THIS KIND OF PUNISHMENT, NITPICKERS PICNIC 1985 / PHOTO BY BRIAN MURPHY
This Kind of Punishment pioneered a new way forward in 4-track DIY recording when they made their self-titled album in 1984. The painstaking recording approach required detailed and precise planning and execution in the layered construction of the songs. Think Chris Knox and what he achieved on a 4-track with the Tall Dwarfs and take it on to another level of complexity. It’s what lots of bands did in commercial studios before the development of the 8-track and later recorders with greater “track” capacity from the mid to late 1960s onwards.
Lacking the added equipment and expertise found in a commercial studio, This Kind of Punishment stuck with this technique when making their second album, Beard of Bees. These complicated recording techniques were largely learnt by trial and error over time. 18 months in the case of 1985’s Beard of Bees which is a richly complete and mature work.
THIS KIND OF PUNISHMENT, 'BEARD OF BEES' SESSIONS 1984 / PHOTO VIA AUDIOCULTURE
Making the first two records had been an exhausting experience that the Jefferies brothers did not want to repeat. For their next recording, a completely different approach was taken. Gordon Rutherford, from their Nocturnal Projections days, was still involved in his valued role as an engineer. Chris Matthews was more firmly integrated into the This Kind of Punishment set-up, and now his former bandmate and bass player from the Children’s Hour, Johnny Pierce, also came on board.
THIS KIND OF PUNISHMENT '5 BY FOUR' ALBUM COVER
Side One opens with the heavy incessant throbbing of ‘North Head’, and ends with ‘Out of My Hands’ which is a reworking of an old Nocturnal Projections song. Inspired by their father playing that record at the wrong speed (a not uncommon experience for any consumer of 12” EPs during this period due to the common absence of playing speeds on the record labels), they now created a new song with that idea and added some new components.
Side Two opens with ‘Mr Tic Toc’, which is largely a Chris Matthews spoken word piece. ‘What Can I Say’ is the most ‘typical’ Jefferies brother song on the EP while ‘Flipper Go Home” has Chris Matthews immersed in the writing and recording to such an extent that it presents as a forewarning of the material and style of the first Headless Chickens album.
The sound is unmistakably This Kind of Punishment, with the Jefferies brothers at its core and Chris Matthews featuring prominently. The material is surprisingly diverse, using components and approaches from other projects. Perhaps this reflects the need to quickly prepare and record the material in the short week available to them. Chris Knox had lent his Teac 4-track with the stipulation that it was to be returned within the week. A requirement that could be interpreted as a challenge to a musical enterprise that was usually painstakingly detailed and time-consuming.
THIS KIND OF PUNISHMENT '5 BY FOUR' SLEEVE REVERSE
The diversity and urgency of 5 by Four does mean it sounds more like a “band” recording. The songs are all distinct from each other in some fundamental way, but there is less of that characteristic This Kind of Punishment “space” as experienced in the earlier albums. 5 by Four is a highly original and undefinable work crammed full of a variety of musical ideas and simple effects, which gives the EP its “sound”, which is denser and brasher than its preceding releases.
Peter and Graeme Jefferies, with Chris Matthews, made the bulk of all the sounds on the record. Johnny Pierce (like Chris Matthews, ex Children's Hour), who joined on the first day of recording, did surprisingly little actual playing but had galvanising influence in the record-making, and had a natural skill as a mediator during the rushed and inevitably stressful recording process. He was a full member of the set-up. Hence the title, 5 by Four: five songs by four people.
With 5 by Four recorded and mixed, This Kind of Punishment embarked on their only national tour with The Expendables. If the recording process of the first two releases was complex and largely exorcised by the frantic recording of 5 by Four, then there was no escaping it when playing live. They went on tour with multiple instruments that constantly needed to be changed between band members for each song when they played live. If there had been considerably built-up stresses between the Jefferies brothers from years of working together on mind-bending intricate projects, then this tour certainly did not help.
THIS KIND OF PUNISHMENT AT THE NITPICKERS PICNIC, 1985 - RIP IT UP, ISSUE 97, 1 AUGUST 1985, PAGE 34
This Kind of Punishment was a musical entity that had also become a stress-making machine of the Jefferies brother's own making. Peter wanted to finish the band. This coincided with the putting together of the Nitpickers Picnic, a multi-media event held at the University of Auckland Maidment Theatre on July 23rd and 24th, 1985. Along with a great deal of performance art, there were two bands being showcased. It was the last performance by This Kind of Punishment and the live debut of the Headless Chickens. Chris Matthews and Johnny Pierce contributed to and played in both lineups. It’s not hard to see what an inspirational influence This Kind of Punishment was on Chris, who worked with them to varying degrees over three records. Ideas that were almost like a personalised philosophy of music were handed on: space, layers and tension. But whereas This Kind of Punishment had been sunk by trying to push the simple equipment at their disposal, the Headless Chickens thrived on the stimulation and possibilities offered by the new technologies at their disposal.