Monthly archive for August 2014

1. THC: Sticky Filth + Hideously Disfigured + Nefarious (maybe) + Other bands whose names I don’t recall, New Plymouth (1994)

On today’s installment we take you back to when Taranaki Hard Core wasn’t just a bumper sticker for bogans, but a thriving music scene with a sweet coded weed reference built right in.
Spotswood College Music Room. A Monday in 1995.

Fade in to band practice, your narrator one of 4 or 5 smelly, knock-kneed 14 year old boys that made up the newly minted (and never, to my knowledge, subsequently repeated) ‘classical guitar’ section of the 4th form band. We spent all our time learning to be terrible at Nirvana songs* so we never got around to being terrible at playing Mozart, but as we were unamplified we didn’t even register against the backdrop of ineptly played brass and woodwind (Oboes still cause me to shudder involuntarily).

The teacher who lead the band** was one of those jerks who could pick up any instrument, and make it sound like the world’s finest stradivarius or the equivalent in whatever instrument you’re imagining this guy playing right now. Even the warped, dead-stringed hunks of balsa the school called guitars were no match for the sheer force of his musical will. Fairly sure he viewed  the guitar group as a fond pet-project with a solid line in predictable underachieving and mild disappointment.

But still, he tried.

I tune in from a far more important conversation about whether one of the clouds in the Lion King spelled a sex word, to hear:

“…and that, is why you NEVER strum a bass guitar”

That’s on its own line because it’s important to events later in this story. It’s called foreshadowing.

This was just one of his many attempts at helping us out of the primordial ooze of power chords and into some kind of appreciation of actual music. Perhaps, if we worked hard and practiced frequently, we might actually one day be considered ‘musicians’, or at the very least, we wouldn’t embarrass him at the upcoming all-guitar recital of Minuet. (Spoiler: We most definitely did embarrass him, I most definitely did not become a musician).

 

Spotswood College Music Room. A Monday in 1995. (Possibly the same one, but later on.)

“Sticky Filth, Hideously Disfigured, Nefarious***, other bands the names of which I don’t recall. All Ages”

“What kind of music is it?”

“I dunno, like metal? Look at those names bro.”

“So, what, like, anyone can go?”

“Yeah. Well it says “All Ages”. Dick.”

“Fuck you dick. But like, ALL Ages?”

“Yeah. ALL AGES.”

“Should we go?”

“Na.”

 

New Plymouth Senior Citizen’s Hall. A Friday in 1995. For the sake of narrative continuity it was the Friday following the Monday conversation above that almost certainly never actually happened.

Facilities: Capacity 180, kitchen, stove, crockery, tables and chairs piano. Two halls.

Contact: Gerald Tubby or visit the office on Fridays between 9.30am and 3.00pm

We stood at the doorway of the Senior Citizen’s Hall, 3 of us, 14 years old, full of fear, giddy anticipation, and, in the hands of a better writer, probably some kind of really powerful metaphor about leaving childhood behind and entering adulthood.

I had amoured myself in what I believed to be my most HardCore shirt, which was this: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fxphotoblog/2226308349/ that I got when my parents won $200 on Lotto a couple months earlier. I felt vincible. Extremely vincible. A strong gust of wind would’ve vinced me right over.

Would they let us in? Would there be other kids our age?  Would the older kids laugh at us, or just cut straight to beating the shit out of us?

We entered.

The Senior Citizen’s Hall.

And maybe adulthood. Just a little bit.

Inside was a scene straight out of a David Attenborough documentary, large ungulates galloping across the savannah at each other, smashing heads and locking horns in attempt to demonstrate their genetic fitness.

Except the savannah was a sticky wooden floor, the dulcet tones of Sir Dave were a wall of feedback and screaming, and the ungulates were a bunch of the local skinhead kids, smashing heads and locking horns in an attempt to demonstrate their genetic fitness.

We pressed ourselves as far into the back wall as we possibly could, aware that if those guys out there were Wildebeests, we were grass, leaves or whatever it is that Wildebeests eat. This metaphor would work better if I’d made them Lions or something.

A lull in the chaos. One of the herd broke off and approached us where we were attempting to become one with the wallpaper. In my memory he was a 7 foot tall neo-Nazi, his bald head emblazoned with a rampant eagle that had Mein Kampf in one claw and was batting away Chinese migrants with the other, glaring at us with baleful, cruel intensity. In reality he was probably a spotty 16 year old, with an easily hideable from mum pick and poke tattoo that kinda looked like a swastika from certain angles, eyes dulled by whatever rocket fuel he’d been able to make out of the less noticeable spirits in the back of his parent’s liquor cabinet (white spirits are a no-no, too obvious. Anything with ‘schnapps’ in the title is all good).

“Huh. Cool shirt.” he says****.

“Uh… yeah. Thanks.” I probably didn’t say in return.

He sniffed the air, pawed the ground, turned, went back to the heard. We’d survived the first test. The next band was starting. Every sphincter in my body relaxed enough that I could breathe again.

The next band started. Let’s say it was Sticky Filth because I’m pretty sure they were on the bill but it’s not really important. What’s important is that it was the loudest fastest scariest most exhilarating thing I’d ever seen. What’s important is that up front was insert the name of lead singer of whatever band it was, emanating lightning bright rock n’ roll fuckrays out of every pore, his body a conduit for some weird magic that I desperately wanted in on.

What’s important is that  he was strumming the living shit out of that bass guitar.

Strike one embodied voice of authority.

POSTCRIPT: A couple of years later I was volunteering on the Smokefree Rockquest when it came through town. The bassist from Hideously Disfigured who was playing the role of Guitar Tech/Roadie/Hired Muscle was telling us all how we needed to quit school immediately and sign up for the Certificate in Roadying that he was putting together at Taranaki Polytechnic.

I did not.

Sticky Filth – Weep Woman Weep

 

Hideously Disfigured – Capital Hardcore.

Important notes on this:

a) This was two Maori guys playing rap metal to angry small town racists (back before whitey was into rap) which is pretty hardcore.

b) One of them went on to be in the Goat Fucking Nun Rapers which is a band that can pretty legitimately claim to have no interest in selling out, ever.

c) I forgot that they were basically a Body Count ripoff (they actually say “Body Count” at one point, just to drive the message home)

d) Now you know what it’s like to drive into my home town from SH1.

 

 

*Pearl Jam songs.

**not to be confused with the guy who officially TAUGHT band, most famous for taking any opportunity to remind everyone that he was distantly related to Lord Byron “People always made fun of his terrible club foot, and look at what he achieved!”. What Lord Byron certainly did not achieve was the slightest bit of recognition amongst a bunch of spotty tweens who were more fascinated by how it was humanly possible that a man could have such seemingly indelible sweat stains on his armpits.

***(maybe)

****In hindsight he was probably more interested in the Viking imagery than the ‘Zep. Nazi’s love that shit right?

 

0. Prologue: Split Enz, Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth (1993)

THE Ur-New Zealand band, on their 20th anniversary tour, in all their erratic, costumed, ageless in greasepaint glory.

Under 12s get in for free. Me mercifully pre-pubescent at 13.

Noise. Lights. Finns (two of them). Weird smells. Out past bedtime. And people everywhere. Doing THINGS. Oh man the things.

What things (I hear nobody at all ask)? An impartial observer would probably sum up the things as “a bunch of small town New Zealand bogans getting pissed and yell-pashing* each other” but to a pudgy bookish 13 year old it was like if Bosch had painted Woodstock.**

A voice cut into the PA several times during the set to warn the punters clambering onto the forestage area that it wasn’t safe. They must all retreat through the murky waist deep bond to the their assigned seating. The stage couldn’t bear their weight. It would collapse and they’d all be thrown into the soupy pond and drown in the accumulated shit of a 1000 generations of waterfowl. Their bloated gawp-mouthed corpses would be seized by the New Plymouth City Council Parks Department and fed to the vicious black swans, with their well known penchant for human flesh.

The stage failed to collapse. The defiant dancers danced. The band played on. Everyone appeared to be having a great time.

Strike one, disembodied voice of authority.

On the way out we passed by a woman, insufficiently clad, hugging her knees, wet, shivering (covered in duck shit). “She’s drunk” was the verdict from the supervisory adults.

“Well that doesn’t look like any fun at all” thought I.

*to use the academic term

**the original, not the Limp Bizkit one. The man had limits.

Right then.

Little over two years ago* I put out a call to various internet people to see if anyone wanted an honest to goodness in the mail letter. The promise was that I’d take my trusty typewriter and smash some ink into some paper, loosely based on a topic they had provided me.

Not one of those letters got sent.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t have a crack at a couple (“Brendan Fraser? I barely know’er!” got at least 3 drafts). One suggestion went thusly:

“I wanna hear about growing up in a punk scene that wasn’t the US or the UK and, now that you’re older, what you think the broader perceptions of what New York, London, LA, etc. were did to behavior in New Zealand punks, if anything at all.”

Which is great because I didn’t grow up in a punk scene and I’m still not sure I’ve ever seen one. I do go to a lot of gigs though, and it’s kinda something I’ve been doing for a while. So I’m gonna write some stuff about that. Most will have very little to do with the music. If I stray anywhere near the topic suggested above, that’ll be a happy coincidence.

Bear in mind that most of the following events have been rendered unrecognisable by time and hyperbole. Names have been largely omitted lest the people who were actually there chime in with pesky ‘facts’ and ‘actual accurate recollection of events’.

*so like, 3 and a bit years ago.