I wrote this 5,000+ word document in January 2021 for posterity only, and for maybe a couple of drummer friends to read. But there is some info and experience related here that may interest a few other people, so here it is.
Born in August, 1963, I began playing drums in bands in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1980. Since then I've had only about five years of not being in a band, so that's around 35 years of playing live music. I'm not from a musical family and I play no other instrument than the drums. (I'm 57 now and can't be bothered doing anything about it; there's too much else to do.) During this time I've not achieved any degree of musical fame, nor have I played with anyone famous or even with anyone who has gone on to be famous (though well respected and highly regarded - yes, in many cases). Also, there are far better drummers around town, drummers with serious talent and commitment who have at some point made the life decision to ‘step into the ring’ and dedicate themselves to drumming. This is a step I long ago decided to not take, for the reasons given here.
The other day, while searching for something else in my cluttered man-cave/drum & band practice room, I came across a folder of notes from when I first had drum lessons when I was 11 or 12 years old, so from about 1974-5. I hadn’t seen it for decades and hoped I hadn't long-ago thrown it out. I’d already begun writing this post so the notes didn’t inspire it, but finding them now was a nice coincidence.
There's a colour slide photo of me as a toddler, taken by my dad, sitting on the lawn in the sunshine with a yellow and blue tin drum. I appear to be having a pretty good time bashing on it.
At Khandallah primary school in the late 60s to early 70s there was a school band, of sorts. It comprised a few older girls playing recorders and three older boys playing drums - a bass drum, a tenor, and a snare drum. Occasionally at lunchtime they appeared on the balcony of the school hall that overlooked the lower playground and they played this one simple march. Easily impressed, we all gathered around below to watch and listen. The sound of the drums naturally overwhelmed the recorders, and we would chant, “The boys are bet-ter. The boys are bet-ter." All this must have been discouraging for the girls. The drums were kept locked away in the hall somewhere. I longed to play them, or even just see them close up. When the Hall and half the rest of the school burned down in a massive fire in December, 1972, it spelled the end of the band. I remember watching from our dining room window as the towering flames destroyed my Standard 2 classroom, the Hall and the drums with it.
My favourite of the school drum trio was the snare drum, as it cut through everything and carried the main rhythmic riff of the march. To emulate its sound, I found that a handful of three-inch jolt-head nails laid on the bottom of a biscuit tin worked well enough. I taught myself to play the basic march rhythm using some sticks from the firewood. My brother, who was ten years older and at college, sometimes used to play along with me on a cardboard box or a breadboard. This was encouraging. I was given a pair of real drumsticks as a present. They were Premier brand, made of lancewood. The sticks were treasured items and kept for years (at least until I began drum lessons and was told to get some full-size drumsticks to strengthen my hands).
My mother used to take me into Wellington when there were processions of marching bands – a common event back in the 1960s and early 70s. The wide streets would be closed to traffic and numerous brass bands and Highland pipe bands would march by. Despite Scottish ancestry on my mother’s side, I didn't have a preference; neither the shining horns nor the bagpipes won me over. It was all about the drums, and all of it was thrilling. The bands were about the loudest thing I'd ever hear back then, with the bass drum being felt in my small chest.
Next, in the mid 70s, came a real drum. It was an Aria snare drum on a stand, and it had a pressed-sheet brass cymbal mounted on a side bracket. I remember coming into the sitting room on the morning of my 11th (?) birthday to see it standing there, shining chrome contrasting with its dark red finish. I thought it was fantastic.
My drum teacher, Norman Gadd, lived just up the road in Johnsonville, played percussion in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and had a cool music studio in a large separate room built behind his house. In it was a marimba, a vibraphone, a dark green six-piece drum kit (all Premier brand, made in England), a piano, and the end wall was festooned with various percussion instruments. I guess most kids in the area who learned to play drums were his pupils at some stage, either at his house or at nearby Onslow College where he taught after school.
In that room I learned to read drum music and play the rudiments on a Remo practice pad. Behind Mr Gadd was his drum kit, which I looked longingly at lesson after lesson but never got to play on. As things progressed, a ride cymbal was added and I'd play along while he played marimba or vibes. He was great at it and seemed to enjoy playing. (This was my first exposure to jazz, I just realised.) Strangely, I never once heard him play his drum set. I guess that was just his modest way, not wanting to show off to his students.
I continued private lessons with Mr Gadd for longer than I probably needed to (until 1977), but I didn’t know how to stop as the Monday-evening lessons were part of my life. He also ran a percussion group at Onslow College that I played with until about 1979. He was good-natured without being a smiley-type of person, and he always stuck me as being fundamentally a happy person. I guess this was mainly because he spent his life doing something he loved doing. Aside from drumming, this was the main thing I learned from him: do what you want to do in life and you will have a good chance at happiness. I have done that and so far, luckily, it has panned out. This may sound a bit complacent and simplistic but I believe it is basically true. It’s way better than slogging it out in a job you detest with the hope of one day doing what you really want to. That day may never come.
My first band was with some Onslow College friends, the only three I knew in my year who played rock band instruments. We all had quite different musical tastes: Stones, Dylan, Zeppelin, Clash, in a nutshell, which later caused inevitable problems but initially we were all delighted to be in a band and playing music together. We (David Churcher, Laurence Tyler, Richard Watts and me) called ourselves The Vultures (which incidentally was the name of Joe Strummer's first band). We practiced for several years, played one gig at a party for school friends, and split up. (With Mr Gadd’s notes I found a copy of the invitation to that party. It was pretentiously worded, which was one of the many things we argued over.) The Vultures used to practise at our house, and I remember our first practice in my bedroom in about 1975, when we could only just play Wipeout, Get Back and Jumping Jack Flash – seeing my brother Peter look in through the door and smile, acknowledging those times of a decade earlier.
After the Vultures, Richard and I formed a punk band* with Jenny Whyte, and Nigel Elder (a year ahead of us at Onslow – we didn’t know him then) joined not long after. We played at venues downtown from a young age. (At the start, Richard and Jenny were 16, I had just turned 17, Nigel was 18 and had left school.) When Jenny left we became the Neoteric Tribesmen, and the period of these two bands lasted from 1980 to about ’83, a time when the Wellington live music scene was pretty exciting and somewhat dangerous.
Condemned Sector: http://www.upthepunks.co.nz/wiki/index.php?title=Condemned_Sector,
Neoteric Tribesmen: http://www.upthepunks.co.nz/wiki/index.php?title=Neoteric_Tribesmen
The main thing I learned during this period was a major ethic of punk, which could be put as: If you have something to say, just say it. If you want to do something, just get on with it. Don't think you're not good enough yet and don't let older people and those in authority intimidate you. You don't even need their permission. This was at the front of my mind when starting up Photospace Gallery in 1998. http://www.photospacegallery.com/
*Like everything else, punk came a little late to New Zealand. There was an embryonic punk scene from about 1978, mainly in Auckland, but by the time we came to it, technically it was the post-punk era. The term New Wave was in common use but we didn't regard ourselves as part of that.
It might seem a bit of a leap from post-punk to jazz. Actually, it was, despite something of a buffer period with the Ressurrectionists, a band that evolved out of the Tribesmen, adding Mike Musgrove on lead vocals and later included a brass section (as everyone was doing in the mid-80s), of Steve Roche and Peter O’Brien. Tragically, in 2009 Pete went missing permanently in Boise, Idaho. https://charleyproject.org/case/peter-denis-obrien
First band practice was just listening to jazz records, a style of music I'd never heard much of before. It was a memorable afternoon, with Steve, Pete and Nigel, and new double bass player, Paul Henderson. There were jazz records on the turntable and spread out on lounge floor of a sunny Kelburn flat. Before we got any good at playing jazz we somehow managed to land a residency at the upstairs bar of Clare's nightclub in Garrett St, just off Cuba St. We got better but would never quite set the world on fire. One advantage of having this late gig - officially 12.30am to 2.30am, was that other musicians would sometimes drop in after their gigs for a jam. There was not usually a drummer among them so I got to jam with some of the better players around town.
Drum solos: never done ‘em. Except this once, at Clare’s. I’d had a shitty day and was a bit wound up over a girl I fancied at Uni and so I let it all flow out in a drum solo. During it, our bass player Paul escaped to the bar. He told me later that Bruno Lawrence was also at the bar and said to him that he really enjoyed my solo. I didn’t meet or even see Bruno, and had I known he was there I never would’ve played the solo as I would’ve been too self-conscious. (In the 1960 and 70s, Bruno was one of NZ’s leading jazz and rock drummers.) This was as near as I got to anyone famous, except one night when we were playing at the same venue, the band Kiss were there for a drink (out of their makeup). I didn’t meet them either. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruno_Lawrence
Oh yeah, there was the night back in August 1981 when The Cure held an impromptu jam in our (Neoteric Tribesmen's) band practice room in the basement of Clyde Quay School, Mt Victoria. I was at the before-party at Dave MacLennan’s Oriental Bay flat but wasn’t a participant in the legendary jam. http://www.upthepunks.co.nz/wiki/index.php?title=The_Cure
By the time the jazz band became a trio (with Barbara Griffin and Paul Henderson) and we were playing several nights a week (mainly in the back bar at the Barrett's, on Willis St), word got out that I was considering "going pro" as a drummer. I don't recall declaring this, but Wellington's most respected drummer, the late Roger Sellers, turned up at our gig to watch us and he invited me to meet for coffee the next day. His advice was basically ‘don't give up your day job’. He was right on the button, of course; but I was effectively operating as a professional musician anyway, playing several nights a week and teaching drums as well up to 1987, when I had a career change to photography. From then on, drumming has thankfully remained an amateur pursuit for me. (Although I was in a covers band from the late 80s to the late 90s, playing at least a dozen paid gigs a year, which was nice extra income.)
Between about 1980 and 1990 I had maybe a dozen drum students. I showed them essentially what Mr Gadd taught me, with a few modifications, and also applied it to the drum set. I have never personally had any lessons on the drum set as such, only snare drum and cymbal. These days I wouldn’t dream of taking on students, as my drumming style has fallen so out of touch with what most drummers are doing, both style- and technology-wise (I don’t use any tech at all). Also, as a professional photographer who partially relies on income for running courses and workshops, it annoys me when amateur photographers who’ve been around five minutes and know squat try to cut in on this territory, so I wouldn’t want to do the same to the professional drummers in my hood.
In the late '80s through early '90s I played in a band that never rose above local semi-obscurity because of existing during a difficult period for live music, and the band's original repertoire was eclectic and diverse and impossible to pigeonhole. We made two cassette albums that sold dozens of copies. This band evolved into the covers band mentioned above. This four- or five-piece covers band, which included a variety of musicians in its life, was the nearest I got to touring. We had plenty of out-of-town gigs and some mini-tours up the North Island. I never sleep well on those jaunts and always seemed to get to room-share with the band snorer, but I had fun, adventures, and learned a lot about playing by working with better musicians than myself in a wide variety of styles, as required at weddings, corporate events and such. I learned more about professionalism; not necessarily being the best band around, but certainly one of the most consistent and reliable.
This far in, you'd have expected some wild anecdotes about band life. Well, I don't have many. None of the bands I've been in fit the common perception of rock 'n' roll life - on the road, behind the scenes, etc. Here's just one token story; we're playing a corporate gig in Wellington for a large accountancy firm. They're a pretty lively crowd, maybe deliberately going against stereotype. This is confirmed during our last set of the night. There are Christmas trees around the place and behind one of them, near the stage, there's a couple having full-on sex on a chair while we're playing and people are dancing nearby. Speaking of sex; after a gig in Ohakune, our guitarist John returns to our cabin quite and describes a scene on the town's main street - a couple having full sex on the bonnet of a car with a crowd of locals and tourists surrounding them and egging them on. The next morning at the hotel, a waiter serves us all breakfast. As he leaves our table, John says, "That was him! The guy on the car." Nearly put me off my bacon & eggs.
There, two. No band members implicated. Enough.
We delivered what music the clients wanted and only fully rocked out when the audience was down to a bunch of drunk people who were really enjoying themselves at end of the night. (The accountants shone at this.) I also learned about musical versatility* – playing everything from waltzes to hard rock – and stamina, as we often played gigs over four hours long, excluding breaks. As with other instruments, you have to maintain an appropriate level of fitness to play drums. They’re a more physical instrument than most, as well as needing six or seven trips to and from the car at both ends of a gig. There are times I wish I’d learned sax or trumpet instead.
*Versatility: I've played a lot of genres, even old-timey dance hall swing, but some musical styles I just cannot play convincingly (reggae, any type of metal, authentic blues), or won't play out of sheer animosity (folk, basically).
In early 1999 my photography business began taking over my Saturdays and spare time, so I quit the covers band. There followed a period of four or so years of not being in a band. Some business coaching helped me get things under control and, then by chance I ran into Laurence Tyler from the Vultures days. He mentioned he was looking for a drummer for his country band. Country!? OK, thinking of the jazz experience, I decided to try out.
It went well, and Grasslands (Laurence, Grant Guillosson (who played with Laurence in The Jonahs), Bernard Blackburn, Hikitia Ropata, Rod Prowse, Steve Hinderwell) opened up another world of music I knew little about. Like jazz (but sharing little common ground except maybe the backbeat), it proved rewarding and enriching. After maybe seven years of playing with Grasslands, and approaching the big five-oh, I began to wonder how many more years of drumming I had left in me. I felt like making the most of what remained by returning to original music that was more complex rhythmically and would allow me to really hit the drums the way I wanted. So I turned down an offer from another country band, and in 2013 Bernard and Grant (both from Grasslands), Stu Brown (from Short) and I formed Kosmo-0 (pronounced kosmo-nought), which still exists. Our first gig was as support for a reunion Condemned Sector/Neoteric Tribesmen gig, with Richard Watts visiting over Christmas-New Year from Oxford, UK, Nigel Elder on guitar and vocals, and original 1980 band member Jenny Whyte coming in to once again nail the bass. It was all good and I’m glad we did it. https://www.kosmo-0.org.nz/
There was jazz and there was punk, and then there was jazz-punk! Between Grasslands and Kosmo-0 came the Hipper Critters (2010-2013). https://photospacenz.weebly.com/hipper-critters.html
Bruce Mahalski was more of a poet than a traditional singer, John Costa played a mean Warr guitar (a kind of Chapman Stick – bass and guitar on one extra-wide fretboard, played by tapping), both were comedians, and with Katie Morton’s keys and Michael Hall’s sax we had a truly unique band that could play at an acoustic level in a gallery (I’d play with brushes) or at a rock band level in a regular venue. Photo linked below: Michael was a year behind me at Onslow College and appears on the right in this photo, with Caroline Forsythe (bleached hair), Hans McCaskill (centre, wearing blue jacket), and Lars ___ (in blue, at back), taken in our Clyde Quay School basement practice room. (the AV logo on the door was for the Ambitious Vegetables, who originally had the room before splitting into the Mockers and The Red.)
What did I learn from playing in the Hipper Critters? I have no idea yet. I’m still processing the experience. Maybe how to play drums while wearing a sheep-head mask.
Somewhere in there was free jazz, which came out of a bunch of avant garde musical events that ran at Photospace Gallery in the early-mid 2000s and which inevitably I got drawn into. One night I was invited to fill in for an absent drummer. This was a Monday night at Happy (cnr Tory & Vivian Sts, the basement of the former Cricketers'). It was shit-scary going onstage not knowing in the slightest was what I'd be playing. Up to that moment, all the music I'd played live was highly structured, even the jazz, meaning I knew in advance how many bars of this beat and how many of that, how to transition between them, and when to start and stop. But this spontaneous musical style was another new experience, one which I quickly developed a taste for. The core of it was artists Rick Jensen (who exhibited at Photospace), Sam Stephens, Dick Whyte, Robyn Keneally and Dave Black, and my involvement was with Rick and Sam in the Rick Jensen Trio and later with Sam and Dick in the Vicious Circles. I learned about and about being in the moment, keeping my ears fully open and playing what I felt in response. The audience was mainly like-minded musicians and, to be honest, for anyone else the music would likely appear a lot more fun to play than to listen to.
So now I’m in a band with Nigel Elder again, called Condenser (the name coming from my phone auto-correcting Condemned Sector during a text). We’re both in our late 50s and our bassist Taylar Mallo recently turned 22. (Recruiting him on Facebook chat: “I hope you realise we’re quite old.” “That’s OK, I might learn something.”) We’re playing some of our own old punk songs, but mostly covers from the late 70s, playing all of them faster than we used to but with somewhat less anger (at last from me and Nigel). There seems to be a kind of circularity to all this.
The other thing that seems kind of circular, and is the actual point of this post, is the changing way I’ve engaged with drumming over my lifetime so far.
I have to go back to what’s written on the front page of the thermal photocopies of Norman Gadd’s teaching notes:
The ten commandments of music practice; they clearly come out of wisdom and are good guidelines for any serious musician. However I didn’t take them fully on board at the time and I disregard almost all of them now, except no.10 which I enjoy doing the precise opposite of. It helps me relax, and it probably helped a bit with the free jazz.
Another thing I have seldom done is learn to play a song by playing along to recordings. At some time early on I heard or read or was told to not play along to records because it teaches you to follow and drummers are supposed to lead. Obviously opinion is divided on the matter, with me taking Captain Rum's stance*. I think now it was probably not good advice but I took it at the time because it made sense to me. Maybe this has been detrimental to my playing – I don’t know – but I probably chose that path because it suited my personality. I’ve never been a follower. If everyone else is doing a thing I’ve often done the opposite, but not to be contrary for the sake of it, or becoming a complete eccentric (some may disagree). While this early decision has led to me missing out on some things, it has significantly shaped the way I play and interact musically. I will probably never be capable of playing a drum cover good enough to post on YouTube.
*To quote Captain Rum from Blackadder series II - The Potato, "Opinion is divided on the subject. All the other captains say it is [common practice to have a crew on a ship], I say it isn't." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIXQFaEsvlQ
Since Covid-19, several things have changed.
With Condenser, I have played along with some songs on records (mostly vinyl ones, bought using all of my available money when they first come out) to learn them, and sometimes I copy the drum track note for note as if playing a drum cover. It’s taken me this long to realise that a lot of drum parts are very well thought out, not just by the original drummer but by the record producer and maybe the songwriters. The Stranglers’ Nice and Sleazy is an example, so I play it as close as I can to the original recording. (The drums are quite exposed and anything else I could come up with would do the song a disservice.) Other songs, like The Jam’s In the City, I strive to play exactly as Rick Buckler did but I’m not yet up to it.
But the main change lately is that I’ve become interested in drums and drumming once again. Years ago, when I began to listen to Radiohead and other complex, progressive music, I paid little attention to what the drummer played and far more attention to the whole sound of the band and the structure and effect of each song in the context of the whole album. This is all fine, as I learned a lot about appreciating music, but what went along with it, for me personally, is something of a loss of interest in and enthusiasm for paying the drums. When I played, I just wasn’t stretching myself, I was playing comfortably within my current level of ability. I never strove to improve my playing. Recently, mercifully, this feeling has passed.
I'm thinking probably there is a matter of ego and pride here. With Radiohead, Mogwai and some other bands I like, I'm not that intimidated by the drumming. I don't mean it's not really good – it's great – but I flatter myself that I could fit into those or similar musical situations and at least make a fist of it. With, say, Tool – well forget it. (I wish some other drummers would forget it too, but that's another kind of personal hang up I have to sort.)
I think the main reason for my return of enthusiasm for drums and drumming is the influence of my friend Dave Sanderson. Like me, Dave learned drumming young (from his dad) but he left it for a long period and has recently got back into it with commitment and (I don’t like using this word but it seems the best fit) passion. Also, we are both engaged with trying to make up lost ground.
Even from distant Auckland, Dave also managed to infect me with a mild case of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome - well, I'm blaming him). Unlike Covid-19 this has been mostly a positive thing, if a little hard on the wallet. It began with a few vintage Avedis Zildjian cymbal purchases via TradeMe and has grown to acquiring a vintage Premier drum set (which should arrive soon from down south). Somewhere in there was the almost-accidental TradeMe purchase of a carbon-fibre shell snare drum, unique and custom-built by Dave’s friend Dave Morello, a ‘proper drummer’ and a larger-than-life presence in the NZ drum scene. It's a privilege to own and play this unique instrument, though I haven't got into snare drum collecting to the almost fetish-level of the Daves.
As a kid, I wanted to know everything about drums, and drumming. This meant poring over brochures and other material acquired free from music shops, later subscribing to Modern Drummer magazine from America, and finding out everything I could (without the benefit of the internet, of course). I was very keen on cymbals and the mystique of their production, individual uniqueness and wide variety of sound palette, especially Zildjian and Paiste, which were the only major cymbal brands back in the 1970s (to the point where everything else available in that era was a bit rubbish by comparison; this is not at all the case today). I still consider myself more of a cymbalist than a drummer, and I confess to something of a fetish for older Avedis Zildjian and vintage Paiste Formula 602 cymbals. I haven't got into the contemporary makers' ranges for a good reason; they look and sound fantastic but I see a huge money pit looming there. Non-drummers can seldom appreciate the qualities of good cymbals. They're a bit like fine Scotch whiskies; I have the palette for those too, but alas not the size of wallet.
In the 70s and 80s I attended some drum clinics. The first was c.1974 by Roy Burns, who represented Rogers drums. This was held in a venue at which I would later attend my first punk gig – the Rock Theatre, a.k.a Billy the Club. (Now demolished, it was behind Trades Hall in Vivian St.) My mum arrived to pick me up at the end of the clinic and came in while Burns was playing his final solo. She was so impressed by the experience that it led to me getting my first drum set, an old Premier kit from my drum teacher. (Shown in the photo above, it was a mix with his own kit. He kept the 16"x16" and 16"x18" floor-mount tom toms and I got the floor tom from his new set, which is why it doesn't match. Wish I still owned these drums.)
Note the Editor’s comment at the end of this article on Roy Burns: https://www.notsomoderndrummer.com/not-so-modern-drummer/2018/5/7/famed-drummer-roy-burns-passes
I’d not heard of Roy Burns before he visited Wellington, but I’d read about Carmine Appice in Modern Drummer so when he gave a clinic in Capital Music Ltd, a small music shop in Courtenay Place (in 1977 he toured NZ with Rod Stewart), I was there in spades. It was a narrow shop and everyone was standing, crowded around Appice and his drums down the front. My third and most recent drum clinic experience was provided by the brilliant Simon Phillips in 1988. (Symmetry, balance, poise.)
It was the mid-late 1980s when I gradually realised I didn’t have what it takes to be a full time professional drummer, even if I’d had the ambition to be one, which I didn’t. Fortunately at that time photography kinda dropped out of the sky and into my lap. I’d never really taken a photo before 1986, but a pathway opened up and photography soon became my full time profession. Thing is, while I’m supposedly passionate about photography (it’s actually true), I often feel that I could stop taking photos tomorrow and not be too bothered about it (except for being out of a job, of course). But music is a different story. As long as my hearing holds up, I want to stick with music. A tutor on my photography degree course, Paul Davidson, was fond of saying, "Your eyes feed into your intellect but your ears are connected directly to your soul."
Back to the present
During he Covid-19 lockdown, March-April 2020 in New Zealand, I began watching YouTube videos on drumming. Yeah, way late to the party.
I learned that everything has changed.
For starters, the rudiments I spent years learning; well, everyone plays them differently now. I won’t get technical here but what I learned in the 1970s was more the classical percussionist’s style. Also, the way I hold the sticks (also learned then) was holding me back and needed attention. In short. my playing technique needed a rethink, a reboot. I dusted off the practice pad, found an old photographic tripod to set it up on, and began the work. I’m still at it. (It’s helping with playing the Condenser set, which is mainly fast tempo and demanding of my current technical ability, so there’s some urgency.)
Here's the message I sent Dave Sanderson just before Christmas, which started me off on this piece of writing and sums my current situation up well enough:
“In many respects I feel like a complete beginner at drumming – a feeling that I enjoy. It's because – maybe – I used to care a lot about all that stuff, subscribed to Modern Drummer mag in the 70s and early 80s, and when I was a kid I lapped up anything I could get my hands on – free brochures etc. Then I lost interest in drums, as such, and was solely interested in the music. In the meantime, there have been many developments. People seem to play quite differently now and I feel kinda old school, a bit of a relic. But in a good way. I'm also enjoying doing something as a total amateur, with no expectations from clients and all that stuff that photography has become for me.”
Dang, not sure now why I need the other 5,000 and something words.
That’s me: an amateur (in the sense of someone who does a thing for enjoyment and without much remuneration, but not necessarily in a bumbling, inferior way), still stuck aesthetically and technically somewhere back in the 1970s. I'm trying to get out, but part of me says it’s not such a bad era to be stuck in, musically at least. Things could be worse...
Recently on YouTube, I saw a video of one-armed drummer Jack Thomas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tTgU7CYfgk
Closer to home and back in March 2019 I attended a gig in Wellington by Wazzo Ghoti (pronounced Fish). In 1987 their original drummer Bill Morris was the victim of a serious assault which left him crippled. He had been physically incapable of playing drums since the attack, but he made his first drumming appearance at this gig and played at least half the Wazzo set, mostly using the right side of his body, his left side being still almost useless. Watching his performance was moving and unforgettable. These are but just two examples that remind us of all that we have to be thankful for, that we are here today and are able to do what we do.
Wazzo Ghoti/Bill Morris story in Cook Strait News, 14 March 2019: https://issuu.com/wsn11/docs/14marcookstraitnews/4?fbclid=IwAR3i3WLR4e6EeX-EpXXwWsopGAZNi0cW-11Cyi6z_gk37O5i4JnFR_hqYk4
In my case, I really have no excuses. So far, my life has been a very easy ride. Nothing much bad has happened to me, the worst days of my life being those when my parents died (Mum in 1999, aged 78, Dad in 2004, aged 87). Of course I don’t know what lies ahead but I have been exceptionally lucky so far, and while not in a high income bracket (or even in a medium one, actually), I have luckily maintained my health, have a nice place to live, and have always been able to do pretty much what I choose to, at a modest level at least. I feel very fortunate to be in a solid married relationship, productively self-employed, and be able to continue to pursue my interests in the arts and spend time with my wife, friends and family.
If I ever become a bitter old man, just shoot me. I won’t claim to have done many things as well as I potentially could have, drumming included, because - talent or lack of it aside - I’ve never fully taken the leap of faith and made the sacrifices needed to do so. For instance, while it would’ve been really cool to have been in a properly successful band, I have never been prepared to do what it takes to be in one so it would be wrong to regret it didn’t happen.
I’ve had more than forty years of enjoyment out of playing drums and I don’t regret a single minute of it. It has been a gift given in various degrees by the people named here and some others I haven't named, and I am eternally grateful to all of you for all of it.
Oh, and apologies to all my neighbours past and present for the decades of noise from my drumming, band practices and loud stereo playing, all of which will hopefully continue unabated.
- James Gilberd, Wellington, New Zealand, January 2021
A by-product of the cordonning of buildings and things in the Wellington CBD after last Monday morning's severe earthquake - a critique of a public artwork achieved in less than one word. My feelings precisely.
I attended an event at Te Papa this morning - 'A Bold New Direction' - in which Charlotte Davy, Te Papa's Head of Art, announced plans for a new art gallery space to be created within the Cable St building, replacing the gallery space currently available and much enlarging it. There was a good turnout of arts-type people at this 8.30am function, many from out of Wellington and probably here for the Cindy Sherman exhibition opening, starting about now. (Denise and I are headed over there in a minute, so this will be brief.)
The news media was conspicuous by its absence this morning. No journo from the Dominion Post (as far as I could see, and there's no mention on Stuff), no TV camera crew. But isn't this news? Oh, no. I forgot - it's the arts. Maybe they could've arranged for a couple of second-string Warriors or non-selected All Blacks to be present, then it'd get coverage.
Earlier this week there was several minutes TV news coverage of an event at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. My jaw hit the floor in surprise, and stayed there. Maybe that was enough arts for one week.
So, how about one day a week, instead of 20 to 25 minutes of sports news, the time could be spent covering arts-related events. Wednesdays would be good, I mean, WTF happens in sports on a Wednesday that couldn't wait till Thursday?
Just putting the idea out there. What about it.
(Please pardon the crappy phone photos. I wasn't there in my capacity as a photographer.)
Walked along the Wellington waterfront this morning. It was still, calm, misty, warm and somewhat womb-like. You could see several metres down into the water.
Swimming slowly near the wharf was the largest jellyfish I've ever seen. Its orange crown was 25-30cm across and below that was a dense mass. In the water around it were what to my untrained eye appeared to be hundreds of its spawn. They were almost transparent but with a small opaque centres. They were elongated, a few cm long, and some were joined in trains of 10 or so and swimming with a snake-like motion. There was a trail of them close in for some distance along the waterfront.
It was all rather beautiful and entrancing. Alas my attempt at photography with my phone was unproductive. Here's a couple of seconds of video.
I wrote this as something of a respite from last night's US election result, but now I am struck by the thought of this jellyfish being approximately the same colour and size as Donald Trump's head. Dammit!
NZ used to have the same problem with the old 'First past the post' electoral system, which was unfair because a minority of voters living in marginal electorates (read Swing States) would determine who would govern. Meanwhile, safe seats would be won by majorities of 10,000 or more, which meant your vote didn't much matter if you lived in a safe seat.
Our proportional representation system is not perfect but it can be tweaked to iron out most of its wrinkles. It is inherently fair because each person's party vote counts equally regardless of where they live.
The USA needs to move (with the rest of the civilised world) to a proportional representation voting system. However the probability of this is close to zero, for the same sort of reason they've failed to adopt the metric system - innate conservatism mixed with pig-headedness. There are just too many forces preventing change for the better in the US, as President Obama found out.
Today may turn out to one of those days when you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.
For posterity, here's my Facebook post from 21st January, 2016:
"We can mock Donald Trump and his supporters, like Sarah Palin, all we like, but for all that it's starting to look dangerously like he could actually become President of the USA and thus the most powerful person in the world.
What kind of world will we be heading for if that prospect eventuates?
This is no time for complacency of the "surely the voters couldn't be that dumb" variety.
So if you're a US voter with an IQ over 70, the rest of the world is depending on you to do the right thing. We outside the US will all be affected by your choice of President."
Walking past the corner of Majoribanks (pronounced Marge-banks, if you're a local) and Roxburgh St, Mount Victoria, Wellington, I'm exposed twice daily to the progressing demolition of this century-old commercial building. It fills me with sadness.
It's not just this one site. Older buildings in general are integral to the texture of a city - the sense of being and belonging in it. We don't have much built history in New Zealand and we do not cherish and preserve what we have.
I know it probably doesn't make short-term business sense for the new owner of such a property to do something really cool with it; but the site's proximity to Wellington's leisure quarter suggested uses other than yet one more characterless apartment block - something you just slam together for short-term profit. Too late now.
Anyway, as some compensation, the CD of 'The Hawk is Howling' (by post-rock band Mogwai) turned up in the post today. Played through large speakers at a volume that is aurally and physically overwhelming, and accompanied by sufficient red wine, it serves as an uncompromising soundtrack to dissolve away the sense of loss (or almost whatever else you want it to, for that matter).
(Here's the methadone version, for your computer. But it's far better on vinyl or CD.)
And here are some more photos of said demolition-in-progress, from last week (DSLR) and this evening (cellphone cam).
9/29/2016 0 Comments
This century-old commercial building in lower Majoribanks St started coming down yesterday. It was owned by various Chinese families and was a laundry until the early 80s, when it was sold.
I tried to get permission to take photos inside, but to no avail. I think developers and demolition contractors are pretty wary about photographers, in case we're trying to save the building or something. Just wanted to record some history. Never mind.
I walk past the old place 12 times a week and shall miss it.
One day a month or so ago, I noticed the building suddenly abandoned. The front door was open, so I wandered upstairs, expecting to find someone there. There was no one. I took a few photos on my cellphone and left, locking the door behind me. Here they are.
And here's a bit of historical info, kindly sent via a recent tenant of the building.
It's a shame that all the beautiful old timber in the building, the floorboards and stair treds in particular, couldn't be recovered; but demolition methods these days don't seem to allow for that process to take place. People who're interested in doing that can't seem to get a look in due to regulations, insurance requirements to operate and suchlike. The big digger just smashes the building down, loads it into a dump truck and that's the end of its story.
Anyway, I'm about to pass the building, on my way home, so will see how demolition has progressed. Might add another pic or two.
While I support the aspirational policy to make New Zealand predator free by 2050, I also quite admire the various little predators we're trying to banish. The other week our cat Leo cornered a rat in our kitchen. It proved to be such a feisty and personable little creature that I couldn't bring myself to bash its brains in with the fire shovel, as I should have. I caught it and released it outside instead. This was probably a bit soft, since we currently have tui and other birds nesting in or near our garden. It's probably planning to raid their nests as I write, if it hasn't already done so. But I couldn't help admiring the little chap.
So, springboarding from that experience, I plan to establish the New Zealand Predator Protection League. The idea is to protect an area of land with a rodent-proof fence, to keep the rodents, mustelids and feral cats within rather than without. Post 2050, visitors to this reserve will be able to get a sense of how their land was before the rodents were eradicated.
Initially I'll be starting small, seeking funding to erect said fence around our 800 square-metre suburban property. This will allow existing predators, such as the rats that seem to be established in our bush and garden compost bin, to live their lives unthreatened by traps and free of busybodies. They will, of course, be expected to watch out for each other, as we yet have no way of preventing inter-species predation among the predators.
Prior to the establishment of the NZPPL Charitable Trust, I would like to attract some seed funding to get this worthy project under way. If you're interested please contact me and I'll give you my private bank account number in expectation of your generous donation. A significant proportion of this seed fund will be aimed toward securing a large Lotto win, with the hope that developments can begin sooner rather than later. The remainder will be used for 'operational expenses'.
Once we have a board of trustees and the trust fund reaches a certain level, the aim is to acquire a significant block of undeveloped land, fence it and create a Predator Reserve. This should prove a popular tourist attraction as well as provide an educational and research facility, admission to which will be an income stream. One idea is to look at purchasing the Gilberd Bush Reserve - an otherwise-useless, bushy gully in Newlands, kindly gifted to the city by my father's uncle Ted. Failing that, a block of private or public land in the triangle of Ngauranga-Raroa-northern Khandallah would suffice, as there is already a healthy population of stoats, rats and God knows what else roaming around in there.