I wanna see all my friends at once / I’d do anything to go bang

I never quite get used to flying part of flying, although I’ve been stuck in these claustrophobic tin tubes 1 so many times over the years that I do it without much thought before, after, or during boarding.

The physical part of the flight is easy. I know how to check in, the tricks that get one through that process (internet check-in always, always, always 2)

The part I can never really get comfortable with is the lottery once on board, especially when transiting alone. Who is sitting in front of you? Why does the old lady three rows back insist on having an extended 3 am conversation in Farsi with her husband while both have their headsets on?

I hate being forced into conversations on aircraft and dread the talkative sort placed next to me. That’s what my instantly placed Sony headphones are for. Sure they work for in-flight diversion and audio too, but their primary role, at least for the first few moments before and after takeoff, are to make it obvious to the grinning inane curtain-rail salesman next to me that I have no interest in spending a few hours getting to know them or their stories. I’m not a snob. I just enjoy the fact that the aircraft seat is none of the few places on the planet that I can happily sit uninterrupted for an extended period.

And I really don’t care about your story.

Ok – I’m a snob.

As I type the brat sitting in the seat in front of me, aged about three, is leaning over, bashing my TV screen and shouting at me as his fucking mother sits obliviously watching NCIS LA. I am searching for a spare cushion to carefully press down on the charming wee thing’s face once mum has dozed off.

As I tweeted recently, the first airline to put all under fives in the cargo hold, with the pets, will get my business.

All of which is irrelevant, although I’m well pissed off that having travelled on Thai Airways (which perhaps should advertise itself as having the worst food in Thailand, just so one can compare with everything else served in the kingdom), it has not changed their in-flight movies in three months – they had a shitty selection ten weeks back – on the first of four trips. Repo Men was not good the first time. On the third spin through, it’s aged badly.

But I sound ungrateful. Russell flew me back to Auckland and for that, I am not only grateful but thoroughly flattered.

I came back for the Orcon Great Blend. I found myself sitting on stage in the wonderful (aside from the drink prices I’m told – mine were free so I’m not complaining) Wintergarden, a truly unique venue that Auckland City seems to be almost oblivious to 3 and vastly under-used.

I didn’t really get what Russell was trying to pull off until I saw it and when I saw it I was overwhelmed at both how incredibly ambitious it all was, and at how well it had been achieved by both Russell and the seemingly tireless Quentin at Pead PR. I was well impressed, which, given my ongoing and increasing-with-increasing-age cynicism, which is now coupled with a seen it before somewhere personal pre-judgement for almost anything, is something. It seemed to me that the spark of the germ of a notion of an idea had come to

It seemed to me that the spark of the germ of a notion of an idea had come to Mr. Brown, most likely as he lay in bed trying to drift off, when, let’s be real, most of the world’s great schemes are hatched, 4 and that he’d had the sense not to listen to rational wisdom and ran with it. Indeed, after it had all worked out so well, he told me he stood back and realised the, if not enormity, but perhaps sheer inadvisable scale, that most lesser people would perhaps scale back after the initial rush of the idea, of the damn thing. The fact that he ran with it instead of listening to those voices in his head is why he is who he is.

And pull it off he/they did. It was brill and inspiring.

As Russell and Brigid will attest, I was nervous as hell before I hit the stage. In fact, I was impossible for the week before 5. However, Russell commented beforehand, correctly, that I seemed more nervous about the DJing bit than the talking bit. Damn right – playing records to a crowd like that is far more harrowing than simply talking, something I’ve done more often than my creaky mind can sometimes recall 6.

I had also worked out that anything I said would be overshadowed by the, compared to me, literary giant that is Emily Perkins (and by Dylan Horrocks), and the talents of Karl Maughan, which (the talents that is) I’ve always been somewhat in awe of, even when he was staggering out of the Box after an extended night in front of the DJ booth, as he was often seen to do in the early to mid 1990s.

And with that, I want to apologise.

I don’t often get told off by barmen. I got told off by the barman. However, I wasn’t alone: Roger Shepherd, Murray Cammick, Doug Hood, Harry ‘The Bastard/Ratbag’, Benny Staples, PKNY and more all got told off by the barman too. For talking during the shows. For getting all reminiscent and old school over it all when we should have been listening. We really should have been. To be fair to ourselves, part of what we were saying was was related to the works in hand on the stage. But we were saying it too loudly – it was disrespectful and a wee bit arrogant.

I’m sorry.

Okay, that’s done. I feel much better.

A couple more things to clear up:

  1. I was not slagging off Neil Finn’s achievement at getting the most played song internationally award at the Silver Scrolls. Quite the opposite – but it’s been almost thirty years. FFS will someone knock it off that perch. We did it with How Bizarre for some five years, and that song still sits comfortably at number two (with close to 100,000 radio plays a year worldwide – still 7)
  2. Contrary to the tweet that went out I did not play any Hanson whilst on the decks. I’d left the album at home. But I did play Altered Images and for that I have no apology to make.

And finally, thanks to Stu Page whose images of the event, including the one above, are here. For more incredible shots of early punk in NZ, wander across to here.

Stuart’s vids of my interview8 are below if you missed it.

Show 8 footnotes

  1. I’m not generally claustrophobic but I’ve woken in a sweat at 40k a couple of times in a mild panic, but that may have more to with the large German stranger next to me trying to snuggle up in his sleep
  2. Unless of course one is flying out of Denpasar, where, having gone through the process of checking in on-line for Air Asia, you arrive at the terminal to find that not only does nobody in the office speak any language but Bahasa Indonesia (not an issue for me but perhaps for the several million non-Indo speaking visitors that arrive yearly in this outpost of the less attractive working class ‘burbs  of Perth and Sydney) but nobody at the check counters has heard of internet check in despite a torn old banner near an unattended old wooden counter proclaiming bag drop off for wired pre-bookers. The boarding pass, printed hopefully from the internet is met with initial bemusement, then torn up and a new one printed as if you are an idiot.
  3. Almost everyone I spoke to had last visited there when it was a picture theatre more than a decade back…. my last experience was a Dec 31st Nice’n’Urlich gig where the security was, in Hacienda style, searching patrons for drugs, confiscating same, none of which ever seemed to be seen again, and of which the Police had no knowledge. I guess it was a happy new year at Security Central.
  4. Either then, of after a whiskey / whisky or eight: I’m compelled  and fascinated by Dan Carlin’s podcast on the political history of intoxication: Churchill spent his whole Second World War either rotten drunk or mind-numbingly hung-over and on his way to the next hang-over; JFK was drugged up to his eyeballs on mind-numbing steroids, finger on the button, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, perhaps the whim to invade Russia came to Napoleon after several too many self-named brandies
  5. As Brigid can attest, yet again
  6. Three times in Auckland this year someone mentioned to me that they had interviewed or talked to me in past years, and in each case, I had no memory of it. Nota bene: this is not the result of ego but of fading faculties
  7. This is not sour grapes but trekking globally I hear How Bizarre everywhere, especially in Asia, where airplay is often not logged, & The US, but rarely, outside lifts and supermarkets, Don’t Dream It’s Over. I guess it must be big in Central Europe where I haven’t ventured for many years
  8. I have mixed feelings about posting these as it feels a little self serving but what the hell, and I hope I underlined how important some other people have been to my past – massive, massive talents like Alan Jansson, Jed Town, James Pinker, all the Screaming Blam-matics, Suburban Reptiles, Nathan Haines and more. I’ve been privileged to work with such people


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

September 15, 2010 at 11:09 AM

I really enjoyed your stories about your punk days. And I wouldn’t apologise for talking … I was sitting at the back and could barely hear anything, so I thought it made sense that people started talking. The venue was great, but if a similar event is held there, I hope the sound is sorted out.

Mark Harris
September 15, 2010 at 12:09 PM

Cool interview Simon. Couldn’t get to the gig, but nice to see it here.

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September 15, 2010 at 12:09 PM

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September 15, 2010 at 01:09 PM

Great post – sympathies on the flying front. In fact, I’m going to start to do my level best not to get in a plane if the destination’s in Europe from here on out. Hamburg and Dublin over the next month or so are going to be trains and boats – though, stupidly (and now unavoidably) Aberdeen’s a flight.

Russell got me over for a Great Blend last year (Feb ’09), and Quentin was, as you put it, seemingly tireless. But it looks like they got to thinking “We can do better than that…” and completely upped the scale and the calibre of guest. Sounds like a great night – and I’m a little bit in awe of both Emily Perkins and Dylan Horrocks as well. My copy of their joint effort is on its way and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

Enjoying the videos. So glad that this stuff gets captured and made available these days so we can get the next best thing to being there. Nice work, kudos as always to Russell as well, who’s a complete legend – just wish I could have been there for the DJ set.

And there’s never any need to apologise for Clare Grogan.

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