AFF – The Legend of the Vulcan Voice Meld

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 Château de McCabe

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 Château de McCabe coffee wine range.

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 Château 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 (photo by Stuart Page)

Occasionally (due to fancy, budgetary constraints, or experimental urges), frozen free-flow carrots, peas and corn were also utilised. But it was the “Château 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 San Pedro cactus brew (photo by Stuart Page)

*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)

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

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

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

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

*

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

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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