Auckland debut at Café XS on July 27, 1980
“Before we got a gig. I got to hear more and more about this boot boy thing. Boot boy. Boot boy. Boot boy. Fight. Fight. Fight. Never actually heard anybody talking about any music. Like: ‘See that guy over there? He’s part of the boot boys ... blah blah blah.'”
“Our first gig was on a Sunday night and lots of people came. Two guys turned up on the Sunday night that were looking like: ‘Is he gonna be on our side?’" I could sense them thinking: ‘Nah I don’t think he is’.”
“One hundred and fifty came the Auckland Star said. They checked us out and didn't like it. There was a review in the paper about it by Louise Chunn. A god-awful review that was so down and depressing. She didn’t have any idea about music. All she knew was what was going on locally. But it got us some interest.
“I rang up Auckland Star and said: ‘Can I come to your photographic library?’ I asked to see all the photos of violence. When they turned their back I nicked a photo of this black guy punching another black guy by a telegraph pole to use for a poster.
“The next gig we got I decided to call it the Anti-Violence Dance and used the photo. I said fuck it. Enough is enough with this violence number. The Features went along with it.
“The show was at Café XS. Thursday night this guy called Billy Bullshit comes up and says, ‘Who put the name on the Anti-Violence Dance? That’s not a good look fellas.’ He said that to The Features and it trickles back to me. I said I did. He said that’s a bad mistake, mate.
“Then on Friday night there were like boot boys and punks and I noticed in the audience some long haired people had turned up for our show and were beaten up. Some had bare feet and they were beaten up for it. It seemed like the only people who weren’t beaten up were blue jean, drainpipe wearing normal boys who hadn't experienced anything in life other than hanging out in a mob trying to act like the National Front without knowing what goes on behind that.
"These people with long hair were wearing flowers and stuff. I thought good on them for coming to see some music. We were about music, not violence. It was so different from the Wellington music scene. Even though you had that element there. There was too many interesting people, too many beautiful people for it to dominate.
“So there was more and more antagonism from me. In fact, I was so cheeky to everyone. I was just rarking them up.
“By Saturday night they were like: 'Somebody’s gotta do something about that guy.' So this boot boy gets up, drunk as, swaying, wobbling. He takes a swing at me and misses. He doesn't even get close. My best mate Jessica Walker with a big Rickenbacker bass, just puts it up as a block. She was one crazy girl. She had heaps of energy. She would have eaten that guy for breakfast. He wouldn’t take it any further. A bottle was thrown quite fast that just missed her. It was meant for me.
“It brought the violence to a head. Exactly what I wanted. They were dictating who played. The subtext was: ‘We like boot boy music. We like music that’s gonna continue playing while we beat up people that look different from us.'
“I outsmarted them. Anybody did that had any sort of brain. I stood up to them and because I did others did as well. We became very unpopular overnight. The Auckland Star wanted a photo after that. They weren't there, but they heard something had happened.”
Famous fans – Barry Jenkin and Neil Roberts
“There were people in the audience who were very into the music. Seminal characters like Neil Roberts, the serious anarchist dude who blew himself up. There’s another transformation. He came to the first Shoes This High gig on Sunday. He was kind of straight, a chef and after he came to our gig he just changed. He came back to our place that evening. I asked him where he was from. He said, ‘Mataikona.’ I said That's where we’re from, me and Kev, the Wairarapa’. I said ‘Mataikona’s a sheep station.’ He said ‘Yeah. Real desolate, mate.’
“Doctor Rock in his leather coat. He really liked Shoes This High. He used to give us quite a lot of airplay on his show when the EP came out. But being young bucks at the time – who didn’t have the respect for anything – we didn’t appreciate it.”
All Over Town
“We had about three bands living in Bath St [Auckland]. Us, The Gordons and Nervous Wrecks – 15 people in a three bedroom house. We used to do a food run with The Gordons. They used to have this van – a Commer van. We never had any money and there was always this food delivered at the back doors of shops so we used to go round in Brent's van and steal it – chock up the van with food and come back to Bath St. People used to appear out of nowhere grabbing it.”
“When we got to Auckland, we started asking Livesound for big rigs, loud as. We started playing at parties, in some ways paying our dues. When fighting broke out again, we stopped the music.
“We played at the university a few times in the café and the quad. We played a lot of places with Toy Love when they came back from Australia. We played in Devonport at some big pub. We played Mainstreet. We played the Windsor Castle. We always had a support band like The Newmatics at Café XS.
“We’d play an hour and a half. We had long tracks. We had one called ‘Monodrone’. That was trance-like. It was hypnotic. It put people in a state so they didn’t really know how long time was. That's a very Can/German thing. We were into them. We used to listen to a lot of Can. A lot of Neu! and Faust. We also had some fast stuff, real fast. We had rhythm and intricate patterns.
“We used to busk as well. We did lots in Wellington as well. It was encouraged there.”
“When The Gordons came up to live with us, we played quite a lot of gigs with them at Café XS. By then, boot boys were almost non-existent. They’d had a gutsful and found religion; found salesmanship in insurance. Most turned back to regular Joes, which is what they always were. More interesting people started coming. University people would come to our gigs. They’d want music and the scene started picking up again. Got a bit healthy again.
“We also played unconventional gigs with The Gordons. We used to go out to Carrington Mental Hospital. You can hear Kevin and Jessica were screaming away on The Gordons’ first EP track ‘Future Shock’. There was a race over who was going to get a record out first."
The Nose One EP recorded
“It was recorded in Mascot Studios [in December 1980], which was run by Hugh Lynn in Eden Terrace. Gerard Carr recorded us. We did it in one session on a Sunday. Gerard was unhappy because I said, ‘Bro, we haven't actually got the money.’ He said, ‘Don’t you know this is Hugh Lynn’s place? He’ll want to bust someone’s legs.’
“The last track we did was ‘Not Weighting’. Even though it was kind of rigid it had piano and the sound of a bottle smashing after falling from the piano. The songs were just the ones we chose that day, but there were other songs, which really did stand out as being good compositions. They were really intricate and Beefheart-ish. They had a definite thing that was only really touched on as far as the recordings go. There’s a XS Café tape that’s really good that Chris Orange was helping us mix.
“On that walk back from Mascot, the night we recorded it, we were four happy people. We’d been into a recording studio proper and got down something that we felt was good. I said to Kevin, ‘I just want to do more.’ We had an insight into what it could be like going into a recording studio.
“For us it wasn’t about being popular. It was about recording some interesting scenes and sounds in the studio."
“I had a real hate towards anyone into drugs. I ostracised myself from Kevin because he was into drugs. I said: ‘Mate, you don’t fuckin’ need it’, but that was where he was getting his confidence. He had doubts about his creativity. I thought it was fucking up the music.”
Wellington – December 1980
“When we went back and played, to me, it seemed like Wellington was dead. I was really angry at the band for going off. The music seemed more and more harder to make. On one hand, some interesting stuff was coming about, but we really had to make a go of it.
“We played at the Red Cross Hall in Vivian Street on the Saturday night with The Gordons. We were going to play twice in Brooklyn Community Centre and they did some weird thing on us and we could only play there on Friday night. What an out of the way place it was. A strange place to play.”
“When the [Nose One EP] record came out [January 1981] – PolyGram Records had put them in this sheath saying PolyGram – as if it was their record. We were the wrong people to do that to. We defaced the sleeve and had all these characters saying piss off PolyGram. All of a sudden another five hundred sleeves turned up. They found out we’d defaced them.
“Kevin did the face drawing for the cover. On the back, we had cut up quotes of the Louise Chunn review from the first Auckland show. We had people knocking on the door to buy it. We sold it mainly at gigs.”
The beginning of the end
“A lot of the times Kevin and Jessica, and even Chris, started fucking off. They’d just go walkabout. Chris would go up to wonderland or wilderness up on the Coromandel. Kevin and Jessica would go to her mother’s place. She was a doctor in Lower Hutt. They weren’t around. That used to fuck me off. I was left to design the posters. Take the photo of the shoes stacked on top of each other. And go to the printers.
“We practiced at the Legion’s Hall by the bridge in Bond Street. Blam Blam Blam also used to let us practise in their room in Hobson Street near the City Mission. But the practices were so full of anger everything got really twisted. We really enjoyed it at the start, but going through the boot boy stuff and the junkie stuff just made it harder. I was alright – I was being productive. When we did click we started making real interesting stuff.”
“The sign was when we practised one time, they were just playing Gordons’ songs, the two of them (Jessica and Kevin). They got really infatuated with The Gordons. They didn’t really want to do it themselves, so what was I to do? I wasn’t part of that scene.
“We had a gig to play in a big marquee in Orakei Bay. This punk girl, her mother was on the committee of the Orakei Fair day. We were going to play there in the afternoon in the marquee and it was going to be good. I was really looking forward to it. I was telling everybody. You got to turn up to this. Barry Jenkin was going to turn up.
“The night before, we split up. Jessica and Kevin, they had so much energy those two but Kevin got tempted by drugs and alcohol and boys and Jessica got tempted by Alister from The Gordons. She slept with Alister. Kevin found out. I came back to 18 Bath Street. Kevin was in a ball of tears. Jessica was in tears and the band split.”