THE STORY OF AUCKLAND BAND THE BIRD NEST ROYS....
Liner notes for Me Want Me Get Me Need Me Have Me Love by Bird Nest Roys' Big Ross.
We got together for the first time after many years for my wedding. As soon as we began to play I remembered something I had forgot about - we had a sound, a sonic vibe, some sort of harmonic racket thing.
It was about guitars and valves and transistors, played loud, and it was more sonic, I think, than people recall now. Maybe the first EP's sound had twisted everyone's historic perspective, but we were always noisy and back in the day, soundmen were always saying to us; "You have to bloody turn down mate!"
I had a trick where I would say; "Ok Rex," and twist my hand over the volume knob as though I was turning down, without actually touching the knob.
"That's better Rossi," said Pavlov's Dog.. But, as they say 'this one stayed at 11'.
Of course, like the Clean and others, we wouldn't have existed had it not been for punk rock, and personally, I blame the gongs. Something had to cause it after all... punk rock that is.
Because if anything could be accused of representing the bloated excesses of rock music just before punk came along, it was the gong - pointless, indulgent, medieval, dumb.
Rock and Roll started with Elvis but by 1976 we had Emerson Lake and Palmer releasing a double album with a side for each member to 'express' themselves, and touring with an orchestra. Rick Wakeman doing an album based on the lives of Myths of King Arthur, and then doing 3 performances at Wembley - on ice..
All of these things awash with gongs.
Gongs gone wild.
Then came The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Buzzcocks, Wire.. etc, and everything changed literally, overnight.
Songs were back to their correct length, and were once again, depending on your outlook - angry, exciting, beautiful, engaging OR - noisy, awful, incompetently played.
So punk rock saved us all. Somehow, suddenly it seemed possible to make up a song and be a band. As a guitarist, as long as you could lay a finger across a fret board and make a barre chord you were away. You just move it up and down a couple of frets, swear and spit in tune and you had a song. F**king simple really.
And even now I somehow instinctively reject the idea of practicing at guitar to get too good, and I still play barre chords, because I like the nature of that punk feeling. Musical Primitivism? Or maybe I am just lazy.
Either way, punk demonstrated that, any idiot could do it, eh. And we were any idiots, first class.
People have asked; "When did you sign to Flying Nun." But we never signed anything. We played a couple of gigs and were invited to tour with the Chills in the South Island.
When we came back, we were at some time invited around to Chris Knox's house. We arrived with a dozen big bottles of beer. Chris answered the door and said scarily:
"What's that for?"
He was potentially intimidating then and I think we answered timidly; "We thought we might drink them mate." Anyway , we went inside, drank the beer, talked about unrelated stuff, smoked a joint with his flatmate and that was it.
That was as close to any formal signing as we came. And that was probably true of many FN acts. The Chills South Island tour was great though, even if we had to put up with Doug Hood, chewing his cheek and mixing us for the whole thing (Actually he was great, and knew how to get beer after hours in every town in the country).
When we played in Christchurch, everyone just stood around way back from the stage wearing black. They were 'cool' and we were a bunch of weirdly dressed wankers from Auckland... ahhhh... we were worried and then Hamish Kilgour came up the front and danced.
Wow. Who could be cooler than him to come up and dance? No one, that's who.
We loosened up and in the end, the gig went great. Afterwards, some enthusiastic young hipsters came up and said how much they liked it.
"Were in a band too."
"John Paul Satre Experience!"
And that was how I met those guys.
Some time later at the house I shared with most of Goblin Mix, Dave Mitchell came home with a record that was a beauty and dominated our turntable for weeks. The JPSE EP. It was those guys! And great. One out of the box.
I ended up living with JPSE members Dave Mulcahy and later Gary Sullivan and am friends with them all. Which is one of the ways FN worked, as a way to meet collective like minded music nutters and get drunk with them, and share philosophers.
The reception in Dunedin was similar. I think we may have arrived at the right time after the tragic death of Wayne Elsley, when they welcomed a blow out or distraction after all that grief. Again, we were kindred music souls, and they happened to think our band was ok too, which helped of course.
In Dunedin, the meeting of the Auckland FN and the southern branch resulted in many friendships and hook ups. People had kids, and some of the partnerships that resulted are still going today.
It may seem incestuous, but really, we had just found a bunch of people just like us, and who liked the same shit as us. Not only music, but also art, black humour and Pee Wee's Big Adventure.
I don't know if we were the first Auckland band they liked in Dunedin, but certainly Auckland bands had a very bad rap then. Even I hated most Auckland bands. There was a terrible tradition of slavishly imitating overseas trends, and the result was predictably uninspiring.
You know, "Flock of Seagulls" would be huge and then there would be an Auckland band named after another seabird, with huge hair singing about jogging. Nah. I'm joking of course, but only just.
Apart from the music, I imagine part of our appeal was that we were a disparate bunch of characters. We all dressed strangely too, the stupider the better. We would go to op shops and stock up on old ladies hats, blouses and various pieces of ludicrous clothing.
We couldn't care less what we looked like really. I used to have these pin striped pants that were 100 sizes too big around the waist, but I took in the legs and they were skin tight on the legs. They were known then as "Nappy Pants" which I wore with a girls pink flannelette nightie. Debbie had this penchant for dressing like an old lady. Rupert made his own clothes, and wore dresses.
So I think we looked ridiculous too. But nobody could accuse us of being boring.
Plus we had our own language, which infiltrated Auckland completely.
I got non (unhappy with the outcome). You've walled (behaved in a way befitting a wally). Empty Animals (shoes/love interest)... just some of the numerous examples.
Little Ross and I wrote all the songs one way or another, almost always on acoustic guitar. Some LR wrote alone (bided, silliest), some I did (alien) but most were some sort of collaboration. Like he wrote the Jaffa Boy verse I did the chorus. I think Ross wrote some decent lyrics, most of mine were, um, what's that word? Gibberish, is maybe too harsh. But, at best they were deliberately obtuse.
"Remind me not to stick it in my eye." WTF? What does that mean? Stick what?
What did puff do to deserve that?
I wrote the chorus for Me Want Me Get Me Need Me Have Me Love hungover on the couch with Alf Danielson from Goblin Mix sitting with me. I had written the music for the chorus but I had no words. We were watching one of those old westerns, either Bonanza or High Chaparel on TV. Then some cowboy gazed in the distance and said;
"If this town grows, I'll seek a new frontier. Some day, you'll know just what I mean."
I wrote them down, picked up the acoustic guitar and bashed out the melody.
Chorus. Sorted. I am not proud of it, but that's basically what I would do.
(Actually, am quite proud of it!)
-Big Ross, 2013