Dive into the archives

Below is a selection of a few favorite interviews – published from 2007 -2009



Split Enz

Noel Crombie – Split Enz (on the NZ Re-union Tour 2008)
Tim Gruar gets Noel Crombie on the phone for a trip through the archives.

“History doesn’t repeat. It just gets better” reads their media. Corny – yes. But true?
“Ah, yeah. Not sure about that”. Noel Crombie, on the phone from home town, Melbourne, is laid back as usual. “We actually haven’t really toured extensively since that last “break up” a few year’s ago. But the (2006) Tour around Aussie was really gratifying. We expected to be treated as Goldie Oldies – instead we had a mixed group and a really good size group of younger ones who knew us from the radio. They weren’t influenced by their old siblings or parents. Really gratifying to be discovered like that”.

Split Enz finally reunite in March for a well overdue New Zealand tour featuring Tim and Neil Finn (Vocals, guitars), Eddie Rayner (Keys), Nigel Griggs (Bass) and, of course Noel Crombie on Drums and Percussion. In 2006 Split Enz reformed for a tour of Australia that attracted universal praise and crowds up to a sell out size of 12,000-strong.
The ENZ have so many hits throughout their career that they have become Australasian icons.

“Yeah. A long time between drinks. It’s a real privilege to be part of the band again. Although, we have been keeping the business side ticking over, with the tour and re-mastering and re-releasing all the albums (Mushroom Records was bought out by Warners in 2005 sparking new opportunities to repackage their material to a wider audience).
Given the numbers of times they’ve played did he ever want to change or modfy any of their songs?

“No, not really. They are like old friends. Beside we might not survive the concert if we were too radical “,he quips referring their fans, amongst the most dedicated in the world (the band’s official fan club, Frenz of the Enz, boasts 15,000 members alone).
With such a great response to the touring, why has it taken so long to come home?”
“Home? I haven’t been to Wellington (Crombie’s home town) for years. Look, it just became so hard, with everyone off on other commitments. Tim had a new album, Neal with the “Crowdies”, and the others had stuff. We’re spread across the world, too, so even harder”. Crombie, a long time sufferer of tinnitus, doesn’t play much any more, adding his own complications to the tour idea.
So what is he up to these days?

“Well, I’m a dad, two kids 11 and 13. I’m designing sets with Sally (his wife) for the ABC (including the quiz show Spicks and Specks)”. Through out their career, Crombie was responsible for the ENZ’s trademark stage costumes and Sets. He’s kept up his quirky design inventiveness, designing “cute” little instruments out of discussed ukuleles, Indonesian bowls, “and other stuff lying around” which he is planning to play and record. Not the first time Crombie’s launched an unusual sideline project, either, releasing the single “My Voice Keeps changing on me” in 1983. “Who knows it could happen again – nah!”

So will he be designing some smart threads for the band again? “Should get around to it – wait and see”, he claims with a laugh.

Published in The Groove Guide February 2008



Sola Rosa

Andrew Spraggon has plenty to smile about.
With the recent arrival a baby daughter and the release of his new album ‘Get it together’ which has just hit the stores he’s pretty chipper these days.
Tim Gruar rang him up to check on the sleep deprivation.

I can certainly relate to the long delivery room ordeal. My daughter was born only a few days before Spraggon’s. I asked how it went. “Yeah, it was a long weekend, as my partner started labour on the Friday, but my girl came out on the Sunday

Long deliveries seem the par for Spraggon, having spent over three year’s writing and recording the follow up to 2005’s ‘…Moves On’. This time round, Spraggon chose to consciously write and record with musicians, as opposed to sampling up individual ‘parts” and hooked up again with Will Scott (drums), Matt Short (Bass) and Ben White (guitar). “But this time I went to them as a composer or band leader. It was great to take my tunes along to a studio and get the musicians to try out various bass parts, or drums …with the luxury to try out different versions, until we got it. It was more of a band experience. I was just one member of a greater collective”. For Spraggon this was the first time he’d properly recorded in a studio. Much of the work was done at Auckland’s Red Bull Studios, where he was able to use the ’sponsored’ free time to experiment and record with out the pressure of the usual studio fees and deadlines.

Also re-enlisted is rapper Spikey Tee, “who’s played with Jah Wobble. Bomb the Bass, Mark Rae. He was in Australia now, so we flew him in to help out on ‘…Moves on’ and he came back again.’ Via a web connection, Spraggon contacted German globetrotter poet Bajka who graciously popped into a Berlin Studio to drop the vocals on two tracks ‘Humanised’ and Lady Love’. Like wise UK MC Sorocee emailed in his lines on ‘I’ve tried ways’. But the biggest coup was Wellington songstress Iva Lankum (‘Turn around’). “I was looking around for someone who was up and coming. My publicist suggested Iva. She has this amazingly mature, smoky bluesy voice, which works really well.”

Honourable mention goes to the track ‘Bond is Back’, a rewrite of classic Connery-era lounge. “Daniel Craig’s pretty gritty, not the gentleman. And Alicia Keys is definitely not Shirley Bassey, I love all that big brassy stuff in the early Bonds. This is my take on how it should be.”

Although on lockdown performing fatherly duties, Spraggon’s finding a few precious hours to sneak out to rehearsals for the upcoming national tour, which hits the road on 20 March. “I love being a dad, but I’m really looking forward to playing with a full band, and Iva and Spikey Tee are coming to, that’ll be a blast!’

‘Get it Together’ is out now on Way Up Recordings

Published in The Groove Guide March 2009 


The Datsuns

The Datsuns

“We just seem to attract these crazy situations”, guitarist Christian Livingstone’s on line from London reflecting on adventures from last year’s European shows.

“We played this 24 hour motorcycle race in France – It was a scene

from Mad Max! Crazy bands, weird people, the Stooges were there! All these cars were on fire, like 20 or something. This guy was dressed like a huge cock! Guys were firing flares at each other. A naked dude was surfing around on top of a speeding car. …And in the middle, us playing away. Insane!” Livingstone also copped friendly fire from fellow band mates over a huge 30 metre billboard of him advertising the gig, “…and it was a
ba-a-a-a-a-d photo!. Meanwhile, on stage in Serbia, “The local playboy was trying to dive bomb us with his MIG fighter! And there’s this local “mafia” thing where you can’t take your own gear. You have to “hire” it from the local suppliers. What really happens is that they go around “acquiring” stuff from musicians. But on the night those musicians turn up during the show wanting it back! …The best was a tourist ferry around a Swedish archipelago… all these bands played. Half an hour off shore the Duty Free shop sold out and every one was smashed. One chick was actually peeing on the carpet outside out side our cabin door! Major chaos.”

From full on rock’n’roll to psychedelia Datsun’s new album “Headstunts” is a magical follow up to the ‘06 “Smoke & Mirrors”. “We recorded it earlier this year at Svenska Grammofonstudion, Gothenborg, Sweden (owned by locals “The Sound Track Of Our Lives”) and produced it ourselves… (guitarist) Phil Buscke thought up the title, an anagram of the bands name. I wrote the music and singer Dolf (De Borst) did the lyrics. He had all these ideas around mind games”.

De Borst’s said that having new drummer, and fellow Cambridge lad, Ben Cole on board was like making your first record again – new influences and abilities?”Yeah. Ben’s brought more versatility to the band… and is really a huge part of our sound.” And that sound has expanded: The dirge-throbber “High School Hoodlums” was the first single, followed by garage rocker “Human Error” and the sixties pop number “Cruel Cruel Fate”. “Headstunts” feels like you’ve squeezed out every ounce of creativity? “Oh we have – but don’t call it “Garage Rock”. That’s a media expression. We’ve got heaps of sounds, even psychedelia – like “Eye of the Needle” and “Somebody Better” – that’s one to lie on the floor and tune out! Just like Pink Floyd!”

So, with a new album out will the Datsuns be re-living their crazy Spinal Tap tour diary?”There’s definitely moments of that movie that are just like our shows! You know, the UK the pop-press are fickle. We’re cool for 15 minutes, now we’re un-cool. So we’re playing some smaller UK venues, our fans are mainly European, anyway. Size doesn’t matter: I’ve played 30,000 and it sucked and 10 people and it was great, then vice-versa. But we’ll get cool again!”

Check out how cool when the boys finally return to The Big Day Out (Friday January 16 Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland)

“HeadStunts” was released on October 13 2008

Published in The Groove Guide September 2008



Fly My Pretties

When Groove Guide’s Tim Gruar last talked to Barnaby Weir he gave no indication of his plans of a third visitation of beloved local showcase Fly My Pretties.

The first FMP shows hit the Wellington’s Bats Theatre back in 2004. Then, as now, Barnaby’s dream was to bring out local talents such as Samuel Scott Flynn, Age Pryor, Tessa Rain and in later ‘Return’ shows, Hollie Smith. As they say – the rest is history. While the first shows were intimate concerts, the second incarnation, two year’s later, involved pioneer costuming and archival film from NZ’s Colonial past. While vastly different from his day job, the lead for Dub Reggae outfit, The Black Seeds, has ventured on several collaborative affairs including a previous visit to South America for the OE Brazil project. And now it’s 2009. What will FMP MKIII hold in store?

A grey day in Wellington doesn’t dampen Barnaby’s spirit.. Over a latte he’s enthusiastically telling me about the first ‘09 meet-and-greet rehearsal held last night at the Surgery. “Yeah, I’m already quite optimistic about how it’s going.” For the first time his catch is spread wider than the Capital. “I wanted to get (singer) Anna Coddington…and we’ve got Eva Prowse (Accidental Tourists), who’s this amazing alt-country artist.” Coddington, originally from Raglan is no stranger to collaborations having played in Geoffrey and Duchess and Hansome, sung on rapper Tourettes new release, as well as putting out her own fine effort The Lake last year. Prowse has also been prominent producing a couple of EPs and recording for the Royal NZ Ballet’s Tutus on Tour.

From Christchurch is Soul-Jazz performer LA Mitchell, who recently wowed audiences at Wellington’s Matterhorn and at Jazz Festivals around the country . Another Mainlander is singer, guitarist, DJ, and producer Mara T.K whose worked with the Black seeds, Solaa, Will Ricketts and recently, has been hanging with his own group Electric Wire Hustle. Barnaby’s also rather tickled about Paul McLaney (Gramsci), Cassette’s Tom Watson (who’s also been spied playing with Luke Buda of late), plus scoring Rio Hunuki-Hemopo and Riki Gooch, formerly of Trinity Roots. While Both Gooch and Hunuki-Hemopo’s have also toured with Fat Freddy’s Drop during international excursions. Hunuki-Hemopo’s musical career also includes playing bass with Breaks Co-Op, vocals with Fat Freddy’s Drop and two recording stints at the prestigious Red Bull Studios in Capetown.

Locally, there’s the Capital’s own ‘gun for hire’ Lisa Tomlins, who’s phenomenal soul vocals have bolstered live performances for Rhombus, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Twinset, Shapeshifter plus countless others. “She’s always so busy … so it’s great to finally get her.” And back are ‘founders’ Tessa Rain, Nathan ‘Nato’ Hickey (Gran Prix) and Black Seeds Drummer Jarney Murphy, Guitarist Mike Fabulous, retro-Keyboardist Nigel Patterson and Vocalist/Rhythm man Ryan Prebble (who by the way just gigged with Welli outfit Spartacus R)

For grown ups of a certain generation the famously smooth and deep timbre of broadcaster Dick Weir will be permanently and pleasurably ingrained within their lobes. The recent QSM receiver, radio announcer of over 44 years and Writer/Presenter of the legendary “Ears” children’s radio show has been out of the spotlight raising a family and voice coaching. Dick, who’s also Barnaby’s father, will be reading a specially written tale that will bind the show together. “Last time we used the archival film and costumes. This time we have Dad’s story and some amazing illustrations by Kieran Rynhart – some will be animated by Kraft:Haus Films to accompany the show.” Just what the story is about is a secret. As are other aspects of the material. Barnaby wants to retain some elements of surprise. As with all these shows there will be a mix of Barnaby’s stuff and songs ‘brought in’ by the performers to mold into shape for the performances. Barnaby says he really enjoys working through this discovery process. Other treats will include a special edition book plus a give away of a FMP ‘branded’ Takamine Guitar. Sponsors 42 Below are also producing a special vodka bottle in honour of the occasion.

Barnaby is keen to add that he wants these to remain ‘special’ events and not to exploit the concept with lengthy tours because “by holding back and not milking the concept we can keep the shows fresh and progressive.” In the end, he says, it’s all about the live performance!

Published in The Groove Guide March 2008


Los Angeles Band X Portrait Session

X-Factor – John Doe

Tim Gruar talks to a punk icon –
John Doe from the punk band X.

Sid and Joey Ramone are gone, Lydon and Matlock wallow in gluttonous retirement but John Doe, founder of the seminal punk band X found time out of his busy conference schedule to talk to Groove Guide about living the legend, touring alt-countries and paying the bills.

My first call to Doe is cut short so he can pick up a friend from the airport. An hour later we pick up again, where it turns out Doe is entertaining at the Technology, Entertainment Design (TED) Conference in Palm Springs along with Jane Sobule. “It’s this amazing group of leaders, innovators, inventors. A great opportunity to mix with real talent – OK you got me. I’m working. Have to pay the bills.”

So John Doe’s just a working stiff these days? “Hey, well yes I have a family, to feed. But you know, it’s the ‘do it your self ethic’ of Punk that I’ve still retained.”

Does’ contemporary Richard Hell once reflected that Punk was about failure. Punk is an idea, not a band. “True. It’s about subversion”, says Doe,”Opposition to to everything adult, responsible, manufactured or controlled. Yet the ideal Punk band, the Sex pistols was just that. They had the sense to self destruct at the height of success. But X was more about the DIY ethic. We loved al kinds of music and we didn’t want people telling us what to sing – that was our subversion.”

X emerged from the LA punk scene as the most lauded US band of the early 1980’s. Formed by Doe, Billy Zoom, Exene and DJ Bonebrake, their debut album, produced by the Doors’ Ray Manzarek, ‘Los Angeles’ was an underground masterpiece. It was influenced by everything from rockabilly to old-time country. Doe and Exene married and divorced while the band was still together, “But the Band and Me and Exene still all work together, we’re playing gigs next month.”

Post X, Doe branched out into alt country with ‘The Knitters’ and an expansive solo singing-slash-acting career. His latest, ‘A year in the wilderness’ featuring Eddie Vedder and Kathleen Edwards has warmed the critics. He’s also clocked up over 50 appearances in TV shows like ER and Movies such as ‘Great Balls of Fire’ (‘My worst!”), ‘Salvador’, and. ‘Boogie Nights’ “No bad parts exposed there”, he laughs. Most recently he played Jeff Parker in the cult TV series ‘Roswell’. “I felt like an alien myself – just this old punk on set making it up as I go along”

When Does hits our shores next month, he’ll be playing with alt country legend Jim White, whose album ‘Searching for the wrong Eyed Jesus’ was described as a ‘big wet dream of loss and isolation., sex and the search for grace’ Doe is resonantly droll about this description. He met White during mutual gigs in England. For Doe, he’s looking forward to his first time Down Under. “Sometime paying the bills isn’t so bad.”

Published in The Groove Guide February 2009




Tim Gruar from Groove Guide pops in to chat with Wellington Festival favs Rhombus about Sambas, toys from the 70’s and the new album.

Uncharacteristically, it’s a blustery Wellington day.  120kmph winds bully every window and door.  Yet inside the Rhombus studio Summer is yawning awake, the 12 bar heater is spreading warmth across a studio which appears unusually devoid of its usual cache of “toys” according to vocalist Raashi Malik.  Still, there’s plenty here.  Shelving stacked with old telephones and the obligatory muso trappings – audio cables, cans, vinyl, and a much beloved Akai MPC; a massive multi-channel sound desk, originally from Avalon TV studios; and in another corner, an original 1976 Thomas 2001 Space Organ “designed for the future,” explains keyboardist Thomas Voyce  “And here we are in the future playing tunes.  The bossa-nova beats are especially good”.  “And it’s called ‘Thomas’, a match made in Heaven”, adds Simon Rycroft, the bands producer and principal beats maker, “we jumped on the web searching for one of those two keyboard jobbies and tracked it down at an Auckland beach house.  It was a mission getting down but we’ve used it on nearly every track, including the new album”.

“Check this”, grins Rycroft, firing up the Pro-tools.  What plays is a very different ‘Samba’ version of the opening down beat track, “So Close” ,from their new self titled album.  Raashi Malik, who wrote and recorded the original, laughs hysterically “I could have a new career – in Brazil!”.  Will that that re-mix ever get released? “Oh yes, on a vinyl 7’.  We do a few of these for promotional reasons and for the clubs”.

With their new self titled album out on 6 October, what can we expect?  “As always, it’s a real blend of styles – dub, jazz, funk”, say Voyce “I write in a variety of ways, then work with different vocalists who add their own spin so the tracks grow experientially away from the originals” Rycroft further explains: “The songs are mixed through an analogue console at Trident Studios, providing a nice warm sound, then mixed down.  But we separate the elements out so we can mix on the fly and play with live musicians.”

All this builds on their awesome live show, which kicks off next month.  Expect to new thumpers like “Hawera”, dance hall rave up “Babylon Retreat “ and the new single “Losing it (ADD)”, featuring MC Mana.  Voyce’s particularly proud of the video for this track.  “I threw it together with (Director) Matt Steel, shot all over town, over and over, then spliced it together in the most random way. It only cost $150.  I really proud of what we can make so cheaply”

With the Rhombus collective spread all over the world, how do they pull it together? “That’s me, Koa Williams (Manager/ DJ) and Thomas”, say Rycroft “We tend to collaborate a lot.  This time we’ve (Jamaican MC) JR Kelly on “Royalty”, Rankin’ Joe on “Babylon Retreat” and the Japanese element is also very strong (Voyce taught English there for two years).  So we’ve Japanese MC’s  Pyo, Koursuke, Chikau and Ayymu on “Article 9”.  Some vocals were recorded on a boat between San Francisco and Japan” Rycroft refers to their travels on the Japan-based global NGO Peace Boat two years ago, which went through the Caribbean and the Pacific, spreading the values of sustainability, co-operation and peace.  Voyce adds “That was track was real raw.  You can hear the light fittings shaking with the sea.  As always with us – variety and difference”.

Rhombus’ self titled album will surface on 6 October, followed by gigs through the month and into November.  Also look out for future “Sound Systems Mashup club nights from Simon and Koa in the future.

Published in Groove Guide October 2008


Fat freddies

Fat Freddy’s Drop 

Tim Gruar talks to Toby Laing from the Capital’s Iconic funk/groove tourmeisters Fat Freddy’s Drop


Tucked away in the booth of a classy little café in Courtenay Place, Toby Laing, Fat Freddy’s Drop horn man extraordinaire settled in for a cup of tea and a nice chat with Tim Gruar about recording, early days, Barracudas and alternative uses for bright green tea cozies.
What is it about musicians and Tea? Last year I talked with Barnaby Weir and Holly Smith, both accountancies by a pot of Earl Grey and now as we settle in a bright green knitted Wool blob appears, flanked by a sugar bowl and milk jug, giving off the distinct aroma of Indian Summers and Tropical Asian Fruits. “Later, I have to pick up coffee for the recording session, so I’m off it for the moment”.
Sipping away, we contemplate alternative uses for the bright green tea cozy. Apparently Otago students had popularized them as headwear – “if I was on the Ski Slopes I’d wear one’.

Toby Laing’s almost an institution in the Capital, playing not only with the “Freddys” and The Black Seeds, but also the long standing Jazz combo, CL Bob and Cub bop Jam Sessionists, the Eggs. He also fronts the Utes focusing his interest in Jamaican Dancehall and Ska, and sometimes with the Scribes of Ra, with Black Seeds’ Mike Fabulous, which heads out on a Afro Beat journey, via Fela Kuti. Laing’s philosophy is to immerse himself in the music, thus educating and living the dream.
Has Funk always being your main thing? “Initially it was Jazz. Nick Van Dyk was my first proper Teacher. In ‘95 I learnt at the Welly Polytechnic and he was my first teacher, but first he had to learn and teach me, then he pushed me on”. Laing reckons that the secret to good brass is technique. Master that and you can apply it to any style!”
Cutting his chops with Josh Hindmarsh’s Vipers, Laing had his “Cotton Club/Jazz Age moment” when the Courtenay Place joint they were swinging at (1930’s style) was busted by the fuzz for dealing coke. “They had these wires down the horns and everything. Every Muso should experience this, like Musician 101 or something”.
Laing was also jammin’ with Mu and Leon, who DJ’d then, before a Dunedin gig rounded up some live artists like Dallas Taimara, formerly Bongmaster. “Yeah, Dallas pretty much crashed us and refused to leave”. That was the first “Freddy” gig and the rest is history.
So what’s on the new album? Throw us a bone. “Well, a bit of Jamaican Dance Hall and some intriguing elements of Soul and Country, thanks to one party who’s obsessed with Bill Withers. Joe (Lindsay), the apocalyptic trombonist got all Dixieland on us with his new tuba and the new saxophonist Scott Towers brings a Country soul man thing”.
Towers, Laing and former ‘Freddy’ Sax man Warren Maxwell go way back to Polytech and have also played in various Wellington bands. So when Maxwell left to form Little Bushman and Towers finally returned back to New Zealand the transition took place. “But it was more a development than out and out change but it was great he came in when he did. Warren left an element of good musicianship and good times, which still continues”.
Speaking of musicians, how’s Iain (Gordon, Keyboards)? “Yeah, pretty harsh. He got bitten by a big ass barracuda and had to have some surgery on his tendons, so he’s recovering slowly. Hah – but we reeled in a couple the other day – so we kinda got our own back”.
So when can we expect to see the new stuff? “We’ve been playing it for a while. But mindful to of doing a good job on the album, so this year we’ve been concentrating on that. When it’s released we’ll be touring heaps, but we want to leave a little souvenir and to make album for all those who have supported us. So, it feels like we have to finish the job”.
Although they’re booked for Paris and London later in the year, there will only be two local shows both at Music Mountain Matakana. “This’ll be a great chance to get out in the beautiful pristine bush and road test the new stuff – and Fitchie’s happy, there’s a golf course next door”.

Published in The Groove Guide February 2008


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