Ian Morris at Mainstreet, Auckland, with Th' Dudes, December 1979 - Murray Cammick

In this full-length interview for 2003 television series Give It A WhirlIan Morris discusses his life in music, from his early days with Th’ Dudes through to becoming a recording studio engineer and producer, and creating music under the Tex Pistol name.

Ian Morris with his first guitar, Christmas Day 1966 - Richard Morris collection

“The thing about coming to New Zealand was, it was so isolated. In England there were all these radio stations, TV stations, all this music. We came to New Zealand and there was nothing. I mean, there was Pete Sinclair’s weekly show, Radio Hauraki hadn’t started. I felt quite cut off from the musical thing. It wasn’t really until later, the late 60s, when I met up with people like Dave Dobbyn that I started hearing all this music again that I’d missed … that isolation was a very big part of what Th’ Dudes became, what formulated the sound of Th’ Dudes.” – Ian Morris


Watch below: Full-length interview with Ian Morris from Give It a Whirl (2003) via NZ On Screen (2023).


Watch below: Ian Morris recalls meeting Dave Dobbyn and Peter Urlich: “We were all in Form One together – Dave arrived late on the first day. He was a very strange looking character, he was short – he wasn’t white, he was sort of blue, and he had this Mohican, short ginger hair. He arrived in class late, in his brother’s hand-me-down uniform with his shorts halfway down his knees. The whole class just burst out laughing … I identified with this strange outcast character and we got on like a house on fire. Peter was very different to that, much the same as he is now – very sociable, he got on with everyone, teacher’s pet, could play rugby, could perform and sing. He loved music and that’s just what drew us together.”


Watch below: Ian Morris recalls his early musical aspirations, and how his mother thought there might be something wrong with him. “When I was 15 my mother took me to the family doctor, she said, ‘Doctor, all he wants to do is sit on his bed all day and play the guitar’ ... the doctor said, ‘Yes I’ve seen this before with surfers ...’  I mean, playing guitar was the only thing I ever wanted to do, and me and Dave and Peter would get together and play [the Rolling Stones’ album] Sticky Fingers acoustically from beginning to end.”


Watch below: Ian discusses being a teenager watching bands in Auckland’s unlicensed club scene and the musical influence of The Human Instinct: “We used to go up to Maurice Greer’s club Croft’s in Airedale Street, regularly on Friday and Saturday nights, and listen to the Human Instinct. That was a big influence on us, that band. They played a really wide range of music – very simply, y’know, very well. I guess like any teenager growing up you have a certain place that you identify with and you go there. Croft’s was our one ...

“I bought my first amp off Martin Hope, who was playing with them at the time. With the Instinct ... we’d grown up with all this pop music and they showed us other people slightly left of the pop world, and the musicianship was important – they showed us a wider field of good music.”


Watch below: Ian recalls the material Th’ Dudes covered when they started out: “We played Chuck Berry, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the [Rolling] Stones ... just anything that would get people up dancing. Because we played at dances, you couldn’t be too subtle, you had to do songs that people would get up and dance to. Very much a rock repertoire.”


Watch below: Ian Morris on meeting up with other bands. “Th’ Dudes’ first couple of years, we were a dance band. We used to play sports clubs and school balls. I mean, we were the band to have at your school ball for a couple of years. And it was only when we started playing the pubs that we came into contact with other bands, of which Hello Sailor was one. And again, the way the Human Instinct had, they showed us this other music. They were dangerous – they were playing music that no one else was playing – Lou Reed and Iggy Pop and some rock-reggae stuff. That just showed us another little area and we incorporated that into the things we were doing.”


Watch below: “Once we started in the pubs we were resident at The Windsor Castle for a year or whatever, where you play six nights a week. Again, if you don’t get the people in the door, you’re not going to get back [there] again. So we had a very full-on apprenticeship of just playing, playing, playing, playing – honing the repertoire and getting the band really tight. We had a fantastic rhythm section … we were a bloody good band.”


Watch below: “We didn’t have a plan of attack, but Charley Gray came along, the manager-owner of Island of Real, where we used to play, and Peter said, we need a manager, do you want to do it? And he agreed. He was a great entrepreneur, Charley, he was always great at getting things going, ideas, how to promote this, how to do that. And he did that with the band. It was something that hadn’t really been done before. That contributed a lot to the negative vibes that Th’ Dudes got, saying ‘they’re acting like stars’ and all this. It was just the way Charley promoted it, he said ‘if you want to be stars you’ve got to act like stars.’”


Watch below: “The punk thing happened at the same time … there was the attitude that anyone can get up and do this. So the bravado we had was part of that time too. We just polished it a bit more … When the punk thing happened it focused all those influences into a single, simple thing. We still had the ability to create a great pop song, or a beautifully arranged pop song the way 10cc might, but now with this punk thing about simplicity and stripping things down, it became much more accessible.”


Watch below: Ian recalls working and recording at Stebbing Recording Studios with producer Rob Aickin, and how songwriting came into focus for him and Dave Dobbyn: “We recorded whatever we wanted to do really. We just wanted to make great pop songs. And we did. We just had a ball ... There are a couple of songs around that time – ‘Be Mine Tonight’ was Dave’s and ‘That Look in Your Eyes’ was mine – where although we’d been writing songs before, all of a sudden something clicked and those songs were the start of something new, and they were us.”


Watch below: On touring Australia with The Members. “That was an eye opener. Australia already had a very developed music scene and industry. We were on a bill of four or five bands … we were always first on the bill … we’d start playing at seven o’clock at night. People would just hate it, they wanted hard rock songs.”


Watch below: On working with Dave Dobbyn after Th’ Dudes. “We’ve always stuck together on and off over the years. When Th’ Dudes broke up I went back to working in the studio full-time, and working with Dave on his songs. Working with someone like Dave was a blast.”


Watch below: On creating Tex Pistol: “The whole invented character thing – I probably wouldn’t do that now. But back then it was another way of presenting a product. Ian Morris didn’t sound like a very good name for a pop star so I invented this thing called Tex Pistol with a cowboy hat … for better or worse.”


Watch below: On his admiration for Dave Dobbyn: “His talent was incredible. His guitar playing, even in fifth form. His singing voice, his sense of musicality became much more apparent – and his vision of music was way ahead of what anyone else was doing. I’ve always been a big fan of his. I love everything he does. He’s such a huge talent. I wish the rest of the world knew it as well as we do here.”



This interview was recorded for the 2003 season of TV series Give it a Whirl. All audiovisual content is copyright to Visionary Film & TV, and may not be reproduced.


Further reading: Nick Bollinger on Give It a Whirl

Link: The Give It a Whirl Collection, NZ On Screen