The D4 were an Auckland-based rock and roll band, highly regarded on the international touring circuit for their explosive live shows and knack for penning sub-three minute party anthems. They are often considered responsible for the renaissance of garage rock in New Zealand.
The D4 formed in 1998 after guitarists Jimmy Christmas and Dion Palmer were introduced at a mutual friend’s 21st birthday party. At the time Christmas was a member of A Bit Off while Palmer played bass in the punk group Nothing At All! Both bands were regulars at the infamous Frisbee Leisure Lounge parties hosted by Rob Mahoney (better known as Z Bob or Bob Frisbee) in a former Bank of New Zealand building on Auckland's Symonds Street.
The origin of the band’s name has variously been suggested as an enzyme involved with the male libido, a car, a dopamine receptor or a specials board at a brothel.
Early on a revolving cast of musicians made their way through the group, including bassist “English” Jake Harding, and a succession of drummers – Paul Reid (Rubicon), Paul Robinson and Rich Mixture (the latter two both went on to play drums in The Rock and Roll Machine). The line-up was eventually completed with the rhythm section of Vaughan (AKA Vaughn) Williams on bass and Daniel “Beaver” Pooley on drums.
Pooley was enlisted after he responded to an ad in NZ Musician magazine: “I'd heard a bit of their stuff before and they sounded like a bit of me. I went along to the audition with a big swappa crate and they seemed to think I was an alright dude! So basically my plan was to get them pissed and I ended up with the gig!” (NZ Musician, August/Sept 2005)
With a steady line-up, The D4 honed their straight ahead balls-to-the-wall sound, which harked back to 60s garage-rock and 70s punk, and recorded their four-track debut EP Come On at Frisbee Studios. EP tracks ‘Come On’ and ‘Girl’ gained steady rotation on student radio. The band were quickly taken under the wing of Paul McKessar who signed them to the Flying Nun label. McKessar would also work with The D4 in the Mushroom London office when they were released on the Mushroom-owned Infectious Records label.
Looking back at the early days, Palmer told East Coast Rocker magazine, “We started out playing pizza parlours with our own PAs. Because the scene is so small and there’s not many people genuinely into rock n’ roll, we end up playing just to have a good time.”
In 2000 the band left NZ for their first shows on foreign soil. The self-funded trip saw the quartet play a handful of shows in Australia and 10 dates in Japan alongside garage rock trio Guitar Wolf, a band carrying the same rock and roll ethos as The D4.
“We had such a good time in what we saw as an extremely foreign land. We were so well received and the people were, and are, so great. The D4 was formed because of some of those Japanese bands. Before they ever came to NZ, I was really into Guitar Wolf and The 5678’s and I think we were coming from the same heart.” (Palmer – NZ Musician)
In 2001 The D4 recorded their debut album 6Twenty
– named after classic NZ-made Jansen guitar amp of the same name.
In 2001 The D4 recorded their debut album 6Twenty – named after classic NZ-made Jansen guitar amp of the same name. The album was engineered at Auckland’s York Street studios by Christmas’ flatmate at the time Andrew Buckton, with Bob Frisbee and Malcolm Welsford. Production credits went to The D4, Frisbee and Antonio Fernandez.
6Twenty spawned the singles ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Mother Fucker’ (abbreviated to ‘Rnr MF’ for the USA release) and ‘Get Loose’, which received substantial international radio play and featured in several Bacardi Rum commercials in the USA. 6Twenty also included cover versions of Guitar Wolf’s ‘Invader Ace’, ‘Mysterex’ by NZ punk group The Scavengers and ‘Pirate Love’ by The New York Dolls’ Johnny Thunders.
Following the New Zealand release of 6Twenty, The D4 performed at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas, shortly followed by a tour of the East Coast of America arranged through Steve Baise of New York punk band The Devil Dogs – a band whose ‘North Shore Bitch’ The D4 had previously covered on the B-side of the 7-inch ‘Ladies Man’ in 2000.
After leaving the USA The D4 moved to the UK where they performed shows alongside Californian stoner rock band Fu Manchu and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, ultimately leading to a management deal with Alan McGee and Steven King of Creation Management.
McGee, responsible for launching Oasis (and many others) was influential in securing deals with Sony Music in Japan and Hollywood Records in the USA. Hollywood shipped 100,000 units of 6Twenty stateside, selling 20,000. Elsewhere, 6Twenty was released in England through Infectious Records, in Europe through PIAS, and Australia via FMR (formerly Festival Mushroom Records).
Hollywood Records organised a variety of promotional appearances on mainstream USA television shows including Last Call with Carson Daly, The Jimmy Kimmel Show and The Late Show with David Letterman – at the time hosted by Bill Cosby as Letterman was ill. Festival shows included Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds, Pukkelpop, Fuji Rock, Livid and the Big Day Out.
The band soon found themselves on the garage rock revival bandwagon being driven by the British music press.
Much like their compatriots The Datsuns, the band soon found themselves on the garage rock revival bandwagon being driven by the British music press. Influential music mag NME nominated the band for single of the week and raved about 6Twenty: "Primordial and fun [it is] one of the great, grubby milestones of the current garage renaissance", while Rolling Stone magazine listed 6Twenty as one of the “best releases of the last three months.”
After picking up four nominations at the 2002 bNet Music Awards, The D4 took home the trophy for International Achievement. Praise was also given internationally with the band receiving a nomination for Spirit of Independence at the 2002 Kerrang! Awards, presented by the UK-based rock magazine.
After two-years on the international touring circuit, The D4 settled down to write album number two – seeking inspiration in Thailand, the Bay of Islands and a number of other New Zealand locations. Over an 18-month period the band wrote around 40 songs, most of which were eventually trashed, having been repeatedly knocked back by management or producers.
Palmer told Rip It Up, “We’ve been off the road for 18 months because we found it hard writing while on tour. The intention was there but it was always too difficult to sit down and do it. We decided to come home and write and record an album and we failed – the songs we wrote weren’t good enough.”
In February 2004 The D4 relocated to England, where their management was located, to seek further inspiration. The band spent four months writing and recording demos in a South London flat.
"I think most of it (Out Of My Head) was written, ultimately all the best stuff, over the four month period of real intensity, misery and poverty, which I think is probably the best influence you can have for rock and roll,", Christmas said to NZ Musician in February 2005.
As with the songwriting process, recording took place all over the world. While in England the band recorded most of the album, with session split between Jacobs Studio in Hampshire and Eden Studios in London. An undisclosed Auckland studio, Arch Hill Studio (also in Auckland), and Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne were also used.
The D4 took a break from recording in August 2004 when the band were invited to play at the Little Steven’s Underground Garage festival in New York alongside Iggy and The Stooges, New York Dolls, Bo Diddley, Chocolate Watch Band and more big name acts.
Out Of My Head was released in 2005 and peaked at No.17 on the NZ chart. It was nominated for Rock Album of the Year at the 2005 NZ Music Awards but missed out to Shihad’s Love Is The New Hate. Singles ‘Sake Bomb’ (also recorded in Japanese for a limited bonus release), ‘What I Want’ and ‘Feel It Like It’ received significant radio play and were supported by accompanying music videos. Keeping the tradition of covers featured on past releases Out Of My Head included an interpretation of ‘Out Of Control’ from Australian punk band Lime Spiders.
Production credits for most of Out Of My Head went to production duo the Dirty Geezers – Bid Beresford and Lalo Crème. Further credits went to Alan Moulder (‘What I Want’, ‘Out Of Control’) and Barry Palmer (‘Out Of My Head’, ‘Feel It Like It’). The band themselves engineered and produced ‘Stop Me Cold’ and the explosive first single ‘Sake Bomb’.
After befriending Swedish rock and roll band The Hives at the Big Day Out in Auckland, The D4 were invited on a 20-date tour spanning much of Europe and UK, shortly followed by a quick four-date outing in Australia.
After almost eight years together The D4 decided to put the band on indefinite hiatus.
Following the tour, after several delays in the release of Out Of My Head in the USA, Hollywood Records dropped the band. Then their UK label Infectious Records was bought out by Warner Music, which left the band briefly homeless, until they signed to Alan McGee’s label Pop Tones.
After almost eight years together The D4 decided to put the band on indefinite hiatus, stating that the split was a group decision. A band spokesman released the following statement, "They are leaving the book open, but have no foreseeable plans for The D4 in the future and would all like to try other things, musically and otherwise. The band would like everybody who has worked with them and their fans to know that they have had the time of their lives being in this group and done so many amazing things, but at this point in time need to explore other avenues. Thank you all for being part of such an incredible trip." The band’s final show was on June 9, 2006 at Auckland’s Kings Arms Tavern with The Rock and Roll Machine.
After the split, Jimmy Christmas formed alternative rock band Luger Boa and released two albums Mutate or Die and New Hot Nights; Daniel “Beaver” Pooley went on to play as a session drummer for a number of bands including the Jordan Luck Band and Luger Boa; Vaughan Williams joined Nick Harte’s The Shocking Pinks and performed with Auckland bands Dimmer and Sports; Dion Palmer, now calling himself Dion Lunadon, moved to New York where he formed The True Lovers. He now plays bass with seminal noise merchants A Place To Bury Strangers.
Jimmy Christmas - vocals, guitar
Dion Palmer - vocals, guitar
Daniel "Beaver" Pooley - drums
Rich Mixture - drums
Jake Harding - bass
Paul Robertson - drums
Paul Reid - drums
Vaughan Williams - bass