The Axemen's Y2K Blog

Axemen – Derry Legend (Agitreader review)

Reprinted from: http://agitreader.com/wp2/axemen-derry-legend/

AXEMEN Three Virgins 2XLP

If New Zealand was the world’s WTF scene in the early ’80s and beyond—producing slightly deranged, slightly pop jangle and discordance from a place as isolated as they come—then it was Christchurch’s Axemen who were the island’s leftfield misfits. With Lil’ Stevie McCabe and company, nothing was off limits, not even their Flying Nun labelmates at the time. Years before bands like the Boredoms, Butthole Surfers, or in a larger perspective, Ween, the Axemen mocked and ridiculed the norms, both aesthetically and sonically. And like a magic trick, the Axemen managed to tweak The Clean’s template with a slanted glee unheard before—and not heard since, though the band is still active. All of their collage-based, bric-a-brac punk barbs and general weirdness can be gleaned by the essential trilogy of recordings reissued by Siltbreeze earlier this decade, with 1986’s Three Virgins/Three Versions/Three Visions being their Sgt. Pepper’s meets Trout Mask Replica meets Raw Power masterpiece. If ever there was a peak, it was it.

AXEMEN Derry Legend LP

By the time Derry Legend arrived at the Flying Nun offices in 1989, the Axemen seemed actually impressed with their own idiotic glee. Not only is the album, now back in circulation courtesy of Luxury Products, the most cohesive Axemen record the band ever released, it also contains the most mainstream pop moments they were to conjure. That said, it is grotesque and blatantly jokey enough to reject itself from any classic cannon (that I know of), despite its inherent greatness. (Youtube the group during this era and witness their built-in repulsion.) As sung in the psych-acoustic dirge of “Mourning of Youth,” they were lovers of “finery both new and foreign,” but occupied themselves as strangers in a strange land. It was a revolution of sorts, mucked up in political statements, nihilism towards commercialism, physical turmoil, and chugs of  “coffee wine.”  It was independent to independence.

P1060925_AXEMEN_SICK P1060926_TNVIf ever the Axemen had a greatest hit, though, it was “Rocks in My Heart,” a slab of etiolated cretin pop filled with sardonic wiggles and a sharp sense of melody, history, deconstruction. It is the Axemen in a nutshell, a summation of their ability to wed their idiosyncratic nature with the expected Kiwi status quo. Its formula of multi-hued, quivering vocals and sketchy rhythms indeed turned out to be ahead of the curve. Witnessed in this somewhat dull wave of NZ revival, many of the bands that are continually celebrated (i.e. The Chills, The Verlaines, The Bats) were of their own very particular realm of sound. And though there are no hard feelings against plying the same stroke, the Axemen were all over that small map, while their tentacles stretched back to Memphis and Detroit decades prior. The same kind of polyglot fuck-off is found in “Disc to Disk” and Bob Brannigan’s joyous “Human Hot Dogs.” Again, both borrow freely from The Clean, but the Axemen are lifers and these songs’ seemingly perpetual motion has done nothing but enhance the subversive tactics of the Axemen sound.

Still, “cohesive” isn’t the right word for this record. Were it not for the purely rockist intent of the album, Derry Legend would be yet another grab-bag of demented pleasures. “The Tragic Tale of a Rock and Roll Legend” could very well be the first rap single produced in the country. “He’s Leaving Home” could be drunk(er) Sinatra on a lo-fi bender; “That’s Finland Dear” encapsulates the powder-keg quality of recording on a miser’s budget, and the finale, the aforementioned “Mourning of Youth,” now ranks high on the list of New Zealand’s best death-march psychedelia moments. All this culminates in what, for a band that thrived on the next moment, is the Axemen going for broke.

AXEMEN Sac Tap Nut Jam LP (2013)

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

SHOES THIS HIGH: Straight To Hell

Posted in 1980 happenings, cultural studies, discerning, LPs, lyrics, Shoes This High, Wellington by steve mccabe on March 7, 2014

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

Steve McCabe of The Axemen, Part Two – by Ryan Leach – SpaceCase, Boredout

Steve McCabe of The Axemen, Part Two

Reprinted from: http://boredout305.tumblr.com/post/56105133631/steve-mccabe-of-the-axemen-part-two
Part two of Ryan Leach’s Steve McCabe interview.
Photos courtesy of Stu Kawowski.

AXEMEN: Steve, Stu, Bob recording at Peterborough 1984-85 ©STU

Ryan: The Axemen’s membership was always fluctuating.

Steve: We had a good range of Christchurch and Dunedin musicians in the band. If you’ve seen our Wikipedia page, you can see all the people who’ve been in or performed with the band.

Ryan: On Three Virgins there’s a recording of you talking with an American about Beverly Hills and Mardi Gras. Do you recall who you were talking with?

Steve: No. I don’t remember.

(Stu: That’s actually me talking to a Taxi driver in LA and recording it on my Sony walkman, 1982.)

Ryan: There’s also another conversation on Derry Legend (1987) where you’re being interviewed but replying with unrelated answers—about how the New Zealand dollar is weak. It’s pretty funny.

Steve: We had a lot of abstract ideas. It had to do with stream-of-consciousness. Three Virgins is a good example of that mindset. Everything just sort of flowed out without any hesitation.

Ryan: What kind of reaction did The Axemen get from people in the middle ’80s? I imagine your sound was a hard sell to some people.

Steve: The variety of genres was probably a good thing. We had a lot of jokes in our songs. If people could understand the lyrics and pickup on the jokes, I reckon that was a good thing as well; people like jokes. We didn’t take ourselves too seriously.

Ryan: The Axemen recorded just about everything they did.

Steve: Yeah. I still have all of the cassettes. There are about three hundred of them.

Ryan: Unbelievable! Are these tapes mostly of live shows or home recordings?

Steve: A bit of both. I always preferred recording to playing live. I got a four-track recorder in 1986. We did a lot of recordings on that. We used to record our practices and do overdubs on them later. We released a lot of cassette tapes that didn’t show up on Flying Nun. They’re not available at the moment. We used to screen print covers for them.

Ryan: What was The Axemen’s relationship with Flying Nun like? I imagine the financial loss of Three Virgins might have caused a bit of strain.

Steve: Flying Nun did eventually sell all of the pressings of Three Virgins and Derry Legend. It did take them a while to sell them though. Tom Lax just rereleased Three Virgins on Siltbreeze. He was pleased with it and did two more of our records. I don’t know if Flying Nun lost interest or what but there was a demand for those albums.

Ryan: They haven’t done a great job rereleasing their back catalog. If you want a vinyl pressing of (The Clean’s) Boodle, Boodle, Boodle you’d better have ninety bucks on hand.

Steve: They haven’t. I’ve seen original copies of Three Virgins go for good money too.

Ryan: Derry Legend hasn’t been rereleased yet. That record goes for fifty bucks.

Steve: Yeah. Derry Legend is being rereleased soon. Dustin Travis White, who did live sound for us on The Axemen and Times New Viking tour, is going to rerelease it on his new label, Luxury Products. Stu remastered it all on analog for the reissue. It’ll come out after Sac Tap Nut Jam. Sac Tap Nut Jam is completely digital. Hearing those two records back to back will be interesting.

Ryan: You released your solo LP Sweat It Out (1986) around the time of Derry Legend.

Steve: I released a whole lot of solo cassette stuff too. The EMI record pressing plant in New Zealand closed down around that time. It was the only plant in New Zealand. I did release one single after Sweat It Out. Then I did about four or five cassettes on Sleek Bott.

Ryan: Did it become cost prohibitive to release records after the New Zealand EMI plant closed down?

Steve: It did. New Zealand record companies would go through Mushroom (large Australian independent label). It became more difficult for them to press up records. For individuals it really became too difficult.

Image

Ryan: One of my favorite Axemen records is Scary Part III which Tom (Lax) at Siltbreeze reissued recently. Did Flying Nun not want to take you up on that record when you originally recorded it?

Steve: I think it had to do with Flying Nun being sold to Mushroom. It messed up our relationship with the label. Mushroom was more interested in getting Flying Nun’s back catalog than releasing new stuff.

Ryan: That’s right. With some exceptions—like King Loser—quality control at Flying Nun started going downhill after they partnered with Mushroom.

Steve: Yeah. Things started getting a bit poppy.

Ryan: Scary is the record where The Axemen got really into sampling.

Steve: That’s true. Although there’s a tiny bit on Derry Legend. Stu and I had these SK-1 samplers. They’re a Casio sampler. It had a little microphone on it and you could create one-and-a-half second loops of samples.

Ryan: What motivated The Axemen to do an Elton John tribute record (1992’s Three Rooms)?

Steve: It seemed like a good idea at the time. There’s a good range of songs in Elton John’s catalog. Good chords and things.

Ryan: The Axemen sort of wound down after the Elton John record, correct?

Steve: No. Stu and Bob moved to Auckland in about ‘87. I was playing in Christchurch from 1987 to 1990. Bob had formed the band Shaft. My wife and I got married in Las Vegas in 1990. We toured around America for our honeymoon. When we came back to New Zealand we moved to Auckland in 1992. Bob, Stu and I were all in the same town again so we did those two records on Sleek Bott—Recliner Rocker and Dirty Den Sessions. After that we didn’t do anything together for a while. Bob was busy with Shaft and I started a screen printing business with my wife. I started a band called CFCs in 1995. We played with Shaft for a little while. I released a solo CD called Generations (1998).

Ryan: Generations is great.

Steve: I like it too. I can’t get any copies of it. The guy who released it has heaps of them—about four hundred of the five hundred pressed. They’re sitting in his garage somewhere. I try to get them off of him. He keeps saying he’ll get them for me but it never happens. It’s really annoying. People are interested in it.

Ryan: A number of your songs have a lounge feel to them—going back to “Effectively My Baby” on Three Virgins. That aspect of your songwriting comes to the forefront on Generations.

Steve: Yeah. It was great being able to do those arrangements on the computer—get the big orchestration. I always wanted to do what Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle did with big orchestras. I was really pleased with it.

Ryan: Over the last four years there has been a resurgence with The Axemen. Obviously that has a lot to do with Tom Lax reissuing a number of your records on Siltbreeze. How did you guys come in contact with Tom?

Steve: When I moved up to Auckland, Tom sought me out. He bought everything I had—all the old Sleek Bott cassettes. That was in about 1992. I didn’t hear from Tom for quite a while after that. E-mail wasn’t around. Tom did a couple of reviews of our albums. Later on he bought the remaining copies I had of Sweat It Out. He sold all of those. That was more recently. The Axemen had been on hiatus for a while. When Tom decided to rerelease Cheap Motel, Three Virgins and Scary, we talked with him about doing a US tour. He lined us up with Times New Viking; we did the US tour with them in 2009. Tom came to quite a few of the gigs. Tom apparently was always playing Three Virgins to people, long before he reissued it. They’d ask him if it was available; eventually he decided to put it out.

Ryan: You did a tour of Australia a couple of years later. You hooked up with Brendon Annesley and did a great single with Negative Guest List.

Steve: That was cool. Brendon died shortly after that. He was a talented guy. A good writer.

Ryan: Bob Brannigan is no longer in the band.

Steve: On the last tour he was partying too much. It sort of got on my nerves. We had a bit of fight and he decided he didn’t want to play with us anymore.

Ryan: You’ve got the young gun in the band now.

Steve: Who?

Ryan: William Daymond. He’s younger than me.

Steve: Oh, yeah. He’s not a replacement for Bob or anything. William is a songwriter—although we haven’t written any songs with him yet—but it’s good having someone else in the band who can contribute songs. He seems to be fitting in well.

Ryan: We (Spacecase Records) wrote you about doing a single. But you had so many good tracks we asked you for a record instead (Sac Tap Nut Jam).

Steve: Yeah. We were keen on the single but doing a full length was so much nicer. I just bought a sixteen-track digital recorder. It’s about the size of a laptop. Dragan has a whole lot of mics. When you came up with your offer we all decided to go down to Wellington; Dragan has a practice space there with a lot of nice mics and William lives there too. We decided to record a number of songs and pick the best two for a single. We ended up with so many extra tracks doing an album came naturally. I was really pleased with the results. I really like the sixteen track recorder.

Ryan: I was surprised by how high the fidelity is.

Steve: Dragan is a really good audio guy.

Ryan: Is this the first vinyl record you’ve released of new material since Derry Legend?

Steve: Yeah. Not counting the reissues.

Ryan: Is there any chance Sweat It Out is going to be reissued?

Steve: There’s a possibility but not on LP. It might be reissued through Dusty who’s doing the Derry Legend reissue.

Image

THE AXEMEN | Sac Tap Nut Jam LP | SPACECASE

Posted in 2013 happenings, hope, Horses, LPs, News, philosophy, Press Releases, records, releases, Sac Tap Nut Jam, spacecase by steve mccabe on July 19, 2013

Reprinted from: http://www.spacecaserecords.com/axemen-sac-tap-nut-jam

THE AXEMEN | Sac Tap Nut Jam LP

Spacecase Records
US$14.00*

Sac Tap Nut Jam

The Axemen – SAC TAP NUT JAM, Spacecase SCR006, 2013

Spacecase Records is pleased to release Sac Tap Nut Jam—the first new Axemen full length in twenty-one years.
GO BUY SAC TAP NUT JAM NOW (direct from Spacecase)!
Originally from Christchurch, New Zealand, The Axemen formed in 1983. Shortly afterwards the band solidified around the core of Steve McCabe, Stu Kawowski and Bob Brannigan. (More than two dozen musicians have played in the Axemen, notably Johnny Segovia, George D. Henderson, Mick Elborado and Peter Gutteridge). Initial Axemen releases came out on Steve McCabe’s cassette label, Sleek Bott. The Axemen signed to Flying Nun in the mid ’80s, releasing the label’s first double album, Three Virgins (1986). Like The Swell Maps, The Axemen sound is hard to define—Three Virgins runs the gamut, from country to punk to avant-garde. The Axemen released their second Flying Nun record Derry Legend in 1987. The band put out further cassettes on Sleek Bott, notably Scary (Part III) and Three Rooms (An Elton John Tribute Album), before going on hiatus in the early ’90s.

           In 2009, The Axemen caught their second wind thanks to Tom Lax at Siltbreeze who reissued the band’s cassette-only releases Big Cheap Motel and Scary (Part III). The Axemen toured the United States with Times New Viking the same year. In 2011 The Axemen visited Australia and put out a tour 7″— a label split between McCabe’s Sleek Bott and the late Brendon Annesley’s Negative Guest List Records. Siltbreeze came through again that year, reissuing Three Virgins on vinyl (original pressings were going for well over fifty dollars).

Sac Tap Nut Jam finds Steve McCabe and Stu Kawowski reuniting with Dragan Stojanovic (who played on 1987’s Derry Legend)rounding out the lineup is William Daymond. Recorded in early 2013 in Wellington and Taita, Lower Hutt, Sac Tap Nut Jam—like all Axemen releases—defies easy categorization. There’s The Beatles/Dylan pop of Stojanovic’s “These Days”; McCabe’s post punk-influenced “Doctor’s on Speed Dial”; Steve McCabe’s inimitable voice and stream-of-consciousness lyric writing comes to the forefront on “Google That Girl”.

500 vinyl copies of Sac Tap Nut Jam were pressed up—400 on black, 100 on gold. The Axemen are currently planning a tour of New Zealand in support of Sac Tap Nut Jam.

Sac Tap Nut Jam is the sixth release from Camarillo, California-based Spacecase Records.


If ordering from outside the United States please email orders@spacecaserecords.com before submitting your order for accurate shipping rates.

* + shipping

Up Front with the Yub Nubz

such a tease

such a tease

Hot on the soles of their forthcoming new 12″ release ‘Sac Tap Nut Jam’, the Axemen are chaffing at the bit for punters to step up into the stirrups climb into the saddle and hitch their wagons to the new guiding star, the star that comes from the South, the star that IS the Axemen. The current lineup, showing impeccable taste chose this outlet for their first official interview regarding the new album.

Steve McCabe - still working on the John Halvorsen / Eraserhead look

Steve McCabe – still working on the John Halvorsen / Eraserhead look

Steve McCabe, speaking from his idyllic kiwi coast bach in the Coromandel on the verge of a 3 month sabbatical in the Pacific Islands, was the first to speak out on the release:

Steve McCabe: “I was initially troubled by the concept of plant (‘inanimate’) objects being incapable of feeling pain. This is the reason we embarked on the ‘Sac Tap’ project in the first place. All things were pointing in this direction, we had a levy-breaking wall of song built up ready to breach the sea-walls, with nowhere else to run!” he enthused in answer to my first utterance “Hello”.

IMG_5391

William Daymond – Role Model for troubled youth

William Daymond: “Dragan came over and showed me the famous ‘swizzle-sticks in a jar’ experiment – believe it or not this was the first time i ever experimented with this kind of experiment – and frankly it blew me away. My ‘Sac Tap’ commitment started there”.

IMG_5341

Stu Kawowski – aka Ludwig van Beathoven

Stu Kawowski: “Yeah I kinda dug Will’s naivete in the beginning, but by the end of the sessions we were churning it up free flow like a machete machine with overblown muscle-cloth spun on a quantum wheel upon which no-one can see which way its rotating but experienced users can count the bleats”

IMG_5354

Dragan Stojanovic – go ahead… tap my sac!

Dragan Stojanovic: “I count my blessings. And I think the other lads are counting theirs. The Axemen are the only band I would get out of bed to play in. Of course I’m fantastic in bed too!”.

Accolades are already pouring in from all over the world and the roundabout at Stokes Valley Road is fast becoming a local tourist attraction, with double-decker buses frequently thrilling passengers by driving around it multiple times, in one case until one elderly passenger threw up (she soon recovered when the tour guide pointed out Dragan Stojanovic walking down the road to the alchemists and giving her and the other passenger his trademark “fingers” gesture – a Serbian sign usually reserved for Croation soldiers – much to the amusement of the appreciative cheering passengers).

Idols and rivals check out the scene

Idols and rivals check out the scene

Watch this Space[case] spacecasefor new revelations!

The Axemen wish to thank Ryan and Mor at Spacecase who were instrumental (and vocal) in making the project happen…  http://www.spacecaserecords.com/ cheers dudes!

Tagged with:

Nice product placement, thanks Uncle TJ!

Posted in 2011 happenings, 3 virgins, cultural studies, interview, LPs, News, positivity, records, silt breeze, three virgins, video by steve mccabe on September 28, 2011

AXEMEN “Three Virgins” sure to rise again…

Like a phoenix, it’s flaming wings rendering liquefacted silt into weirdly shaped shiny psychedelic ceramic sculptures as it rises from the quake-decimated ruins of Christchurch’s State Trinity Centre, the penultimate Axemen tome “Three Virgins, Three Versions, Three Visions”  (commonly referred to in hushed tones as simply “Three Virgins“), well, more accurately, the four fragile lacquers of which are currently and patiently awaiting their turn at R.T.I. USA. Soon those lovingly engraved mothers will be slammed into steaming 180 gram piles of black vinyl, and slipped into exact replicas of the intricately elaborate 4-colour gatefold sleeve, the cost of said practically bringing Flying Nun Records to it’s knees back in the Christchurch of 1986.

The 22/2/11 quake-decimated ruins of Christchurch’s State Trinity Centre.

 

Kawowski’s vain effort to bake the original 7″ masters in a food-dehydrator, and transfer digitally proved unacceptable to his high standards of aural sensitivity. With the upwards nodding approval of the other 2/3 of the legendary flat-city triad, Steve ‘n Bob, together with the blessing of the sage Siltbreeze label boss T. J. Lax, Germany’s and possibly the world’s pre-eminate ‘needle drop’ exponent Thomas Hartlage of SHADOKS™ was contracted to place his own virgin pressing of the original 1986 pressing onto his unspeakably expensive transcription system, the result being a beautifully crafted replica with all aspects and nuances of the tricky trio’s debut vinyl of PQ (pre-quake) ChCh yesteryear. Not sufficiently content with this scintillating facsimile, the 24bit WAVs were broadbanded south to a dijkside upstairs warehouse near Amsterdam, where the legendary FIR International wove his mastering magic upon the 22 tracks, and soon after Mark at Prairie Cat Mastering in Illinois had manifested the four sides of the 88 minute set in shiny, shiny lacquer.

An announcement will be made shortly regarding worldwide availability of these waxy widgets. Keep watching here, and AXEMEN on Facebook.

Stop Press: In a generous 11th hour gesture, Shadoks & Fir International donated 60% of the mastering costs to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. In fact the whole exercise of re-releasing Three Virgins is all about the music, as the small 2nd edition pressing run will only produce 600 copies, and not return much of a profit to Siltbreeze’s hungry shareholders. The Axemen are very cognizant of this fact and super-appreciative of everyone’s efforts and generosity all round.

Record review – Scary!!! pt 3 by Kel E. Burnette

Posted in 2009 happenings, Big Cheap Motel, cultural studies, Gigs, LPs, News, Reviews, scary, silt breeze, touring, travel, US Tour 2009 by steve mccabe on December 2, 2009

Reprinted from Kel E. Burnette’s  pronouncement at:

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=191255993910

Note: CD material is available from http://sleekbott.com

The Axemen, sans McCabe, sans Stojanovic, plus Turner, 2009

The Axemen, sans McCabe, sans Stojanovic, plus Turner, WFMU, 2009

Artist: Axemen
Title: Scary! Part III
Label: Siltbreeze
Long known underground stars from New Zealand, The Axemen are now gaining some well-deserved notoriety here in the States thanks to one of our finest labels, Siltbreeze. Tom Lax has again exhibited sterling musical sense in [repressing - sic.]re-pressing “Scary! Part III” and “Big Cheap Motel.”

Steve McCabe with Shonen Knife, Fun Fun Fun Fest

Steve McCabe with Shonen Knife, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin TX 2009

And while it’s not an easy task trying to pin down their sound, especially considering the variety of their entire discography (much less the territorial span of music on this release), I’ll give it a shot.

On my first listening, I immediately drew a comparison to Royal Trux, but that was basically drawn from the majority of vocals on the record, featuring some of the coolest, junked-out vox either before or after the Trux hit the scene.

AXEMEN - cool it with the pool boy

AXEMEN - cool it with the pool boy

From the get-go, the song “Heart Bullet” features some insanely fucked up vocals and word play. Unlike a lot of New Zealand music, the vocals are uncharacteristically mixed up and not buried in the instrumentation. It kind of paradoxically makes the voice seem like another instrument—I’m at a loss finding (other than Herrema) anyone to compare the vocals to while maintaining any real dignity. Suffice it to say that they’re easily in the upper echelon of all rock vox, and it’s continued across both wunnerfuly screwed tracks on the double LP set.

AXEMEN: 300% Sikh & Tyred

2009: 300% Sikh & Tyred

Though the music is varied, you never get the feeling that the album was thrown together as pieces. As incoherent and absurd as it is, the record has a marvelous cohesion, at times overtly a downer, such as the track “10 Miles (as the crow flies)” and other points like the near-sinister, hardcore influenced “Join the R.A.F.”

The Mirror News by Vince Carmody, DJ at Chapel Hill's Local 506 Club

The Mirror News by Vince Carmody, DJ at Chapel Hill's Local 506 Club

It’s near-put impossible to fix these fellers into any genre, and that’s a damn good thing. Not only that, it’s a fucking difficult thing to pull off convincingly, yet the Axemen do so with, well what’s the write word, grace? How about ‘instinct?’ That seems more apropos. It’s an instinct which speaks more to an overall aesthetic than does it any attempt to play this or that style of music.

This one of the strangest records ever sludged to wax, and it’s caused that compulsive collector in my to try and track down any and all of their recordings, which, from what I’ve read, is going to be a formidable task. This is no surprise since they formed around 1981 and have recorded pretty consistently since, and even through the broad spectrum of music the venerable Flying Nun label have pressed over the years, The Axemen stand totally on their own. Flying Nun wasn’t their only label over the years—there have been several, but as an American touchstone, it’s appropriate to mention them as one of the better-known imprints to bring up.

Sickie Stojanovic, 123 Pleasant Street, Morgantown, West Virginia

Sickie Stojanovic, 123 Pleasant Street, Morgantown, West Virginia

All I can tell you is that, even on this one double LP, influences include American hardcore and DIY, Beefheart (though nothing obvious springs to mind at the outset), a sort of Zappaesque sense of humor, bizarre synth music, employ of loops and on and on.

The Axemen are their own entity. The only downside to this is that it took so long for an American pressing to go down. I’ve heard that they’ve met with largely great critical press on their recent tour of the U.S. One can only hope that it continues and that we see them again very soon.

P. Somniferum

AXEMEN: THE ORDER OF ERRED WAYS

Posted in LPs, music, releases, scary by steve mccabe on October 25, 2009

aka SCARY PT. IV

erredWays1

an album of unreleased Sleek Bott recordings from the 1983-1985 cache

JACKSON CREEK
from the THREE VIRGINS sessions, Christchurch, April 1985

850400 State Trinity

OM – STORY OF UNIVERSAL LOVE
from the Feast of Flesh rehearsal, Dunedin, March 1984
(not the same version that appears on A SCAR IS BORN);
features keyboards by George D. Henderson

840414a Feast-O-Flesh 1

MOULDIE (LEG STORY) full version live
from the Gladstone, Christchurch, Dec. 31, 1983
—a 2-minute excerpt from this same take featured on the CD version of THE SOUTH DUNEDIN SOUND, as well as on the AGRO/BAIRD BASS-OFF collection (where it appeared alongside another live take recorded 2 nights later at the same pub); includes Arthur Sheep on sax & the 3rd-eye guest guitar of Gordo Baird’s brother, B. B. Ryan.

831231b Gladstone

DO OR DIE
from the THREE VIRGINS sessions, Christchurch, April 1985

THE HOLLYWOOD SINGER
live at the Star & Garter, Christchurch, June 1984

840615c Star&Garter1

YE GODS!!
live at Lisa Preston’s birthday party, Christchurch, November 1984

841102 Party II the next day

GIMME ROOM #2
from the THREE VIRGINS sessions, Christchurch, April 1985

THE ORDER OF ERRED WAYS
live at Lisa Preston’s birthday party, Christchurch, November 1984

LIVING, LIVING & DYING
live at Lisa Preston’s birthday party, Christchurch, November 1984

THE GREATEST POP ON EARTH
sounds like Christchurch, July-August 1985

850708 July-August

BRAIN ONE IAMBENT 1 Music for public toilets
live at the Arts Centre, Christchurch, June 1984

840613 State of the Art

PUT THE IRON ON/TEQUILA
from the THREE VIRGINS sessions, Christchurch, April 1985

850406a Trinity Of Fire

GIMME ROOM
from the THREE VIRGINS sessions, Christchurch, April 1985

850406b Battle Of Egos

*   *   *

an axemen anno XXV rediscovery series production
specially compiled & released on the eve of their first US tour, 2009

bobAxemenWanganui

SleekBottlabel3

Scary Motel Tour! coming soon….

Posted in 2009 happenings, Apocalypse, Big Cheap Motel, Gigs, LPs, NZ bands, Posters, scary by steve mccabe on August 4, 2009

Not on the List?

Looking to get some great kiwi bands to play at your FANTASTIC SOUTH ISLAND VENUE in LATE SEPTEMBER/EARLY OCTOBER?

Contact Us immediately….

Your name could be here tomorrow…

Scary Motel Tour - Sept / Oct 09 , South Island, NZ

Scary Motel Tour - Sept / Oct 09 , South Island, NZ - b/w lo-res v1(LSM)

Scary Motel Tour - South Island, NZ, Sept-Oct 2009

Scary Motel Tour - South Island, NZ, Sept-Oct 2009 - color lo-res v1 (LSM)

POSTER VARIANTS RECEIVED:

Tues 4 Aug 09, Stu Kawowski

scarymoteldragan

Scary Motel Poster Variant: Dragan-Master (StuK)

scarymotelredlips

Scary Motel Poster Variant: RedLips (StuK)

Breaking News: Scary! Part III Re-release July 2009!!

Posted in 2009 happenings, LPs, Press Releases, releases, scary, silt breeze by steve mccabe on May 29, 2009

Press Release from Silt Breeze in conjunction with Sleek Bott RE: Axemen – Scary Re-release July 2009

PR Date:May 2009

Axemen-Scary! Part III-dbl lp (SB-119/120)

“…you’ll begin to see (& hear)…”

“…the Axemen blazed through the 80’s…”

“Unlike the hyper punk-charged pastiche of Big Cheap Motel…”

Axemen: Scary - Pt III; LP re-release July 2009

Axemen: Scary - Pt III; LP re-release July 2009

The second entry in the Siltbreeze/Axemen / Sleek Bott reissue series, Scary! Part III originally saw light as a cassette only release sometime in 1989.

Most band/fans active in the Christchurch & Dunedin scene’s at this time will tell you (sans embellishment) how prolifically the Axemen blazed through the 80’s decade (new cassettes seeming to exist almost on a daily basis) & in classic Rashomon style you’d likely get a different story from all willing to reminisce, though it’s be safe to say everyone would agree that the beguiling je ne sais quoi (now) found within the grooves of Scary! Part III to be some of the bands most intriguing blat to date.
Unlike the hyper punk-charged pastiche of Big Cheap Motel, Scary! operates from practically a Gestalt concept & sensibility.

While on the surface the contents found therein might sound fragmented, ruminous or obfuscatory, dig deeper (or listen better) & you’ll begin to see (& hear) the mystifying ooze lactating out of the 4 sides of Scary! Part III not as individual, insurmountable constructs of bizarreness, but as a coherent pattern of brilliant phenomena that is-in a word-SCARY!

Various sets of novice ears who have made it though this Bunyanesque giant find themselves making comparisons to a mixture of S.Y.P.H., Royal Trux & Ptose.

All one can say (really) to such hodgepodge is…..congratulations. Twenty yrs & counting & this release refuses to be aptly pigeonholed. Hell, even a seasoned horror chomper such as Shirley Jackson (were she still croaking) would tell ya to give these guys a wide berth. They mean business & their business is mean. Or as the poet (& bartender) Bing McFreud once scribed as an ode to this collection of doozy’s;

‘Be Very Afeared
Cause This Ain’t No Beard
And You Have An Aversion
To Clean’.

————————————————————-

Scary! Part III. It’s for real. Again. Finally!

Ltd ed dbl LP run of 700 w/sticker, insert & poster.

Order direct from Silt Breeze: paypal: sltrx@pil.net

————- TRACK LISTING ————–
SIDE 1

HEART BULLET 2:42

CHURCH OF THE LOOSELY BRETHREN 3:41

10 MILES (AS THE CROW FLIES) 3:10

THAT MUST BE HELL 2:07

SHACKED UP IN YR EGYPT TOMB 3:37

15.2 mins

SIDE 2

JOIN THE RAF 2:58

YOU, YOU CABINET 1:00

THE VIRGIN 2:17

ANIMALS HAVE RIGHTS, TOO 3:36

ACCUSATION OF MURDER 3:23

13.1 mins

SIDE 3

FREE WORLD 2:20

INTERMISSION 1:51

SUN UND MOON 4:12

BEER UND FLINTSTONES 2:10 1

THE WRECK OF THE WHISTLING MAREE 2:24

12.9 mins

SIDE 4

THE 2-BIT STAR 4:11

MUST LOVE DIE 3:14

NO LOOK BACK 5:44

NASTY MOON SHINE 2:35

15.7 mins

Review: Big Cheap Motel ‘09 from STILL SINGLE

Posted in 2009 happenings, Big Cheap Motel, LPs, Reviews by steve mccabe on April 10, 2009

Reprinted from: http://still-single.tumblr.com/post/89271183/axemen-big-cheap-motel-lp-siltbreeze

 

March 24, 2009

Axemen – Big Cheap Motel LP (Siltbreeze)

“…a surplus of defiant attitude…”

“…opening up the world…”

“…this is the sort of action that more artists should fight for…”

Axemen LP

Big Cheap Motel '09 LP

First of three reissues by this forgotten New Zealand punk trio out on Siltbreeze this year, opening up the world to their scarcely-heard ‘80s material.

The record of theirs I have, Derry Legend, is just as irreverent, but still sounds far more refined than the cassette release Big Cheap Motel. It’s chaos, pretty much, of the Fall or Country Teasers variety; some guys who’d gotten their way into a big public concert, sponsored by the Big M dairy conglomerate, chomp on the corporate hand with a set of ten songs, all written the day of the show, condemning the company and its use of scantily-clad women to advertise its wares (“Can’t Stand Up For 40-Inch Busts,” “Our Sponsor Today,” “The Pornographic Milk Drink”).

Tinny, handheld recording paints a lack of means, but a surplus of defiant attitude by those who would kick sand in the face of big business looking to increase its profile on the backs of the downtrodden.

In a modern era where several prominent countercultural press outlets have their own fucking record labels, where bands fight for the right to shill for Scion or Pepsi or RJ Reynolds, this is the sort of action that more artists should fight for.

Their reasons could have been purely political, or just done for a laugh; both evoke satisfying reactions. (www.siltbreeze.com)

Post: Doug Mosurock, Still Single

Review: Big Cheap Motel ’09 from Satan Rulez

Posted in 2009 happenings, Big Cheap Motel, blather, cultural studies, LPs, NZ bands, Photograsps, Posters, Reviews by steve mccabe on April 7, 2009

Reprinted from: http://satanrulez.blogspot.com/2009/03/zap.html

Who's Nailin' Paylin? HUSTLER COVER

“…Built around a thick guitar line that is distorted until it becomes a fluid conveyer belt of sound… ”

“…hermetic tribes… ”

“… The Pornographic Milk Drink contains rotating metal spoke on a ferris wheel guitar… ”

“…Pleasantly skewed junkyard Buddy Holly rhythm lines played atop walls of distorted uber-rock riffs that contain the weight and force of a Flipper-like death dirge and the occasional saxophone blurt frame the basic vehicle for the band’s Brautiganian lyrical worldview... ”

Outside of a few ardent music fans, hipsters and record collectors, how many Americans ever heard of the Axemen before the Siltbreeze reissue campaign? I’m guessing not many of us had the pleasure and, yet, the band steadily released albums throughout the last two-and-a-half decades. At face value, it seems like the band just wishes to entertain themselves and devotees by performing and recording their take on the music they enjoy. These hermetic tribes usually end up being the most effective musical acts because their mission really cannot fail. If the mind’s creation gears continually turn and you possess the unique ability to, at once, channel and transform the music that inspires you, not much could go wrong. Such is the case with the Axemen.

The Big M corporation shamelessly used this appallingly sexist image to promote their range of flavoured milk in the early 80s - the axemen were not about to let these corporate milk merchants milk mens mouths with their product

The Big M corporation shamelessly used this appallingly sexist image to promote their range of flavoured milk in the early '80s - the Axemen were not about to let these corporate milk merchants milk mens' mouths with their product lying down

So, TJ Lax provides the public with a vital service and a history lesson by releasing not one but two Axemen reissues in 2009. The first installment, 1984’s Big Cheap Motel, proves why this band deserves the reissue treatment and the attention it will likely receive by bearing the Siltbreeze tag. Like a more cohesive version of their UK brothers from other mothers on the Street Level Records roster, the Axemen kick grimy, postmodern, crooked punk-jazz sermons filtered through a boombox haze and serious subject matter that is littered with in-jokes. Milk, sexism and breasts all factor into a biting take on UK anarcho-punk lyrics soundtracked by a serious defacto homage to the aforementioned Street Level sounds.

In fact, the second tune on the album—billed as a rehash of album-opener “Big Fat ‘M’”— sounds like a looser a Good Missionaries outtake tracked on top of a Danny and the Dressmakers tune. A dense, plodding rhythm line lays the grounds for a strange, possible anti-sexism rant wherein the singer exhibits the same off-kilter, slurred sing-speak vocals as Mark Perry. Interrupted by chatter and greasy guitar-driven sound experimentation, the song detours into a shapeless pile of intersecting ideas before briefly rising back into its initial structure. The results of the expedition on the second rendition of “Big Fat ‘M’” could be disastrous and annoying if its slant on song construction continued for an entire album.

This appalling image appeared on New Zealand for one of Big Ms early 80s campaigns

This appallingly sexist image appeared on New Zealand billboards and TV sets for one of Big M's early '80s campaigns

But the Axemen duck this possible pitfall and keep Big Cheap Motel fresh and exciting by providing a home base of sound to which they can return after their journey into a foreign territory commences. Songs like the title track and “The Pornographic Milk Drink” showcase this sound without sacrificing the variety of execution techniques that runs through the album. Pleasantly skewed junkyard Buddy Holly rhythm lines played atop walls of distorted uber-rock riffs that contain the weight and force of a Flipper-like death dirge and the occasional saxophone blurt frame the basic vehicle for the band’s Brautiganian lyrical worldview. “The Pornographic Milk Drink” contains rotating metal spoke on a ferris wheel guitar leading into a sludgy sewage drain of a riff. Lead guitar lays the groundwork for a boogie-infused take on the band’s sound, as big ‘70s hard rock sounds collide with the band’s surrealist take on Crass Records political sloganeering.

Big Cheap Motel - the Axemen's ode to the fight for womens rights

Big Cheap Motel - the Axemen's ode to the fight for womens' rights

Built around a thick guitar line that is distorted until it becomes a fluid conveyer belt of sound, the title track reaps the benefits of its relative simplicity. The mantra of “Big cheap motel/ Big Tamla motel” pairs with the lava guitar flow to form a song that would work fine with guitar and vocals. But each time the Axemen run through things, a slight variation on the initial theme seems to arise on the next go-round—an off-rhythm guitar line, extra guitar fractures, a more minimal drum beat. The initial riff melts into small, blurry guitar bridges. A faux-Dick Dale guitar construction spackled in the cracks of “Big Cheap Motel” wanders to whatever rhythmic variation that the guitarist feels best compliments the tune. All the slight variations keep the sense of adventure that Big Cheap Motel showcases intact.

Big Cheap Motel LP Label

Big Cheap Motel is one of those records where you can imagine the band’s thought process as they delve into any musical alleyway that pleases them. Though the names and age range of the band members are hard to discern from the liner notes (the insert contains poorly Xeroxed photos of the band and each band member’s name printed in black magic marker with an arrow pointed to his place in the photo), Big Cheap Motel contains the wide-eyed looseness of a bunch of kids in a garage trying to mimic the music they enjoy. Let’s do a hardcore tune. Let’s try inserting a drill sound on this one. The refreshing results vary wildly from the artists’ that may or may not have inspired the Axemen but the band’s affinity for the challenge and reward of artistic creation shines through.

Posted by s. kobak

Review: Big Cheap Motel ’09, Alternative Music Talk

Posted in 2009 happenings, Big Cheap Motel, cultural studies, LPs, Reviews by steve mccabe on March 31, 2009

Reprinted from: Alternative Music Talk

The Axemen: A NZ Protest

Big Cheap Motel '09 LP

It’s understandable that Australia and New Zealand have a contentious relationship. I used to live in Cleveland, don’t anymore, but still cringe whenever I see a Stealers logo anywhere. The fact, though, that the Aussies recently claimed that New Zealanders are hermits, or some such, seems a bit beyond me. Anyway, New Zealand, as much Australia, has a pretty rich and important musical history. The Tall Dwarfs (sic) and Chris Knox have impacted current indie musical trends in a pretty noticeable way. You’d be able to hear it even if Jay Reatard didn’t tell us straight out.

But a less lauded band – the Axemen – in the early ‘80s mined similar territory to Knox. They were a bit more noisey. Ok. A lot more noisey. The trio comprised some scene veterans and when Bob Brannigan, Little Stevie McCabe and Stu Kawowski came together, a more twisted vision of what pop should be was spat from speakers. Perhaps their most enduring – and time specific – document comes in the form of Big Cheap Motel (it’s there, but you gotta look for it).

At a time when British punk bands wrote songs about Maggie being some body part and American punkers criticized Reagan on a daily basis, the Axemen took a more localized view of politics. Being slated to perform at a festival early in 1984 at a public park, the band was prepared to run through a set of their previously written material, but sponsorship of a milk company – Big M – prompted the trio to compose eleven new songs to comment upon the perceived problem.

Supposedly, the band took issue with the sexist imagery displayed at the festival. Although, there aren’t any specifics to be found in the interwebs as to what, exactly, the problem was. Either way, it inspired some stripped down, rock thudding. Most frequently, the Flying Nun label and its stable of acts are in some way checked in relationship to the sound found on this disc. But the Axemen sound way more furious than anything else that I’ve come across on that label.

The occasional inclusion of a sax, as on the anthemic “Stupid Symbol of Woman Hate,” points to the breadth of work that these folks were listening to. It isn’t quite Funhouse from the Stooges, but that track does ratchet up repetitive punk tropes along with the bleated chorus. And for some reason, this track sounds a bit better recorded than a few others.

A few other tracks leap out of the pile, which, for a great deal of the long player suffers from less than desirable sound. But even if you can’t understand the words to “Pornographic Milk Drink,” you can sense the band’s dedication to what they have to say as the disheveled punk track plays out. The inclusion of an extended Stones cover – “We Love You” – is a bit confusing since this performance, in part, was meant to defy corporate shenanigans. But if you’ve heard the Cock Sparrer version, you may have already heard the best rendition of the track.

If the historic and political perspective of this work was removed, I don’t know that we’d still be talking about this disc twenty some years after it was recorded. But it’s an artifact. And it’s one that fits into the linear narrative of rock history.

Post: Came Best Vice

Review: Big Cheap Motel ’09, Volcanic Tongue

Posted in 2009 happenings, Big Cheap Motel, cultural studies, LPs, Reviews, Uncategorized by steve mccabe on March 10, 2009

Reprinted from: Volcanic Tongue

TIP OF THE TONGUE 08 MARCH 2009

“…free jazz skronk…radical prole violence…”

“…punk primitive avant garde smarts…”


Axemen
Big Cheap Motel
Siltbreeze
LP
£13.99

Fantastic vinyl issue of what was originally a cassette from a group that were an anomaly even within the relatively eclectic environs of the original Flying Nun catalogue. This New Zealand group released a bunch of vinyl and cassettes, all of which took the basic Kiwi-pop blueprint and exploded it with classic UK art/damage moves, crude free jazz skronk, radical prole violence and punk primitive avant garde smarts. Big Cheap Motel was recorded live at Hagley Park Ritual and Peterboro Studios and was conceived as an anti-corporate/sexist action aimed at the sponsorship of a Christchurch Summer Rock festival by a milk company: “Stoopid Symbol Of Women Hate/The Pornographic Milk Drink”. Still, the sonics are nowhere near the kinda ‘worthy’ protest music that have sunk so many student duds, this kinda rallying owes more to the blunt, subversive style of the early Fall or the art-punk aggression of the Swell Maps/Steve Treatment cultus, referencing classic rock/roll yucks like Steve Mackay’s signature saxophone sound or the tantrums of Half Japanese while maintaining the kinda dazed topographical haze that defines alla the best NZ/FN action. This sits perfectly on the Siltbreeze label, joining the dots between early avant garage moves and the label’s own deeply-embedded crude-fi aesthetic and if you’re into classic outsider modes in the hands of musical Neanderthals but dig ’songs’ more than ‘noise’ then this is the white stuff: highly recommended.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,360 other followers