Stylus Magazine – Dunedin sound

May 2, 2006

Interesting article about the “Dunedin Sound” from a Northern Hemisphere perspective. Lots of nice quotes from the band members, and Discography selection. Interesting notes about the isolation of Dunedin, leading to a DIY attitude, and a sense of community.
“There wasn’t a Dunedin Sound, except that the bands recorded on the same equipment and possessed the same feel. We all shared a love of good songs and a loathing of stage personas and such.” — Martin Phillips, Southern Skys magazine, 1991.

“The Dunedin sound, mmmm, me and my big mouth!” — David Kilgour, coiner of the term ‘Dunedin Sound’, by e-mail, 2005.

unedin seems to be doing just fine; this is a place whose average rainfall gives Manchester a run for its money, and where the city square isn’t square, but octagonal. Yet, with hindsight, its history of straight-laced conformism was good for something: it gave teenagers something to kick out against, and by the end of the 1970s it was apparent that something was stirring. That something found its expression in Chris Knox.

“Punk was big for sure but in Dunedin we were extremely isolated and it took a long time for musical trends to filter down this far. You have to appreciate the pre-globalisation technological environment that existed back then (at least for us). A record released in the UK may have taken up to two years before a copy of the master was shipped out here and the pressing plant in Wellington produced the record. Case in point, Ian Curtis was dead and buried before any JD records were released here. They were awaited with great anticipation because people had read about the band in NME or whatever, but the actual records took an age to filter through. Being something of a backwater meant there was something of a disincentive to follow trends (why bother when they were moribund at their source by the time we knew about them). This allowed or fostered inclusive listening habits, anything from the 60’s up to punk. (hence my rather conservative record collection was not frowned upon in any way as being uncool).” — Graeme Downes, by email, 2005.

“Radio in Dunedin and throughout New Zealand was terrible in the seventies. We had a few thrills like the Dr Demento’s Show late at night and some DJs who were a little adventurous but apart from that it was relentless top 40 and golden oldies. [They played] New Zealand music only if they really had to, and only if it was very mainstream. The programmers predicted the end of society as we knew it if they were forced to play that terribly amateur NZ stuff.” — Martin Phillips, by e-mail, 2005.
‘The generation that followed, the so-called Dunedin Sound bands, borrowed punks DIY ethos and some of its aggression, but not a lot stylistically. And because the only live music we tended to hear were the other bands in the city we tended to borrow from each other probably more than from outside sources. The Clean were the best band and most of us younger ones used them as a model. This insularity that created the situation where a group of bands absorbed influences from local rather than global influences was bound to create stylistic similarity.’ — Graeme Downes, by e-mail, 2005.
…with NZ being so small you tend to get to know most people eventually, somehow. The late 70’s and a lot of the 80’s were great fun and really exciting. Amongst the camaradery there was (and still is) always a healthy undercurrent of competition in the creative stakes.” — David Kilgour, by e-mail, 2005.



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