We were being interviewed by National Radio on the release of our album Transit. As soon as the interview had finished an email flew into our inbox enthusiastically inviting us to attend the Hamilton Fringe Festival in response to our desire to tour and exhibit the original art we obtained for the album. And in classic fashion, we said ‘sure’ first… and then settled down to figure out the finer and fiddlier details.
Supported by our contact, Jo, who did the bulk of the leg work in Hamilton, we secured some funding so the art could be couriered to the festival, and a van hired to bring our equipment back and forth. So, thanks to Creative Communities and Creative Hamilton for supporting our endeavor.
As usual, plans expanded and we opted to get the exhibition to Hamilton a week early and Jo enlisted a crew of locals to adorn the gallery walls with the accompanying lyrics to the songs attached to the art.
As the itinerary firmed up, Jo got us a show in Raglan, a small tourist/surfing/coastal village about 30 minutes out of Hamilton. So it was to be Raglan on the Friday night, an artist talk and presentation of songs on the Saturday afternoon for the Fringe Festival, and then an all-ages show later that same evening: three shows in 24 hours.
The journey north was uneventful apart from a sweet detour into the village of Mangaweka, home of the C F Goldie museum. Here we visited old friends and told stories, learning a wonderful fact about Karl Sims/C F Goldie, the infamous art forger. Apparently Karl is considered to be the World’s eighth most famous art forger, and according to some ‘authority’ he would have been considered the best had he had a greater ‘sphere of influence’, e.g. not resided on an island at the bottom of the world, but somewhere with a far vaster population, like Europe, a bigger and more duppable citizenry.
Back on the road we made Raglan in good time. It’s a small town with a reputation of being reggae central. Anyway, we meet our host for the evening, Dave, dropped our gear at the pub, set off the alarms in the pub, the door wasn’t locked, but no-one looked terribly flustered by, or worried about it. Then we headed out to Dave’s farm home for some food and rest after the long haul.
Dave’s farm view was spectacular, an incredible vista looking down out onto a northward curving coast, high and distant above the township.
Returning to the venue, the Yot club, we set up and met the local band playing alongside us, Frankie. It’s was a slow start to the evening as the rugby world cup had a game in Hamilton, just our luck, and almost the entire country is distracted.
After the match the place started to fill. Frankie started, a classic three piece, playing post-rock pop compositions and it sounded good. We came on and I think we surprised a few, the spectrum of expression from ‘leave the venue’ to a wide- jaw smile, transfixed to our antics.
Retuning to the farm after the show it’s the blackest Raglan night, a spectacular show of heavenly star-light, far from the incandescent street light of any city. It was a long day of journey and music, so whiskey then sleep.
Waking earlier on the Saturday, we returned to Raglan for coffee and nosh then made our way over to central Hamilton. Arriving around midday we set up our gear at the gallery and get to see the exhibition hanging for the first time. And it looked great! Jo and her mates made a spectacular job of installing the show, we we’re particularly pleased with the way the text had been written on the wall’s around the art. The space was set, the gear ready, we put on our costumes and waited for the show to begin.
And they attended, not in droves, but an intimate 20 or so, and that’s ok because this is the first time we have actually put this concept to the test, e.g to tour and present an ‘artist’s talk’ about the relationship of this commissioned art to the context of the song text, and then finish off by a live presentation of the songs.
We decided to break the talk into two parts, chatting first then music, then repeat. And it’s was a mobile chat, we moved up and down the room selecting work’s of art to discuss, talking about the text to the songs and much of the background research involved in the writing of the lyric.
The interest is surprising. We paused mid-stream to ask if people are bored, would they like some music or more stories? “More stories” they reply.
It was a fascinating experience for us, and warmly reassuring, in that people are very committed to engaging in conversation and dialogue when the chance arrives. People like stories, to be informed of the detail behind an event, and to have the opportunity to ask questions. We were surprised we talked for as long as we did.
One person commented at the end that it was rare and wonderful way to explore art. He commented that usually events surrounding ‘Art’ mostly revolved around free alcohol and hummus, but ultimately one left with little more understanding of the work than when one arrived. And somehow this event was different, a perfect outcome.
We play again with Frankie, and another local act called The Beautiful Shambles. It’s a great well resourced venue, with a lovely and helpful sound-man, a special breed.
The shows started late, as advertised, but is lite on audience. Out on the streets it’s quiet, again we get a sense this is in response to the rugby world cup. Many had paraded earlier in Welsh and Irish flags, we guess they are the teams playing locally (I’m secretly pleased that I still don’t actually know, I have managed to miss the inundation of rugby information, I am a genetically deficient kiwi obviously).
Great to see the local acts, committed and fun, thanks. We played a sweet set. It’s so nice to get to hear these songs through a nice sound system mixed well, thanks to again to the sound guy.
Show over, packed up and out. We stored our gear back at the gallery to collect in the morning, but to do this braved downtown-post-RWC Hamilton, drunken, macho, unpredictable, mini-skirted Hamilton. Here’s where all the people were, it’s lightly raining and the streets are laden with bodies loaded with alcohol and expectation. There’s little motivation to hang around, it’s an odd sight to see the inebriated bold male youth hanging off the bronze arms of the statue Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Tea and toast and bed, that’s rock and roll.
Here is the story of Transit, the fifth album by mr sterile Assembly. There are links to individual pages with interactive lyrics. The story of how the album came into being, plus reviews, images, and any additional detritus associated with this release. cheers
Transit, the fifth album by mr sterile Assembly was released March 25 2011. The album took just over one year to complete from its inception point in late December 2009. The Assembly had recently complete a small Aotearoa NZ tour with the Czech group Uz Jsme Doma, in which an offer to the Assembly was made to tour Europe sometime in mid-2010. Offers like this spawn plans, and one of these was a recording project.
Two surprises in one day: dollars and departure.
An application was made with CNZ for a recording grant, the idea to record the duo bass and drums unit, in preparation for the tour. However, and much to our surprise, the day the letter of astounding confirmation of $$ came on the same day Sarsha Doulas decided to quit. The tour almost happened but due to personal reasons had to be abandoned at the eleventh hour.
From band reproduction to project.
This caused some serious rethinking on how to approach the project. What developed over the coming months was a growing project of fantastic proportions. We wanted to maintain the energy and feel of the twin bassists so we approach a sterile member from previous times, Aaron Lloydd, to plunk the strings. We knew he had a solid and creative understanding to our approach. Next we contacted another sterilite, Jeff Henderson, to add saxophone on a number of tracks, and Nell Thomas to add special tonal colour on a couple of tracks. Nell plays a a Javanese instrument called a Gender, and we felt this was a perfect instrument to add depth to a particular song, Stella, based on an story of some dear friends in that country.
Mike Gibson was enlisted early on to the initial recording of primary bass, bass, drums track, and to mix and master the final collection of songs. Dean Hapeta aka Te Kupu became deeply woven into the development of the album. He offer Matakahi Studio to us so we could add all lyrics, additional sounds, and the sax tracks. During a number of conversations, we also came to the conclusion that there were spaces available that called out for extra words. Dean listened intently over months to lets the ideas grow, and his response to the challenge of these four songs is spectacular.
Inca studios and the NZSIS
Working with Mike at Inca studios also took on a particularly delicious an ironic feel. When I first met Mike to discuss the project, he almost incidentally commented that the studio use to be the home of the NZSIS, the government security intelligence service. The main record room that we were situated in was the old safe, the home of all those secret files from years gone past of union activist, conscientious objectors from previous international armed conflicted, and any other ‘radical’ who opposed the government of the day. That we should find ourselves in this space, performing our songs about the governments attempts to survey citizens, of this countries role in international spy rings, and the police’s employment of a particular individual as a failed covert spy to protest activity couldn’t be more perfect. (note:the SIS still is a functioning arm of the NZ govt, it simply relocated to a different building)
As well as having Te Kupu’s text in the songs, mr sterile collaborated over several months with Wellington poet Maria McMillian on the song Drought. Maria was invited to this collaboration as not only do we consider her a poet of fine standing, but the commitment to her political activity of opposing the privatisation for water would inform the similar content of the song further. The word’s were ferried back and forth over months, being stretched and teased into existence, then edited down into the form on the album. This reworking process continued up until moments before the words were committed to the recording.
Once the mix, which took several weeks, the mastering, and completing of art design, all the finished work was sent to Dualplover in Australia for the final stage of making the actual product. We were in the very capable hands of Swerve, who helped soothe the anxiety around the possible design slips that could happen as we were including two booklets into the final complete package. Additional support and help with the OZ release is from Tenzenmen, a specialist in d.i.y releases from Australia, Asia, and now us.
The evolution of the art work
Running alongside the audio process, the task of conceptualising, compiling artwork, and designing the artwork and packaging was explored. In an organic fashion, similar to the way many things evolve in sterile, the final design took many months, multiple edits, and a massive effort to execute what ultimately because a stunning and beautiful package.
After some initial abandoned design ideas, the concept to approach individual artists to illustrate the songs was almost accidentally stumbled upon. We looked through our contacts, aware of the vast array of talented friends, and matched songs with artists whom we thought could respond sympathetically to the intent and meaning of the words. And we were astounded and humbly impressed at how much they stood up to the mark, the quality of the art work, and the enthusiasm we received from each artist was incredible.
Building an exhibition.
While the art was coming in, the idea sprung into life that this part of the album deserves more that to be rendered into cd booklet size and never seen in its true form. The idea for the exhibition was born. A close friend, James Kirk, was approached to frame the work over a number of months, not all of it easy, but the quality of displayed art work was astounding, James also facilitated the contact with a photography who would take the highest quality photos for our reproduction in the books.
We’d like to say thank you
The craftsmanship executed from musicians, the sound engineers, artist, and the framing easily lived up to, and surpassed our Everest like expectations. the creating of this album was one stunning experience after another, not always easy, but ultimately extraordinarily rewarding.
We are incredibly grateful to all the amazing people who have participated in this project.
We thank you all individually:
- Aaron Lloydd
- Andrew Ross
- Campbell Kneale
- Dean Hapeta aka Te Kupu
- Deborah Barton
- Garage Collective
- Kate Whitley
- Kerry-Ann Lee
- James Kirk
- James Robinson
- Jeff Henderson
- Maria McMillian
- Mike Gibson
- Nell Thomas
- Roger Morris
- Stefan Neville
- Tao Wells
The album was launched at the Wellington Gallery, The Russian Frost Farmers on March 25 2011
We toured the album extensive within Aotearoa, we also took Transit to Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and returned to Java Indonesia. While in the township of Blitar, south east Java, a music video was made for the song Stella. The story of a young women from Blitar having a baby, moving to Singapore to get work as a transient migrant worker, while leaving baby back at home. A reflection on the globalised process of cheap labour for wealthy countries, everybody through travels with a very real human story.
After the launch we presented to firstly the Hamilton, and then latterly the Dunedin Fringe Festivals. The art work was couriered and installed with help from local to write the text around the art works. We then arrived to deliver a seminar discussing the process of developing this project, the content of the songs, and to play a few tunes.
Our show won two awards in Dunedin, and one award at the Hamilton Fringe. Below is a clip made by a Hamiltonian (thanks) from the Saturday afternoon discussion.
ICOT13 – The International Conference on Thinking
In January 2013, the International Conference on Thinking was held in Wellington. We submitted an abstract, which was accepted, to present our thinking around the processes involved in this Transit project.It was a 75 minute break-out session that was well received.
A video for the song Transit, made by Wellington photographer and film maker John Lake. This clip includes a crowd fund choir from across the world. Click this link for more information
IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING THAT THIS SHOW IS CANCELLED DUE TO THE CATASTROPHIC EARTHQUAKE IN CHRISTCHURCH.
Our thoughts go to all of those in Christchurch at this time. The extraordinarily stressful environment that does not seem to be settling, the ongoing after shocks continue. I can not imagine how difficult this time is for the many many people of Christchurch and Lyttleton, the terrible waiting for those who have not yet managed to make contact with missing friends and families, and those families and friends who are now dealing with the news of confirmed losses.
For those not in Christchurch, there are numerous ways to help. Donating money is useful. Keep an eye on local media for other possible ways to help.
March 11 Friday – El Santo Porteno, Lyttelton 1st show for this year. We are looking forward greatly to this show, and maybe maybe maybe we will have the new album in tow, tho this won’t be the actual album launch. And Zero, which features Dave Khan & others. Come along, it will be excellent.
Intimidation and harassment by agents of the state
Outlawing opposition, criticism, manufacturing hate
Restricting what can be said, accessed or read
And if you protest strong enough you may be found dead
Imprisoned, overcome by public fear and suspicion
In the name of democracy exercising fascism!
Tricked into compliancy because you thought your vote could speak
Thought you were really saying something
But ahh, you’re just bugged and weak
To such an extent you can’t perceive this dastardly state terrorism
Brow beaten by conformism, an apologetic fellow necessarily
Upholding and assisting a failed capitalist society
Check my house on Google Earth, see me stand in my backyard
I’ve seven different passwords, a PIN code and a plastic card
Watch me on the cameras, in the streets and in the malls
Read the transcripts of transmissions from my interesting calls
Logging on, logging off, checking in, track and trace
The electronic shadow left from accessed stuff in cyberspace
I’m south side now from Huxley, Orwell too is just behind
GPS to check my transit, SIS to bug my ride
Fingerprints and DNA, the electro hum of 0 1
Scan the love songs in my texts from your blow-up house in ECHELON
Privacy has had its’ day, print my face for show and tell
These methods are for hidden men the legacy of
COINTELPROtected by the weight of state, defended by the party line
Profit needs security and progress is a state of mind
October 15 2007,
The culmination of two years
spying on environmental, anti-war,
anarchist and indigenous activists,
heightening awareness to the depth and extent to which we can be surveyed.
Note: The image captured by Andrew Ross is of the glass door at the entrance to the Whanganui Computer, the once upon a time repository of the computerised information about NZ citizen. The door was damage in 1982 when Neil Roberts approached the front door with an amount of explosives, detonating at the glass doors and causing some damage. Neil’s action were of a political motivation, protesting at the growing shadow of the state into individuals lives. I think this image is important to this song as just over 25 years later the evidence of the states ability to spy on citizens was brought to the fore as on October 15, 2007, the police asserted its’ dominance with armed defender squads and accusations of terrorism. Which is the more extreme action?
I am a man to gather data’s dust
I am a man of sneaky schemes
I am a man of hidden intent
Who is secretly sent, I stoop to any means
I convey the secrets of acquaintance & friends
The ambitious talk & the radical plan
I am entrapment to the wait of police hands
I am a man of sneaky means
I am a man to gather trouble’s trust
I am a man who earns a buck
I am a man with powerful friends
Who’ll use any means while I’m in good luck
I travel & meet, I sleep & I play
I live this deceit, and live on good pay
It’s espionage in the bold light of day
Don’t believe what I say I am a man of errant luck
Gone, it’s all finished!
It’s all public and kaput!
Leaving Robert named
Crowned king of ill-repute
Hard drive got corrupt
Reveal the evidence in email
It was the
Scores of police contact
That tore away the veil
Is, Is he? Isn’t he? Isn’t he? Is! S P Y
I am a man of tradition unmasked
I am a man with a decade laid waste
I am a man whose friends have all split
This Judas kiss tastes of shame & disgrace
I collected & kept, I passed it along
The gossip & gas in the big hunt for wrong
To the powers in power who plan & respond
Who have left me & gone
With the fallout of this famed disgrace
This song is about a chap from the city of Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand, who was ousted for being an undercover informant for the NZ police. For 10 years he toured the country, at quite some expense to the NZ tax payer, gathering trivia and detail on the actions of various activist groups. This James Bond was uncovered when his partner at the time was asked to fix his malfunctioning computer. She discovered years of contact with the police.
There is an article here from PEACE RESEARCHER giving an in depth look at this story
Super big thanks to Garage Collective who created this beautiful image to accompany the song.
We visited Whanganui November 20 to play a show a a new venue called The Arc Theatre. A new venue that had it’s opening night only the week before. It’s an older style building -, 2 stories and a basement, near the inner-city of Whanganui, administered by Brandon. While we were setting up a local came in recounting how the building use to be a Chinese laundry in the early days of the town. It’s a small venue small, that would hold maybe 100 people at a squeeze. There are plans for it to be an art space, with the flexibility to present music, exhibitions, but thee are also plans to develop a small cinema downstairs. It’s focus seems more inclined towards the creative and experimental artistic community in town. The venue has picked up the mantle after the recent passing of Al, ALC5, who ran the legendary Eye of Night venue located on the main street. The ARC Theatre continues to honor the memory of Al by being the worthy recipients of much of Al’s gear from the Eye. And in memory to Al, the naming of ARC is the initials of AL’s full name.
And to up the coolness factor a significant notch or two, The ARC Theatre is next door neighbor to the uber hip label Stink Magnetic, administered by the infamous Tape-Man. I found a ‘cave painting’ that I believe to be an ancient rendition of the infamous Taped one, very impressive. —->
The show started gentle, folk ambling in at their leisure. Dow Jones performed first. I missed this unfortunately while away getting changed. A one-man act playing bossanova keyboard beats with sound samples. Next was the blazing punk genius of Blair Jones, another sole performance with Blair solely arm with a guitar and massive volume. Half a dozen songs of pure adrenaline.
We came on third. We we’re looking forward to this show, our first show out of town as a two piece. An exciting outing for us, a chance to present the reworked tunes to a new audience and experiment with this revised line-up. Its phenomenal how much noise/music two people can make. And brilliant back & forth banter, always easier when playing on the floor. The songs have been tweaked and some parts restructured to fit the new format, playing live is always such a great road test for material.
After us came the epic and massive unit that is Weeks Field,named after a building on the opposite side of the road to the venue. Siamese drummers and bass. Gargantuan , maybe improvised, drum & bass psychedelic rock-outs. Coloured with sporadic hooting & hollering from Brandon, one of the drummers and the venue curator.
It felt like a very successful presentation and I look forward to playing again. Whanganui is very lucky indeed to have another adventurous venue, and it’s great for touring acts as this place’ll fill a bit of a void. Always great to have new venues open, and sustained by local interest.