THE FLYING NUN 21ST ANNIVERSARY 'CIRCUS' - PEEL, MALKMUS & THE WHOLE NUN GANG
by Dylan Pellett
Longtime music-obsessive, record collector and music executive. Dylan Pellett has worked across the New Zealand music industry for the last 25 years in touring, music synchronisation, creative execution and industry advocation. During his time at Flying Nun Records, he nabbed the very last available Skeptics boxset that was in stock.
Under The Influence (FNCD021) came about through 12 months of loose talk, six months of intensive planning, three changes of date and two final weeks of very late nights. Indeed there were many times we questioned the sanity and feasibility of even attempting to record the Flying Nun 21st Anniversary album in one day... and without the faith of many around us we simply wouldn’t have been able to pull it off!
As the Flying Nun label had recently been incorporated, alongside Festival Records and Mushroom Records, into the larger independent company called (deep breath) Festival Mushroom Recordsincorporating Flying Nun, we had created a strong team ethic built around the records and artists we were tasked with selling and supporting here in New Zealand. The Auckland-based staff at FMR (for short) were unified in that job, and we always took the time to celebrate our wins and successes in the local industry. Our warehouse parties were always well attended, and so when it came to celebrating the anniversary of Flying Nun, we had a pretty good idea and just ran with it as a team - anniversary football shirts and all.
Each band that was invited to be part of the album was asked to record one or two songs. If two songs then one should be a cover of a Flying Nun song that influenced or inspired them and the other song should be a new and unreleased song of their own. These were all to be recorded on a single day at York Street Studios on March the 22nd 2002.
As always happens when dealing with 12 different bands/artists who are arriving from three different countries, and even with the most careful planning in the world, curveballs appear out of left field. For us it was after we'd confirmed the date for the third time and set the wheels in motion for the 21st Party that was happening at York St in conjunction with the recording. The D4 were offered a USA & UK tour, Betchadupa were offered a major support tour of Australia & Gerling looked set to be in Japan! Never one to stand in the way, we arranged for The D4 to pre-record at York Street Studios on March 6th and Betchadupa on March 13th. Gerling reconstructed their song at Gerlog Studios in Sydney.
Stephen Malkmus enjoys answering some questions from the NZ Media (photo Ian Jorgensen)
It all seemed to be happening at last when the first of the six airport pickups on the 21st March started at 5.30am when Stephen Malkmus flew in from Los Angeles and ended at 11pm in panic as we waited for Robert Scott; who actually hadn’t made his flight. It was all going wrong! An hour on the phone to Qantas Australia and a new flight was hurriedly arranged for the next morning. Meanwhile, rehearsals were taking place throughout the day all over Auckland as artists/bands got together for the first time in months, if not years, if not ever.
The 22nd of March itself began with more 5:30am airport pickups. This time for the Kilgour Brothers arriving into Auckland from New York and Los Angeles respectively. After heading straight to pitch up their tent in Chris Knox and Barbara Ward’s backyard, we decided that as the guys would be jet-lagged, it was unfair to ask them to record on the 22nd itself. So The Clean were scheduled to record at York Street on the 25th March.
The Clean - Recording in York St (Photo Ian Jorgensen)
This still left the task of arranging how to record seven artists (14 songs!) in one day. We decided that the success of the recordings was all going to be in the preparation. Get it right with all details covered (backline equipment details, shipping details, songs, rehearsals, itineraries, load ins/outs, flights, transport pickups) and it should run reasonably smoothly. Get it wrong and we wouldn’t have had a hope in hell of making an album at all. Add to the mix the unconventional recording nature, two songs in an hour-and-a-half, with two photographers and a film/tv crew also in studio capturing everything for posterity. It was a complete credit to the patience and understanding of every artist that they pulled it off without a single complaint.
Brendan Moran (The Hasselhoff Experiment, Subliminals, avoid!avoid) enjoys the 'media circus' with Steve Newall
While all that was going on, there was a media circus in full swing out in the large open warehouse area of the York St compound. We had separated out a ‘green room’ for on-camera interviews, complete with soft leather Red Bull couches, coffee table and actual grass turf brought in especially. Pinball & PlayStation machines, the FMR warehouse pool table and an endless supply of beer and wine completed the overall vibe. Lanyards swung from people’s necks as they interviewed bands and artists throughout the day, and John Peel collected CDs. Did I mention John Peel was there? I think Natasha had the idea to fly him and his wife out from the UK for the party, and the British Council and NZ Music Commission obliged with a few hosting engagements while he was in town for the week.
John Peel and Minister for Arts & Culture Judith Tizard enjoy a chat at the party (Photo Fraser Harding)
One media question being asked by our buddies at Morse Media (who ran the legendarynzmusic.comwebsite) was to define the ‘Dunedin Sound’. As the story goes, they had the brilliant Chris Knox give them the perfect answer, only to discover the audio was unusable because of a helicopter passing by overhead. So the mystery continues…
An enduring memory was the goosebumps down the arms while standing in the studio control room as HDU recorded the 3DsMan On The Verge of A Nervous Breakdown with Shayne P Carter blazing away on additional guitar. And then to wander out to the larger main area where the huge party was in full swing brought a huge smile to my face… only to realise we had to get all the drunk party goers to disperse and close the roller doors…argh, nervous breakdowns, eh?
L-R Lesley Paris (Look Blue Go Purple & Former Flying Nun GM, Roger Shepherd, John Collie (Straitjacket Fits, Doublehappys)(Photo Fraser Harding)
The first Flying Nun single I ever heard was a seven inch release by The Chills called Rolling Moon. I think Andrew bought it. We played it a lot because:
1) We liked it and;
2) We could figure out some of the chords.
How apt then that on the 21st record we cover a Chills song [Heavenly Pop Hit]. It was done in one take and everyone was smiling afterwards. Ashley Page from the record company patted me on the back and whispered "I think you've just changed the course of rock n roll as we know it."
"I chose the Verlaines song [Death And The Maiden] because it was already etched in my brain. In fact an early Pavement track called Box Elder contains a mutated version of the verse melody. As for the recording, we pretty much threw the group together (Brendan Moran on drums, Graeme Downes on bass) the morning of the session. It was an honour to contribute to this record yeah yeah!!"
Stephen Malkmus (photo Ian Jorgensen)
"Under The Influence was an excuse to get together and celebrate a record company that has helped the bands make the music that has been a big influence to a lot of people, myself included. It was Flying Nun's day, and deservedly so, and we were eager to do what we could to make it as successful and memorable as it could be. The 3Ds epitomised everything great about being in a rock band. Man on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is simply a great rock song."
Tristan Dingemans (HDU / Mountaineater / Kahu) works the York St Phone
"A most fun and exciting extravaganza... those FN boys sure do know how to lay on the free alcohol. Great to meet The Clean among others and we had a good time recording our contribution. First heard Saskatchewan on the Topless Women opening scene and have loved its dirgey malevolent atmosphere ever since. Happy birthday Flying Nun...... and thank you."
This is maybe my favourite track off one of the Nun's finest (and most neglected!) albums. The backing track was put down in late '97 for a French Bathgate tribute album that never made it into the real world, so the opportunity to get it out there through this vehicle was too good a chance to miss. I knew we were gunna be last to record after a very long day so the idea of only having to do a new lead vocal was very appealing. The hardest thing was getting out of the clutches of the right honourable (and extremely sweet) Associate Minister of the Arts and into the vocal booth! Mind you, having the evil Nick Roughan teaching his infant son how to drum in the adjoining booth then smearing both their faces hard against the glass of mine during an actual take did run a very close second...
A great vicious left-field pop song that shoulda been a worldwide hit. Simple in its basics, thus a natural choice for us, but a wondrously sinuous, complex and organic arrangement that seems in retrospective to be a template of sorts for Dimmer despite John Collie's large part in the writing.
We'd pre-recorded most of the backing but felt the coda needed a boost and the long-held desire to record with early 90s F NunCEO, Ms Lesley Paris, suggested a particularly pleasing way to do this. Also the album would've otherwise had NO WOMEN ON IT and that had to avoided at all costs! She is a fucking fabulous drummer and locked in immediately, rendering the utterly appropriate final touch. I did me lead vocal, watched Alec "Humble" Bathgate lay down some spontaneously combusted guitar, added some stuff to Graeme Downes' remarkable original then went outside to insert a large and pointy portion of Miller's finest glassware through me jandal and deep into me foot. Ya gotta bleed for the Nun.
Lesley Paris (Look Blue Go Purple) (Photo Ian Jorgensen)
From Robert Scott re The Clean:
"the day and the song... the Friday was all a blur at first, the never ending questions and interviews, then slowly the feeling of a party took over, strange friends and strangers all around. Time seems to have moved on a long way. Soon it is over... for some.
The song [Gentle Hour by Snapper].. David and Hamish having just come back from the States, meant we didn't have a lot of choosing time.. Saturday we listened to about 5 tunes and then this one kind of picked itself.. wrestled with it on Sunday and learnt how to play it on Monday when we got it first take...a fine song to tackle.”
The Clean (Photo Ian Jorgensen)
From The D4:
"We dug into our record collections and scoured all the back catalogue we could purloin from Hat and decided that the Bored Gamestrack [Joe 90] was one that would best suit us as a song that we really loved and one felt we could do justice to. While we would have loved to have been there on the day, we were in Memphis, Tennessee on our way up through the States following our SXSW gig in Austin and en route to more crazy shows throughout the USA and the UK.
love the D4
p.s We kissed Elvis's microphone at Sun Studio"
Under The Influence - 21 Years of Flying Nun Records
Release Date: May 16 2002
Roger Shepherd and Dylan Taite (Photo Ian Jorgensen)
David Kilgour and Shayne Carter (Photo Fraser Harding)
Celia Mancini (King Loser) (Photo Ian Jorgensen)
L-R Stephen Malkmus, Graeme Downes, Hamish Kilgour, Ashley Page, Carly Binding (photo Ian Jorgensen)