Show Chapters

Desperate Measures - Eugene Butcher and Erik Van Der Hoven on the early 1980s Christchurch punk scene


Introduction

Eugene: “I had been a band with Dave Gent and Michael Harallambi of Dance Exponents called Channel Four. I was also in The Products with Harry – new wave covers. We did some Stiff Little Fingers covers, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to do more punk stuff. I was going out with Jordan Luck’s sister at the time and he moved up to Christchurch so I suggested they get him as their singer. And they went on to make loads of money and I made none. There was another band called System X – a Christchurch punk band – but I moved in a different direction.”

Erik: “I grew up with Radio With Pictures on Tuesday nights and that was the highlight of the week. Doctor Rock playing The Clash and Sex Pistols. The Scavengers and Suburban Reptiles. I’d tape it onto my tape deck with a microphone. I said that’s what I want to be. I used to see these guys. They used to put on New Wave Raves in halls and charge fifty cents or a dollar. They put on The Androidss and a great Christchurch band called Nameless. So there were System X and The Products. The first time I saw this guy, right? The band’s onstage waiting to play. Where’s Eugene gone? He’s out on the road bloody banging some guy’s head on the concrete.”

Eugene: “I remember the first one we put on, me and my mate, we made about $300. At the England Street Hall. And the next one we put on the Mongrel Mob came, stole the cash register and someone got shot at with a slug gun.”

Erik: “That was me. I got shot at.”

Desperate Measures

Eugene: “Some neighbour was popping people off with a slug gun. The whole gig was chaos. I ended up singing with System X. The bassist from the band, this Māori guy Floyd left and we got Erik on bass and Desperate Measures started. We liked all the old punk stuff but then all the new punk stuff came along and we liked that, like The Exploited.”

Erik: “I got into that through you guys. I liked Wire, Stooges, Radio Birdman. The Saints. I didn’t know how to play bass then.”

Eugene: “But he looked good though. He was imposing and if anyone wanted to beat you up he was handy. We used to play to 200 hundred people. Do residencies at The Gladstone. 150 to 200 people every night and it was chaos every night. Boozed up, drugged up chaos.”

Influences

Eugene: “I didn’t go to Mollett St. That was an older crowd. Two, three years older. A university crowd. When we got into it The Gordons had started, The Features were playing, bands coming down from Auckland.”

Erik: “The Gordons were one of the best live bands I’ve seen.”

Eugene: “I’d say the Androidss were the best band I’ve seen. When they were on form on the night at The Gladstone, about three or four hundred people packed in, six of them on stage. Someone in the crowd passing up a joint to the guitarist as he was playing and he just kept throbbing it out. It was electric. Awesome.” 

Skins

Erik: “The bootboys formed this skinhead type thing, got T-shirts and stuff. They got them printed up and after that it all changed overnight. Our guitarist Shane knew a lot of those guys. Among the bootboys there'd be some seriously hard guys, nice guys like Anthony. Some would go to prison and they’d meet up with these other bloody nutcases and just think 'that’s a cool look' and know nothing about the music. And the next thing you saw them down the pub six months later with their mate, this six foot gorilla, and he’d scare you, you know.”

Eugene: “It got too heavy. A mate of ours was murdered. Another mate murdered someone. What was going on? It turned us off it. People wouldn’t like our band as much. The band got isolated.”

The Clash

Eugene: “There was a petition in one of the record stores for them to come down to Christchurch.”

Erik: “We played the after Clash party. We played at this nightclub (PJs).”

Eugene: “The Clean played, but we were the only punk band.”

Erik: “There was all this simmering potential violence there. They had this crazy guy on the door.”

Eugene: “He’d sort of taken over the nightclub. He’d gone from being bouncer and he’d taken it over.”

Erik: “And they were scared of him, and he wasn’t gonna let us play. And there’s guys outside getting metal blasts.”

Eugene: “He nunchucked somebody.”

Erik: “And we finally stuck our gear on the stage.”

Eugene: “After waiting to three o’clock in the morning, the last band. He said I’ve decided I’m not going to let you play.”

Eugene: “We took all our gear down a steep steep staircase and we were fucked off. And the next thing this minivan pulls up. It’s The Clash. Mick Jones and Joe Strummer and the like. I said, 'These guys won’t let us play.' Within about five minutes we were on stage mate.”

Erik: “I used to really like Paul Simonon. I used to try and smoke like him and play like he used to play. Bass really low and everything. We were playing and he came late. He walked in with two blonde girls – one on each arm. He sauntered in, looked around and walked out again.”

Eugene: “I talked to Joe and Mick. Funny thing about the whole gig was we were kinda rushed and we got back onstage and we thrashed out our Sham 69 covers and all our originals. The guitarist’s guitar was out of tune and we played one of the worst sets we ever played, probably really fucked by then.”

Erik: “I remember talking to Joe Strummer, saying I wanted to go to England. And he was going I wouldn’t be in such a rush to go to England. It’s not all rosy, it’s grey and depressing, there’s another side to it. You should stop for moment and look around, you’re actually living in Paradise. A beautiful country. Nah. I wanna go to England. I want to go to the 100 Club. I saw in the NME about six months later, he had this interview and he was going I met these skinhead guys in Christchurch, New Zealand and they all wanted to go to England. That was me.”

Eugene: “I met him in London a couple of times since and I’m always quite pissed. I’m like 'Mate you remember that time' and he’s looking at me going 'Who the hell’s this?' When The Clash played Christchurch Town Hall, he got really upset because people were spitting on him. He’d had hepatitis recently.”

Erik: “Some guys were really getting into it. And he just stopped and was going, 'You guys.' Really angry, like spat the dummy. And everyone was like, 'I didn’t mean to do that, I’m sorry.' ”

Stepping Out

Eugene: “The Exponents always gave us gigs. They invited us to support them at the Captain Cook in Dunedin, and just as we were about to go, our guitarist was arrested on burglary charges, so we had to get Dave Gent to learn the songs an hour before the gig.”

Erik: “That time we went to Dunedin, there was a party before the gig and the local punk guys wanted to impress our contingent because quite often a lot of our guys would travel with us. Those brothers stole a bottle of bourbon. A whole set of brothers. They used to be called the Wrecking Crew. Like the freezing workers against the punks. And they came along and busted up this party in a revenge attack. A guy got axed.”

Eugene: “We were doing a two night residency at the Star and Garter, and we’d just done a sound check on Saturday afternoon, and we’d dropped the guitarist at his house in my car and we had this other mate of his in the car (who has since been murdered), and we pull into this street and there’s about eight police cars outside the house, and police everywhere and this guy goes, 'Keep driving.' Within seconds, a police car pulls us over and we get pulled into the Papanui Police Station two hours before the gig and get questioned about a shooting. Pidge had actually shot at this guy, who’d tried to pull a crowbar on him the previous night.”

Erik: “Fred organised it. Fred Bertram became our manager. He was a lawyer, a real smart sort of guy. He was really into the music.”

Eugene: “We used to get the surfer guys. I used to know a lot through rugby and surfing. We used get the punk guys. A mixed crowd.”

Recording the EP

Eugene: “The production was atrocious. We had this old guy, Arnie Van Bussel doing it.”

Erik: “He didn’t have a clue.”

Eugene: “There’s no power and no balls behind the music. It would have been better to turn up and just record it loud in one take. Before we split we just went and banged it out (for a later Failsafe Records tape release). And there are a lot of mistakes, but it’s a better sound. Those songs that ended up on the EP were killer live songs. They polished up good and went down well.”

Erik: “I wrote ‘The Gladstone’. No one liked it.”

Eugene: “I like ‘The Gladstone’. It summed it all up. Even if it had abysmal lyrics, it summed it all up.”

Strange Shows

Eugene: “We put a punk covers band together to play for advertising firm director. Classic punk with Erik on bass. Ruts. They hired out this pub and dyed their hair for the night. We played with Aryan Army. They had a Māori guy on vocals, Chris Mason and Vince Pinker (the weird guy who came down from Auckland). Algernon Fahy played guitar.  It was a bit of a piss-take party band. That song ‘Filthy Punk Rocker’ (on Capital Kaos) is great, but they were pretty damn basic. We used to give them gigs because no-one else would.”

Erik: “They became ECF.”

Eugene: “Which was Algernon again. It was the musical side of it. And Shane, and Brat, who drummed for System X.”

Erik: “I can remember being in a heaving pub, and people would be going ‘Borstal Breakout' ... 'Borstal Breakout’. And other people would be going ‘No Government' ... 'No Government'. You couldn’t win. You did one of them and someone would throw a jug coz they wanted to hear the other one.”

Eugene: “We drove up for a mad weekend in Wellington at Golden Showers. Really crazy.”

Erik: “We sort of joined with the Dunedin guys, there was a southern unity thing going on. That big guy with the sign from the zoo – Don’t Feed The Animals.”

Postscript

Eugene: “An epilogue to all this. After I’d been in England for a few years I came back to Christchurch and formed a punk supergroup. Erik was over in England. I got Shane on guitar and Brat from Aryan Army on drums. It might have been Greg Hussey. Bill from Southern Front was on guitar. We did one gig and we absolutely rammed The Gladstone. I organised it. We made a lot of money out of it. No Idea supported us. And I paid them the standard $50 for a support band. We did a selection of Desperate Measures and punk classics. The second song someone threw a jug of beer in my face. I ended up leaping off and punching the guy out. It had really changed in the two years we’d been away. There were a lot of guys thinking they were really tough.”

Erik: “Those Harris (Gang) sort of guys. They grew out of that skinhead type thing.”

Eugene: “I thought, ‘I’m glad I’m away from this.’ ”

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