The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Friday, January 04, 2008

The ‘cult’ of New Zealand artists

1-4-08 The ‘cult’ of New Zealand artists

In short, there isn’t really a ‘cult’ of New Zealand musical artists – after following The Beatles, King Crimson, Krautrock, Magma, and the British New Wave…I became a ‘cult of one’ for the fandom of musical artists from New Zealand. An NZ zealot, if you will.

I knew about Split Enz because in ‘76/7 their U.S. record company, Chrysalis Records, was offering an “unlimited tab” if you would go see their new band, Split Enz – at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, CA. The Golden Bear wasn’t too far out of my way – and it was sort of interesting that this band from…(New Zealand is it?) were now being produced by Roxy Music’s guitarist, Phil Manzanera. We walked in the door, ordered dinner, got our drinks…spotted the white mellotron on stage…and promptly had our collective butts kicked by a mutant vision of colonial progressive rock.

Cut to Helsinki, Finland – 1979. My first big trip to Europe; 1st Class Eurail pass. Sitting in the boat terminal in Helsinki, waiting for the boat to Stockholm. A holidaying Kiwi spotted my English newspaper and came over to talk to me, assuming I spoke English. We did the “Where are you from?” “Where do you think I’m from?” – I probably said (after hearing her accent) “Either South Africa or New Zealand.” “Good guess; Wanganui, NZ”. “Do you know any NZ music?”, she asked. “Split Enz”, I said. We kept in touch. I always tried to keep in touch with people – I still do. She passed through L.A. some time shortly thereafter (on a new year’s eve, as I recall) – and when Chris got back to NZ, she sent me some records – among them, “AK 79” – the LP that was the clarion call for punks / new wavers in NZ. In one fell swoop, I got learn about Toy Love and The Swingers. That voice! I’ve heard it before! Uh, Phil Judd of Split Enz.

By the end of 1980, barely a year after meeting my first Kiwi, I was on my way to Wellington, New Zealand – for an undetermined length of time. I was all of 22 years old. I met people, saw bands, bought records…and a general strike stranded me there for about two weeks longer than my supply of cash. I was taken in by a family from Hull, England who had settled in Auckland (Les & Beryl). They had two little girls, nice kids (Jeanette & Lorraine). I learned more about NZ in my ‘stranded’ two weeks than I had in the previous year!

End result: I went to NZ seven times from 1980 to 1987. I met Chris Knox, Mike Chunn, Charlie Tumahai, Gary Steel, Murray Cammick, Jim Moss, Gary Nuttall, Fane Flaws, the owners of Silvio’s in Wellington and an immense cast of other characters. I even conducted some business in NZ, contacting exporters – records were inexpensive to buy (they actually cost more to ship ‘em than it did to buy ‘em, practically!). It was a swinging Dominion Bitter party that came to a screeching halt when the last record pressing plant there closed in ’87.

I found a few other like-minded people in the endeavor of NZ music – Allen Pasternak, Brian Ware, Bob Gaulke, Cary Darling…but, for the most part – I was a ‘cult-of-one’. I even had business cards printed that said “Ron Kane – New Zealand Music Expert”! And I was – for most of those seven years…



Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: Charlie Tumahai

Begorrah! I had no idea he was Maori!

10:02 AM  
Blogger robert said...

Hey Ron,

Just another opportunity to express my gratitude for all those years, tapes, and cassettes from NZ via your house.

Getting such a comprehensive overview of such a small vibrant scene provided me with a great way to enjoy and analyze so many aspects of musical style and substance.

Thanks as always,

Bob Gaulke

3:58 PM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

Jim-san: Aye, he was a Maori; nice guy too - he was in The Herbs when I met him in Auckland.

Bob-san: You listened. That is enough. Many thanks fir the feedback etc. over the years.

Love fest!

6:28 PM  
Blogger Brian Ware said...

When I think back on certain pivotal events in my life that forever changed me, I'm always grateful for your Anz Imports ad that caught my eye all those years ago. I still have that first letter you sent me after my first inquiry. I can't thank you enough for the last 25 years of fun and I look forward to the next 25.


9:13 PM  

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