I used to write some CD reviews for the student-rag. It’s a good way to start in this caper. When students ask me how to get in to this kind of writing I still recommend that. (Well, first up I tell them to go do anything else – not for fear of competition, but because there’s no money in this. And no future). But even if you land a gig writing for the local weekly or daily weakly or whatever you’ll need to move on from that and find other ways to get published. These days, with this internet contraption, they’ll give just about any mug a blog (ahem). But back when I was starting out it was write for Salient and, from there, apply and wish and hope and scheme and dream.
New Zealand Musician was the next port of call for me and then I hit up Capital Times.
I had a meeting with the editor. I took along a wee brief case to the meeting. It had a banana in it, a Lou Reed CD (Transformer) and a refill pad. And a copy of Capital Times! (You can guess what non-renewable energy source I would have taken if the meeting was in Newcastle). Truly tragic.
The suggestion I had was that I would write a column about up and coming bands. I would call it… Up & Coming. I imagined myself sprouting then spouting weekly wisdom, but the editor decided it would come out the first Wednesday of each month. I was (still) very excited.
Staying up all night writing, waiting for dole money to go in so I could drive out to Miramar where they got the Cap Times at around 2.00am on a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning I would then buy a small pack of cigars and a tiny tub of ice-cream; the logic being that it was a way to express decadence-on-the-dole…I’d drive home happy, having checked my column was in that week’s edition.
And this happened each month – for a while.
And then it got very hard to think of new bands to mention. So, I started to make them up.
Jigsaw is an alternative guitar rock trio reminiscent of Alice in Chains – I might write.
Or, The Gollywogs fuse jazz and blues influences to create impressive, experimental rock music. They have entertained recently at private parties and are looking to gig locally.
It almost hit rock-bottom when I wrote this:
Winners in the bad taste category are the Sporadically Heroic Fallen Warriors Who Now Feast In The Tomb Of Valhalla (who delighted the crowd by achieving a negative score in Operation Music Storm – the recent university band-battle.) The band has renamed themselves My Grandfather Died This Morning and is attempting to secure gigs. The guitarist, who refuses to be known as anything except X-Factor has suggested that the name may have to change to Dead Pop, but promises a live show not to be missed.
Write what you know, as they say, so that paragraph above is actually very close to true. I did, for one night, play in a band called The Sporadically Heroic Fallen Warriors…and we entered a battle of the bands and not only came last, the judges actually took points off us. Before we played an earnest young teen sung songs on an acoustic guitar and preceded one with the comment, “I wrote this one about my grandfather, he died this morning”. We decided to follow her by announcing that our real name was My Grandfather Died This Morning. You can see why points were deducted.
Anyway, the bit about the guitarist being called X-Factor and the band attempting other gigs – that’s the made up part. We lived and died right then and there. Once. And only once.
But the column needed jazzing up from time to time. I would of course report the Wellington bands of the day: Brubeck, The Offbeats, Shihad – all sorts. Some still going, some which never really got going. But always – in and around the real stuff – were the fantasies and lunacies that sprung from my own imagination, passed off as fact:
Finally, a Deep Purple-tribute covers band has been rumoured to be lurking about in the not-too-distant musical future, for hard rock fans of all ages.
This presumes with its use of the word ‘finally’ that people actually were asking for such a thing. It was really my way of saying I have been listening to my Deep Purple CDs again lately and I really dig Ian Paice’s drumming.
I mentioned two legitimate bands that I played in – at least twice. Rather sad.
And then there was this: Wanganui’s noisy duo The South Pores will be settling in Wellington after Christmas.
You can probably guess that it never happened; the closest it got to happening was that a mate of mine – in Wanganui at the time – decided it would be a cool name for a band. I still think it would. (We were both left-handed too, so as with most things relating to this column there was that element of truth).
And then there was Roach. First off:
Roach is a recording duo comprising guitar and female vocals. Their demo features strong lyrics; emotional songs with simple, pleasant melodies. They are looking to gig soon!
Roach was in fact the nickname of one of the two girls that lived upstairs from me while I made all this rubbish up. And they decided that if they were in a band it would also be called Roach. But the idea hummed along – and was spread out over several columns. When the girls left the flat above me and took to the South Island for work experience at the end of a course that became Roach’s South Island tour.
At one point the editor of the paper rang me to ask where people could see this band – as I had reviewed an imaginary demo – saying something as non-committal and unimaginative as the songs are really strong. There were no songs. And I panicked when I was asked to start listing actual gigs – so I killed them off. Citing “unresolved differences” I announced that the band had split (and naturally toyed with the idea of going on to write about two fictional solo careers – for twice the fun!) but that was that. Roach was over.
And soon after, and not because of that, so was my column.
Now things are different – it’s not every month, it’s every day. And if I ever run out of things to say I don’t make up bands – I just go back and rehash bits of the columns from when I did make up bands.