non-fiction rock from Aotearoa New Zealand


Review of Transit in Dunedin

A bit behind the 8ball here, meant to post this a while ago but a bit distracted. This is a wonderful personal account of one persons experience of the TRANSIT exhibition in Dunedin for the recent Fringe Festival.

A massive thanks to Mark Tyler for the honest account

Crown Hotel 2012“This exhibition was held at the Glue Gallery as part of the Dunedin Fringe Festival. Mr Sterile Assembly were blown away to have recently received Creative NZ funding to record an album so decided they would send each song to various artists that would be interested in coming up with their visual interpretation of the song they received. This was the result.
The central theme was the way our culture has been moulded since 9/11, and the frightening extent to which the average citizen can now be spied upon. Our civil liberties have been eroded at an astonishing rate.
Each picture was spaced out around the walls and accompanied by the title and lyrics of the song it represented, carefully written in pencil. Mr Sterile then proceeded to discuss each one, lucidly explaining the depth of meaning behind the lyrics and a brief spiel about each artist. What started as a lively and informative performance for me soon gave way to the bleak and somewhat astounding personal revelation of how utterly coccooned i have become in my systemised way of thinking. Despite being aware of sweeping “big brother” reforms being passed almost weekly, i am happy to insouciantly accept each act with little more than a mild grumble in the work truck maybe. And it has nothing to do with paranoia or Orwellian hysteria, its just the most fundamental awareness of these changes, that stretches so much further than what is outlined and presented in the mainstream media. In short, this presentation shook me up like an educational earthquake. Rattled my brain a little. If performance art is supposed to provoke and stimulate, then Mr Sterile Assembly delivered in spades, taking each story so much further with humour, clarity and unswerving conviction, before playing us the music behind it. Skillful, original and slightly unsettling music that could loosely be tagged under the Punk Rock moniker, each song taking on a heightened significance when the lyrics were scrawled right in front of you.
Regretfully i couldn’t stay for the whole performance, justifying my early exit with having somewhere to be, i’d run myself out of time. But thats just a bullshit cop-out. I should have MADE the time available, just like i should take the time to delve a little deeper to increase my knowledge and understanding of the issues presented. At least make the effort instead of meekly pretending it doesn’t matter cos it won’t affect me all that much. It shook me up humans, shook me up.
Thankfully, i managed to obtain a copy of the CD which comes with two little booklets containing the lyrics of each song and their respective artworks, a permanent memoir of what i’d seen and heard, and more importantly, a personal little kick up the arse whenever i choose to slip back into the comfort and convenience of complacency. You could probably get yerself a copy by contacting:
The next day i got home and read in the paper that the new “Search and Surveillance Bill” had been narrowly passed in parliament by a majority vote of 61 – 57, opening the door for an unstoppable tsunami of control-driven “i spy with my little eye” type of activities. Jesus.

Footnote: great to see that Mr Sterile Assembly won the award for BEST VISUAL ART at the festival. Well deserved.”

May Update

Photo by, Invercargill 2012A slight lack of interacting via this blog for a while, seems the start of the year was busy busy and finally now we find a spot to reflect, tidy up, and look at new work.

Firstly, a MASSIVE thanks to all who came to the Dunedin Fringe showing of TRANSIT. We had a most wonderful time, bit at the festival shows held at the Glue Gallery, and at the show at the Crown on the Friday night. We were pleased to hear that we were the recipients of the Best Visual Art Award for the 2012 Dunedin Fringe Festival, thanks.

Also big thanks to the Invercargill folk who came out and partied as well, good to be back in that southern city.

Some  pictures are posted at THIS LINK for the Crown show and at THIS LINK for the Invercargill show by the bloke at THIS LINK.

Goldie and PoochWe have played a couple of shows since Dunedin, one of them being the end of the wonderful venue FRED’s. But now we have no plans other than settling down to do some new song writing, and that’s going well, looking forward to inflicting these new tunes on you.

And finally, recently got to revisit Karl Sim, C. F. Goldie, during a recent trip to Auckland. Great to see the old bloke still kicking, he’s around 88 now. He’s a genuine kiwi legend, we did a song about him a few years back, check it out.

Back in TRANSIT: Dunedin Fringe Festival

Dunedin Fringe 2012Glue Gallery and the Dunedin Fringe Festival gladly welcome the Wellington based, Outsider Punk Duo ‘MR STERILE ASSEMBLY’ to Dunedin for a dynamic presentation of Music, Art, Performance and Stories.

Running from the 17th of March, with two live performances on the 23rd at 5:30pm and 24th at 3pm, this show brings together the eleven songs and the eleven art works that make up this new album”

We’re at it again. In a couple of weeks, we’ll wrap out bits and pieces in cardboard and send them by plane to that Southern city Dunedin for the 2012 Fringe. The art will hang for the week leading up to the performance’s on the 23rd & 24th.

Koha entry to the Glue Gallery for the talks.


Crown Hotel 2012An in addition to this will be TWO other performances. The first is on the Friday 23 March at The Crown Hotel, Rattray St, Dunedin.

Ourselves, along with a fine  gaggle of others, will be performing for those with a noisier persuasion. The line-up is epic, featuring Mince On Toast (Queenstown), Infinite Justice (Dunedin), Whiskey And The Wench (Dunedin), SkumHammer (Dunedin), Bazooka (Milton), Bolshy McBard (Twizel), & us!. Epic I tell you, epic.

Entry $6 8pm-ish kick off


Invercargill March 2012 UPDATE: Breaking news!!! Generic Hole from Invercargill will be gracing the stage with there two piece mayhem. Can I get a Hell Yeah!

On Saturday 24 March, after the afternoon talk, we hit the road and return to Invercargill!

Playing at the Players Bar, in the backroom, we entertain the locals with Bazooka, Bolshy McBard, Generic Hole & Mince On Toast.

$5 to get in, starts from 9

Video of the Pop Sickle presentation, at the Hamilton Fringe Festival

This clip was made by someone from Hamilton, thanks to who ever you are. It’s a short presentation of our chat to the song Pop Sickle at the recent Hamilton Fringe Festival 2011. The afternoon consisted of a 90 minute walk through conversation, discussing the content of the lyrics, some relation to the art, a potted historical context, and then a few tunes were played.

Read our blog post about our Hamilton weekend at this LINK

There is some rumour circulating that we won an award for our afternoon artist talk, we’ll let you know when we know.

Review: The Organ Zine, UK: Thing of the day.

Mr Sterile AssemblyWho are MR STERILE ASSEMBLY? They’re pretty unique actually, uniquely excellent… Mr Sterile Assembly are from New Zealand, they have a minefield in their playground, and their latest album, Transit, is something we rather recommend..

MR STERILE ASSEMBLY –Transit (Skirted) – They sound like a more frantic Gong – a slightly stressed day on that planet – or maybe a band on the run from the raggity zaggity crowman of planet Ring? They sound good from the off; hold the front page, we got one here.
There’s a slight sense of claustrophobia, a threat of some sort, with song subjects based in the harsher realities. The album opens with the menacing, urgency  of Hibakusha, a song written about a real-life survivor of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they have delightfully awkward sound that continually evolves and never fails to challenge.  Gone a little Wilco Johnson messing with The Ex right now: intricate clever rhythmic weaving, that old school Pere Ubu new wave weird-punk art-fuelled feel, and all the while with details and tunes (and clever moves) all of their own…or maybe Cheesecake Truck? Dog Faced Hermans? Their combination of sometimes intricate time changes, female voice, dark-edged melody and real-world lyrics can even be reminiscent of Thinking Plague.
They’re rather unique actually, uniquely excellent. Mr Sterile Assembly are from new Zealand, they have a minefield in their playground, (a mindfield?), they’re exploding things in your mind, they’re forever shifting, changing shape, never retaining a status quo. Gong at their most edgy, at their probingly subversive is probably the nearest thing you can pin on them in terms of a positive comparison – playing with fire, to question and to learn…. This latest album stands out far far more than previous things we’ve heard from these rather creative New Zealanders; this is great, even with all that paranoia and that electric Orwellian warning and the monitoring of your every logged-on communication check in, the watching of everything you ever say or do tagged there by the Man in cyberspace…

Mr Sterile AssemblyMr Sterile Assembly have a sound that somehow is oppressive and delightful both at the same time. They sound paranoid, they sound switched on, they sound aware, they also sound like thoroughly decent people, inviting people, come join our band – a Crass-like collective you’d really like to be part of and muck in with (Crass always sounded like they’d be such hard work to be part of: this gathering sounds inviting). And even when the sound is getting a little frantic and the saxophone is sounding a little like a maniacal goose, they still flow so well. Mr Sterile Assembly are never aggressive in terms of musical style, never pecking at your head. They may be throwing out questions, but it’s not just head-on arguing. They’re too artistically intriguing to be about mere confrontation as they take you on their ever flowing, ever shifting, ever thrilling musical/lyrical ride… All open mouth expectant, man swallows his own tail, all clever time changes and awkward song structures (along with a fine dress sense).

The band are mostly drummer/vocalist Kieran Monaghan and bassist/vocalist Chrissie Butler – the two piece are augmented by a number of guests and scuttling collaborators. Transit is a cohesive, challenging album, hardboiled but somehow never difficult to listen to, an album that at times is brilliant, an album that’s always very very good (and complemented by good artwork/packaging). They may be from the other side of the world and we may not get that much of a chance to see them live, but this is an album and a band that you do need to go explore.

Here is the original Organ Zine post from August 1st 2011. (LINK IS DEAD)

Review: Lioncitydiy Singapore

 If there was any one band you could not pigeonhole, it’s this one. Most favorably dubbed “outsider punk”,mr sterile Assembly (also simply known as the Assembly) has grown since the last time we saw them in Singapore in ’07. With Transit, a fifth release just in time for their tenth anniversary, the idealism of drum and bass duo Kieran Monaghan and Chrissie Butler shines through. A collaborative project, Transit is not your ordinary album pressed on CD, listened to x number of times, and then all but forgotten. It is instead a multidisciplinary endeavour of sorts, with each song accompanied by an art piece, which culminated into an exhibition which we here in Singapore regret not being able to physically see.
The title of the album is brilliantly apt. As the tracks flit from jazz to math rock to ska to folk, one imagines themselves being transported from one place to another, and the transitions feel almost seamless. Interspersed with spoken word, shrill/soothing vocals, offbeat signatures, and groovy basslines, this sounds too chaotic to even be listenable. But the Assembly somehow manage to execute the album with precision, with their punk roots undeniably creeping in at different points throughout.

And what is music without words, without lyrics? Amidst the discordance lie some of the most incisive writing, as we’re taken on yet another journey again — this time through anti-war sentiments, Hone Tuwhare‘s poems, New Zealand’s nuclear-free legislation, and even an ode to a migrant worker in Singapore. And as if everything else weren’t enough, the Assembly have included lyrics to their songs as hyperlinks on their website, for those of us so inclined to delve into the nuances of their artistic offering.

This literary cacophony will be touring SE Asia starting from 15th July, with 2 dates (28th and 29th July) in Singapore. What else can we say? You can’t not witness them in their full, live, performative glory.

Click THIS LINK for original site

Transit Review: [NZ]

Despite the community-oriented name, The Mr Sterile Assembly is one of the most singular and unusual acts in New Zealand. Primarily a two-piece, the Assembly draft in an array of other musicians where and when required, all in service of a quirky and distinctive approach to music. Let’s just say that you haven’t heard anything quite like these guys.

Transit is the band’s fifth album, testament to their strength of purpose. On the surface, the pair’s predilection for wacky costumes and awkward song structures would seem to be the kind of thing destined for a short lifespan. If that is the case, nobody told drummer/vocalist Kieran Monaghan nor bassist/vocalist Chrissie Butler and to think so would be to underestimate the commitment they bring to their music.

The album opens with the menacing, urgent skitter of “Hibakusha”, written about a real-life survivor of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This groove-driven approach continues throughout Transit, but with other instrumentation dropping in to provide the melody, such as brass on the ska-inflected “I, Robert”. The full range of sounds on board includes punk, jazz, rap and pretty much everything in between. What is remarkable is that it is always coherent and holds together, no matter what quirks get thrown into the mix. The glue seems to be the intricate, highly-effective stickwork of Monaghan, reining in even the most abstract of songs.

Where other bands are content with playing their local town and maybe the odd New Zealand tour once or twice in their career, The Mr Sterile Assembly has played Slovakia, Poland, Malaysia, Indonesia…not exactly the usual OE destinations. But doing things away from the norm seems to be the prescription here, as well. A song starts in one direction and may completely change style halfway through, never to return.

The quirkiness occasionally drifts into self-indulgent stylings such as on “Whyt” or “Bug My Ride”, which cross the line between unorthodox and annoying. I can’t imagine anyone wanting many listens of such songs, but this is always the risk with an act willing to take chances as The Mr. Sterile Assembly are.

A step up on their previous releases, Transit shows the Assembly becoming a cohesive, challenging outfit. Not to mention the super-slick packaging for the CD, which is refreshing and welcome in these days of digital downloads (although a tracklist would have been nice!). An uneven album, but littered with moments of brilliance.

Review: Matt

Original review at THIS LINK

Review: TRANSIT: USA Blog – Sea of Tranquility

A progressive music blog from the USA have reviewed the album. Click HERE for the original link.

mr sterile Assembly: Transit

Transit album coverAfter reviewing music on Sea of Tranquility for more than 10 years (and even longer, if you count the now-defunct print version), I’ve heard some weird stuff. But I’ve got to say that Transit by mr sterile Assembly — an anarchist “outsider-punk noise experimental rock two-piece” from New Zealand — ranks up there with the oddest releases I’ve been asked to cover. This drums, bass and vocal duo consists of Chrissie Butler and mr sterile (of course), and they are assisted by a variety of other equally adventurous musicians, singers and lyricists. Cabaret jazz, carnival quirk, math rock and even hip-hop collide in a stormy cacophony of revolution.

But beneath the swarm of singing munchkins on “Jesus Heals the Blind” is a solemn anti-war message dedicated to “the growing list of the innocent and the dead,” and “Pop Sickle” is an ode to those “who resist the war,” with barely audible spoken-word lyrics set against a Violent Femmes-inspired beat. And the chaotic “Axe and the Olive Tree” is simply “for Palestine.”

Transit comes in an elaborate digipak with two thick full-color booklets that might have cost more to produce than the album, but the low-budget cover featuring the duo in straitjackets and Kabuki makeup sitting on an ugly green-and-brown couch is distracting. This music is certainly not for everyone; in fact, I doubt Transit will get much playing time after I slip it back into its fancy packaging. But I certainly can appreciate the boldness with which Butler and mr sterile approach — and execute — their art.

Added: June 14th 2011
Reviewer: Michael Popke

Review of TRANSIT, in NZ Musician

A new review of the album TRANSIT as posted in the April/May edition of NZ Musician
Original link HERE

Transit album cover“MR STERILE ASSEMBLY : Transit
By Steph Gray
They’ve said it themselves: this is not lounge music. But if you like the idea of ‘outsider punk’, appreciate jazz, poetry and math rock precision, ‘Transit’ is for you. The fifth release by the Mr Sterile Assembly, it is both an album and an exhibition of artworks. Charismatically assertive two-piece Chrissie Butler and Mr Sterile secured the talents of Dean Hapeta (aka Te Kupu), Jeff Henderson and Maria McMillian among other collaborators for this production. The result is a literate, rich and engaging double album. Each song is accompanied by an art-piece. My favourite is Pop Sickle – dedicated to the Waihope 3 – and matched by Stefan Neville’s eponymous etching. And if you like information with your art and music, the Assembly have added a third layer by published hyperlinked lyrics on their website. As sources of allusion and inspiration, the links are a mad romp around the Assembly’s creative process, taking you to Hone Tuwhare’s poems, NZ nuclear-free legislation, and an image search for ‘Israeli wall’. The Assembly are celebrating this release, and their tenth birthday, with a national and international tour to Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. ‘Transit’ was mostly recorded with Mike Gibson at Inca Studios and released by Skirted Records and Tenzenmen.”

The April Australian tour 2011

In April 2011 mr sterile Assembly travelled to the cities of Sydney, Newcastle, and Melbourne for eight planned shows in nine days hot on the heals of the release of TRANSIT.

Here is a brief collection of links, facebook posts and photos to capture the event. All italic’s posts lifted from our facebook page, written sporadically on the road.


Chrisse arrives at Black Wire

wake 4am NZ time[2am Oz time] head to airport – fly & arrive Oz 8am Oz time, dawdle at airport for a bit, sleep on floor and eat, into town to Black Wire, snooze, eat, liquor, showtime -fantastic, cheers to those folk who played and participated, then pack down, into car and 2 hour drive to Newcastle, arrive 2.30 then BED! i’m sure that was a 26 hour day! wicked.

Yes, I'm Leaving!

Black Wire was brilliant, a shop by day and venue by night, holding shows most weekends in this bizzarely quiet part of Sydney. We were hopeful the legendary Pure Evil Trio were going tp play but alas it was not to be. However, the evening was sufficiently entertain with fellow performers Ya Aha, Crouching 80’s Hidden Acronym, +Yes, I’m Leaving!.

We later received THIS really nice review from the Seagull Chainsaw blog from the Black Wire show.

Day 2:

Jake's HaisWakes in Newcastle, excellent! slow time, coffee & repeat, mooching about, go to Jake’s Hais – the venue, use to be an old doctors surgery “I use to come here as a kid for injections and shit” quotes one, walk the empty empty quiet and empty streets, showtime, and it’s an intimate, lovely show, pack up then back to Evan’s – lovely man thank you immensely, beer then bed.

Another beaut show, this time with Scalps, Lenin Lennon + Drillbit. A fantastic combination of atmospheric drone, three piece rock, and  industrial noise. It was an intimate show, tightly packed into the small space. Earlier in the day had a splendid time exploring the deserted streets discovering gorgeous art.

 Day 3:

GloryholeWakes, coffee & repeat, catch train back to Sydney, collected by shaun then off to the alleyway, bloody big alleyway, big enough to drive a car down, between battalions of punks, anyway, the sky threatens rain but holds off – yay, four punk band, us and a sweet klezmer styled accordion, trombone, violin trio to wrap the evening up. The meal of the day was a full vegetarian thai restaurant in Newtown – astounding!!! Now, correspondence, whiskey and sleep. good night

A two hour train ride back to Sydney from Newcastle, collected by Shaun from Tenzenmen then off Slogan Free Youthto lunch in Newtown. Then to the mid-afternoon show.  Wonderful, an outside generator powered event, nestled between warehouses with the frequent 737 roaring overhead for acoustic accompaniment in the Marrickville area. As the dusk arrived John from Pure Evil Trio and two accomplices serenaded the audience with beautiful acoustic tunes after an afternoon of intense and energetic performances. Congrats to Michael Crafter for this day marks the release of their new 7″.

Day 4:

rest day, more thai food, beer at Sandringham pub -drink a whale ale while reading william burroughs ‘Last Words’, then to cd shop – found a great new band to listen too- De Høje Hæle , got the cd. Chilling out now then flight to Melbourne tomorrow.

Time to do the washing, mooching about, just enjoying the last day in Sydney before heading to Melbourne in the morning. Left Shaun’s and went to stay with a friend of Chrissie’s. While checking the net that night came across this interview from Invercargill newspaper, The Southland Times.

Day 5:

Tuesday: Arrived Melbourne then navigated the bus/train/footpath systems to our most warm and wonderful hosts Jen & Zac from Go Genre Everything, everything fell into place for the show, Jen let me use her beautiful drums and Zac lent the bass gear. Make it up Club, the line up was us & the Tim Pledger’s Product. We played an approx 30min, intense, spirited & dynamic flurry.

The blurb from the Make It Up Club: – Tonight at the MIUC, we make connections between the complex improvisatory potential and extreme rhythmic variations inherent in two discrete genres. In Melbourne this fortnight, for a swathe of punk shows, New Zealand’s answer to Sabot and No Means No, Mr Sterile Assembly, return for a hyper, free-math-rock, punk-complexity duo onslaught of fractured beats and intense timbres—their only complete improv show of the tour.

A long journey from the plane to the venue, some creative use of the trolley to help transport gear by hand over some significant distance. But well welcomed once through the door’s on Gillies St. A swift trip across down to collect equipment and then onto the show. Able to settle once set-up, beered, and fed. Spontaneous music ala mum+dad-spazz-core!

Day 6:

Woke Wednesday, big rain day then back to  Bar Open for the Neumusak show. Two improv performances and us to top the evening off. Nice connections at the end and some evident enthusiasm for our set, nice.

A set each by Fitzroy, Adam Simmons Vs Brian O’Dwyer, + Dead Ants Rainbow. Dead Ants was a larch ensemble, drums, 3 sax, 2 electric bass, and one & at times two electric guitars, free psychedelic improvising with distinct dynamic adjustments. Adam Vs Brian, a sax/drums duo playing an intense free set, the sax player prior to playing recounted stories of shows in the Czech republic with friends of ours, while the drummers played an impressive and deep set of drums accentuated by sterling double kick.
Thanks to Don from Neumusak for helping out with this show.

Day 7:

A full day off, washing, walking and milling about in the sun. rock n roll!!!

Day off, brilliant, the costumes getting rank so time to do something about it.

Day 8:

KOF Gallery, Flemington, SydneyNo net connection. KOF Gallery show this evening.

Street Art , KOF Gallery, Flemington, Sydney

This afternoon was also the originally planned live-to-air at the community radio station  3CR, but events beyond anyone’s control conspired and it didn’t happen.

Day 9:

Onion EngineIt’s now saturday morning, played KOF gallery last night and Zac, Go Genre EverythingFANTASTIC. Great wee gallery underneath the Flemington/Newcastle train stop, a pneumatic & soothing sound to sleep by. But the show, Go Genre Everything, Onion Engines & Sohei all played great & diverse music. A tight and intimate affair in an ex-florist shop, very warm receptive and intensely fun! Tonight, last stop The Victoria in Brunswick

KOF ruled!, a fantastic and fun night. mr sterile Assembly at KOF, Flemington, SydneyOnion Engine started, junk-percussive loops, built in rambling lush layers. Tom Waits meets Moondog. Go Genre Everything, Jen, Go Genre Everythingif Ian Curtis and Jello Biafra had a baby, maybe he would sound a little like Zac, backed by a cascading tom-slide of percussion and the distinct [maybe] Jap-pop-noise styled vocals of Jen –  fun. They have a FANTASTIC new album out, called Eternal Youth Carefree Cleanness, do get. Sohei, live mixing of beats, sounds, and general sweet party vibe. Great to see Edo, Mishu and the other Video Masty group here, we met them in Sydney, and now they are on tour, heading towards Adelaide but great to see turn up at KOF.

sterile TotoroWe played Brunswick that evening with DEAD, and Galactic Entertainment Ensemble  – a last minute replacement as Vodnik unable to play. GEE, a electro-acoustic three piece started the evening off. Then DEAD, what can you say, a two-piece power house, of tightly observant music. Heavy, charged, and fucking loud! Touring south east Asia soon, it should be a n exciting tour. Then us, our final show for the tour. Was amazing to see people return from shows played earlier in the week. After the show, pack up and driven to the airport by Jem, cheers, we had an early check-in so we decided to spend the hours between playing and flying hanging out in the quiet & cold Melbourne airport.

Day 10:

4.19 am, cant sleep anymore on the cold airport chairs. Chrissie, 4.30am, Melbourne airportFinished tour with last show at The Vic and came straight to airport as theres only a few hours to kill, DEAD were awesome! very pleased to see them exibit their majesty. Also brilliant to see a bundle of people return to see the show who attended previous event, good on ya. So here’s a HUGE thanks to everyone who helped out, came along, played silly buggers and generally made our brief experience this time around in Oz wicked.


Thanks to Shaun[Tenzenmen] Tom & Charlie at Black Wire, Tim for hanging out, Even for being lovely and organising spectacularly, Jake and the folk at Jake’s Hais, John – super lovely John of the Accordion, Don – Neumusak, Edo, Mishu and the other Video Nasties, Sean MIUC, Troy, Bar Open, Jen and Zac – your star’s, Jem – thanks extra, Dave and KOF – the pleasure was ours, all those others that we contacted and that helped in their own way during the organising phase, and to all you other miscreants, cheers!


mr sterile Assembly Australian tour poster April 2011

mr sterile Assembly Australian tour poster April 2011