You know when you walk Into the bar and there’s a photo of the owner standing with Ronnie Drew which in turn is next to a photo of the owner standing with Christy Moore, which is nestled against a photo of the owner with Noel Redding, which is just above the photo of the owner with Mike Scott that either two things are gonna happen your gonna feel like part of a tradition, like your walk to the stage is just you making your steps as part of your place in a long history of song, or your gonna psyche yourself out and feel like dropping to your knees wayne and garth styles and be on some “we’re not worthy” shit.
I am aware of the duality of man, the ying and yang, the mick and keef within us all, thusly all day at DeBarras folk Club in Clonakilty I found myself oscillating wildly between the two states mentioned above. However it must be said behind my heavy set 6’4, tattooed thug like frame I was packing it like the panicked fat freckled ginger kid I was when I started my performing career during Mrs Armstrong’s year two nativity play at Mairehau Primary. Jesus and I thought playing Jesus’ dad was hard! Trying going on in a place where they’ve seen it done a 1000 times and a 1000 times better than you’ve ever done it.
I cradled the whale bone carving my old neighbour Big Cliff gave me when I started this rambling life some years back, I edged the cowboy belt buckle my dad gave me when I was 7, I wished on the piece of Joe Strummers t-shirt hidden in my guitar and prayed that these talismans, this flotsam and jetsam of good hope and sound fortune may indeed be worth their weight in superstition.
I felt hopeful that at least the place would be empty. One of the better things about being an unknown band in a new country is that the ancient philosophical query “If a band fails on a stage and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?” is answered with a resounding intake of relief and “no thank god”.
Of course though as if to spite me the folk gods thought fit to pack the place out, hence there was only one thing to do and that was the best we could.
I would turn to my left and right and know that Big Jon, and Alice and Shanks would have my back and I of course would have theirs. So we went in folk songs blazing and man if we did not get it done. We left the stage to much kindness, the graciousness given to us chancers bringing the proverbial folk coals back to Newcastle as it were, was heartbeatingly uplifting. Of course we closed the bar and the lock in afterwards we traded Tom Petty and Warratahs songs for Gaelic poetry about stars dancing and more, our canon for theirs maybe?
We were welcomed, we were wowed by the response, somehow our rough edged stories of our little kiwi lives and land cut through and it was a sound exchange of and for the heart stuff. Sometimes heart stuff is the best currency in a cultural exchange. It’s been like that over the past 7 shows in six days and will hopefully be like that tonight in Bangor as part of the open house festival. Our show is sold out, imagine that! So we roll on Rory Gallagher seeing us right in the van. Hopalong’s at the wheel and I’m at the machine tapping this out. As Rory is roaring right now through the left speaker…
“As the crow flys I aint so far from you…” I being us and you being all of you, in our corner and in our hearts.
Carmello makes a cupping motion on his chest as if to suggest that if he was a woman he’d be cradling his left breast. With his right hand he outlines the shape of a guitar, he repeats his mantra “Women, musica, art”. Carmello plays electric guitar, piano and he paints. He serves pasta, he acts in movies, he wears socks with his sandals, I learn these things within 10 minutes of sitting down to eat at the tables outside on the street. He purses his lips and swivels his Italian hips, he grins and pushes his hand back through his thick, grey hair,
“Women, musica, art”
He has found out we play music and wants us to know that he follows the ‘passions’ as we do. I am hardly an artist. I’m from the minutemen school of guitar playing, I carry it like a broom, I hack chords like a butcher works a cutting bench, at best I twist the same three and half chords so sometimes it sounds like four, at worst I’m an accidental guitarist. I was destined to sit behind the slitting machine at the mainguard plastics factory in Hornby yet here I am being called an artist by an elderly Sicilian at 10pm on a Parisian backstreet. How did I get here? Where did this wonderful life come from? Is there a better looking, better playing, dashing don also ran in Hornby right now cursing my name because somehow he should be here and I should be there?
Who makes these wormholes? And where did my boots step to trip me into one? I am not sure, I am tired and I am hungry and Carmello is cupping an imaginary boob.
Carmello’s English is not so good “Woman, musica, art” guitar curves etc. His boss Gigi comes out, he combed his hair back in 1957 and it hasn’t moved since. He wears long shorts and bump toed basketball boots you don’t notice behind the apron, but it’s a pretty dope look for a 78 year old. Luigi (or Gigi to his friends and we are now of course friends) walked into France from Venice in 1946, a ten year old looking for work in the haze of a post war Europe. By the time he was 30 he had this restaurant we where are now sitting. Named after the lucky Italian hunchback ‘Gobo’ (as something of a lucky hunchback myself, I speak his name with reverence). He has three other cafes now but this is home. We are here to eat two days of plane travel out of our systems and drink a bottle of wine to say “We are here and we are happy”. I gotta admit I’m not super happy, as I’ve mentioned here before, my mum Dawn is struggling with her health and it’s sucked most of the enjoyment out of the year these past few weeks, but I am here and I will do my best, I am with the band, they are my family, they are kind to me, we will drink and I will drink to them.
Before we even get a start on the food for real ‘Gigi’ finds out from Carmello that we are musicians, from the back comes the guitar and a busted fiddle. We must play. So we do, we find some Louie Armstrong, we find some Tampa Red we sing some of our own stories. Gigi brings out two more bottles and the street is humming, the few remaining diners inside come out to the street with us, the young handsome drunks from the bar with no name across the road, (who usually ignore Luigi and the histories of the opera singers, writers and hopers that he carries between the tables) stumble across the road and sway and kiss and take photos on their phones. We are freaks, but instagram worthy obviously.
We play till the food gets cold, then we eat and tell our stories across the free bottles Carmello keeps bringing. Luigi shares his glories and his sadness’
Paris is a myth now he reckons, its not opera, Django and Harlem exiles anymore. It’s one Q burger chain and then another and starbucks with tables outside, it’s early closing and hassles by the police for late night street singing. He tells me it is not the same, the old facades on the buildings look down and they cease to sing. It is a postcard, gone digital. I’ve been here a short time and it still seems pretty to me but I get his buzz. We talk some more, we learn a little, we share what we have, we argue about socialisim, we hug, we rage against the next day but eventually admit that is closer than it is far away and bid farewell and adieu and au revoir and other things the other doesn’t understand. I wave and hit the streets, it is midnight and I am in Paris and I must walk so I do singing hornby and singing Shirley, whistling down Charnwood Cres. Calling the names of my lost brothers Jason, Chris, Ballard, Brendan like if I do it enough they will be here to and we will steal bikes and pick fights and nick air jordans from the rich kids, shoplift and spray paint Slayer and N.W.A. on the walls of France and we will scream and we will know that we are alive and have always been and always will be and of course the world will know our name.
Yet of course the world won’t and they and me are to old for all that high school shit. They’ve got kids, they’ve got troubles and joys and if they read this they need to know I am thinking of them and hoping for them whenever they need it. They are where they are and I am here in this old new world, but I’m glad I carry them in my heart. I decide it is an accident of history that I am here and thus like all accidents it must be accepted and dealt with. So I deal with it and I keep walking. I am on tour and I must go and play and I must walk like I’ve walked in Riverton and Taranaki and Perth and Eugene and every other place this guitar has dropped me off. I am grateful. So grateful. Confused yes, but grateful.
The next night we drive to Germany, we play in Nuremburg, the show has a built in audience as it is a festival, they are kind, they laugh at my bullshit, dance to our furies and hug in the sad bits, we sell 69 cd’s, drink the rider whiskey, feel blessed, confused yes but blessed. We share beer watching Billy Bragg headline the shit out of the festival. We drive across France to find the ferry that will take us to Ireland where we will play 13 shows. Ireland even! The mother land! Then we will cross again and we will become part of towns and cities dotted across old roads and older trails. We have no strategy, we go where we can, we go because that is what we do and always have done. There is no grand plan, we just go and go and go. That is the mission.
I sit here watching the sun go down on the channel and I realize that if we were a better band then you would know about this tour because I would have sent you an email as part of our mailing list, I would be updating our twitter feed, I would be instagramming pictures of our roadside bratwurst, I would have released a small promotional youtube segment and then be directing you to our travel blog, there would be a press release, there would be everything a better band does. Sadly we are not a better band, only the band we are. We walk, we drive, we play, we hope, we bear witness to the real world as we are in it and we gather up stories mix ‘em with our own and we push repeat then we push on and on and on.
And I tell you this now, from a ferry on the other side of the world. From the back side of my sad, troubled, wild excited, tired, and joy wired brain.
The sun goes down and it comes up and we are on tour, in Europe even.
Just because we don’t have a twitter or any of that other shit going on doesn’t mean we don’t take this tour business seriously, if you come see us we will fucking roar as hard as we can and we will do it for any and all comers. We will do this in Ireland, and Germany and Switzerland and more and when we come home we will do it there. We will leave everything on the stage or the floor or the table top or wherever it is we are playing and then we will figure out how to gather it up and do it again the next night. That’s the mission, we are up for it and again we are grateful for it.
If your passing or know someone who is, the shows are up over at www.forteastern.com.
We’ll see you when the road rises in your direction. We are glad as hell that we get to say this.
HOPE AND WIRE
I had a desk and when I was sitting at it I could look out at the dry dock and the tank farm and the water and quail Island and at night the harbour lights would bounce and refract through the window and build themselves up again and again somewhere in the cortex that controlled the romantic image centres of my brain. It was too much, I had to move the desk.
Hours wasted, minutes traded, work undone. The desk had to be moved into the vacated room at the back of the house. Back to business.
Well maybe not business as such, business tends to deal in the quantifiable; goods, time, labour traded, money in, money burnt etc.. The stuff that happens at the desk is not business, too many unknowns, minimal returns, unsustainable economic juggling. It’s work, but it’s not business. It’s prestidigitation, an often bungled attempt at alchemy, it’s Fred Dobbs on some Sierra Madre lottery shit, it’s a failed prospecter sluicing at a dry river, its moonbase alpha adrift in space looking for a signal…it’s hope piled on top of hope installing an antenna made of rusty coathangers trying to find some intangible sense that the reason you’ve been sitting at this desk all fucking day strumming the only 3 ½ chords you know is because there is a song on the air, in the wind, hiding in a gaseous nebula and your voice is the one its been looking to be sung through. Jesus! What a conceit! What hubris! What a wank…
But there I was, at the desk looking for songs, hoping always hoping and (please forgive the tired dashiell hammet nature of the end of this sentence!) the phone rang. Well rang isn’t exactly right, it played ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ which was my ringtone at the time. I believe that anytime Phil Lynott is in the air the world immediately seems better and when a phone is fucking up your flow if you pretend its Phil calling it’s hard to get to mad. Unsurprisingly it wasn’t Phil Lynott but one of my other favourite songwriters Lindon Puffin. When puffin phones I get two feelings welling up inside me . First, ‘Fuck how lucky am I to live in a world where someone who’s songs have kept me company and helped me figure out the world actually calls me!’ puffin is a friend and a brother but at heart I’m still a fan. Second is the fact that whatever I’m doing I now have to drop it for the next hour because when Puffin is on the line its less of a conversation about a certain subject than more of a stream of consciousness quiz show/rugby commentary/poetry reading/stand up comedy/aa meeting piece of performance art written down by Samuel beckett, and that’s just the first five minutes. We do not shoot the shit, we blast it.
Anyways Puffin forgoes all that and for once sadly gets to the point.
The past year we’d been involved in the ‘Harbour Union’ project, a collective that a bunch of us song chancers and chanters from lyttelton formed in a fashion to raise money for post quake matters but also as Puffin once sagely suggested to promote and project the idea of solidarity and how that simple idea can build resillinace. Smart cookie that Puffin. The Harbour Union was at times what happens when you put too many chiefs in a kitchen make them all chefs and hope for the best. It was that, but it was also pretty wonderful and it kept us busy and we made a few worthwhile contributions to the small world we oscillate in. It was then and is now something to cherish.
Anyway Puffin calls me up and says that Radio New Zealand (essentially the 91ZM for folk singers and adults of a mature outlook) want The Harbour Union to write and record a Christmas song for well, Christmas. He had come to the right place, I love Christmas music, I do not give a shit if its fairytale of new york or last Christmas or Bing Crosby or out of tune primary school carollers I love it all.
At my worst moments I revel in solipsism and unhealthy cynicism sprinkled with a garnish of despair, however In my best moments my ideal self is all about that brotherhood/sisterhood of humanity type shit. I know we get better when we work together, when we shuffle the cards life throws up and lay them on the table and get our friends to help us figure out what it means.
When I was a kid I was obsessed with this bad action film called ‘Band of the Hand’, whereupon a Vietnam veteran recruits a gang of troubled teenagers to fight a Miami drug cartel. He gives them uzi’s and hand to hand combat training in a swamp or something. It’s ridiculous. However during one of the films ‘emotional’ counterpoints the group of teenagers, in danger of being subsumed by infighting and tension are brought together by the Vietnam vet’s analogy of the hand. He suggests in a gravelled voice while wearing a khaki headband that a hand with the fingers separate is weaker than a hand brought together in a fist keeping the fingers together and strong. In terms of metaphors it’s as clumsy as a three stooges sketch but in my young ten year old mind I was touched by this idea, this conception that maybe we do do better when we work together. Now I’m a grown up, I’ve never raised an uzi in anger against a drug baron, nor have any of The Eastern been trained by a Vietnam vet, however time and time again against my default settings of mistrust and cynicism I have had it proved to me over and over again that we are stronger when we have each others back.
And that’s why I dig the Christmas music because for some weird reason Christmas music makes the good and hopeful parts of my insides swell, it makes me want to hug people and hi five and buy them drinks. It’s makes me want to love my family and be there for my friends. Dismantle my despair and build good shit. I am well aware that the purpose of Christmas music is to be pumped through shopping malls like weed smoke through a spot bottle, to manipulate our minds and make us spend money on things we don’t need to give people things they don’t want. I DO get that. However for me the by-product is the deeper stuff, somehow all of this nonsense about being together and sharing actually really makes me want to do that. When I think about this I feel good, I raise a finger to the till receipts, call my mum or shanks or the random stranger at the bar and tell them I love them. It’s a good kick. I believe in it.
So with all that in mind when Puffin calls me, tells me we need a Christmas song and did I have anything?, I jumped out of my chair with excitement. I of course didn’t really have anything, but now my brain started humming looking for those signals I was telling you about earlier.
I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t believe I have too much authorship over the songs that come out of me. I see myself as being some sort of weird cosmic roadhouse where the songs stop for a while figure themselves out and go into the ether doing whatever job it is they’re meant to do, make you dance, drink, bawl, agitate, offer consolation whatever…I help them get into shape, give them a little context, feed and fuel ‘em up and let ‘em go. That’s my job. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the royalties when the records sell, or the publishing cheque when it arrives. But that covers the rent, the strings and all the other stuff that helps the little buggers get out there. If anyone really owns the songs then it’s the people who’s hearts swallow ‘em up. If any songs I find get to do that then I am happy and forever grateful.
So anyway puffin starts this boat rocking in my head, and the signal generator starts humming and hoping and things start taking shape. I had this weird chorus on my desk already sort of like a conversation with myself,
“The times they are changing”
he said “that’s allright,
They ain’t ever changing back,
well at least not tonight”
“I’ve never been sadder”
he said “your liar
Put yourself back together
With hope and wire”
The first part of that is a conversation that rattles in my head almost minute to minute, between the back of my mind and the body that contains it and has to do most of the work, it’s always a variation on the theme…
“I’m not doing so good”
“don’t you fucking quit on us now”…
anyways I’m still here so obviously the body has a lil’ authority over the mind.
The final line contains the one thing that I firmly believe has kept the wolves from chewing through my front door and that’s ‘hope’. For some reason its always there right at the bottom of everything…I cannot shake this feeling even at my worst…quite often I believe that Yeats was right
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
Like believe in it with most every fibre and sinew of my rapidly aging frame, I hear those lines being sung every day, in the newspaper, on the street, behind closed doors, in the pub, swinging with the back of a hand against a cheek, in the whiz of drone rockets, in the exchange of money for ideals, in the free trade agreements with countries who gun down their citizens and then try to make the world forget, in the scrabble for position and power, in the removal and crumble of architectures of ideas and dreams, in the forgetting of all of those living breathing humans its easy to ignore or marginalize, and in all the mistakes I make and will ever make. Things of course fall apart.
And as I said I hear that sung within me, without me and all about me. But always, without fail I feel this fucking annoying peck at my ankle, in my marrow, at the rear of my heart and the base of my lungs saying…maybe it’ll be ok, just keep going, do not let go…as woody Guthrie said ‘Keep the hope machine running’…so I shut up and I be still and I let the hope machine run, and it does run always without fail, it generates warmth which makes energy which keeps me going outside and talking to people I’m scared of and fighting people who I ain’t scared of, and singing songs and writing them and it keeps my hand on the wheel, the plow, my heart whatever… no matter what a scrabble board will tell you four letter words are the toughest and because of everything I just wrote down there I am firmly flying my flag from the toughest, meanest four letter word of them all…HOPE…
And that’s how I got the hope part of that chorus…
The wire part? Well it rhymed with liar…
Us folk singers take pride in a good rhyme, and besides this homeless guy I met while I was playing on the street in the states about 150 years ago (it seems) told me after I gave him a harmonica (which he said he would trade for writing me a number 1 single, still waiting joeseph!)…that I should always make rhymes in my chorus’ (to think people pay hundreds for songwriting workshops just to learn that, it cost me a ten dollar silver star G harp)…
Alright I’m a Liar, I’m bullshitting…the wire part meant something also, more than just a rhyme. I saw this picture my friend Micheal Edge Perkins took, a simple picture of some fence wire somewhere next to a paddock somewhere else and I was on the interislander ferry and It hit me real hard.
I mean he wasn’t looking to give me a lesson on anything, he was just taking photos with his good eye and making the photo sing in the way he does. But I got one anyway. You see I’m kind of contrary fella from time to time and Jerry Jeff Walker and The Clash aside it takes me a lot to give in to myth making on any real deep level, especially myths we tell ourselves about our identity. We as humans, New Zealanders whatever, we’re all plural and nuance, there’s so many of us and there’s more than enough difference to our shapes and our thinking and our interests that we could ever fit into any one box. To paraphrase Dan Bern “If you wanna put me in a box make it a big box, with windows and a hallway with lots of doors coming off it”…
To hear the collective myth machine us here in New Zealand are all a mixture of Colin Meads, Kate Shepard, Whina Cooper and Ed Hilary forged in the fire of Gallopilli. Those greats stand alone in my mind, we can draw courage and inspiration from them but I am unsure if their blood is mine, because if it is then so is John Banks and the cavaliers and all the other fuck ups this country has produced and if that is the case then I want to give up the passport now.
No. 8 wire, kiwi ingenuity, etc and on and on they’re convienant terms but break ‘em down it’s hard to give ‘em much weight. However around the time of getting to the wire part of the chorus, that was all I seemed to be seeing. People tieing shit together with no. 8 wire, both metaphorically and physically, people taking punch after kick after punch and then still keeping shit together and building new shit no matter how shonky or low budget to replace the other shit that had got gone. This was myth made real! The spirit made fleash!...this was happening and I wondered in all this seeing if maybe the thing that was keeping all this tied together stuff happening, be it an event or a place or and idea or a heart was in fact the same thing that keeps me from giving in or giving out, the peck in my chest, that hope bully kicking my ass when I was copping in to the bad stuff. All of that thinking got me wondering which led to contemplating and that ended up in writing down and once I’d written down that idea of both the hope and the wire and how they may infact be inexpicablly linked and how when I see these two mixed up brothers together I get inspired and I get warm and I get to feeling like whatever it is that’s tied like bricks to my feet can be shed and I can keep going up that allegorical road. That was true for me so I put in a song. Whether you would dig the song or not relies on the fact that either that was true for you also, or you could see my truth in it and back me up for expressing it. If you didn’t or don’t dig the song then those things didn’t happen or I was not good enough in my writing to make that happen, or maybe you just thought it sucked and all of those are fine by me. Because its important to acknowledge the things we think suck. Sometimes I’m a bit scared of the way people do that to each other on the internet, but overall it’s a good rule!, and I am well aware I suck as much as the best of ‘em (or the worst of ‘em as the case maybe!).
Now I was pretty glad I had figured out this chorus but I was still lacking a bunch of verses and not only did they not exist but how was I meant to turn that chorus into a xmas song?
So I thought about the fella I met in the linwood mall carpark, because when I though of Christmas that’s what popped up for me immediately and if something happens that fast you gotta at least give it a moment f reflection…so I wrote down what happened took out the extra words till looked like a verse on the page and I ended up with
‘Now here in Christchurch city its xmas time around the corner
There ain’t many lights a’shining there’s despair across the water
But then I crashed into this mongrel mob fella
Who was driving with his Daughter
But when he raised his hand
I had nothing to fear
As he wished
me merry xmas
and a happy new year bro’
So there was my xmas hook, now it was a Christmas song, probably a little more John Prine than Good king winsleseessssssese (or however you say it)…but I got the xmas in there so now it was a xmas song…
When we play it live I add in at the end “and that’s a true story” because it is and I don’t want there to be any doubt…as I said before I’m not one for myth making, but I can easily float a little bullshit now and again, especially if it sings well or gets a laugh, this though I wanted no doubt.
So here was this guy with a tattoo of a bulldog with a german helmet on his face showing me a little kindness and offering some empathy in a time of frayed nerves and sad heart stories, and I just reversed my car into his…strange times.
Anyways the other verses took shape, and I looked to people I had meet who had offered me solidarity, consolation or strength through their words or actions and I thought that was kind of keeping the Christmas spirit and the ideals/ideas of our little Harbour Union. The first verse was a mix of a couple of people, the second was my dad, who although wasn’t quite 13 when he left home for the sea he was still a teenager and he was still mean to those who deserved it and although he was lonesome when he died he went out with some guts, and the third verse was someone who spent an afternoon with me and told me his grand story and we left each other crying and hugging, him a Russian badass in his 70’s me a messed up try hard in my twenties. I carried these people and others and they become part of the hope machine keeping the fuel up and the bones moving and the muscle splitting and they carried me and that day when puffin rang they ended up carrying the song and from there the whole Idea of the album that became ‘Hope and Wire’ and now in the strangest of happenings a t.v. drama heading to the living rooms of anyone left with a t.v. who is curious. But I’ll get to that soon.
Anyway it turned out the brothers and sisters of the harbour union weren’t super psyched about ‘Hope and Wire’ being the xmas song du jour and that’s ok and probably for the best as it had other things to do.
Since we put it on our record and sent it out into the world I’ve been lucky enough to have people all around the country sing the words back to me, I never thought anything could make me feel like the way that feels. It’s not what you expect though I don’t feel bigger or prouder, I feel small, amost insignificant and that’s a weird feeling because usually that feels stink but in this case it makes me feel like a small part of something else, like a little turn in a big wheel just doing the one thing that’s my job in amongst everyone else doing the things that they do. I feel humble and if its ever possible happy.
I know what your thinking ‘Oh jeez give the big guy a hug already and shut him up before he starts emoting everywhere…
But I needed to tell you these things because I wanted to tell you about how the song ended up being what it is before I ended up telling you about the t.v. show that it has now for better (or worse, but hopefully better) been linked up with.
A few months ago during the flooding of many of the sunken areas of chch a buddy of mine put up on the facebook something along the lines of “now all we need is a country band doing a soundtrack to a drama series about the floods”…
This of course got a few laughs and even some from me, because in amongst all the drama and bullshit and heartbreak you gotta find some light, and a laugh does that and I am happy to hear ‘em even at my own expense…
And I expect that people should always look at anything with as much cynicism as they do positivity. The idea that thinking critically about something means youre negative or a hater is just nonsense. Not every execution of every idea that anyone ever had is going to be good, the record stores and parliments of the world are flooded with terrible ideas. I’ve been guilty of more than my share of bad ideas I’m sure.
The idea that a film maker from wellington could make a 6 hour long fictional work based on a very real event in Christchurch and the stories of some of its people and how those stories could somehow shape a dialogue about how we are good and bad to each other and ourselves (or something) and then project this experience to the rest of the country seemed a shaky to say the least and maybe one to be a little cynical about. I was defiantly that when I met Gaylene Preston for the first time. I wasn’t cynical about Gaylene as a person, if you can tell anything about anyone through the work they do you’d be hard pressed to think anything other than highly of Gaylene. To find someone who has captured the empathy and understanding and the nuances of our NZ experiences in film, fiction and documentary over nearly 40 years of work in such a real and true way, well you’d have to look pretty hard. However this experience was real and raw for a lot of us and the idea that someone from out of town would show up and want to turn it into a narrative? Get the fuck out of here…
But I didn’t say that, I felt It, but I heard her out, I listened to her ideas, I thought about the work she had made in the past, her lack of sell out, her character and vision and then I watched her do the work in chch, talking to people, being present, listening and observing and then (and this is what her job is) translating.
I’m not sure the series is about the quakes so much as it’s about people, our humanity and our lack there of, our resilliance and neediness and how the events of then bring all this things to the top…I’ll try not to pull out the liquefaction metaphor but you get what I mean (shit I did it anyway sorry)…whether she has succeded or not you guys will be the judge and that is how it should be. I think this story is valid and I believe that work such as this can communicate far and wide, like good songs or books or in this case drama.
Gaylene has done this in the past (look at ‘Bread and Roses’ or ‘Home by Christmas’ or ‘War stories our mothers never told us’) and I took her by her word that she was gonna do her best to honor this story.
I think she has. I’m not here to convince you to like the show or give it a chance or anything, I just wanted you to know why we have added our voice to it.
We are grown by our stories, when we forget to share them we become diminished, on tour I want to tell you my stories and I want to hear yours. Gaylene believes in stories and I think in turn that means she believes in us as humans as do I, as do most people who make telling stories the thing that gives the day purpose.
The stories she has shared in ‘Hope and Wire’ resonate with me and the people that I know, and the ones that don’t help me see beyond my own thinking and that in turn helps me with the hard stuff like understanding and figuring all this life mess out.
We beleieved this was worth adding our voice to.
Hopefully in the way we’ve acted as a band over the years and the things we haven’t done as much as the things we have will suggest to you that we take our relationship with the people who give us the time of day seriously, we’re not interested in fucking with you, stealing your money, or sitting on the pedastal that means we get our picture taken more or any of that shit. We have tried to act with integrity, honesty and kindness as much as possible over the years in an industry that often doesn’t value those things that much. We value them in you and we seek to find those things in ourselves as well.
There’s a line between translation and exploitation, I believe the show does not cross it. I didn’t know whether this would be the case during its filming, I had to wait till it was finished. During the process we were living on trust, trust in Gaylene, the crew and everyone else who worked on it. I believe that that trust has been rewarded. The show works hard to talk both with and for us not just as people from chch but as people period and for that I am grateful that the trust we gave was not misused.
The show lands sometime soon…we’ll be out in the world doing what we always do. Who knows what the world will think, but I am glad to have been a part of it and I hope add to it.
It’s funny where songs can go and what they’re made of and the things they
carry…tonight I’m in Australia about to go sing for my supper as I do most nights…I have a broken heart (as we all do in a way) but I have hope and I have friends and faith and cold chisel on the car stereo and a pint of cider next to me as this gets done…
Thanks be to you, the hope machine, lindon puffin, the hope and wire crew, that mongrel mob guy, the haters, the lovers , the dreamers and oh wait hold on that’s another song…
WE MADE A RECORD
We made a record…its actually two
Ok don’t freak out!...we know, we know, it’s a DOUBLE ALBUM!...we know you can sense the pretentiousness meter moving well in to the red…and what? There’s a brass band on here?...who the hell do these bums think they are?...truth is we get it!...we were as wary as you are about this whole business…sure there’s been fantastic double albums London Calling, the River, Sign of the Times, Double Nickels on the Dime, sadly though we know it as much as you do, The Eastern ain’t anywhere close to the class of The Clash or The Minutemen, Adam sure as hell ain’t as pretty as prince and they certainly can’t fill a stadium like the e-street band. They’re a fuckin' string band from Lyttelton harbour New Zealand, who live in a rapidly smoking Toyota hi-ace…and would pay for the opportunity to mow the lawns of those aforementioned acts...again “who the hell do they think they are?”…again we’re not sure…sorry!
We could offer excuses like…
when we started we thought a record a year just like the good old days would be a valid goal and one year after our second record ‘Arrows’ we were heading into to record and… well… February happened and not even considering anything else, that more than anything kept us as busy as all hell. We pulled over fifty free shows in a month in backyards, parks, tattoo parlours, living rooms, street corners and anywhere else that wanted some spirit raising. We had the recording and releasing of the ‘Harbour Union’ charity project album in the same month and then a month long Australian tour, which left Adam with glandular fever and pneumonia. That took us through to October and suddenly our album-a-year philosophy had blown out. So take this as a make up to you and ourselves!...
We could tell you it’s only six minutes longer than ‘Arrows’ even with six extra songs and we just put it on two discs to give you a break in the middle…
We could tell you that London Calling is McGrath’s favourite record and he always joked the Eastern's third album would be a double also and then someone called him on it…
We could mention that even in the digital age of immediate everything sometimes the act of sitting down, driving or walking around with something that takes a little longer may be actually kinda nice (we hope!)…
We could say that even though it’s a double it’ll still retail at a single album price in stores and at shows (the vinyl might be a little more but shit you try sending 400kgs of something from the U.S. and try keeping the price down! but it’ll be cheap as we can make it promise)…so if ya buy one it’s double for nothing right?...
We could say that this is the first record we’ve done on a label that isn’t our own and because we were so fucking grateful and humbled by their support and faith (thank you rough peel records!!!) we wanted to give them total value for money so worked twice as hard to make them twice as much music to put out…
Or that our usual producer/engineer/goodsort Ben Edwards lost the mighty sitting room studio in the sept. quake and his new one in the February quake and we wanted to prove to him that we could make something cool and lasting outside the studio environment which leads us to….
The gracious Harris family of Dallington, who being forced to move out of the house they’ve called home for over thirty years (down the road their parents lost their house they’ve had for fifty) offered their broken little house to us to record in before the insurance company knocked in down…so there we were in the mostly abandoned suburb of Dallington/Avonside and we desperately wanted to honor the space and the people who’ve lost their homes around it and make something bigger than usual and hopefully meaningful to them and to us…the more cynical amongst ya are probably playing finger violins right now…we ain’t bothered by that but just so you know there is a bunch of fiddle on the record!
We could offer artistic (and we use that word very shakily in relation to ourselves) reasons such as…
A lot has happened to us and where we live in the past year and we had a lot of stories to tell and a bunch of things to sing about…
That we thought it might be a bold and ambitious attempt to make something cool and big that we could be proud of. And in doing that push ourselves and our (albeit meager) abilities some. It maybe a little unexpected from a little string band such as ourselves but shit all the good stuff mostly is unexpected…and we hope this is good…
Out of the bunch songs we had for this record we actually fell in love with a swag and thought they fit and balanced each other well…and figured and hoped that you might feel the same also…
We figured that we live in a time where people don’t care about records so much and that’s cool but we love ‘em and although we’ve been real lucky so far…the luck and the road might run out and we at least wanted to say we made the most of our time and our resources and all the stories that were running around where we live and the people that live around us…
Some folks said “put it out as two records, one after the other”. We thought you’d only do that if you were chicken, good at marketing or guns and roses…we are none of those things…
Also we wanted to have the Woolston Brass Band on it, and you can’t have a brass band on anything other than a double record (that’s like clause 20 section B in the self obsessed songwriters handbook!)
And if you live in a time where people may be more interested if you put your album on a usb stick than a disc then because we’re a bloody contrary mob we said double the disc…
Is this all folly? Does it even matter?
Shit that ain’t up to us to figure out…we’ll just mutter the above and shuffle our feet nervously put the record out and back away before the whole thing blows up in our face with a whimper or even a bang…
but you know its done now and in the first week of march it’ll be out and hopefully it’ll find a place nestled in a corner of a record store somewhere or in your house or car and hopefully you’ll be glad its there…we’re just glad we got to have a shot…
‘Hope and Wire’
its released on the small but mighty ‘Rough Peel Records’ and distributed by the always kind Rhthymethod in NZ and Newmarket music in Australia
it has twenty songs on it
it was produced/recorded/mixed/mastered by the
ever industrious and generous
In Dallington, Christchurch New Zealand
It’ll be available in all good community record stores and online anywhere you can buy music i.e. amplifier.co.nz, iTunes etc.
(like all our records you won’t find it in the warehouse because we refuse to offer them a discount over and above that which other record stores get…when you a buy a new release from there have a think on that)…
it’ll be available on double vinyl late march
and its dedicated to
all our friends, loved ones, neighbours and strangers in the city of Christchurch specially on the eastside
this is where we'll leave you messages and stories and comments etc....will this ever be filled up? we hope so!...check back from time to time you never know!...you can find old blogposts at www.myspace.com/theeasternfamily...