Flying Nun’s Dunedin bands grew to become an obsession for Canadian author Matthew Goody. However not simply the Dunedin ones, he tells Tom McKinlay.
The telephone rings and, as a result of it’s Tuesday, it’s Jones, from The Crown, with the weekend’s gigs for the ODT’s What’s On column.
Saturday evening it’s Bruce Harold Blucher’s Seething Mass, he says, supported by OHM, which sounds rowdy.
That will be Bruce Bluchers of The Alpaca Brothers. Keep in mind them? No?
Nicely, that may most likely be forgiven. Matthew Goody describes The Alpaca Brothers as a “one and performed” band. Good although.
He’s not alone in that latter evaluation. Again within the day, 1986, the Alpaca’s “one and performed” recording, the five-song EP Legless, was warmly reviewed by Tony Inexperienced in The Christchurch Press. Notably the track Zither, which based on Inexperienced set the tempo “with a frenetic instrumental exercise nearly as good as something I’ve heard all 12 months”. They have been adequate to help The Cramps in Auckland with a set described by Craccum as “earth-shuddering”.
However no matter else they may have been, or not — frenetic or fleeting — they have been a Flying Nun band.
Subsequently, Craccum and Inexperienced’s assessments sit alongside numerous different nerdy, obsessive, evocative, nostalgic, illuminating and in the end engrossing info, opinions and recountings in Matthew Goody’s new e-book, Needles & Plastic: Flying Nun Information, 1981-1988. It’s a ravishing huge full-colour, richly illustrated celebration of the report label’s early years, working its means via every piece of vinyl label founder Roger Shepherd and his crew spun out into the world, chronologically.
The e-book’s additionally a competition of important trivia.
So, it additionally makes point out of the drummer for Bruce Harold Blucher’s Seething Mass, Robbie Yeats, whose low crouch over the drums anchored The Verlaines again within the day. And covers the truth that Yeats taught The Alpaca Brothers’ drummer Steve Cournane, an old style mate, methods to maintain a stick. You possibly can positively be forgiven for not realizing that.
Shortly after Jones rings off, Goody’s on the Zoom, from Canada, the place he lives — The Clear and The Terminals posters on the wall behind him. It’s from there, remarkably sufficient, that he put collectively his e-book on the label and the bands from a far distance nook of the Pacific, researching his subject on and off throughout eight lengthy years.
Among the many apparent questions is, why? There he’s within the Pacific northwest, the place an extended listing of massively influential bands performed the soundtrack to his personal early life (he’s 42), many recorded on the storied indie label Sub Pop.
As in so a lot of this stuff, the reply entails a narrative of serendipity with the hand of destiny throughout it.
Goody, already a collector of post-punk DIY music and a fan of The Clear and free-rock retailers The Useless C, was scouring one more London report store in 2008 when he got here throughout a duplicate of The Clear’s ground-breaking EP Boodle, Boodle, Boodle, the primary time he’d seen the unique report.
He grabbed it. However proper behind it was an entire stack of different Flying Nun music, together with This Sort of Punishment. Goody snaffled that one too, and the remaining, as they are saying, is a 400-plus-page historical past of Te Waipounamu’s most well-known report label, named for a disco-excoriating lyric by Dunedin songsmith Shayne Carter (see web page 219).
“I purchased This Sort of Punishment, probably not realizing something about them in any respect. It simply opened up this world to me, it simply blew my thoughts, and from there I simply needed to discover increasingly and it grew to become an obsession fairly rapidly.”
That, then, is how Goody, Canadian, discovered Flying Nun.
However in explaining the enduring curiosity within the label, and significantly it’s early output (the 1988 reduce off for the e-book is when HQ moved from Christchurch to Tamaki Makaurau), Goody switches the query round.
“From a private stage, and as an outsider as effectively, I’ve at all times been curious, ‘how did Flying Nun discover me?’. Flying Nun was in a position to construct this enormous fan base internationally and I had an actual curiosity about how that occurred, as a result of for probably the most half I feel, significantly in protection in New Zealand, there may be not loads of curiosity about Flying Nun overseas. Which is for me, I feel, objectively, a necessary a part of the story,” he says.
“Flying Nun would by no means have survived if it hadn’t been profitable abroad. If The Chills hadn’t made it within the UK and all these followers began ordering the report in 1985, going ahead, Flying Nun would have been gone earlier than the ’90s. And Roger [Shepherd] has admitted as a lot. I used to be very inquisitive about how that occurred. It’s a really key a part of the e-book.”
A central a part of that story doubles because the second when the entire enterprise very practically foundered.
It’s 1984 and the chance arises for Flying Nun to stretch its wings by releasing an album by main UK post-punkers The Fall, a band with an outsized following in Aotearoa on the time.
However it rapidly goes pear-shaped, considerably, in Goody’s telling, due to the tough character of band frontman Mark E. Smith.
“Releasing this report from The Fall virtually bankrupted the corporate but in addition mockingly grew to become in some methods its saviour, as a result of British DJ John Peel is an enormous Fall fan, finds the report, begins taking part in it on his present in 1984,” Goody says.
Inside a month, Peel’s deep into the Flying Nun catalogue, taking part in The Chills, Youngsters’s Hour, Nice Unwashed.
“And his programme can be broadcast in Germany on British forces radio and instantly a report label in Germany is inquisitive about Flying Nun, indicators a distribution deal, begins releasing Flying Nun information in Germany — The Chills and Foetus Productions and all these bands are instantly having their information come out in Germany.”
Shortly thereafter, The Chills are in London themselves with actual momentum.
“Then the North American story as effectively,” Goody continues, “as a result of in the end Flying Nun’s survival is much less about Europe and extra about America in loads of methods, as a result of within the ’90s it’s all in regards to the US and bands are much less taken with going to London and extra taken with going to Los Angeles.”
So, that meant Goody grew up round North American DIY Sub Pop-type bands who have been protecting Flying Nun songs; outfits and artists comparable to Pavement, Yo La Tengo and Cat Energy.
“They have been all protecting and influenced in an enormous means by Flying Nun bands. Pavement was protecting The Clear, Cat Energy was protecting This Sort of Punishment, Yo La Tengo was protecting Tall Dwarfs.”
So, one factor led to a different and Goody launched on his e-book challenge, deciding early on it ought to be structured across the information Flying Nun launched and, due to his distance from the subject in house and time, realizing he needed to make use of modern sources. There could be interviews for background and to examine particulars, however archives could be the first sources.
Key to the success of the method was work by Useless C guitarist Bruce Russell to digitise the Storage fanzine by modern scene chronicler Richard Langston, to mark Flying Nun’s thirtieth anniversary in 2011. All of them went on-line as PDFs.
“I found these and I used to be simply, like, ‘oh, my God’. There may be simply this wealth of wonderful interviews with bands, scene protection, opinions. It was simply a tremendous fanzine. Numerous fanzines are very quirky and ironic however there’s not loads of data in them, however these have been simply full of essential stuff that may very well be used to assist inform the story.”
Later, music journal Rip It Up was additionally digitised, however not earlier than Goody had purchased up stacks of them on eBay.
“After which, as a result of I used to be working in publishing, I used to be travelling a good quantity, significantly to the London E-book Truthful and I found that The British Library had a full microfilm archive of The Press newspaper, from Christchurch. And The New Zealand Herald. And once I began digging into The Press, that simply opened up every thing for the e-book in an enormous means, as a result of I used to be astonished by how a lot protection Flying Nun was getting within the each day papers,” Goody remembers.
“You had two newspapers in Christchurch each writing about Flying Nun each week and also you had David Swift at The Press, who was in a Flying Nun band, Primarily Spaniards — Flying Nun has these insiders serving to them out, writing about these bands and it blew my thoughts.
“As a result of Vancouver at the moment had a really vibrant underground rock scene but when I went into the archives right here and seemed on the newspapers right here, there would completely be no protection of the bands that have been popping out of right here.
“So to choose up the newspaper in Christchurch and have fairly obscure bands have stuff written about them is astonishing to me.”
With out actually needing to, Goody confirms what has change into clear from the above: “I simply have a voracious urge for food for doing that type of analysis. I’ve tubs and tubs that I’ve amassed.”
Needles & Plastic is each a delusion reinforcing type of e-book — anticipate extra cruise ship boomers to disembark at Port in coming years satisfied they’ll instantly hear jangling guitar hooks floating down George St to fulfill them — and an train in difficult obtained knowledge.
Take the “Dunedin Sound” for instance, the reductive descriptor utilized liberally to the town’s Flying Nun output.
Goody additionally sees worldwide influences behind the sturdiness of the Dunedin Sound wrapper.
He factors out, for a begin, that as early because the late ‘80s, Dunedin’s “sound” was beginning to change, within the arms of bands such because the hypnotic Snapper and angular 3Ds. And even the bands it was initially connected to, The Verlaines et al, have been over it.
However as journalists in Europe or the States found the Flying Nun catalogue for the primary time, the Dunedin Sound framing could be trotted out.
“It’s inescapable, and now retrospectively with Flying Nun having its thirtieth anniversary and its fortieth anniversary, there may be this fixed going again to that second and reliving it,” Goody says.
“However what I additionally need to say, one of many causes I did the e-book as I did, and actually protecting the complete catalogue of the label, was to point out those who Flying Nun, and the artists on the label, was rather more numerous than has usually been offered, significantly outdoors New Zealand. It wasn’t all of the Dunedin Sound, it wasn’t all these type of huge bands that get trotted out each time we discuss in regards to the historical past of Flying Nun. It’s a Christchurch label, there are all these wonderful Christchurch bands, Chris Knox and Doug Hood have been up in Auckland recording all these wonderful Auckland bands, there was rather more range of kinds than is commonly considered after we take into consideration Flying Nun.”
It’s what struck Goody when he started to research the label’s output in earnest, following his fortunate discover within the London report retailer bin.
“The music clearly was the first factor, simply the wealth of wonderful music. You understand, it’s one factor to hearken to the bands that everybody holds up because the wonderful bands on the label, like The Verlaines and The Chills and The Clear — significantly the Dunedin bands — however you dig deeper and there have been all these, what I name, one and performed bands. A band that may put out a single EP, like The Alpaca Brothers or Exploding Budgies. Who the heck is the Exploding Budgies? This report, and like, ‘oh, my God’, that is beautiful stuff. And that is frequently taking place.”
Good songs, good sounds, but in addition, due to the DIY method in these early years and the liberty afforded the artists to do it their means, an absence of artifice.
“There wasn’t a schtick. There was simply this sort of actual … I daren’t use the phrase authenticity, however there was an actual sincerity to it.”
A quote, repeated within the e-book, from a 1985 interview with Bored Video games, Stones and DoubleHappys guitarist Wayne Elsey, who died on tour that 12 months, touches on it: “There have been DoubleHappys gigs which have simply been completely magic. The place there’s been this sense — it appears like a load of sh** — instances once I’ve stopped taking part in and I’ve thought ‘That was magic, that was fantastic’. That’s the kind of factor that makes me need to waste my time getting up on stage with a band and taking part in guitar. It actually is basically good. It’s not a pose, it’s not f****** something, it’s a extremely fantastic good feeling.”
Needles and Plastic: Flying Nun Information, 1981–1988, by Matthew Goody, printed by Auckland College Press, is out on November 10.
AudioCulture has lately printed a musical story map of Dunedin, put collectively by Amanda Mills: www.audioculture.co.nz/articles/dunedin-story-map
It takes within the Dunedin Sound/Flying Nun haunts but in addition goes proper again to the founding of Begg’s music retailer, and ticks off Joe Brown’s dances and Six60.