Ian Jorgensen and Reuben Winter outside Puppies (Photo: Brett Foster)
A collection of footage shot by various photographers at a number of A Low Hum events from 2010-2017. Features Reuben performing as Totems (live and DJ sets) or as part of KCB DJs, Caroles, Hallowe'en, P.H.F, Kitzunegari, Niisa, Puppies Battle and "renegade" sets at Camp A Low Hum with Lol-Fi, Dorkwind, Crackhouse 5 and Tommy ill.
Reuben’s recent passing has hit me hard, but the legacy he leaves behind is indisputable and I count myself lucky to have shared in so much of his short time with us.
Over the decades that I’ve been paying attention to the local music scene there have been several figures who have played vital roles in their communities, but nobody was at once the instigator, collaborator, agitator and influencer that Reuben was and will continue to be.
I’ve shared with many over the years that I firmly believe Reuben to have been the most important central figure in local music in recent history and a primary reason that so much exciting electronic and punk music was being created in New Zealand throughout the early 2010s.
Inviting me to come and watch one of his early bands, Bandicoot, play at Basement Bar in Auckland late-2009 in the hopes of playing at my 2010 festival, meeting Reuben for the first time was as memorable as every other moment he would play in my life.
Standing in the Basement audience I could see him constantly scanning for me from stage, trying to catch my eye as he delivered, as we all came to expect, a blistering live performance.
The minute he played the final note of the set he flung his guitar down and lept into the audience carving a path of confused audience members. Reuben ran right up to me, and with everybody in the audience and the band on stage turning to see my reaction, he just asked me straight-out, with everyone in earshot, “so... did we make it?”
I had no idea at the time that the eager 15-year old standing in-front of me with puppy-dog eyes would become one of the most influential people through the next decade of my career.
There have been a handful of older artists who have managed to play half-a-dozen sets or more at a single Camp A Low Hum over the years, but those were all well-established artists and generally playing the same role in each band. The first Camps Reuben performed at, whilst 15/16, blew every existing performance record out the window and were never close to being equalled by any other. He played every instrument, in every kind of band - he basically lived in the "Renegade Room," as band after band wanted to feed off his vibrance and energy. Years away from being legally able to drink and he was already a legend within the underground community.
Reuben was an invigorating force and everybody who bore witness to the best underground music coming from NZ from 2010-2015 can affirm that Reuben was the catalyst and inspiration for so much of the best of it.
Even on my own journey, there is a real clear line between A Low Hum prior to meeting Reuben and after. From the day I met Reuben in 2009, there wasn’t a single major event of mine that he didn’t perform at (and influence the curation of) in some form over the next decade. From Camp and Campus A Low Hum’s, to A Low Hum House, Square Wave Festival, A Movement Tour, KCBxPuppies 420 festivals, Camp A Movement to 15 years of A Low Hum, he was an integral part of every event.
Reuben also played a giant role in the life of my music venue Puppies. Throughout the venue’s entire lifespan Reuben performed countless sets in numerous bands as well as performing or DJing as Totems constantly. Rightfully so, along with playing one of the opening parties, Reuben played the very last night of the venue - he also worked the door for me at a ton of shows whilst he lived in Wellington. The impact on Wellington when he left was noticeable, his brief dalliance in Wellington made me jealous of what Aucklanders had been spoilt with for years.
My favourite personal music performance experiences and ones I’ll hold dear forever were Reuben joining myself and other Puppies DJ stalwarts for a series of multiple 4-way DJ “Battles” for several Puppies events and Camps. Sharing the stage with Reuben was an honour and I understood why so many artists fed off his boundless enthusiasm.
It wasn’t just Reuben’s astounding talent and ability to conquer almost any form of music - making amongst the most innovative electronic as well as 'traditional' instrument-based music in the country while barely even legally able to play in bars, but his influence on the local music community is undeniable. I couldn't even name all the different bands he played in at my events over the years - his collaborative output is unparalleled. Entire scenes and genres formed around him. I constantly looked to him to see what was worth paying attention to and became reliant on his taste to assist my own curation. Whenever It came to booking artists for any event I put on, I knew I could just look to whatever bands or electronic artists Reuben was touting, and I knew they’d be the finest and I’d book them with barely a moment’s hesitation. His influence on me is transparent to all.
Reuben never stopped assisting me with my projects, even when I stepped back from putting on events. In 2016 when I reached out and told him about a new project I was working on with a synthesizer built in Wellington - as always he was only too happy to help and was one of a dozen artists internationally to kindly gift us a collection of samples to share when we launched. I have heard his samples used on many tracks by users of our equipment all around the world, and his “Reuben Winter Kit” will forever be a reminder to me of his kindness, altruism, selflessness and copious amounts of talent.
Reuben was a singular musician, inspiring and supporting countless others, but most importantly, a gentle soul and generous friend. RIP xxx
Thanks to Brett Foster (ex-Puppies doorman) for the photo of me and Reuben outside Puppies. For more shots of Brett's from Puppies including more of Reub, check: https://somepeopledoingstuff.tumblr.com/archive
Times are tough, but if you have the ability to support Music Helps, please make donations here: https://musichelps.org.nz/
Please take care of one other - openness, communication and aroha are so so important right now.
If you are feeling vulnerable:
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Healthline – 0800 611 11