, and a location that isn’t celebrated enough (in song, or otherwise). I think this may be my new favourite Belladonna song…
Second song, ‘Love Like This’, comes with a brand-new video, which she states “reflects how awesome female friendships are”. Scenes in the video of her cycling with a friend remind me of one by some other individuals schooled in Hamilton – that of ‘Raglan City’ by Duchess, which included Anna Coddington and bandmates cruising the streets of Raglan. And then there is ‘Hillcrest’. Hopefully many will already be familiar with this wonderful song, another built on both memories and complicated emotions – an ode, she told us, to both an early crush as well as to the Hamilton suburb itself. Besides the fantastic tune and lyrics, there are some lovely sounds going on in here that the BBC Radiophonic Workshop would have been proud of. Okay, so maybe I can’t pick a favourite Belladonna song, because I am certainly still in love with this one also, many months after first discovering it. The second of the four songs on the EP to have a video, nostalgia runs thick here, with lots of footage of Bella and friends from their younger days, and featuring scenes from the titular suburb, Silverdale and beyond.
Overall, ‘Total Eclipse of my Brain’ is a fantastic EP, which has certainly helped get me excited about music again. And if you run out of listens on Bandcamp, you can find it on plenty of other platforms also!
‘Bunnyman - A Memoir’ by Will Sergeant
Peak ‘Echo and the Bunnymen’ was a bit before my time. Although I was familiar with a lot of their bigger songs (e.g., Lips Like Sugar, The Killing Moon), it was really only due to lockdowns that I began to explore their catalogue more fully. Ignoring my usual desire to discover the new, in this time I found solace by exploring the past – ultimately driven there by the algorithms of digital music platforms. Given this, the release of a memoir by Echo and the Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant came at exactly the right time. And I am glad of it, because once I started, this is one of those autobiographies I was sad I had to finish.
The book starts right from Sergeant’s very beginnings, and spends a lot of time covering his difficult family life and the dangers of growing up in 1960s/early 1970s industrial Liverpool. Early on we meet some of the important characters who, through fate, become important again later in life. As you might expect, his developing musical experiences and journey of explorations is presented.
The book is halfway done before Sergeant discovers “Eric’s”, the legendary Liverpool club. Fortuitously, Sergeant stumbles across an advertisement for an XTC gig – a band he had heard of, but knew nothing much about. By chance he becomes reacquainted that night with a couple of old school friends, one of whom was Les Patterson, who went on to become bass player for the Bunnymen. Though not particularly impressed by XTC, this visit to Eric’s begins a habit, which sees him experiencing the early days of many bands that would later become widely known. It is here also that he befriends Julian Cope, who in turn introduces him to ‘Macul’ – a.k.a. Ian McCulloch. A guitar and drum machine are bought, which then leads on to the Bunnymen story proper. Overall, less than a quarter of the book is taken up with Echo and the Bunnymen, and this only covers their first year of existence. But what a year this was. With Sergeant and Patterson having barely learned their instruments, through gigs featuring their fair share of mishaps, anyone in a band will be jealous of how much luck the Bunnymen seemingly experience in these formative days; highlights include an invitation to record a Peel session, the release of their debut single and being signed to a record company. It seems incomprehensible that a band could rise so quickly now… except, of course, with an equal dollop of luck and the algorithm gods smiling upon them.
Overall, this is a fascinating story, and well told. The book comes to an abrupt end, early in the career of the Bunnymen - still a couple of years before they first tour to New Zealand - and the main positive I can take from this is that it leaves me hope that this isn’t the last autobiography we see from Will Sergeant. Highly recommended.
- Ian Duggan
A R T I C L E
Outside my Usual Wheelhouse: A Q&A with Caspar Kneale of Thagomizer
with Ian Duggan
HUP wrote a review of ‘Synth from the Dawn of Time’ by Wellington dino synth project ‘Thagomizer’ a few weeks ago, and described it as "Mesozoic mood music". Then, in November – in a move that got us straight in the feels – they released a new EP titled... "Mesozoic Mood Music"! We tracked down Thagomizer’s Caspar Kneale to discuss the Wikipedia rabbit holes the songs can take you down, the micro-genres of dino synth and dungeon synth, the most appropriate situations someone should listen to Thagomizer in, and more!
HUP: Let’s start with a quick look at your earliest music releases. With your father and a sibling, you released a number of experimental/avant-garde songs between 2003 and 2006 under the name ‘Kneale.Kneale.Kneale’, and you had an earlier 7” single under your own name, lathe cut at King Records. Among the earliest compositions here, you are noted as having been only 4 or 7 year’s old, depending on where you read. And from what I can tell, your earliest personal compositions on the 7” (re-released on the 2003/2004’ Kneale.Kneale.Kneale ‘The Silver Chair’ EP) were called ‘Feather Duster’ and ‘Dinosaur Wars’. The point I’m trying to get at here is, it looks like you have been into dinosaurs – both avian and non-avian – for a very long time, and you clearly know a lot about them. Can you tell us a bit about your interest in dinosaurs?
Caspar: Wow, that's some really good digging. I honestly hadn't even made the connection about the fact I already had a song named about dinosaurs, haha. I think the Feather Duster one is unrelated - I was just a kid who thought feather dusters where cool. Clearly I've been making dino synth since waaaaay back. But you're absolutely right that I've always loved dinosaurs. What kid doesn't right? From as far back as I can remember they were always the most amazing creatures to me. I don’t even think my memories go back to a time where dinosaurs weren't something I was interested in. One of my favourite stories of my childhood is being taken to the library and being found in the prehistoric life section, with literally every book about dinosaurs down on the ground beside me. Disney's Dinosaurs is one of the very, very few movies I've seen in cinemas multiple times and I definitely remember hiding behind the couch when I watched Jurassic Park at too young of an age. As a kid I was dead set on studying to become a palaeontologist, which hasn't quite happened (unfortunately it's just not really something you can study in New Zealand), but I guess making dino synth music is the next best thing, right? I wish I had a better explanation for a childhood obsession that's continued through my whole life... but let's be honest; at the end of the day dinosaurs are just really, really cool.
HUP: I love it when I listen to a song and I end up on Wikipedia learning new things because of it. In particular, on the first Thagomizer EP, I really enjoyed ‘The Bone Wars’, because I got to learn about palaeontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, and their intense rivalry for fossil hunting and discovery in the late 19th Century. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the songs on the new EP?
Caspar: For the most part I don’t write the songs with names in mind. They come later. Generally, once the songs are written I go on a hunt through the internet for terms or topics that I find both interesting and match the vibe of each track. I definitely do aim for that Wikipedia rabbit hole effect with some of the song titles. I try to find a balance when naming the songs between evocative, informative and matching the feeling of each song. Even better if in the process of deciding on song names I get to learn something myself. For example, ‘Upon Tethyan Shores’ was a great chance for me to learn about the prehistoric geography of our world. Like, we all know the basics of Pangaea and Gondwanaland, but I've never looked into the smaller land features. I was tossing up between The Eromanga Sea (an inland sea in what is now central Australia) and Tethys Sea (located between Gondwana and Laurasia before the opening of the Indian and Atlantic oceans). Being not only a dino nerd but also a geography nerd, it was a perfect rabbit hole to fall down.
HUP: Click on #dinosynth on Bandcamp, and I find you are not alone. For example, there are artists like Diplodocus from the USA, Pteranodon from Lithuania, Synthosaurus from Germany and Archosaur from Finland. How did you get interested in Dino Synth, and do you have particular favourite artists or songs we should check out?
Caspar: My introduction to the micro-genre was stumbling across Diplodocus – ‘Slow and Heavy B Sides’ on YouTube – and I'm sure my initial reaction was the same as yours; "Oh what? There’s such a thing as dino synth? Where has this been all my life?" Then I preceded to do nothing with that information until very recently. Diplodocus are still my biggest influence by far. I really appreciate the atmosphere that they bring to the genre and I really hope that I manage to summon a similar feeling with my releases. I really enjoy Synthosaurus' ‘Metalosauric Crush’ too; it takes a very different approach, almost feeling inspired by power metal as opposed to black metal. It's very grandiose and epic sounding. In the wider dungeon synth genre, one of my favourites is the self-titled release by Iskall. It sounds really cold and artificial in all the best ways. If I knew more about how synths work I might have tried to make something more akin to that in sound.
HUP: I find your EPs really relaxing, and I used the term ‘Mesozoic mood music’ to describe it in my review of the first EP. Under what set of circumstances do you think it best to experience your music? During a barbeque? At work? In the privacy of your own room?
Caspar: I'm not gonna lie, I'm genuinely not sure when people listen to dino synth. It's a pretty weird thing to put on at any time. I really like listening to it when I'm out on my long run for the week. There’s something to the steady tempo of my footfalls and the dino steps in the music that works really well for me. So maybe the best time to listen is when you’re out for a nice walk. I'm sure it'll set a great mood that will help make it feel like an adventure. Failing that maybe make it the soundtrack to your table-top RPG set in caveman times.
HUP: Dino Synth is said to be an offshoot of ‘Dungeon Synth’. Is this something you are into more broadly, and can you explain what it is?
Caspar: Dungeon Synth is a genre I've been aware of for a few years without being super immersed in. I think my dad showed me Burzum's album ‘Filosofem’, and the amazing synth on it led to him showing me Mortiis and the amazingly niche genre of dungeon synth. If I was to describe the genre to someone I'd probably say it sounds like instrumental black metal... with no guitars. Some of it is super medieval folk influenced, others could almost be mistaken for a video game soundtrack. All-in-all, its just the perfect genres to soundtrack your DnD game.
HUP: What music are you into, and involved in now, outside of Thagomizer?
Caspar: Outside of dino synth I'm into the heavier side of music. I play guitar in a beatdown hardcore band called ColdxWar, and in a drum machine grindcore band called Marrowspawn. It's honestly only down to needing surgery to repair a ligament in my hand that I ever got round to making Thagomizer a reality. Until two months ago I'd never made any music not involving a guitar. It's been a really fun journey learning how to make music that is so outside my usual wheelhouse. Starting from zero all over again has been super refreshing and a definite positive coming out of a pretty lame situation.
HUP: What gear do you use to record as Thagomizer?
Caspar: Thagomizer is recorded exclusively using digital instruments on Logic Pro. It all had to be able to be made using one hand because of the surgery. Generally on the songs I use a collection of brass instruments (Tuba, French horn, trombone and trumpets) to create the bulk of the track along with timpanies and 808s for the stomping of huge feet. Add in a few sound effects and ‘bam’, dino synth. I'm really interested to see what other instruments lend themselves to the themes of dinosaurs. I'm sure it can't just be brass instruments the conjurer such imagines.
HUP: When I look on Facebook, there was a band called Thagomizer that was active in Wellington between 2013 and 2014. Were you related to this band in any way? I do note they had the same Bandcamp address as you are using now!
Caspar: Honestly, the matching names is just a coincidence. Thagomizer has been my absolute favourite dino related word since I found out about it. I'd joked about making a dinosaur themed doom band called Thagomizer in the past, so it was the natural name for the project. I did a little search for the name and since the Wellington band hadn't done anything in a while, I figured it was fair game. I guess they must have closed their Bandcamp page or something ‘cos by the time I got round to making one I didn’t have any issues. Maybe I should have coined a term for an Iguanadon's thumb spike and named myself that...
A R T I C L E
The Hitchhikers Guide to Anecdata
By Ian Duggan
In July, Dan Satherley of Anecdata set out to publish 52 songs in 52 weeks, in a project he has called 'A Year in the Life'. First off the block was 'Misunderstanding Ovation', inspired by a cult American singer stranded in New Zealand following the US elections. It isn’t too hard to figure out who that is, with lyrics like “back home, for once, they did the right thing; so let's hear it for me 'til then; and we clap, and we clap”. And that sets the scene for Anecdata, as there is seemingly an interesting story behind every song. There are songs about Covid, the housing crisis, the TV series Lost… and UVB-76 – a radio station that apparently started operating in Russia around 1997, broadcasting (according to Wikipedia); “a short, monotonous buzz tone, repeating at a rate of approximately 25 tones per minute, 24 hours per day”. There are always new and interesting facts to learn while listening to Anecdata. The releases are currently stalled at 16 songs in 16 weeks; he has taken a break, due to lockdown causing some issues with his productivity. So, what better time to look back over my five favourite songs by Anecdata, to provide a gateway for potential listeners to what is quite an extensive back-catalogue!
First up, and highly topical right now, from 2017s ‘You Do Not Do’ is the song ‘Anti-Faxxers’. With its poppy accessibility, and focus on the delusions of the anti-vaccination movement, it is probably more prescient now than when it was released. Among the lyrics that resonate with me the most are “put trust in statisticians, and ditch your superstition”, while the song finishes with a more direct message: “you're killing the children, you're fucking the future, you belong in jail, you're Cain to the Abel”. It is difficult not to compare this song with Phoenix Foundation’s ‘Supernatural’, about people who buy into conspiracies like chemtrails, and more directly to locals Ghost of Electricity’s ‘When I Was Young’; “When I was young we didn’t need to be immunised, we cured polio the natural way, which was to die; become disabled”.
The next song comes from the 2016 album ‘By Choice or Design’, which was the first release as Anecdata after Satherley's previous recording project ‘Radio Over Moscow’ (which he initiated in 2009). ‘The Time Traveller's Dilemma’ seems very reminiscent of something from Kraftwerk’s ‘The Man Machine’ mashed up with the opening theme from Arthur C. Clarkes Mysterious World. It is different from the rest of the album, being slower than most, and with the vocals more robotic. My favourite (indistinct) lyric from the song is, “if the space-time continuum collapses, will you cry?”
My favourite track from 2021’s ‘Undelete’ represents a recycled song from Satherley’s ‘Radio Over Moscow’ days, re-recorded and made more listenable than its previous 2010 version. ‘Hide the Decline (We’re no Better than You)’ is a look inside the mind of a conspiracy theorist, who believes themselves to be more expert than the experts – again, highly relevant in 2021; “I’ve never worn a white coat; or learned the difference between mean, mode and median; still I feel I’m qualified”. Specifically, this song takes its name from a conspiracy theory about a supposed collusion by climatologists to ‘fix’ the data regarding climate change to suit their own agenda. It features the brilliant and insightful line; “it makes one cry for the days before the internet ruined our collective intellect”.
From the same album, ‘Landlords’ provides some social commentary on the ‘rental trap’, and the role landlords play; “we call ourselves the providers, but all we bring are the spiders; they can trap you in our web; as you watch our prices rise even higher”, and “If you don't pay more than half you earn; how will I afford avocado?”. And it is one particularly cheesy, poppy line in this song that is also perhaps one of my favourites on the album: “greedy guts, full of pus, waiting for the bubble bust”.
The 2017 album, ‘But Her Emails...’, differs from other Anecdata albums, in that it had a heavy political focus throughout. A concept album, it was largely recorded between the election and inauguration of President Trump, and the events surrounding this have formed the central focus on this album. Many of the songs begin with quotes sampled from Trump speeches, with the themes of the songs set from there. For example, the album starts with the infamous, “Grab ‘em by the…” quote, while the song ‘Never Clever Ever’ opens with his defence of his tiny hands. Some songs were even scarier though, such as ‘Waiting for Armageddon (Kamikaze Privateer)’, and listening to it now can only make you happy for the demise of Trump’s presidency.
As a bonus track, I leave you with a 2015 ‘Radio Over Moscow’ track, Anecdata’s predecessor. One of my favourite Satherley tracks over his career 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.
R E V I E W
‘Synth from the Dawn of Time’ EP by ‘Thagomizer’
While having a dig through Bandcamp I unearthed a recent EP release by Wellington’s ‘Thagomizer’. I hadn’t heard of this artist, no, but their name immediately caught my attention, because I was familiar with the term ‘thagomizer’ – it refers to the four spikes on the tails of Stegosaurus and their kin. The reason the name is so well known as a point of trivia is because it is a feature that until the 1980s had no name, and as it was coined not by a palaeontologist, but by cartoonist Gary Larson in one of his ‘The Far Side’ cartoons. In it, a group of cavemen are taught by their caveman lecturer that the spikes on a stegosaur's tail – the thagomizer – were named "after the late Thag Simmons”. The title of the EP, ‘Synth from the Dawn of Time’, also caught my interest as, when I’m not exploring new music, listening to ‘80s synth pop is my ‘safe place’. [continued below]
The EP’s opening track is titled ‘Unequivocal Size’, and it sets the scene for the whole EP. The title obviously relates to the bulk of some larger dinosaur species, with the keys playing slowly over beats that are reminiscent of the plodding of an enormous quadruped. Perhaps what you might imagine as being the sound and speed of a Stegosaurus, moving at an estimated 6-7 km/h. Instrumentals, the only vocalisations on this – and other songs on the EP – are of the occasional imagined dinosaur sound. Mostly Thagomizer have avoided the classic dinosaur noises of pop culture; the Jurassic Park-style open-mouthed, forceful roaring. Indeed, it is now appreciated that many dinosaurs perhaps didn’t even make any vocalisations at all (though this wouldn’t have worked so well on the EP), while some may have honked like geese. Instead, Thagomizer have walked the safe middle ground; the sounds used include low frequency rumblings, reminiscent of those made by crocodiles, which is indeed what it is thought some dinosaurs may have sounded like, but not so removed from those of people’s expectations. The only blot in this respect is a classic roar used in the final moments of the EP. [continued below]
The second track follows a very similar plodding beat to the first track, but the title introduces a concept I wasn’t familiar with; that of the ‘Apex Herbivore’. Apex predators are well known, being carnivores that sit at the top of the food chain. An apex herbivore, I learned with some reading, is a plant-eater that is difficult to be preyed on, and thus sits at the top of food chains for a different reason. Nevertheless, despite being used colloquially, a search of Google Scholar reveals it’s a barely used term in the scientific literature.
The beat doesn’t speed up until the final track, ‘The Bone Wars’, though not by much. With this track I got to do some more learning. ‘The Bone Wars’ are known, according to Wikipedia, as “a period of intense and ruthlessly competitive fossil hunting and discovery” in the late 19th C United States. Central to these ‘wars’ was a rivalry between two palaeontologists, Edward Drinker Cope of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and Othniel Charles Marsh – the discoverer of Stegosaurus – of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, at Yale. Each apparently used “underhanded methods to try to outdo the other… resorting to bribery, theft, and the destruction of bones”. As such, the increased sense of urgency on this track may be interpreted both as an increasing rate in the movement of a dinosaur, or as the race between Cope and Marsh for the discovery of new dinosaur fossils. [continued below]
So, what is my over-arching impression of the music? Well, for me, the EP can be best described as ‘Mesozoic mood music’ – I feel it is likely to have a similar effect to the soothing and meditative sounds of whale songs, relaxing the mind and body… only it’s set in the late Jurassic. The artist, however, tags themselves as ‘dino synth’, and there is a whole rabbit hole you can jump down there. Click it, and it turns out there is already a whole genre of ‘dark synth music about the dinosaurs’.
I N T E R V I E W
‘A State of Mind’: An Interview with Hand of Glory
With Ian Duggan
Hamilton’s Hand of Glory are releasing their second album, ‘29 || 92’ – a follow up to their self-titled debut album from 1991 – through German tape label Thokei Tapes on the 23rd or 24th of this month. I talked to the band to find out why this material had never seen the light of day until now, what the title referred to, what became of everyone… just simple things, really… but I was left as something of a bewildered mess. Did I even get the answers I sought? Did I? Read about the experience, below.
This is an amalgam, a blend, a coalesce of thoughts, words and memories initiated by Ian Duggan when he interviewed Hand of Glory.
But before we start, the band would like to collectively intone : ‘we are not competing for your undivided attention : so if you have other things to do .. please …’ …
Well, the interview began with the tape recorder being switched on and the video camera focussed. And this is the ‘no1 best transcript’ of what then ensued.
Firstly, introductions and masked hellos – Peter, Kent, Martin, Gillian, Sean and Alec, and of course Ian – and so the bubble was fully rounded. Seats were taken and beer was served .. and the masks neatly folded.
‘29 || 92’ Ian began .. ‘ahh yes the time signature of the band’ Alec interjected.
Undeterred Ian continued with the thorny question as to ‘why it has taken the band so long to release this the second album ?’ The question almost answered itself. Peter though strode purposefully into another other answer – ‘it was a different time, the age of the CD, not downloads, it was cash up front, not file sharing, and well, we didn’t really fit into any record company model’. There was a wry, almost rueful smile from Peter at this point. ‘The band did try – but didn’t get anywhere .. that gig - remember, when we knew that some Flying Nun A & R types would be there - and I convinced you all to dress in cowboy outfits ? he continued.
Time is a great healer, for most things. Not all. The recollection still induced a slightly sharpish edge to the general laughter. The band drinks some more.
‘We had no money’ says Peter – attempting to move the collective memory on - away from those bloody hats. ‘That’s how we began – with no money .. Martin had a guitar and an amp, and Kent a bass .. and music .. well .. it was an entertainment for ourselves and our friends’. This seems to be working, the tension is easing, the collective band shoulder is softening. Peter seized the opportunity - ‘the kitchen at Memorial Drive – hitting pots and pans in glorious abandon ..’.
Looking at the video of the interview, it is just possible to see, at this point, a certain confusion in Ian’s eyes - what has this to do with the why ? What has happened to my question .. ?
So, before the band could fully settle into a hazily self-referential golden reflection of the past, Ian leaned purposefully forward, and asked : Thokei Tapes ?
Scanning the faces of the band as they mentally staggered and stumbled back into the present, Ian settled on Gillian – as she seemed the first to arrive. ‘Yes’ says Gillian. Pausing slightly – for effect. ‘It’s a long story’.
Ian relaxes slightly - this sounds promising.
‘The tape came to be released by Thokei Tapes entirely by chance’ Gillian begins.
Ian relaxes some more.
‘I saw that Alec Bathgate had released a recording and I decided to buy a download’ Gillian says. ‘I saw that it was also available on cassette tape, so I decided to buy the cassette from Thokei Tapes .. well .. the tape got lost in the mail. Thomas had emailed to say the tape was on its way and then checked a few weeks later to see if it had arrived. It hadn’t.”
Ian is now quite happily relaxed. Some actual, useful, copy he thinks.
‘One day I received the Thokei Tapes newsletter and discovered that Thomas had made the Bandcamp page for another band I was in – I never knew. In my next email communication with him – regarding the missing tape ( he was now offering to refund me ) – I mentioned this. He then asked me if I was involved in any other bands and I mentioned that I had just completed mixing HoG. He asked if he could hear it’.
‘A month later he emailed to remind me to send him a Dropbox link to the album. So I did. A month after that the Alec Bathgate tape finally turned up.’
Spontaneously the band toast Gillian.
More beer is passed around.
Ian senses that the interview is in a delicate position. Having just got it back on track, Ian can see it slipping away again – but ever the nimble interviewer, he asked - ‘So you mixed the album Gillian ?’
‘Yes’ says Gillian. Pausing slightly for effect. ‘It’s a long story’.
The band laugh. And toast Gillian again. And then settle back and share the second cigarette.
Externally Ian remains steadfastly focussed on Gillian – but internally he is thinking .. I’ll just get this story down, a couple of simple questions for the rest of the band and then I can get the hell out of Dodge ..
The band – who never tire of hearing this story – are now listening intently .. waiting for the first note to be strummed ..
‘In 1998’ Gillian begins – in the key of E – ‘I transferred the 1992 recordings from analogue tape to a digital magnetic tape format – Adat – to archive them as it was beginning to get difficult to find machines that would play back ¼ inch 8 track tapes.’
‘To Greg and Orange’ called Martin. ‘To Orange and Greg’ the band responded. The collective clink of bottles caused the tape recording to red-line at this point.
Gillian continues .. ‘And then the tapes were put away in a box in my studio archive. Then last year, during lockdown, I was working on a children’s show, and remembered that in the ‘90s I’d recorded the sound of a synthesiser frying its outputs – as a sound effect – on Adat. I thought that it might fit into the sound design – so I dug out the box of tapes.’
The band are happily hanging onto each note in the story.
‘Well’ says Gillian, ‘there in that box were the Hand of Glory tapes. When I saw them, a thought instantly jumped in my head – it’s time to mix this .. and now !’
A metaphorical crash of cymbals smash around the room as the band thrash into the chorus.
Even just a quick look at the video showed that there was no need for a lip-reading expert to decode what Ian muttered under his breath at this development.
Frantically thumbing through his well-prepared notes looking for something solid to grab a hold of, Ian’s eye falls on the favourite songs question .. he does not hesitate – ‘what are your favourite Hand of Glory songs ?’ he asks – surprising himself with the calm tone of his voice.
The band falls silent. Ian slowly breathes out. Everything is just hanging, as if suspended in mid-flight. The band look at each other – each daring some-one else to speak. The silence descends, searching out all the nooks and crannies in the room ..
‘Benson & Hedges’ – it was Peter who first grabbed the silence by the scruff of the neck, quickly followed by the rest of the band, in a rising cascade of suggestions by ‘Eva Braun’s Holiday’ – ‘Fly’ – ‘Hit the Ceiling’ – ‘Chromatic Tune’ – ‘The Same’ – ‘Thing …’
‘Stop’ declared Ian.
As one the band turned to look at Ian. Ian stared back. ‘You are just listing all the songs on the album’ he says, quite correctly as it turns out. The band sheepishly then drink some more beer.
‘Ok then’ says Kent ‘listening to 29 ||92 for the first time with all the band, that was exhilarating’. ‘Extraordinary’ echoes Sean. ‘I can’t remember, I was drunk and stoned the whole time’ offers Martin.
There is a silence.
Then there is not.
[ editorial note : at this point, it is beholden on the band to say two things – it is time to turn the cassette over, and as it is 2021, the band are required to repeat the health and safety message ( as it is a new side ) so - the band are still not competing for your undivided attention .. and .. well .. you know the drill … ]
Pushing play, Kent is the first to emerge through the babble – ‘performing Cage’s 4’33”’. Sean then changes everything, opening up the conversation to .. well almost anything – ‘Peter snapping the neck of his guitar off at the Ward Lane Tavern’ and ‘Kent climbing over the drums to adjust the lights in Dunedin’ he continues, sliding effortlessly through the scales, ‘waiting endlessly on stage for Martin to start playing Gloria’. But before Martin can respond, Alec jumped in with ‘that moment in the gig, generally at the second break when the realisation gently lands that after the last set .. all the equipment will have to be packed down and taken back to the rooms – up a flight of stairs’. Martin, who by his own admission has carried more black boxes than anybody else ever – nods. ‘Kafka’ says Sean. Everybody sighs gently in agreement with that most favourite of memories.
Foolishly as it turned out, Ian read that as a mellowing of the mood. That brief lapse of judgement, combined with the interviewers mantra of ‘keep going - ask the important questions’ emboldened him to ask - ‘so .. what’s the difference between the first album and the second ?’
The cacophonic response is deafening. The band are in full voice. Ian curses inwardly that he hadn’t chosen the seat by the door.
Martin bellows ‘Sean – the addition of Sean .. there was more trumpet’. Peter loudly counters with ‘no change’. Alec thunders agreement with them both ‘more trumpet yes – which meant that I got to play more guitar .. and ha! one of the songs from the first album is also on the second – no change there !’ ‘We play as we play !’ says Peter ‘with deep friendship and excitement’. Sean, in true trumpet player style then “honks” in with ‘HoG are not a band but a state of mind’. ‘Indeed’ replied Martin as he placed the bottle of port on the table.
Reviewing the film footage, this is when the genie was truly let out of the lamp .. as the band passed the bottle round – and the metaphorical lights were dimmed.
‘The bus’ said Peter as he held the bottle aloft. As one the band are back on the road. Ian calculates the distance to the door. ‘Reefton’ ‘ Penguin Club’ ‘ Manawatu Art Gallery’ – these are the only recognisable words that have been able to be salvaged from the maelstrom of memories that surged and slammed around the room. In amongst all this, Ian has quietly stood up.
Like all storms, there is a lull. A caesura. The brass section seize the day ‘writing charts on the back of the bus in Dunedin’.
The band drive on ..’go to the bridge’ is heard. The band do. Visually the guitars are shoegazing, the horns are heaven bound, the rhythm section are on the 1 and the 2 and .. Ian however, is not to be seen.
Then, as suddenly and surprisingly as the band stopped - Ian re-appeared. Just by the door. ‘I just have to go outside’ he said .. ‘I may be some time’.
Different rooms have different reverberations. Kawhia was close and tight, 32e warm and crisp and the old bank building full and inclusive – this room was different again. Ian opened the door – the air rushed in and out .. almost imperceptible except for the VU meter needle which shook and swayed.
With impeccable timing, Ian turned, and looked back through the door, just as the silence overwhelmed the reverb, and casually asked ‘what happened to you all - do you still play music ?’
The tape then records a confused smile, a small wave and the beginnings of a look of relief as Ian disappeared from the frame.
For the band, it was as if Ian was still in the room, for they answered his question – ‘Some loose outfits and constricting garments’ – ‘could be folk, could be impressionism’ – ‘not too far, some to either end of Te Ika a Maui, but we always come back’ – ‘in our minds’ – ‘everyone is still playing’ – ‘the jazz principle’ …
The tape continued to record another 1 hour and 17 minutes of freely forming syllabic slices of gustoso sound, droits and plops, slow shimmering shuffles of gustoso feedback, double deep scatendo echoes and long, long vamp lines of capriccio colla voce.
The tape then closed, slowly, to a small black dot.
Transmogrified by Hunter S.T.
I N T E R V I E W
Unrequited Love: A Q&A with Belladonna
With Ian Duggan
I’ve been listening to a couple of Belladonna’s songs quite a lot over the last few weeks; Hillcrest, released earlier this year, and Kiss Me, from last years ‘Salty Dog’ EP. Both I think are perfect slices of pop music, and both come with fantastic videos. I spoke with Bella Cook - the former Hamiltonian, now Wellington-based musician - about her songs, being a finalist in the 2020 APRA Silver Scroll Awards, unrequited love, and more!
HUP: Firstly, the video for ‘Hillcrest’ reminds me of ‘Getting Older’ by Princess Chelsea – another former Hamiltonian – in that it features lots of footage from when you were growing up. It’s also interspersed with shots of Hamilton suburb Hillcrest, from Hillcrest Rd, Cambridge Rd, O’Donoghue St, Edinburgh Rd, St Johns College, the University, Burger King, Hillcrest High… and much more… However, lyrically it appears to be primarily about unrequited love. What can you tell me about the song, and how it relates to Hillcrest?
Bella: That’s so cool, I didn’t know she was from Hamilton! The story behind 'Hillcrest' is pretty special, I think. When I was at Hillcrest High as a wee teen I had a very quintessential high school crush. The kind where you write their name in your workbooks. At the start of this year I reconnected with him after years and we had a brief romance. The suburb of Hillcrest is very special to me and also to my friends and family from there. I wrote the song as an ode to that relationship as well the place. Writing the song made me realise that I’ll always be connected to it in one way or another.
HUP: A number of fantastic musical artists have come out of Hillcrest High School, with Kimbra going on to the greatest fame. What’s in the water there do you think?
Bella: Not sure, but most people who’ve done music since have been in the jazz choir run by Sue Radford. She’s a classic and definitely encouraged music at the school!
HUP: When did you leave Hamilton for Wellington? Were you aware of bands in Hamilton before you went, and how do you find and fit into the scene down there?
Bella: I left Hamilton at 16 as my Dad got a job in Wellington. At that stage I’d always loved storytelling but any songs I’d written were kept in the confines of my bedroom. My older sister [Zoe Cook] was involved in the music scene back in the day in Hamilton though. Me and friends loved ‘The Good Fun’ and they played at my sisters 21st yearrss ago, which was very fun!! [continued below]
HUP: ‘Kiss Me’, off the ‘Salty Dog’ EP from 2020, also sounds to me to be about unrequited love. Is this a theme that runs through all your songs?!
Bella: Haha, I guess I hadn’t thought about that. But yeah, I haven’t been too lucky in love!
HUP: With your first release, ‘Hands’, you ended up as one of the twenty finalists for the 2020 APRA Silver Scroll Award. How did this nomination come about?
Bella: Earlier in the year I thought I may as well nominate one of my songs. I’d released two and decided that the writing for Hands was the most interesting, so I submitted that. I’d completely forgotten about it ‘til I got the email. I thought I had no chance. It was super encouraging to know that people value the writing I’m doing.
HUP: What is your writing and recording process? And who features on your recordings?
Bella: I write by myself, usually in my bedroom. For all the music I’ve released so far I’ve worked with Shannon Fowler. He is an immense talent who I’ve always admired, so it’s been super cool working with him. He is a wiz on so many instruments, so a lot of the stuff you hear on the tracks is him playing. But in Hillcrest, and a couple new numbers, we had Alex Freer tracking live drums. [continued below]
HUP: What are your aspirations for ‘Belladonna’? And by this, I mean, when can we get some more?!
Bella: So happy to hear you say that! I’ve got a new EP coming out in the next couple months, with a few more singles before that. Behind the scenes I’m working on writing an album, which has been so nice to have a bigger space to explore themes more in-depth.
Find Belladonna on Spotify, Bandcamp, and pretty much everywhere else!
I N T E R V I E W
An Unimpressed Alien Landlord: A Q&A with Andrew Thorne of Silk Cut
With Ian Duggan
Auckland band Silk Cut, led by Andrew Thorne (Thorn, Splitter, Calico Brothers), has released their debut EP, ‘Astronaut’. We caught up with Andrew to talk about losing girlfriends in airports and rental inspections by alien landlords, all of which – of course – relate directly to the new release!
HUP: Andrew, you have been a constant in the Auckland scene over a number of years, and each of your bands has had its own distinct style. Silk Cut appears quite different from perhaps your best-known former band, Splitter, which I remember as commonly being a bit more ‘rock’ (though the melodies in Silk Cut's ‘Getting in Close’ do remind me of Splitter's ‘Tremolo Panned’, in particular, providing some continuity). Since Splitter you have played in alt-Country outfit Calico Brothers, which was different again. What has led you to go down the route now of recording songs with sounds more inspired by the likes of Radiohead, Ride, The Church, Swervedriver and Slowdive?
Andrew: During lockdown last year I had a desire to do something with more of a mature, serious and cinematic sound to it. As well as the old favourites you’ve mentioned I was inspired by purely instrumental bands like Explosions in the Sky and Khruangbin. Plus a growing appreciation of some modern surf bands, like Messer Chups and The Bambi Molesters.
Determined not to be bound by a three-and-a-half minute pop format we let the intros and outros breathe and were not at home to anything too ‘rawk’ or blues. No one was allowed to raise the goat horns during recording! Having said that, melody is still king, so like everything I’ve ever done the Silk Cut sound inevitably goes through the Beatles filter somewhere along the process.
I also wanted to approach these recordings differently as a vocalist, so I tried a quieter, more restrained tone - taking inspiration from the Steve Kilbey (The Church) / Leonard Cohen style and ending up nowhere near of course.
HUP: When I was younger I had several relationships end with myself or a partner climbing on a plane to relocate. ‘Getting in Close’, the lead single on Astronaut, appears to pretty much be about this. Does this song relate to a specific relationship for you, or were you looking for a story that would resonate universally? And lyrically, were you aiming on revisiting the Splitter song ‘Departure Lounge’ here?
Andrew: My day job is as a Foley recording engineer for TV and Film. I work with a wonderful Foley artist who changes proximity to the microphone depending on how loud or quiet a particular sound might be. When she has to take some time getting ready she’ll often say “almost with you” and if it’s a tiny sound like fingertips rubbing she’ll say “getting in close”. Obviously Kilbey has used the first phrase, but I thought ‘Getting in Close’ was a great song title so went from there.
The great New Zealand early twenties O.E. was a rite of passage for everyone I knew at the time. However, I didn’t even get close until my thirties, with a European tour playing guitar for Bic Runga that turned into a year in London. My then girlfriend had already left to see the world and I wrote ‘Departure Lounge’ about that feeling in the late ‘90s. Two years later we ended up meeting on the Spanish Steps in Rome. Luckily for me she is now my wife.
I’m not sure if ‘Getting in Close’ was a conscious revisit of the theme of leaving, loss, home-sickness and (rose tinted) memories, but it is a pretty universal theme, especially for Kiwis before COVID hit pause on any of that activity. It’s a modern human condition to every now-and-then think about ‘what if’ with different paths one’s life may have taken had alternative decisions been made. Made vivid today with the bliss filter of social media. People say “no regrets”. I sometimes have nothing but regrets for my wasted youth. Obviously, that way lies madness.
HUP: The band bio states you have drawn influence from your affection for ‘60s and ‘70s British television? This is most apparent here lyrically in ‘Black Night Sky’, which mentions ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ and ‘Tomorrow’s World’. What is the threat you are imagining here that will lead to the end of the world? And how and where else do you feel inspiration from classic television comes through in your songs?
Andrew: It’s a loose imagining of an alien force arriving to planet Earth like a landlord’s inspection and it being less than impressed with what we’ve done with the place. Doubly sad to think that the likes of Elon Musk and Richard Branson are the names on the tenancy agreement.
The song also has a nice surf-esque solo in it which utilised a lovely Fender Jaguar through a classic Fender Reverb Tank - we gave it a good kick to punctuate the ending which is a sound I love.
It’s hard to pin-point direct inspiration from ‘60s and ‘70s English TV, but I visualise our songs in black and white, driving a Ford Anglia, being not very good looking and having bad teeth.
HUP: Astronaut was released in September, but you already have another on the way called ‘Panda’. When is that one due, and how is it different from this one?
Andrew: We’re just putting the finishing touches to the ‘Panda’ EP. It was recorded at the same time as ‘Astronaut’, but we thought it presumptuous to start with a full album as first release.
The songs on ‘Panda’ are more of the same with perhaps a more uptempo feel overall. There’s five new songs including a jangly ‘dance’ track, a film noir story and an Onedin Line inspired tune concerning maritime themes and shipwrecks.
All things going well it should be with us March 2022.
HUP: Do you consider this an ‘Andrew Thorne project’, or have the band contributed to the songs?
Andrew: Being mostly written during lockdown there was limited opportunity to collaborate in person. The production of the songs, however, was worked out in the studio between myself, bass player Aidan Phillips and drummer Mike Burrows. Guitarist extraordinaire Tom Irvine has now joined the line up to one day realise the songs live.
Any future Silk Cut material will hopefully involve more input from everyone involved although, of course, I’m a complete control freak so it will depend on which of my particular personalities is in charge that day.
HUP: Overall, what are your aspirations for this band?
Andrew: I’m excited by the people involved and especially enjoy hearing Aidan Phillips turn my basic ideas into amazing bass lines and harmony ideas. We’ve worked together for 20 years. He is a remarkable chap and somewhat of a hidden gem in the NZ music scene.
We’re working on new Silk Cut material now for possibly a full album and have the two EPs worth of songs as a live performance starting point.
It would be great to play some gigs over summer, if that’s possible, and I’d like nothing better than sitting in a recording studio making noise and creating sounds with like-minded people. So just more of that until the sweet release of death seems like a plan.
Check out Silk Cut's 'Astronaut' at Bandcamp, and their Facebook page here.