May 30, 2013


Good news, this: Sheen of Gold, Simon Ogston’s doco on Skeptics – it was never “the” Skeptics, was it? – gets its first screenings at the New Zealand Film Festival in July (the trailer is here). All New Zealand rock documentaries are valuable as slices of vanished history – I wrote about the Shihad one back here, and missed the Exponents one that everyone liked, but the special and maybe difficult thing about Skeptics is that there must be very little existing footage of David D’Ath. The promo clips for Agitator and Affco, the Bob Sutton-shot live material – but what else? They were one of the least documented, most original, most singular of New Zealand post-punk bands, and there has not been a word about them since their end in 1990 and the $100-plus four-CD box that wrapped things up in 1992 (nerd point: I was working with Robin “Gun of Sod” Gauld at Student Job Search in Wellington when that came out, but I imagine he got his copy for free). No reunions, of course, no other histories. Just a handful of records, the memories of some incredible live shows and a couple of excellent pieces of writing that have lasted too. There was a D’Ath obit by Headless Chicken Chris Matthews:
The music was aggressive and unsettling but the focal point was David with his slight stature, his hooked nose and his deep-set eyes. He looked like some strange, punch drunk bird and the veins in his neck bulged as he forced mysterious words and noises from his throat.  
And Matthew Hyland – what a great rock writer he was. I haven’t forgotten this line in over … yes, it’s been 20 years:  
As if a bionic Sabbath or Swans was having an epileptic fit.  
Both are from pre-Internet age Rip it Up, held onto as clippings, retyped or scanned, copied. You have to acknowledge the unpaid archivists. Speaking of which, from a couple of days ago, a story on the Bob Sutton collection.