by Chris Moon
obviously massed a pretty sizable number of releases (mostly
out of print). Tell me a story about when and why you first
started recording. Fiction is OK, no one will know the difference.
is stranger than fiction perhaps. Like most kids I was pretty
obsessed with my tape recorder. The 1st recording I can remember
making was actually a fairly awful and embarrassing incident…
We had a girl in our class at school who was very slightly
'plump' and I dubbed a copy of Queens 'We will rock you' and
painstakingly went through and recorded the words 'pop you'
over the 'rock yous'.... It never even occurred to me that
this might hurt her feelings and was quite devastated myself
when she burst into tears as I played it on the class tape
deck at lunchtime... 'We will, we will pop you!'... Awful
more relevant is the story of how, when my family moved from
a small rural town in the Sth Is. [South Island] to Auckland
(NZs biggest city) I recorded a tape of 'choice' radio static
that I used to play to drown out the city noises. I had an
irrational hatred of 'the urban' (which lasted many years),
and used to play this when I went to bed and pretend it was
a river! There was no 'artistic' or 'musical' intent behind
on my father started teaching me the guitar and I started
obsessively recording everything I did. I used to do overdubs
via that classic method (which I still use from time to time)
of just blasting recordings back into the room and playing
along. I remember being real pleased with a recording I did
of guitar being scraped with a ringing alarm clock, but really
there was no 'avant intent' behind that. I was just a geeky
kid. I wanted to write nice poetic folksongs. They just came
out kind of 'wrong'...
I started moving into my later teens I discovered student/college
radio. The boundaries of the term 'music' extended somewhat.
I had been writing a lot of songs and playing them to anyone
who would listen (not very many people at all...). The stuff
I heard on Student Radio inspired me to stop trying to be
Bob Dylan, or Neil Young... There was some cool NZ stuff there
that I had just never encountered before. (I had essentially
grown up in a town with 1 small radio station that played
lots (and lots!) of Kenny and Dolly.)
did the 'pre-Corpus/Metonymic' scene affect your music? I
mean bands like what started with the Clean, but more importantly
some of the 'pop' bands that Stapleton, Montgomery, Jefferies,
etc. were in?
A: I left
home on my bicycle when I was 18. You know, I was finally
escaping the big bad city to live in the Sth Is again. I ended
up working and living on an orchard. There was a guy there
who I used to jam with and he was a real fan of Peter Jefferies,
Dead C etc. The 1st time I listened to his tapes I thought
they were absolute shit(!), but then something happened (possibly
chemical...) and the next time I listened I 'got' it. I wound
up dubbing a lot of his stuff. My own songwriting got much
'looser' and more spontaneous and gestural from that point
on. I remember that I was just amazed that you could 'get
away' with releasing your home recordings. It was like hearing
this stuff sanctioned that whole approach. It was a revelation.
(Later, when I was living in Christchurch, my favourite band
was the Terminals who used to play there a bit. I was inspired
by their live energy and 'seat of the pants' rocking out...
The ‘This Kind of Punishment’ albums were incredibly
my naive USA perspective, Bruce Russell really coined the
phrase 'free noise', giving a name to a growing scene that
actually reached the awareness of our foreign shores. How
does your history weave into the fabric of the one we already
know here (along with the Dead C of course)? Is A.M. a missing
piece of the mid 90's NZ explosion, or did it rise from the
A: I think
it WAS Bruce, and the formation of Xpressway, that was primarily
responsible for 'Free Noise'. Definitely. Again it seems to
me that it was the act of sanctioning an approach, by having
the sheer nouse to just do it... I mean people everywhere
had probably had ecstatic moments standing in front of howling
fucked up guitar amps, and we'd probably all recorded the
same on walkmans and gotten a buzz from listening back, but
it took a special kind of insight to recognise that this thing
could be shared.
Even so, I myself never really
sought to release any tapes of that kind of stuff until much
later... I can't claim to be any sort of missing link at all
really. Although myself and a lot of the people I knew were
hugely inspired by that whole thing, and were even doing and
recording similar sounds (for ourselves), for the earlier
part the 90s I was still primarily interested in songwriting...
I remember doing 1 solo noise gig back then, as backing for
a dance/performance piece by Jules Novena Sorrel. I made an
instrument from a plank with wire strings and a guitar pickup.
It was mainly just feedback, clunks and buzzes, and occasional
flute playing over the top... Its quite possible that it was
the best gig of my life. I wish I'd recorded it! (But perhaps
I wouldn't remember it with such fondness if I had?) It was
an incredible experience for me. Ultimately though the response
then freaked me out a little. I was quite amazingly shy and
insecure back then...
1995-1997 was a fairly important period for me. I had started
WiRe BRidGe (a small cassette label) and was recording and
'releasing' a lot of stuff. You know, mainly in editions of
10 or 15... About 50/50 songs/'noise'. I think I had really
found my own 'voice' by that stage, and I still like most
of that material, but I was pretty woeful at 'networking'.
I played down in Dunedin a couple of times, in Christchurch
a little bit. However, despite the fact that it was practically
all I did with my time, and people being quite supportive,
I never really became part of the scene. I was definitely
more of a hippy than I was an art-punk. A lot of those guys
seemed frighteningly sophisticated to me then. (Urbane?) Again,
I was just too shy... In late 1997 I released 2 tapes, one
of which was Sirens, and beat a hasty retreat to Australia
with my girlfriend. Sirens actually ended up making something
of a ripple, but I didn't find that out until a few years
later when I came back to NZ.
your music. Your philosophy of music. Your tools of music.
What is the best way to listen to your music?
music that is most powerful for me is that music that can
take me from one place and put me in another... There are
definite 'religious overtones' to my feelings about music,
simply due to the fact that the heightened emotional and perceptual
states it can sometimes take you to are as close to spiritual
as any I have had.
think as time has gone by I have become more inclined to release
the recordings that I myself least understand, at least in
a 'rational' sense... I had something of a 'post-structuralist'
crisis and lost faith in 'the word'. I tend now to prefer
music that (in an oblique fashion) hints at fleeting / ’special’
states of consciousness... (This is maybe a little wacky but
I have drifted away from a kind of 'serious', -but obviously
'recreational' (...) -philosophical exploration of psychedelics
toward 1 facilitated by sound.) I sometimes splurge out in
'grand gestures' (like The Stumps' space rock excess, some
of the 'noisier', ecstatic A.M stuff...), but am more generally
interested in the small, the private, and the intimate.
The bulk of the music I do these
days is about 'gesture'. One metaphor I like to use is that
of calligraphy. I also try to be 'reflexive' in my recording
methods... For example I try to make it clear (in my lo-fi
way...) that my recording has occurred in a ‘place’-
I will often employ a microphone especially to capture the
background incidental noises that orthodox recording technique
attempts to eradicate, and often this background noise will
provide the overall structure for a piece. So, with these
sounds representing a kind of 'problem', I then add other
sounds and textures - sometimes ‘melodic’, sometimes
not- in an attempt to resolve this 'problem' according to
my ear and 'sensibilities', and hopefully even transform it
into something that can communicate (like a poem/haiku) something
of the feeling of that time and place... The Nether Dawn for
example is a project that involves setting up my gear in the
lounge at home (usually when my girlfriends away...) and improvising
along with feeling of being in a dimly lit room in a ramshackle
old house in the city after midnight...
guess I should also own up to the fact that I have never really
spent any money on musical equipment (well besides a new set
of guitar strings every few years. -ha!). Most of the equipment
that I use I have salvaged from skips or bought for next to
nothing from garage sales. Old taperecorders and $2 microphones.
(I have however been lucky enough though to get some pretty
nice hand me downs, somebody gave me a Gibson electric guitar
for example..!). I enjoy working within , and around, the
limitations of this gear...
recent times I have been using computers more. The 'Paintings
of Windows' project for example is all about taking field
recordings, sometimes including instrumental sounds, and working
with these on my computer in an attempt to 'craft' my subjective
version of the 'perfect' representation of the underlying
'mood' of those recordings. Again though my pc is a hand-me-down,
runs on win95, and doesn't have enough hard drive or ram to
run more than the most rudimentary of sound software. I like
to use what is at hand.
listening to music a huge part of my appreciation is based
in some kind of feeling of empathy with the artist... Riding
their inspirations and gestures with them. I guess that I
hope, like most musicians, that my music can work in a variety
of ways. I definitely think that it stands up to ‘deep
listening’, in that that is something of the approach
that I am employing in its construction, but I also don’t
mind the idea of it being background music, or ‘narrative’
music, and I hope that at least some of it is exciting and
C: I want another story. Tell me about PsuedoArcana. Indulge.
Is PseudoArcana supposed to have a space between it? Should
the Arcana be capitalized? I think it should! Why does PseudoArcana
show up backwards on the back of your releases? What does
PseudoArcana mean anyway?
started out as a specific project but rapidly turned into
a label... Spending a few years away from NZ changed me in
many ways. I had up until that time been kind of obsessed
with a sort of feral 'nature mysticism', and something of
a hermit. A lot of personal mythologies collapsed whilst I
was away and I came back determined to engage more critically
with the world, and the society that was most evident around
The initial idea with P.A was
to do a series of improvised site-specific recordings to play
with - and critique - the idea of documentation and its relationship
with some kind of ideal of authenticity. (Basically I think
I had been reading waaayyyy too much theory!) I had always
enjoyed making and designing the packaging for musical releases
and was after a new project of this kind.
The 1st recording/release was
a tape of conversations 'stolen' from the streets of Wellington.
An attempt to show (and celebrate) the relative mundanity
of everyday conversation in order to highlight media representations
of 'dialogue'. The tapes were distributed anonymously back
throughout the city, gaffer taped in the locations in which
they were recorded.
name does not have a space in it, and it is meant to be a
capital A - although I still forget that myself sometimes!
As wanky as the initial concept was, the name itself was intended
as a critique of what has often seemed to be an elitist and
high-brow perception of 'experimental' music. It is so often
represented as an arcane and privileged discourse, and I guess
I found that kind of problematic. The name is therefore a
reflective way of saying that ‘this is the type of music
that people say is trying to be arcane but which is really
just 'stuff that people do''.
The inversion of the word for
the logo is a kind of further piss-take of the idea of the
'genius artist'. Leonardo DiVinci used to write backwards,
I used a calligraphic looking font and it delights me that
it comes out so obviously pixellated.
initial concept of PseudoArcana soon fell by the wayside as
I lost interest in (dry) documentation for its own sake and
became more interested again in hinting at lusher subtexts.
did a sound installation at a gallery and on the last night
of that did a performance with Campbell Kneale and others
and decided to release that as a cdr on P.A. (CDRs were quite
a revelation- I had missed out on the whole beginning of the
cdr thing because I was kind of 'out of the loop' whilst overseas.)
I kind of liked the name and
so kept it. It also felt kind of different than what I had
been doing with Wire Bridge. From then on I started releasing
all my own stuff as P.A releases.
I had been in touch with Simon Wickham Smith and it occurred
to me to offer him a release - and I kind of expected him
to say no actually- but he said yes and that was really the
start of the label proper as I suddenly had the responsibility
of finding ears for the amazing music of someone who had been
kind enough to trust me to release it!
From then on its kind of exploded,
PA's up to 40 releases now. It has become a much bigger enterprise
than it was ever intended to be, and is a lot of work, but
I find the positive response to it all really gratifying!
One of the ideas that I have
about the label is that it should be more about ‘flights
of fancy’ than about the ‘groove’.
do you have in mind for the PseudoArcana 2004 catalog?
are actually quite a few decisions to be made. There is a
sense in which the workload is getting a little beyond me
and although I swore I would never do it I am now considering
deleting some of the back catalogue to try and simplify things.
(IE If anybody is after some of those earlier releases I would
therefore suggest getting them soon as they won't be available
for much longer!)
Doing this will 'clear the decks'
somewhat for some of the really great stuff coming up. I have
releases coming up from 1/3 Octave Band, Donald McPherson,
Keijo Virtanen, LaGloria, a split Leighton Craig/Antony Milton
10", a new Seen Through disk is immanent, and then theres
my new duo with Campbell Kneale.
I am particularly excited by
a master disk I received a few days ago by Greg Larking. I
have played and recorded with Greg for years (in Street etc)
but this will be his 1st solo release. A series of beautiful
minimal piano and organ improvisations recorded (quite audibly
-- hooray!) in his sunroom. Exquisite and subtle stuff.
Perhaps the biggest news is
that I will be doing the 1st P.A CD. This will be a compilation
of 'cover versions' of the 'Tone of the Universe'... A fairly
heady concept ! Expect celestial drones and rumblings from
Birchville Cat Motel, Thuja, Avarus, Sandoz Lab Techs,Yermo(!)
Uton, Reynols, and more.
you haven't already, explain the difference between Antony
Milton, A.M., Nether Dawn and Paintings of Windows? Incidentally,
are we going to get a full length of Paintings of Windows?
Is there one already and I'm just sadly lacking a copy?
I often wonder if having lots of projects just confuses people?
Antony Milton (...) tends to
be small intimate 'songs', or perhaps 'almost songs'…(Fairly
rare for me to release stuff under my own name at the moment).
A.M is more 'noise'... It's
more about exploring the 'idea' of recording itself..?! Veers
between a sparse documentary approach and layered collagey
Nether Dawn is a state dependent
project. It is late night music. More 'traditionally' musical?
"Midnight Drone Blues". Long ‘psychedelic’
Swagger Jack is a ramshackle
hillbilly shaped vehicle for singing folksongs.
Various duos: Claypipe (with
CJA), Seen Through (with Ben Spiers), Street (with Greg Larking).
P.o.W: Kind of filmic? Take
field recs and edit them to create aural narratives. (There
are 2 Paintings of Windows albums under construction…
One based on field recordings from a local park, the other
from recordings from India and Pakistan. My computer is so
slow that I sometimes despair of ever completing them. I find
working on PoW stuff quite meditative, but have to be in the
right headspace to handle some of the interminable processing
times etc. Also as the label gets ever busier the computer
seems to be jammed up with label stuff. One day I will be
able to afford an upgrade!)
Stumps is the only 'real' 'Rock band' I've ever played in.
But then again, it's perhaps more free noise than rock anyway?
The other members are Stephen Clover, who also plays solo
as 'seht', and James Kirk from Sandoz Lab Technicians. After
years of performing solo it’s been really fun to play
live in a group. It’s so much easier, and perhaps even
more conducive to flights of fancy... I was given a multi-effects
unit by my brother in law around the time we started the band
(the 1st effects pedal I've ever had!) and as a result guitar
reverb and delay excess have made it kind of spacey over all.
Stephen's bass playing is very kraut inspired. James’
drums are kind of rolling free jazz…. Tends to be quite
loud. We have been called a "pocket sized Fushitsusha",
which is kind of cute. We have one 3" I've put out on
P.A, an album recorded that’s looking for a home (any
‘garage psyche’ labels out there?..!), and a 20min
live trk coming out on a split live release on Haamumaa.
is your favorite beer? For that matter, what kind of beer
can you get in New Zealand? And a third question, what brewers
in New Zealand do you recommend? Is there beer I can get there
that I can't get anywhere else?
whole nature of beer in New Zealand has changed radically
in the last few years. We used to have 2 or 3 main breweries
that sold lots and lots of draught and that was about it.
Recently however, with the sudden explosion of what is becoming
a quite radical divergence between the ‘fiscal’
classes in New Zealand, there has been an influx of international
beers, small boutique breweries, and a kind of ‘gentrification’
of the olde breweries.
Now, nobody's going to complain
about the fact that the beer here is suddenly a lot more palatable.
The problem lies in the fact that the better beers are so
much more expensive and that we’ve all had our tastes
spoilt! The ‘traditional’ draughts are still available,
largely I suspect for their iconic value, but who wants to
drink that stuff?!
In a quite terrible betrayal
of the ‘national interest’ I myself have in fact
turned to cheap imported Australian beers, perhaps the equivalent
of an American turning to Canada? I find that these are more
reasonably priced than even those old draughts… The
fact that they come in bigger cans, and have a higher alcohol
content for the same price, are also factors in this decision…(actually
as an aside, although I can’t remember my last day without
a beer (I even carried it in my bike panniers on a recent
cycling trip…), my real alcoholic passion is for whisky…
If I wasn’t into music I think I would quite possibly
pursue distilling with an equal degree of passion!)
you really go swim with dolphins and whales and shit or is
that just what they say in the travel brochures (well actually,
Mats Gustafsson said it too, Broken Face, Issue #6)?
you can. (Although you’ll see far more in Australia…)
I haven’t. Its expensive! NZ is very beautiful, and
is relatively unspoilt. – In places! I am lucky to live
is the best album ever?
just not that kind of guy!
on earth is a 'secular pilgramage'? What sort of degree do
you write papers like this for?
doing a double major in Religious Studies and Media Studies….
The answering of these interview questions has been a seductive,
but not unproblematic diversion from working on a paper about
the role of nature in the national identity of New Zealand,
and whether holidays and journeys into ‘nature’
could be said to represent a kind of secular pilgrimage that
reinforces this national identity……… As
I come to the end of my 3 years here I find that I know and
care far less about these kinds of subjects than I ever did
before. And what the fuck am I going to do with a Religious