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:
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.
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.
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.
Day 1 recording at the Taita lockup went handsomely, boding well for the forthcoming Spacecase Records single .
The group, together again for the first time in a while in Wellington learned and laid down 5 soundbed tracks as single candidates in record time, as per usual. This being Day 1 of a 3 day session after which the selection will commence, a process as arduous and gruelling as any Papal selection ritual.
Once the tracks have been selected work will start on overdubbing and production, a painstaking and often grisly set of steps involving adding, cutting, refining and polishing reminiscent of the inner workings of a diamond factory.
Looking forward to Day 2 and subsequent sessions – No serious bloodshed to report as yet.
Steve: Fender Telecaster thru NZ made Hotcake distortion pedal and Marshal JCM 800
Dragan: Gibson Les Paul Junior, Gibson Les Paul through Jet City head thru Laney 4×12 cabinet
US label Spacecase Records is proud to announce they will be releasing the next Axemen 12″ LP – just as soon as it is recorded! Axemen spokesperson Stevie McCabe, speaking from his beach retreat at Te Puru, Coromandel Peninsula, stated: “Me and the lads are over the moon about the Spacecase deal – we can’t wait to record the new material in Wellington later this month!”
The single will feature new material and the 12″ track-list will be finalised after the recording sessions later on this month (February).
“We’ll be recording in the studio and at a special free live recording party at the Mighty Mighty on Wednesday 27th Feb – we’ll use the best of the best of the recordings and we hope to do some writing as well – all in all its going to be super-intense” enthused McCabe.
The recordings and gig will feature the same Axemen line-up which toured Australia in December 2011 – Steve McCabe, Dragan Stojanovic, Stu Kawowski and William Daymond.
The other night I was told, that since I have never left the country I know nothing about what constitutes good taste. I was also told that I was a loser for listening to Pavement. With that being said, I went to Baltimore on Saturday to see a band, who clearly must be shitty, and hung out with a bunch of other losers.
The first two bands, Mr Moccasin and Slow Jerks, are both local products. I only heard two songs from Mr Moccasin, but between that and what I heard on their Myspace, they sounded alright. People, who were there and had seen this band before, said that the group sounded better than they had in the past. I had tried listening to Slow Jerks earlier in the day, but my internet research skills failed me and I found nothing. It’s entirely possible that this was by design, though. Seeing these dudes live, I got the impression that perhaps they wanted to do everything DIY and gradually work their way up. If that’s the case, then props are in order.
The Axemen are from New Zealand, and apparently they formed back in 1981 as a means of protesting the fact that some South African rugby team was playing matches in New Zealand which violated an agreement of some sort. They were pretty tight live, and it wasn’t until the end of the set that I realized that my head had been bobbing the entire time.
This may have been a nervous reaction because early on in the set it occurred to me that the girl from Times New Viking was standing next to me. All the members of the band were in my general vicinity, in fact, and as a result I drank accordingly.
What struck me the most about The Axemen was how they came across as a band with the best of intentions.
It all just seemed so honest. They brought the one dude [Adam Elliot] from Times New Viking up on stage to do a song at one point, and that was pretty rad.
Towards the end, the guitarist took his shirt off and wiped the brow of the lead singer. The best of intentions. The whole set was a good time, and the forty people in attendance all seemed to dig it.
Times New Viking are quite possibly the loudest band that I listen to, and I went to this show to see how loud it could get. It was quite loud, and this was accentuated by the fact that the Talking Head is about the size of a hallway and the only difference between the club and an actual hallway is the fact that the Talking Head has a bathroom.
I had done some preliminary research about what TNV was like live, but all I found was that they get loud and that the drummer talks too much. Looking back, the drummer didn’t say a whole lot once the set got underway so maybe the internets was wrong about that.
TNV might be better live than they are on record.
They are a band of sounds, and that’s awesome on it’s own, but in concert the melodies are much more apparent. I do have to admit that I don’t own the latest record, and it’s entirely possible that they were just playing songs off of it and it’s also quite possible that the new disc is slightly more hi-fi than previous albums. I know for a fact that didn’t play all new songs because I recognized several and also because at one point they said, “Now, we’re going to play some old songs.”
Everyone was into it. There was more moving around at this show then at anything else I’ve seen all year, for the most part.
There was this one girl, and she seemed really tapped into the whole thing. She swayed and spun her way through every song. I think she had her eyes closed, but it didn’t really matter because the way she was dancing it was like an act of surrender. It was like what Nietzsche had described. She was on the edge of the proverbial cliff, but instead of being frightened or concerned, she was reveling in the chaos.
Loving every minute of it, and dancing like it would never stop. It’s how I generally feel on the inside, but since I’m such an uncouth deadbeat unfit for the public, it’s better for me to just keep my head down and try not to piss anyone off.
Well we got the touring wagon today, no Siennas available but we got a KIA 2010 model with 1400 Miles on it and a GPS – now thats what I call golden!
Having got that sorted out we took it for a spin out to Hollywood Forever to see Johnny Ramone’s grave and the Hollywood sign for photo shoot, picked up Humann’s kid Ava, went book-grazing and caught a movie…
If anyone was laying bets on to see who could be chosen to charm this gloomy yet cheerful neck of the woods the odds would probably not have had good pile of winnings had they invested in the dynamic pairing of those vehemently and unapologetically wizened old geezers [The Axemen] with the relatively youthful and still bouncy and vibrant Auckland-based chick and bloke combo [The Hairdos] at the South of the South Islands premiere music venue CHICKS Hotel in Port Chalmers.
Port Chalmers, the idyllic Southern town is of course just a sunny breeze away from that mestasising brooding musical hub of the South, South Dunedin, poorer of the two Dunedins group, and allegedly the inspiration behind Gaylenetm‘s epic poem DUNEDIN.
SD, having spread its gull wings over the Octagon and smearing its majestic leaves outwards in order to imperfectly carpet the rest of the polygonal submetropolis that is Dunedin proper, or ‘the Dunedin Interface’, as hungry commuters wait to devour their buses, taxis and the famous trams and trains bustling through the hurdy-gurdy streets, the better to transport the throngs who have drawn the magic lots to go out and visit the poor cousins in the Charming Port just a stones throw away, has of course now become a touchstone for all visitors interested in getting a taste of the ‘olde’ Dunedin sound and the sights and smells of the city which at once enthralled and appalled those who uptook them in those heady days of the 80’s.
The axemen / hairdos combo has been firing up dancefloors across the island nation of nz since time immemorial (or at least for most of the year 2009) however this was the inaugural trip to the mainland for the follically annointed trio and the first visit across the rubicon of the mighty Kilmog for their adze-wielding cohorts in a number of years.
Upon arrival in Christchurch we were whisked off to our waiting vehicle, then before you know it, we were thru the tunnel and at Lyttelton gasbagging with Maree and Keith on their Volcano Radio Show ‘Pale Green Things’ (see http://volcanoradio.co.nz/ for schedule, http://worldtimezones.com/ for time translation), then off to Roz’s for the traditional sumptuous pre-show dinner before making our way across to the Wunderbar to set up for what was to be an awesome night for an awesomely tiny crowd in an awesome venue in an awesome town.
Wunderbar, Lyttelton Sept 24th
Green Eyed Owl
First up Green Eyed Owl , named from a line from a Chills song, which hints at the direction / audience type they are aiming at [finicky bread thieves whov’e kicked more band members out than Andrew Mehrtens kicked penalties???] They got the look and a tight performance, playing a variety of styles, William Daymond’s trademark Beatles bowl-cut looking not a hair out of place and offset nicely by his chequered scarf, all of which reeked style.
Next up to the plate were the Axemen. Steve having played at the Wunderbar recently with Matt Middleton (accompanied by Loliners backline Mick Elborado and Russel Covini) they were soon down to business in the classic 3-piece lineup of McCabe, Brannigan and Kawowski and giving the tiny crowd their all in their first post-Liz Hairdo gig of recent times… in fact their first gig together in about two months…
The Axemen pared back their sound as though it were a gleaming knife slicing throgh a perfect unblemished avocado, McCabe even pausing to metaphorically stoop down, pluck a hair from his head and proceed to (metaphorically once again) chop it in half with the sound coming from the speakers – i know you could argue that were it extra sharp one could cut it all the way down the middle lengthyways, but to be honest I’ve never been one to split hairs…
Rifling through their gander-bag of songs old and new, as is their wont of late in preparation for their upcoming tour (“Let No Song Remain Unplayed!” McCabe was heard to malevonantly whisper during a break in the proceedings). Hooking through their hookladen hits like Dr Hook in a velcro factory the guys effortlessly pulled off a lean, tight rock show with very little fat on it (“I’m gonna need a cheeseburger after this!” Bob quipped). Steve’s one-note Michael Jackson tribute guitar solo concept is developing and sounding better at each performance. A pleasant surprise to see Bob Brannigan behind the wheel of a full-fledged, fullsize axe once again, having recently been heavily into playing keyboards and ukulele. And as for drums, you could set your watch by Kawowski as usual – in fact it is not widely known that the term ‘New York Minute’ refers to and is defined as “the space between beats in the drum trill at the beginning of ‘Animals Have Rights Too’ “ (recently re-released on the Scary! double LP – Silt Breeze);
And now for those erstwhile barely-out-of-their-teens “I was the first punk in the incubator” angry young people rocking their wayout of the slums and grey streets of Grey Lynn and now to Chch and Lyttelton where the small but feisty crowd generate enough spirited banter and appreciative sounds to emulate a crowd of at least twice the actual size the numbers would indicate.
The Hairdos played a typical highly energised set giving Lyttelton the honour of being the first South Island town to get a taste of the Hairdos, a badge of honour the hardy individuals who made the effort to come along will remember for a lifetime and have many a bartab settled by a buddy coming up to them and saying “Please Great Uncle Steve, you were there – please will you tell us once more about the time you saw the Hairdos the first time they played at the WunderBar in Lyttelton?”
As usual the band follow their high-minded democratic principles and the singing is shared equally between the 3 members, Renee, Luke and Liz.
AXEMEN, HAIRDOS, NOBBQ – WHAMMY BAR, AUCKLAND NZ, NOVEMBER 16 2009
The AXEMEN, or in keeping with their ‘Fair Trade’ and Consumer Guarantees Act commitments more correctly adopting the AXEMIN moniker due to the last minute substitution of teen heartthrob Liz Hairdo on drums in Stu’s place for these gigs while Stu down in the South Island hustling his film and other projects.
For the two-nite Auckland stand featuring two of their stalwart Silt Breeze sidekicks on different nites – xNOBBQx from Brisbane on Wednesday nite at the Whammy bar to a tiny but enthusiastic crowd (think next time they should bring the BBQ – their attempts to show their disdain for the grill so loved by kiwis and aussies alike did nothing to endear them to those in the crowd hungry for prawns, shrimp, hot-dogs, tofu burgers and rock’n’roll).
“Even a sausage sizzle would have been nice” one veteran punter (who looked as if he’d seen more than a few sausage sizzles up close and personally in his time) lamented later.
Fortunately for Auckland, the erstwhile and awesome HAIRDOS and ageing (but still with all their faculties since getting their fillings removed and not using aluminium cooking pots) Axemin emerged as crowd favourites to redeem the evening – It should be noted since playing gigs with the Hairdos in recent times, the Axemin have appeared to be getting noticeably and palpably younger at each gig, following the infusion of post-teen spirit exuded by that band and their followers, in an alarmingly, almost Dorian Gray kind of way.
Sandwiched around xNOBBQx like so much white on rye, the Hairdos played first. Switching their Stranglers / B52s sound mix across to ‘more Stranglers’ setting for the evening (fuzzier and dirtier) the Hairdos played a punchy, poppy, plucky set in their inimitable enthusiastic style, going almost the entire set without a fight – I think that is a record, I know people who go to Hairdos gigs just for the fights, and occasionally run a book on them.
Energetic and snappy as always, the Hairdos style contrasted vividly with xNOBBQx‘s ethereal meandering soundscapes. Conjuring images of aborigines standing on one foot on the outback, tossing a boomerang, blowing a digeridoo and watching re-runs of Evonne Goolagong at the French Open in 1971, these straight-edge ‘stralians evoked images of an eery gum-tree-lined outback road, a camel your only friend.
Next the Axemin. Fresh from being on the door in the early part of the evening Steve and Bob virtually bounded to the stage. the role of Stu for the evening was taken by the gal Auckland society is calling ‘the New Stu’, the Hairdos own Liz Hairdo. After just one practice ‘Stu-do’ and the lads went out and effortlessly knocked it to the pint-sized crowd, and Liz H did perhaps the best impression of Stu I’ve seen since I copped an eyeful of him practicing under his fisheye ceiling mirror (the “objects may be larger than they appear” sticker remaining proudly intact).
AXEMEN, PUMICE, PINK REASON – THE HIGH SEAS, AUCKLAND, NZ NOVEMBER 19 2009
The Axemen feat ‘The New Stu’ (Liz Hairdo):
filling in for Stu Kawowski for 2 Auckland engagements:
This Video from THE HIGH SEAS, Beresford Street, Auckland, 19 Sept 2009
The AXEMEN, chafing at the bit to meet up with and play for their Silt Breeze stablemates The Pink Reason sidled up first for the High Seas gig in Beresford Streed, Newton Auckland. Just a stones throw from the infamous toilets and a brisk walk to K Rd, the surroundings as well as the gig really gave those cornfed Colombus boys something to write home about. Bristling from their successful (artistically if not commercially) Wednesday nite gig Bob and Stu once again gave it their all and Liz NewStu literally never missed a beat.
Once again another noteperfect evening of axemen rockola, if anything enhanced by the injection of some new drumming blood, like stem cells called in to mend a hole.
PUMICE next came on playing a bunch of songs on ‘treated’ guitar with white noise, radio frequencies and memorable lines such as ‘half price for half a chicken’, obviously calling on the audience to metaphorically extend their minds and go outside their aural comfort zones, yet coming back full circle, maybe to bite you on the bum, maybe to serenade you. Mesmeric.
PINK REASON played an immaculate spooky and at times delicate set, sounding quite at home in the intimate venue of the High Seas, the venue tonite showcasing its flexibility as a band venue for artistes playing a wide range of different musical styles. These guys represent the cutting edge of indie rock in America at the moment and they are good buddies with our touring partners on our US tour, Times New Viking. Columbus, Ohio has produced some fine musicians, along with the strapping muscular farmboys [with six-pack abs and rivulets of sweat rolling down the bulging veins and following the smooth curve of their oversized triceps before evaporating away to nothing – are we keepng this in?] it is famous for!
A much better turnout on Friday at the High Seas than the Whammy Bar on a rainy Wednesday I must say…
The Aesthetics, Stevie McCabe and Bastardwisher =—–Wunderbar 28th July 2009
review by a participant.
PART UNO :
“Come together – right Now – Over me.”
Gen X . The original punks, methinks the youngest of the Exers gotta be something like 33 or something. Ands there’s the ageism already. And thats the last of it.
And the Ugly Ambition get’s uglier and uglier and with brill creamed quiff’n’quim in the air and the hooting hops and testosteroney we all thought it would fall to pieces.
But salvage they do and on comes he the Little guy – Littl’ Stevie McCabe and his gat’n’lappy, and blues as is orignal and as if as original and haast pass- haaart felt as you can linen! Blues, riff and mulch! Audio that is – up up up the Stevie! Cause the bastards they wish! And we’ve whipped it awl up! Ballad, plop and Kierkegaardens! Fellow puff knock colour dyke towels! Rockin on over to your best And Band tickle-me-punk! Roster, roster outward bound to be schtoopid in Mickleodeon ! Oi Oi! Harden up! They actually told me to wear a hat! And those ballads and blues sawngs kept -a comin’! And the adrenaline flowed like lava! and mines immunes seeestem did chatter unt chortle. And the nazis and the jews didst fooozball! And the ROXY musics did SHINE! Sax and all! And meaning went home for christmas dinner! Then the bastardwisher set dried up the air and it was special interest sessions abound. Flights of plunder-beato and post-bonk riffer-refer-ama all making us blush and sneer. Blush and heave-ho ‘harden-up’ skin skin oi oi ‘this ain’t ’76’ bitches snitches and ditches. Jobs and slobs. Hogs and Dogs. Ruffle the feathers of Sunni england. Because opium is live and dangerous and the answer to all you prayers. As is Saint Barnaby. Tracker. Akka Dakka. And next was The Aesthetics. Ruffed up and tuffed up and seering. And oh the agony. And I wanna thank ya.
“…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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Following the flames of resurgence in punk music in Auckland being fanned by the wind from beneath the wings and between the buttocks of the recent phenomenally successful and oversubscribed AK87 gigs, Dogs Bollix new years eve gig, North Shore kids parties and others, punk in Auckland is once again rearing its ugly (or is more often the case on the isthmus, cutesy) head.
Opening proceedings were the Smokin’ Daggers, Mr Tolley and his cohorts providing a typically energetic set; Tolleys guitar slung so low it conjures the image of a cricket player sizing up a yorker, the band knocking out the singles throughout the over and setting off the odd spinner, occasionally pushing out to the boundaries.
Closing off after a respectable innings, the mostly well behaved crowd expressed their approval and the band members melted into the crowd.
Next up were the Hairdos, Grey Lynn’s next big thing. The vibrant three piece hammered out their trademark edgy punk-pop numbers with their usual irrepressible glee to an appreciative audience.
The movie theatre foyer-themed movie theatre foyer venue suited the hairdos (pronounced hare-doos) music to a tee, you could almost imagine the torches and spilt popcorn as they played and jaffas rolled freely about during their show.
“That has to be one of the whackiest Axemen gigs we’ve ever played!” Stu Kawowski was heard to pronounce at the end of the Axemen’s set.
“Snailclamps closing was pretty whacky…” chimed in Steve.
“One of the whackiest gigs I remember” qualified Stu.
The Axemen, dormant for 15 years but exploding back on the scene in Auckland like an eighth volcano in a training run for their upcoming US tour with indie rockers Times New Viking came along tonight to see if they could out-punk all the young punks, all the young dudes, the brothers and sisters young enough to be their sons and daughters, the movers, the shakers, the young ones.
Airing out some of the more ascerbic and acrid tracks from their bulging back-catalog (‘Animals have rights too’ [from the soon-to-be-re-released on Vinyl ‘Scary!’ LP], ‘Big Cheap Motel’, ‘J.O.R.J’, ‘Money’ to name a few), the Axemen’s tiny overdriven amps were swamped by the booming drums and vocals for the most part giving the show an almost acapella feel, with Bobs keyboards and Steve’s guitar squeaking out in the (infrequent) drum breaks from pentarion beatmaster Stu Kawowski, still pounding the skins like he was 25.
“We really gotta get some bigger amps” commented Bob after the show.
“Its the thought that counts” Steve muttered cryptically.
In 1999, Marty Sauce and the Source’s principal songwriter and G.I.C.S.N. conceptual guru Davey G approached Little Stevie McCabe about doing the soundtrack arrangements for his visionary (but alas unreleased – until now!) apocalytic concept album and rock opera, tentatively entitled “This is WWIV!”*
The libretto for this ethereal and ungodly masterpiece revolves around the epic journey of a young shepherd boy ‘Hombreo’ (to be played by a clean-shaven Marty Sauce) to the city after he sees a nuclear missile launch from the hills of his homeland, where he is tending his sheep.
In the still of the clear Afghani night Hombreo can see its trajectory for miles with crystal clarity, and follows it with his keen shepherds night vision [his eyes being locally referred to as so-called ‘sheep seeking missiles’] to its destination, where he sees an awe-inspiring and terrible sight; a huge white-orange flash followed by a billowing mushroom-shaped pillar of smoke rising in slow motion over the horizon like a startled king cobra emerging from its basket, shimmering against the rhinestoned velvet wallhanging which is the desert sky.
“Red Sky at night, shepherds delight” he murmers to the assembled throng of sheep, now huddled, shivering, at the base of his rough-hewn towelling and sackcloth candlewick bedspread.
Hombreo takes off for the city and has his shepherd-boy eyes opened clockwork-orange style, real horrorshow like, by the myriad bestial and despicable sights he sees along the way, culminating in the grand finale, which takes plays in the lair of the bald, beclawed and bewildered Iron Eagle. Afight ensues ansd the inevitable happens.
Hombreo at first tries to behead, then is bemused by, then finally befriends the metallic bird, and together they rule the land forever from 1000 feet below the scorched earth at ground level.
In the bathroom of the Clifford flats in Colombo Street Christchurch, tiny but complete with actual bath, number 1000 and something and housing some of the most dynamic musicians and artists in the city at this time (around 1984) lies still to this day a faded and weary print, the last remaining remnant of the way Johnny Segovia would have looked had he not stopped looking his age when he turned 25.
In photo after photo since this time Segovia’s appearance in real life is virtually and spookily unchanged, an uncanny throwback to his 60s roots, still looking the same today as when he graced the stage with legends such as the new zealand elvis, Johnny Devlin, and the master himself, Ritchie Venus. The haunting print itself reveals a greyed, withered image, frail as a mountain goat on an alp pass, weak at the knees and trembling like a forty-year-older version of himself. This is the price to be paid for doing a deal with the devil and becoming the legend that is johnny segovia.
The print itself is now faded almost beyond recognition, each day the hair gets a little greyer, the wrinkles a little deeper, the horror of the image reflecting what might have been had the great one not pledged his troth to the king demon, diablos himself, the great wanderer, the king of the mix, monsieur el demono, il diablo, the five headed monster, the sulky beast, the kidder of all kidders, the goat with no head, the fleeceless lamb, the white nigger, the bleached blackman, the go with the flow te aro flow know what you know but take what you have to go to and fro, to and fro, hey ho let’s go!
Tables turned, as scary as it may be, no matter his fame and prowess in the bedroom, all the fame and adulation, it all comes down to the Markie spirit and the legend which will live on forever, the little kiwi battler who thinks he’s an Aussie, the nigger who thinks he’s white, the rocker who effortlessly plays country, the trailer trash who can’t pull a trailer… the guy we wish we all could be but most of us are too scared to try.
For those about to rock, we salute you.
Johnny Segovia, the scapegoat for which there is no equal except for the umbilical scapegoat of Mephistopheles (depicted at right) – Holy Saints I can’t believe that’s not yak’s butter!
In 2007 Jeff and Steve McCabe decided to reform their family two-piece and do a tour of the hotspots of Beijing, long a stronghold of their Asia-Pacific fan-base.
At the same time Steve, a long time poster aficionado, wanted to study and practice the art of the communist propaganda poster, the better for indoctrinating the uninitiated back home in Godzone.
We were met at the airport (pre-Olympics, a barn-style affair populated mainly by peasants with their hopeful blackboards “Mr Smith” , “Ms Jones” etc., the more ambitious of them adding “China world tours” or “Trans Europe Express” to add credibility to their cause) by Mao’s former mistress Mao Gon Get Sum (her by-line: “Oh yeh another thing, I just luv klaftwerk, can you get me on the next tlain to eulopa?”)
Hearing her voice reminded me of my failures in the past, especially the way they accented themselves whenever an emotional/important bit came up – i dunno how it does it but it do. now thats just getting tacky, fool.
Anyway, Mao Gon took us the very next day to the aaaaal right honky tonk women market in downtown beijing (simply ‘southside’ to locals)
There was much speculation in the 80’s regarding the Axemen and their cronies loyalty to their country, especially when it came to their fraternisation with potentially seditious elements and the protest movement in civil uprisings such as the 1981 Springbok Tour and Homosexual Law Reform citizen actions.
New Zealands equivalent of the Secret Service, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) were known to be taking an interest in the group and there were clicks on the phone, sporadic police raids on practice sessions and unusual activity in the bushes outside their abodes on more than occasion (although sometimes that was just Bob and Kevin Hawkins).
The SIS, an inspiration for the name of the band the Spies, were very active around this period, having been unleashed in 1987 by drunken megalomaniac Prime Minister Robert Muldoon (PM 1975-1984) to act as his personal goon squad (until he sanctioned the Red Squad and Blue Squad to enforce virtual martial law in 1981).
Muldoon used the Springbok Tour as an excuse to thumb his nose at the Gleneagles agreement in a way which was later copied by George W Bush and the PATRIOT Act in reaction to 9/11) , quelling and ripping apart anyone opposing his grand and overbearing schemes.
Little wonder the SIS took an increased interest in stirring and seditious activities when 22 year old anarchist Neil Roberts who took it upon himself to try and destroy the Wanganui computer, repository of the dossiers the government held on each and every New Zealand citizen.
The sombering message he left on the wall before blowing himself to smithereens “We have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity” was an inspiration to the Axemen and had a light-speed bone-chilling effect on Steve McCabe who immediately recorded and released a tribute to the act under the name of the Sydenham Ois, citing the phrase and the chilling wording of Roberts prophetic tattoo “This punk won’t make 23”.
[mp3s here when located]
Roberts became an icon to many and still inspires a new generation of anarchists when they hear the story, and events are often held in his honour in New Zealand in much the same way as Guy Fawkes is commemorated in England.
This STEREO post, in STEREO, celebrates two great bassplayers who brought a whole lot of bottom to the Axemen sound (examples of which are included as mp3s below, in STEREO) and inspired the band totally and permanently…totally and permanently…totally and permanently…
Bass Face #1: M. S. Agro, the taxman in the Axemen
M. S. AGRO was Mick Elborado, who played in early 80s Christchurch group Drowning Is Easy and from 1982-6 was part of the incredible Scorched Earth Policy, a band about whom Stu, Steve & Bob soon made their own policy—never to miss them in action.
Stu: Buck from Scorched Earth Policy saw Axemen play at the Star & Garter and invited us to play with them. Stevie was impressed because he’d seen Buck before hanging around the pub laughing with a bunch of people and he commented, “Looks like we’re in with the gentry, now.” Bob of course totally mishears Steve and thinks SEP are Bobbie Gentry’s backing band.
Steve: Comes the gig with SEP, Brannigan is late, Stu & I are trying to calm down the audience going, “We’ll start when our buddy from South Dunedin gets here; must be having a rough time crossing the Rakaia bridge, etc.” Mick offered to fill in & so we started playing, Bob finally arrives & he’s got all these Bobbie Gentry LPs he brought up with him on the bus to see if he can get their autographs on. Mick played the whole set with us & Bob kept on trying to get him to play ‘Ode To Billie Joe,’ only Mick totally mishears & starts playing ‘Billie Jean.’ After that we saw his band play, they were spookily good & Bob had this weird puzzled look on his face. Mick played bass with us for a couple of months after that.
Bob: The first time I saw Scorched Earth Policy, I think I’d been drinking coffee wine & they just made complete sense, but in a really scary way. They were all these things that I thought it would take a band years to become, so fierce & focused, & really distinctly their own sound (& I think they’d only been together a short time by then), no Bobbie Gentry stuff at all. I was convinced they must all be psychotic. But when they weren’t playing they seemed like these really low-key relaxed people. Maybe they were allergic to their audience, like Superman & kryptonite, and SEP had to erect these sonic barriers simply to be able to stand there long enough to play some songs. Then by the time they finished playing they’d be sapped of their superpowers and just wander around chatting and drinking like nothing weird had gone on. Stevie & I dubbed this manner the Scorched Earth Policy “tic” or SEPtic, and devoted long hours (the 80-minute ones) to uncovering its secret. These sessions became known as the SEPtic Think-Tank. When their DUST TO DUST record came out, around 1984, we conducted numerous Vulcan mind-melt exercises using it as soundtrack and concluded that while we enjoyed coffee wine (the Think-Tank morphed into a Drink-Tank pretty fast), those Scorchers must’ve been drinking radioactive blood.
* * *
ON WITH THE MUSIC . . .
mouldie (leg story) excerpt (stereo)
— this is just under 2 minutes of a song that sometimes went on longer than 10 (see below). Luckily someone turned the tape on and got this much, as it’s a fine example of early axemenomena and Mick is playing bass all over it, in a hurry that is pure Agro, frantic but precise. Live from the Gladstone, Christchurch, New Year’s Eve 1983.
shirt-cuffed like a bladder (stereo)
— Mick pins this song down from the getgo and the way his riff melds with Stu’s propulsive chug is so Vulcan it has pointy ears and finds ordinary humans fascinating though illogical. Then the six million dollar man theme staggers out of Steve’s guitar. There’s a version of this on MICK’S DANCEFLOOR (MIX) but that’s a combined live/studio splice; this one is all live (it’s alive!) at the Star & Garter, the first time Mick played with the band, November 4, 1983, and quite likely the first time he ever heard this song.
The next two songs are live from the gig postered above, the Flying Nun Recording Party (affectionately known as the Flying Fuck) held at the Gladstone on 10 December 1983. That gig probably merits a post of its own (anyone?), but let’s stick with Mick for now. Earlier that same day he rehearsed with the Axemen and saxophone addict Arthur Sheep, ostensibly learning a batch of new songs but fortuitously stumbling upon oblique nongenre sci-psy-sigh-fi spacepunkjazz while they were at it (see & hear the ETHER BREATHER HABITAT post, currently available in mono but eventually to be rejigged in STEREO). Mick’s spirited playfulness in combination with the Sheep’s playful spiritedness excited the others so much that they deliberately didn’t practice a new song of Steve & Bob’s called “Pulp For The Masses” but played it at the gig anyway. The sheer amount of sound the band generated for their half-hour set that night had been equaled at some earlier freak-outs (and once at a love-in), but it had never been recorded before on anything bigger than a walkman. The other big part of the excitement about the gig was that each set would be recorded on an 8-track reel-to-reel, and for many if not all of the bands who performed, the prospect of getting their material down via such hi-tech wizardry was intoxicating enough, never mind the coffee wine, the ether, the codeine, the beer. Of the 9 songs Axemen played, 8 were caught on 8-track, and the last song, “The Yeasty Mayor,” turned up on the last side of the THREE VIRGINS 2LP released by Flying Nun 2.5 years later. Meanwhile back at the Flying Fuck, notice the atomic-blood-slurping Scorched Earth Policy were on the bill SO MICK PLAYED TWICE! Even the guy’s aura is in STEREO. . .
Fastforward about a month to a riotous gig at the Star & Garter on 7 January, 1984. Wellington punk stirrers the Barbaric Bunnies (notorious for their Shirley Bassey-inspired poke at mere males called “Hey Big Wanker!”) came to town and their shared show with Axemen was promoted in the local press as featuring “Two All-Women Bands.” On-stage that night, Bob quipped to the audience, “Obviously there was some sort of mistake in the newspaper ad; one would hardly describe the Barbaric Bunnies as women.”
the zit (stereo)
— this starts off sounding remarkably like “The Yeasty Mayor” but Mick’s bouncing 2-note drill, Stu’s falling-down-the-stairs dactylologisms, the Sheep’s sebum-drenched saxblowing, the eerie twin-guitars-as-dying-walrus element and Stevie’s indecipherable lyrics give it a distinct identity of its own.
Jump back to 28 November 1983 and this sizzling set from the Gladstone. The live mix is by Hamish Kilgour, who can be heard at several points trying to identify the source of a raucous storm of feedback & radio noise, concluding correctly that it was Stevie’s FM-wave-transmitting guitar interfering with the p.a.
a wall of sound (stereo)
—another song that exists as a “studio” version on the MICK’S DANCEFLOOR (MIX) album, but this live take takes the cake, eats it, poops it out, bleaches the poop and folds it all back into the cake, only to repeat the process, totally & permanently. “One of Steve’s best songs ever, and Stu & Mick are complete monsters on it”—Bob.
mouldie (leg story) (stereo)
— this is a full-length version of the song fragment this post started with, recorded live at the Gladstone two nights later, on 2 January 1984. The performance is a mimetic enactment of the Axemen-with-M. S. Agro gestalt & this recording serves as its perfect snapshot for-all-time and a fine highlight to end this short introductory survey of one great bassplayer’s input into the band’s evolution-revolution. Mick’s bass climbs & climbs but never reaches the top, and his playing sounds just as energetic after 9 minutes as it does after 9 seconds. At a point about 8 mins 20 secs in, the weirdly processed guitars sound like a flock of angry birds attacking Artie’s laughing-clown sax. Stu drums like crisco (a cross between disco & Crass), cuing Stevie to start reciting “Nagasaki nightmare.” The whole thing seems to end about 2 mins before it actually does, and a lot of weirdness is generated by the mixers, the guys from Say Yes To Apes, who’d played an inspiring set earlier on that same night (future post idea! They Came From Even Further South Than South Dunedin – The Unbelievable Truth About Say Yes To Apes & The Invercargill Diaspora).
Early on in 1984 Scorched Earth Policy activity required Mick’s undivided attention and he would play bass live with the Axemen only a handful more times, such as at the Hagley Park Summer Festival Big M incident on January 14 that formed the basis of protest album BIG CHEAP MOTEL. He would also appear as a special guest on some of the tracks on THREE VIRGINS recorded the following year. His involvement in the Axemen was only a redhot splinter from the huge blazing log that is his musical career (see also Richie Venus & The Blue Beetles, The Terminals, Dadamah, Gas, Space Dust, etc), but it embedded itself in the group’s soft flesh, festered, and became a permanent cyst; stab it with your steely knives all you might, you will not kill the legend of M. S. Agro, the bass beast.
Bass Face #2: Gordo Baird, the mysterious Nodrog
As almost absolutely nothing is known about the mysterious Nodrog (the gentle giant sometimes called Gordo, claimed by some to be one Gordon Baird, possibly the offspring of painter Annie Baird, perhaps an old South Dunedin buddy of Bob Brannigan’s, hypothetically vegan, potentially linked to crucial South Dunedin sound groups such as (speculatively speaking, of course) Circadian Deregulation, Atomic Radio, White Noise, and The Earthlings, quite likely related to lead-guitarist B. B. Ryan, supposedly a teenage motorcyclist, conjecturally a long-distance hitchhiker, presumably present at the final ever gig at Snail Clamps in Palmerston North in 1985, enigmatically absent from the State Trinity Theatre THREE VIRGINS recording sessions earlier that same year, surmisably a participant in the Axemen-Nux Vomica tour of Nelson & the West Coast in 1986, postulatively a non-drinker, theoretically a victim of guitar-theft, putatively a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix, maybe at present a music teacher at a prestigious school), little remains to be said.* He is definitely present on the following made-in-Christchurch recordings, all from August-September 1984, and he certainly plays bass throughout. If anybody reading this can locate the mysterious Nodrog, Gordo or Gordon Baird, the Axemen want to hear from him, totally & permanently. Now listen on. . .
*This article about a beloved fellow traveller with the Axemen is a nub. You can help Y2K by embigifying it. Please deposit relevant info via Leave a Comment below.
happy birthday bernadette (stereo) the key to happiness (stereo; some source damage but if that hinders your enjoyment you’re at the wrong site altogether that’s no lie) first few bars (i went into) (stereo)
— Recorded at Peterborough St again, 15 September 1984, in preparation for Bernadette Smith’s 21st birthday party (hence selection #1). Sounds like Gordo’s bumped up the volume on his amp this time, and the hearifiable presence of Al Right on high-flying sax urges the mysterious Nodrog on to some deep bottomdwelling profundity. This same session produced the cool song “The Mind,” but it’s time up now for the first BASS/OFF, so that shall wait for a future post.
Thanks to Mick & Gordo, all the best wherever you may be now.
As requested, here are the tracks from the flipside of The Perfect Strangers: Not To Be Taken cassette, labelled as And Band: Outhern. Being that the track titles are in Kawowski’s inimitable handwriting, let’s assume that the cassette is a dub he made from an original compilation by Lindsay Maitland, that came into Stu’s possession c.1984.
The Outhern tracks were recorded in 1981 at Bealey Ave, Christchurch, after Richard Sedger had left, though he may play on some.
The bonus track (March of the Stronghold) was recorded in 1981 at the High St practice room that Perfect Strangers ‘Not to be Taken’ was recorded at.
Some ‘Outhern’ tracks were recorded there too, at least pretty sure ‘March of the Stronghold’ was.
EFS is a reference to Can’s ethnological forgery series. A series of tracks on Can albums, known as “Ethnological Forgery Series”, abbreviated to “E.F.S”, demonstrated the band’s ability to successfully recreate ethnic-sounding Music:. – Wiki.
Tracklist details updated 3 May 2017, after consultation with G.D.H.
This is a postcard-size reproduction of the large (A0) classroom poster prepared in the early 1990s by Axemen for use in NZ schools. Stevie was barely out of school himself when the band’s first few gigs took place in Dunedin in 1983, but when he moved into gainful employment later that year as a screenprinter, there was a younger-still McCabe within spitting-distance, clutching his drumsticks and singing up a storm, waiting for the call to step up onto the world’s stage and join the Axemen in their utopian South Dunedin of the mind . . .
Introducing Little Stevie McCabe’s little brother, Even Littler Jeffy McCabe
Jeff played alongside 15-year-old Steve in the Spiderwebs, based in the Hell Farm Party Shed, where they made up songs, rehearsed and recorded. They supported Steve’s band with Pete Rees, the Gorillas, when Virg and Bernie Smith and Lisa Preston attended a live gig at the shed in the summer of 1982. The team here at Y2K hasn’t yet uncovered any Spiderwebs tapes from the various vaults and stashes at their disposal, but plans to undertake a careful search that may involve a bus trip in the near future.
Jeff next joined Steve & Bob’s pre-Stu proto-Axemen when they recorded the SCENES LIKE BEADS cassette at Hell Farm early in September of 1983. He sings his own lyrics on the following songs from that set. . .
I ran through the flames
We weren’t playing games
I ran through the burning forest
All day long
—Jeff’s vocals are on fire; Bob & Steve play along on guitar & trumpet.
jack the ripper
Jack the ripper took off his slipper
He pushed me from the back and I shouted, “Look at that”
—Jeff profiles the infamous Victorian killer to an incongruously jaunty South Dunedin reggae rhythm supplied by Steve & Bob. It must be getting late in the day at Hell Farm, since the TV is on and Fawlty Towers can be heard in the background.
The next three songs all come from a session recorded at Hell Farm on October 22, 1983, featuring Jeff-Steve-Bob calling themselves The Dugong Stones. They recorded 7 songs. Two days later the Axemen with Stu on drums and drum-machine played their single live gig at Hell Farm (the band was about to get its first taste of the Christchurch pub scene, from which it would barely return alive), sharing the Party Shed’s concrete floor with The Dugong Stones as they played their one & only show. Jeff mostly drummed for the Dugongs, as he does on the next two tracks, but he returns to sing his own lyrics on the third. . .
Jeff returned as a guest on the MICK’S DANCEFLOOR (MIX) album, playing a recorder & singing another of his own lyrics, “In A Forest,” recorded again at Hell Farm in early November. This time Stu drums while Bob & Steve add guitars to Jeff’s typically spooky tale of what befell him and his greyhound dog in a tree-filled space. in a forest
In January of 1984 Jeff’s political sensibilities were awakened as he took part in the Axemen’s BIG CHEAP MOTEL protest album project, joining the band onstage at Hagley Park to add his inimitable drumming to the instruments & voices raised in defiant opposition to a blatant display of soulless big-money sexism. Not yet 10 years old, he rocked the complacent anti-consciousness of Chri$tchurch corp(se)orate capitali$m like he was 10 feet tall.
Jeff continued to appear infrequently with the Axemen throughout 1984, for instance at the England St and Carlyle St hall gigs, a series of Saturday & Sunday shows at unlicensed venues which became something of a focal point for the many underage innercity punks with often diverging concerns, briefly united in the cause of celebrating the marriage of noise, humour & multiple viewpoints which the gigs embodied at their best. The “something for everyone” quality of the hall shows is evident in the following roll-call of bands & performers who took part: Scorched Earth Policy, All Fall Down, Gillmen, McGoohans, Connossieurs, Octopus Ink, Toerag and others (apologies to those not named; Y2K will update this list when further information arrives).
At a rehearsal for the Carlyle St Hall gig in September, Jeff’s next two songs were recorded. Stu K was in Absentia, the mystical Mexican village. Jeff, Stevie & Bob are joined on both tracks by Gordo Nodrog Baird, bass, & Al Rite, sax.
i don’t have the energy
—Jeff’s awareness remains strong; his lyrics combine canny punk nay-saying with a self-deprecating shrug at the #1 pitfall injuring punks of all stripes, apathy.
—Long before notions of lo-fi & no-fi became ideological hobbyhorses, Axemen adopted the preferred homonyms sci-fi, psy-fi & sigh-fi to telegraph (1) their enthusiasm for science-fictional alternatives to the moribund hegemony, (2) their faith in the telepathic potential of musical communication, and (3) their willingness to inhabit a sound-continuum conducive to expressing the pleasures & pains (sigh!) inherent in all life-choice interactions. Jeff’s unsophisticated nod to the alien constitutes a “welcome, come on in” to the once-feared “other” and deftly fuses the diverse elements at play in the Axemen collective sci-psy-sigh-psyche.
So thanks again for the music to Jeff McCabe; he may have been the littlest of the Axemen, but his contribution was huge.
It was the end of the seventies, the start of the eighties in fact, I remember just like it was yesterday, a frightened 15-year-old struggling into my clown costume to raise the spirits of my brothers and sisters in the struggle, too poor to afford a motorbike helmet so I sellotaped a couch cushion to my head (of course being from South Dunedin it was scotch tape not sellotape), arm-in-arm that grey day outside Carisbrook, the tears stinging the spots on my face, my throat so hoarse I could barely summon one more rousing cry of “Amandla Nawehu”— it was then that the mass political consciousness of my fellow citizens planted the seed of true solidarity in my sensitive virgin male mind and I looked up into the eyes of Steve Biko hovering above me on a placard and I felt the thrill of communion with the anxious stirrings of an even younger lad, a pale, frail, snub-nosed white boy who was also called Steve, who at that moment was wearing his checked pants and oversized yellow raincoat and tapdancing like mad, singing like a bird, using his undeniable God-given talent for entertaining to rally the sinking demeanours of his wounded comrades simultaneously exercising their right, no, DUTY, to oppose racist pigs and fascist cops in that Avon-girdled punting playground of the north, the garden city named for the son of god and the house in which he is rightfully worshipped, ChristChurch, because as I choked back a cry of pain while P.C.Hitler-Redneck took me from behind by grabbing the elastic holding my innocent plastic red nose (symbolising not only joy and humour, but Communism and the Socialist Workers’ State which I had totally committed myself to) and savagely kept going down on me with his hard truncheon, I looked for one more fleeting instance into the proud eyes of the noble African martyr and thought, like Peter Gabriel said, “The man is dead, the man is dead,” and suddenly I knew, I could HEAR/SEE/TASTE/SMELL/FEELall at the same time that the VERY SAME THOUGHTS WERE RUNNING THROUGH THE HEAD OF MY BUDDY STEVE UP NORTH (only he was at a rally in support of homosexual law reform by then, because he went there straight after he finished cheering up the protestors at the rugby match, because he was also totally committed), and I remembered suddenly how he had been nagging me to learn to play the guitar because then we would be able to, in his words, “Stick it to the man!” like we really meant it (and we did mean it, we completely MEANT it) and I knew then that music was the answer, that if people like Peter Gabriel could sing about people like Steve Biko and inspire ordinary working-class folk like me and my buddy Steve (and I’d like to mention Bruce Springsteen, too, because he never took any shit from THE MAN either) then we could study to play our instruments and hopefully one day (but hopefully not “In The Year 2525” one hopes!) inspire other young male virgins to fight oppressive racist regimes as well as sexist patriarchy rules and police state anti-drugs LIES and all cops everywhere where human beings should be living together in harmony as one. If you can still hear me, Steve, I thought, concentrating on the Vulcan mind melt technique that he had written to me about and I admittedly had scoffed at (but not to his face), but that now I realised was scientifically founded on fact and could be verified in a lab, “if you can hear me Steve,” I said out loud, as the burly policeman pulled me off with his jeering mates, “let’s start that band you were talking about, let’s STICK IT TO THE MAN with…ROCK’N’ROLL!!” And Steve’s vulcan-mind-melt antenna quivered briefly the reply, SUNG, rather than spoken, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope one day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”
Found these on a Christchurch City Council Libraries website of all places . . .
The first is from late 82 or early 83, advertising a gig at the infamous Empire Tavern in Dunedin. This poster was scrapped together from old posters and other art by Stu and whacked out in a night at the notorious Ink Inc. studio at 2/222 High St, Christchurch. Above Ground was the band Stu was in with Bill Direen, Carol Woodward and Maryrose Wilkinson (now M. Crook in The Renderers), while the Gorillas were 16-year-old Stevie’s high-school group whose other half was comix-maestro-to-be Pete Rees. They travelled down from Christchurch for the gig. The Cartilage Family was Peter Gutteridge, Shayne Carter & Christine Voice’s then-band, locals we’d befriended over the years.
Stevie said to me afterwards, as he sipped his post-set lemonade and we watched Above Ground, “Darn it, but I wish we could find a drummer like that old geezer.” “Aye laddie, he’s no Ringo Starr, but he just might be that John Lennon’s love-child.”
The second is maybe months later, from Christchurch, this time promoting an Above Ground gig and the release of their home-made tape GONE AIWA. This is vintage (nay, prehistoric!) Stu. Note particularly the cassette-as-icon, bio-diverse animal imagery (2 mammals, 2 birds), totemic nouns (Aztec, Leadbelly) & recycled typography. On view then are 3 key elements of the art/craft livelihood practised by the evolving Homo Axemenus (self-released product + cassette format + grand poster style) in nascent form. [BB, paleoaxeologist]