I'm blessed with a great memory, so no doubt I'll end rambling for yonks on this post...bear with me...
Anyway, I was born in late '68, in a small town in Southland, NZ. My folks weren't into music much back then. They owned a few classical albums and top 40 comps and, later in the '70s, Abba's Arrival
My first musical memory was watching The Monkees
on our black and white TV, when I was about four or five. It was in the early '70s, so they must've been repeats.
I also distinctly remember hearing David Bowie's 'Laughing Gnome' on the radio. I was outside with my Dad and he must've had it with him as he was doing a chore.
When I was six, we moved up to Gisborne, a sea-side city on the East Coast of the North Island.
By the time I was eight or nine I was watching Ready To Roll
, a TV show at 6pm on Saturday nights. It showed videos of top 20 songs, plus the odd non-chart song.
Also, in 1978, my Mum bought 20 Solid Gold Hits Vol.16
. It had NZ disco star's Mark Williams' 'You Won't Matter Any More' on it, which was my favourite song for ages. It wasn't until years later that I discovered it was actually a cover of a Buddy Holly song...
About this time, my Mum took me to my first ever gig: Mark Williams, at the Sandown Park Hotel. I can't remember too much about it, other than there was lots of people there.
In 1980 I turned 12 and I started at Gisborne Intermediate school. Kiss were huge in NZ at the time and my mates and I were dead keen on them...and so it was I bought my first ever album: Kiss's Unmasked
, for $9.98 from Farmer's department store.
Little did I know it, but my life had irrevocably changed.
It was a great album and, wow! - there was a cool free poster with it!! It immediately took residency on my bedroom wall.
Also big in '80 was The Swingers' 'Counting The Beat' single, a #1 here and Australia. (The Swingers were led by Phil Judd, then best-known as guitarist on the first few Split Enz albums). I loved that song.
Two other songs I loved were Devo's 'Whip It' and The Knobz' 'Culture'
which led to me buying more records. (You lot all know of Devo, The Knobz were a crappy novelty new wave band and 'Culture' was a jibe at then PM Robert Muldoon). Anyway, I splashed out on Devo's Freedom Of Choice
and The Knobz' Sudden Exposure
My folks had split by 1981 and that year I met two people that would profoundly influence me and my taste in music: Tony Murdoch and Kelly Addis.
Tony Murdoch owned a local record shop called Vibes. It had a reputation
and was generally regarded as a den of inequity. You'd walk past there on a Friday evening, glance in and see Tony and his friends basically partying among the record racks, open drinking of beer and a funny smell coming from the stock room.
One day after school I went in there and noticed The Swingers' Practical Jokers
album selling for only $6 - I had to have it. But I only had $3 on me.
Amazingly, Tony let have it for $3, as long as I paid him the rest later. I could not believe
my luck. I told my Mum and she told me off. A few days' later I told my Dad and he forbid me from darkening Vibes' door-way ever
again. Dad was on good terms with Tony's folks as their business was next-door to the shop Dad managed, but their son was to be avoided at all costs.
But, well, it was far too late: I started buying singles by NZ post-punk, new wave bands like Blam Blam Blam and the Screaming Meemees from Vibes.
I also bought The Clash's Combat Rock
there, the album I've owned for the longest.
Kelly Addis was the 16-year-old son of Dad's girlfriend, Pat. We'd go up to Auckland in '80 and '81 to visit them. I thought he was just the coolest dude, ever. He had hot girlfriends and was allowed to put Penthouse
centrefolds on his bedroom wall. He introduced me to Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers. I was especially fascinated by the weird end of 'Moving Away From The Pulsebeat'.
In 1982 I started Lytton High School. About this time I bought Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' which is still my favourite song. I also bought Duran Duran's Rio
In '82 I also saw my second gig: Split Enz promoting Time And Tide
, supported by new wavers The Mockers, at the Gisborne YMCA Hall. I remember that Tim Finn threw beach balls into the crowd.
The afore-mentioned Tony Murdoch was also in a band called Marching Orders. Their singer was one Jackie Clarke, now something of a media celeb here in NZ.
But, more importantly, their guitarist was Martin Kirk and when he started working at Gisborne's other good record shop, Guy and Dunsmore, well, that's where things really
started to catch fire.
Guy and Dunsmore was a funny shop - the front half was a sports shop, the back the music bit. Along with Martin, Michael Dwyer also worked there. By now, 1984, Tony M had left for Wellington, where his shop there, The Soul Mine, has since flourished.
Martin's new band was the Flaming Stars and their singer was one Simon Vita - a total, unrelenting weirdo
At that point, Martin, Michael and Simon and their friends and girlfriends were like the the older brothers and sisters to me and my friends. One of them was Andrew Neill, now a successful music writer in England (he co-wrote definitive Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
book on The Who).
My god, it was an education. I was young and impressionable and they knew it. They'd foist The Birthday Party, The Fall, The Cramps, The Gun Club on us and we'd lap it up.
I'm still really good friends with Simon and Michael; Martin and Andrew now live in England.
Another of their mates was Simon Baker, now a respectable high school principal in tourist resort Rotorua, but then a rabid SST fan. He was built like a brick-shithouse and if he told you to buy New Day Rising
, you didn't argue.
About the same time my Mum had re-married and my new, older step-brother was a) a dick and b) a prog / metal fan (or a "hippy" as I called him). He was huge on all the usual suspects: Led Zep, Deep Purple, Tull, etc and always complained that the bands I liked "can't play properly".
Ironically, the last time I saw him, about six years ago, he was really into Henry Rollins and I'd just bought a Henry Cow album.
But back then we'd take turns pissing each other off - he'd play Made In Japan
and I'd reply with Psychocandy
In '84 I bought three 7" singles and a 12" ep one Friday evening. They were The Chills' 'Pink Frost' and 'Doledrums' singles and The Clean's 'Tally Ho!' and Boodle Boodle Boodle
. I still recall Michael Dwyer's comment as I took then to the counter: "Grant's cool, he's buying The Clean."
Guy and Dunsmore starting stocking Flying Nun records. A 7" single was $4.20, a 12" ep was $7.20 and I bought umpteen of 'em: Tall Dwarfs, the Verlaines, Doublehappies, The Bats and many, many more.
By now, Martin had a new band, The Wasp Factory, who sounded like a cross between REM and The Fall, which made a lot of sense in 1986 or so. I saw 'em live loads, I just adored them. They did a vinyl album and four-song ep. One song, 'Steel Blue Skies' was voted #3 best NZ song of 1987 on Auckland's student radio station, BFM - again, this made a lot of sense in 1987.
1987 turned out to be a pivotal year. I'd left school and was fucking around as a junior reporter on The Gisborne Herald
. That year I saw live for the first time, The Verlaines (in Wellington), Straitjacket Fits (in Hamilton) and The Chills (in Auckland). It was incredibly exciting.
I also got into Nick Cave.
A year or so earlier, I'd starting writing for fanzines (God, now there's a quaint, antiquated concept in this inter-web age). I can't play instruments fror crap, but writing gave me an involement to the scene.
Not only did I see these bands, but I also interviewed them backstage.
But I was still in Gisborne and pretty isolated from good live music, plus there were no good record shops in Gisborne any more.
In late 1988, however, things changed. I went to Christchurch and Dunedin on holiday. In Dunedin I met and hung out with Paul McKessar, then a key writer for Alley Oop
fanzine and Rip It Up
magazine and met people like Bruce Russell, Lesley Paris and loads others.
Paul introduced me to Television, Wire, Pere Ubu and Syd Barrett.
Coincidentally, Snapper played that Friday and Saturday: they were fucking astonishing
- blazing, white-hot fuzz-rock guitars and ultra drony,repetitive drums and keyboards. That sealed it - i was moving to Dunedin!
By early '89 I was resident here and my timing couldn't have been better: the original 'Dunedin Sound' were at their peak and the second wave was starting to lift-off. Christ, it was incredible.
There's a funny thing that happened when you first went to a gig in Dunedin in that era - my friends and I would nudge each other and gawp: look, that's David Kilgour! My god, there's David Mitchell! Bloody hell - I've just spilt my beer on the bass player from Look Blue Go Purple!
But, after a few weeks the "star-struck" factor wears off and they just became ordinary people.
I knew I'd really became enmeshed in the scene when, just a few months later, I found myself at a party at Robert Scott's flat. It was cool to talk to these people and discover they were truly down-to-earth people.
One great thing about Dunedin at that time was Radio One, the student station. It continually blasted all the latest and best independent, underground and non-commercial stuff. This was before grunge made such music more widely known ,ya gotta remember.
By now it was 1990 and I was head-first into The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr and Throwing Muses. I weedled a Sunday morning show on Radio One. Often I'd wake up after only a few hours' sleep from gigs and parties the night before. But in no way was I impeded from blasting Butthole Surfers, Loop or Headless Chickens at 9am in the morning.
Later that year I started a two-year long relationship with a woman who, ever so conveniently, happened to be the programme director at Radio One. I gained excellent mid-afternoon slots as a result. Also, she a) had stunning, bountiful breasts and b) loved
The Fall. I could not believe my luck.
In late '92 I near bankrupted myself travelling all the way up to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Town Hall, touring Henry's Dream
. It was a very special moment: I had at last seen him live and this truly meant a lot to me.
I saw him in '05 in Wellington and he was just as good. Two nights later I saw the NZSO and giot just as much enjoyment out of that - a sign of wide musical tastes these days, I suppose.
In 1993, my taste in music surprisingly diverted away from noisy indie pop / rock. In fact, it was as pivotal as '87.
A cafe I worked in had tapes of A Love Supreme
and a Johnny Cash best of, both of which I really liked.
A flatmate was really into the hitherto taboo Neil Young and Rolling Stones and I became fairly partial to the Stones '60s stuff. It was fantastic pop music and 'Powderfinger' was often blasted very loudly whilst drunk.
I was also writing a fair bit for Rip It Up
. I reviewed a Klaus Dinger solo album. I'd never heard of the guy, but was sent a tape by some guy in Auckland. he'd read the review and thought I ought to check out the guy's '70s band, NEU!
. Thus was I introduced to krautrock...
I was also writing for Real Groove
. In this time I interviewed, either in person or over the phone, the likes of Pavement, Sebadoh, Stereolab, Throwing Muses, Sonic Youth and loads of NZ bands. I'd had my full of it by the late '90s, early 00s, but it was incredibly exciting and fulfilling at the time.
In Feb '94 I saw Johnny Cash (and June for a few songs!) at the Christchurch Town Hall. He was outstanding and to this day is far and away the most charismatic performer I've ever seen.
I lived in or near Wellington from '95 to '98 and saw plenty of great bands in that time. Sonic Youth at the Wellington Town Hall were particularly superb, as was Tony Conrad at a small venue.
Wellington, at that point, had nowhere near as good a scene as Dunedin's so I didn't go to as many gigs. But it had some cracking good record shops. Plus started getting into Roxy Music, Brian Eno and Leonard Cohen.
In '98 I went over to Britain on holiday and saw laods of gigs, including Spiritualized at the Peel-curated Meltdown and The Pastels and Acid Mothers Temple in Glasgow. These were once-in-a-lifetime gigs and something I'll always be thankful for.
From '98 to "00 I lived in Hamilton and didn't really go to many gigs.
I've been back in Dunedin since '00. I rarely go to gigs these days, mainly a good local band if I'm in the mood. These days the Dunedin scene is pretty poor, so it tends to be Wellington or Auckland bands.Of overseas acts, I loved Joanna Newsom in Christchurch two months ago.
If gig attendance has shrunk, listening has exapnded. I'm really keen on jazz, country, folk and so forth. I don't listen to as much rock, though of course, krautrock proves the exception.
I don't have a great deal of knowledge of much current music. There's a lot I hear or read about, but I just haven't got the time or commitment I once did to check it out much.
But I'll always love music, no matter what.
"U2 routinely spent a year in the studio...I have a theory: if you put four monkeys in the studio for a year with Lanois and Eno and Lillywhite, they would make a pretty good record, too."