AXEMEN – Derry Legend (LP) – Luxury Products [2014 Remake/Remodel]

Reprinted from: http://www.othermusic.com/products/axemen-derry-legend

Derry Legend
Derry Legend

As with their fantastic 39 Clocks reissue, Luxury Product once again live up to their name with a beautiful package on this LP, originally released on Flying Nun in 1989. Derry Legend was the second proper Axemen album and it is also the band’s most immediate and coherent statement. Coherent is a pretty funny term to apply to this group, who always seemed to teeter on the brink of it and more often fell into chaos, but compared to their earlier work, the sprawling double album Three Virgins and earlier cassettes Scary Pt. III and Big Cheap Motel (all of which have been reissued by Siltbreeze over the past few years), Derry Legend is a perfectly distilled statement of all that the band was capable of. This is a record that shifts from off-kilter rock ‘n’ roll to Tin Pan Alley ballads to what is most likely New Zealand’s first (and only?) anti-drug, conscious, rap/rock hybrid — and all of this is even before you get to the track called “Human Hot Dogs!”

I’ve wracked my brain trying to think of any New Zealand bands that might have been the forbearers of such insanity and can’t really come up with any. Surely there must have been some Captain Beefheart and Bonzo Dog Band records involved and there are a few moments, like on the album opener “Disc to Disk” and closer “Mourning of Youth,” where they don’t seem too far off from the sound that made Flying Nun famous. You get the sense that if they wanted to they could have made a classic LP in that mold, but thank god they didn’t, as what they did make is far more unique and wonderful. If anything this record reminds me of a Kiwi version of Alex Chilton’s Like Flies on Sherbert, as it embodies that same sort of free-spirited, devil-may-care attitude, and like that album the more you listen to it the better it sounds. (March 19, 2014)

Reviewed by Dave Martin

Straight to Hell :: album :: SHOES THIS HIGH

reprinted from: https://www.midheaven.com/item/straight-to-hell-by-shoes-this-high-lp

STH LP Rear
STH LP Rear

While Shoes This High’s existence was a mere glint in the eye of Father Time (a year or more, tops), they made every second count, stalking the New Zealand post-punk landscape—both North and South islands—with ravenous abandon. For most fans, their legend and reputation rest solely on the strength of one highly formidable (and collectable) self-released 7-inch EP from 1981. And as anyone with ears who’s had the good fortune to come in contact with its jagged, scabrous genius can attest, the cry invariably rings out afterward: “Mein Gott, is this all there is?” In the 30-plus years since its initial release, the answer has been a most unflinching “yes.”

That is, until Siltbreeze tapped into the massive tape library of famed New Zealand underground music archivist Bob Sutton, who had in his possession a white-hot live scorcher of the group, culled from a set that went down at the infamous Billy the Club way back when. Straight to Hell showcases a band at the peak of their menacing powers.

[Deceased] Guitarist Kevin Hawkins slashes and rips strings from his ax like a mad butcher; the rhythm section of Jessica Walker and Christopher Plummer is par excellence, while the sneering, contemptuous vocals of singer S. Brent Hayward spit like poison darts above the swagger.

Expertly sequenced by Jared Phillips (Times New Viking), Straight to Hell is a most welcome and astonishingly great artifact that delivers in buckets a shivering, toxic rain you always knew had fallen.

Vinyl comes with a digital download of the complete album plus the four studio tracks from the original 1981 EP. One-time edition of 500—buy now or cry later.

MP3 samples, flac and other formats:
https://www.midheaven.com/item/straight-to-hell-by-shoes-this-high-lp

SHOES THIS HIGH: Straight To Hell

reprinted from:
http://www.othermusic.com/products/shoes-this-high-straight-to-hell

SHOES THIS HIGH: Straight To Hell
SHOES THIS HIGH: Straight To Hell

Some of you have been slow to re-board the New Zealand Reissue Train for reasons perfectly understandable: can’t get into the psychedelic pop sounds, sounds like rain, same people play in all the bands, this all happened years ago/half a world away/what’s it got to do with me?, etc. For that last one, you’re on your own, but if you’ve been holding out for something truly dangerous from the back pages of Kiwi musicology, Shoes This High is the group for you.

Existing for a pinch between 1980-81, the only truly comparable band in the country, in terms of sheer intensity, would have been the Gordons (who I’m sure Shoes This High broke multiple stages with), but while that group was focused on a more long-term, weightier burn, Shoes This High — vocalist S. Brent Hayward, guitarist Kevin Hawkins, bassist Christopher Plummer and drummer Jessica Walker — were more content to stick and move, steal your wallet, stab you in between the ribs and slap you about.

All they ever committed to vinyl is a single four-song EP, but Straight to Hell issues for the first time a long-lost live set delivered by the band in its prime (and tacks on the 7″ tracks for comparison as a digital download). All but one of the songs in the set were ever heard by audiences outside of New Zealand in some truly reckless venues.

Punk is still in the air, but there are two other big components of their sound: the Fall, who by way of a brief snippet at the beginning of “Shouting Eat Sh*t” they must’ve been familiar with, and the Contortions, who unless any copies of No New York made their way across their borders, they couldn’t have possibly known about.

The guitar work and vocals here are absolutely vicious, frothing-mouthed and violent, introducing far-flung tenets of no-wave brutality to the punters, and the rhythm section anchors everything down in the maelstrom of slashing noise and invective hurled off by the rest of the band.

Despite what you might pre-conceive a nearly 35-year-old live tape might sound like, Straight to Hell captures this group with brightness and clarity, at peak psychosis.

If you were looking for a band that could rip your hair out from 7000 miles away, this here would be the one.

-Doug Mosurock (February 5, 2014)

Straight To Hell – Shoes This High LP out Jan 2014

Reprinted from: http://www.midheaven.com/item/straight-to-hell-by-shoes-this-high-lp

Ghost Ranch X - Fats White
Ghost Ranch X – Fats White; cover art for ‘Straight to Hell’

While Shoes This High’s existence was a mere glint in the eye of Father Time (a year or more, tops), they made every second count, stalking the New Zealand post-punk landscape—both North and South islands—with ravenous abandon.

For most fans, their legend and reputation rest solely on the strength of one highly formidable (and collectable) self-released 7-inch EP from 1981. And as anyone with ears who’s had the good fortune to come in contact with its jagged, scabrous genius can attest, the cry invariably rings out afterward: “Mein Gott, is this all there is?” In the 30-plus years since its initial release, the answer has been a most unflinching “yes.”

That is, until Siltbreeze tapped into the massive tape library of famed New Zealand underground music archivist Bob Sutton, who had in his possession a white-hot live scorcher of the group, culled from a set that went down at the infamous Billy the Club way back when. Straight to Hell showcases a band at the peak of their menacing powers.

Guitarist Kevin Hawkins slashes and rips strings from his ax like a mad butcher; the rhythm section of Jessica Walker and Christopher Plummer is par excellence, while the sneering, contemptuous vocals of singer S. Brent Hayward spit like poison darts above the swagger. Expertly sequenced by Jared Phillips (Times New Viking), Straight to Hell is a most welcome and astonishingly great artifact that delivers in buckets a shivering, toxic rain you always knew had fallen. Vinyl comes with a digital download of the complete album plus the four studio tracks from the original 1981 EP. One-time edition of 500—buy now or cry later.

Shoes This High posters – from the awesome collection of Bob Sutton

The Axemen 30 years on – where are they now?

Pete Street Breakdown
Pete Street Breakdown c.1985 (McCabe, Kawowski, Brannigan)

Sunday 22 September 2013 marks the 30th anniversary of the seminal ‘Equinox’ gig at Dunedin’s luminary bat-corridor The Empire Tavern, pseudo-Transylvanian Castle (at the time) of the infamous Maureen, an actual vampire who was to become the Axemen’s gothic nemesis for a spell. And spell she could, she could cast a spell as evil as any of her coven, some say she was possessed, some say haunted, some kinder souls benevolently passed her off as merely ‘troubled’.

Axemen @ Neon Picnic near Auckland 1988 (L to R: Stu, Steve, Bob)
Axemen @ Neon Picnic near Auckland 1988 (L to R: Stu, Steve, Bob)

In 20/20 hindsight through rose-tinted spectacles perhaps her evil was somewhat exaggerated; after all many of the bands who were to go on to become the golden boys (and girls) of Flying Nun cut their teeth (in some cases literally) on the establishment’s beer and whiskey stained ‘stage’ – actually a minimally raised platform approximately the height of a matchbox – and many found the Axemen’s anti-establishment attitude towards Maureen and her hardline treatment of them and their music hard to stomach at the time.

“Why are you guys so hard on Maureen?” they would ask provocatively. ‘What’s wrong with the Empire?”

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

They may as well have been asking the question of Luke Skywalker. Interrogation sessions such as this would often last into the wee small hours (the little hours) in the early years and would frequently rope in the entire rabble of a pub up to and beyond closing time with the Axemen often ending up leaving with a comet-like ‘tail’ of pub riff-raff hideously weaving their way down George Street or Colombo Street like lemmings following a pied piper in their worn boots and torn black jerseys.

Of course this was in the bad old days before they were ‘saved’.

Derry Legend recording session at Writhe Studio (1987), left to right: Stu, Dragan Stojanovic, Little Stevie McCabe and Bob Brannigan
Derry Legend recording session at Writhe Studio (1987), left to right: Stu Kawowski, Dragan Stojanovic, Little Stevie McCabe and Bob Brannigan

These days the amorphous almost mass-less collection of rubble and nuggets of pure energy and spit that started at the ‘big bang’ Empire gig back in ’83 are disseminated through space and time like a less organised Ort Cloud of ego-prodding drunken barnstormers cartwheeling their way across the universe like they were god’s gift, which in a way they were and still are. Oh the cavities they have filled, the intertwining they fostered, twirling together unlikely entities like the Anti-Crick & Watson slamming together strands and pieces of mean-old acid and nuclear tides into a semicoherent twisted whole.

theywere
Axemen: Hell Yeah

As if they had discovered Fusion and, not knowing how to enhance its mighty power, allowed it to burn wildly like a brush fire spreading its heat and energy in every direction, some pockets burning uncontrolled then dying out, others pacing themselves and emanating a warm glow for centuries, others sputtering and still others smouldering and eventually dying down not with a bang but a whimper.

Class of 2011
Axemen Class of 2011

They were the Axemen – like Hell they were!

These days things are just as complex and yet fundamental as they were in the beginning, only with emergence now beginning to happen as the positive feedback kicks in and the unknowing knower starting to know, as if today were a new tomorrow. The knower always knows and never knows – knowledge is like a bolt of lightning whumping down from the sky and enlightening the world like the perennial ‘knowers arc’.

Axemin, Whangarei
Axmin, Whangarei

Through thick and thin, good times, bad times, you know they’ve had their share – these are the Good Times, so lucky we got ‘em, that scoop of chips on your shoulder aint heavy, its the bluebird, thats the blue jay way just turn your love around and take me back to where I belong – back to the future the past is the future history never repeats and a 600 lb elephant in the room never forgets who or what he or she is, even on a trunk call they’ll come up trumps, towering and trumpeting like a boogie woogie bugle boy, and yes, yes sir I can dance! Sally can’t dance bitch broke her back carryin’ water for the man he simply wouldn’t wait. Bilbo Baggins spinning in his Muppet-hole, a hobbit is a muppet without the personality, a hobbit can knock, a muppet can not – who can hold a hobbit up to the merest scrutiny I ask but who has the right to knock?

Happy Anniversary Axemen, let’s have no more repeats lest you end up dead on your feet!

Stu Kawowski (AKA Stuart Page) of The Axemen Interview, Part Two

Stu Kawowski (AKA Stuart Page) of The Axemen Interview, Part Two

Reprinted From: http://boredout305.tumblr.com/day/2013/09/14

Axemen @ Neon Picnic near Auckland 1988 (L to R: Stu, Steve, Bob)
Axemen @ Neon Picnic near Auckland 1988 (L to R: Stu, Steve, Bob)

Ryan: What inspired the Axemen to record Three Rooms: An Elton John Tribute Album (1992).

Stu: I remember that time period. Although it was released in 1992 we actually recorded it in 1984 or 1985. Nevertheless I can’t recall why in the hell we decided to do that record. I was living in Christchurch. Steve and Bob were sharing a flat that we called Peterborough Studios; we had done up the whole upstairs of their place and dedicated it to playing music. Steve was brewing coffee wine. We were all probably a bit wasted on his coffee wine. I remember singing “Rocket Man.” I think we only intended to do one song. As a joke we carried on with a whole pile of Elton John songs. It was one of those nutty things that we would do. I don’t think we had an organized plan to do Elton John covers.

Ryan: Organized and the Axemen are not synonymous.

Stu: Yeah.

Ryan: I lost track of you after 1992. What were you doing after The Axemen wound down? Were you pursuing film and photography?

Stu: In 1992 I hooked up with a couple of dudes and tried to set up a film company. We had two names. One was Eclipse Films. I was making music videos under that name. The other name was Māori: Te Aō Mārama Productions. Under that name we made a documentary about an old Māori woman, Ana Tia, who ran an inner-city marae (communal place). She would help out kids who moved to the city from the country and got into trouble. She would visit them in the jails and teach them traditional Māori waiata (songs) and haka— Māori war dance. That film, Te Whaea: Mother Of Change, ended up going to Leipzig, Germany and won an award. I was responsible for doing these advertising slides for a couple of cinemas in town as well. That was just to bring in cash for the business. I did that for a few years. The business didn’t pan out in the end. It wasn’t very lucrative. After the business ended I decided I wanted to learn more about film lighting. I ended up doing film lighting for ten years or so. I worked on commercials and feature films.

Ryan: Shustak (2009) was a big undertaking for you. I know Shustak died before you completed the film. How long had you been working on the film when he passed?

Stu: Shustak had a heart attack. I was in Europe when it happened. Someone had written to me and told me that he wasn’t well. I thought, “Oh shit. Don’t go yet, old man.” I came back to New Zealand and borrowed a camera from someone. I went down to Christchurch and asked Shustak to do some filming. He wasn’t very keen. I was there for two weeks and I only filmed him once. I went back down a few months later and managed to do one more session with him. I had enough footage to apply for some funding by that point. I wanted to do a small film. I applied for about $16,000. I was actually carrying Shustak’s coffin in Christchurch when the letter was delivered in Auckland saying that I had gotten the funding. Shustak was convinced that I’d never get it. He’d say to me, “No one will give you funding to make a film about me.” I was just focusing on making a small film on Shustak. But then this guy, Elliot Landy—who was the primary photographer at Woodstock—found out that I was doing this film on Shustak. He lives out in New York. Landy said, “Oh, man, you’ve got to come out and film us. We’ve got much more interesting things to say about Shustak than what he told you.” I realized at that point that Landy was right and that the project had suddenly become enormous.

stuart-page-shustak-poster-2009-smallRyan: Shustak comes across as a very divisive figure in the film. Were you expecting that?

Stu: Shustak was a very important person in my life. I wanted to make something celebrating all of his great photography; I didn’t want his life to go unnoticed. There wasn’t much information on Shustak out there. A few mentions in magazines.

Ryan: There still isn’t much out there on him. You did a great service for him.

Stu: There’s a book coming out with some of his photographs of Ethiopian Jews in it but there’s nothing solid out there on him, focusing exclusively on his work. I doubt I’ll do it. I spent seven years of my life on the film. Someone should pick up the baton and charge with that one. It’d be a big job but someone could put together an incredible book of Shustak’s work. There’s so much material. I’ve scanned thousands of things that he created: photographs, writings and film scripts.

I was going to Europe with this Māori music group a lot between 2002 and 2006. I’d get my return travel to NZ rerouted through USA rather than back through Asia. It cost me another five hundred dollars but it allowed me to stop off in New York and film people like Harvey Zucker from A Photographers Place bookstore and Elliot Landy up in Woodstock. I also filmed Shustak’s family, friends and ex-wives. Some of them were hard to find, living right on the border of Mexico. Shustak was a guy you either loved or hated. His kids all had good and bad things to say about him. His ex-wives didn’t speak too kindly of him. He did some really great photography. For its time and place it was pretty groundbreaking. Nowadays it isn’t but back then it was. He was photographing graffiti and black Jews so long ago.

Ryan: And taking all those great photos of jazz musicians.

Stu: Right. Who knows where all the rest of those jazz photos are? He had a habit of losing stuff. He was a difficult guy to make a film about.

Ryan: An important person in The Axemen story is Tom Lax. How did you meet him?

Stu: Tom visited New Zealand back in 1992. He collected a whole bunch of albums and cassettes—including Axemen LPs and stuff on Bruce Russell’s Xpressway label. Tom had really select taste. Tom came at a time when you could buy rare New Zealand vinyl for quite cheap. He picked up a whole pile of records—albums you pay one hundred dollars for today he was picking up for a couple of bucks. Tom told me how he got interested in New Zealand music. Some record distributor had been stiffing him on some orders he had been putting in for Australian records. Tom got pissed off at this guy. The distributor said, “Hey, I just got a bunch of records in from New Zealand from this label Flying Nun. Do you want those instead?” Tom said, “Okay. Send me two copies of everything that’s good and one copy of everything else.” Of course the distributor sent him two copies of everything. The records all arrived on a Friday. Tom went to see a band play that night with some friends. They got a bit drunk and decided to go back to the record store to listen to this New Zealand crap. They ended up staying at the record store the whole night. Tom played The Axemen’s Three Virgins over and over again that night. It was by chance that he found out about us. When Tom moved from Columbus, Ohio to Philadelphia all of the kids from Columbus would visit him at the Philadelphia Record Exchange and he’d play them The Axemen. I think Jared from Times New Viking was pretty taken by it. Jared told him, “Oh, you’ve got to release something by these guys.” Eventually Tom did.

Ryan: And then you ended up touring with Times New Viking.

Stu: That was an awesome tour. We did about twenty-six shows. Some were great, others were not. The show in Philadelphia was a complete disaster in my opinion, due to someone drinking a whole lot of alcohol. But then a friend of mine in Auckland told me his friend in Baltimore—who had gone out to the Philadelphia show—said that it changed his life. I thought it was the worst show of the tour. Those Times New Viking guys were great. It was a gift to tour with them.

Ryan: You toured Australia in 2011 and released a single with the late Brendon Annesley.

Stu: Yeah, Brendon was a darling. A guy called Samuel Miers and his friend Daniel Oakman have a band called School Girl Report. They had planned to do a music festival at Batemans Bay which is about four hours south of Sydney on the coast. Sam rang me up one day and said, “We’ve only got the budget for one overseas band and we want it to be The Axemen.” I thought that was exciting. Everyone wanted to do it. Bob (Brannigan) had left the band after the American tour. Dragan had been playing with us for years and we added William Daymond on bass—a young guy from Wellington. This whole festival they had planned turned into a nightmare; just the bureaucracy of fire laws and city inspectors, etc. Sam, without missing a beat, organized a tour of Australia for us. He got all of these other bands interested who knew and liked The Axemen. We started in Brisbane. We played with Satanic Rockers, Mad Nanna, Meat Thump, Blank Realm, Cock Safari, xNoBBQx, Circle Pit, School Girl Report and others…

Ryan: We (Spacecase Records) wrote you to release a single but you had so many good songs we went ahead with an LP.

Stu: Yeah. We were trying to squeeze eight songs onto a 7”. It wouldn’t work. Not unless we played them at 16 RPM. We’re still trying to get a tour together. We’re playing it by ear. I’m pretty busy with my current film project.

Ryan: The OMC documentary?

tumblr_inline_mqbf3rcQqp1qz4rgp
Sac Tap Nut Jam (2013)

Stu: Yeah. It’s probably the biggest thing I’ve ever taken on. I’m directing and editing it. I’ve also been talking with Mike McGonigal at Yeti. In the last issue of Yeti he included some reproductions of the posters I did back in the ’80s. It was his first full-color issue. He also included a  7” containing a Great Unwashed song “Space Bikie” that was recorded at my old place back in Christchurch. I’ve been talking with Mike for a while about doing a book of old posters from Christchurch from that time period. It wasn’t just me. Lesley MacLean, who’s an old girlfriend of mine, she was a very good screen printer and designer. Ronnie van Hout was another great screen printer. He did posters for The Clean. I reckon it’d be a great project. I’ve got at least fifty Axemen posters at my house alone.

 

The Wonderful World of Axemen (RNR666)

Bob and “AXEMEN – Mystics in the Savage State” Graffiti, Christchurch, NZ 1985

Reprinted from: http://www.rnr666.hu/sixline/20130814/the-wonderful-world-of-axemen

Once upon a time the Axemen began life as a seething mass of algae in a cess-pool located at the back of a disused factory somewhere in North Dunedin, New Zealand.The exact location of the cess-pool has unfortunately been lost to the ravages of time, but the factory still stands – a disused, vacant shell with little hope of being restored to its former majesty. Following a sudden meteor storm in 1983, the Axemen rapidly evolved, developed fully functional hands and ears (where before there had only been useless stumps) and metamorphosed rapidly into one of the most radical, chaotic and inspired rock bands of all time.” & so on.

They were one of the World most killingly funny bands but no one knew about it before the internet age. Beside many own released cassettes they has released three albums by the legendary Flying Nun Records. Prices of these items are extremely high nowadays. (For example the Peter Wang Pud used CD is 25-80 Euros, the vinyl are between 35-100 Euros.)

Suitable phrases for their music: radically independent do-it-yourself lo-fi garage art punk. But “I hung out with the Hare Krishnas in Christchurch for a little bit. They used to have free vegetarian dinners on Sunday nights. The music was pretty cool. There was sort of a Beatles connection with Hare Krishna. Stu was really into John Lennon. We were all Beatles fans.” Moreover their last cassette was a tribute album to Elton John in 1992. It’s so frightening, is not it? When I first met with them in 2011 I cried out “Oh my God! What is it?”

The first video is a rare and baffling TV performance in a Saturday morning kid show in 1991. The song (Hey Alice!) turns into a promo for their just released CD. I’m sure, many New Zealander children cried for Axemen CD after the show.

And the destiny has reached him too. They have become discovered. Their albums were re-released in the US by Siltbreeze. And now here is the new, yes the new Axemen album! Sac Tap Nut Jam. It’s less chaotic like the usual. A song from it.