This here solo mr sterile track was recorded 98-99 and was released as a bonus track at the end of the last ep-cd called Dork by Wellington punk group Loosehead.
[click the word Dork to download]
The song later developed further into a bigger band arrangement and was released on the album Hulagu.
Flash and Exposure
He drops his trousers to all,
showing what’s in store.
Carries with him his ethics
like Indonesia in East Timor.
With a plan and task in mind,
out lined for the local poor.
Who fumble with the deadbolt
cos free trades at the door.
Blood running deaf to our ears,
radio relays how the money grows.
The heavy knocking of the IMF,
in Poorsville progress comes in blows.
The consumers all want a bargain,
as the warehouse jingle goes.
The vulgar prophets at the door,
keen to make a south Pacific Mexico.
Gone the tribal homeland,
in the global market place.
Unless there’s something to consume,
a natural resource you can’t replace.
Or a quaint ethnic show, of dissent there’s no trace.
Cos the World Bank’s funding your survival,
they’ll buy the smile off your face.
Demands are made and met,
by embarrassed men, call it duty.
carnage hidden out back in the third world,
seen in the west as ads of ideal beauty.
Minority groups, indigenous peoples,
to finance cede their sovereignty.
While then visitor at the door,
with his daks around his ankles,
Flashing his filthy economy.
This is it. Awake on the last morning of this eight week tour. Sleep was hard to hold due to the heat, the mosquito bites and the impending departure. But we are here and this day is this day.
The sounds of a waking Bangsar street start with the continuous swishing of the overhead electric fans disturbing the still and close heat. Each motor sounds slightly different when you focus on them individually. Next is the increasing traffic sounds, so far it’s only bikes and cars. As the traffic jams gather nearby, our street becomes a quick relese valve for the congestion. But it’s not that busy yet. There are unrecognisable bird calls. Bird song of quick staccato, of single middle-ranged notes rising and twittering. There’s a dog next door that is silent for now. It found its’ voice earlier on in the night.
Slowly the light fades away the darkness and the trees outside the window take shape revealing their tropical forms. The mosquitos are silent until right in your ear. The four cats indoors have yet to stir. Where we sleep is surrounded by books, of art of the region and abroad, of politics and punk rock, of art history from Malaya, songs from Sabah, of inquiry and exploration. The education is rich when you find people who do not accept simple answers. Where we can contemplate a region that is so close to our home, but so unknown. These journeys are personally enhancing. We are aware of the privilege we carry, and value the opportunity to locate and erode our coastlines of ignorance. We wake into our last morning.
The way we leave England is extraordinary and absolutely unforeseen. It becomes the perfect distraction/transition to the final leg of the tour. We were given the opportunity to stay in the House for Essex, the Living Architecture building in Wrabness designed inside and out by the amazing english artist Grayson Perry. This option became available as Chrissie’s sister had entered a ballot to stay in the house, unbeknown to us, and we were the succesful recipients. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We are both fans of Perry’s work. He became known to us when we heard the story of a transvestite potter wining the highly regarded Turner Award. It was the first time the award had been given to a potter, a crafts person, rather than a fine-arts practitioner. And it was also the first time the prize had been awarded to a flambouyant cross-dresser.
The House for Essex stands alone in a field at the end of a lane. The only access we have had to Perry’s work to date is via the print medium, never seen in the flesh, or clay, and here we were under his skirting boards. The house in total is the artwork, the entire conceptual work, from the shape and flow of the house, the details of clay tiles and colours, the installed artworks, and the collections of cds and books all are considered as part of the overarching narative of making a secular shrine to the ordinary life of an ordinary, and imagined, woman from Essex. It’s brilliant.
On the last morning we rise at 3am. We need to make our way to Heathrow airport for check-in at 7am. Leaving the house and locking the door behind us, we make our way through the black, fogless dawn towards the city lights. We leave rural countryside, then megacity London, then the hemisphere as we make our way to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia.
We left in the morning, and arrived in the morning. We effectively lost a night somewhere, and with that we lost a sleep as well. It was about 0 degrees when we left the UK. In KL we arrive to 26 degree, a dramatic difference.
We catch the express train from the airport to KL Sentral terminal. There we reconnect with our good friend Joe Kidd. We will be staying with him till we depart KL.
We catch a cab across town. We strip of our autumnal dress from the UK into something more appropriate to the heat, and start the regular process of rehydrating from equatorial perspiration. The heat is so close. The place smells of the humid environment. What this heat and humidity does to bodies, the soil, the bacteria all goes into the complex smell that becomes the smell of South east Asia. It’s welcoming.
We arrive home to Joe’s and go to eat straight away at one of the local Indian vegetarian cafes just across rhe road from the house. Amazing choices and extremely delicious. The food induces sleep.We grab a good nap to re-energize in preparation for the show tonight.
Waking we reorganise our luggage so we have less to cart across town. A friend of Joe’s arrives and supplies a large bag of homegrown Rambutan, a delicious fruit with a soft and spiney outer casing. The fruit is demolished, and we’re ready to go.
We taxi to the venue called Rumah Api (Rumah means house, Api means fire). The venue was named after it suffered an arson attack from far-right wing boneheads years ago. The venue stood strong and resilient. We played Rumah Api on our last tour here in 2011 as well. It is patently obvious from the outset that our costumes could not be more inappropriate for the conditions, woollen jackets, dark suits, tiny room, high humidity and energetic activity.
The show is already cranking when we arrive, we are performing fourth in a line up of six bands, predominantly hardcore styles. The bands appear to be among friends, some audience sings along to some tunes inbetween the sporadic explosions of dancing that look like a gathering of windmills in attendence of a fight club. It’s all legs kicking and arms being swung wildly in wide circular motions. It’s really reminiscent of the old parade style dancing of the 50’s where an individual will take centre floor to show off a personal adaption of their dance move to the observations of others.
We prepare in the back room and the sweat is already dripping with zero exertion Activity will only make the flow torrential. This idea proves true as we set up on stage. It’s not usually a problem till the make up runs into your eyes. Then the stinging starts. The white paint produces a clouding effect as a film of white paint covers the eye ball.
We don’t play hardcore so those frantic dancemoves are absent during our set but they remain antentive trying to figure out what’s going on. Others have got it and can be spotted grinning away and dancing individually to our joyful awkwardness. It is a drenching event, and fighting back the jetlag, the show feels absolutely satisfying.
We finish then dismantle our set up, and get engaged in multiple conversations with locals who have questions about what they’ve just seen. In our experience this is a practice particular to south east asian audiences. Elsewhere we are usually approached for the most part by individuals. Here it’s almost always by a group who want to talk or take photos.
We leave as the last band is completing it’s set. We make our way across KL to bed. There’s not many hours before we have to rise again to catch the early morning bus to Singapore.
Four hours sleep before the alarm goes off. Our costumes were hung up to dry after being sodden after the show. It’s a gross feeling if they are still damp like pulling on wet knickers. Fortunately they are bone dry. We leave the house and walk the fifteen minutes in the dawn to the bus stop and check in. Thankfully there’s time for roti chennai before departure. Today is Chrissie’s birthday.
The journey takes about five hours. The passport control is swift as we cross into Singaporean teritory around midday. From the terminal we catch a taxi into the Indian quarter where L Cube, the venue, is located. However the advertised name for tonight’s show is the Hellcube. L cube is a local rehersal space that also hosts occasional small shows. We meet Rei on reception. She’s super helpful at helping us settle, directing us to good food, and sorting a space for us to nap while we wait for our organiser and friend, Shaiful, to arrive.
It’s been nine years since we last saw Shaiful, we missed him on our last trip to Singapore. While we’re waiting a bloke called Stevphen from the UK arrives for the show. We met him a few days ago at our last show in the UK and an odd set of circumstances means he also happens to be in Singapore at the same time. He also knows Shaiful, but only via the internet. This will be their first face to face. And then Shaiful’s face walks through the door. We reconnect with a short walk to a nearby food court before returning back to L Cube in preparation for the show.
Shaiful is performing in the first band, and this is their debut show. They also have the best band name – Frog and Potato Warfare. The set is swift, rawkus punk rock but with an major intention to create fun and lift the life of the show from the outset. Band members change instruments, activities are organized as part of the show like a ballon and ball war, where soft projectiles are dispensed and everyone is a target. There is no barrier between the band and the audience. It is a delightful riot.
The next group is Indecixive, a tight, confident Singapore thrash band. Again, we only hear them as we are away getting changed, but their sound is robust and unrelenting, and the aftermath of their performance leaves a sweaty crowd who appeared to have behaved quite energetically.
Our turn. Our last show. The gear is solid, the drums are at the front of the stage, and we let rip. There will be no other opportunity for a night like this. The audience is close, but we egg them on to get closer, entice them onto the stage with us. And it’s great. Warm environmentally and receptively, goony dancing, and a room full of grinning. A conga line forms on stage and dives into the bodies of the front row. It’s a perfect ending. Shaiful comes on stage to wrap things up but first sings, and gets the audience to sing with him, a happy birthday tune to Chrissie, ala Singapore punk rock style. Perfect.
The crowds leave slowly, conversations are had, people linger and follow as we leave L Cube in search of a late night feed and beer, more good byes at traffic lights, and then we find a place to drink in an area where prohibition is not enforced. An alcohol ban is in place in the Indian quarter after the riot that happened about 3 years ago. It seems that rather than admit that there’s an issue that needs addressing, that there’s a dissatisfaction among some members of some populations, the authorities simply enforced this race-based liquor ban. However, the liquor ban doesn’t extend to across the road so it’s an easy regulation to get around. We go and find sleep. Waking the next day, we retrace our steps back to KL for a few days hanging out before flying back to Aotearoa.
For all intents and purposes, the tour has officially ended. It has been a truly remarkable time-out-of-time experience. Spanning eight countries, playing 22 shows, meeting many new people and having the opportunity to talk and learn and discover.
We have an immense gratitude to everyone that has helped us on this trip, in what ever capacity. We hope that appreciation has been conveyed wherever we have gone, and across all languages despite our ability to directly covey our thanks. It is remarkably inspiring to see so much activity, community building, community nurturing and developing, spaces being made for potentials to play, spaces being made for explorations despite whatever impositions authorities impose, connections across great distances being made and ongoing support offered to each others endeavours.
We have witnessed time and time again the belligerent optimism of creative making. We’re thankful for all the precious opportunities to touch and taste and be immersed in these things happening. Keep going.
But for now, for us, It’s all over.
Here we are, sitting in a hrad, Czech for castle, in the western town of Loket. This place has been hill-top and centre in this village since the 12th century. The actual location of our performance tonight is reported to be in the ancient royalty’s entertainment room, where the various monarchs entertained or administered other business. The throne room is backstage.
It’s been two and a half years since we were last in the Czech Republic, it’s so nice to be back.
We left London before dawn this morning, up around four-ish and back through the sleeping city to Stansted. We land at Praha (Prague) and have a small wait for our ride to arrive. It’s easy to remain occupied with pizza, beer and Czech-watching.
Mirek, frontman for Už Jsme Doma(UJD), arrives by bus first. The van with the rest of the band is not far behind. Once it arrives, loaded with equipment and bodies, out spill the rest of the band. It is always wonderful to reconnect with old friends, warm, enveloping and welcoming
There are also new introductions, firstly to Ruda the driver, and Votja the new drummer for UJD. Votja has been with UJD for the past year now, and comes with the experience of playing in punk bands for many years. We load our gear into the last space available and leave Praha for the town of Loket near the Western boarder.
The trip is all talking, story-telling, and Czech beers in the backseats. Evening falls and we enter Loket after the two hour journey in the drizzle. It is a winding route to access the castle shrouded by low cloud and poor visibility. You can imagine the ominous image cast in centuries past as one approached this fortress in the gloom. We enter Hrad Loket through large wooden gates. The town is dressed in mist and drizzle, there are radiations of orange from tungsten street lamps through the wet, the air is full of gems of orange as the light inhabits single falling raindrops.
We have a task to do though. We park in the central grounds of the castle and load guitar amps, drums, and PA gear up the stairs and into the festival hall. The equipment is assembled and soundchecked surrounded by ancient swords and crossbows. At the other end of the hall is the dining room. Long tables are set out and wait for the dozens of bodies to occupy. Someone is setting up the kegs. This castle happens to be the only venue in Loket and it has been functioning for the past four years in its current iteration. It appears it took some convincing to get the go-ahead to be able to run modern concerts but it has been a positive step for the town. Bands now come and play in this extraordinary venue, and subsequently more people visit the historic site as a important site of tourists interest.
People start to arrive early and in numbers. We are thankful we are up first, in the lineup of three acts, and can fully enjoy watching UJD. We make ourselves up into our costume, walk across the open courtyard, up the stairs and then enter the hall via the front main entrance. We are all ready to go, there’s a decent audience waiting, and boom! we’re off. It’s a great set, we look out and see people smiling, dancing and a party unfolding. Playing in Czech feels like coming home.
Next up is UJD, they deliver a solid set. It’s a delight to stand in the audience and hear everyone around singing along. There are new arrangements of songs and a host of other familiar tunes. Votja’s drumming seems harder than the previous drummers we’ve seen, more wirey, more punk, more attack. It adds a powerful lift to the music. The final act is a local group called Blahobeat, a local five-piece, sturdy old-school/post-punk rock band. A fantastic gesticulating frontman who is a dynamo and holds centre stage.
After the show we go to friends of Mireks’: they have offered to let us stay at their house for the night too. So we pack down our gear in preparation for leaving the next day, and then head out into the mist for a midnight stroll across bridge over the river to bed. Once at the house we’re offered nightcaps of Slivovice, a strong Czech alcohol, clear in appearance, made of plum and tastes like fire. If you inhale at the wrong time when consuming the burn is so much more intense! It takes a couple of goes to get it right. Sleep is welcome.
After waking, our plan is to meet the band at a restaurant but first it has been arranged that we have the opportunity to explore the castle in more depth. It’s a fascinating walk up the wooden stairs to the top of the towers. We see the geography of the land from every direction. On the way down the stairs continue to go further into the basement from our exit point from the building. Looking over the banister in the central well is a large sculpture of the local dragon, every castle needs one.
Another ‘key’ attraction of the castle is the ‘torture chamber’ display. This is definitely eye-catching with the ultra realist sculptures illustrating in graphic detail the interrogation techniques used in-house during the dark ages. It’s extremely graphic and brutal and quite unsettling after such a pleasant time meandering moments before. We didn’t take any photos. How is it possible to forgot the horrendous acts inflicted by one human onto another? Additional reminders do not seem necessary. There were tiny cramped cells, sensory deprivation chambers, chairs of deathly discomfort and devices of entombment and suffering. Directly upstairs from this basement of suffering was the palatial chambers for the monarchs. It was a graphic education.
We left and went looking for lunch and to reconnect with the others in a local restaurant.
Czech food is often limited for vegetarians, and harder for vegans. Today there’s a lot of deep-fried cheese in multiple varieties of presentation, onion soup or our tour staple, Bamborachy, a Czech savoury potato pancake. And a country that has a sweet fruit-filled dumpling on offer as a main cannot be all bad either.
Sated, we load up and leave. Our next destination is the town of Tabor, at the venue CESTA (previously mentioned in the Italian post). It will been ten years since we last set foot through the doors of CESTA. A lot has happened since then and we’re both deeply looking forward to being back there.
We arrive Tabor in the dark, and the cold has set in. Warmth returns in bearhugs with our old friend Chris, it’s like time hasn’t passed and we seem to pick up where we left off. Pressing practical matters take precedent and we need to set up the show. Only our two acts are playing tonight. There’s some swift and skilful problem-solving required to manage several technical issues, and things feel tense as the approaching starting time looms. Technical issues are always a potential issue to navigate, sometimes a show can feel like a constant battle against the elements. But there’s a skill learned across time that it’s better to roll with the challenges that present, such as equipment faliure or sound issues, than to fight them.
We play first and it is a gratifying personal milestone to be back here making music. CESTA holds a significant place of importance in our experience of developing and presenting our creative work. UJD follow us, and the room swells with locals. If we’re not mistaken this may be UJD’s first show in Tabor in their nearly 30 year duration. It is amazing how busy this band is and how many shows they are able to play in Czech Republic every year, a country that is not so different in landmass to Aotearoa. It’s impressive that there is such a wide number of welcoming venues available to this assertive Czech rock music on a regular basis.
The show ends and some head to the bars in town. We remain at CESTA and are able to catch up with Chris properly after his task of hosting the show is complete.
Bedtime arrives and we go to sleep to the sound of a potbell burner gifting heat to our room on this satisfying Autumn night.
Morning brings breakfast at CESTA, coffee, dark rye bread and jams. Chris returns from errands and we spend a bit more time talking before we need to return to the road. We appreciate being in close company again and to be able to hear and share the details of large life events. When you live at such distance from each other, settling for quality rather than quantity is essential.
In the back of the van and unsuccessully trying to sleep. Got to sleep at about 3-4am last night after a very late show in Lanškroun, our third show. It was a great show for us, assertive, solid and intentional. We didn’t take to the stage till about 01:30. UJD went first just after midnight delivering another powerful set. Great sound by Miloz who has been the band’s most regular sound person for many years. It is a loud venue. This show was part of a local arts/theatre festival, and the bar was flooded with folk who had attended or participated in theatre events. Our concert is the after party. And they partied.
We leave Už Jsme Doma in Lanškroun. Good byes are always emotive, and we hope it is only a see-you-later. We feel lucky that we have found a fraternity, a family, of like-minded music makers across the globe.
Now the GPS is giving directions in Czech. We are in Votja’s van moving towards the Webrocka festival where we play our fourth show. Low damp cloud is everywhere and there is very little to view. We are moving towards the Polish boarder.
This is the 15th year of the Webrocka festival, a local festival that also acts as a fundraising event for a local group working with kids. There seems to be a large turnout for the festival. Two stages are programmed and music runs continuously. There are also breakaway rooms with smaller but very roudy acoustic performances. One stage starts as the other finishes and change-overs happen simultaneously. We are on the downstairs stage in a very cold cellar space and we play after Votja’s other group 100%. They are great, high energy punk/funk styled chaotic songs. The bass player Marco, an english bloke living in Czech, has a spectacular and aggressive bass technique, an assertive slapping style that treats his instrument as a true uninhibited extension of himself. The sets feels a combination of songs and improvisation and these two are rock solid with each other. It’s a delight to watch, a real highlight to see this committed performance.
The entire event seems to be tightly stage managed and on schedule till the headline band before us takes the stage, then the schedule seems to stretch. Our first set was to start 1145 but didn’t start till 0030. We are rostered to play two sets, this first and then a second about an hour later. Time continued to stretch and we ended up completing our second set at 3am. Fortunately at the end of the night we have a much warmer space upstairs to put our heads down for a few hours sleep before heading of early to a town to catch a train to Prague.
Our final journey to Prague is through amazing country side of rock formations that feel like giant’s building blocks, unusual and very old. We leave Votja at Pardubice train station, this line will take us the rest of the distance to Praha.
We exit the train at the terminal and are met by Romek Hanslík, the bloke who has helped us with our Czech bookings. Romek also runs a tour management service that includes UJD and the Plastic People of the Universe.
Our final show is at the Prague rock club Vagon. It has been arranged that for our final show we open for the Plastic People of the Universe, a group that has obtained a legendary status through the history of being a long-haired, underground psychedelic group prior to the end of the communist regime. They were often in trouble with the authorities which resulted in prison time for some of the band members. They also moved in the same circle as Vaclav Havel who became the first prime minister after the Velvet Revolution. They have also achieved the status of iconic legends for also for being a group performing for almost 50 years. There is one remaining original member.
Coincidentally, in relation to Velvet Revolution, while we have been here there has been a national holiday to commemorate the events which sparked the Revolution, the bloodless transition from a communinist state to something more open. A commemoration has been set up across the road, across from the venue, and people have come in their droves to lay and light candles at a sculpture to mark the place and the event.
Sunday night shows, like many places on the planet, are plagued by the pull of Monday morning work. People tend to remain home and tonight is no difference, our audience is compact. We open the evening with a sense of personal closure, this is our last show here and it’s been a whirlwind. It is gratifying being back and being able to access these opportunities. We are thankful to the people that have supported us to make this a reality.
It’s a tough audience, hard to know what they thought, but we gave it our best and what more can you do than that. The Plastic People take the stage, Jiri, the original member, the guitarist who has been with the band for years and a much youger trio of bass, guitar and drums. It’s obvious that this is who the audience have come to see. It is definitely cool to see the Plastic People, and a privilege to see them tackle three new songs tonight.
It’s done. We pack away our gear as all the equipment is dismantled and head for our backpackers for a few hours kip. We need to be up at early-doors and return to the airport and the UK.