Who in their right mind would have predicted this?
In the midst of a build-up of 70’s, 80’s , 90’s and today’s collective angst, just a few individuals feel brazen enough to stand up and spit themselves out at society and stomp on the balls it represents.
Just a few is enough.
As per Facebook ‘chatter’
————————— rock. in a forest. in the red zone.
christchurch. reborn after takeoff and crash.
cathedral crisis. portaloos everywhere,
people livin’ like they just don’t care.
Grade school grades are goin’ down like the ages
Take-off pill sales are simply outrageous
nobody does nought for fear of the aegis
sons of the silent age live in cages,
wear brass monkey caps and play rock of ages
This May 2015AXEMEN make an unseasonable sortie to the South Island of Aotearoa-wiki to bring you the HIT THE SOUTH! mini-est of Mini-Tours, a flying, flashing, heat-seeking TWO-STOP WHISTLE TEST visit to their spiritual homelands; the icy oasis of DUNEDIN on Friday 22 and the quaint rubble garden city of CHRISTCHURCH on Saturday 23!
So what can Quakin’ Oat-Eaters expect of the lads this time around? You’ll be GLAD YOU ASKED!
DUNEDIN – The evening of MAY 22 kicks off at the CROWN HOTEL with the cosmically hypnotic COMET WATCH at 9PM SHARP (RNR Standard Time) so don’t be late – they only come round once every 76 years!
10PM brings The AXEMEN in their current formation of McCabe, Kawowski, Stojanovic and Daymond.
The AXEMEN intend to play hits old and new, including tracks from their 2014 album ‘SAC TAP NUT JAM’, some old favourites, some as yet unrecorded tracks, maybe even a cover or two… so MEET THE GANG cos the BOYS ARE HERE!
Rounding off the evening at the witching hour of 11PM are those erstwhile saints of swing OPPOSITE SEX…
So what about CHRISTCHURCH? What have the lads most likely to got lined up for the city that rocks? Well you may ask! Thanks to the CHRISTCHURCH ART GALLERY the most Northerly Southern show at the DARKROOM is going to be absolutely FREE for Starters, that’s what!
Add into the mix DARK MATTER with their rambunctious melodic stylings and the ever-eclectic JOE SAMPSON and we’re starting to have a show on our hands! And there’ll be plenty of RARE MERCHANDISE to lay your hands on so make sure you come early – its THAT RARE and VOLATILE it has a half-life of just THREE HOURS so get your skinny asses down there!
The AXEMEN wish to thank our kind and generous SPONSORS for this tour:
There is an argument, popular among some, that a career in music is just too easy these days. Whether that’s true or not is impossible to quantify – too easy compared to what, exactly? – but it’s safe to say that if you choose to make records like Big Cheap Motel then you’re always going to be on the very far our fringes of popular culture whatever time you happen to exist in.
Formed in South Church and Dunedin in 1981, The Axemen’s initial inspiration was to protest against the aparthied-era South African rugby team playing in New Zealand. Their chosen medium was, by the sounds of it, terrifyingly primitive sax noodling lain atop cardboard box drums and one-chord detuned stumble-thrash. All of which makes Axemen sound awful when in fact they’re all kinds of amazing. Listen to Stoopid Symbol Of Woman Hate or Can’t Stand Up For 40-Inch Busts (both songs were inspired by a hatred of sexist advertising) and you can hear Amon Duul and Hawkwind scaring the living shit out of Devo and Clock DVA. I suppose if you starved kraut gods Faust at gunpoint for a month then made them jump down a well tied to an appalling, ham-fisted Sham 69 tribute group you might – might! – come up with something like this hellishly raw and poorly recorded album, but only if you were very, very lucky.
This is a brilliant artefact as it’s so amazingly free, like a gloriously inebriated idea come to shocking life, Big Cheap Motel is a series of truly bloody terrible noises slung together to make something altogether wonderful. It is insane and angry and funny and informed by a thirst for cheap beer, sonic outrage and dangerous thrills and you really need to hear it now. Which, in this day and age, is a gloriously easy task.
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’.
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?”
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’.
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.
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.
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’.
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!
Ryan: What inspired the Axemen to record Three Rooms: An Elton John Tribute Album (1992).
Stu: I remember that time period. Although it was released in 1992 we actually recorded it in 1984 or 1985. Nevertheless I can’t recall why in the hell we decided to do that record. I was living in Christchurch. Steve and Bob were sharing a flat that we called Peterborough Studios; we had done up the whole upstairs of their place and dedicated it to playing music. Steve was brewing coffee wine. We were all probably a bit wasted on his coffee wine. I remember singing “Rocket Man.” I think we only intended to do one song. As a joke we carried on with a whole pile of Elton John songs. It was one of those nutty things that we would do. I don’t think we had an organized plan to do Elton John covers.
Ryan: Organized and the Axemen are not synonymous.
Ryan: I lost track of you after 1992. What were you doing after The Axemen wound down? Were you pursuing film and photography?
Stu: In 1992 I hooked up with a couple of dudes and tried to set up a film company. We had two names. One was Eclipse Films. I was making music videos under that name. The other name was Māori: Te Aō Mārama Productions. Under that name we made a documentary about an old Māori woman, Ana Tia, who ran an inner-city marae (communal place). She would help out kids who moved to the city from the country and got into trouble. She would visit them in the jails and teach them traditional Māori waiata (songs) and haka— Māori war dance. That film, Te Whaea: Mother Of Change, ended up going to Leipzig, Germany and won an award. I was responsible for doing these advertising slides for a couple of cinemas in town as well. That was just to bring in cash for the business. I did that for a few years. The business didn’t pan out in the end. It wasn’t very lucrative. After the business ended I decided I wanted to learn more about film lighting. I ended up doing film lighting for ten years or so. I worked on commercials and feature films.
Ryan:Shustak (2009) was a big undertaking for you. I know Shustak died before you completed the film. How long had you been working on the film when he passed?
Stu: Shustak had a heart attack. I was in Europe when it happened. Someone had written to me and told me that he wasn’t well. I thought, “Oh shit. Don’t go yet, old man.” I came back to New Zealand and borrowed a camera from someone. I went down to Christchurch and asked Shustak to do some filming. He wasn’t very keen. I was there for two weeks and I only filmed him once. I went back down a few months later and managed to do one more session with him. I had enough footage to apply for some funding by that point. I wanted to do a small film. I applied for about $16,000. I was actually carrying Shustak’s coffin in Christchurch when the letter was delivered in Auckland saying that I had gotten the funding. Shustak was convinced that I’d never get it. He’d say to me, “No one will give you funding to make a film about me.” I was just focusing on making a small film on Shustak. But then this guy, Elliot Landy—who was the primary photographer at Woodstock—found out that I was doing this film on Shustak. He lives out in New York. Landy said, “Oh, man, you’ve got to come out and film us. We’ve got much more interesting things to say about Shustak than what he told you.” I realized at that point that Landy was right and that the project had suddenly become enormous.
Ryan: Shustak comes across as a very divisive figure in the film. Were you expecting that?
Stu: Shustak was a very important person in my life. I wanted to make something celebrating all of his great photography; I didn’t want his life to go unnoticed. There wasn’t much information on Shustak out there. A few mentions in magazines.
Ryan: There still isn’t much out there on him. You did a great service for him.
Stu: There’s a book coming out with some of his photographs of Ethiopian Jews in it but there’s nothing solid out there on him, focusing exclusively on his work. I doubt I’ll do it. I spent seven years of my life on the film. Someone should pick up the baton and charge with that one. It’d be a big job but someone could put together an incredible book of Shustak’s work. There’s so much material. I’ve scanned thousands of things that he created: photographs, writings and film scripts.
I was going to Europe with this Māori music group a lot between 2002 and 2006. I’d get my return travel to NZ rerouted through USA rather than back through Asia. It cost me another five hundred dollars but it allowed me to stop off in New York and film people like Harvey Zucker from A Photographers Place bookstore and Elliot Landy up in Woodstock. I also filmed Shustak’s family, friends and ex-wives. Some of them were hard to find, living right on the border of Mexico. Shustak was a guy you either loved or hated. His kids all had good and bad things to say about him. His ex-wives didn’t speak too kindly of him. He did some really great photography. For its time and place it was pretty groundbreaking. Nowadays it isn’t but back then it was. He was photographing graffiti and black Jews so long ago.
Ryan: And taking all those great photos of jazz musicians.
Stu: Right. Who knows where all the rest of those jazz photos are? He had a habit of losing stuff. He was a difficult guy to make a film about.
Ryan: An important person in The Axemen story is Tom Lax. How did you meet him?
Stu: Tom visited New Zealand back in 1992. He collected a whole bunch of albums and cassettes—including Axemen LPs and stuff on Bruce Russell’s Xpressway label. Tom had really select taste. Tom came at a time when you could buy rare New Zealand vinyl for quite cheap. He picked up a whole pile of records—albums you pay one hundred dollars for today he was picking up for a couple of bucks. Tom told me how he got interested in New Zealand music. Some record distributor had been stiffing him on some orders he had been putting in for Australian records. Tom got pissed off at this guy. The distributor said, “Hey, I just got a bunch of records in from New Zealand from this label Flying Nun. Do you want those instead?” Tom said, “Okay. Send me two copies of everything that’s good and one copy of everything else.” Of course the distributor sent him two copies of everything. The records all arrived on a Friday. Tom went to see a band play that night with some friends. They got a bit drunk and decided to go back to the record store to listen to this New Zealand crap. They ended up staying at the record store the whole night. Tom played The Axemen’s Three Virgins over and over again that night. It was by chance that he found out about us. When Tom moved from Columbus, Ohio to Philadelphia all of the kids from Columbus would visit him at the Philadelphia Record Exchange and he’d play them The Axemen. I think Jared from Times New Viking was pretty taken by it. Jared told him, “Oh, you’ve got to release something by these guys.” Eventually Tom did.
Ryan: And then you ended up touring with Times New Viking.
Stu: That was an awesome tour. We did about twenty-six shows. Some were great, others were not. The show in Philadelphia was a complete disaster in my opinion, due to someone drinking a whole lot of alcohol. But then a friend of mine in Auckland told me his friend in Baltimore—who had gone out to the Philadelphia show—said that it changed his life. I thought it was the worst show of the tour. Those Times New Viking guys were great. It was a gift to tour with them.
Ryan: You toured Australia in 2011 and released a single with the late Brendon Annesley.
Stu: Yeah, Brendon was a darling. A guy called Samuel Miers and his friend Daniel Oakman have a band called School Girl Report. They had planned to do a music festival at Batemans Bay which is about four hours south of Sydney on the coast. Sam rang me up one day and said, “We’ve only got the budget for one overseas band and we want it to be The Axemen.” I thought that was exciting. Everyone wanted to do it. Bob (Brannigan) had left the band after the American tour. Dragan had been playing with us for years and we added William Daymond on bass—a young guy from Wellington. This whole festival they had planned turned into a nightmare; just the bureaucracy of fire laws and city inspectors, etc. Sam, without missing a beat, organized a tour of Australia for us. He got all of these other bands interested who knew and liked The Axemen. We started in Brisbane. We played with Satanic Rockers, Mad Nanna, Meat Thump, Blank Realm, Cock Safari, xNoBBQx, Circle Pit, School Girl Report and others…
Ryan: We (Spacecase Records) wrote you to release a single but you had so many good songs we went ahead with an LP.
Stu: Yeah. We were trying to squeeze eight songs onto a 7”. It wouldn’t work. Not unless we played them at 16 RPM. We’re still trying to get a tour together. We’re playing it by ear. I’m pretty busy with my current film project.
Ryan: The OMC documentary?
Stu: Yeah. It’s probably the biggest thing I’ve ever taken on. I’m directing and editing it. I’ve also been talking with Mike McGonigal at Yeti. In the last issue of Yeti he included some reproductions of the posters I did back in the ’80s. It was his first full-color issue. He also included a 7” containing a Great Unwashed song “Space Bikie” that was recorded at my old place back in Christchurch. I’ve been talking with Mike for a while about doing a book of old posters from Christchurch from that time period. It wasn’t just me. Lesley MacLean, who’s an old girlfriend of mine, she was a very good screen printer and designer. Ronnie van Hout was another great screen printer. He did posters for The Clean. I reckon it’d be a great project. I’ve got at least fifty Axemen posters at my house alone.
The words and the music/ don’t mean a thing/ listen to the rhythm/ listen to us singing”
“We were trying to impress god and the devil at the same time – hardly the epitome of cool”
– Too Hot to be Cool
Over the almost 30 years they’ve been in (somewhat irregular) existence, George D. Henderson and his band The Puddle have presented a rich array of different identities, to the extent that taking a genre-perspective on the work is comprehensively confounding. From mid-80s origins as a kind of orchestral-psychedelic band through to a current active life as a likeably ramshackle but precise indie pop band (organised with efficiency and care by Henderson’s younger brother Ian, making an international and parallel name for himself with his curation of the Fishrider label), the band has generally followed a set of ideals and ideas all their own. The unifying line-through might be the combination of George’s acutely intelligent songwriting and a capacity to re-invent and revive the band within both the usual and some quite novel constraints, be they financial, technical, emotional or intellectual.
Tonight Avant Gardening presents the first of a comprehensive two-episode trip through the musical history of the Henderson brothers, ranging from art-rock home experiments (as Crazy Ole and the Panthers) in Invercargill in the early 70s through George’s days in Wellington and Christchurch with the And Band and Spies, to the various lineups of the Dunedin-based Puddle, from the 80s big psychedelic band, through 90s pop versions, through to the current day stable line-up featuring the two Hendersons along with Gavin Shaw and Alan Starret.
The first part concentrates on the 70s and 80s, featuring copious rare and unreleased recordings.
1. The Puddle, ‘Let’s Go’ from Live at the Teddy Bear Club (rec 1986, rel 1991)
2. The Puddle, ‘Into the Moon’ from Into the Moon (1992)
3. Crazy Ole and the Panthers, ‘Science Fiction’ (rec 1975)
4. Crazy Ole and the Panthers, ‘This For You’ (rec 1975)
5. Crazy Ole and the Panthers, ‘Guitar Thing’ (rec 1975)
6. Crazy Ole and the Panthers, ‘Rattlesnake Jive’ (rec 1975)
7. Spies, ‘Birdsong’ (rec 1979)
8. Spies, ‘Cats Keep Falling’ (rec 1979)
9. Spies, ‘Lacsydaisical’ (rec 1979)
10. The And Band, ‘Dr Brill’ (rec 1981)
11. The And Band, ‘Lollipop Man’ (rec 1981)
12. The And Band, ‘We Are Right’ (rec 1981)
13. The And Band, ‘Interstellar Gothic’ from spilt 7″ with Perfect Strangers (1981)
14. The And Band, ‘Go Through Hell’ (rec 1981)
15. The And Band, ‘Cloudy Old Day’ (rec 1981)
16. George and Ian Henderson, ‘Weight of the Stars’ (rec 1983)
17. The Puddle, ‘Billie and Franz’ (rec live 1985)
18. The Puddle, ‘Interstellar Gothic’ (rec live 1985)