Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Through my electronic music friends (thanks Anthony!) I met Maxime. He amazed me last Friday when he announced he was a fan of a genre of New Zealand music from the late 80s and very early 90s.

It's remarkable that he knows about this stuff. Even most New Zealanders themselves have never heard it because New Zealand radio stations refused to play it at the time.

I spent a lonely adolescence listening to this music, going to gigs on my own, and pretty much having nobody except my friend Kylie to share my interest with. When I was 15, though, my music teacher instructed me very sternly to stop listening to "that rubbish" because I had to prepare for my performance exam for University music school:

"The panel will ask you what music you listen to, and you'd better have some very good answers!"

So from that day on I bought no more tapes and vinyls of "that rubbish" and instead forced myself to sit in my room at night listening to hour upon hour of Rachmaninov piano concertos and the like. And it was rubbish.

But before that, I listened to this uniquely New Zealand genre, music that formed my very early tastes in electronically manipulated sound.

And now please bear with me, because I have a very interesting story involving school, sheep carcasses and NZ music that I wish to regale you with.


I went to a rather posh state girls school (on the advice of my music teacher), and Physical Education classes were very glamorous affairs.

"Girls, for your major project this term we are going to be dancing! [squeals of delight from most of class; retching sounds from myself and my two friends Kylie and Maata]. You will divide yourselves into groups, choose a story for your dance and a piece of music. You have the whole next 3 months to polish your dance moves! Isn't this exciting, girls!"

It was quite clear what this "dancing" was going to involve: poncing around in leotards to Kylie Minogue's "Locomotion" with maximum hair-flicking, hip-wiggling and toe-pointing.

So Kylie, Maata and I sat in our group on the floor of the gymnasium saying to ourselves "fuck, ladies, we have a problem". I mean, seriously, not only were we going to fail PE because we couldn't dance for shit, but a cluster-fuck of humiliation awaited us at the end of term when we had to "dance" in front of the rest of the class.

But then suddenly Kylie and I hit upon a plan: We would devise a dance routine so universally offensive that even though we'd fail, we'd fail in style and retain our dignity.
So we choose our story and our music: Maata and I were to be dancing sheep carcasses, Kylie was to be a machete-wielding sociopath, and the music...?

A.F.F.C.O. by the darlings of my adolescence, The Skeptics.

So when the time came, we asked to go last at the end of term PE "concert". We sat through the other groups' dance routines, which kind of looked like this:

Then we cranked up the stereo, and pretty much re-enacted this:

Please don't watch this if you are vegetarian.

And then we finished and waited for the reaction. Silence from the girls. Laughter from the PE teacher.

She gave us an 'A'.

And now, if you're still with me, listen to the clip below - all of it. Imagine it's 1990, you're 14 years old, and you've just heard that singer David D'Ath has died of leukemia. To honour the occasion you slip a cassette into your first generation Sony Walkman and begin mouthing "june june june june june july. August".
Enjoy it while you can, because next year you'll only be listening to Rachmaninov.

That's the sound, right there, at 2 and a half minutes in.


At 5:50 pm, Blogger Quese said...

if you were listening to that music, you were the coolest 14 year old girl ever. what 'musical genre' would this be?
i will search for something from the skeptics, i`m a fan of the most popular NZ bands (knox, the clean)..
Great post :)

At 4:59 pm, Blogger Kipper said...

The genre is mostly just described as "flying nun bands" - Flying Nun was the record label they were all signed to, but it looks as if you already know this!

The Skeptics and the Headless Chickens did a lot of sampling and dub-influenced stuff, so they were a bit different from the guitar bands like the Clean, Straitjacket Fits, etc.

Chris Knox...yeah he was great live

Had no idea this music was known outside of NZ...

At 3:18 pm, Blogger Quese said...

yeah, they are very well known, even here (i´m from uruguay - south america). two weeks ago even one argentinean magazine did an interview with knox, so yeah, in certain circles, they are really popular..

At 10:38 pm, Blogger Bill Folsom said...

Awesome song and vid by the Skeptics, had not heard of them before.

You rule as always, Katharine.


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