Reprinted with kind permission of Andrew Schmidt, http://mysterex.blogspot.com/
Originally posted on Mysterex Friday, 25 January 2008
Original Article: http://mysterex.blogspot.com/2008/01/shoes-this-high.html
The need to unsettle rock’s steady, but predicable beats, and the DIY independence of Ralph and Recommended Records, and small indies like Pere Ubu’s Hearthan Records were pre-punk lessons that flowed freely into the space punk created. The Wellington post-punk scene of 1979, 1980, and 1981 was New Zealand’s most concentrated outbreak of this art-punk coupling. Pioneering quartet Shoes This High were one of the finest acts to emerge from that scene. Brent Hayward, one of the most distinctive voices in New Zealand music was the frontman. He talks. Andrew Schmidt listens.
“52 were quirky dudes. I met all of them, and later lived with a couple. Malcolm Wardlaw – he was the keyboardist for 52 – was almost like my father figure. He was older than me and Kevin Hawkins. He was from the same town as us – Masterton – a real sicko town.
“He used to come up on weekends and stay with Kevin. Kevin had a massive collection of records and books. He was my favourite candy store. Malcolm used to come up, and be with us, and hallucinate. He was a crazy dude. He had a big square head. He played the keyboards with his head; with any part of his body. He got right into it. He was really accomplished as a musician. He was really bright, and I thought here’s a guy who is interesting.
“52 were my mates. No one really remembers them as far as New Zealand music goes. It was more about a local thing, and being into the experimental English rock like Robert Wyatt, Fred Frith, Robert Fripp, Eno, Roxy, the drug way, not the Brian Ferry way, the Eno/ Manzanera – that kind of experimental rock, quirky rhythms. “There was an Italian guy Dino (Houtos) on guitar. Andy Drey on bass (later Steroids / Body Electric). ziggy’s
“Ziggy’s was a Wellington rock club/ cabaret which was firebombed in its original spot on Jervois Quay in 1976, and moved to Vivian Street, where it eventually became Rock Theatre then Billy ‘d Club. It was out there, and interesting/ burlesque. It was transient people. It was a big deal for the kids in the city. They dug it. 52 were resident band in September 1978.
shoes this high
“Jessica (Walker – bassist) heard some trans-sexual people getting on a big red bus and they were gossiping. “And how high did you say her shoes were?” “Those shoes were this high.” The name. Jessica and Kevin went out together, and I don’t think there’s ever been a relationship that’s as intricately woven. Even though he’s bi. He really loves her, and she really loves him, and they’re crazy fucks these two cats, crazy as, and they were like cats, real lovable.
“I wasn’t in the band at the start. There was another guy from Dunedin (Andrew Strang) in it for a short time. He was a mate of Terry Moore (The Chills) who used to stay with us in Wellington.
“I hadn’t done any music with Kevin since The Amps. I was living out in Wellington’s suburbs. I was psycho. I was going off my tree. I just had the most violent thoughts about stuff. You’ve got no idea. Real homicidal stuff. “Kevin says; “Come and play with us.” The drummer then was a gardener at the Botanic Gardens in Wellington. (He was replaced by Chris Plummer). We played in his house. I just unleashed all this blood and guts. I thought this is cool.”
toy love – the last resort – 27th to 30th of September 1979
“When Toy Love came they played at The Last Resort on a Thursday night. I thought what’s this about, and Bob Sutton (local character) said; “These guys used to The Enemy. You should check them out tonight. Toy Love sounded a bit kinky, so I thought, ah yeah. They played there for four nights. They brought them out. All a certain audience.
“Jane, Toy Love keyboard player, and Jessica were sisters. Jane and Paul (Kean – Toy Love bass player) used to crash at our place.
“Toy Love had their own PA, and when passing through they’d always want to play on Sunday in Cuba Mall. Someone had figured out how to rig up the power free.”
opening billy ‘d club with the newz on 1 may 1980
“We were trying to make money to buy musical equipment; amps, speakers. The big news was that we blew the PA up, and they were pissed off. We had a soundcheck and the soundcheck sounded great. We played exceptionally loud at the soundcheck like everyone liked to. We were just gonna blow whoever The Newz were off the stage.
“Our sound guy who was right into Robert Fripp was quite a strange guy, Richard Sedger. He’s a Victoria University professor now. George Henderson was his best mate. George and Lyndsey Maitland. Those guys were interesting. They had The Spies, and Chris Plummer was the drummer. They played some good gigs in the Speakeasy (Willy’s Wine Bar). I used to go down there for drugs in 1973 and 1974.
“Richard was in a Kevin Ayres frame of mind that night. He took too much of something, and he couldn’t get the sound loud enough, (that was fine by us), and blew up the PA.
“It was big shindig, lots of hairdressers there, lots of new wavers, bullshit artists. They wanted to confiscate the gear, and there was a big argument.
“No one would give us a gig after that. They didn’t want to lend us amps. We’d have to get Jenny Lealand and little Billy Labortski to get PAs. So we eventully moved up to Auckland to get away from that sort of bullshit. No, that’s not true. Billy the Club let us use their PA.”
toy love – the last resort – may 1980
“When we first played we were lucky to play with Toy Love. People used to come along and they had all the gear. We really just threw ourselves into our gigs with them. We made these little dinky A4 photocopied posters that were real cool. Little cuts from other magazines. The idea was anything and everything was up for grabs.”
rockfest – billy d’club – queen’s birthday weekend – june 1980
“We played the Rockfest in Billy D’ Club. Kevin had a good sound live. He could make his guitar sound chook. An electronic chook. Schreaking. In Wellington a lot of the stuff was public stuff. There were no rehearsals.”We had a real healthy music scene in Wellington. It made things interesting, and there were quite a few women/girls that were into it, and wanted to play music. They had a real energy for it. It’s not that feminist shit, this was interesting real creative rhythms, and patterns with melody, particularly Naked Spots Dance that Jenny was in.
“The bassist (Kate Walker) she was interesting, and she wrote a lot of their stuff. I was really proud coz when bands were passing through they got to see what a great music scene was going on in Wellington. “We had a lot of bands, and lots of those bands were related with other bands. A real community of people and of bands. And everyone who came was into the music, and they had their personalities, their fixes, and their vices.”
“I’ll give you an idea about the antagonism we had towards music and bands. I was a smart little cunt, cheeky as, probably the cheekiest person on stage. I didn’t have respect for too many people, and I just thought our band was the best, and if any band was going to get in the way, well, I’ve got mates over the hill. We’ll sort them out.
“I learnt a lot about scenes in Wellington; how they ostracize people. Rhys Bassett was the first one because he burnt the sheep. Everyone said he was a prick. I liked him. He was a good dude. I liked those kids. Sure they imported a bit of the English argy bargyiness, but…”
“Shoes This High got this tag: “Something’s bad is gonna happen.” We couldn’t do anything more in Wellington, and it was getting so small. Everybody knew everybody at the parties. After a while it became a bit passe.
“Chris Orange, The Features’ bass player said; “Come up to Auckland. You guys are good. It’ll be a good injection for here. The bootboys will really like you.”
We’d made fast friends with Chris, Karl Van Bergen (Features singer), and James Pinker (Features drummer). They were nice guys, and we liked them so we came up.”
auckland debut at cafe xs on 27 july 1980
“Before we got a gig. I got to hear more and more about this bootboy thing. Bootboy. Bootboy. Bootboy. Fight. Fight. Fight. Never actually heard anybody talking about any music. Like: “See that guy over there? He’s part of the bootboys … blah blah blah.”
“Our first gig was on a Sunday night and lots of people came. Two guys turned up on the Sunday night that were looking like: “Is he gonna be on our side?” I could sense them thinking; ‘Nah I don’t think he is.'”One hundred and fifty came The Auckland Star said. They checked us out and didn’t fuckin’ like it. There was a review in the paper about it by Louise Chunn. A god awful review that was so down and depressing. She didn’t have any idea about music. All she knew was what was going on locally. But it got us some interest.”
anti-violence dance with the features – cafe xs – 31st july 1980 to 3rd august 1980
I rang up the Auckland Star and said; “Can I come to your photographic library?” I asked to see all the photos of violence. When they turned their back I nicked a photo of this black punching another black by a telegraph pole to use for a poster.
“The next gig we got I decided to call it the Anti-Violence Dance, and used the photo. I said fuck it; enough is enough with this violence number. The Features went along with it.
“The show was at Cafe XS. Thursday night this guy called Billy Bullshit comes up and sez (in dumb tones). “Who put the name on the Anti-Violence Dance. That’s not a good look fellas.”
“He said that to The Features, and it trickles back to me. I said I did. He said that’s a bad mistake, mate.
“Then on Friday night there were like bootboys and punks, and I noticed in the audience some long haired people had turned up for our show, and were beaten up. Some had bare feet, and they were beaten up for it. It seemed like the only people who weren’t beaten up were blue jean, drainpipe wearing normal boys who hadn’t experienced anything in life other than hanging out in a mob trying to act like the National Front without knowing what goes on behind that.
“These people with long hair were wearing flowers and stuff. I thought good on them for coming to see some music. We were about music, not violence. It was so different from the Wellington music scene. Even though you had that element there. There was too many interesting people, too many beautiful people for it to dominate.
“So there was more and more antagonism from moi. In fact, I was so cheeky to everyone, I was just rarcking them up.
“By Saturday night they were like: “Somebody’s gotta do something about that guy.” So this bootboy gets up, drunk as, swaying, wobbling. He takes a swing at me and misses. He doesn’t even get close. My best mate Jessica Walker, with a big Rickenbacker bass, just puts it up as a block. She was one crazy girl. She had heaps of energy. She would have ate that guy for breakfast. He wouldn’t take it any further. A bottle was thrown quite fast that just missed her. It was meant for me.
“It bought the violence to a head. Exactly what I wanted. They were dictating who played. The subtext was: “We like bootboy music. We like music that’s gonna continue playing while we beat up people that look different from us.
“I outsmarted them. Anybody did that had any sort of brain. I stood up to them, and because I did others did as well. We became very unpopular overnight. The Auckland Star wanted a photo after that. They weren’t there, but they heard something had happened.”
famous fans – barry jenkin and neil roberts
“There were people in the audience who were very into the music. Seminal characters like Neil Roberts. The serious anarchist dude who blew himself up. There’s another transformation. He came to the first Shoes This High gig on Sunday. He was kinda straight, a chef, and after he came to our gig he just changed. He came back to our place that evening. I asked him where he was from. He said Mataikona. I said that’s where we’re from, me and Kev – the Wairarapa. I said Mataikona’s a sheep station. He said yeah. Real desolate, mate.
“Doctor Rock in his leather coat. He really liked Shoes This High. He used to give us quite a lot of airplay on his show when the EP came out. But being young bucks at the time who didn’t have the respect for anything. We didn’t appreciate it.”
18 bath street, parnell
“He had about three bands living in Bath St – us, The Gordons, and Nervous Wrecks. Fifteen people in a three bedroom house. We used to do a food run with The Gordons. They used to have this van – a Commer van. We never had any money, and there was always this food delivered at the back doors of shops, so we used to go round in Brent’s van and steal it, chock up the van with food, and come back to Bath St. People used to appear out of nowhere grabbing it.”
all over town
“When we got to Auckland, we started asking Livesound for big rigs, loud as. We started playing at parties, in some ways, paying our dues. When fighting broke out again, we stopped the music.
“We played at the University a few times in the cafe and the quad. We played a lot of places with Toy Love when they came back from Australia. We played in Devonport at some big pub. We played Mainstreet. We played the Windsor Castle. We always had a support band like The Newmatics at Cafe XS.
“We’d play an hour and a half. We had long tracks. We had one called Monodrone. That was trance-like. It was hypnotic. It put people in a state so they didn’t really know how long time was. That’s a very Can/ German thing. We were into them. We used to listen to a lot of Can. A lot of Neu! and Faust. We also had some fast stuff, real fast. We had rhythm and intricate patterns.
“We used to busk as well. We did lots in Wellington as well. It was encouraged there.”
“When The Gordons came up to live with us, we played quite a lot of gigs with them at Cafe XS. By then, bootboys were almost non-existent. They’d had a gutsful and found religion; found salesmanship in insurance. Most turned back to regular Joes, which is what they always were. More interesting people started coming. University people would come to our gigs. They’d want music and the scene started picking up again. Got a bit healthy again.
“We also played unconventional gigs with The Gordons. We used to go out to Carrington Mental Hospital. You can hear Kevin and Jessica were screaming away on The Gordons’ first EP track Future Shock.
“There was a race over who was going to get a record out first.”the nose one ep recorded – december 1980″It was recorded in Mascot Studios, which was run by Hugh Lynn in Eden Terrace. Gerard Carr recorded us. We did it in one session on a Sunday. Gerard was unhappy because I said: “Bro, we haven’t actually got the money.” He said: “Don’t you know this is Hugh Lynn’s place? He’ll wanna bust someone’s legs.”
“The last track we did was Not Weighting. Even though it was kinda rigid it had piano (with a bottle smashing after falling from piano). The songs were just the ones we chose that day, but there were other songs which really did stand out as being good compositions. They were really intricate and Beefheartish. They had a definite thing that was only really touched on as far as the recordings go. There’s a Cafe XS tape that’s really good that Chris Orange was helping us mix.
“On that walk back from Mascot, the night we recorded it, we were four happy people. We’d been into a recording studio proper, got down something that we felt was good. I said to Kevin: “I just want to do more.” We had an insight into what it could be like going into a recording studio.
“For us it wasn’t about being popular. It was about recording some interesting scenes and sounds in the studio.”drugs”I had a real hate towards anyone into drugs. I ostracized myself from Kevin because he was into drugs. I said: “Mate, you don’t fuckin’ need it,” but that was where he was getting his confidence. He had doubts about his creativity. I thought it was fucking up the music.”
wellington – december 1980
“When we went back and played, to me, it seemed like Wellington was dead. I was really angry at the band for going off. The music seemed more and more harder to make. On one hand, some interesting stuff was coming about, but we really had to make a go of it.
“We played in this place called the Red Cross Hall in Vivian Street on the Saturday night (with The Gordons.) We were going to play twice in Brooklyn Community Centre, and they did some weird thing on us, and we could only play there on Friday night. What an out of the way place it was. A strange place to play.”
the nose one EP – january 1981
“When the record came out Polygram Records had put them in this sheath saying Polygram as if it was their record. We were the wrong people to do that to. We defaced the sleeve, had all these characters saying piss off Polygram. All of a sudden another five hundred sleeves turned up. They found out we’d defaced them.
“Kevin did the face drawing for the cover. On the back, we had cut up quotes of the Louise Chunn review from the first Auckland show. We had people knocking on the door to buy it. We sold it mainly at gigs.”
the beginning of the end
“A lot of the times Kevin and Jessica, and even Chris, started fucking off. They’d just go walkabout. Chris would go up to Wonderland or Wilderness up Coromandel. Kevin and Jessica would go to her mother’s place. She was a Doctor in Lower Hutt. They weren’t around. That used to fuck me off. I was left to design the posters. Take the photo of the shoes stacked on top of each other. And go to the printers.
“The sign was when we practiced one time, they were just playing Gordons songs, the two of them (Jessica and Kevin). They got really infatuated with The Gordons. They didn’t really want to do it themselves, so what was I to do? I wasn’t part of that scene.
“We had a gig to play in a big marquee in Orakei Bay. This punk girl, her mother was on the committee of the Orakei Fair day. We were going to play there in the afternoon in the marquee, and it was going to be good. I was really looking forward to it. I was telling everybody. You got to turn up to this. Barry Jenkin was going to turn up.
“The night before we split. Jessica and Kevin – they had so much energy those two, but Kevin got tempted by drugs and alcohol and boys, and Jessica got tempted by Alister from The Gordons. She slept with Alister. Kevin found out. I came back to 18 Bath Street. Kevin was in a ball of tears. Jessica was in tears, and the band split.”
Kevin Hawkins sigh. Of all the casualties along the way Kevin is one of the ones I miss the most. He was simultaneously one of the most talented and caring people and one of the most emotionally up and down.
There was a tape that circulated of Kevin Hawkins and his Walking Brothers doing his magnum opus “I’m a queer” with lyrics like “I’m a happysexual, I’m a goddamed raving queer”, an absolutely over the top version of Walk on the Wild Side and ending the tape with “Just remember not all faggots are cowboys, but ALL cowboys are faggots” – 15 years before Brokeback mountain too🙂
Jesse did some great stuff with Sparky’s Magic Baton and the Electrick Church – there was a tape going round with those as well.
Last I heard from Jane, Jess’s sis, Jesse and hubbie Ian are well and happy and raising a happy crop of kids.
5 April 2008 21:36
Cool – great blog post! Thankyou to Brent. I’d just like to make a correction and a small addition. The gardener at the botanical gardens was Don Campbell. He was Shoes This High drummer for pretty much all of STH beginning period on Wellington, during which time Chris Plummer was the Spies drummer. But when we (The Spies) moved to Christchurch, having met Bill Vosburgh, Chris decided he’d rather go to Auckland with STH. When we got to Christchurch we became The And Band (It’s been 30 years and I get the feeling I may be compressing several months into a much shorter time and thereby making a complex set of relationship changes fit a simpler story – grain of salt required).
As for me, I never got past an MA at VUW but did do some tutoring in the last couple of years I was there (early 90s). I guess this is how Brent got the idea that I was teaching at VUW.
6 April 2008 13:01