Here’s a chat with Dennis O’Brien – he is the owner of Slow Boat Records in Wellington. But he also had a solo career as a musician – if you click on that link on his name you’ll be taken to Redmer Yska’s excellent Audioculture profile of Dennis’ musical career.
I’ve known Dennis for years. I first properly met him when I sat down to interview him for Slow Boat’s 21st birthday. The store is about to turn, fittingly, 33 1/3. But I had been in the store before that first interview, as a customer. So I knew who Dennis was – knew him as the store owner. Slow Boat is my all-time favourite record store. It is the best music store in the country. I’m sure of that.
And Dennis is a scholar and a gent.
So why wait until episode 107 to speak to him? Well, in fact he was one of the first names I thought of when I first thought of doing this podcast. But then, very early on I spoke with his brother, Phil O’Brien. And then – though I didn’t find it to post until a year or so on I also spoke with Jeremy Taylor (of Slow Boat) for the podcast. So I wanted to hold off and space out the conversation.
Now far too long has passed. But fortunately I was able to sit down just recently with Dennis – he invited me over to his house and we sat for an hour or so and I heard some of the same stories again but plenty of new ones.
We talked through his life in and around music – from growing up in New Zealand in the 50s and 60s, to writing music reviews for Salient magazine as a student at Victoria University in the late 1960s/early 1970s. And then to England on the boat to play music. He met his wife on one of the voyages. They lived in England for years where he set about playing pubs, clubs and festivals before returning to New Zealand to record some albums. And then to open the store.
But you’ll hear about all of that and so much more.
It was my great pleasure to finally get to sit down and have this conversation with Dennis O’Brien. We’ve had versions of this conversation before but it was time to get it on tape. And we did. I hope you enjoy hearing this as much as I did.