Caroline, Rob and I formed the Spines in early 1981 and we started getting gigs straight away. We rehearsed a lot too and were searching out our own sound – they both played professionally in a jazz band as well at the time and we were always tight but experimental.
When Bryan Staff moved to Wellington later in the year he came to see us play up at Chips Nightclub he liked us and he and I got on really well. He said up front that he wanted us to record on Ripper Records.
He’d started Ripper with Mike Chunn in the late seventies and they were a legendary seminal New Zealand independent record label – AK 79, the Swingers, Pop Mechanix and most every Auckland punk band you can name.
Bryan was a deejay too and a fine photographer and he moved here to host a night-time radio show. He knew everybody in the business it seemed to me and he gave us our big break with almost total artistic freedom.
We recorded the four songs for Fishing out in Petone at EMI studios with Frank Douglas engineering; Bryan was an Andrew Loog Oldham-style producer and just let things evolve. We didn’t know what we were doing but made the best of some of it and we had our first record.
When it came out it was a seven inch EP that played at 33 rpm.
Through Bryan I met Karen Hay and Brent Hanson and Simon Morris and the Spines did some Radio with Pictures video clips. He was living in the huge warehouse on Wakefield Street by this time and I used to visit him there where he had his big Irish Wolfhounds – he was the most excellent company and well versed in the visual arts.
The next recording was at Marmalade and we had Ian Morris and Andy Craig producing this time – just two songs but it was a whole new line-up with Wendy and Tim and Neill. A lot of record companies wouldn’t have been too happy about a double sided single with both songs about domestic violence but Ripper got Punch/Your Body Stays and were right behind it.
When it came out it was a twelve inch single that played at 45 rpm.
Bryan was moving back to Auckland and Michelle was pregnant with Angus so we took over his huge warehouse space on Wakefield Street. He kind of dissolved Ripper then and I don’t know why but he always had his reasons. Something of an unsung hero and a complex man – a
true artist himself he could see above the talent he was spinning.
Simon Grigg has bought up the Ripper catalogue recently and good on him – there are some absolutely definitive New Zealand music moments in there and I’m proud to be a part of that personal side of it and having known Bryan and what he wanted to express with the weird scope of his taste and his idiosyncrasies.