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!

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