Not on the List?
Looking to get some great kiwi bands to play at your FANTASTIC SOUTH ISLAND VENUE in LATE SEPTEMBER/EARLY OCTOBER?
Your name could be here tomorrow…
POSTER VARIANTS RECEIVED:
Tues 4 Aug 09, Stu Kawowski
Not on the List?
Looking to get some great kiwi bands to play at your FANTASTIC SOUTH ISLAND VENUE in LATE SEPTEMBER/EARLY OCTOBER?
Your name could be here tomorrow…
POSTER VARIANTS RECEIVED:
Tues 4 Aug 09, Stu Kawowski
A passing search for “Axemen” at THE WIRE today discovered The Axemen’s ditty “Hey Alice” within a special guest mix from Tom Lax, that was itself within a 90 min downloadable set called Adventures In Modern Music 06 November 2008 by Derek Walmsley. (who is one dry-arse nigga, but he plays some frikkin wack shit !!!)
Here’s the entire tracklist:
Funky President (People It’s Bad)
from Objects Masks Props
(Bombax Bombax CD)
Making Love In Lhasa
from Collected Works
from You’ll Never Play This Town Again: Live, Etc 1997
Innocent Little Doggy
from Bongo Joe
** mix from Thomas Lax of Siltbreeze **
1. The Manatees, No Good
2. Tone Deaf And The Idiots, Why Do Politics Turn Men Into Toads?
3. What, Cynical Blitz
4. Saccharine Trust, Disillusion Fool
6. Slight Seconds, New Me
7. If Only, if Only
8. Axemen, Hey Alice
9. Second Layer, Zero
10. Iceplants, Hanoi Jane
Going To Zion
from Randy’s 50th Anniversary
(North Parade CD)
Ordinary Version 3
from Randy’s 50th Anniversary
(North Parade CD)
Eleh 009: Phase One – Sleeps Golden Drones Again
from Floating Frequencies/Intuitive Synthesis III
(Korm Plastics LP)
(Apple Pips 12″)
1. Burn (Hello)
2. Cold Beer
Same credits as original recording session: HERE to get to PANTHER OF THE SUBURBS.
Dubbydubs by axemen King Dub Come
The Panther Of The Suburbs — live at the Star & Garter, late 1984 or maybe even 1985—anyway, that gig with Children’s Hour, anyone remember that one ?
Saw this listing on Amazon UK 07/12/08 ~ hefty price for an old Axer CD!
Also in the Discogs Marketplace some Axe offerings including Derry legend on vinyl US$100.00 (NZ$187.41)
PLEASE NOTE: Read comments below
for an update on the lost in tyme AXEMEN article
and news of their removal of the “Three Virgins” download.
The administrator RainyDaySponge is a thoroughly cool guy
who has a very interesting site (full of muchas oscuridades)
that is always getting better.
Check it out.
Site Info & Archives
This is Lost-In-Tyme’s new site.
As it is a site and not just a blog, you can now enjoy our forum discussions, read lengthy articles about Lost In Tyme (but not forgotten) bands and artists, and of course visit our blog for a trip back in Time with some of the best (and rarest) music you can listen.
Once again we want to make clear that we post only records that are out of print and you can’t buy them at the record stores (physical or digital). The only way to find some of them is to pay a good deal of money for a used copy, and several you can’t find them at all. In the 21 months of Lost In Tyme first circle we received over 50 e-mails or comments from the artists themselves, saying thanks for posting their music. Someday we will post these comments (at least what we could rescued – because several were deleted along with Lost In Tyme).
So, if an artist/band don’t want his/her music posted here, or a label has re-released a record (and we’re not aware of this) or if someone of our visitors knows that something we’ve posted is still in print (and provide the link to prove it) just send an e-mail or make a comment about it. We will remove the link and we will replace it with the link pointing to the site where one can buy the record or the artist’s site. It’s that simple. We don’t want to harm anybody, especially the artists we love.
Remember that this site was made with just this in mind: the gathering of music lovers, the exchange of any knowledge we may have about this kind of music and the discovering of Lost In Tyme music.
We are waiting for your comments, suggestions etc. about this site, in the Guestbook page. You are very welcome to contribute if you like and of course to participate in Lost In Tyme’s forum, where we hope that out friends will find interesting threads.
Well it so happens they have been offering a download of Three Virgins, but they’ve been asked to cease and desist. According to their manifesto above that shouldn’t be a problem.
Anyway, here is their somewhat charming post on lost in tyme:
Early Swell Maps blues sessions? The Fall playing Kinks’ songs but they don’t know the lyrics?
There’s no other album in the entire New Zealand music so chaotic, so brilliantly cacophonous and so totally denying any label, music style or genre, like this double album from the Axemen, released by Flying Nun, in this great label’s absolute peak, in 1986.
Flying Nun was so great because, for several years, would release music by any, and I mean any, band that Roger Shepherd, Chris Knox andDoug Hood thought that had something interesting, no matter what musical style it had. This concept produced some of the best music of the 80s, not only because the three mentioned above have an excellent taste, but also because, 20 years before that period, there was something in New Zealand’s water, that caused the appearance of a continuous series of very talented artists – the more obscure of them can be heard in the 3 volumes of Rarer Than Radium compilations here, here and here.
But even for Flying Nun “Three Virgins…” was extreme and something that couldn’t get under the “Flying Nun sound” no matter how we expand the term – and here is the proof: There’s not a track from the Axemen in any of the several compilations that the label released though the years. Even in the non-exclusively Flying Nun based Rarer Than Radium series, I couldn’t fit them in.
So what is this all about?
“Three Virgins, Three Versions, Three Visions“ is a double album, made by three 20-years old Kiwis (Bob Brannigan, Steve McCabe, Stu Kawowski) with the help of their friends. In the 22 tracks of this album they managed to include every musical style under the sun – from Mark Stewart’s mumblings to good-time tunes, from blues played with “big, huge pipe organ” to Krishna chants and from post-punk saxophone-based tracks to muddy guitar noise. The recording and production is totally (and deliberately) DIY and although the mixing was made in two different studios, the singer’s voice often seems to come from a different room that the rest of the band.
I’d say that the Axemen did a Kinks-style, ironic comment on music and life, passed it through Frank Zappa & Mothers lunacy and they paint it with the punk/DIY colours of the early 80s. Sharp, brilliant and full of references songs like “Chant Number Nine”, “The Yeasty Mayor” “Talk With God”, the full-of-ideas playing and the nerve to put out a 2LP set as their first release, prove once again that the hormones of youth are magical things.
Here is the first part of Axemen’s story, as written by Steve McCabe (you can find the rest here – along with many releases (as a band or solo from the members) – I don’t know if these have been ever actually released or are simply existing in Steve’s archives.
Axemen say– “Yes indeed, all of these albums are available here on CD“
The Axemen began life as a seething mass of algae in a cess-pool located at the back of a disused factory somewhere in North Dunedin, New Zealand.
The exact location of the cess-pool has unfortunately been lost to the ravages of time, but the factory still stands – a disused, vacant shell with little hope of being restored to its former majesty.
Following a sudden meteor storm in 1983, the Axemen rapidly evolved, developed fully functional hands and ears (where before there had only been useless stumps) and metamorphosed rapidly into one of the most radical, chaotic and inspired rock bands of all time.
The exact details are hazy now as I pen this tome from my Hotel room in Auckland, New Zealand, June 1997, but as I recall…
Bob [Brannigan] and myself were happily punting along the River Avon in Christchurch, New Zealand in January, 1983 – I distinctly remember the occasion as Bob was, for once, holding the punt-oar. The day was dreary – grey, overcast and drizzling with a fine mist which settled gently before condensing and trickling off the seven plastic beer flagons placed [for ballast] in the centre of the bright red punt.
From which direction the football came I do not directly recall, but come it did – striking Bob squarely on the forehead and causing him to swagger, try and get his balance back, then topple over backwards (I often wonder how much worse it could have been had he been standing at the time). Next thing you know, who should pop around the corner hollering “Can I have my ball back, please?” but Mr Stu Kawowski. I had not encountered this man before, but I can still vividly recall the moment; the cheeky grin, the Joe 90 “milk bottle” glasses (later to be replaced with the trademark John Lennon style spectacles), the wind rustling through the shaggy tresses of his russet-red hair.
Mopping the beads of sweat from his furrowed brow, Bob lurched up, hoarsely shrieked “I’ll give you your ****ing ball back allright and fair clocked him one with the aforementioned orb. The tense situation now somewhat diffused, Kawowski piped up, “Gizza ride in your punt, mate!”. I can’t quite recall whether it was Bob or myself who replied “Step aboard, Matey!” but next thing you know, there we were, the three of us, in the bright red punt, cruising at a rate of knots that particular punt had not previously thought itself capable of.
There was something about the rhythm of Kawowski’s deft strokes wit the punt-oar; something vital and overwhelming about the way he pushed that punt to its very limits. There was an unspoken, unfathomable feeling that this was perfection, this was bliss, this was the way of the future – Brannigan, Kawowski & McCabe – an untouchable, dynamic unit not to be messed with.
After formally voicing what we all knew we were feeling, that we should immediately form the most invincible and solid rock combo ever known to man, the pact was sealed with a flagon of beer apiece. The day ended with a solemn blood oath and a resolution that we would have our first rehearsal the very next day, but in order to maximise our potential, to ‘potentise the blend’, a pilgimage would be required to the famous “Seedy Dive” boondocks area of Dunedin. This area was well-known in the early eighties to have the highest ratio of musicians and artists to the square mile of any region in the country. Of course, the remnants of the thriving mime and clown scene from the seventies still lived in the area, but we had the feeling that in the searing Dunedin summer of ’83, the Dive was going to be the place to be. That year, Dunedin had the longest, hottest heatwave in recorded history.
Stu K-drums/Steve M & Bob B-gtrs/Al Rite-sax/Gary Scott-clarinet/Pete Hall Jones-trumpet
The Message (E. Fletcher-M. Glover-S. Robinson-C. Chase)
Rent Hamilton-gtr, vocals/Shorty Hamilton-bass, vcls/Doug Hamilton-snare, vcls
with Al/Gary/Pete as The Horned Hornet Horns
Setting The Woods On Fire (Hank Williams)
Long Tall Texan/When The Saints (Henry Strzelecki/Trad. arr. Connoisseurs)
Your Cheatin’ Heart (Hank Williams)
AXEMEN/The CONNOISSEURS/The Horned Hornet Horns
recorded the same night as Vol.1, same people ALL play
There You Go (Johnny Cash)
Turn Around (Carl Perkins)
Roadhouse Blues (Morrison-Krieger-Manzarek-Densmore)
LIVE AT CITY MALL notes
These songs were definitely recorded on a Friday night, the 19th, before the Saturday of the Band Rotunda Free Festival, whenever that was (May? June? July?), at City Mall in Cashel St, Christchurch, 1984 (that information unavailable at the times of THIS & that previous post). On Volume 1, the first four songs are the Axemen busking at one end of the Mall. Note that the version of “The Message” included here is about 6 minutes longer than that one posted previously, and “Untitled By Unknown” is a new mix. Notice Gary Scott noticing cops at the end of “Axemen, Dogs, Cops.” I noticed that – nice of you to notice – steve Hear Stu Kawowski briefly note the date & introduce The Connoisseurs (having discovered them after marching up the other end of the Mall) who play the next four songs accompanied by the Al Right-Gary Scott-Pete Hall Jones Horned Hornet Horns horn section. By the time the songs on Volume 2 were recorded, literally moments after those on Volume 1, the non-horn-toting members of the Axemen had “changed” their “minds” about rumbling with the country and western Connoisseurs for poaching their blowers, and instead passed around the coffee wine & joined in for 8 more fine examples of City Mall-style busking magic. ALL SONGS IN STEREO. The cover photo, almost certainly by Stu, shows Doug & Rent Hamilton playing pentatonic scales in a brave attempt to shield their sensitive nether regions from McCabe’s out-thrust disaster-finger.
Reprinted with kind permission of the Author, Tom Lax, Silt Breeze Records
Yep, in conjuction w/Sleek Bott Indusries, Siltbreeze is PROUD to annouce no less than 3, count’em THREE, Axemen reissues to see the light of day in 2009. First up is a previously cassette only one entitled ‘Big Cheap Motel’ (originally released in 1983), followed by ‘Scary!’ (1989) & then a full-on repro of the cult classic ‘Three Virgins, Three Versions, Three Visions’ (1985). These will all be limited vinyl only runs, so stay tuned & feel free to email should you have any questions. The series begins in January & will continue through the whole of next yr. And who know, maybe even beyond!
For the uninformed, the Axemen have been the practioners of a unqiue brand of DIY they lovingly refer to as ‘Sigh-Fi’ rock for 30 yrs now. Not an easy band to pin down sonically, their catalog speaks for itself in much’ve the same way as those belonging to The Homosexuals or Sun City Girls. That is to say vast & beautiful. For a mindblowing glimpse into the world of Axemen (+ related friends & accomplice’s) check out; http://www.theaxemen.wordpress.com/ & be prepared to have copious block’s of time squandered trying to fathom the genius. Also, for those who perhaps can’t wait, Axemen have a site where you can purchase high quality cdr’s of previous cassette’s. Go to http://www.sleekbott.com/ & there you might get a jump on the rest of your not-quite-as-desperate brothers & sisters. Yeah, 2009 is looking to be quite an exciting yr for reissues. See y’all on the flipside!
THE MIND (stereo)
Stu K.- drums, skull pic
212 Peterborough St, 15-9-84
MOVE IT, GROOVE IT (stereo)
Steve-vocals, casiotone SK1
Stu-casiotone SK1, lettering
Cassy O’Tone-tapes, mix
Stu’s pad, Colombo St, around Oct. 84
<.> another axemen anno xxv rediscovery series mix <.>
Paul Bunyan (Axemen Theme)
— version #1 is from Hell Farm, August 1983, with Steve & Bob on guitars. This version was released on the rare AXE OF THE APOSTLES cassette later that month.
Paul Bunyan (Axemen Theme)
— version #2 adds Stu K. on drums, from the Jetty St “Equinox” gig in Dunedin, 24 September 1983. This version was never released, can’t think why, there’s even Lisa Preston saying a few words at the start!
Paul Bunyan (Axemen Theme)
— version #3 adds M. S. Agro on bass, from the Gladstone, 28 November 1983. Live mix by Hamish Kilgour. Never released.
Paul Bunyan (Axemen Theme)
— version #4 adds Artie Sheep on sax, from the Gladstone again on 10 December 1983, at the Flying Nun recording party otherwise known as the Flying Fuck. This appears to be the last time the Axemen theme would be played, though in the 1990s there was an eerily similar tune played at gigs supposedly entitled “Son Of Paul Bunyan” as yet unrecovered from the Axemen/Sleek Bott vaults (it’s spooky in there). This version was either never released, or else maybe it’s the version on side 4 of A SCAR IS BORN, but as no copy of that album is at hand, that’s impossible to ascertain at present.
Read more about Paul Bunyan, the giant tree-biter, here:
a catalog of Bunyans (Mecca for the big guy’s admirers)
almost World War III (the true story of Operation Paul Bunyan)
Some more Pauls
The Axemen performed three times in the weekend, writhing, inciting and typically incredulous they made no new friends and many shady enemies, their calloused hands bleeding and cutting and scarred from the tortuous anachronisms that are is their Wall of sound, their particular(ly) seedy breeding ground, a kind of William S. Burroughs of the NZ rock set, an oh-so-shallow silhouette of the festered world they infest and poke around in, no more here than there, no more there than here, giving nothing away but blind frenetics, shenanigans, bagels and festoons of fatty skin, hating every note more as they play it, yet pouring out their love even as gladly, as they rid themselves of their consciences and collective consciousness against a skeletally conceived backdrop of bizarre and feelingless, but yet feeling, love, love, love + hate.
So the law wins again, hah, the Axemen still lose and nothing never changes, don’t you forget it, even as the grass grows under your table and on your lawn, law’s long arm is ever reaching to pluck it.
This series of shows took place over the top of the south island and the west coast during Jan 1986 and involved a decrepit and terrifyingly brakeless commer van, copious quantities of opium tarbrew and ether …
Nux Vomica and the Axemen on tour together …Were we all in the one van? I cant exactly recall .. Nux Vom at that time was Lawrence Lens guitar and vox (also demented super8 documentarian of the Axemen phenomenon), myself (intrepid sole female chauffeur and yamaha electone player) Philip Alron Hubbard on bass and Chris Smallfry on drums and that guy Pete [Gorman] from EOE on 2nd guitar .. and Mr Al Right sax player extraordinaire .. And the Axemen Steve, Bob, Stu and Gordy B and Mr Al Right sharing sax duties with both bands … plus a PA and all the gear for both bands . All squashed into one not very big van …We played to approx 8 drunken bogans in Richmond after we werent allowed to play in the public bar as arranged …. We played in Takaka after a horrifying ordeal involving brake failure coming down the Takaka Hill ( thanks Dad for that driving lesson that included the stuff about handbrakes and low gears when experiencing braking issues) . In Takaka the hotel owners missus asked me “Are you doing some dry cleaning dear?” when she ventured upstairs to tell us that our dinner was ready and the scent of ether was wafting out from several of the rooms some of us were staying in. “Yes Ma’am” I remember replying , “I’m just cleaning the boys’ jackets for tonight’s gig.”
We played in Greymouth which was a blast and the aftermatch function was even better.
— LISA PRESTON
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…
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. . .
pulp for the masses (stereo)
— Steve: “This is a tribute to the late Jimi Hendrix.”
the founders-day man (stereo)
—Steve: “This is a tribute to the late John Lennon.”
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.
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.
my second blood (stereo) a sack of good/sack of goods (stereo) botts of brown booze (stereo) what it’s like (the revox) (stereo)
— Pre-England St Hall gig practise at 212 Peterborough St, 21 August 1984. Rumour has it Gordo’s wonderfully understated “mousepower” tone was achieved by filling the room with pot smoke & recording his heartbeat while he performed interpretive dances to oblique directions from the others (unverified).
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.
2. COLD BEER
RECORDED 12-6-1984 AT 212 PETERBOROUGH ST, CHRISTCROTCH
by AXEMEN bob brannigan DAMON CROWE stu kawowski Steve McCabe AL RIGHT
& special guest star NEW GRAPHIC EQUALIZER aka the punk panther
dub versions available HEAR NOW!
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 . . .
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.
Steve, Bob and Stu were jogging round the band rotunda as usual on a chilly but glorious crisp Christchurch day, tossing around a genuine cowskin rugby ball red and black of course being the Canterbury colors, with a faded PineTree Meads signature on it indicating it had been around, dropping it to the foot on more than one occasion to give it a solid punt.
Waving to George who had moved into the rotunda for the season, (“Its warmer in here in midwinter than Jetty Street in a high Dunedin summer! – Och Aye!” he jested, sniffing his singlet and grinning approvingly). Pulling out a razor from his pocket, he half-heartedly gave his icy beard a good hard scrape.
“Never works!” he chortled, tossing the razor onto the tidy pile of used needles to his right. “I’ll clean that up later” he thought as the pack of stray dogs rifled through the stack, one of them grazing his nose and running off with a hapless yelp, leaving a tiny trail of blood as it ran.
Punting the orb deftly to Stu, inadvertantly over his head to be collected by the always toned Brannigan in his one good hand, Steve squeaked (in his best meek Steve McCabe squeaky voice) “How long has it been since we really tested our mettle, boys? Seriously?!”
“How about that great tea tasting gig when we tried all those varieties of green teas?” piped up Kawowski.
Effortlessly hurtling the ball to McCabe in a rainbow-like arc, Brannigan replied, “Nah , that was when we tested our nettle!”
“And the time we brought those four Liverpool lads over in 1964 for that nationwide music quiz and put them up on stage with a quizmaster and grilled them on Guiness Records?”
Brannigan, heading the egg-shaped ball as if it were a balloon while shaking his head like a stern schoolmaster noted “No, no, no, that was when we tested the Beatles – don’t you remember anything??”
“Not even when we pulled off all the colorful fleshy parts of a flower and subjected them to drops of iodine to see if they would change colour?”
“For goodness sake, that was when we tested our pet…”
Just then, the Punt instructor stepped up to the lads and said “Party of Three? The X Men? Basic punting skills? Booked for 3:15 PM?” pausing and then snootily looking down and winding his watch.
Dropping his shoulder in acknowledgement he winked and said ” ‘Op in the old dragon and moat, chums you’re up for a right ol’ time fox and hunting up the ol’ blackbird and raven kidneys ‘n’ liver! Stone the thorns and rose, I bet you don’t even know what the tower and bell I’m lamb and porking about!”
Scratching their heads, the lads climbed into the punt.
“Wish I could come up with a better cockney rhyming slang for this contraption” mumbled the punt-master, shaking his head as he insterted his huge pole into the murky Avon depths, thrusting the fullness of his weight into propelling the logjammer faster, faster into the now-stirring current.
McCabe reclined and brushed aside his wispy shoulder-length hair – he hadn’t had it that long for a while but kept growing it as the girls loved it. It didn’t even really need mussing up at this point yet he did it anyway just to rouse his buddies and invoke the memory of their legendary cohort, Dragan Stojanovic.
“Whose mettle is being tested here?” mused McCabe to himself. The thought naturally drifted across to his fraternal time-twin Brannigan who tossed back the thought rejoinder “Whose mettle is it anyway?” to which McCabe had no immediate comeback, much to Brannigan’s delight.
Glowering in the mid-afternoon Christchurch sun, at once chilling in its traversion of the ozone-starved atmosphere which hovered over the flat city known locally as the plains (reminiscent of the ill fated and way too early deceased Tattoo character Herve Villechaize – his nemesis mr Rourke was much favoured for being knocked off in the later years of the series but this was not talked about in open conversation – Villechaize’s battle cry ‘The Plane! The Plane!’ would be a constant reminder of the utopian flatlands in the axemen’s later days – the pesky git – curse him and his catchy catch-cry these things have a habit of catching on in their own catch-as-cats-can way -)
(Can someone Please go add some detail to this reference to Catch as Cats Can:
An emaciated canary, singing like Frank Sinatra, is getting on the nerves of a pipe-puffing parrot…
Calve Betels Titmice
Little Stevie McCabe, vocals & guitar
Bob Brannigan, guitar & vocals
M. S. Agro, bass
Stu Kawowski, drums
Recorded live in Cashmere, Christchurch
at Scab Union Dave’s end-of-year party, December 1983
Tracks 2, 3 & 6 employ South Dunedin spaceSound equipment
for that authentic “Sound of South Dunedin” South Dunedin sound
fellow travellers in spirit realms
ARTHUR SHEEP saxophone
M. S. AGRO bass
BOB BRANNIGAN, STEVE McCABE guitars
STU KOWALSKI drums, percussion
cover design by Ron Nabbibang (Etherdom Free Skypilot)
Several blocks north of Christchurch’s Cathedral Square (in itself a home for nutters, wizards, punks and winged rats), just before you reach Bealey Avenue, lies a rambling cacophony of flatlets and the home of quite a different variety of nutters, freaks and certified intelligentsia too. Probably a “Clifford flat” (most of those grand old mansions that were gutted, renovated and reduced to cabin-sized rat warrens were the cash cows of a tight old bastard known as “Clifford”), the house in question (see Artie Sheep’s Place located on Map 2a) was home to an eclectic analogue collective of jazzy, opiate-preferring jazzerati, some of whom were on the bunk from their Wellington lives, and all of whom were partial to an AXEMEN experience or two. (It seems that a 1/2 Japanese LP was receiving high rotation ratings on the premises and that the AXEMEN sound was close enough for them to dig it.)
A concerted effort to hijack the jazz guys’ studio began in earnest, early 1984. Firstly, McCabe moved into a shoe-box recently vacated by John Segovia (studio axe sessionist extraordinaire) aka Rent Hamilton (watch for a story about his Country Connoisseurs unit sometime in the future). Eventually the semi-paranoid permanently-opiated brass section in the bigger front flat were familiar with Stevie in close proximity. Bob’n’Stu cased the joint subliminally, then quickly ventured into the darkened bowels of the hallowed ether-dank hallways of Arthur Sheep’s free-form mausoleum up front. Within hours Sheep’s woolly plan to record with his Burroughsian tribe of squeakers had turned a full 180° and our heroes had taken command of the jazzbos’ prized Nakamichi cassette deck (together with a large room full of drums, percussion instruments, amps, mics, etc). . .
The “Shear the Sheep” Sessions delivered a unique and delightful flock of tracks, a foil to the usual behemoth AXEMEN metallic wall-o’-sound. Click here to hear the AXEMEN trio’s “Nab The Lamb” from those same sessions (also appears on the AXEMEN’s semenal A SCAR IS BORN release from 1984 – often described as an assault on “Sgt Pepper.”)
Rubbing the crusty yellow crystals off his nose and stretching his arms out, Bob Brannigan awoke. Brushing off the gaggle of female admirers which had been trying to settle in his hair since last night, he wandered across the dancefloor of the Miners Bar and Grill (rarely more than half-full because of the confusing “NO MINORS ALLOWED” sign affixed to the the front door), stepped over Stu Kawowski being careful not to bump his Zimmer frame and sidled over to the bar where Steve McCabe was on his second jug of beer for the day.
“Chaser, Bob?” Steve asked cheerily.
“Yeah but she got away!” Bob quipped.
The lads quietly poured and quaffed a couple of 7 oz’ers and Steve ordered another jug.
“Ah, that’s put a lining on the ol’ stomach,” commented Steve, producing a 1.25 litre bottle of Coffee Wine from his pocket with the smooth aplomb of a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat. McCabe’s jacket seemed to have endless pockets, each one deeper than a Rockefeller’s or a Kennedy’s, thought Bob.
“Glad I’m not a Kennedy!” said Steve between deep gulps, effortlessly reading Bob’s thoughts. The two pals were symapatico and had discovered their predilection for knowing the other’s thoughts long ago and it was as natural as– “Yoghurt icecream!” yelled Bob to the barman, “and make it runny!” The barman, accustomed to the lads’ sometimes unusual requests, poured a frozen yoghurt into a glass and put it under the Bain-marie.
“What’s that you’re putting the yoghurt under?” said Bob, nonchalantly serving up the first line of the joke so Steve could slam back the punchline to the hapless barman’s inevitable response.
“Why, it’s a Bain-Marie,” replied the barman, dead on cue.
“I know its a-bain-Marie, but what-a is it now?!!” yelled Steve in his best faux-Godfather Italian accent.
Appreciating the unselfish set-up, Steve mixed Bob a Yoko (a cloudy concoction of yoghurt and Coffee Wine, with a dash of beer thrown in for good measure). “The beer makes it a Rusty Yoko,” Steve noted adroitly. Bob whipped out his notebook and wrote:
The beer makes it a rusty Yoko
Curdled, like a year-old Cocoa
A grunt came from the booth in the corner. Looking over, the boys noticed Shane McGowan and Georgie Best collapsed under the table, snoring and holding their heads.
“Lightweights!” they said simultaneously, fist-bumping each other in acknowledgment of the mind-meld.
Steve recalled the first time the mind-meld had occurred, in an undisclosed Dental School in South Dunedin where the lads found themselves trapped Prisoner-style in the laughing-gas* room with the spigot hissing. Instantly, the lads threw themselves to the floor in order to ensure not a molecule was wasted, and within minutes McCabe was proclaiming, “My voice is melting! Bob, post-haste, perform the Vulcan Voice Meld!”
From that moment on, the two found themselves bound together inseparably, and it was said that they were “at least twice as funny” after that time.
* Nitrous Oxide discoverer [Joseph] Priestley describes the preparation of “nitrous air diminished” by heating iron filings dampened with nitric acid in Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air (1775). Priestley was delighted with his discovery: “I have now discovered an air five or six times as good as common air… nothing I ever did has surprised me more, or is more satisfactory.”
Axemen Fan Fiction posted by Sciatic Bevel Mettle
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”).
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.
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
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).
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.
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.)
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),
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.)
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!
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.
i remember nothing (ian curtis)
<:> an axemen anno xxv rediscovery series production <:>
Map 1 here shows the whereabouts of various members of the
Axemen in the first few months of the band’s existence.
PHOTO-ESSAY: A LITTLE BIT OF YESTERDAY
South Dunedin – home of the South Dunedin Sound.
Maureen of the Empire Tavern
about to burn life-size effigy of Little Stevie McCabe.
<– South Dunedin | Starliners (so-called) | Christchurch –>
<–Alpha Centauri | Starliners (actual) | Eta Tandoori–>
Accompanying this photo-essay are some more tracks recorded live at the Star & Garter on 4-11-83:
a little bit of yesterday (johnny cash)
steve mccabe, dragan stojanovic – guitars; bob brannigan – bass; stu kowalski – drums
purple haze recorded live at the rising sun, auckland, june 1989
third stone from the sun recorded live at siren, auckland, 18-6-89
steve mccabe, bob brannigan – guitars; m. s. agro – bass; stu kowalski – drums
recorded live at the star & garter, christchurch, 4-11-83
all songs by jimi hendrix, rearranged by axemen
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.
—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.
–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
—Axmin biggish band again at Whangarei Busker’s Convention, December 1985.
–live at Cashel St practice rooms, early-mid 1986, with vocal overdubs by Steve & his 4-track.
FREAK OF THE WEEK (from behind)
all songs ©1992 Brannigan/McCabe
published by Sleek Bott Music
recorded at Frisbee Studios, Auckland
produced by Z. Bob & Axemen
artwork by Stu Kawowski
Cassette manufactured by Stebbings, Auckland.