Wednesday, 8 January 2014


* this is re-posted now just for my own ref, with all the download links removed after it was taken down by copyright infringement (David Rawlings Machine), and they were deadlinks by now anyway *

Determined to do this before 2010 ticks past halfway!

Good to have some extra time for reflection, anyway... though I did come up with this list by about March, plus I'd never be able to approach even quasi-comprehensiveness anyway. I probably did listen to a bit more than usual, though, due to being home more often in pregnancy then with baby.

(no particular order, and pretty haphazard)

  • Felix You Are the One I Pick LP, (Kranky).
    Found this album beguiling and listened to it probably the most in my first few blurry months of mothering.
  • Jim O'Rourke The Visitor LP, (Drag City).
  • Katherine Young Further Secret Origins LP, (Porter Records).
  • Moon Duo Killing Time EP, (Sacred Bones)
    & Love on the Sea 12", (Sick Thirst).
    Jacqueline Castel made a freaking gorgeous video for Killing Time.

  • Meth Teeth Everything Went Wrong LP, Woodsist. I really got into this rad record label and they're going so strong this year too.

  • Richard Youngs Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits CD (Sonic Oyster Records).
    Especially the song Radio Innocents.

  • Sun Araw Heavy Deeds LP (Not Not Fun).

  • Josephine Foster Graphic As a Star LP (Fire Records).

  • Just before Chris Knox's stroke I was finding some kind of solace during my mother's illness in his song about his father, 'Becoming Something Other'.
    Sad news, but his response is very heartening (for instance he's still singing, got a new record out, and was even interviewed on TV despite being unable to speak/sing any words besides 'yes'). International tribute album Stroke included a rare appearance of one of my favourite musicians, Peter Gutteridge, doing an Enemy-era rocker piano-ballad style. I also loved Pumice doing one of my favourite CK tracks and Hamish Kilgour's eerie piece dubbing in Knox's voice.

    Other sad news was the death of Jack Rose. I had been getting into 1995's epic Pelt album Brown Cyclopedia again.

  • And while I'm meandering all over, I'll sneak in a pick from 2008 that I didn't hear until 2009; Stag Hare Black Medicine Music LP (A. Star).

  • Still no new Gillian Welch album, but Dave Rawlings Machine's lovely Sweet Tooth didn't hurt.
I didn't get to attend much live music, due to an uncomfortable pregnancy but I liked Rachel Unthank and the Winterset at the Toff in Town, and especially awesome was the unannounced performance after the Melbourne Film Festival screening of Intangible Asset no. 82 by featured Korean performers Kim Dong-Wo and Bae Il-Dong, with Australian drummer Simon Barker.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

yi yi

01. BABY DEE Yapapipi, from 'Regifted Light' (Drag City, 2011)
02. KAREN DALTON Whoopee Ti Yi Yo, from 'Green Rocky Road' (Megaphone, 2008. rec'd 1963)
03. NATHAN BOWLES Charlie's Pontoon, from 'Honest Strings: A Tribute To The Life And Work Of Jack Rose' (Jack Rose LLC, 2010)
04. ELEPHANT MICAH Rides Away, from 'Low Energy Dance Music' (Landmark Record(ings), 2002)
05. MV/EE MEDICINE SHOW The Uranian Ray, from 'The Uranian Ray' (Child of Microtones, 2004)
06. THE SHALLOWS Trial By Separation, b-side to 'Suzanne Said' (self-released 7", 1985)
07. BROADCAST + THE FOCUS GROUP We Are After All Here, from '..Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age' (Warp, 2009)
08. TWO DOLLAR GUITAR Down to Sleep, from 'Let Me Bring You Down' (Smells Like Records, 1994)
09. CYNTHIA DALL Be Safe With Me, from 'Sound Restores Young Men' (Drag City, 2002)
10. NEU! Isi, from 'Neu! '75' (Brain, 1975)
11. PYE CORNER AUDIO Electronic Rhythm Number Four, from 'Black Mill Tapes Volume 2: Do You Synthesize?' (Pye Corner Audio Transcription Services, 2011)
12. NICK HUGGINS Hoddle Street, from 'Five Lights' (Two Bright Lakes, 2011)

zip of mp3s, all above 192 bitrate (comment to request re-upload)

Saturday, 30 June 2012

:::::::::::::::::::::::snapper lyrics..:transcription attempt

please email me {spit gum at g mail dot com} with any additions/suggestions

lyrics by Peter Gutteridge

(all unofficial)


he's gonna pop his top
he's gonna pop his top
he's gonna pop his top for every girl he sees

he's gonna throw you round
he's gonna put you down
he's gonna pop his top for every girl he sees

he's gonna pop his top
he's gonna pop his top
he's gonna pop his top for every girl he sees


he's a dirty old man at a dirty old age
he's a dirty old man at a dirty old age
he's gonna pop his top for every girl he sees

he's gonna throw you round
he's gonna put you down
he's gonna pop his top for every girl he sees

he's gonna pop his top
he's gonna pop his top
he's gonna pop his top for every girl he sees


he's gonna pop his top
he's gonna pop his top
he's gonna pop his top for every girl he sees

pop his top
pop his top
he's gonna pop his top for every girl he sees

- - - - - - - - - - - -


nice little jewish boy
fucking around
yeah, shouldn't be doing the things you have
yeah, telepod fly

well, it's nice to be nice
good to be living
thank your stars you're not a gibbon (?)

yeah, telepod fly
yeah, telepod fly

it's nice to be nice
good to be living

won't know how to give in

telepod fly
yeah, telepod fly

- - - - - - - - - - - -


yeah, I love you, baby
yeah, all the time
yeah, I love you, baby
yeah, all the time

if this is love, why is it hell?
if this is love, why is it hell?

eyes that shine
eyes that never cry

yeah, I love you, baby
yeah, all the time
yeah, I hate you, baby
yeah, all the time

if this is love, why is it hell?
if this is love, why is it hell?

eyes that shine
eyes that never cry

yeah, I love you, baby
yeah, all the time
yeah, I love you, baby
yeah, all the time

if this is love, why is it hell?
if this is love, why is it hell?

eyes that shine
eyes that never cry

- - - - - - - - - - - -


heading home
four wheels attached to the fields of wonder

at night you race

almost close behind you
all the ?? tastes like cauliflowers (?)

a dark sensation
out here
I'm not supposed to be alone

all alone
in a car
four wheels attached to ???

then the familiar is almost behind you
that's when you see a dark sensation

? not supposed to be

- - - - - - - - - - - -


and they took him to the river
just to show him where the accident happened
where they lost all of the children
never see their faces again

dead pictures sitting in my hand
never see their faces again
and it's...
doesn't anybody care about the young and the innocent
and why...?

and they took him to the places
where they had spent some time
and they asked him lots of questions
about what happened here
? times

doesn't anybody care about the young and the innocent
and why they're always...

dead pictures
floating in the mud
dead pictures

dead pictures
on the wall
never see his face again
and it's...
dead pictures floating in the water

doesn't anybody care about the young and the innocent
and why they're always...

- - - - - - - - - - - -


snapper and the ocean
a million miles away
can't think of anything, anything today
but when you touch my hand
well I calm right down
start thinking bout the fish that spawn
and all the horses that ride(writhed?)

everybody's got a wild vein

must have been singing a song
waiting for the message
must've been singing a song
waiting for the message

when you touch my hand
well, I calm right down
start thinking of the fish that swim
and all the horses that ride

everybody's got a wild vein

snapper and the ocean
million miles away
can't think of anything, anything today
when you touch my hand
then I calm down
start thinking bout the fish that swim
and all the horses that ride

everybody's got a wild vein

- - - - - - - - - - - -


what are you thinking?
what are you doing?

what do you think about when you're alone
in your thoughts?

and you are sure to tell me where to get in

what are you thinking?
what are you doing?

my only ?
someone else's children
really(reading?) someone else's pervy mind (?)

what are you thinking?
what are you doing?

- - - - - - - - - - - -


in the fields in the hot sun
a pound of wisdom turns to dung

the fortress(tortures?) no survivors
stop the engine
I think it's time to run

how could you come here
with your ugly leather boots
waving a bible

. . .

in the fields in the hot sun
a pound of wisdom turns to dung

take the fortress and leave no survivors
stop the engine
I think it's time to run

how could you come here
with your ugly leather boots

in the fields in the hot sun
a pound of wisdom turns to dung
take the fortress and leave no survivors
stop the engine
I think it's time to run

in the fields in the hot sun
a pound of wisdom turns to dung
take the fortress and leave no survivors
stop the engine
I think it's time to run

- - - - - - - - - - - -


I don't know if the world's gonna last that long
and I don't know if the world's gonna last that long

I don't know if the world's gonna last that long
and I don't know if the world's gonna last that long

I don't know if the world's gonna last that long
and I don't know if the world's gonna last that long

I don't know if the world's gonna last that long
and I don't know if the world's gonna last that long

- - - - - - - - - - - -


burn it down
and all the people inside, they couldn't get out

thought you would know by now

mr? ?????????????

burn it down
no people inside there could get out
a thousand ??
thought you would know by now
that the human spirit is free

from the west ?????
burn it down

burn it down
burning down

burn it down
burning down

- - - - - - - - - - - -


yeah, we go out and we stay in
? the desires

yeah, how many times have I laid down with you
and thought about somewhere else

find some cool dry spot

and think about you
till the day is done

yeah cool dry spot
yeah cool dry spot

yeah, we go out and we stay in

yeah, how many times have I looked at you
and thought about someone else

I'm gonna jump on a train
I'm gonna sail the sea
find some cool dry spot
and sit in the sun and think about you
till the day is done

yeah, cool dry spot
cool dry spot

- - - - - - - - - - - -


if rain's what you wanted, baby
then you can have it all
but the ?

it's ?
the edge of the plain
and ?

people survive
but flowers ?

yeah, moving round and round
your eyes moving round and round

if it's rain that
you've got it, baby
and the things you need are the worst of all
yeah, trawling in a sea of love
be careful what you catch

if it's rain that
you've got it baby
but the ? worse than ?
if it's rain that
you've got it baby
yeah, you ?

- - - - - - - - - - - -


vader, vader
vader, vader
vader, vader

stripped down
opened up
like a machine
not giving up

vader, vader
vader, vader

vader, vader
vader, vader
vader, vader

bites the head off

vader, vader
vader, vader
vader, vader
vader, vader

put it in your
eyes and then twist
maximum kill
this is the end

vader, vader
vader, vader
vader, vader
vader, vader

strips down
opens up
like a machine
not giving up

vader, vader
vader, vader
vader, vader
vader, vader

bites the head of(f?)

vader, vader
vader, vader


Friday, 29 June 2012

dark sensation

S N A P P E R + P E T E R G U T T E R I D G E

I once had few pages up on the net about the Dunedin band Snapper, and was motivated by my preceding post about the Skeptics to unearth it here. I've lost track of the provenance of one of the pieces ("Waiting for the Gutman") and I hope to track down another piece I think I have lurking about. Please let me know of any corrections, elaborations, or errors spotted.

PG didn't play any shows during the time I lived in Dunedin during 2000-2002 (despite a trip out to Taieri Mouth Community Hall for a gig-that-never-was), so I'm heartened to hear he's played live again this year. I adore his piano-based songs and hope he records more.

Snapper is the band formed by Peter Gutteridge (a founding member of The Chills and early member of The Clean) as an extension of the music he'd been making on his own during 1986/87. Home recordings from this period were released in the form of the 'Pure' cassette album on Xpressway records in 1989. Snapper was born with the addition of Alan Haig (Chills, Verlaines, Chug, Heavy Eights) on drums and Christine Voice (the Delawares) on keyboards and vocals.

Other members of Snapper at various times have included:
Mike Dooley (The Enemy, Toy Love, The Pop Art Toasters, The Snares, The $100 Band)
Dominic Stones (Bird Nest Roys, 3Ds)
Tom Bell (Harmonic Deluxe, Palace at 4am)
Maxine Funke (The Snares, The $100 Band)
David Kilgour (The Clean, The Great Unwashed, Stephen, David Kilgour, The Pop Art Toasters, The Heavy Eights)
Roddy Pain (Constant Pain)


  • Snapper 12" EP / cassette (Flying Nun, 1987 - released on CD in 1992). FN110
  • Peter Gutteridge Pure cassette (Xpressway, 1989). X/WAY9
  • Shotgun Blossom (Avalanche, 1990). ONLY010
    re-release: CD / cassette (Flying Nun, 1992). FN216
  • 'Dark Sensation / 'Snapper and the Ocean' single-sided 33.3rpm 7" (Avalanche, 1990). AGAP010
  • 'Vader' b/w 'Gentle Hour' 7" (Flying Nun, 1993). FN264
  • ADM 12" LP / CD (Flying Nun, 1996). FN294
  • 'Hammerhead' (live) b/w 'Dry Spot' (live) 7" (Crawlspace, 1996).
  • Crawlspace's Andrew Schmidt writes about the above release on his excellent blog Mysterex.

    compilation appearances:

  • Xpressway Pile-up (original version, Xpressway, 1988): 'Emmanuelle' and 'Death and Weirdness in the Surfing Zone'
  • In Love With These Times (Flying Nun, 1988): 'Hang On'
  • Getting Older (Flying Nun, 1991): 'Buddy'
  • Christine Voice's track 'Beat the Bullet' is on Shrew'd (Flying Nun, 1993).
  • Topless Women Talk About Their Lives soundtrack (Flying Nun, 1997): 'Buddy'
  • Peter played 'Point That Thing Somewhere Else' with HDU on God Save The Clean: a tribute to The Clean (Flying Nun, 1998).
  • Arc: Music of Dunedin (Arclife Records, 1998): Peter Gutteridge 'Universe of Love'
  • But I Can Write Songs Okay: Forty Years of Dunedin Popular Music book (Yellow Eye, 2000): 'Tomcat'
  • Where In The World Is Wendy Broccoli? (Flying Nun, 2005): 'Gentle Hour'
  • Flying Nun 25th Anniversary Box Set (Flying Nun, 2006): 'Buddy'
  • Peter covers The Enemy's 'Don't Catch Fire' on the benefit/tribute album
  • Stroke: Songs for Chris Knox (A Major Records / Merge, 2009).
  • Tally Ho! Flying Nun's Greatest Bits (Flying Nun, 2011): 'Buddy'
(Are Flying Nun are aware that Snapper have recorded more than one great song?!)

The Clean cover 'Gentle Hour' on Under The Influence - 21 Years Of Flying Nun Records (2002) and Yo La Tengo do the same song on Dark Was the Night (4AD, 2009).


A video for 'Buddy' made by Stuart Page in 1988 appears on Noisyland, the video compilation he produced which was released via Flying Nun in 1994, and FN's 2004 Very Short Films DVD. Here it is on the NZ Film Archive's site.


--> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> -->

posthumous remembrances

<-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <-- <--

Snapper's brand of droning, synth-heavy guitar-rock has often been compared to Jesus and Mary Chain in their heyday. It's true, they do share a similar taste for the darker side of Velvet-induced new wave, but Snapper front man Peter Gutteridge does not have to make a name for himself as a rip-off artist (and by the way, Stereolab and Jesus and Mary Chain themselves are part of their devoted cult following). The Richard Hell of New Zealand, he was a founding member of both The Clean and The Chills, and was a pivotal member of The Great Unwashed on their Singles EP. With a voice that drones as much as the music he creates, he commands the punishing assault of the band, who consist of Christine Voice on keyboards, Dominic Stones (Bird Nest Roys) on guitar, and Alan Haig (Verlaines) on drums.

To be honest, all four of these tracks are of the same formula: a distorted keyboard riff played over and over for three minutes, squealing guitar solos, simple and steady drumming, and a couple of lyrics repeated over and over again. But there is something strangely appealing to this music. Lines such as "no more buddy buddy, no more messing around / I'm not going to be your, be your fucking clown" (from 'Buddy') become engraved in your head. The music is so simple and repetitive, it becomes less of a song and more of a mantra. Sadly, they are hardly a prolific band, releasing their debut full-length (Shotgun Blossom) in 1991, an EP ('Gentle Hour') in 1992, another single ('Vader') in 1993, and ADM in 1996. All of their releases are worth hearing, but there is a certain historical importance to this, their debut EP. Seanzilla, The Vertical Slum.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Bill Meyer, Option, 1991.

In 1986, Peter Gutteridge found himself in a predicament. He had co-founded and left two of New Zealand's best-regarded independent bands, the Clean and the Chills. His last band, the Great Unwashed, had fizzled after promising beginnings. He had a backlog of songs and no way to present them. He did the time-honoured DIY right thing - he bought a four-track recording machine and started writing and recording music at home using guitars, keyboards, and a rhythm machine. from these humble beginnings grew Snapper, an unstoppable musical juggernaut.

Working alone, Gutteridge developed a sound very different from his previous bands. The Clean and the Chills had defined a Dunedin indie-pop sound which emphasized jangly guitars and melodies. Gutteridge began writing material that started with rhythms and sounds: lyrics and melodies developed organically to complete a song. The sound of these songs was a wash of distortion, feedback and sustain. Gutteridge explained: "For years I played without a distortion unit. It's only in the last three years that I’ve started to use one and it's a whole sort of area, something I can apply where one normally doesn't. On some of my tapes I even apply it on drums. That's not the only thing we do, but you can do things with the sound that you couldn't possibly do otherwise. You can make a note last and sort of hum behind you, you can make it loop. Instead of a chord just going WHAM and dying off, you can play with it and make it feed through. It becomes sort of like a tentacle, something long and drawn out."

After a number of months working alone, Gutteridge played his tapes to drummer and fellow ex-Chill Alan Haig, who liked what he heard and began collaborating with Gutteridge. They were joined by another kindred soul, ex-Bird Nest Roys guitarist Dominic Stones, and played a few gigs as the Phroms with Gutteridge handling keyboard duties. they did an opening spot for a band called the Delawares and lured that band's Christine Voice into their ranks. She traded off on keyboards and guitar with Gutteridge and Snapper was born.

Snapper introduced the world to the band's approach to music as organized layers of sound. The cover, painted by Christine Voice, is all bold colours layered over one another, a vivid representation of the band's music. Three of the songs are gate-crashing musical assaults with metronomic drumming propelling shifting layers of guitars and organs, all run through Alron distortion units. Over the top. Gutteridge and Voice chant punk-rock vocal mantras that are long on enthusiasm, attitude and atmosphere, short on specific meaning. Appropriately enough, the video for the opening track, 'Buddy', featured a club of bikers roaring down the highway. The record's last song, 'Hang On', slows things down to close the EP with five minutes of hovering hypnotic menace.

Gutteridge reckons that the band has enough material for two good albums. Snapper is scheduled to go into the studio in June 1990 to record another album for Flying Nun, but in the meantime Gutteridge has found other avenues to put his music before the public. In 1989, Xpressway, a cassette-oriented New Zealand label, released an hour-long collection of Gutteridge’s 1986-87 four-track recordings entitled Pure. Pure illustrates both the development of the Snapper sound and a hint of what the EP doesn't reveal. Many of the cassette’s 21 tracks are just Gutteridge alone with his drum machines, cheap keyboards, and fuzzy guitars: others include various Snapper members. Xpressway will also include a Snapper track on its label compilation, Xpressway Pile-up.

Since the EP, Snapper has continued to play around New Zealand and write songs. Although the record was very well received in England and Australia, impecuniousness kept the band at home. "We'd like to go to Europe, England, and definitely come to America", notes Gutteridge, "but we want to record first as well. Then it would be really interesting for us...taking (our music) right outside of its environment."

REVIEWS OF Shotgun Blossom

1. What a brilliant sound Shotgun Blossom has! The "big fat groove" of the four-song Snapper debut EP is alive and kicking on this massive 13-song LP, which has finally got a local release long after it's appearance as a UK import (and an indie top 20 placing there). For those unfortunates yet to be exposed to this Dunedin band, be warned - their droning, hypnotic, distorted beauty rips through to rock 'n' roll's primal roots, with little more than a raised finger to most current fashion-plate pop. Peter Gutteridge writes melodies that seethe invitingly under the simple chord progressions, choosing to mix his vocals a little more mysteriously than on that debut EP. Combined with Dominic Stones (guitar), Christine Voice (keyboards and vocals), and the majestic pulse of a classic NZ drummer, Alan Haig (formerly of the Chills), the effect is totally invigorating.

'Pop Your Top' is raw and instantly memorable, with a chorus that will undoubtedly shred student radio station playlists countrywide, and 'Telepod Fly', 'Eyes That Shine' and the trance-boogie gem, 'Dry Spot', will also make you sweat with delight. 'Snapper and the Ocean' and 'Dead Pictures' are quieter but no less direct, the former getting single release in the UK, while 'Can' and 'Rain' go the other way, leaving melody out completely in a sonic sprint to the finish.

I refuse to even consider the comparisons to the superficially similar (but much more arty) New York band, Suicide, or the possibility that a couple of weaker songs may exist on Shotgun Blossom. Snapper have created a unique sound, and I just want to wallow in it - so should you.

Tony Green, Christchurch Press (daily newspaper), 1992. - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. Whoa. Get a load of this. Here's tantalising and unrelenting bolts of pure power distortion blanketing melodies that aren't half appealing. It's a wild mix, something akin to the sort of stuff the Jesus and Mary Chain produced in the early days. Throughout the album there's an almost menacing industrial shadow that glides along just below the surface of most tracks and contrasts the freshness the guitar and keyboards kick up. The melodic stance of the tracks serves to ward off any state of depression one may be tempted to slide into as a result of the driving wall of sound that doesn't let up throughout the whole 13 tracks. Value for money, if nothing else. And the raspy, whispered vocals add an eerie dimension to an album that already leaves you awestruck.

Dunedin's Snapper were formed by Peter Gutteridge (who wrote all the tracks on this album and, among other things, was an early Chill and a member of the Clean) and Christine Voice in 1987. Joining them on this album are ex-Chills and Verlaines drummer Alan Haig and former Bird Nest Roys guitarist, Dominic Stones. A debut EP from Snapper in the late 1980s was released in England and caught the attention of independent label Avalanche who signed Snapper to record an album. Shotgun Blossom is the result. It was first released in the UK last year where it received enthusiastic raves from the English music press and went to number 12 on NME's independent charts. Now it's our turn for some state-of-the-noise distortion. I think you'll be impressed.

Mark Raffills, Nelson Evening Mail (daily newspaper; now Nelson Mail), 1992. - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. Peter Gutteridge has been around long enough to know that the Bad Lord never meant rock music to be real art, or "self expression", or some social phenomenon turning individual stupid Western teenagers into a stupid united force. He knows that it's truest essence is a trick of the darkness, a supremely elegant, anti-social confidence trick; that all that matters is that you or I mistake the awesome, primitive beauty of his band's noise for our own power and thus momentarily feel better about our pathetic lives. Because he knows all this, he deals only in the most fleeting of Dark Sensations while family favourites like Martin Phillipps explain themselves to death with too many chords and pointlessly specific lyrics. Any elaboration of a title like 'Telepod Fly' would enter the realm of sci-fi naffness, but with only a thermonuclear throb of guitar, keyboard and unintelligibly reverbed voice to speak for it, its associations of futuristic escape and narcissistic solitude go on forever. If you need any more paraphrasing than that, observe that the song on Shotgun Blossom called 'Can' follows one on Gutteridge's solo tape called 'Suicide'. Snapper are as musically monstrous as the former, as superhumanly attitude-laden as the latter. Surrender to them now.

Matthew Hyland, Rip It Up, 1992. - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. Peter Gutteridge only needs introducing to non-Flying Nun disciples - an original Clean/Great Unwashed and even a Chill (if only for two nanoseconds). Now Snapper, protagonists of 1988's eponymous debut EP that mapped out a relentless meta-garage, Suicide/Mary Chain vibe-'Death And Weirdness In The Surfin' Zone', as one track put it. The much-delayed Shotgun Blossom scratches out another 13 dark entries with that desolate, reverbed motordrive of ghost-rider organ surge and matching surf-sick guitar churn, glued together in merciless matrimony, likewise Gutteridge and keyboard player Christine Voice's vocals, built up on perfect drum-robotics from Alan Haig (a Chill circa 'I Love My Leather Jacket'; guitarist Dominic Stone is an ex-Bird Nest Roy and currently in the 3Ds) and a production like slowly drying cement.

Snapper's song titles ('Telepod Fly', 'Dead Pictures', 'What Are You Thinking?', 'Eyes That Shine') suggest a queasy, cracked mirror of something-wicked-this-way-comes paranoia and emotional cramps but Gutteridge and Voice's vocal drones make matters crystal clear, with their frosted, morphine murmurs, like a formaldehyde Sonny & Cher. Sometimes the glaze melts, vis-a-vis the West Coast crush of 'Hot Sun' or 'Dead Pictures' (pop gets moist at the hop), but it's a thinly garbed stab at innocence, or passion.

The epic four-note guitar intro and monotonous crush of 'I Don't Know' that follows 'Hot Sun' confirms Snapper knows exactly where their sympathies lie, in the electrical synapses of their grim-reaper garage music and the audible resignation in the voices (remember where Snapper live, in Dunedin's bottom-of-the-world fishbowl, where melody and melancholy rest in peace). Shotgun Blossom plays with familiar poisons, but it's a brilliant, all-consuming statement.

Martin Aston, CMJ - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. A LOADED SHOTGUN review by Peter Kaye, with comments from Peter Gutteridge, Side On issue 3, 1992.

Snapper, the band, as it has been, and as it is now, still revolves around Peter Gutteridge, without whom there wouldn't be a Snapper. Some may suggest rather cruelly that maybe that is the unfortunate thing. Because despite what else Pete is capable of, he has been able to divide opinion in this little burg pretty evenly into two camps - those who care about him and those who don’t. Trying to pin him down on the subject of his reputation in all its guises was like trying to catch a fish with a piece of binder twine and a bent nail - damn near impossible unless you have the right bait. He suggested that it would be more constructive to analyse his music rather than him.

So, with that in mind, here is the dirt on the new album, Shotgun Blossom, song by song in the same order as they’re in on the record. With all the rumours that flew around during the recording of this album, it was a surprise to see it actually materialise, let alone to discover, on listening to it, what a damn fine record it actually is. It has already made it into the Top Ten on the British independent charts. So to begin. The first track is 'Pop Your Top', and the first surprise on hearing this song is what the vocals sound like when they kick in. This is no garage/backyard recording - these vocals have been very tastefully mixed, doing long overdue justice to Christine Voice, with Peter sounding suitably haunting. While listening to the song, I at first thought that maybe they came up with its title to describe what the guitars sound - like they're boiling away in a huge pressure cooker with a lid on it and, at the end of the song, the lid flies off and the guitars spew forth from the speakers and spill out all over the floor. But on listening to the chorus, I discovered the song's title comes from something much less subtle. It goes: "He's gonna pop his top/ For every girl to see". Peter definitely has a way with words.

The second song, an instrumental called 'Can', had me wondering whether this was a direct tribute to the band of the same name, knowing that Alan (drummer) is a keen man on Can. This is not the case though, according to Pete. Mere coincidence, he tells me. But this is a great soundtrack for letting everyone from here to Britain know that musically, this is dirty fine Snapper. It fires up with guitars, noisy and distorted, the keyboards then run into it, and then this really distinctive feedback is wound in. Pete tells me this is feedback he records cold when he first goes into the studio, and he just wheels it in when he wants to use it. Tricky. This song is the pure Snapper formula - basic backbeat, driving rhythm from the bottom end of one guitar, howling distortion from the other, and nicely blended keyboard lines. A great hole for anyone with a pigeon fixation.

'Telepod Fly' is Snapper's sci-fi song, and check these lines out: "Nice little Jewish boy/ Fuckin’ around/ He shouldn't be doing it, he's such a clown/ Yeah Telepod Fly - Yeah Telepod Fly/ It's nice to be nice/ It's good to be livin'/ Thank your stars you're not a gibbon". If the future looks so bright that you have to wear shades, then Snapper have a way with what they do with their sound in this song to make it look quite dark; quite dark indeed. But hey, it's not without its humour and after all if you didn't laugh you'd cry, right, Pete? This is the first song on the album that, sound-wise, took me back to another time when the Jesus and Mary Chain first went public with their brand of white noise. Either unintentionally, or because they are signed to a Scottish label, Snapper have shown their boss that it's done even better down this end of the world.

It may not make your eyes shine, but the fourth song, 'Eyes That Shine', will make your ears tingle, vibrate, bleed even, if you turn it up loud enough. Truly lovely harmonies - that girl can sing. Not that this will come as any surprise to those already familiar with the Voice, but here she's been recorded and mixed so well. This song is Snapper raw, yet sweet at the same time - sort of like eating sugar and lemon washed down with Monteiths and raspberry.

'Dark Sensation' could be about something really ominous and foreboding, if the way it sounds is anything to go by. It could be about eternal struggle, that fine line between pleasure and pain. It could be a bit of a worry, but it's not - it's about (Pete assures me) driving alone at night, with a tankful of life's juices and a headful of sinister sounds. This is Pete's first choice for a single off the album. Tortured guitar, a mainline pulse, ringing keyboards, ghostly vocals - all the ingredients for a hum-dinging roast.

On to the sixth track. Every good album has one, and 'Dead Pictures' is this album's real surprise. It is very unelectric, with charming vocals singing all about a dead picture hanging on the wall. Take from that what you will - the lyrical content may be heavy - "It's just a bunch of words, really" says Pete, being typically vague - but musically this song is all sweetness and light, a veritable hippie anthem. It's about the dodgy goings-on in a family, teenage suicides - the real world basically. It's easy to imagine this song being played live and the whole dancefloor filled with raised arms, lighters waving from side to side.

'Snapper and the Ocean' is my pick for the first single. Nicely plucked guitar intro, then the fuzz and distortion blended in, Peter's vocals double tracked and Christine’s harmonies dripping down over top of it all. The vocals in this song are very reminiscent of Look Blue Go Purple, and that can't be said about too many recordings. The song's title is not a self-fulfilling prophecy, and Pete is quick to point out the lines in the song - "Snapper in the ocean, a million miles away/I can't think of anything, anything today/ But when you touch my hand/ I calm right down and start thinking about the fish that swim and all the horses that ride/ Everybody's got a wild vein". These words clearly indicate Pete's sensitive side - no bullshit macho posturing in evidence here.

Number eight track is 'What Are You Thinking?', and if this was an Auckland album, it would all end here. But no, this is a Dunedin band that believes in giving us an album's worth of songs if we're paying for a long playing record - after all, that's what we expect. This title is not a direct question aimed at anyone in particular, just Pete's general curiosity. The song is classic Snapper, the pure end of rock'n'roll, constantly circulating distortion, haunting vocals, a kick drum that goes round and round and round, and all done with a really menacing mix. Turn this one up real loud. The question becomes a screaming plea of a chorus, and this song confirms beyond a shred of a doubt that Snapper are unique. There may be some reference points, but there's no way you can mistake this for anything else - this is Snapper at the core.

Pete tells me 'Hot Sun' is about colonialism in a vague sort of way, and if the lines "In the fields/ In the hot sun/ A pound of wisdom/ Turns to dung" are anything to go by, it's not really that vague either. It's definitely not vague when the guitars come on stream, steaming with a sneer that is reinforced vocally (even Shayne can probably remember what that was like). Nice job on this one Dom. You and Pete must have had a real ball playing it.

'I Don't Know' is not the response Peter gave me when asked about the arrival of the album in New Zealand, but is the album's tenth song. If Electricorp really wanted to know about one way their voltage is used to maximum effect, they should have a listen to this. That trademark guitar may put Snapper out on a limb for some, but if there was any real justice in the world, that would be recognised as the tree from which different musical limbs have grown here in Dunners. This song is the reason why anyone who has ever played with Snapper in the past, or is playing with them now has such a good time playing live. Reliability can be such a downer in the real, mundane, hi-tech, efficient world, and who needs it when the creative juices are flowing red hot? Obviously some of Snapper's past members have treated reliability with a fair amount of importance. As for Peter, he simply gives one of his famous shrugs and says "Oh, I don't know".

"Just a name off the top of my head, really", says Pete when asked who inspired the title of 'Emmanuelle'. Besides, if he hadn't given it a title it would be bloody difficult to pick out the name, with a song awash in guitars and all at sea. But there is that howling thread again, holding it all together. No worries, eh, Pete?

'Dry Spot' is not about some place without a pub, Pete assures me, and remarks that it would have been nice to have had more time in the studio "to get the vocals really subsonic on this one". The sound definitely is subsonic - nice job on the part of Brent (the mixer) and the band. This one is also a bit Mary Chainish, but they are wimps compared to this. And the heart beats with a very clear snare. Nice one. It’s lyrically all about pure escapism - "thinking about being somewhere nice and warm on a cold Dunedin day".

And now the last song on the album, 'Rain'. Snapper are not the first and won’t be the last to write a song with this word in the title, if previous efforts by bands from Dunedin - and elsewhere for that matter - are anything to go by. What makes this song so different though is that it is sinister, menacing and nasty, with rock'n'roll pumping through its vein. There are real drums as well as machine drums here (a sort of chugging, hissing thud and swish); whining, whingeing guitar; and vocals that are far away in the distance - a really good moody one that can create a distanced mental state in anyone who has listened to the rekkid right through. It rings in your ears long after it has stopped going round.

Peter's own conclusions about this album are that given a bigger budget and more time to record, there are many other things he would have liked to try. Then there are those who have suggested that the album's final cost was far in excess of what it should have been anyway. But that argument could go on til the cows come home. For anyone who takes the time to listen to Shotgun Blossom thoroughly, none of these things will be apparent. What will be obvious is that this is a stunning statement. And if it sells as well as it burns the ears, then Snapper has a very bright future indeed, which will no doubt see Peter and the band entrusted with an even bigger budget for more experiments next time. And if that happens, there sure as hell won't be time to wallow in the mire. - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ned Raggett's review, review by Ryan Leach, Spacecase Records


1. After almost five years in the wilderness, Snapper have their second album out. Peter Gutteridge is still there on vocals, guitar and keyboards, with former Toy Love drummer Mike Dooley now being the sole other official member. But the songs remain the same. They and their cohorts may not be the mind-blowing live band the original line-up was but ADM shows that in the studio at least, Gutteridge's creativity and vision is intact. On songs like the metronomic 'Tomcat' and 'Hammerhead' the masterful hypnotic trance groove is still present and powerful. 'Stalker' is a thudding beast, with chilling vocals. Others like 'Small Town Secret' are more slow - swinging, but tense drones.

Grant McDougall, Real Groove. - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. Heroin's back in fashion again, but listening to Snapper's new album back to back with the band's other records could scare all but the truly death-obsessed away from the drug. Back in the late 80s, Snapper's debut EP was one of the most exciting things in the Flying Nun catalog; it crossed his facility at arranging colorfully distorted sounds with the full-on aggression derived from early Suicide, applying an irresistible sonic juggernaut to gorgeously catchy melodies. But even then, band-leader (and ex- Clean founder) Peter Gutteridge's substance abuse exploits weren't exactly secret around Dunedin. The quartet took 4 years to record a follow-up album, and by the time it was out his band had deserted him - they quit after he nodded out on stage.

It's another 4 years on and Snapper's returned with another album. You could hardly call it a band this time, though; Gutteridge plays everything except for the drums, which are pounded by Toy Love veteran Mike Dooley. Pete's still a master at layering snaky tendrils of snarling distorted guitars and slaps buzzing keyboards over that monolithic beat, but this record represents a narrowing of sound and vision that I can only blame on the drugs. Consider Gutteridge's voice. In the 80s it was gravelly but quite capable of carrying the fetching tunes he wrote; now it's been reduced to a gargling growl with a limited range that sounds scary as hell. That works fine on menacing tunes like 'Demon', 'Small Town Secret', and 'Stalker', but I miss his tunes. In their place is a menacing, pulsating throb that battled my not-very-quiet air conditioner to a draw the first time I played the disc.

I've played ADM many times since then and I like it a lot, but each time I spin it I get the uneasy feeling that I'm a voyeur observing someone spiral inevitably into a black heart of darkness.

Bill Meyer, Popwatch issue #8, 1997. - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. Some people never change. The new Snapper album opens with one word - 'Motherfucker'. Welcome to the lab, we've got the gunked-up, steam powered guitars, the volcanic, rumbling drums, the organ covered with Jacob's Ladders and, of course, the vocals o' doom. If Peter Gutteridge growled: "Hey, buddy, got a light?" in some dimly lit side street, you'd put your head down and run.

Of course it's the same sort of stuff they've been doing since the '80s. You think the Skeptics, you ponder early Bailter Space. But then, the rest of the world never experienced our ear melting Flying Nun phase, so we can expect some extravagant overseas reviews of ADM (Automatic Death Machine?).

I just can't get away from the image of ET making a complicated space transmitter with a spell machine, umbrella and circular saw, or some medieval druids trying to conjure up a nuclear bomb with sea shells, human entrails and hemlock soup. Complex and horrific. Primal but effective.

John Taite, Rip It Up. - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. Boys in black standing too close to their amps? Ah, yes, the stuff of legends. Ever since the Velvet Underground unleashed their decibel-crazy Sister Ray, young men in sunglasses have been causing mayhem all over the shop with their whistling-guitar antics and slightly morose obsession with winkle-pickers. The latest in this long line of ne'er-do-wells are New Zealand's, ahem, legendary feedback enthusiasts, Snapper. This might be only the second album of their seven-year career, but their previous releases have seen all your favourite noise buddies (including the Mary Chain and Stereolab) frantically waggling their distortion pedals in appreciation.

Unsurprisingly, then, this album kicks off with someone snarling, "motherf??er" over a hive of buzzing feedback, before launching into 50 minutes of head-splitting cacophony. Having pinched Loop's extensive collection of droning FX pedals, Snapper seem hellbent on taking over the world via Paul McKenna-style hypnosis. Surely the only explanation for the relentless, piston-pumping repetition of songs like 'Demon' and 'Small Town Secret'? If that's designed to make you feel a mite queasy, it's nothing compared to the overall sensation that you've just wandered into a smack-shooting, paedophile ring run by the Ku Klux Klan. It's definitely hats off to chief sicko, Peter Gutteridge, for single-handedly masterminding this incredible 'party' atmosphere. There really is something skin-crawlingly unpleasant about his unhealthy pallor and his nauseous, deep-throated growl, especially when he begins to bark, "You're just meat", on the atritional grind of 'Stalker'. Still, you know what they say - boys will be boys. 7/10 James Oldham, N.M.E., 30/March/1996. - - - - - - - - - - - -

'Vader' 7" REVIEW

1. The organ-drenched buzz-pop of Snapper, the musical outlet for New Zealander Peter Gutteridge, remains largely unknown in the U.S. With several import-only singles and one LP behind it, Snapper returns with another precious nugget. 'Vader's dark, repetitive grooves are peppered with guitars so full of squeaky energy they sound fit to explode. 'Gentle Hour' is, well, gentler; Gutteridge and Christine Voice's vocal web takes precedence over the buzzing guitars here, sounding more like a reflective 3Ds moment, decorated in delicate acoustic guitar pluckings.

Lydia Anderson, CMJ, issue #391, 15/August/1994. - - - - - - - - - - - -


1. Dunedin 22/Dec/1987 (with the Chills & Straitjacket Fits) Snapper opened with a "big" sound, mixer Moore building Alan Haig's bass drum sound to sensurround Earthquake proportions - but this was no disaster movie soundtrack. Snapper are usually just that, cosmically gyrating pop grinders, so they didn't quite suit the vacuous barn that is Sammy's. However they played with distinction (or was that distortion?) and gained some altitude in their rock'n'roll mana. Suicide meets Velvets? These comparisons are easy to make, but Snapper promise a lot in '88.

Rip It Up, Jan. 1988. - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. Dunedin, 13/Oct/2000 - part of the "Dunedin Sound" festival SAMMY'S CROWD ROCKS TO GREAT DUNEDIN SOUNDS I do not know what St. Peter has behind those pearly gates, but he would be hard pressed to match Snapper and the Verlaines on fire. We walked in four songs into Snapper raising the roof. Current line-up is Peter Gutteridge, Christine Voice, Mike Dooley, Tom Bell and Maxine Dooley. Could this be the rebirth of Snapper, again? I certainly hope so. All members were well rehearsed, polished and rocking. Peter is a charming frontman. The Verlaines had a tough act to follow and one particularly tough punter, who yelled, "Boring. Bring back Snapper" whenever he felt the need. I am happy to report he was wrong.

Darryl Baser, Otago Daily Times. - - - - - - - - - - - -

review of a 2012 Gutteridge gig by fraew at thebigcity. - - - - - - - - - - - -


1. by Richard Langston, Garage #6, 1986. with Peter Gutteridge

Peter Gutteridge co-wrote the Clean opus, 'Point That Thing' & formed The Chills with Martin Phillipps before joining The Great Unwashed & supplying a side of songs for Singles. Recently he's played on The Puddle & Alpaca Brothers EPs.

I had piano lessons as a kid; I was made to. But that finally fucked out because I never used to practice. But I used to play piano. I just used to go into the room and bash away for hours. But that was frowned upon so they finally sold the piano, which really fucked me off. We finally got one years later but I'd missed out on a really good period. It's neat teaching yourself to play an instrument without strict controls.

So, The Clean was your first band, right? Yeah, The Clean. I was 17. I'd met David (Kilgour) at school. Otago Boys. I was in the band about six months & when we parted I went to Auckland, then I came back & played with The Chills for 6 months. I didn't feel like a musician & Martin (Phillipps) was very exact & I wasn't. Now I can actually play an instrument but then I got through more on ideas & luck than any real skill. After a while I felt I wasn't learning anything. I mean, what do you learn when you're not writing songs? It's not really a confidence-inspiring thing.

I've done lots of one-offs...the Belle Curves, Cartilage Family...I had this band called Craven A. It was Terry Moore, Lesley (Paris), & David & we wrote lots of songs. They were great & we had this huge sound. It was what I would've liked a lot of other bands to sound like, including The Great Unwashed. It was a really wonderful sound but alas no tapes exist because Terry lost them, which is a real hassle cos they had some classic bits in them.

The Logan Park performance, how do you remember that sounding? It was really fast. We were all jumping around listening to the Sex Pistols. It was just lucky for us things exploded then. It was just blind energy. I'm surprised at how good it sounds. I found it really difficult to play bass then.

I hear you had enough songs around the Singles period that you could've put out an album of your own. Yeah, I'd written a lot of stuff. I was really prolific & suddenly I had a band to play my songs and David & Hamish are just such good players. David & I just work together well, we seem to mesh. I know the way he plays. When we wrote 'Point That Thing' we didn't have any understanding at all, it just sounded good. It was the simplest thing. It has this really raw sort of distorting bass stack & this really light bass that sounded like a guitar bass. It was just one of those things you start playing & say "hey, that sounds good" & you could play it for a long time. You don't spend ages writing a song like that, it just comes. Hamish put some words to it & it was written by the next day.

With The Great Unwashed I was really enthusiastic but things just didn't work out. I didn't like living in Christchurch very much & though I really wanted to play I found everyone else had too much else going on in their lives to devote enough time to the band. Mainly though they'd just got sick of it after being in The Clean. They were tired. I'd started & they'd ended. They'd gone through The Clean thing & it was a real pop thing & they were really popular. When we were on The Great Unwashed tour people would be calling out for Clean songs. It was like they'd never been away. There was quite a lot of pressure. I never felt it & neither probably did they but there was a lot of pressure to keep on playing. Like you just couldn't go & do something low-key. It was very hard. But it was great too, cos you knew people would listen to you.

That was a pretty crazy tour. I was just a complete surprise. I actually enjoyed quite a lot of that tour. It just had it's bad moments, moments that were completely over the top. At least I know what it's like to go completely crazy on tour! If you look at the itinerary we played gigs at absurdly close intervals. We only had 10 days practice before the tour. We'd thrown it all together & decided to do it. I'd like to do that kind of thing again cos with that much playing you can really do a lot of things with the music. We played heaps of songs on that tour, Clean stuff & songs off the first Great Unwashed album which I really like, 'Singles'.

That was done in-between playing live in Auckland. We'd run here and there, eat & sleep when you could. It was a rush but when I was in the studio it was like time disappeared, though it seemed like we were in a hurry at the end when we were mixing it. You're always in a hurry at the end mixing & you make the wrong choices. I wish I could have heard it a month later. It came out OKAY, although that’s not a good version of Boat With No Ocean. It just didn't have the swing that we could get live with all the changes coming like waves. I'm really grateful that we at least got that EP out. It's a good one & that's sort of a miracle in itself, just considering how difficult we made it for ourselves.

Your songs on the record all seem to concern people at odds with something. I've always liked the woodcut on the cover cos it kinda mirrors the songs. They're all like that. 'Born in the Wrong Time' was written about a neighbour, a neighbour who was a bit drunk all the time & kept turning up on at our flat at 2 o'clock in the morning & we'd have to ask him out the door cos we already had other people sleeping in the lounge. He was okay, just a bit fucked up.

You must wish you'd recorded other songs from the period. Well, I think a lot of the songs that never got recorded were just as good as those that did. It's a shame...they shoulda been done while they were fresh & blooming. I just have periods where I can write a lot of songs, like maybe 15 songs in a month or so. A lot of them may be similar. I must have written about 50 or 60 songs but most of them have been lost. I'm bloody slack. From tomorrow I'm going to start recording everything I write! I'd started writing some of those songs when I was in the Cartilage Family. Some of them were okay...

I've heard 'Bad News For Jesus' & 'Bigmouth' & they sound like complete hummers. 'Bad News for Jesus' is just the chord E but it's changed around a lot. I probably couldn't play that now but when you first write a song like that, the simple idea, you can really make it work then but it's very hard to keep it going. I find certain songs have only got a certain life expectancy, some last for years & some only last for a day...they might sound great on the night but you wouldn't want to hear them again. (Laughs). Singing's a pretty funny thing. I mean, what makes people think that the idea in their head is good enough for them to open their mouth & sing?!.....Sometimes I get words easily, sometimes I don't. I very rarely sit down & try to write something out. Probably be a good thing if I did cos I'd be a lot more productive. But I'm pretty lazy actually. At the moment I'm really loving playing guitar, like, there's nothing better. I've just got this guitar, a beautiful Framus '65. I've never ever had a guitar that I've really liked & I've had plenty. I got it, from a joker who was going overseas, for $160.

There's quite a country thing about your music. Some of it, yeah. I don't know where that comes from, I hardly ever listen to any country music. I mean I don't know how to play a single country cover. But I can write country songs. I love playing that kind of guitar; it's easy.

What attracted you to a band like The Puddle? Just bloody good songs. George is one of the best songwriters I've run into, & wonderful lyrics. When The Puddle gets going, that's like Lesley & the rest, especially Lesley, she's such a good drummer, just underpins everything, you can really ride on the beat, it's always there to sit on. Just great to have. It gives you the room to really improvise & that's something that's wonderful about The Puddle. I love to improvise, to explore those moments that just carry you, the moments you just transcend into the music, which is sometimes practice moments but more often just those moments that go beyond the practicing & into something...not necessarily a tangent...but just that extra force, that indescribable thing that makes music explode. It stops becoming four or five instruments & is one great sound, not just a wall of noise...something much more than that. It's very hard to describe but you know it when you hear it.

Why so many bands? I've got bored staying with one band. Like living in Dunedin for a long time you just can't play with three people for a long time. There are other musicians & it's great to learn off other people. A few years ago it was such a tight scene. People didn't intermix so much, like The Weeds wouldn't have happened but nowadays people are always hopping into each others bands. Five years ago it was a band thing. Now the art isn't closed. Women have really helped open it up.

I listen to music heaps, like I saw Fela Kuti the other night on television & I really liked him. That music was so natural but it was innovative, like they basically had all these guitars plugged into this huge mixer & this guy was mixing them & each individual guitar sound was amazing, reminded me of Indian music or something but all on its own it reminded me of Can. I'd like to make hypnotic music. - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. transcription from the Neck of the Woods radio series, printed in Dun, issue #2, 1993. with: Dominic Stones, Peter Gutteridge, David Kilgour


Distorted sounds and distorted minds intent on distorting your mind. Snapper are good at that, and have been for a long time. Peter Gutteridge has long been involved in the Dunedin music scene. Gutteridge was an original member of The Clean, and contributed three songs to the Great Unwashed singles collection. In early 1987 Gutteridge formed Snapper with Alan Haig, Christine Voice, and ex-Bird Nest Roys' guitarist Dominic Stones. Snapper, relying on percussive simplicity, created the biggest, most distorted sound Dunedin had ever heard.

Dominic: That's the sort of way I was wanting to go anyway, into a really distorted, monotonous type of thing. I had even tried to write a few songs like that for Bird Nest Roys, but they never worked out, they never got completed, trying to cross that sort of thing with the Snapper idea... so when I first heard the tapes I just thought I'd love to do this, and was really into it. We really pushed monotony, and tried to push it to it's limits, like Peter even wrote one song which was just one chord that just basically went on and on in one rhythm, just with other things sweeping in through it, just changing the song by having vocals sweep through one bit, and change of guitar, and basically the whole thing just stonking on in the same way. It was just like trying to get a heartbeat kind of thing almost, just kind of naturally-paced beat.

Peter: Distortion is mainly useful in the way it (a) sustains things and (b) it sort of causes lots of harmonic notes to develop, which don't usually exist. With a natural underscored note to get the note that it is. But it causes all notes to start separating, other notes to start developing. You can do a veritable symphony of distortion if you wish. I've even gone to the extent of putting it on drums, I tried it on vocals but it hasn't worked very well. Of course you try these things because the way of finding out about any device or technique is to take it to it's limits and it's minimums, then you find out what it can do, and it won't do.

The big aggressive sound of Snapper, with its layers of distortion was first realised in the studio in 1988 on the 4-track Snapper EP.

Dominic: Uh, that was quite strange 'cause we were in Auckland doing it and we were sort of like, stuck away from home, sleeping on people's floors and trying to do lots of recording and we brought the half finished tapes home and absolutely hated them. In fact we were going to throw it away - we spent, I think it was about $5000 and we thought 'these are so bad', we were just going to say goodbye to it. Then we thought no, that's stupid and went back to Victor Gbric and in the end they just came out really well, because of what he did to them, just piling more stuff onto them, and redoing all the guitar and vocals, and in the end I just can't believe now, that we were going to give them up.

The big sound of the band has never been easy to capture live, performances suffering from technical breakdowns, and failure to hit the groove.

David Kilgour (who joined Snapper as a guitarist in 1990): It's like playing one chord for a couple of hours, which should be really easy, but it's actually quite difficult because the whole thing of Snapper is a groove really, and the hardest thing to do is to get the good groove, which we do accomplish sometimes, - live we probably don't accomplish it a hell of a lot. It's a real challenge, yet at the same time it's fun for me 'cause there's no pressure on me to perform, it's a bit like a hired band really. I just fill a wee gap in the sound, Peter's the main man, and all the emphasis is on him. So, y'know, it's really neat to play in another band, without it being your band; it's cool.

Dominic: A lot of the time you'd have things like mechanical breakdowns, 'cause we relied a lot on machinery, like certain peddles and stuff for the sounds, and had lots of problems with keyboards and stuff, just not really being very professional I suppose. It was really difficult to get the right sound on stage, you had to get this sound on stage near-perfect 'cause you had to play as a single unit, and if you couldn't hear very well and because it was so fussy, if it got messy it would turn into nothing. You wouldn't really hear it as a song. And so a lot of the concerts would end up like that.

Despite some of the problems in attaining the perfect Snapper sound, the band continued to gain in popularity, and in 1990 recorded their first elpee, Shotgun Blossom.

Peter: A friend went to Scotland or Britain and before he went I said to him, look if there's anyone out there who's interested in Snapper, we've got this single out there that got single of the week in Melody Maker, if they thought that much of it, is there anyone out there who understands that we don't actually have enough money to record our records in New Zealand, if there's anyone out there who wants to give us the money to do it. And just by chance, very quickly, Avalanche turned up and Shotgun Blossom came out, end of story. - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. 1997 Waiting for the Gutman

With $26 in his hand, Steve Burridge set about trying to score an interview with Peter Gutteridge. The legendary Snapper guitarist was not easy to trace. There was a series of messages, misunderstandings and missed opportunities. The search was a seedy Dunedin version of Abba: the Movie. But like the film the intrepid journo gets his interview. The day after an infamous Parisian car wreck and with deadline fast approaching. There was a phone call and then a meeting. The deal was on.

Snapper's making a bit of a comeback? The last time we just played as a unit was in Auckland about a year and a half ago. We've just been taking some time off so to speak. I've been writing a lot of other stuff on piano.

So do you actually have a set line-up now? I have discovered I play with people who I'm attracted to - a mutual attraction in terms of understanding each others work and the way you approach stuff. And a fascination with each other's approach. I believe with a band it's an organic thing. Snapper's what happens when I play with other people. (It) happens when I play with Michael, when I play with Christine (Voice), when I play with Roddy (Constant Pain). Just lately I've been playing with Tristan from HDU.

HDU and Snapper both use sonic sculpture to create a trance-like state for the audience.

It is very sculptural. This is why I enjoy working in a studio where I can really layer things. The next one I do I'd like to do a little less layering, but (make) each layer even stronger. There will be parts of it which won't have drums. Especially the piano songs.

In the past with Snapper the whole drum thing has been the driving rhythm that holds the whole thing together...

I like taking things to extremes. I've always believed that if you can take one thing to an absolute noise extreme, there is very often a point in taking it to the other one as well. You see that with people like Nick Cave; the difference between the Birthday Party and some of the Bad Seeds.

What other plans do you have?

To do a lot of remixing. I have always made it a policy to own every large scale tape like 16 track, 16 track two inch or 24 track two inch. Anything like that I keep. Something that is lacking in Dunedin (and New Zealand generally with Flying Nun stuff) is the desire to allow us to remix. We'd love to remix. But the attitude is get in there, get it done, get it out you know.

How do you find the creative process, writing music, do you require a band for that or do you do it yourself?

I can do it by myself, I can do it with a band. I work from sound first - which if you think about it, is the first way anybody made music. I work from that and rhythm as well, but it can be reverse too. Or sometimes just from straight melody. It's very easy writing off other people. Then there's stuff you write by yourself which changes and mutates when played with other people. That's the way it's meant to be.

You talked about remixing, is there anything you had in mind?

Shotgun Blossom, when it was done, I recorded at least sixty tracks, mixed in a bit of a hurry. I would like to go through what is there and really find out what is there. There's lots of unfinished stuff. There's an albums stuff in there alone. What I would like to do is combine all of the records that I can and just take the best pieces and put one out for overseas especially. Because a lot of people don't know Snapper. One of the things we lack is sufficient funds to do that, record and make videos.

'Point That Thing Somewhere Else' and 'Buddy' are enjoying renewed popularity on the Topless Women soundtrack. How do you feel about that?

Oh, it's good, in the lack of videos, that there's this film out there and they're using these things. That's just wonderful. I would just hope... somebody had the courage to put some money on the table and say, "Go and do what you need to do with it". Since the eighties all this music's developed. We're a relatively small country so music's quite a cultural fact. The Clean for instance. Their music and stuff is really part of people's lives. When you think back you might have fallen in love or had a great time or whatever. Somebody said to me, "I saw you guys in Wellington; you were really bad, but I met the love of my life that night."

What sort of music are you listening to at the moment?

I'm a bit of a magpie that way. I don't really have a record collection. I listen to stuff I do myself... stuff that is given to me, pieces off the radio, when I go to friends I can't really say what I have been listening to lately. It's also very much working off your surroundings; there's a whole lot of stuff you don't even know you are listening to.

How do you mean?

You are walking down the street and a car passes you and you catch a bit. You aren't aware that you are listening to it, but it's going in. It's almost more interesting as a sample with a car going past than a whole song. Exactly. Sometimes I like listening to bands outside the venue because it is filtered in a peculiar way. One of the nicest things I ever heard was the Dead C. They were playing at the University and I was out on the lawn. It was ghostly and beautiful at the same time - quite different to what was inside.

What are you reading at the moment?

The history of World War One, various histories of WWI, mostly from the actual time. Large editions with lots of photos...

Do you read more non-fiction than fiction? Yeah, I do.

William S. Burroughs died recently. Have you ever read much of his stuff?

Yeah, I admired him as a writer and as a muse. I am unashamedly a fan. What were your favourites? Yage Letters, Junkie. Junkie is a great book even ignoring the subject - which you can't. Sort of a wonderful description of 1948 New York; trying to escape this place once the laws had gone down.

The conversation moved from drugs and the law to human rights, political activism, to musical styles as historical signposts.

What (if it's not too close to have some historical perspective on it) is the defining musical moment of the 1990s?

Technology - the ability to be able to think digitally and the price of technology going down so that everybody can get their hands on it. For instance, now an 18 year old instead of wanting to play guitar is wanting to get a mixing board and turntables.

You have been at the beginning points for a number of important Dunedin groups (the Clean, the Chills) and you've seen a lot. What do you make of the current music scene?

I really like a lot of techno; the sound of it, the impact. I like drum and bass. I have always loved electronics, people like Kraftwerk from the age of thirteen. So it's a natural development.

Do you feel the guitar has pretty much run it's course as an instrument?

No. The guitar has one wonderful thing about it; it's so alive, for me it is. When I'm playing in Snapper I run it through two or three distortion units (all of which I know really well) and a phase pan unit. The first one starts, the second one starts, by the time I hit that it's immediately feedback. By feedback I mean an enormous amount of sustain. So it's just this moving sound...the loop that forms between the pick-ups and the speaker forms this kind of living, joined umbilical cord. Shifting back and forth. No other instrument can really do that.

Do you have the gear to record at home?

I use a four track to take down notes. Music's very much like a vapour. You play it and it's solid for the time that you are playing it. Once you stop there is nothing left, except in memory perhaps, or the time that somebody had listened to it. To make it solid you must record it or write it down.

Anything you'd like to add?

I'm determined to play quite solidly for a while...a whole series of performances.

The culmination of that would be recording? Definitely, and trying to do as much remixing as possible. I've got a minimum of another album in my head that I could record right now. We'll record after we've been playing for a while, then hopefully print it ourselves on CD and release it ourselves. The cost of CDs is ridiculously low but if you send it through a record company...

Are you not interested in dealing with Flying Nun anymore?

If they came up with the dollars, it's just being sensible. If they say, "Hey, yeah, that's really good", well that's fine but show us the money. It's not show us the money for moneys sake, but so we can do the project and travel. I haven't been overseas simply because I have no cash. Snapper is (other than creating our own production company) looking for imaginative people who would be interested in releasing our stuff - especially overseas. People who have got faith to put money there. I have no problem coming up with the stuff nor do I feel like I am running out of ideas.

First thing you learn is that you always have to wait. - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. Snapper songwriter keeping his musical hand in. by Grant McDougall.

Peter Gutteridge keeps a low profile these days. The creative juices still flow, but the public rarely gets to see the result. Snapper's fiery gig at Sammy's last October during the Otago Festival of the Arts was the band's first gig in three years and it's been almost as long since he performed solo.

At his Stuart St. flat, Gutteridge (40) still tinkers with musical ideas - mainly on keyboards - so hopefully some new songs will see the light. If they're as good as some of his other songs, the wait will be worth it. Back in the 1980s, Gutteridge was a member of the Clean and the Chills (both briefly), the Great Unwashed and the Puddle, before striking gold with Snapper. Quite simply, that first Snapper line-up played explosive, mesmerising drone-rock, that made them one of the most astonishing bands of the late '80s. For Gutteridge, that remains his most artistically fulfilling period. "It was fulfilling, although parts of the Great Unwashed were also really good. But in Snapper I got to explore the kind of sound I really wanted to. I was looking for a much harder sound than what was around".

About the same time the Xpressway label released Pure, an astonishing cassette-only collection of solo material. According to Gutteridge, United States indie label Emperor Jones, which has also released albums by Peter Jefferies and Alastair Galbraith, may re-release it on CD.

Lately, Gutteridge has also been songwriting. "I find I'm writing more on piano. I'm still keeping my hand in (with the latest Snapper line-up) and practising. I wouldn't mind doing an EP, getting some songs out and seeing what happens". With his recent keyboard-based songs, Gutteridge is "trying to find space, tone and depth, yet there is a hypnotic feel to it; that's just naturally how I play". Gutteridge is also keen to explore digital recording and processing. He is, however, less keen on staying in touch with Flying Nun. "We just don't have much to say to each other". Resident in Dunedin all his life, Gutteridge is pleased with what the city has become. "It's evolved quite well. Back in 1978, there was just nothing to do". Gutteridge is also certain of the local music scene's evolution. "There's some extremely talented people out there, like Demarnia Lloyd. Just when some stupid idiot says 'Oh, it's all dead', somebody else comes along."

Monday, 2 January 2012


This is my small archive of material relating to the band Skeptics, from my homecountry Aotearoa/NZ.

Decided to put it up as a post here (having languished in various deadzones in the net for a few years) after a Skeptics fangroup sprung up on Facebook, sparked by a desire to further gather material for Simon Ogston's Sheen of Gold documentary. It's been inspiring seeing new photos and reading about the heavy impact the group (and singer David D'Ath in particular) had on lots of people.

Thanks Stevie Kaye for digging up and transcribing some more articles, and Simon Ogston for correcting some of my information.

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1983 Chowder Over Wisconsin (12" mini-LP)
1984 Said See Say (cassette tape, Industrial Tapes)
1985 Ponds (LP)
1988 Skeptics III (12" LP, Flying Nun)
1990 Amalgam (12" LP, Flying Nun)
1991 Sensible (10" EP, Flying Nun)

Sensible 10" back cover photo of David D'Ath

Skeptics four-CD box set 1992 (Flying Nun) consists of:
- If I Will I Can (four songs, three of which are rec'd live, plus extra "hidden" live recordings)
- Skeptics III (remastered)
- Amalgam
- Sensible (a full-length, this has the four songs previously released as the vinyl EP of the same name, plus 12 more tracks taken from the mid-'80s recordings originally intended to make the album-that-never-was Skeptics II)

Also included in the cloth-bound box is a 12-page booklet of drawings and writings by David D'Ath. All CDs from this set were later sold as individual discs.

compilation appearances:
1982 the Furtive Four Piece Pack four-band compilation EP (Furtive): 'Last Orders'
1988 In Love With These Times (LP/CD/tape, Flying Nun): 'AFFCO'
1991 Pink Flying Saucers Over the Southern Alps (CD, Flying Nun): 'Sheen of Gold'
1992 Let Them Eat Pavlova promo comp included with the french magazine Les Inrockuptibles (CD, Flying Nun): 'And We Bake'
1998 I'll Make You Happy soundtrack (CD, Flying Nun): 'Turn Over'

Skeptics at discogs includes track listings, and there's another detailed discography at fansite bailterspace module.

This photo was printed in Rip It Up magazine with CM's obit, and on the inner sleeve of the If I Will I Can CD:

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The video clip to the song AFFCO is infamous, having been rejected for screening on New Zealand television (even in a censored version made in response to the initial rejection). The director of the video, Stuart Page, writes about it in this piece: The truth about the Skeptics' A.F.F.C.O. video. The clip appears on Stuart's Noisyland compilation (1992) and on Flying Nun's Second Season compilation DVD (2004).


Tone Cornaga made the video for 'Agitator', which played on TVNZ soon after the death of David D'Ath and is available on the first volume of Flying Nun videos, Very Short Films (2004). Both clips show D'Ath's beguiling and provocative Ian Curtis-like dancing.
NZ Film Archive has these as well as film footage by Bob Sutton of entire Skeptics concerts:
Gun of Sod, Skeptics: live at the Gluepot, Auckland 13 July 1990
Skeptics, Headless Chickens: Cricketers Arms, Wellington 10/10/1987
Skeptics: the Gluepot, Auckland 1&2/12/1989
(Some of this was screened in 2001 at Arc in Dunedin)

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This, the second Skeptics LP of their eight year career to date, really took me by surprise. First, because they were making one at all, and second because it is so fucken' good. Of all of the recent F. Nun LP's (last eight months or so), this is the one that really does it to me. Here the band really get their 'selves' across the best in recorded form out of all the stuff I've heard. The heaviness comes from the same part of the brain as the Headless Chickens would like you to think they hang out in, and the instrumental realisation of the ideas is really gripping. John Halvorsen's torture scraping guitar work is perfectly balanced by the meaty bass end, which grinds out rhythms reminiscent of a leper's last shuffle. Furthermore, the vocalist keeps his overt Bauhaus-isms in check enough to stop me cringing too much, he sings well with the sampled crowd of voices who crop up continually and delivers some truly menacing stuff like "Some of you ladies, you don't like my pretty face" with a real chilling psycho edge.

Of the songs probably 'Agitator' deserves most mention as the longest and fullest symphony of suffering, going through some spectacular changes en route to its denouement. In this connection the excellent production comes to mind. The LP is evidently the product of lots of studio time, it's so packed with neat little surprises for the discerning listener, top marks to Brent McLaughin for that, though it seems to have been a collective effort as well. Unlike the Bailter Space LP, which was done at the same studio, this one has an immense variety of sound that adds a lot of interest.

A video was made by Stu Page for 'AFFCO', but will not even be shown in censored form by TVNZ due to its staunch pro-animal message backed up with some perfectly every day scenes from any killing-chain in the country. Moral; it's alright to eat meat, but you can't show people how its processed, they might not want it again. I somehow don't see a lot of punters going for this music, which is a shame. Great cover too, and I'd like to point out that although its slow, 'morbid' and relentlessly monochrome, this is one band that's never set foot in the South Island, so there's another cliche exploded. Five stars.

Bruce Russell, Alley Oop, issue #6

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NICK ROUGHAN INTERVIEW (III era) / by Matthew Hyland / Stamp magazine Visions Of A Skeptical Man: Nick Roughan Of The Skeptics

[transcribed by Stevie Kaye]

The Skeptics recently played in Auckland (June 30th and July 1st at the Venue) in the wake of their impressive album release a few months ago, Skeptics 3. Friday night was very good, by all accounts, and Saturday a bit rough due to the lack of a soundman, which may have had something to do with Nick spending the day out sailing on Rex Visible's yacht and being late back...

"Yeah, it was a good day."

Nick Roughan joined a schoolboy band in Palmerston North called 'Exit' in late 1981 when their bassist left, and with that the band changed their name to The Skeptics. They met Paul Rose somehow in 1982 and that led to their rather odd inclusion on the Furtive 3-Piece Pack EP and a New Zealand tour.

"Mark Clare was a real crazy (singer of the Numatics, now to be seen in the play Ladies Night after a couple of years OE). He made it easier for us because we didn't have much in common with the other bands really. I remember one time he filled the car up entirely with diesel, in Blenheim that was.

"Then the van broke down in Oamaru and we had to fly some our gear out. So we were in debt to Furtive and they had us up in Auckland to play, you know, like every night for a month to pay the debt. We couldn't handle it so we just up and left, wanted to sleep in our own beds after a month, you know, and that led to some bad feeling, but we paid that debt eventually anyway."

(In fact, I saw The Skeptics at The Rumba Bar that year. David D'Ath wore a gangster-style hat, undulated and jerked his body and made weird movements with his hands - both he and the music were riveting. The Auckland audience was a bit freaked by it all.)

"The first record we did, not counting that Furtive thing, was a 6 track EP called Chowder Over Wisconsin. We'd met Doug Hood, he was in town with the Naked Spots Dance and Stones tour, and we got in touch and just borrowed their PA for one day and recorded the EP live in the school library where we practised. Robin's (the guitarist then) father was the principal of a school.

"In fact, we'd given another EP to Furtive but they never released it, so we really wanted to get some vinyl out on our own, it was very important to us. We needed the piece of vinyl.

"We did a few gigs in Auckland with Children's Hour (the band that included Grant Fell, Bevan Sweeney and Chris Matthews who now feature in The Headless Chickens) too, through Doug Hood, they'd just started, that must have been in about '82 or '83.

"The second record was called Pond. We'd all moved to Wellington except Robin. We did a tour that year of the South Island, that was the last with that lineup, and Pond reflected that sort of transition phase."

(I remark that I've never heard that record)

"Good, I'm glad you've never heard it! It was a production mistake." His voice takes on a wistful quality then, "though, it could be re-mixed one day, on 16 track."

(Nick shares production credits at Wellington's Writhe Recording Studio with other Skeptics member, Brent McLaughlin. Writhe has recently been responsible for the recording of records by The Bats, Bailter Space, Wellington's The Wart, Skeptics plus some work on the long-in-the-pipeline Not Really Anything album.)

(I ask about Wellington...)

"I like living in Wellington. I haven't lived in Auckland but I've visited a lot... I like the compactness of Wellington, I don't go to nightclubs much or anything, only go to nightclubs much or anything, only go to the pub when I'm working (live mixing of some bands) and I like being able to walk everywhere. I live close to the studio, too.

"Yeah, I think Radio Active [student radio in Wellington] supports us well enough. I mean, we'd have to go and talk to them for them to support us more, that sort of thing is reciprocal. We've played at the Cricketers in the past, Cosgroves, the Clyde Quay, none of them exist anymore, and we're playing at Tramways (July 7th) - that hasn't really been a venue except for The Clean playing there lately."

(I mention Skeptics 3, that I found it quite dark and malevolent, and he seems surprised)

"The Skeptics have always tried to do something substantial, something that goes deeper. There are enough bands that just skate on the surface, pop music... a lot of music without substance. We don't want to be like that. We want to make music that stays around. We're always trying to capture a feeling as well as the enjoyment (of playing). I don't listen to music that's not different in some way. I don't listen to formula stuff.

"In the studio I think it's important for a band member not to worry too much about getting their particular instrument to sound exactly how they like it; it's what sounds best for the whole song that's important. It's all a matter of compromise.

"We had a talk the other day and decided that we can't lay all the blame for the sound quality of Skeptics 3 on the Australian pressing. The production is actually fine, but the way it transposed onto vinyl is disappointing.

"I think that 3 is more consumable than the other records though. I think we've always played commercial music - because we're selling it. I think the next record will be on Flying Nun too, we talked about releasing it ourselves but can't raise the finance. The thing with Flying Nun is that we're also dealing with them on a business level, as far as the studio goes. That selling part is hard to come to terms with, it's tricky."

(I ask how serious The Skeptics are about playing in Amerika, Europe or Australia)

"Mega serious! We're not too keen on playing and losing money; breaking even is fine but losing... We'd play more in New Zealand if it wasn't for that. A lot of the band income goes into the studio, paying for our time in there and running costs etc - and profits from this series of gigs is going towards airfares. We don't want band members to suffer any more financially that they are already. Our priority at the moment is to get our records distributed overseas, and getting over there. I got a phone call from a radio station in LA the other day. They've playlisted two of our songs, which is encouraging. I talked to an Australian promoter when I was in Auckland, but it doesn't seem that likely we'll go there. It's so close though..."

(What does he think of New Zealand music?)

"There's a lot more quality music being made here than anywhere else in the world. It's a lot less diluted than elsewhere. More people are trying to write their own songs here."

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Bands whose predominant instrument is the sampler are, paradoxically, the only ones in the 1990s not playing post-modernist games of revivalism, the only ones that still sound like nothing heard before. From the Young Gods to Public Enemy, they gather deserved praise from critics who wouldn’t dream that the most exquisite future shocks of all were emanating from Wellington.
If Skeptics are to be no more after the death of singer David D'Ath New Zealand will have lost its most consistently astonishing live and recorded band of the late 1980s. But don’t let all this talk of historical significance convince you that Skeptics are primarily of academic interest. Certainly they experiment, but always with the physical and emotional power of the music in mind; the end always controls the means.

Even for those who harbour doubts about the whole idea of musical modernism, for whom strangeness seems more like a vice than a necessity, Amalgam is too great a pleasure to ignore. Its attractions are intrinsically timeless: rhythms that reach for the pit of the stomach, guitar and synth sounds that explain titles like 'Pack Ice' and 'Sheen of Gold' far more vividly than any words and, most importantly, structures that stimulate near-cravings for each new tone or chord. Add to this a succession of grippingly unresolved phrases sung in the most simultaneously desperate and exultant voice conceivable, and you have a record that does everything any great music has ever done to you only...differently. "June, July, August" - this was worth waiting for.
Album of the year, if ever there was one.

Matthew Hyland, Rip It Up, 1990.

The Skeptics are another of the many under-appreciated bands who populate the local music world. OK, they may be a little difficult, but when has that ever been a problem? The Skeptics had their beginnings in the early 1980s, emerging from Palmerston North. They have released four albums, of which Amalgam is the latest, and probably last; tragically, singer David D'Ath died of leukaemia in September.

A strong experimental and innovative streak always dominated the Skeptics' music. They mess around with textures of sound, creating twisted melodies and jarring rhythms; a very unique sound. It is one a lot of people find uncomfortable, and it can be cold and clinical. But more often, in songs such as 'And We Bake', 'Sheen of Gold' and 'Spade' - and in fact, in most of Amalgam, they produce majestic, engrossing walls of sound. It can also be powerful and disturbing, like 'Al Sum Null', where intense layers of sound put the listener on edge.

Rhythm and noise are the main components of the Skeptics sound; here they have a lot in common with people like Bailter Space. And for all their sampled, electronic, discordant elements, they still make very human music. These qualities dominate Amalgam, and it is by far the Skeptics' best album, a very self-assured and complete sounding record where the band never lose sight of their songs. As much as the Skeptics cannot be pinned down to one element, D'Ath's dark, oblique vocals were a crucial part of their music, taking the songs the extra step that made them work or sometimes not. It is hard to imagine the Skeptics without him, and Amalgam is a testament to a unique talent.

Paul Collett, The Press, Christchurch NZ, 1990.

Along with Uncoffined, this new LP from Wellington's finest (only?) shows some life in the FN corporate corpse. Twitching, sneering, spitting, spewing; the 'ugly' music of the Skeptics is here given if anything even more of a studio 'gloss' but without significant detriment, to these ears at least. Less reliant than Skeptics 3 on large 'pieces' like 'Agitator', what we get here is a series of alternating songs and assaults. While some of the latter (eg. 'Bad Wiring') are real highlights for me, the band also succeed admirably with slightly more conventional numbers like the opening 'And We Bake' or 'Sheen of Gold'. John Halvorsen's guitar really comes into its own on this album. He is wasted playing bass in HM disco bands, and the rhythm section manage to make being crushed between ice-floes an almost funky experience. Truly an example to all considering the use of modern technology in real music, Skeptics leave the '80s the way they came in: skewed, unsettling and impenetrable. There is beauty in ugliness, children.

Bruce Russell, Alley Oop #8, 1990.

Listening to the Skeptics brings many images to mind; a shotgun blasting off somebody’s head at close range, or a child picking flowers in a field. This is the beauty of this band, they combine hard (-core) rhymes with a variety of sounds - drills (I think), opera singing, voices etc that gives a texture to the music.

Amalgam is a stronger collection of songs than their previous album (Skeptics 3) which leaned more toward atmospheric things ('Agitator', 'Rain'). This album feels complete, somehow - song structures are more melodic and David D'Ath's vocals are compelling and words chilling.
There are many good moments; 'And We Bake', 'Pack Ice' and 'Spade' all encompass the rhythmic nature that the Skeptics have been developing. The quirky 'Heathery Men' - "and when will all the heathery men come home..." chanted in Gaelic fashion, or the stunning 'Sheen of Gold' and 'Threads' (my favourite). It is a pleasure to listen to John Halvorsen's guitar playing, one of the best guitarists in the country. Amalgam cuts into you like a knife, twisting. There is something here for everyone.

Lisa Van der Aarde, Stamp, 1990.

5. The Skeptics' fourth record is an end-to-end unbroken spell of orchestrated melancholia. Understated by even NZ standards, about the only thing they have in common with the jingle-bells pop of more famous Flying Nun groups are those droll accents, everything else brushing up against melodic parameters from a paranormal direction. The Skeptics' ambience of opaque, Middle Earth miasma is derived from samples of strings, horns and unidentifiables all twisted from a 'Tommorrow Never Knows' nightmare, droning through like muddy, subterranean rivers. Their music, a plaiting of those somber and distinctly unchiming samples with instruments that spurt out notes at intervals, is no less capable of inducing semi-hypnotic states than with a more traditional approach. Yet, with the fife-and-drum percussive march and nasal, coldly Eno-like vocals, Amalgam is far from the airborne swish of Straitjacket Fits or the lushness of the Verlaines; it's the kind of record that seeps into your bones like a cold fog. Submerge yourself in 'And We Bake', 'Felt Up', 'Threads', and 'Sheen Of Gold'.

from CMJ

The existence of the Skeptics does a lot for my faith in human diversity, for my trust that there are mute inglorious Miltons out there; and as the great Matthew Hyland once wrote, there's no logical reason why a town like Palmerston North, or a planet like Earth, should have produced a band as staggering as this.

Unlike Skeptics III, the whole of Amalgam is equal to the sum of its parts, and for me three of those parts are what make the album shattering: 'Heathery Men', a thunderous military anthem about Culloden (or something), which, like 'Agitator' on Skeptics III, denies you the satisfaction of a climax into chaos, switching at the last possible moment into a doomed soldier's lilting lament for his love; 'Pack Ice', an evocation of Scott perishing in the Antarctic amid the play of David D'Ath's brogue and banshee wails, the ghostship winds of John Halvorsen's guitar, the stab-and-recoil rhythm, and the tectonic crush of the drums; and 'And We Bake', an impossible sunrise.

Chris Hilliard, Dead Weight

from Rip It Up's top 100 NZ albums (Amalgam ranks 4th, III 81st)

The most indefinable band in the universe create an album of such magnitude and other worldy beauty. Amalgam is creative genius, a unique platform and outstandingly original. Recorded in their own studio, Writhe, in Wellington, engineered by Brent McLachlan and Nick Roughan and produced by McLachlan and the Skeptics, the band is Roughan (bass and samples), John Halvorsen (guitar), Don White (drums, percussion, samples) and the fragile, although never-better voice and words of David D'Ath. Unfortunately D'Ath's life ended not long after this album was released, a victim of cancer. We are eternally grateful for the special magic and poetry he left behind.

This is the ULTIMATE Skeptics album showing the band in full power plus their unique usage of samples. With beginnings in Palmerston North, Amalgam is the culmination of years of innovation and experimentation and makes it a time capsule essential. This band is our very own Coil or Nurse With Wound, right up there with other truly innovative, esoteric musical practitioners.

This document is not only vital but indefinable and is name dropped by the likes of Shihad, Weta and HDU. We leave the last words to The Skeptics, from the last track, 'All Sum Nul': "I want to exhibit weakness. Yield up all my softest parts to closest scrutiny. To rough hands in soft places. I feel the time has come. It warrants this sort of behaviour. I don't make any move. It sorts me out. I need it, I hate All Sum Nul."

review relating to the box set at Amazon

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REVIEWS OF Sensible (10")

In a gesture of heroic defiance in the face of the supposed "death of vinyl",
Skeptics revive the consumer-hostile 10-inch single format for their most commercial release yet. But fear not, true believers, by "commercial" I don’t mean they've been taking Bryan Adams weight gain tablets or they've covered 'Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini' (actually that might be an interesting prospect), just that Sensible abounds with shiny surfaces and sweeping emotions, yes, just like 'And We Bake' and 'Sheen of Gold', only more so.

Much as I hate to upset the "keep criticism objective (like bus timetables)" peasants, a cinematic analogy seems appropriate: if Skeptics III was Godard-like in its violent angles and poetic sense of the absurd, this is pure Beneix, featuring a fireworks display ('Blue'), a panoramic dub wasteland ('Bub') and a quintessentially ghost-filled machine ('Sensible Shoes').
As pretentious as you make it and absolutely essential for it.

Matthew Hyland, Rip It Up, 1992.

As a 10-inch single with a great cover painting, backed with a poignant photo of a pale David D'Ath, this is a collectable object in itself. Musically it's an interesting follow-on from Amalgam. The title track is, as drummer Don White has commented, "kind of poppy", and showcases the sweeter side of D'Ath's unique vocal style, though the imagery is still dark. 'Bub' is hopefully as close as the Skeptics will ever get to the funky dub genre - it's a good example of how to use an influence to your own ends, as opposed to slavishly imitating it (certain other NZ bands can blush).

Side 2 "blue" me away totally - suffice it to say that there are few bands anywhere capable of creating a song of such power, and yet such grace, poise and precision (only something like Headless Chickens 'Million Dollar Dream' would be in the same league). Essential.

from Garbage

Roger and Co. are sometimes criticised for their treatment of acts like the Skeptics, and with this release you must question why their releases up to David D'Ath's death were so few and far between. This band is responsible for some of the most brilliant and challenging music to come out of these shores. Four songs included here are all of a level yet to be attained by any other NZ act. The sweet pop sound of the title track through to the dub-inspired 'Bub'.

If you've never bought a Skeptics record here's a good start. Ff you prefer CDs, wait for the disc with the twelve extra tracks.

by J. Asper

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LIVE at the Gluepot, Auckland, July 13th 1990.

The Skeptics continue to refine their role as aural sculptors and dour visionaries of a world beyond the terminal beach. It’s a live experience that challenges listeners with precise, sombre jabs of noise from machines, guitars and drums, locked against D'Ath's cry of humanity - the voice as an extra instrument without time to articulate its predicament.

Their performances in Auckland over the past twelve months stand alongside those of Bailter Space (with whom they share a guitarist and sound engineer/ex-drummer) at Club Roma and the Dead C. at the Venue, as playing rigorously alongside rock's conventions, but not within them, tangled up in doing it for true believers.

It ain't cartoon funtime. Songs pummel right through you, coloured with Wagnerian gestures of heaving synth-wash, or, like newer ones, revelling in all-but-Suicide throb from Nick Roughan's machines.

The Skeptics are set apart by the transcendent intensity of their performance. It's uplifting by way of the band's sheer force of will. Punishing and cathartic in the extreme, the Skeptics' noise is demanding and confrontational.

They came on fairly late at the Gluepot and by the time they had finished a set of mostly Amalgam-based material, without even the majestic 'Agitator', they'd thinned the crowd out severely - my kind of achievement.
In performance, their sound is changing, but I doubt that they'll bother with pandering any further to niceties. There is often a stark beauty contained in John Halvorsen's guitar figures and D'Ath's anguished vocalising, but bowing to prettifying gestures to offset marauding samples and drumming is not the Skeptics' scene. Their scene, I'm sure, is more aligned with an hallucinatory dream state, where I see the band sets about finishing a set with the pure vision of 'Bubba Cluth', a version of the song drawn from fire, blood and stuff, and probably a rotting corpse in there somewhere too. "Shame, shame, shame, shame!" it goes, and this kind of purgatory won't feel so bad after all.

What a diabolically bubba cluth band, we'd say, to have such an effect as that!

Paul McKessar, Rip It Up

The Skeptics look impressive on stage because they're so totally into it - of course, with music like this I don't imagine it could be any other way. The sound was sublime - massive, perhaps damaging, but up front the sound was a tangible force. Agitator was brilliantly executed, like played on a massive stereo at driving-the-neighbours-out volume, an aural experience. Songs from almost-here new LP Amalgam were just as good, and there was newer stuff still, David D'Ath confidently throwing his vocals out into the music and over the audience.
I've seen the Skeptics a couple of times. They create a barrier of sound rather than a barrage, it's off-putting if you stand outside it, try and talk to somebody, don’t concentrate - but if you walk through it and stand inside it, which I did for the first time, it's bloody amazing.

Mark Webster, Stamp

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DAVID D'ATH OBITUARY by Chris Matthews, Rip It Up, 1990.

I was dreaming about drugs and strange urges, about the primeval past and the digital overload of the future, about the ride of the Valkyries and the chatter of helicopters as I opened my eyes and realised that it was 1984. I was bedded down on the floor of the Skeptics' club "Snailclamps". It was 9 o’clock in the morning and Wagner and the helicopters hadn’t stopped. In a darkened club, on a small stage covered with spiderwebs made of heated, stretched polystyrene, a semi-naked figure, lit by a single red spotlight, was performing the praying mantis movements of Tai Chi to the soundtrack from Apocalypse Now. It was David D'Ath...

The Skeptics: David (vocals), Nick Roughan (bass), Don White (drums) and Robin Gould (guitar), were four high school friends from Palmerston North who started playing together in 1980 (initially as X-It) doing a mixture of covers and originals. The first time I saw them was in Auckland, at the Reverb Room in 1982, after the band I was playing with had to cancel at the last minute.

The Skeptics, who were up for the weekend, agreed to step in using borrowed gear and, fuelled by the pathetic crowd, produced a set of such ferocious intensity that I became an immediate fan. The music was aggressive and unsettling but the focal point was David with his slight stature, his hooked nose and his deep-set eyes. He looked like some strange, punch drunk bird and the veins in his neck bulged as he forced mysterious words and noises from his throat.

They were still playing a handful of covers (Joy Division's 'Shadowplay' and Killing Joke's 'Wardance' among them) but the song that really stood out was their own, 'Last Orders', about a man who has wrongly predicted the end of the world. With its unusual riff of picked harmonics and the narrator's frustrated chorus of "Lies! The end was yesterday!" it was a good choice for a record and later in the year became one of the songs chosen for the compilation EP Furtive Four-Piece Pack.

I saw them a few months later at the Rhumba bar in Auckland and the Skeptics, and David, were not only scary but funny as well. David had placed a table on the dance floor in front of the stage with a cornet on it and when it was his turn to play the others egged him on to run out, retrieve it and climb back on stage in time to produce an ear-piercing blast. This ritual was repeated throughout the night and it was like watching the idiot son of Nosferatu who'd been hanging out in a David Lynch film: disturbing but blackly humorous.

The Skeptics made various trips to Auckland over the next few years in their beat-up old ambulance and from 1983-1984 ran their own club in Palmerston North. Stories had drifted north about the weird goings-on in "Snailclamps" (including one about a particularly deluded soul attempting to copulate with the PA during a Skeptics gig) so, of course, when Children's Hour decided to tour NZ it seemed right and natural (since our bands had become friends) that we should play there (and sleep on the floor).

The club closed down at the end of '84 and in 1985 the Skeptics decided to move to Wellington. They'd released two records independently ('83's Chowder Over Wisconsin and Ponds in '85) but neither had managed to capture the magnificence of their live performance (watching David, dangerously close to a seizure, bawling the lyrics to 'Divine Muscles Flex' was exhilarating) so they set about building their own recording studio, Writhe. Robin had decided to stay in Palmerston North, so John Halvorsen and Brent McLaughlin, previously of the Gordons, were recruited as guitarist and mixer (although Brent later became second drummer for a while).

At this stage the Skeptics became fascinated by the possibilities of sampling keyboards and David became involved in writing music for the first time. Their sound, which had previously been guitar oriented, became more dominated by ominous loops and samples of everything from squeaking doors to Al Pacino's dialogue from the film Cruising.

It was a very different band that appeared in Auckland in 1987 and they were stunning - songs like 'Turn Over' and 'La Motta' were thrown from the PA in a sonic storm that was beyond comparison. The sound was being created mostly by machinery but it was raw and organic and David's voice, as always, was an instrument in itself. How anybody could wring emotion from words like "June, June, June, June, June, July, August" (from the darkly beautiful 'Agitator') was inexplicable but it was great to watch. And listen to. In 1988 they finally released the great album they'd always been capable of. Titled simply Skeptics, it was recorded at their own studio and stands out as one of the best local records of the last ten years.

At the end of 1989, as they were working on their fourth album Amalgam (to be released shortly) David learned that he had leukaemia. He spent most of this year undergoing various treatments and a bone marrow transplant. Even though his health was fairly precarious, the Skeptics still managed to play two great gigs at the Gluepot with the new songs (particularly 'Sheen of Gold') sounding more inventive and better than ever.
On Tuesday, 4th September, 1990, David died.

In a darkened club, on a small stage covered with spiderwebs made of heated, stretched polystyrene, a semi-naked figure, lit by a single red spotlight, was performing the praying mantis movements of Tai Chi to the soundtrack from Apocalypse Now. It was David D'Ath...
He will be remembered.

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BOX SET REVIEW/ ARTICLE by Matthew Hyland, Rip It Up, December 1992.

Some things confound every law of nature, especially those to do with causes and effects. Like there's no discernible reason for Palmerston North, or New Zealand or the world for that matter, to have produced a group like Skeptics in the early 1980s. Actually that sentence is a nonsense because there never has been, nor shall there ever be "a group like Skeptics". But what matters here is that such occurrences are singular, unimaginable, everything Mr Lyotard would call sublime.

It's one of life's wretched little ironies that practically the only existing eyewitness account of the band's spontaneous combustion in their club Snailclamps (and if the ability to invent a word like that isn't a sign of nascent genius I don't know what is) is Chris Matthew's 1990 RIU obituary to David D'Ath. Of course a dead band member is always a critic's/ fan's/ record company slime's excuse to wax rhapsodical about the most inappropriate music (viz now-rotting clowns Morrison and Mercury) but if you weren't there at the time you've just gotta believe for once that Skeptics made people feel that way when D'Ath was alive. In 1989, for instance, they played at the Venue with two drummers and a mixture of 3 and Amalgam material and I remember a whole audience being left speechless by the joyous alacrity with which they smashed every rule then (and now) in force about what New Zealand music should be (to whit: grey, guitar-based, reasonable); suddenly it seemed not only possible and necessary but entirely to be expected that the music of the future would be composed of sparkling, multi-coloured surfaces that collided with bone-crushing force, of heart-stoppingly elusive rhythms and melodies, sound and language fragments and the constant, never-realised threat of pure hysteria, total sonic and emotional breakdown (and lo and behold, the 1990s turned out to be among the most miserable years for rock music since maybe the late 1960s, but that's another story).

So yeah, Skeptics were pretentious, 'Wagnerian' as Paul McKessar called them, but somehow they always, always got away with it. They were never prog, even in the rehabilitated Zarakov sense, perhaps because nothing they did was about virtuosity, or because it all had a violent, post-punk (?) edge, or because they were absolutely never guilty of Floydian over-explanation (musical or lyrical); some of the best sound-morsels were left buried, and D'Ath's lyrics always maintained an ironic distance from the massive traumas they implied, a sense that tragedy is embodied in absurdity, obscurity and contradiction.

Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the occasion for this panegyric is the release on Flying Nun of an extra-tasty Skeptics box set, including Skeptics 3 and Amalgam, the FN albums which every sentient being must surely own by now; Sensible, a compilation of earlier recordings, and If I Will I Can, an EP made in 1990 but previously unreleased. It ought to be mentioned at this point that there exist two earlier records, Chowder Over Wisconsin and Ponds, both of which are rare as (the apparently proverbial) rocking-horse shit. I've heard neither of them but on the available evidence it seems likely that murder and pillage would be eminently justifiable methods of acquiring them (Hint: Z.Bob esq. has been heard to namedrop Chowder).

Anyway, descriptions of Skeptics' music is always futile, but if it'll cause one person to include this lovingly packaged commodity-fetish among their Christmas purchases, I don’t mind failing at one more thing in life. Skeptics 3, in that case, features the video hits 'Agitator' and 'AFFCO', only you probably won't have seen the latter, with its freezing works footage, because TVNZ's programme director declared that it would be played "over my dead body" (an option which should definitely have received greater consideration at the time). In general it's probably the heaviest, rawest Skeptics album: 'AFFCO' sounds just like a slaughter-house making up for lost time, while 'Feeling Bad', the middle section of 'Agitator' and 'Turnover' are built around enormous electrical spasms, as if a bionic Sabbath or Swans was having an epileptic fit. Side two is even more extraordinary. 'La Motta' is the sound of a boxer losing consciousness. No drums, just absolute blackness. 'Notice', 'Luna' and the extraordinarily affecting love song 'Rain' (imagine being brought to the brink of tears by a man bellowing "cockles and mussels") sound even more punch drunk; the rhythm lurching along slowly, inconsistently while John Halvorsen's guitar sheds coils of exquisitely patterned skin and D'Ath is visited variously by orchestras, saxophone tortures and the Aurora Borealis. 'Crave' closes the album with a Holy war.

Amalgam is Skeptics business as usual. Among other things it features four of the most marvellous pieces of recorded music in the known universe. They are: 'And We Bake' (not unlike Mahler's First Symphony condensed into four minutes, with drums that stimulate every single nerve ending in the body); 'Pack Ice' (one of the most self-explanatory titles in history: vast, crystalline, capable of freezing the blood); 'Heathery Men' (a doomed call to arms, massed drums and visceral samples; "breathe the smoke" cries D’Ath, and you do) and 'Sheen of Gold' (self-explanatory again, but thrown into glorious turmoil by the fact that it seems to be about fighting over money on the streets of Glasgow, or something similar).

About half of Sensible was recorded when the band were between guitarists. For the most part this stuff sounds like early Severed Heads or DAF with about a million times the senses of beauty, frailty, drama. The other half, some of which has already appeared as the Sensible Shoes EP, is roughly contemporaneous with 3 and is glorious in more or less the manner related above; you must be getting the idea by now.

The "new" EP, finally, is probably the lushest thing in the box: it's also a record of the band's last Auckland gig only a few weeks before D'Ath died. Needless to say, the performance was and the three new and three old songs recorded live are mesmerising. I think I've run out of extravagant metaphors for the noises produces by this amazing freak of nature. Just for god's sake buy these records, ungentle reader, all of them at once if you can afford it, otherwise one at a time as fast as you can. The last words should belong to David D'Ath, who, besides being the owner of a wonderful voice, was an immensely skilled manipulator of language. In the booklet of his writings and drawings in the box set he has this to say: "terpsicorleum popahalutuate finguisshytuam porliuishcalubate hingfetishnisobumauatum porsanamuke...bleeding barakes..."

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SKEPTICS in Kiwi Rock (1995) by Tim Davey and Horst Puschmann.

"This one positively lurches at you from the speakers. Rhythms strike and melodies disappear and reappear in most unusual directions."

Skeptics was formed in 1979 in Palmerston North by David D'Ath (vocals), Robin Gauld (guitar), Don White (drums) and Nick Roughan (bass) who were still at school at the time, and followed an earlier group called X-IT which had given one performance.
Their first release came with a track on the Furtive Records compilation Three Piece Pack with 'Last Orders' in 1982. A national tour followed with the other three bands involved in the compilation, The Prime Movers, The Dabs and The Bongos. Their next release came with an EP through Flying Nun entitled Chowder Over Wisconsin in 1983. Initially Gauld had been writing much of the material, but from about 1983 the writing became more of a collaborative effort.

From 1983-84 they ran their own club in Palmerston North called Snailclamps. In 1984 they had the tape Skeptics Said out through the defunct Industrial tapes, and in 1985, following their move to Wellington released their debut album Ponds. "This one positively lurches at you from the speakers. Rhythms strike and melodies disappear and reappear in most unusual directions. Some of it comes across as deviant as Psychic TV (especially the first track 'Hurrah') while other songs like 'Bubba Cluth' on Side Two contain taut bones of melodies. None of the eight songs flow at all - you're forced into listening as they ebb away or break off suddenly to start in a new vein." (Rip It Up, September '85).
In 1985 guitarist Robin Gauld left to complete studies at university and was replaced by John Halvorsen, who was also in Bailter Space at the time.
Their second album came in 1988 with Skeptics III, "They're often compared to the Headless Chickens, but while Stunt Clown dealt in pop songs, the Skeptics are more purposeful in articulating their pessimistic vision.

Divine Muscles Flex: an Oral History of Skeptics by Gavin Bertram
Skeptics page at Audio Culture
Skeptics @ the Bailter Space module
Skeptics @ club bizarre
the Skeptics Story: a biography by Derek Bell
Skeptics Wikipedia entry
interview with Simon Ogston (Skeptics documentary maker) with Brannavan Gnanalingam on Under the Radar
Flying Nun on the documentary and re-issues

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What's your favourite song ever released on Flying Nun? is answered with 'AFFCO' (Kim Gruschow), 'Agitator' (Gavin Bertram) and 'Sheen of Gold' (Stevie Kaye, with a particularly resonant piece).