Tuesday, July 22, 2008
NZ ROCK 1987-2007 by Gareth Shute
A book spanning twenty years of rock in one country is an ambitious project even if that particular country only has a population of 3.5 - 4 million. Gareth Shute's book starts where John Dix's Stranded in Paradise left off. The first chapter starts covering a usual suspect in the form of Neil Finn and tells the story of how the Crowded House song Don't Dream It's Over had to become successful overseas before receiving commercial radio airplay within New Zealand. Also covered in this chapter are Jan Hellreigel (who received local commercial radio airplay because it was assumed she was from Switzerland due to her last name but when it was realized she was local airplay started to fizzle), Shona Laing, Jenny Morris, Graham Brazier, Andrew Fagan, Dave Dobbyn and details the Dance Exponents move to London and later return to New Zealand with the name change to the Exponents.
Personally I remember the Exponents 1991 return well as I was one of the crowd at the live shows in Palmerston North. Unmentioned in the book is as local glam metal band Push Push were strong in the charts with their song Trippin'. The final band to be covered in this chapter is The Mutton Birds.
In any book about New Zealand rock it is inevitable that the Flying Nun record label will be mentioned and the second chapter of this book. The usual Flying Nun bands (the Chills, the Bats, Sneaky Feelings, The Clean, Tall Dwarfs, The Verlaines and Straitjacket Fits) are covered. The most interesting story to me in the chapter was Green Day supporting the Tall Dwarfs in Cologne after Green Day's Dookie album had came out and over half the audience leaving before the Tall Dwarfs played.
The third chapter also covers Flying Nun and concentrates on the label's harder bands such as The Gordons Bailter Space and the Skeptics, The 3Ds S.P.U.D. and The Headless Chickens. I learned from this chapter that the Skeptics started Snailclamps nightclub in my hometown of Palmerston North although it's not mentioned that the Skeptics started at Freyberg high school which had a poor reputation during the mid-80's but that later changed
Wildside records and hard rock are covered in the fourth chapter. This starts covering the Grunt records metal awards which were held in Christchurch in the late 80's. What's not mentioned in the book is that Bruce Rae, the owner of Grunt Records presented a metal segment on a Friday night music video show called C.V. (Complete Video) and usually featured thrash metal videos as he had written to the show stating that they weren't playing REAL metal. In the first year of the Grunt awards Shihad won the Grunt Records award and clips from the show were shown on C.V. Clip Below.
Hamilton's Knightshade are covered as are Push Push. The move toward funk metal is documented covering Voodoo Love Deep Sea Racing Mullets, Rumblefish and Semi Lemon Kola. The history of Supergroove is very well documented here. The Warners are mentioned briefly and considered to be Auckland's answer to the Ramones due to singer, Allen Stephenson's ever-present leather jacket. The affect of both the US grunge and punk scene on New Zealand bands is chronicled with the examples of Salad Daze, Balance, Bygone Era, Freak Power, Fatal Jelly Space and Second Child.
In a chapter about New Zealand rock and the Wildside record label during this time period it is inevitible that Wellington bands Shihad and Head Like A Hole would be mentioned.
Auckland band Hallelujah Picassos receive only two paragraphs but Gareth Shute acknowledges that their strenth was their live act. The only time I was ever turned away from a show in Palmerston North was a Hallelujah Picasso's show due to the venue being full. Not mentioned in the book is that the band recorded a video entitled to their song 'Clap Your Hands' for about $138 which is now either in the TVNZ archives or taped over. Dead Flowers receive 3 pages of text and a two page photo. Pumpkinhead, Breathe and Weta are also well covered.
Chapter Five documents the rise of the indie labels across New Zealand covering Bruce Russell's Christchurch Xpressway and Failsafe, Palmerston North's Yellow Bike Records(unfortunately there is an error here, The Clear's Live Stomach album is a studio album that was recorded live on a 4-track. The reason for the band's name change to Lung was because due to confusion some people overseas were excited that the Flying Nun band The Clean were touring which isn't mentioned in the book). New Plymouth label Ima Hitt records is well covered as is Brian Wafer's promoting of international shows. The info on Sticky Filth has dated as Mark (Boot) Hill has been the Sticky Filth drummer since about 2005. It is nice to see the T.A.B. The Argumentative Bastards EP rates a mention as one of the 300 records that were swapped in groups of 100 with an Australian label. It was interesting to learn that a Henchmen/Reptiles at Dawn split LP was pressed and a pressing of an LP from the Palmerston North band Harry Death was planned. It would have been nice if this band and record had received further coverage. Also not mentioned is that high speed noise dudes Tension were previously Das Unter Mensch and released a live 7 inch single entitled 'Winning Hearts and Minds' limited to 250 copies on Ima Hitt. The artwork the band chose was later used by the Sepultura/Fudge Tunnel side project Nailbomb. Nefarious and Horror Story receive deserved coverage. I really liked how this chapter gave Ima Hitt and Yellow Bike detailed coverage as previously the best coverage of both these labels I've seen in book form has been in David Eggleton's Ready to Fly which gives both labels a couple of paragraphs and in contrast Gareth Shute gives them both two and a half pages.
Auckland's Pagan records is covered with its roots in blues and country and follows The Warratahs, Chicago Smoke Shop, The Greg Johnson Set and The Nixons who later became Eye TV.
Chapter six revisits Flying Nun and covers the bands who later joined and left the label in favour of the newest independents. Chapter seven is entitled the new generation of hit-makers and covers Bic and Boh Runga's success and then covers Christchurch band The Feelers (who recive a two page photo spread), Zed, solo artists Brooke. Fraser and Anika Moa. The eighth chapter is entitled Expanding The Indie scene and covers Fur Patrol, Goodshirt, Cassette, Goldenhorse, Lucid 3, Tadpole and The Phoenix Foundation, Pluto. This chapter also documents new labels such as Stink Magnetic tapes and promoters Carla Potter and Blink(A Low Hum).
Chapter Nine is entitled old becomes new and goes back to covering the usual supects Tim and Neil Finn, Dave Dobbyn, Shane Carter (Dimmer, Straitjacket Fits), Don McGlashan(The Mutton Birds, Blam Blam Blam), The Verlaines, Chris Knox, David Kilgour, The Bats, Shihad and The Clean and the reviving and re-inventing of their musical careers.
Chapter Ten is entitled NZ Rock Spread Across Genres and covers more recent New Zealand punk bands such as Balance, Sommerset, Missing Teeth, The Bleeders, Cobra Khan, Kitsch, Antagonist, Foamy Ed and 48May. False Start are also covered here and here is the first mention of the myspace site which has become an easy way for bands to get their music out and messages about shows and other band related info. Rock bands Opshop, Elemeno P plus many more get covered. The final sentence of this chapter shows how times have changed. "Getting on local commercial radio isn't the feat it once was, and the measure of success for local groups has now become how well they can do overseas". Which is a great lead into the next chapter "Taking on the World" which details the overseas success of Betchadupa, The Mint Chicks, The D4, The Datsuns, The Veils, The Checks, Evermore, Blindspott, Steriogram and metal bands, 8 Foot Sativa and Dawn of Azrael.
This book is 358 pages and heavy on text with nice black and white photos either supplied by the record companies or live photos taken by Blink. It retails for NZ$45 and is one of the most informative reads on New Zealand rock music in the last twenty years. Recommended.
Here is a Radio New Zealand interview about this book with Gareth Shute ,here is a BFM interview by Mikey Havoc with the same person about the same subject and a New Zealand Herald interview.