The Axemen's Y2K Blog

Derailing the terrain

Posted in music, NZ bands, Photograsps, Posters by steve mccabe on October 31, 2008

This is a postcard-size reproduction of the large (A0) classroom poster prepared in the early 1990s by Axemen for use in NZ schools. Stevie was barely out of school himself when the band’s first few gigs took place in Dunedin in 1983, but when he moved into gainful employment later that year as a screenprinter, there was a younger-still McCabe within spitting-distance, clutching his drumsticks and singing up a storm, waiting for the call to step up onto the world’s stage and join the Axemen in their utopian South Dunedin of the mind . . .

a South Dunedin of the mind

Map #23: a South Dunedin of the mind

Introducing Little Stevie McCabe’s little brother, Even Littler Jeffy McCabe

Jeff played alongside 15-year-old Steve in the Spiderwebs, based in the Hell Farm Party Shed, where they made up songs, rehearsed and recorded. They supported Steve’s band with Pete Rees, the Gorillas, when Virg and Bernie Smith and Lisa Preston attended a live gig at the shed in the summer of 1982. The team here at Y2K hasn’t yet uncovered any Spiderwebs tapes from the various vaults and stashes at their disposal, but plans to undertake a careful search that may involve a bus trip in the near future.

Jeff next joined Steve & Bob’s pre-Stu proto-Axemen when they recorded the SCENES LIKE BEADS cassette at Hell Farm early in September of 1983. He sings his own lyrics on the following songs from that set. . .

the flames!
I ran through the flames
We weren’t playing games
I ran through the burning forest
All day long
—Jeff’s vocals are on fire; Bob & Steve play along on guitar & trumpet.

jack the ripper
Jack the ripper took off his slipper
He pushed me from the back and I shouted, “Look at that”
—Jeff profiles the infamous Victorian killer to an incongruously jaunty South Dunedin reggae rhythm supplied by Steve & Bob. It must be getting late in the day at Hell Farm, since the TV is on and Fawlty Towers can be heard in the background.

831022-dugongstones
The next three songs all come from a session recorded at Hell Farm on October 22, 1983, featuring Jeff-Steve-Bob calling themselves The Dugong Stones. They recorded 7 songs. Two days later the Axemen with Stu on drums and drum-machine played their single live gig at Hell Farm (the band was about to get its first taste of the Christchurch pub scene, from which it would barely return alive), sharing the Party Shed’s concrete floor with The Dugong Stones as they played their one & only show. Jeff mostly drummed for the Dugongs, as he does on the next two tracks, but he returns to sing his own lyrics on the third. . .

the dugong or sea cow

the dugong or sea cow

auntie anti

heaven-sent from hell

monster on the loose

crystallized dugong semen

dugong stones: crystallized dugong semen

Jeff returned as a guest on the MICK’S DANCEFLOOR (MIX) album, playing a recorder & singing another of his own lyrics, “In A Forest,” recorded again at Hell Farm in early November. This time Stu drums while Bob & Steve add guitars to Jeff’s typically spooky tale of what befell him and his greyhound dog in a tree-filled space. in a forest

831131-micks-dancefloor1

In January of 1984 Jeff’s political sensibilities were awakened as he took part in the Axemen’s BIG CHEAP MOTEL protest album project, joining the band onstage at Hagley Park to add his inimitable drumming to the instruments & voices raised in defiant opposition to a blatant display of soulless big-money sexism. Not yet 10 years old, he rocked the complacent anti-consciousness of Chri$tchurch corp(se)orate capitali$m like he was 10 feet tall.

Jeff continued to appear infrequently with the Axemen throughout 1984, for instance at the England St and Carlyle St hall gigs, a series of Saturday & Sunday shows at unlicensed venues which became something of a focal point for the many underage innercity punks with often diverging concerns, briefly united in the cause of celebrating the marriage of noise, humour & multiple viewpoints which the gigs embodied at their best. The “something for everyone” quality of the hall shows is evident in the following roll-call of bands & performers who took part: Scorched Earth Policy, All Fall Down, Gillmen, McGoohans, Connossieurs, Octopus Ink, Toerag and others (apologies to those not named; Y2K will update this list when further information arrives).

Stu's full-colour screenprinted England St Hall poster

Stu's full-colour screenprinted England St Hall poster

Colourful hi-res version of Stevie & Stu's Carlyle St Hall poster

Colourful hi-res version of Stevie & Stu's Carlyle St Hall poster

Kawowski's absinthe

Kawowski's absinthe

At a rehearsal for the Carlyle St Hall gig in September, Jeff’s next two songs were recorded. Stu K was in Absentia, the mystical Mexican village. Jeff, Stevie & Bob are joined on both tracks by Gordo Nodrog Baird, bass, & Al Rite, sax.

i don’t have the energy
—Jeff’s awareness remains strong; his lyrics combine canny punk nay-saying with a self-deprecating shrug at the #1 pitfall injuring punks of all stripes, apathy.

the little green man (from bardamaloo)

This rare excerpt from Jeffs notebook gives some insight into his inspiration

This rare excerpt from Jeffs notebook gives some insight into his inspiration

—Long before notions of lo-fi & no-fi became ideological hobbyhorses, Axemen adopted the preferred homonyms sci-fi, psy-fi & sigh-fi to telegraph (1) their enthusiasm for science-fictional alternatives to the moribund hegemony, (2) their faith in the telepathic potential of musical communication, and (3) their willingness to inhabit a sound-continuum conducive to expressing the pleasures & pains (sigh!) inherent in all life-choice interactions. Jeff’s unsophisticated nod to the alien constitutes a “welcome, come on in” to the once-feared “other” and deftly fuses the diverse elements at play in the Axemen collective sci-psy-sigh-psyche.

adult Jeff on his wedding day, 2004

adult Jeff on his wedding day, 2004

So thanks again for the music to Jeff McCabe; he may have been the littlest of the Axemen, but his contribution was huge.

The missing years

Posted in blather, poetry, War by steve mccabe on October 31, 2008

dsc04770aWhen Bob left Christchurch to join Stu in Auckland in the late 80’s (by this time Stu was starting to fall apart) Steve decided he would join the french foreign legion. Being a long time advocate of gun proliferation and a big fan of french food, it seemed a good idea at the time.

The escargot, the triple-cream deserts, the frogs legs, garlic bread and fine wine, all this and guns as well, it seemed a dream come true.

Initially it was. Steve laughed off the “there’s no AK-47s in foxholes” posters as he wolfed down the crepes, croissants and voule-a-vents that were liberally sprinkled around the recruiting office under the omnipresent tricoleuer flag.

re are no AK47s in Foxholes

There are no AK47s in Foxholes!

Steve’s buddy Screamin’ k Hawkins begged him not to go, singing a (sadly, unrecorded) version of “Billy, don’t be a hero” with a chillingly brilliant segue into “Please Mister, Please! (Don’t play B-17)” and a reprise of “The nite Chicago died” thrown in at the end [I can still hear the plaintive "...and there was no sound at a-a-a-all... but the clock upon the wall!" <tick> <tick> <tick> <tick>]

Screamin' K. Hawkins - Photo by Stu (from The Kenny Everett Years)

Screamin' K. Hawkins - Photo by Stu (from "The Kenny Everett Years")

Damn Don’t Ask Don’t Tell!
Damn the Statute of Lovingness!
Damn the Statue of Liberty, it stands for nothing!
Damn the Torpedoes!
Damn, Damn, Damn!

Brushing off the nay-saying of his nay-sayer friends, {and the neigh-saying of his horse friends}, McCabe glibly signed up for the standard 5-year service agreement with the foreign legion. Fortunately, being fluent in french he was able to put a tick in the “no,thanks” box saying “I agree to lick the butt of the current prime minister of France, on demand, and in perpetuity, as requested, and possibly {but not necessarily} in public”.

post: A Bit Cell Sec Em Vet Ti

The Spies Who Loved Me

Posted in cultural studies, NZ bands by steve mccabe on October 31, 2008

George Henderson’s move to Wellington was notable for many reasons, including the formation of the band THE SPIES, sharing  Chris Plummer with the legendary Shoes This High.

The full lineup of the Spies consisted of:

George Henderson - Guitar, Voice, Organ
Susan Ellis – Organ, Piano, Voice, Guitar
Chris Plummer – Drums
Richard Sedger – Bass, Clarinet
Mark Thomas – Drums, guitar, additional folly (special guest)

Note the tradition of folly artist has been a kiwi tradition beginning with (notably for rock bands that is) BLERTA and SPLIT ENZ, the ENZ’s Noel Crombie being effectively a non-participating (spoons and tambourine solos excepted) musician but an intense and integral part of the band, being hugely influential on their ‘look and feel’ and the concept (long before it was widely fashionable) of having a specific ‘image’ for the band. Note this had been done in a general sense with bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and Herman’s Hermits, but this was on a much more general level, promoting ‘good boy’ / ‘bad boy’ imagery in a more or less generic way, ie suits = good, leather jackets = bad. Crombie’s whacky haircuts and stylish, well-constructed yet quirky suits gave the band their own dignity, their own character / look and feel, over and above any intrinsically ‘kiwi’ characteristics the band may otherwise have exerted had Crombie not have been a part of the mix during this period.

The addition of a clownish entity to be an integral part of the live show was widely accepted amongst the band community in New Zealand at this time, and The Spies (and the Axemen in later days, taking on Brent Hayward (STH, Smelly Feet) and Davey G (Gestalt, Marty Source and the Source, EOE) as interpretive dancers in the 90-92 period) were no exception; Mark Thomas making the move to Wellington specifically to fulfill the role, horns and all.

To this day it is saddening to me that such a talent was taken from us too soon, as is of course the case with Screamin K Hawkins, gone forever but in no way forgotten. I can still hear him raspilly singing “I want My Pension” right into my ear, his scraggly beard rubbing against my cheek and the occasional relic of spit clicking on my eardrum…. take me back to Africa…

post: Cab Clevis Mete Title

I post, i post , i po-tiddly-oh to Post

A Pasty faced Geezer responds to “Bob Brannigan Remembers Why He Got Into Rock’n’Roll”

Posted in Axemen Science, blather by steve mccabe on October 30, 2008

What the hell happened here?

Maybe there was a time before the Axemen existed, before there was a Steve, a Bob and a (holy) Stu but surely this is accepted as almost an irrelevance[1] as what was to come afterwards rendered any previous existence irrelevant. Of course the discovery of other life forms in future years such as the Dragans of Wellington, the Faigans and fabled Hamiltons of Christchurch spell out the facts that the axemen were far from an isolated case in being a brilliant group of impoverished musicians living in the cheapest possible flats in a moderately affluent city by choice (‘yeayarr, we are the real deal muddah, some of us workin’ some of us out on da street, some jus bein’ the niggahs we are and livin our life widdout da man holdin us down!Shee-it!)

A Time, a place for us which ultimately deserves its own history…

The effective axemen particle synthesis principle

The effective axemen particle synthesis principle

…not to mention the recent discovery of the Anti-Axemen Universe

To avoid confusion future references to the anti-Axemen in this article will be referred to using the following terminology:

  • Antithetic elements shall be referred to using scientific notation – eg The antithetic AXEMEN shall be referred to as the AXEMEN’ OR the <~AXEMEN> OR the !AXEMEN OR the (AXEMEN) depending on context… MAKE IT SO!

[1] The Big Bang

The Perfect Strangers: “Not To Be Taken”

Posted in music, NZ bands, Photograsps by steve mccabe on October 23, 2008

Not many recordings have survived of seminal early 80’s Christchurch band The Perfect Strangers. This 8-song cassette selection entitled “Not To Be Taken” was most likely compiled by the late Lindsay Maitland (Crazy Olé! and The Panthers cornet / french horn player). “Not To Be Taken” comprises one side of a cassette, the other being entitled And Band “Outhern”. The tape was given to Stu Kawowski at George Henderson’s N.E.V. pad, Dunedin around 1983/84 (from memory). The SX70 Polaroids here are from a 1980 gig at the Centre Gallery in the Christchurch Art Centre.

Read more here The art and magick of The Perfect Strangers, Chch 1980-1982

1. Options Statement

2. Far Eastern Rhythm Section

3. The Realm Of Solar Gravity

4. Days

5. I Know

6. What is it

7. Garden Of Electricity

8. Listen, The Light

Perfect Strangers live at Christchurch Art Centre 1980. L to R Bill Vosburgh (guitar & vocals), Mark Thomas (vocals), Richard Uti (drums), Helm Ruifrok (bass).

The Perfect Strangers live at Christchurch Art Centre 1980. L to R: Bill Vosburgh (guitar & vocals), Mark Thomas (vocals), Richard Uti (drums), Helm Ruifrok (bass). (photo Stu)

Mark Thomas of Perfect Strangers plays solo, Christchurch Art Centre, 1980 (photo Stu).

Mark Thomas of The Perfect Strangers plays solo, Christchurch Art Centre, 1980 (photo Stu).

“Far better than the Beat Poets!”

Posted in Axemen Fan Fiction, blather, travel by steve mccabe on October 21, 2008

Man these guys are way out
better than Ginsberg and Kerouac ever did
these guys were on the road before the road was the road
can you dig it?

so, we pulled up 6:15AM at the diner and all i had was two quarters in my pocket

The tank was on empty and me and Joe had no idea of where we were heading.
I looked over at the tips jar and the waitress shook her head slowly.

I knew that her three children and two-bit husband depended on that tip money but I also knew that by the time I walked out of that joint i would have a free cup of coffee, a full breakfast and the contents of that tip jar, maybe the girl as well – just because thats the kind of bastard I am – the lowest of the low – a beat poet.

Joe suddenly stepped up and grabbed one of the complimentary biscuits off the table, tearing off a corner and, chomping down on it in his haste , recklessly knocking over the cups of tea which had been set out for the homeless, burning one of them who liked it strong and black, “Like my men”.

“Hey Joe – where you going with that bun in your hand?” I called out with the obligatory nonchalant tone expected of such an obvious setup line.

Pointing at me pointedly with his one good pointy finger Joe nodded and said “Pull this, asshole”

I pulled his finger and he twisted it 70 degrees and said “You don’t know shit mutha now order me a beer and I want it on the table with that waitress right their feeding it to me with a teaspoon!”

He then pointedly strolled out nibbling on his bun, after ordering my beer and tipping the waitress generously – “Buy a new pair of pants for your kid – or at least change his diaper for godssake” he sniffed.

Pointedly the joint stopped jumping
A yellow breeze hawked by
This bun wuz made for eating
here’s mud in yer eye (gobbles bun)

The waitress sauntered out, more sultry than she was before.

“it’s my smoke break” she sneered

Joe nodded and kept walking.

Back in the diner I continued in my role until the silence was crushed.

“My name’s Pam but they call me Pammy because its cuter”
“You think?”
“No I don’t think cuz its cuter”
“Probably for the best”
“Mmm-hmm, its cuter…I got your beer teaspoon, sweetie” she winked.

Now you’re talking, I thought.

Following her back into the bar I couldn’t help but notice her ass – sexist and un-pc as it is I couldn’t help placing it on a scale and it easily achieved a 9, 10 being reserved for professionally photographed and retouched tennis players in a public place, maybe scratching the crack to give an extra couple of leverage points.

Sidling back up to the bar, I put my bib on.

Rolling her eyes, the waitress brought the spoon over and dipped it into the glass, scratching her ass purposely.

“You know I’ll have to leave this with you once it starts getting busy” she said, matter-of-factly.

Proclaimers – Arkansas

The Proclaimers - tonite only

The Proclaimers - tonite only

I looked around the bar and, seeing the “Tonight – The Proclaimers – Gays and Scots welcome!!” poster in the window I smiled glibly.

‘Teaspooned beer till closing time’‘ ran the ticker in my head.

AFF – Testing their mettle

Posted in Axemen Fan Fiction, Photograsps by steve mccabe on October 21, 2008

Steve, Bob and Stu were jogging round the band rotunda as usual on a chilly but glorious crisp Christchurch day, tossing around a genuine cowskin rugby ball red and black of course being the Canterbury colors, with a faded PineTree Meads signature on it indicating it had been around, dropping it to the foot on more than one occasion to give it a solid punt.

Waving to George who had moved into the rotunda for the season, (“Its warmer in here in midwinter than Jetty Street in a high Dunedin summer! – Och Aye!” he jested, sniffing his singlet and grinning approvingly). Pulling out a razor from his pocket, he half-heartedly gave his icy beard a good hard scrape.

“Never works!” he chortled, tossing the razor onto the tidy pile of used needles to his right. “I’ll clean that up later” he thought as the pack of stray dogs rifled through the stack, one of them grazing his nose and running off with a hapless yelp, leaving a tiny trail of blood as it ran.

Punting the orb deftly to Stu, inadvertantly over his head to be collected by the always toned Brannigan in his one good hand, Steve squeaked (in his best meek Steve McCabe squeaky voice) “How long has it been since we really tested our mettle, boys? Seriously?!”

“How about that great tea tasting gig when we tried all those varieties of green teas?” piped up Kawowski.

Effortlessly hurtling the ball to McCabe in a rainbow-like arc, Brannigan replied, “Nah , that was when we tested our nettle!”

“And the time we brought those four Liverpool lads over in 1964 for that nationwide music quiz and put them up on stage with a quizmaster and grilled them on Guiness Records?”

Brannigan, heading the egg-shaped ball as if it were a balloon while shaking his head like a stern schoolmaster noted “No, no, no, that was when we tested the Beatles – don’t you remember anything??”

“Not even when we pulled off all the colorful fleshy parts of a flower and subjected them to drops of iodine to see if they would change colour?”

“For goodness sake, that was when we tested our pet…”

Just then, the Punt instructor stepped up to the lads and said “Party of Three? The X Men? Basic punting skills? Booked for 3:15 PM?” pausing and then snootily looking down and winding his watch.

Dropping his shoulder in acknowledgement he winked and said ” ‘Op in the old dragon and moat, chums you’re up for a right ol’ time fox and hunting up the ol’ blackbird and raven kidneys ‘n’ liver! Stone the thorns and rose, I bet you don’t even know what the tower and bell I’m lamb and porking about!”

Scratching their heads, the lads climbed into the punt.

“Wish I could come up with a better cockney rhyming slang for this contraption” mumbled the punt-master, shaking his head as he insterted his huge pole into the murky Avon depths, thrusting the fullness of his weight into propelling the logjammer faster, faster into the now-stirring current.

McCabe reclined and brushed aside his wispy shoulder-length hair – he hadn’t had it that long for a while but kept growing it as the girls loved it. It didn’t even really need mussing up at this point yet he did it anyway just to rouse his buddies and invoke the memory of their legendary cohort, Dragan Stojanovic.

“Whose mettle is being tested here?” mused McCabe to himself. The thought naturally drifted across to his fraternal time-twin Brannigan who tossed back the thought rejoinder “Whose mettle is it anyway?” to which McCabe had no immediate comeback, much to Brannigan’s delight.

Glowering in the mid-afternoon Christchurch sun, at once chilling in its traversion of the ozone-starved atmosphere which hovered over the flat city known locally as the plains (reminiscent of the ill fated and way too early deceased Tattoo character Herve Villechaize – his nemesis mr Rourke was much favoured for being knocked off in the later years of the series but this was not talked about in open conversation – Villechaize’s battle cry ‘The Plane! The Plane!’ would be a constant reminder of the utopian flatlands in the axemen’s later days – the pesky git – curse him and his catchy catch-cry these things have a habit of catching on in their own catch-as-cats-can way -)

(Can someone Please go add some detail to this reference to Catch as Cats Can:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039253/)
Plot:
An emaciated canary, singing like Frank Sinatra, is getting on the nerves of a pipe-puffing parrot…

User Comments:
Amusing action with funny spoof characters

TBC

Calve Betels Titmice

reclining rockers at Writhe Recording 1987

McCabe & Brannigan: o'dubbin' vox on their ass: Writhe Recording 1987 (pic Stu)

Kawowski reads the Evening Post with his toes 1986

Kawowski reads the Evening Post with his toes 1986 (pic Lesley MacLean)

Cuba St Festival 1986

Dragan Stojanovich guitarra a solas con los dientes: Cuba St Festival 1986 (pic Stu)

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Hyperviscosity: coffee wine’s contribution to subatomic particle theory

Posted in Axemen Science, blather by steve mccabe on October 20, 2008

Were it not for coffee wine’s emergence as an almost perfectly adapted medium for usage in the resonance containers used in large scale bubble chamber technology which eventually extrapolated out to the development of the Large Hadron Collider, the story of the Axemen’s role in Bubble Chamber technology could have remained relegated as a footnote to the history of nuclear / subatomic particles much like the myriad of other bands and their offspring, The Pi Muons, The Tau Neutrinos, the Gluons and rarely discussed Gravitons (also known on releases by Onset/Offset records as Ritchie Venus and the Gravitons), etc.

Coffee wine’s emergence as the only readily distributable commercially manufactured hyperviscose medium whose semi-opaque nature renders it an biometrically perfect medium for projecting the trails of subatomic particles onto its brief stable condition as a ‘proud but true’ medium of record for the ground breaking and astonishing (later Nobel award winning) strobe photography was at the heart of its importance as an analysis tool (‘which nobody can deny! which nobody can deny!’)but it was nonetheless a fateful accident which led to its later fame and the growth of its use as what Einstein once described as “a microscopic window on the extremely small and evolving”. Einstein later regretted the statement as “my greatest mistake” saying in his later years “God is neither small nor evolving! Do you hear me ? Nein! Nein!

The emergence of the Axemen’s contribution (the murky fluid they imbibed and worshipped having long since been legendarily epitomised as having emerged as a superfine substance arising naturally as they were considered a superfine band, and this inner perfection having now been implicitly accepted as a fait accompli in an almost implied and demonstratively actual case of ultra-symmetry, ie it could not have evolved otherwise given the circumstances of its creation as they were, being a que sera, sera situation in which it would be hugely unlikely for the situation to be othewise to what it can demonstrably be proven to be) to this eminently demonstrable ‘proof of the pudding’ .

A muppet in any kind of disguise after all still has the hand of its very maker up its butt. As Einstein reflected in later years, “Mein Gott, all these years all these years I haff been troubled and it was this holy hand all along up my freaking ass! – sheesh i respect the ‘always with you’ doctrine but geeze a guy has to take a dump once in a while – Oy!”

Bubble Chamber - Note crates of coffee wine, left

Bubble Chamber, CERN, circa 1949 - Note crates of coffee wine, left; Picture:A bunch of geezers hang out round the Super-Geeky Atomic hyperion-division supermagnetic field collider (SGAHDSmFC)

this posting: Blame Testicle Civet

THE SOUTH DUNEDIN SOUND

Posted in music by steve mccabe on October 17, 2008

1 use no fuzz

2 no fuzz dub

3 the south dunedin sound

4 mick’s dancefloor

5 baby eater

6 last song marching orders

Little Stevie McCabe, vocals & guitar
Bob Brannigan, guitar & vocals
M. S. Agro, bass
Stu Kawowski, drums

Recorded live in Cashmere, Christchurch
at Scab Union Dave’s end-of-year party, December 1983

Tracks 2, 3 & 6 employ South Dunedin spaceSound equipment
for that authentic “Sound of South Dunedin” South Dunedin sound

Arthur Sheep/Axemen ETHER BREATHER HABITAT Lost SpacePunkJazz Gem

Posted in music by steve mccabe on October 15, 2008

fellow travellers in spirit realms
ARTHUR SHEEP saxophone
M. S. AGRO bass
BOB BRANNIGAN, STEVE McCABE guitars
STU KOWALSKI drums, percussion

recorded 10-12-83 at Steve’s, Christchurch (EARTHside)
& FutureHabitatNOW, Antichristchurch (alterEarth side)

cover design by Ron Nabbibang (Etherdom Free Skypilot)

EARTHside

the untouchables fred & barney

looking for ms. brenda lee

nice place (skin might peel, toes might curl)

alphabet jive

the yeasty mayor

alterEarth side

the bonny wind

no..not him

the phone of thought

ether breather


Bob Brannigan Remembers Why He Got Into Rock’n’Roll

Posted in Axemen Fan Fiction, Posters by steve mccabe on October 14, 2008

A memory of ‘The Tour Days’

It was the end of the seventies, the start of the eighties in fact, I remember just like it was yesterday, a frightened 15-year-old struggling into my clown costume to raise the spirits of my brothers and sisters in the struggle, too poor to afford a motorbike helmet so I sellotaped a couch cushion to my head (of course being from South Dunedin it was scotch tape not sellotape), arm-in-arm that grey day outside Carisbrook, the tears stinging the spots on my face, my throat so hoarse I could barely summon one more rousing cry of “Amandla Nawehu”— it was then that the mass political consciousness of my fellow citizens planted the seed of true solidarity in my sensitive virgin male mind and I looked up into the eyes of Steve Biko hovering above me on a placard and I felt the thrill of communion with the anxious stirrings of an even younger lad, a pale, frail, snub-nosed white boy who was also called Steve, who at that moment was wearing his checked pants and oversized yellow raincoat and tapdancing like mad, singing like a bird, using his undeniable God-given talent for entertaining to rally the sinking demeanours of his wounded comrades simultaneously exercising their right, no, DUTY, to oppose racist pigs and fascist cops in that Avon-girdled punting playground of the north, the garden city named for the son of god and the house in which he is rightfully worshipped, ChristChurch, because as I choked back a cry of pain while P.C.Hitler-Redneck took me from behind by grabbing the elastic holding my innocent plastic red nose (symbolising not only joy and humour, but Communism and the Socialist Workers’ State which I had totally committed myself to) and savagely kept going down on me with his hard truncheon, I looked for one more fleeting instance into the proud eyes of the noble African martyr and thought, like Peter Gabriel said, “The man is dead, the man is dead,” and suddenly I knew, I could HEAR/SEE/TASTE/SMELL/FEEL all at the same time that the VERY SAME THOUGHTS WERE RUNNING THROUGH THE HEAD OF MY BUDDY STEVE UP NORTH (only he was at a rally in support of homosexual law reform by then, because he went there straight after he finished cheering up the protestors at the rugby match, because he was also totally committed), and I remembered suddenly how he had been nagging me to learn to play the guitar because then we would be able to, in his words, “Stick it to the man!” like we really meant it (and we did mean it, we completely MEANT it) and I knew then that music was the answer, that if people like Peter Gabriel could sing about people like Steve Biko and inspire ordinary working-class folk like me and my buddy Steve (and I’d like to mention Bruce Springsteen, too, because he never took any shit from THE MAN either) then we could study to play our instruments and hopefully one day (but hopefully not “In The Year 2525″ one hopes!) inspire other young male virgins to fight oppressive racist regimes as well as sexist patriarchy rules and police state anti-drugs LIES and all cops everywhere where human beings should be living together in harmony as one. If you can still hear me, Steve, I thought, concentrating on the Vulcan mind melt technique that he had written to me about and I admittedly had scoffed at (but not to his face), but that now I realised was scientifically founded on fact and could be verified in a lab, “if you can hear me Steve,” I said out loud, as the burly policeman pulled me off with his jeering mates, “let’s start that band you were talking about, let’s STICK IT TO THE MAN with…ROCK’N’ROLL!!” And Steve’s vulcan-mind-melt antenna quivered briefly the reply, SUNG, rather than spoken, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope one day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”

AXEMEN FAN FICTION by Ann B. Barbingo

Music World turned upside down by Axemen in 1983 (photographic proof)

Posted in cultural studies, Photograsps by steve mccabe on October 14, 2008

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The art and magick of The Perfect Strangers, Chch 1980-1982

Posted in music, NZ bands, Photograsps by steve mccabe on October 14, 2008

By George D.Henderson
http://blogs.myspace.com/georgedhenderson

Reprinted by permission of the author
First published Friday, February 02, 2007

The art and magick of The Perfect Strangers, Chch 1980-1982

If The Perfect Strangers were only the blues-jam outfit implied elsewhere, I’d not be writing this story. The thing is, that Bill Vosburgh and Mark Thomas were two songwriting naturals; Mark, as an instinctive “singing fool”, Bill, as a precocious master of all techniques. More than that, the core trio of Vosburgh, Richard Uti (drums) and Helm Ruifrok (bass) were artists, from art school (while The And Band were all language and philosophy rejects), and Bill Vosburgh (William Wallace Vosburgh III) in particular soon came to see his music and painting as part of a larger “great work” in the Magickal tradition.
It was from Bill that I first learned how to write a song around a corny, clichéd phrase or a simple riff. He first brought the vernacular to my attention; a relaxed wit and self-deprecating honesty in love songs, with a simultaneous awareness of the larger, metaphysical picture, was his forte. As in this example, Self Interest:

I’d like to tell you ’bout a girl that I knew
But I can’t remember much about her
I just remember what I wanted from her
And how it broke my heart when I couldn’t get it,

Which was written in 1981 long before I’d written anything comparable. His style, and this song in particular (which The Puddle played often in the early years), opened my eyes to what was possible in a song. Nor do I know where it came from; his major influences seemed to be The Stooges and the MC5. The Smiths were only beginning their career, and Orange Juice were years away from New Zealand.

It was 1980 and I living in Wellington, playing in The Spies and living in a squat in Bosworth Terrace with Susan Ellis, who later became my wife and the mother of my child, when Bill Vosburgh came to stay; he was a friend of Peter Hall-Jones, who was a friend of my brother and myself and a guest at this party. Bill charmed Susan and I as soon as he arrived. Borrowing Susan’s pastels and drawing hundreds of short curved lines in different colours all over the page in no apparent pattern, he eventually created a vivid landscape with donkey (my memory says it was a representation of Sancho Panza, but I may be deluded) in a pointillist style. That he was an artist and, at 17, a prodigy, was obvious. Bill was roped into our equipment-stealing exploit and helped us carry the Revox home, but fortunately, by the time we were arrested he was back in Christchurch and his part escaped notice.

When the Wellington scene lost its appeal, and Chris Plummer left The Spies for Shoes This High, Mark Thomas went to Christchurch to stay with Bill, and soon Susan and I followed, together with Richard Sedger.

markthomas

Mark Thomas in Armagh St, Christchurch circa 1981 (photo by Bob Noxious).

This move would involve me in a scene that university life in Dunedin and punk rock squatting in Wellington had not prepared me for. Living near the centre of the city, there was nonetheless something commune-like about the way our increasingly intoxicated lives focussed on our art. One of the first things I did was to buy a second-hand reel-to-reel tape recorder (which came with tapes of born-again Christian sermons, to be taped over piecemeal as we created). Bill had only just formed The Perfect Strangers; his first bass player had been John Halvorsen, who left to form The Gordons along the same Detroit-punk lines that Bill preached; to me The Gordon’s earliest songs (on the Adults and Children E.P.) show clear signs of Bill’s influence. The art students that formed his band were drummer Richard Uti, a Polynesian prince, and Helm Ruifrok, a mild mannered Dutchman, senior to the others, whose highly, but subtly sexualized landscapes hang in cafés throughout the South Island. Bill and Helm’s exotic art student girlfriends Ita and Besa were also a revelation; Besa, Turkish with a piercing singing voice, would soon go to Cairo and become a Moslem fundamentalist ahead of her time; Ita was dark, mysterious and quiet. She seemed moody, but who wouldn’t be with Bill as a partner and me as a houseguest? The opposite of Susan in every way except child-like beauty, Ita attracted me in a way I dared not think about and thus terrorised me greatly for some time.

The internet articles on The Perfect Strangers/And Band axis tend to suggest that the latter were the more disciplined, but in fact The Perfect Strangers were the tighter band. Bill’s many songs in their first set included A Haunting Refrain (“The lover did his dreadful deed and vanished out the door”) with its gorgeous riff of descending suspended 4th arpeggios, Life Goes On, with its catchy 2 note chorus and obvious similarities to early Gordons (this was the first song I watched being written), the Peter Gunn twelve bar Man (“You know that God created him, and he’s alright”), which had been written early one morning, inspired by the sight of a long-haired league player jogging past the window on a training run, the faux-disco/punk crossover rave-up Dance You Fuckers Dance, the Lovecraftian Curses, and the intricate The Man Who Knew Too Much. This early set’s piece de resistance was Robbie. Taking the melody of The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond as its bass line, Robbie (chorus: “Robbie, och aye och!”) was a reggae song hailing the mythical return of the Scottish diaspora “We’ll never have to borrow money again/ when we return to Highland Zion evergreen”, with Robert the Bruce in place of Haile Selassie. Even the musical mechanics of songwriting was something Bill attacked more confidently and knowledgably than I did.

As Bill’s facile approach to songwriting influenced me, so our experimental and literary approach to music influenced him. The first example of this to be recorded was probably The Dunwich Horror. Bill took for lyrics a monologue from the H. P. Lovecraft story, the part that begins “They’s prints in the rud, mis’ Corey – great raound prints as big as barrelheads, all sunk daown deep like an elephant had been along, only they’s a sight more nor four feet could make!” That last phrase made the chorus; “They’s a sight more nor four feet could make!” The song turned on a loping bass riff, the kind of simple but compellingly syncopated figure that became Helm’s trademark, with Richard Uti’s drumming for the first time evoking his Pacific island heritage, evoking tribal drumming and a nocturnal bacchanal around a bonfire, while Bill’s fuzz guitar snarled, squealed and bit.

The Dunwich Horror and the later Self Interest were, tho only lo-fi demos, proof that The Perfect Strangers could have made a fascinating and original pop record if they were ever allowed to. But no sooner did they hit on the formula for success than things began to go wrong. Success on the terms available in Christchurch, 1980 just wasn’t what Bill wanted in any case. The Narcs, later The Great Divide, were an example of what the city really wanted, and the arrogant, immature and opinionated Perfect Strangers secured a support slot, only to fall out with The Narcs’ management and be sacked before the second night. As there were only a few rock venues in Christchurch at the time, all managed by the same promoters, who were supportive of local music but very protective of their hard-won niche in the business, this behaviour was commercial – and artistic – suicide.
From now on, both The Perfect Strangers and The And Band (the two bands were not easily separated in practice) could only play together in the daytime, at a few unlicensed venues; twice at the Christchurch Arts Centre, once in the Band Rotunda by the Avon, and once at the controversial Four Avenues alternative school. The second Arts Centre gig was disastrous; an intoxicated Richard Uti clambering over the equipment in front of a silent audience of Pacific Island elders, sent there because of concerns that their future king was losing the plot. He was packed off back to the islands to dry out – and he was one of the lucky ones, like Besa, who got out in time to recover the pattern of their original lives.
All of us (I think) drank to excess at times, and when we could afford it we bought pot from The Gordons. We also found San Pedro cactuses and tripped from time to time (it was on such a trip that I wrote Interstellar Gothic* and recorded the And Band songs on the E.P.). In the summer we stole and bled poppies, which indirectly led to my hospitalisation and introduced me to a drug called Doloxene (dextropopoxyphene), a mild (but very toxic) opiate which had an amphetamine-like effect in small doses. Others became addicted to codeine products, and from time to time we drank antihistamine cough syrups. Mark Thomas, who replaced Richard on drums, drumming for both bands and fronting the later Perfect Strangers line-up, was especially prone to excess and was the first of us to go on methadone, an experience that he turned into songs. If Bill showed me how to write songs, Mark encouraged me to create them out of the minutiae of everyday experience, including relationship dramas and drug taking, and to be brutally honest in the name of humour. *(from a cassette called “AND BAND – against the odds.”)- Stu K.

The extent to which I was imposing on people I hardly knew amazes me today. “I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.” Were it not for Susan, who always found us flats, food and money, I must surely have died long before. My unawareness or suppression of unwelcome truths was surely at an all time high in those days.

A typical morning at Bealey Ave. might go like this; I awake to find Bill or Helm making coffee, and turn on the tape deck to listen to the last night’s recordings. Deciding what to keep (most things), I turn on Bill’s amp and plug in the guitar that Susan and I bought on HP, and which I still have today. Soon I have a pattern I like, and play it to Bill who sits down at the Farfisa and taps out a few notes, or suggests a lyrical theme with a few clever lines. Helm comes and sits by the drums, Mark walks in and takes the microphone, and I start the tape rolling. Before breakfast, while the girls are still showering. Later in the day we’ll add overdubs and I’ll talk Susan into dubbing more organ, or let Richard S. play his clarinet.

Every flat we lived in had its own vibe, its own particular sort of creativity associated with it. Worcester Street is where Susan and I, with Mark and Richard made super 8 films. The flat near the Police Station is where we wrote, with Bill and Lindsay, the surrealist and parodic stories that became the MKULTRA collection, published on Susan’s Gestetner press. The old warehouse in town, The Perfect Strangers’ practice room, our last stop before leaving altogether for Dunedin, is where we sniffed ether, mixed with the homeless and mentally ill riff-raff of the City, and stopped feeling special and invulnerable. This was where the music first began to sound like noise to me. Almonds and Crocodiles, the only real collaboration between the members of the then And Band, Mark, Susan and I, was written there, but could only be turned into a real song later, in Dunedin with The Puddle. But this is not a story about The And Band.

Gene Autry the singing cowboy by Bill Vosburg

cover art for MKULTRA: GENE AUTREY by Bill Vosburgh

The road trip that Bill, Ita, Susan, Mark and I took to Able Tasman National Park in the Morris 1800 that Bill got from his parents is forever etched in my memory. We left Christchurch drunk and hung over from cough mixture. On the busy motorway north, Bill, driving wildly, clipped a Holden Monaro while overtaking. When the irate gorilla driving the big V8 pursued us, he drove up onto the grassy centre plot in a reckless overtaking manoeuvre, then cut across all four lanes to make a surprise exit down a country back road. It was like a car chase from a movie, our little car dicing with the traffic; exhilarating. Safe from our pursuer on the gravelled country road, Bill had an asthma attack; without medication, the girls talked him down in the back seat while Mark took over. This was a mistake; Mark, always macho, had envied Bill his turn at the wheel during the chase, and now he was determined to see how fast the little 1800 could go. I can remember him reading the miles-per-hour from the speedo; “80!” “90!” “A hundred!” and then the car lost control in the gravel, spun round once or twice, and, missing a power pole by inches, smashed backwards into a fence post. We had whiplash problems for some time to come, but we all knew we were lucky to be alive. The post had driven the car’s body into the back wheel so that we couldn’t drive away, but a farmer drove up in a tractor and fixed it with a crowbar. He told us that the night before two drunken motorists had stopped for a swim in the irrigation ditch and one had drowned. We figured that, if we were still alive, it was because death had already been satisfied on that road. We drove more soberly to Takaka, and camped on a beach in the park. In the morning we saw a pod of whales enter the bay. The water was clear and warm, and little octopuses scuttled over the kina-encrusted rocks. We stood on a rock, threw in a baited hook and, in seconds, pulled out a flat silver fish six inches long. The hooks didn’t even need bait; we pulled in several of these fish using only hook and line, and cooked them in tinfoil over our fire. They were delicious.

The Perfect Strangers soon lost the pop focus that I admired so much and went off in search of something more authentic, organic and bluesy. Bill Vosburgh had always wanted to be Ron Asheton from The Stooges, and he pulled this off with his later band Christchurch. He often seemed to take his painting (and his magick) more seriously than his songwriting. I remember him painting one large canvas, mixing menstrual blood and semen with his paints, and praying quabbalistic prayers for inspiration. He would psych himself into altered states and, especially when the wrong drugs were added to the mix, the resulting mania could be terrifying (or, more often, annoying). Sidelined for frequent repairs, Bill’s psyche has had to calm down considerably since those days. His superb jazz piano playing is always a pleasure to hear. He had a profitable business at one time playing high-end cabaret as Celia Pavlova’s accompanist, and one of my ambitions is to record a set of my songs as arranged by Bill. Bill still plays with Helm occasionally. The other day I watched a video of Charlie Parker; while the other guy took his solo, you could see Charlie’s face as he fingered his sax; I was amazed to see that the sly little movements of his eyes and lips were pure Bill. Bill, who has long played sax, idolised Bird, but I don’t think he had ever seen a video of him to copy, and, though I have seen the video, I know that I couldn’t copy those facial expressions to save myself. Spooky. Mark Thomas went to Australia and became a communist. He recorded two songs with The Puddle during the sessions for the Into The Moon CD, Peter’s Plague and Abo Hunt. In Nelson he became Sharkface and fronted a rock band that I can remember playing a superlative cover of Iggy’s Dirt when they supported The Puddle in 1993. Mark died a few weeks later [1996 - S. S.] of a drug overdose. He had a classic baritone rock voice, lived life to the full, had an irresponsible and violent side that concerned his friends; he was truly self-destructive and infuriatingly perverse, yet he was the most naturally creative of songwriters and the best male singer I have ever known.

Perfect Strangers at their seminal Band Rotunda gig. L-R Bill Vosbergh, Richard Uti,Helm Ruifrock, Mark Thomas

In this picture of The Perfect Strangers, taken by Stuart Page at the Christchurch band rotunda, Bill Vosburgh Plays guitar at left; that is probably me adjusting the P.A. with my back to the camera; Richard Uti is behind the drums; Helm plays bass behind the Farfisa, and Mark Thomas is on the right. Mark sports a small pair of horns. These latex horns were made for him by Helm, and wearing them necessitated constant shaving of his scalp and reattachment. He wore them for many years. They served to accentuate his natural faun-like features, and to warn all-comers of his Panic character. Later in life, he grew dreadlocks and became much more obviously Maori.

(Click here for a Perfect Strangers track off “Thunder at the Rotunda” cassette and more recordings & photos of The Perfect Strangers here.) –A Kit Wok Wuss

There are no digital copies of The Perfect Strangers’ music extant. Live cassettes of poor quality exist, and the original reel-to-reel tapes of mixed And Band and Perfect Strangers recordings, which exist among a scattered collection of reels many of which, re-recorded onto second hand tape in the first place, have deteriorated beyond salvation, will be a major project to search and transcribe. The very rare And Band/ Perfect Strangers EP will be transcribed from vinyl to MP3 one day soon.

The Gordons (13 Feb 1981) Back to front: Alister Parker, John Halvorsen, Brent McLachlan (photo: Evening Post)

Here’s a live recording of The Gordons playing “Adults and Children” from a cassette of Roger Fogorelli’s (probably recorded at “Billy The Club” or “Last Resort” in Wellington around 1980).

The Gordons “Adults and Children”

George with Bolex at the Deans Ave party 1981 (photo Stu)

George with Bolex at the Deans Ave party 1981 (photo Stu)

Bill Vosburgh and Buddy Holly, Cashel Mall (opp. Ink Inc) ChCh 1985

Bill Vosburgh and Buddy Holly, Cashel Mall (opp. Ink Inc) ChCh 1985 (pic Stu)

The Puddle at ChCh Tech gig, c.1984 (pic Stu)

The Jazz Years: Arthur Sheep, Alan Right et al

Posted in blather, music, Photograsps by steve mccabe on October 13, 2008

Several blocks north of Christchurch’s Cathedral Square (in itself a home for nutters, wizards, punks and winged rats), just before you reach Bealey Avenue, lies a rambling cacophony of flatlets and the home of quite a different variety of nutters, freaks and certified intelligentsia too. Probably a “Clifford flat” (most of those grand old mansions that were gutted, renovated and reduced to cabin-sized rat warrens were the cash cows of a tight old bastard known as “Clifford”), the house in question (see Artie Sheep’s Place located on Map 2a) was home to an eclectic analogue collective of jazzy, opiate-preferring jazzerati, some of whom were on the bunk from their Wellington lives, and all of whom were partial to an AXEMEN experience or two. (It seems that a 1/2 Japanese LP was receiving high rotation ratings on the premises and that the AXEMEN sound was close enough for them to dig it.)

Axemen featuring neighbour plastic saxophonist Al Right en route to Nab The Lamb from Arthur Sheep's pig-sty

A concerted effort to hijack the jazz guys’ studio began in earnest, early 1984. Firstly, McCabe moved into a shoe-box recently vacated by John Segovia (studio axe sessionist extraordinaire) aka Rent Hamilton (watch for a story about his Country Connoisseurs unit sometime in the future). Eventually the semi-paranoid permanently-opiated brass section in the bigger front flat were familiar with Stevie in close proximity. Bob’n’Stu cased the joint subliminally, then quickly ventured into the darkened bowels of the hallowed ether-dank hallways of Arthur Sheep’s free-form mausoleum up front. Within hours Sheep’s woolly plan to record with his Burroughsian tribe of squeakers had turned a full 180° and our heroes had taken command of the jazzbos’ prized Nakamichi cassette deck (together with a large room full of drums, percussion instruments, amps, mics, etc). . .

The “Shear the Sheep” Sessions delivered a unique and delightful flock of tracks, a foil to the usual behemoth AXEMEN metallic wall-o’-sound. Click here to hear the AXEMEN trio’s “Nab The Lamb” from those same sessions (also appears on the AXEMEN’s semenal A SCAR IS BORN release from 1984 – often described as an assault on “Sgt Pepper.”)

AFF – The Legend of the Vulcan Voice Meld

Posted in Axemen Fan Fiction, blather by steve mccabe on October 12, 2008

Rubbing the crusty yellow crystals off his nose and stretching his arms out, Bob Brannigan awoke. Brushing off the gaggle of female admirers which had been trying to settle in his hair since last night, he wandered across the dancefloor of the Miners Bar and Grill (rarely more than half-full because of the confusing “NO MINORS ALLOWED” sign affixed to the the front door), stepped over Stu Kawowski being careful not to bump his Zimmer frame and sidled over to the bar where Steve McCabe was on his second jug of beer for the day.

“Chaser, Bob?” Steve asked cheerily.

“Yeah but she got away!” Bob quipped.

The lads quietly poured and quaffed a couple of 7 oz’ers and Steve ordered another jug.

“Ah, that’s put a lining on the ol’ stomach,” commented Steve, producing a 1.25 litre bottle of Coffee Wine from his pocket with the smooth aplomb of a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat. McCabe’s jacket seemed to have endless pockets, each one deeper than a Rockefeller’s or a Kennedy’s, thought Bob.

“Glad I’m not a Kennedy!” said Steve between deep gulps, effortlessly reading Bob’s thoughts. The two pals were symapatico and had discovered their predilection for knowing the other’s thoughts long ago and it was as natural as– “Yoghurt icecream!” yelled Bob to the barman, “and make it runny!” The barman, accustomed to the lads’ sometimes unusual requests, poured a frozen yoghurt into a glass and put it under the Bain-marie.

“What’s that you’re putting the yoghurt under?” said Bob, nonchalantly serving up the first line of the joke so Steve could slam back the punchline to the hapless barman’s inevitable response.

“Why, it’s a Bain-Marie,” replied the barman, dead on cue.

“I know its a-bain-Marie, but what-a is it now?!!” yelled Steve in his best faux-Godfather Italian accent.

Appreciating the unselfish set-up, Steve mixed Bob a Yoko (a cloudy concoction of yoghurt and Coffee Wine, with a dash of beer thrown in for good measure). “The beer makes it a Rusty Yoko,” Steve noted adroitly. Bob whipped out his notebook and wrote:

The beer makes it a rusty Yoko
Curdled, like a year-old Cocoa

A grunt came from the booth in the corner. Looking over, the boys noticed Shane McGowan and Georgie Best collapsed under the table, snoring and holding their heads.

“Lightweights!” they said simultaneously, fist-bumping each other in acknowledgment of the mind-meld.

Steve recalled the first time the mind-meld had occurred, in an undisclosed Dental School in South Dunedin where the lads found themselves trapped Prisoner-style in the laughing-gas* room with the spigot hissing. Instantly, the lads threw themselves to the floor in order to ensure not a molecule was wasted, and within minutes McCabe was proclaiming, “My voice is melting! Bob, post-haste, perform the Vulcan Voice Meld!”

From that moment on, the two found themselves bound together inseparably, and it was said that they were “at least twice as funny” after that time.

* Nitrous Oxide discoverer [Joseph] Priestley describes the preparation of “nitrous air diminished” by heating iron filings dampened with nitric acid in Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air (1775). Priestley was delighted with his discovery: “I have now discovered an air five or six times as good as common air… nothing I ever did has surprised me more, or is more satisfactory.”

Axemen Fan Fiction posted by Sciatic Bevel Mettle

Homebrew Boy meets Chateau de McCabe

Posted in blather, video by steve mccabe on October 11, 2008
Business card designed and printed by Steve'n'Stu for promotion of Steve's boutique Chateau de McCabe coffee wine range.

Business card designed and screen-printed by Steve'n' Stu for promotion of Stevie's premium boutique Chateau de McCabe coffee wine range (see love potion below).

The design effectively simulates a chromic equivalent of the liver-crippling psychedelic effects experienced from guzzling one dose (500ml or 1 pint) of sweet, yeasty, speedy caffeine-infused Chateau de McCabe. Screen-printed at INK INC, sky blue on ƒluoro orange card c.1984.

Click below to see the quasi-instructional film “Drink For The Heart, Heart For The Road”, the soundtrack of which is the McCabe ditty of the same name. (This is probably the Fassbinderesque peak of Lawrence Lens’s celluloid involvement with AXEMEN).

The “how to” theme of 1985’s “Screen Printing” is carried over and combined with priceless historical reportage and hallucinatory fantasy scenes at McCabe’s unsanitary pad in Christchurch. His school-boy beginnings as a backyard brewer have by this stage guaranteed a constant supply of 1.5 litre (3 pint) “sleek botts” bulging with a murky form of liquid amphetamine (a.k.a. coffee wine).

McCabe reclining at Château de McCabe amongst the sleek botts.

McCabe reclining at Château de McCabe amongst the sleek botts.

Occasionally (due to fancy, budgetary constraints, or experimental urges), frozen free-flow carrots, peas and corn were also utilised. But it was the “Chateau de McCabe” coffee wine which jump-started the boys after a pre-gig snooze on the dance-floor during the previous act; the legendary slurry* powered them through many glorious gigs up and down the emerald isles.

The Gut shows off Stu's brew: "Steve inspired" San Pedro cactus wine.

*slurry |ˈslərē|noun ( pl. -ries) a semiliquid mixture, typically of fine particles of manure suspended in water. ORIGIN late Middle Southerish : related to dialect slur [liquid guano], of unknown origin.

Pre-1983 (Year Zero)

Posted in blather, travel by steve mccabe on October 11, 2008

Cook's flawed map of New Zealand Click for larger view (actual size - this may take some time to download on slow connections)

Before 1983 (known as ‘Year Zero‘ by Axemen devotees in a misguided homage to Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge which The Axemen took years to dissociate themselves from [this stemmed from the unfortunately badly misquoted comment by Steve who, having been asked by a women's Magazine what his favourite make-up was, proclaimed "I like the Estee Lauder Eyeliner, but I love the Garnier Rouge"]), travel between Dunedin and Christchurch was considered difficult and treacherous, mainly due to the continued use of Captain Cook’s long since discredited map showing Chistchurch as an Island and what is now known as the South Island being divided into two Islands, which Cook called the “South Island” and the “Souther Island”.

When Cook first mapped New Zealand in 1964 (just in time to allow it to be added to the Beatles tour) he inadvertantly spilt the coke he was about to snort onto the (still wet) map he had just finished drawing. Being a frugal man not inclined to waste, he snorted a line right through the middle of the South Island (sucking up a part of the Southern Alps along with the snow), and got so wasted he forgot to later draw it in again. Being a rather backward nation at the time and intensely patriotic monarchists for the most part, the kiwis simply accepted that “The Queen’s Esteemed Map Drawer, Fake Captain and Lande Surveyor” could not be wrong, and stopped all road travel between the two “Islands” without even checking whether Cook was right. Such was their intense belief that many families living in the land area known as ‘Cookes Channel’ separating the South and Souther Island were declared ‘missing, presumed drowned’ and were actually believed to be Ghosts or “Channel Spirits” when they appeared in the surrounding towns.

(As an interesting historical footnote, some of these mischievous spirits would take advantage of their newfound status by going into town covered in flour, walking into the pub and scaring off the locals and drinking themselves into oblivion before staggering home the worse for wear; to this day a liquor is distilled in Timaru known as “Cook’s Spirit” with a group of very pale gents depicted on the label and the motto “it’ll turn you white as a ghost.”)

Full-scale travel between the lower reaches and higher echelons of the South Island was not resumed until the late 70s when a small boy wandered across “Cook’s line” which had been roped off by villagers to stop hapless travellers crossing into the area marked by Cook as volatile and highly dangerous seas (even going to the extent of erecting lighthouses on either side).

Once he emerged a couple of days later on the other side, some of the brighter villagers realised Cook’s Channel was a palpable nonsense and, after declaring the whole thing a farce and reopening the road, started the anti-monarchist United Island Republic movement, whose primary goal was (and still is) to break New Zealand away from its ties with the UK Monarchy, and ideally dethrone the British Queen and replace her with a flagpole (See The New Zealand Flagpole Movement).

Posted By Little Stevie McCabe

The Axemen – Bus boys from way back

Posted in blather, Buses, Photograsps, travel by steve mccabe on October 11, 2008

The long association of The Axemen with the buses of Otago probably began with their featuring role in Wilma McCorkindale’s seminal book on the subject, Otago Road Services Ltd – A Brief History.

While researching the book McCorkindale became fascinated (some would say obsessed) with these ‘frequent flyers’ and would chat with them for virtually the entire journey between Christchurch and South Dunedin, which by 1983 was a regular occurrence.

The venerable 1968 Starliner coach which ferried the lads and served as tour bus, writing room, coffee wine drinking establishment and muse became the Axemen’s second (and in Bob’s case, first) home throughout the mid-80s, and was later featured in the Axemen’s short-lived New Zealand version of the long-running British TV Series “On the Buses.”

The programme, though critically regarded as a Pinteresque masterpiece, became yet another casualty of Rogernomics, New Zealand’s pathetic but ruthless imitation of Thatchernomics and Reaganomics—this type of sycophantic replication of dumb-ass overseas trends continues to this day unfortunately, reaching a possible new low recently with New Zealand versions of “Wheel of Fortune,” “The Weakest Link” and “American Idol” (brilliantly re-packaged as “New Zealand Idol”).

On The Buses with the Axemen

On The Buses with the Axemen (TV Series 1983-84). Promo shot circa 1983 courtesy South Pacific Television - Kiaora Kiwi and Cat!

To say these programmes are a crock is doing a harsh disservice to crocks everywhere, and perhaps the Axemen’s brief glimmer in the spotlight as TV stars was its only redeeming feature; but I digress.

The demise of the show did have one lasting benefit – it gave the lads much more time to concentrate on honing their songwriting, performing, spray-painting, screen-printing and self-promotion skills, and forced them to extend their minds further.

The Bus Association continues today - Tour Groups still take the bus around Christchurch to visit various Axemen Points of Interest

The Axemen bus association continues today - Tour Groups still take the bus around Christchurch to visit various Axemen "Points of Interest"

Through experimentation with early blends of coffee wine (brewed by Steve and locally known as ‘Co-Wi’ [pronounced 'Kowhai' like the native New Zealand flower], which McCabe was always trying to perfect), alongside other powerful psychoactive agents, the songs really began to flow at this time, and the legendary banter and verbal interactions which were the staple of the show now became the Axemen’s trademark—many a club manager or promoter remember ruefully being on the sharp end of one of the lads’ papercut-on-the-eyeball retorts.

Posted By Little Stevie McCabe

DIRT GAME MIX

Posted in music by steve mccabe on October 11, 2008

aka Return to the Planet of “A Scar Is Born”

Map 2a: Axemen in Christchurch, Jan-Aug 1984

By January 1984, McCabe and Brannigan share a house in Peterborough St, inner-city Christchurch, with Steve’s then-girlfriend Virg, her sister Bernie, and Lisa Preston. Notice how said house is positioned: almost on a straight line almost equidistant from two pubs, the Gladstone and the Star & Garter, where the Axemen will play repeatedly over the next 6 months (with or without instruments).

Celia scores some flagons on Sunday at The Gladstone c.1988 (NB. Pubs in NZ were not allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays at that time).

Celia Pavlova Mancini scores some flagons one Sunday out the back door of the Gladstone c.1988 (NB. it was against the law to sell alcohol on Sundays in those days).

Earliest known pic of Kawowski's first kit at Mollet St studio (Pre-Axemen, pre_INK INC) 1980

1980 pic of Kawowski & first kit at his Mollet St screen-print studio (pre-Axemen).

Stu & the lovely Maryrose rooftop at their Colombo St pad late '82

Kowalski lives downtown in an upstairs pad (no lily-pad, but surprisingly sanitary) on Colombo St, next door to a brothel; he also keeps a workshop, by day an anonymous triangular lockup on the 13th floor of an unassuming tower block on High St, by night the location for hours of screenprinting (posters, stickers, t-shirts, album covers), tape-testing (after recording sessions at members’ homes and live performances), breezeshooting, pisstaking and all-round byyourwitsliving. It is INK INC HQ. Central Christchurch is soon plastered with Axemen posters, stickers, etc., as well as attention-grabbing graffiti, large & small, stencilled & freehand.

AXEMEN sticker 4-colour screenprint from graffiti sketch 1985 by Stu

AXEMEN sticker 4-colour screenprint from graffiti sketch 1985 by Stu

Stu's plumbing tag in 1984

Stu's plumbing tag in 1984

Stu trident graff ChCh 1984

Stu's 1984 San Pedro graff lasted nearly 10 years in Mollet St, ChCh

Stu's 1984 San Pedro graff lasted nearly 10 years in Mollet St, ChCh

Free Festival Poster A2 by Stu Kawowski printed at INK INC.

Free Festival Poster A2 by Stu Kawowski printed at INK INC.

That summer the band plays at a festival in Hagley Park, the infamous Big M gig which leads to the recording of their protest album BIG CHEAP MOTEL. (That story will be milked in the future. It’s one any protest album fan would do well to get abreast of.)

AXEMEN Big Cheap Motel cassette sleeve: screenprinted label on bubble bag 1984 by Steve'n'Stu

Bob's sketch for the Big Cheap Motel protest set at Christchurch's Summer Festival in Hagley Park 1984

The next couple months are devoted to gigging around Chch, adding members here and there, making forays into the Carlisle St-England St ‘Hall Circuit’ popular with punks (see Map 2b),

Newspaper advt by Stu for England St Hall gig

Newspaper advt by Stu for England St Hall gig

going to Wellington to play anarchic Rewa House gig (popular with anarchopunks), defining & refining the Axemen sound, and building up an arsenal of tracks to be issued on the next album, the scary 2-hour long A SCAR IS BORN.

Map 2b: Location of Carlyle St Hall & England St Hall

Today’s post features tracks recorded at the same time as the Scar sessions, around Feb-March-April 84, assigned to a cassette called DIRT GAME MIX but never issued until now.

the game of love (clint ballard jr.)

untitled #2

neverending circus (lisa preston-axemen)
–features Lisa P. on vocals. She also sang the first track on side 1 of A SCAR IS BORN (“Untitled”) and co-wrote with Steve & Bob the instrumental “Paté-On-Raisin Bar-Mitzvah” later on the same side. And lived at 212 Peterborough St. Axemen salute her!

because (lennon-mccartney)

untitled #3 (lisa preston-axemen)
–Lisa on vocals again. In the mid-80s she started the band Nux Vomica with Lawrence Lens. (Do drop the cyberAxemen a line sometime, L.P.)

big four-eyed dave
–this might actually be called something else, but it does sound like that’s what Steve’s saying.

dirt game hiss

hiss hum headless horseman

phony on the phone

when the saints go marching in

casio clay (enter the casio dragon)

i remember nothing (ian curtis)

sugar coated

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<:> an axemen anno xxv rediscovery series production <:>

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Knock-Knock Who’s-There Smell-Map

Posted in Buses, music, Photograsps, travel by steve mccabe on October 10, 2008

Map 1 here shows the whereabouts of various members of the
Axemen in the first few months of the band’s existence.

PHOTO-ESSAY: A LITTLE BIT OF YESTERDAY

South Dunedin, home of the South Dunedin sound

South Dunedin – home of the South Dunedin Sound.

Maureen of the Empire Tavern
about to burn life-size effigy of Little Stevie McCabe.

<– South Dunedin | Starliners (so-called) | Christchurch –>

<–Alpha Centauri | Starliners (actual) | Eta Tandoori–>

Christchurch, 1983

Enjoy Christchurch graphic by Stu pre-dated the Absolutely Wellington campaign by at least a decade!

Enjoy Christchurch graphic by Stu pre-dated the try-hard Absolutely Wellington campaign by at least a decade!

Christchurch's Disco Queen Mere Nihoniho at Caledonian Hall '77 by Kowalski

Christchurch's Disco Queen Mere Nihoniho at Caledonian Hall '77 by Kowalski

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Accompanying this photo-essay are some more tracks recorded live at the Star & Garter on 4-11-83:

cassette recorder

untitled (sounds
like fiery jack)

get down

9 candles on the cake

a little bit of yesterday (johnny cash)

H-Heinous H-Hendrix H-Hat-Trick

Posted in music by steve mccabe on October 10, 2008

purple haze

third stone from the sun

steve mccabe, dragan stojanovic – guitars; bob brannigan – bass; stu kowalski – drums
purple haze
recorded live at the rising sun, auckland, june 1989
third stone from the sun
recorded live at siren, auckland, 18-6-89

foxy lady

steve mccabe, bob brannigan – guitars; m. s. agro – bass; stu kowalski – drums
recorded live at the star & garter, christchurch, 4-11-83

all songs by jimi hendrix, rearranged by axemen

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