Homebrew Boy meets Château de McCabe

Business card designed and printed by Steve'n'Stu for promotion of Steve's boutique Chateau de McCabe coffee wine range.
Business card designed and screen-printed by Steve’n’ Stu for promotion of Stevie’s premium boutique Château de McCabe coffee wine range (see love potion below).

The design effectively simulates a chromic equivalent of the liver-crippling psychedelic effects experienced from guzzling one dose (500ml or 1 pint) of sweet, yeasty, speedy caffeine-infused Château de McCabe. Screen-printed at INK INC, sky blue on ƒluoro orange card c.1984.

Click below to see the quasi-instructional film “Drink For The Heart, Heart For The Road”, the soundtrack of which is the McCabe ditty of the same name. (This is probably the Fassbinderesque peak of Lawrence Lens’s celluloid involvement with AXEMEN).

The “how to” theme of 1985’s “Screen Printing” is carried over and combined with priceless historical reportage and hallucinatory fantasy scenes at McCabe’s unsanitary pad in Christchurch. His school-boy beginnings as a backyard brewer have by this stage guaranteed a constant supply of 1.5 litre (3 pint) “sleek botts” bulging with a murky form of liquid amphetamine (a.k.a. coffee wine).

McCabe reclining at Château de McCabe amongst the sleek botts.
McCabe reclining at Château de McCabe amongst the sleek botts.

Occasionally (due to fancy, budgetary constraints, or experimental urges), frozen free-flow carrots, peas and corn were also utilised. But it was the “Château de McCabe” coffee wine which jump-started the boys after a pre-gig snooze on the dance-floor during the previous act; the legendary slurry* powered them through many glorious gigs up and down the emerald isles.

The Gut shows off Stu’s brew: “Steve inspired” San Pedro cactus wine.

*slurry |ˈslərē|noun ( pl. -ries) a semiliquid mixture, typically of fine particles of manure suspended in water. ORIGIN late Middle Southerish : related to dialect slur [liquid guano], of unknown origin.

The Axemen – Bus boys from way back

The long association of The Axemen with the buses of Otago probably began with their featuring role in Wilma McCorkindale’s seminal book on the subject, Otago Road Services Ltd – A Brief History.

While researching the book McCorkindale became fascinated (some would say obsessed) with these ‘frequent flyers’ and would chat with them for virtually the entire journey between Christchurch and South Dunedin, which by 1983 was a regular occurrence.

The venerable 1968 Starliner coach which ferried the lads and served as tour bus, writing room, coffee wine drinking establishment and muse became the Axemen’s second (and in Bob’s case, first) home throughout the mid-80s, and was later featured in the Axemen’s short-lived New Zealand version of the long-running British TV Series “On the Buses.”

The programme, though critically regarded as a Pinteresque masterpiece, became yet another casualty of Rogernomics, New Zealand’s pathetic but ruthless imitation of Thatchernomics and Reaganomics—this type of sycophantic replication of dumb-ass overseas trends continues to this day unfortunately, reaching a possible new low recently with New Zealand versions of “Wheel of Fortune,” “The Weakest Link” and “American Idol” (brilliantly re-packaged as “New Zealand Idol”).

On The Buses with the Axemen
On The Buses with the Axemen (TV Series 1983-84). Promo shot circa 1983 courtesy South Pacific Television - Kiaora Kiwi and Cat!

To say these programmes are a crock is doing a harsh disservice to crocks everywhere, and perhaps the Axemen’s brief glimmer in the spotlight as TV stars was its only redeeming feature; but I digress.

The demise of the show did have one lasting benefit – it gave the lads much more time to concentrate on honing their songwriting, performing, spray-painting, screen-printing and self-promotion skills, and forced them to extend their minds further.

The Bus Association continues today - Tour Groups still take the bus around Christchurch to visit various Axemen Points of Interest
The Axemen bus association continues today - Tour Groups still take the bus around Christchurch to visit various Axemen "Points of Interest"

Through experimentation with early blends of coffee wine (brewed by Steve and locally known as ‘Co-Wi’ [pronounced ‘Kowhai’ like the native New Zealand flower], which McCabe was always trying to perfect), alongside other powerful psychoactive agents, the songs really began to flow at this time, and the legendary banter and verbal interactions which were the staple of the show now became the Axemen’s trademark—many a club manager or promoter remember ruefully being on the sharp end of one of the lads’ papercut-on-the-eyeball retorts.

Posted By Little Stevie McCabe

DIRT GAME MIX

aka Return to the Planet of “A Scar Is Born”

Map 2a: Axemen in Christchurch, Jan-Aug 1984

By January 1984, McCabe and Brannigan share a house in Peterborough St, inner-city Christchurch, with Steve’s then-girlfriend Virg, her sister Bernie, and Lisa Preston. Notice how said house is positioned: almost on a straight line almost equidistant from two pubs, the Gladstone and the Star & Garter, where the Axemen will play repeatedly over the next 6 months (with or without instruments).

Celia scores some flagons on Sunday at The Gladstone c.1988 (NB. Pubs in NZ were not allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays at that time).
Celia Pavlova Mancini scores some flagons one Sunday out the back door of the Gladstone c.1988 (NB. it was against the law to sell alcohol on Sundays in those days).
Earliest known pic of Kawowski's first kit at Mollet St studio (Pre-Axemen, pre_INK INC) 1980
1980 pic of Kawowski & first kit at his Mollet St screen-print studio (pre-Axemen).
Stu & the lovely Maryrose rooftop at their Colombo St pad late '82

Kowalski lives downtown in an upstairs pad (no lily-pad, but surprisingly sanitary) on Colombo St, next door to a brothel; he also keeps a workshop, by day an anonymous triangular lockup on the 13th floor of an unassuming tower block on High St, by night the location for hours of screenprinting (posters, stickers, t-shirts, album covers), tape-testing (after recording sessions at members’ homes and live performances), breezeshooting, pisstaking and all-round byyourwitsliving. It is INK INC HQ. Central Christchurch is soon plastered with Axemen posters, stickers, etc., as well as attention-grabbing graffiti, large & small, stencilled & freehand.

AXEMEN sticker 4-colour screenprint from graffiti sketch 1985 by Stu
AXEMEN sticker 4-colour screenprint from graffiti sketch 1985 by Stu
Stu's plumbing tag in 1984
Stu's plumbing tag in 1984
Stu trident graff ChCh 1984

Stu's 1984 San Pedro graff lasted nearly 10 years in Mollet St, ChCh
Stu's 1984 San Pedro graff lasted nearly 10 years in Mollet St, ChCh
Free Festival Poster A2 by Stu Kawowski printed at INK INC.
Free Festival Poster A2 by Stu Kawowski printed at INK INC.

That summer the band plays at a festival in Hagley Park, the infamous Big M gig which leads to the recording of their protest album BIG CHEAP MOTEL. (That story will be milked in the future. It’s one any protest album fan would do well to get abreast of.)

AXEMEN Big Cheap Motel cassette sleeve: screenprinted label on bubble bag 1984 by Steve'n'Stu
Bob's sketch for the Big Cheap Motel protest set at Christchurch's Summer Festival in Hagley Park 1984

The next couple months are devoted to gigging around Chch, adding members here and there, making forays into the Carlisle St-England St ‘Hall Circuit’ popular with punks (see Map 2b),

Newspaper advt by Stu for England St Hall gig
Newspaper advt by Stu for England St Hall gig

going to Wellington to play anarchic Rewa House gig (popular with anarchopunks), defining & refining the Axemen sound, and building up an arsenal of tracks to be issued on the next album, the scary 2-hour long A SCAR IS BORN.

Map 2b: Location of Carlyle St Hall & England St Hall

Today’s post features tracks recorded at the same time as the Scar sessions, around Feb-March-April 84, assigned to a cassette called DIRT GAME MIX but never issued until now.

the game of love (clint ballard jr.)

untitled #2

neverending circus (lisa preston-axemen)
–features Lisa P. on vocals. She also sang the first track on side 1 of A SCAR IS BORN (“Untitled”) and co-wrote with Steve & Bob the instrumental “Paté-On-Raisin Bar-Mitzvah” later on the same side. And lived at 212 Peterborough St. Axemen salute her!

because (lennon-mccartney)

untitled #3 (lisa preston-axemen)
–Lisa on vocals again. In the mid-80s she started the band Nux Vomica with Lawrence Lens. (Do drop the cyberAxemen a line sometime, L.P.)

big four-eyed dave
–this might actually be called something else, but it does sound like that’s what Steve’s saying.

dirt game hiss

hiss hum headless horseman

phony on the phone

when the saints go marching in

casio clay (enter the casio dragon)

i remember nothing (ian curtis)

sugar coated

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Escape from the Planet of the Tapes

Here’s a mixed bag of cassette-only goodies . . .

hello (aka “Burn” alt mix)

cold beer (alt mix)

jah & his herb (alt mix)

–undated, probably from Christchurch practises late 1984. Presence of saxophone and graphic equalizer are big time-clues, plus references to beer & god, plus the other side of the tape features the song “the panther of the suburbs” whose lyrics Steve channeled in trance-state following A SCAR IS BORN sessions, mid-84.

sugar daddy

live at the Star & Garter in Christchurch, 4 November 1983. This is around the time of the MICK’S DANCEFLOOR (MIX) sessions, and Mick himself, M. S. Agro, plays bass with us for the first of a whole bunch of great gigs.

untitled by unknown

–live at Christchurch City Mall, c.1984. Sounds like there’s a clarinet on this too so likely features members of the Axemen marching band who did stuff up and down Colombo Street. While marching. In a band. More from Live at City Mall

fever (cooley-davenport)

gypsies, tramps & steves

Axmin biggish band again at Whangarei Busker’s Convention, December 1985.

charleston

–live at Cashel St practice rooms, early-mid 1986, with vocal overdubs by Steve & his 4-track.

—V—

FREAK OF THE WEEK (from behind)

“The Message” live at Christchurch City Mall c.1984

Just been listening to this old cassette. It’s an ICI C-90 manufactured in Hong Kong. Says on the label, in Steve’s writing, “CITY MALL CONNOISSEURS AVEC AVEC AXEMEN” (though it was in a case with, in Stu’s writing, “PERF. CAFE SUN/MON 6/7 JAN” and “PULSE: SAT 12 JAN 85” –early trips to Auckland & Wellington I remember well). The first few seconds are indeed the C’n’W-SEWERS, some nice Hamilton brothers pickin’ and playin’, then there’s some technical palaver about jacks going in or out and someone plugging in a wah-wah. Then it goes straight into this song, which is clearly the famous Duke Bootee/Mel Melle composition “The Message.” There’s saxes, so I’m guessing they’re Al Rite and Arthur Sheep. Stu’s whacking out that street beat and I’m the one on the wah-wah. Steve’s playing chords on an unplugged electric guitar. I figure it’s 1984 because it’s Christchurch and I remember we all went to see that movie Beat Street one night and then couldn’t stop playing the great hip-hop licks we kept hearing from that day on. It has a great Egyptian feel to it, too, probably from those jazzniks listening to Sun Ra and Salah Ragab. Good one. Posted by Bob.   More from Live at City Mall