Derailing the terrain

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 . . .

a South Dunedin of the mind
Map #23: a 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. . .

the flames!
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.

831022-dugongstones
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. . .

the dugong or sea cow
the dugong or sea cow

auntie anti

heaven-sent from hell

monster on the loose

crystallized dugong semen
dugong stones: crystallized dugong semen

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

831131-micks-dancefloor1

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).

Stu's full-colour screenprinted England St Hall poster
Stu's full-colour screenprinted England St Hall poster
Colourful hi-res version of Stevie & Stu's Carlyle St Hall poster
Colourful hi-res version of Stevie & Stu's Carlyle St Hall poster
Kawowski's absinthe
Kawowski's absinthe

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.

the little green man (from bardamaloo)

This rare excerpt from Jeffs notebook gives some insight into his inspiration
This rare excerpt from Jeffs notebook gives some insight into his inspiration

—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.

adult Jeff on his wedding day, 2004
adult Jeff on his wedding day, 2004

So thanks again for the music to Jeff McCabe; he may have been the littlest of the Axemen, but his contribution was huge.

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

<:>

<:> an axemen anno xxv rediscovery series production <:>

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Knock-Knock Who’s-There Smell-Map

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

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–>

Christchurch, 1983

Enjoy Christchurch graphic by Stu pre-dated the Absolutely Wellington campaign by at least a decade!
Enjoy Christchurch graphic by Stu pre-dated the try-hard Absolutely Wellington campaign by at least a decade!
Christchurch's Disco Queen Mere Nihoniho at Caledonian Hall '77 by Kowalski
Christchurch's Disco Queen Mere Nihoniho at Caledonian Hall '77 by Kowalski

*

Accompanying this photo-essay are some more tracks recorded live at the Star & Garter on 4-11-83:

cassette recorder

untitled (sounds
like fiery jack)

get down

9 candles on the cake

a little bit of yesterday (johnny cash)