It was one of those blood moons the night I first met Neil and Leah Bramley at Bowronomo’s house in Mt Cook in early 2007 – one of those meetings where you know you’ll be friends for life. I played Neil the Spines music and the solo album I’d been working on with Mark Austen and he loved the songs. We played at Leah’s big birthday party within a couple of weeks of meeting them.
We got tangled up in each other’s lives – I spent a lot of time with them at Tora and painted an old fishing boat he had shares in down by Te Papa on the marina and Neil became really involved in the band.
He introduced me to Jordan Tredray a fantastic young heavy metal drummer and we put down some demos of the songs we were doing before he took off for Europe with El Shlong.
One long weekend I was helping Neil build a deck in front of their house at Tora and painting a nautical compass on their living room floor and between us we came up with the notion of putting on a music festival there. Tora Tora Tora.
The first one was on that deck as the stage, looking out over a full moon rising over the Pacific Ocean as we played. We had just recorded an album together and were pretty hot. There was a lot of family there – over that weekend I became Riki’s daughter Mia’s godfather and he became Angus’s godfather. A couple of months later at Neil’s son Troy’s 21st we played an even better gig in the barn. The seeds were sown.
Since then the festival has grown into an annual event, a celebration and an institution. It gets bigger and more good people get involved. Neil and Andy Miers and their team do an amazing job on it every year.
There was one year when I was working on a trilogy of movies when we had half the art department out there over the Easter weekend.
Neil still has one of the Strange Angels – the Big Giant Totara Head looking over proceedings on the land and a huge slab of Totara waiting there for me to carve.
The Spines are down to open the next festival on Good Friday 2015.