Thursday, August 30, 2018

an interview with Dave McArtney from ten years ago

I'm a big fan of the Pink Flamingos, Dave McArtney's band from the mid-late 80s. I must have interviewed him at some stage, maybe with the Dragon book I never wrote in mind, or maybe (I do refer to it below) with what was to become Dig in mind. Here's the text, from a file saved on 30 Aug 2008. Dave died a couple of years later. 

The original Hello Sailor was around for such a short time, yet there’s such a huge legacy – you reformed in the mid-80s, is that where the legacy comes from?
I think it comes from the early days really. At the moment it’s pretty stable – we’re still playing – there’s a bit of notoriety. We don’t do pubs or anything. You see the band formed, largely got a cult following first of all, and that was ’75-’76, two years. And then we started doing the pub circuit and we changed a little bit, and we did a lot of nightclubs as well, so we kind of diversified, kept that original thing but we started to play a lot more funky stuff and rock ’n’ roll and then we did the album and then it kind of suddenly took off then, that was ’77, that whole year was pretty big and then of course we were in the states in ’78, it’s kind of like four years. Then we came back and everything was downhill, we came back in ’79, went to Australia and broke up in 1980 and it had been a good five years, the mid-70s till 1980.

Then we reformed in ’84, so that was about three or four years later, but the thing is it’s been so long, things were a bit different it wasn’t the same band really.

What I’m working on is this book on Australian rock – and I’m well aware that you were an outsider in a sense but occasionally a participant in the Australian music industry and I think it’s really important in my book that I acknowledge that New Zealand has this special place in relation to Australia. Growing up in New Zealand and being in the New Zealand music industry how did you regard Australia, and what would it have meant to be successful in Australia?
It would have meant a lot really. We did see it as a bigger market. And I think New Zealanders appreciated the professionalism of the Australian rock business – it was much more businesslike. And the bands reflected that. We appreciated that kind of thing, because New Zealanders are naturally self-effacing and reserved and lack a little bit of confidence in that regard – the two cultures are definitely the same, and came from the same origins, but Australians do impress New Zealanders by being so positive and they do believe in themselves. We obviously look at that and go ‘hey, this is a challenge’ and this is what you have to do to get successful in the business. And also we’re touring over there with bigger PAs, better crews there’s longer distances, there’s a real culture about it, it’s entertaining, all the different characters and the roadies and stuff that we met – you become part of it. And they look after you – the difficulty was the depressing part and the fact that you had to hang in there for such a long time to make a dent and this whole thing of breaking it on radio in all the states, you know, simultaneously, that was a real battle . And not many bands succeeded, did they – Dragon, Split Enz obviously, Mi-Sex… who else? Margaret Urlich? Dave Dobbyn… obviously there’s Neil Finn.

Australians have to stop themselves from claiming Split Enz as their own. Dragon somehow not so much.
Do you think the debauched part of Dragon – people got pissed off with that after a while? That’s the kind of impression I got. A bit wasted – wasted time, wasted opportunities.

[For some weird reason I either didn't respond to this or didn't transcribe it, perhaps feeling my answer wasn't worth recording. I think it's probably true that people in the industry got sick of 'debauched' Dragon in the 70s, which is why they emphasised how clean they were when they came back in the 80s. These days I don't think too many people think about it at all.]

My main source for your career is reading John Dix’s book. You went to the States, and that was an adventurous step to not use Australia as a stepping stone. Was that something you discussed?
We were sort of in a way coerced into going there by our management David Gapes. He’d come from radio, he’d spent a lot of time in California and he had friends there and he just thought it was a great idea and he sold us the idea. It happened so quickly, he funded the whole move, we hadn’t even talked seriously about Australia, that’s funny that we didn’t sit down and plan our next move, and go ‘we’ve got to go to Australia’, we weren’t that sort of band really, we lived day by day and we had to get management because things were getting too hectic here, Harry was managing the band, as he still does, and we had an offer from Dave Gapes and he brought in this cavalier attitude, entrepreneurial thing and sold us the idea, so it was this romantic notion, going to this place California that – yeah – I don’t know. And then we arrived and it was like a dream, Donna had gone over and she’s been to the house so that was all waiting and we had a place to go to, the big house, picked up at the airport by various people, some friends and they all had these fast cars, we were roaring up the 405 to Hollywood in a Pontiac GTO, the car I eventually inherited from Philip Mills my brother-in-law, and it just started from there, from the word go as soon as we stepped off the plane, it was like – Wham! It was kind of like, yeah, California, Hollywood, the Dream.

What other music were you hoping to see, how were you hoping to fit in?
I wasn’t really aware of – we had followed the punk movement fairly closely, and bands like the Clash, we liked all that stuff but we’d never imagined it to have any evidence of that in California, but it did – that was good – we didn’t know what to expect, obviously, we’d heard there were a lot of bands in Los Angeles, that’s one thing we’d heard – a lot of activity, it was the place to be, but we’d only been aware of what – The Eagles, CSNY all those sorts of bands, and then – what else was happening at that time? Fleetwood Mac, that sort of thing, the bands that were high profile at the time, and of course – I had no idea what the place was going to look like or geographical layout – nothing. This was pre-internet days, obviously, you don’t have much to go by.

It was an adventure, you know. We fitted in pretty quickly – 24-hour society, the Kiwi dollars were worth more, it was 1.2 or 1.3 so we exchanged money and got more money and everything’s cheaper! That was before Muldoon floated the dollar. And you’d go in and buy a packet of cigarettes for fifty cents or something. Things for instant hedonistic pleasure buttons, six-pack of beer and a packet of fags, was that much cheaper – it was great.

What an amazing culture shock.
Oh – going 24-hour shopping, we got right into that, getting all our groceries at 3 am – at Ralph’s, you could buy liquor there too. And you had to buy water. That was strange, that was very strange, you had to buy water in big 5-litre containers. No-one drank the water.

You were looking for a new market – you just knew you were a great band and you needed the world to know it? What was the motivation?
Yeah – I think we saw ourselves as a band which had something to offer in terms of live performance. That was our main thing, we knew we could excite an audience and we enjoyed it, Graham having the energy that he does have, we were quite confident that we could make a little bit of impact given the right scenario, the right opportunities. We didn’t play for about a month, our visas hadn’t come through, we got our H1s over there. We weren’t quite sure about the material, and in actual fact the quirky nature of the songs was a little bit of an impediment for us for a while, people didn’t know what to make of us. But the ones that clicked with it it sort of started the fanbase that gradually developed over there. The following who followed us around over there.

Songs like ‘Son of Sam’, ‘Boys in Brazil’, you know, whacky sort of things – there was nothing really poppy except for maybe ‘Blue Lady’, ‘Latin Lover’, we had all that versatility, we knew what we were about, we weren’t a straight pop-rock band but we played with different ideas, things that we liked. We liked Latin, so we had a Latin song, we liked Funk, so we had a couple of – I don’t know – r’n’b type funky things based around 7th and 9th chords, things like that.

But you weren’t theatrical…
No, we had this thing in the early days, because of this big house we lived in, in the post-hippy era, we got into this divine decadence thing. This sort of elegantly wasted thing, the Keith Richards type of thing. So we’d wear eyeliner and be shabby, very shabby, but – not the glam thing but just really… in fact we advertised ourselves as punk rock once, in about 1974. Pre-punk days. Someone’d had just come up with it, a guy called Bruce Fraser who was our first manager, who lived with us, he was just a nightmare. But he was a guy who’d take us to a gig in his old beat-up ’58 chevy.

But the ‘elegantly wasted’, ‘divine decadence’ thing was our image. And with the drugs or giving the message that we were dabbling in hard drugs, all that sort of that thing, the dangerous aspect. Bi-sexuality, asexuality whatever, the hedonism thing, alcohol. No restraints. Other bands, they took their music seriously, I don’t know how you’d describe it… there was a kind of slight nihilism about what our attitude towards our own music, or our relationship towards what we were doing musically. You’re a part of it, it’s totally your life, and you don’t think ahead, this is your world. And that was a large part of what our self-belief system was. That we were actually in a naïve way believed in our own publicity. I mean that eventually came to bite us on the arse I guess but the image felt good, you felt like you were an outlaw or something, I don’t know. Because of that attitude – self-destruction.

Were your audience in NZ living that life through you?
Yeah, I guess – that’s where it started, until the band became commercially successful, we toned it down, and reached a sterile plateau where that was us – that was the band’s image, that was the brand the public were buying, and that thing spread – within the bounds of being a rock and roll band or a rock band, and that’s how the band was sold really or how we sold ourselves, publicly that’s what we were, it was a little bit watered down from the early days though we still retained that edge. That’s what we tooik to California; other bands were doing the same thing, the same period of that rock culture, or youth culture, was at that same stage, perhaps a little bit behind the UK. The other thing is lots of expat Aussies, kiwis, poms, Germans especially, all living in Hollywood, all disenfranchised, so there was this subculture of international disaffected youth there. It was interesting. And a lot of people from the east coast who really didn’t want to be part of the Californian thing, but thy were there, they were the same really, they were disaffected, they were outsiders as well. So we fitted in with that crowd, we attracted those sort of people too. We ended up doing some major gigs, played the Starwood three or four times, in support to – I seem to remember Van Halen – I’m not absolutely sure but I seem to remember playing before this metal band, it’s not impossible, I can’t prove it, it was at that time. And of course we did the Whiskey, somehow got to know the owner of the Whiskey, and the owner of the Roxy, we never played the Roxy the Roxy was quite upmarket, that was just only reggae stuff like Peter Tosh, it was a very – wouldn’t have got to play there but the Whiskey was certainly open to all comers. And eventually we got to have our own show on a Friday night, which was filled and then of course there was the Ray Manzarek thing, he was going to produce demos and stuff that never came about. At the very end of it we had Earl Slick who’d just been playing with Bowie, and he actually produced a whole bunch of demos for us.

So it was moving along…

I assume you have a no regrets attitude…or maybe you don’t?
Graham was in a bad way, he had quite a bad habit, and we knew we had to change that, we knew we had to write new material – more commercial, more fitting in to the American thing so it would be palatable for a wider American public, which had been talked about with possible record companies. We needed new management; the message got through to the band that none of the companies wanted to deal with the management. So we actually parted company with David towards the end there, too. It was winter, nothing much happens because all the major acts don’t tour in the middle of winter, they just don’t travel. Consequently LA gets quiet. We were running out of money, everyhone was starting to get part time jobs, the band was falling apart a little bit, there was a period of about a month when we didn’t work. Lots of little factors were pointing towards ‘go home’. The band was kind of divided. I wanted to get out, go home, re-energise, and tour back home. Ricky and Lisle wanted to stay, they reckon we should have stayed. Harry of course had a two-year-old child, he wanted to come home. Graham didn’t care one way or the other, so yeah it sort of all pointed towards getting out, but I think in retrospect I do think it was a bad move. I think we should have stayed and hung in there.

Certainly coming home, nothing really happened.

It’s amazing you made it there, really, all things considered.
Yeah, we just took off to live there, with no intentions of coming home, with a couple of guitars and a suitcase. That was it!

The heat was a big factor, it was very hot, we’d never had that 40 degree, Santa Ana winds blowing. Geographically, climatically different, culturally it was great. The dream gradually became a reality and we had to make a few decisions. The move over there was a romantic move, we didn’t have to do much organising in order to get there, it was done for us, but coming back we were completely on our own, because we’d sacked David and we had to somehow get back. We had the return airfares already, that was not a problem –

What was the Australian angle?
I think we’d sort of almost abandoned the idea of going back (to LA). We had all our stuff fin storage over there in Los Angeles so we knew we had to go back at some stage, but Philip Mills who took over the management, suggested that we really should try and penetrate the Australian market and go in at a certain level, which is what we did. I can’t even remember if we had a record deal at the time. I think we were going to be signed direct to festival, because we were through Key, through Festival here in New Zealand.

I think the first gig we did was a JJJ concert I think, in Sydney. With all the hoo-hah. Chris Murphy was our agent.

That’s quite a coup to get Murphy
Yeah, I know. He was good, too. We parted company with him eventually. I think we just thought that Australia was quite essential at that stage. We had talked – Mother Goose came through Los Angeles and stayed with us, and Dragon did, and they all said ‘you should have a crack at Sydney’ – so it had been talked about. It was just a natural progression really. A couple of months here (Auckland) and off we went.

I’m sure you know the general attitude to Mother Goose in this country is they were a novelty band. I’m surprised they were recommending going to Australia.
What they did – they did the same sort of thing Split Enz did, big concerts, theatrical, very big crowds. Basically fundamentally the student crowd. And so they were playing in front of lots of people – they were based in Dunedin, whenever they came to Auckland they’d draw a huge crowd. So I think they thought they could do the same over there. I’m not quite sure what happened. They did end up signed to a little label in New York, came over to the states and I don’t think they even played – then of course they disappeared.

When you came to this country with Hello Sailor – was that ’79? You personally had never been here before?

Yes I had I’d been to Sydney in ’76. My brother was killed in a car crash and I had to go – I didn’t go to the funeral I went over later, he was involved in all sorts of stuff over there so I had to go and sort a few things out. That was in August ’76.

Not a very happy first experience of Australia
Not really, no. But it was my introduction to Sydney – I had seen it, it’s just like a big extension of Auckland – harbour city, bigger bridge.

What impact did the industry have on you? Any other memories of that time?
The industry was quite imposing, I’ve already mentioned the organisation of it – it was a healthy live scene and a touring scene but at that time we had very little involvement with the recording industry though. Through being friendly with Dragon we heard all their stories about recording and Peter Dawkins and this and that, but – it was interesting with the fact that – the whole thing was quite daunting but the fact that Australian music had so much support with radio, it was Cold Chisel and the Angels were happening then, the inimitable style of Aussie Rock was something which was all around us.  I think in a way we felt we may have to conform to that, too. It was a period of self-questioning I suppose for the band, whether we were up to it, there was definitely that slight negativity there, about where we could fit in to the scheme of things over there.

How would you discuss this as a band?
Just talking with Graham and Harry – especially Harry we’d talk about that sort of thing. With Philip, Philip was constantly giving us advice on songs and playing and stage presence, all these things that add up to a band’s total brand image. But no, we didn’t talk about it, it was one of those things that was just apparent and everyone knew and felt it. But we weren’t a band to sit down and consciously try and change things. That was difficult for us. It would have been impossible, actually. At the moment we’ve evolved into – we’ve got a pretty carefully selected repertoire, we play all the old hits, and we pepper it with a Springsteen song, we do the odd old things like ‘Lucille’, old rock and roll things, carefully selected stuff which works well. But being young we were still idealistic and we had that edge, which was almost antisocial with an element of pop and a few harmonies in there.

You had that Paul Hewson connection – I never met him but he had a kind of mentor role?
Paul played on our second album. At that stage he became a friend although I’d met him in Australia in ’76, because we all knew Dragon quite well before they left – well, Todd and Marc and one of their early drummers lived at St Marys Road too. The band rehearsed there as well. But we hadn’t met Paul then because he joined after they went to Australia. But over there I met Paul and then when he came back when we were recording the first album, he came – because his wife and kids came back they left him over there – I think at the end of ’77 when we recorded the second album he stayed with us, for about a week or two and played on a couple of tracks on the album one of which we kept, and obviously we got quite friendly, very close to Paul then. And of course that friendship ended up being the meat for Pink Flamingos, so he was kind of a mentor – Paul was very intelligent, very witty, very very articulate, he was good to hang around with – so… yeah… I guess he was a mentor.

I’m not going to hold you to that description. He seemed to serve that role for some people.
Well he was a self-destructive bastard – you take Paul at your risk. He was an eccentric. He was a true eccentric. He’d come on the road with us, he’d go and buy a new set of clothes and he wouldn’t take them off for about a week, sleep in them. And he had a little blue suitcase which had all his medications in it, that was it. When the clothes’d rot off him he’d go out and buy another silk jacket and shirt – yeah.

Was the end of your Australian experience in ’79 was that like the end of your American experience? ‘We’ll be back soon’?
We thought it was going to be like two or three months, it ended up being six months. Because it just took that much longer. Just gradually we got disillusioned with the whole thing, really. Just due to the difficulty, or the reality of what it took to break Australia. I mean we all wanted to just get comfortable and earn some money and live properly, all go out and get flats and just survive, in an industry that was much, much bigger than New Zealand’s, so this is what happens to bands – bands go over there from here, they’ve made it here, they’ve reached a certain level, they’re at the top, they go over and they have to start all over again, and they find it just doesn’t happen the same way.

You were staying at the Oceanic Hotel?
No, we were staying at the Coogee Bay Hotel. You know where Selina’s is? For six months. They really looked after us, we didn’t pay much there. We sort of had a whole floor. He had lots of other permanents living there as well, it was cool. Some old guy who used to sing along to Frank Sinatra records in his bedroom. Some old hobo – all hours of the day or night – that was the only musician there. Scarey ay! A glimpse into the future.

I’ve read about the Pink Flamingos in the Dix book, who are an interesting band in many ways. You come forward as a songwriter…
Dix is a friend of ours but I think a lot of stuff was a bit flippant in that book. Especially the Sailor… I think he was a bit sensationalist. I think some of the stories were slightly magnified. Didn’t he concentrate on the drug references and the debauchery? He sensationalises it a bit too much – we went (to the US) as a working band, we had been working – we were a successful rock band in a commercial sense, and also selling records to our chosen market, it was all good, but basically we’d always been a working band and that’s what we did for a job. That was our lives. So it was funny when people write stuff.

The way Dix portrays the Pink Flamingos is as a band which permutates in various ways from Cruise Lane and then you join… he fudges that.
OK, what happened was – when he says Cruise Lane I think he’s talking about Paul. That’s where Paul came from, which evolved into a band called Cinnamon House which was a little heavier, the Cruise Lane thing was a very sophisticated soul/r ‘n’ b band, with lots of different people passing through it, great musicians. Paul was from that kind of genre really. For Paul the Dragon thing was like a punk joining a pop-rock band, and that’s what destroyed him I think, he was disillusioned with that as well. Paul was a developing songwriter then – that’s where he was starting to write, and then he was snapped up by Marc and Todd, they were looking for someone because Robert Taylor had written a few songs but they wanted something with more melody, which was Paul to a T. Musically Paul and I only through that fact of being songwriters, although he ended up writing no songs – and then he wrote a couple of others which he played live, which were just tongue-in-cheek throwoffs really, one was called ‘I need a hit’, and the other called ‘Lovesick Blues’ which was a piano torch ballad, which was very clever, it was never recorded. So Paul and I talked about it in a letter, actually, and he said he wanted to come to New Zealand and we should start a band. This was just after Hello Sailor broke up, and I’d come home. We must have talked about it in Australia I guess but he was in Perth, and he came over and we moved into a house next door to where I’m living now, which my parents-in-law owned, and he joined – he needed to work so he bumped into Paul Woolright, who was playing in a nightclub called Jilly’s with the houseband there, which had a few ex-members of Cruise Lane I think in it, the band kept changing, Ricky was playing drums, there was Eddie Hansen from Ticket on guitar, Peter Woods, quite a well-known keyboard player-cum-percussionist in Auckland… so then Eddie  Hansen left so they asked me if I wanted to play guitar in the band so I said yeah, ok. And they said well we need a name, for the band. So I said what about Pink Flamingos after the John Water movie. They didn’t know anything about that, they just said ‘well ok’. Then Beaver left, her voice went she had vocal nodes, so she left for three months. So the band was just reduced down to a four piece with Paul on keyboards, me on guitar, Paul Woolright and Ricky Ball on drums. And then Ricky left. So we had to find another drummer. Ricky was starting up a clothing business so he couldn’t work nights. So we got John Laurie from Street Talk, who was originally in a band called Country Flyers from Wellington and but at the same time I was doing demos for a solo project for Polygram so they’d signed me as an artist already and they were going to do a solo album with these songs and they’d chosen three songs – a song Sailor had done called ‘Lonesome Old Star’, a song called ‘In my Chevrolet’, and another one called ‘Virginia’. And they said right well record ‘Virginia’ we’ll do that as a single so we did that, with Ian Morris, Lisle on bass, Ricky on drums – so it was basically a studio band for that single. So anyway one thing led to another the song was released and it became a hit so there I had this band – the club band and the solo thing on the other side, so we joined the two together and di the album after that, two weeks’ recording and that was released and did quite well, by New Zealand standards at the time. I think ‘Pink Flamingo’ was the first single off the album then ‘Infatuation’ – yeah it did about three singles off that one record which was quite good.

Did you have the Hello Sailor fanbase?
I guess a little bit I don’t know it’s hard to tell really. It was promoted as a new band, with me from Hello Sailor fronting it. With a totally different sound – more sort of a powerpop or ‘new wave’ poppy edge. Also the fact of having Paul in there was an asset too, one from Hello Sailor one from Dragon, in the same band together, that was a selling point. So that’s what happened, initially. We spent another month or two in the club and then had to get out, and start playing around the circuit and touring around the country.

We needed to get out and promote singles and stuff. By that time we had a manager.

It’s an obvious question but why wasn’t Paul Hewson bringing songs to the band?
I don’t know –

Did you hassle him for them?
Yeah. He was going through a depression I think, he was depressed, and of course he had the drug problem, he was using – with his back, this curvature of the spine was causing him a lot of pain, so he was on permanent medication, strong painkillers, and he was dabbling on the side. A lot of the time Paul was depressed about the fact that he couldn’t write, depressed naturally – his girlfriend came over, Jessica Kinney, from Perth, she worked at the club as a waitress, so he seemed quite happy, I wasn’t quite sure. There seemed to be all these pressures on Paul, and he wasn’t – that’s what I’d put his writing block down to – every writer goes through strong bursts of creativity, and then you’d dry up and you’d become a little bit despondent about it, some more than others, some of us who are less rational or a little bit sensitive think it’s the end of everything, so Paul was going through one of those phases. And I guess what exacerbated it was me writing furiously, coming up with all the material, and he had ‘I need a hit’ and another few songs but then I don’t think he had much confidence in his voice, I think that’s another thing too. With this band, it was probably a requirement that you sing your own songs. So he maybe was a little bit disorganised in that respect. That could have been the case. We didn’t think about it clearly, we didn’t talk or communicate about it much; but he wasn’t coming up with songs and I was.

Was he contributing in an arranging sense?
He was contributing not just in song arrangements but in musical arrangements too. He was coming up with nice little lines, like those piano lines, there’s one song called ‘Hungry Night’, I came up with the chords for the bridge and he came up with the piano melody across the top of it, so that was all good, we could work well together in that respect, including Paul Woolright too, so the band sort of arranged the songs, also Bruce Lynch who produced the first album was great as well, he helped us arrange the songs, tighten them up, and choose ones to develop and ones to throw out.

You were writing more than was necessary?
Yep, earlier on, anyway. Typical second album syndrome for me where I was struggling for something that was inspired – something which felt good or magical, those songs that were instantly formed – not complete but there is a lyrical idea which is quite clever or accessible and it has that energy which attracts rather than self-indulgence. The more you try the more it really comes out bland, so therefore the more you try to fix it and it can’t be fixed and it becomes a dog chasing its tail. But that was what happened to me in the second album. But we had a couple of songs there, so I started digging back through past demos that I’d done, in years previous, it’s difficult when you have to pick stuff you’d neglected way back then, it’s still really not your best work I guess, best work is hard to find, best to be spontaneous – we worked a lot, too we toured almost constantly, we were always coming back from a week up north and then hop on a plane fly to Dunedin – go to Wellington for something, come back for a couple of days off, do Hamilton, Rotorua, come back, it was just non-stop – with the disruption of your lifestyle and the drinking and late nights and stuff you do burn out, I suppose. And that’s what happened. So second album produced one single, ‘Is that the way’, though we had done an EP in between, Remember the Alamo, that was a single as well. So that kept us ticking along during that year.

The second album, which incidentally I really like – was that your Australian push?
Yeah. That was Polygram Australia.

And that was Peter Dawkins as producer; was that the Hewson connecton?
I don’t know, actually. It might have just been the kiwi connection. Paul didn’t like Peter Dawkins, they didn’t get on. But he ended up being the producer, Paul – I think at that stage, Paul left after a while.

According to Dix, he quit the band for a while and went back to Perth to get off heroin.
He wasn’t doing any heroin; it was all chemical opiates. He was all pharmaceutical opiate substitutes, which is worse, really. I’m not sure, maybe he did but I think Jessica went back and that whole relationship was unresolved between him and Billy, that sort of triangle thing they had going, I think that was affecting Paul, and he wasn’t happy in New Zealand, for whatever reason, the band hadn’t turned out the way he thought it might. Lots of reasons.

You were touring Australia with his replacement.
Yeah, Peter Allison.

What was Australia like the second time around for you?
It was much the same – I think we had more work – for me having Paul in the band, we were close mates and we loved each other’s playing, so it was kind of a bit of a letdown for me, it wasn’t the same band, not the same keyboard player, Peter was trying to play Paul’s parts but not with the same aggression and energy and panache, so that difficult, he was a nice guy. I think he ended up playing with the Chills.

It’d be hard to play someone else’s parts with panache.
Yeah, it’s a big call, stepping into someone’s boots.

Did you do things like Countdown?
Yeah – Sailor did Countdown – I think we did Countdown with Pink Flamingos, I’m not sure. Maybe we didn’t.

Just an aside – the one single off the second album – there’s that French monologue
That’s – I don’t know it’s part of the song, it’s the message from the girl, her own thoughts, god knows why I did it in French – I know why, it’s a paraphrase of something out of Nietzsche, ‘it’s not that you love me, your love is of love itself’, or ‘the idea’. I think on the album cover it’s actually in English.

I saw the video and I thought it was great that there’s no attempt to get the girl who plays ‘the girl’ to mime – I suppose she’s thinking it.
She’s not actually in the video, she’s French, she was Trevor Reekie’s wife, she was French. But that girl was just an actress. Here we go, I’ve got a copy of that album here. Oh yeah, ‘David you are so stupid, it’s not that you lied to me that has distressed me but that I no longer believe you. Ulitmately one loves one’s desires and not that which is desired.’ Yeah, that’s Nietzsche, that last part, that’s just a rip off! Roxanne Reekie. So she just translated that.

What was it like working with Dawkins?
Oh, it was good. He was easy to work with for me. He was straight up, friendly, direct.

Did he arrange things much?
No, he didn’t, he was only interested in making a nice little tight AM radio pop sound, that was his thing. He’s quite good with vocals. Yeah, I thought he was quite professional. Funny guy.

When you say Hewson didn’t get on with him…
Oh, I don’t know things that went way back to the Dragon days. Marc and Paul were pretty hard on some people, they’d take the piss all the time, and they wouldn’t co-operate, and also there’s that incident in the states where Dawkins told one of the CBS executives that he wasn’t sure it was a good idea to promote Dragon at that stage in the states because they were drug addicts. And this came back to the band – it really upset Todd and Robert who were completely clean living, really, expecially Todd, Robert just had a few beers. Basically it was Marc and Paul. And Kerry to an extent. Yeah, so that was one of the causes of that breach or wall between Hewson and Dawkins, so Paul wasn’t – he’d turn up to a session and do his bit and then leave, so there was a bit of tension there, it wasn’t that bad. One of those things.

You have references to the Stones on those records, too, which I thought was interesting. Just a fan?
Yeah. Very much so, yeah, always been a fan of the stones. Right from the early days. There was the Beatles and then the Stones came along and everyone switched immediately. Beatles were great but Stones were – how old was I? 13? 12 or 13 when I first heard the Stones. But particularly in that era, the 70s with Black and Blue, you know those albums – the transition, that great period from Let it Bleed to Sticky Fingers to Black and Blue, we loved that period, and as a band we were heavily influenced by that loose guitar thing, between Keith and Mick Taylor. And more between Ron Wood and Keith that was Harry’s and my style anyway. So I guess we borrowed a bit form those angular type riffs that Keith would come up with and make foundations for songs – we were influenced musically, and lyrically as well. And the image. The whole package.

You’re travelling in Australia in 1983 with the Pink Flamingos?
That would be ’81, ’82. We broke up in June-July ’82. We did one more show in Auckland, and that was it, that was advertised as the break-up show, and then I went to Europe after that.

For a holiday?
Yeah, my girlfriend was over there studying, near London, so we went over and took off for the summer, bought a car and drove to Rome and back. Took about three months. It was great. Came back just before Christmas and Graham had his band, The Legionnaires, I think the day I got back he asked if I wanted to join playing guitar, and that was me for a year.

And the reformed Hello Sailor from ’85, and a sort of solo career of sorts alongside that.
I got into production, so I did the Narcs in ’84, I did their album, they had a number one, won an award at the music awards and I got producer of the year for it, for that one single. And then the album did quite well too, and that put me on the map as a producer, I started doing the odd thing but never – I worked with the Mockers and a few other people who were fly-by-nighters, record companies came up with and that was about it really then moved into film music, so I did a couple of big movies, Queen City Rockers and one which was serialised on tv called the Shadow Trader, which did the rounds in Europe. A couple of documentaries, and then by that stage moved to Germany, Donna had moved to Germany, we had a son by then he was about three, I went over there spent about six months over there, then came back and joined Shona Laing’s band in ’88 we toured the states with that, then went back to uni for a couple of years then went to London, we moved to Germany after that. So I was losing touch with New Zealand by that stage. Yeah, just a variety of things.

We reformed the Pink Flamingos in London, with different players Paul and myself and Brett Adams on guitar from the Mockers, and Steve, the drummer from the Narcs on drums. But all we got to do really was do the New Zealand Aussie Kiwi shows, and we did a few clubs and a few Sunday afternoons and allt hose barbecues, those big messy barbecues they have there, the down under things, we did all that for a year and then we thought bugger this.

And there was a third Pink Flamingos album.
That was early 84, that was a different deal – we called the band the Pink Flamingos however it was basically a studio band, all different players except Paul Woolright, and Hewson didn’t want to be involved, he was in Australia, but he was due back, and we were going to do a reunion thing, and he died January 11th – exactly the same time and same day as Edmund Hilary, at 9 am on the morning of January 11th. He died in a car outside Neil Edwards’ place out in West Auckland there. OD’d.

But anyway, that was The Catch – that was like a joint venture with the studio, it was licensed to CBS, all that stuff basically I own, I’ve got the ownership back to the copyrights and the sound recordings, so that’s good. And I’ve put it all out as a compilation, 18 tracks in ’95 through Universal.

Is it going to be reissued again?
I’m just about to start working on that now. It was a catalogue item, a P&D deal, where they did the manufacture and the artwork and stuff and I just paid them back – and now it’s on demand but I’ve noticed there’s nothing available so I’ll have to get them to manufacture more which is bloody hard these days, for a major to give you product, you know. I think it’s available on iTunes, a couple of years ago all the companies got verbal agreements from all the artists to digitise their music and make it available on the internet. Legally. It is on iTunes I guess. I haven’t checked. You don’t want to. It’s frightening.

People still buy CDs you know. I’ll try and make that available. We’ve had a lot of success here recently with ‘Gutter Black’ being on Outrageous Fortune, so that’s kind of lifted the band’s profile, we’ve got a bit of work out of it, a lot of interest from the younger generation too.

How did that happen?
I think it was just suggested by someone who was working in the office. For a feature song for this new series. The first thing – I didn’t find out till I heard the program advertised. We did go back and renegotiate the deal and got retrospective payment for it. Because it was a 50-50 deal signed in 1975. so we sorted that out.

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