Archives for posts with tag: Peter Gutteridge
Too Tone NZ Music Month

Shop display of re-purposed NZ Music Month poster at Too Tone Records (2010-2017) in Dunedin.

New Zealand Music Month day #7 comes from Port Chalmers (Koputai) and a place over the hill called Purakaunui. Koputai seadogs Seafog released a double album recently and “Purakaunui” is a song from the album full of coastal atmosphere.

Seafog’s “Purakaunui” is an updated take on the version from almost 20 years ago recorded by frontman Robin Sharma’s previous band Jetty.

The tiny settlement of Purakaunui is formed around a tidal inlet and overlooks Blueskin Bay. It is an area surrounded by history. To the East is Whareakeake (Murdering Beach), and to the West is Mapoutahi Pa, places of grim history referenced in the song.

Although it’s only 30 minutes from Dunedin city centre, Purakaunui is a world away in time and oasis of somewhat haunted peace now, in part because it’s hard to get a mobile phone signal there. The small cemetery in Purakaunui is also the resting place of Dunedin music legend Peter Gutteridge (The Clean, The Puddle, Snapper).



Peter Gutteridge – 1961 – 2014

I had a bad feeling when I heard Peter was on a plane to New York last month. He’d never been out of the country before, only got his first passport days before. Peter wasn’t well, although much better in the past few years than he had been most of the previous few decades. He had recently been diagnosed with diabetes and was often tired, although prone to bursts of energy. His physical health was obvious. His mental health less so. He’s always been an original, a maverick, and it’s hard to tell when someone does something out of character when their whole character is out of character.

I first met Peter in 1984 when I went to Dunedin to play drums for The Puddle at their second show. It was either at a flat where the famous Great Unwashed 7” double EP paint-splattered vinyl shower-curtain covers were being made or a warehouse loft space above a rental car company downtown with door keys thrown out of an upstairs window to let myself in. Time has blurred time & place. The following year Peter and Christine Voice (later keyboards & voice of Snapper) stayed with us in Invercargill. They turned up again ‘on holiday’ out of the blue in Christine’s unusual looking Borgward car and stayed a few days. I think he was on the run from a Great Unwashed tour. He wrote a thank-you letter later from Flying Nun’s Christchurch HQ, having just arrived in the city to find his dole had been cut off and his flat had burnt down. He said “Great Unwashed are out of action for a while or permanently – I’m not sure which.” He added “I enjoyed Invercargill in a strange sort of way.”

He was back later in 1985 with The Puddle when they played with The Chills in Invercargill on two nights in 1985, the week before the ‘Pop Lib’ mini-album was recorded. I played drums on the Friday night, the first of only two times I would ever play music with Peter. The second was last year.

The Puddle, Invercargill 1985 (from back of 'Pop Lib' sleeve)

The Puddle, Invercargill 1985 (from back of ‘Pop Lib’ sleeve)

I saw Snapper play once or maybe twice in the late 1980s and early 1990s during trips to Dunedin; a terrifying gothic-looking band making a monstrous, exhilarating, abrasive noise laced with melody. While people focus a lot on the noise side of Snapper, they had a gentler side and the ‘Shotgun Blossom’ album in particular has some beautiful contrasts between storm and calm. And then there’s that 1993 B-Side ‘Gentle Hour’…

Christine Voice & Peter Gutteridge of Snapper, 1991

Christine Voice & Peter Gutteridge of Snapper, 1991

I saw Snapper again several times these past two years; something I had never expected. It was a different Snapper, with young musicians Hope (drums) and Danny (keyboards) and either Peter’s nephew Jack on guitar or original guitarist Dominic (or both). It was looser and freer, almost an improvised pulsing distorted noise-jazz, if such a thing exists. Song structures were often replaced by feel and the music swayed.

There’s a great new song called ‘Mother’ captured at practice with Danny and Jack from about 2012 or so which may give an indication of where Peter was heading.

Last year I played drums for Peter and Chris Heazelwood at Chick’s Hotel one night, improvising around drones, playing ‘Mother’ and also playing Snapper tunes. It was a lifelong ambition to play those Snapper beats with Peter. He said afterwards “You should’ve played those Can beats you do. I’d like my music to be more fluid now, but drummers always play those Snapper beats.”

The new line-up of Snapper played a beautiful, moving show at the Wellington music festival Camp A Low Hum in February 2013. The sun was setting and Peter greeted the audience in his pale blue suit, addressing the audience like a New Age spiritualist messiah. The tension in the air was electric. The band launched into the first song… which sputtered out seconds later. Peter hadn’t tuned his guitar. They got underway eventually and it was magical. When they played his Great Unwashed song “Born in the Wrong Time” the whole crowd – most of whom were born after the song was first released – sang along.

Snapper - Camp A Low Hum music festival, Wellington, February 2013

Snapper – Camp A Low Hum music festival, Wellington, February 2013

In the past couple of years I got to know Peter again. I spent a lot of time with him this year, many long and varied sermons on life, love, nature, people & the universe, either sitting in the sun on his front porch, or freezing in his living room while a permanent sound loop of throbbing synths & ambient noise pulsed away around us for hours on end. He was a shaman, a mystic, a spiritualist.

Peter was supported quietly, almost imperceptibly, by an informal network of friends and neighbours and family who kept an eye out for him and helped him with those bits of the reality of life he wasn’t in command of quite as much. Every other time I visited him I arrived to the smell of burning and rescued a smoking, blackened pot from his stovetop. So, with that, and his health problems, the idea of Pete flying off overseas never crossed my mind. I thought it was possible he may not be around for a lot longer. However, this was not the time or the way for it to happen.

A few months ago I called in at his place on the way for a surf at Purakaunui, over the hill from Port Chalmers near Dunedin. Peter wanted to come with me, to get out of the city, find some open sky and some fresh air, to see and hear the sea. When we arrived he left his walking stick in the car, saying “I don’t need this, it just gets in the way and slows me down” and followed me out along the rocky path under the hillside by the entrance to the inlet. He kept up with me along the narrow track and clambered easily over rocks, stopping to take in the air and the sun, breathing deeply. “This is perfect mushroom country” he said, pointing out damp lush grassy slopes in the autumn afternoon light. Peter sat on the rocks and watched while I surfed. Then we walked back to the car, Peter wandering off to examine a patch of interest here and there. He talked about the natural world like it was a person. He knew the hills and land around here. The two things he cared about most were the natural world and people, and I think he felt his music could be some kind of force bringing people & nature together again, against the forces destroying the earth and society.

Peter Gutteridge as The Green Man in 'Secret Holiday' by The Puddle (video directed by Dan Wagner)

Peter Gutteridge as The Green Man in ‘Secret Holiday’ by The Puddle (video directed by Dan Wagner)

Pete was so full of ideas, of music and of life and love… but it was hard for him to find the focus and the help to make those ideas happen, or to communicate his music ideas to those who could help. He seemed to expect people to telepathically know what he wanted, to be on the same plane of thought as he was, to share the same ideas he had. He could talk endlessly about those ideas, but seemed frustrated that others didn’t understand him. I didn’t understand him.

On my last visit in July he was talking about getting some recording equipment and setting up his house to record new music. It was going to involve those looped sounds, but with a band improvising under his lead and feeding off the energy in the room, adding their ideas and voices and creating something spiritual, hypnotic and, well, pure. He wanted it to move people, calm them, heal them, inspire them, bring them together.

Peter's room

Peter’s room

He asked if I’d give him a hand to move stuff around and set up for recording. He said he’d text me the next week, but I didn’t hear from him again. I saw him briefly at The Terminals show at Chick’s Hotel after that. Then next I heard he was on a plane, inexplicably heading to New York. He was there a month, played a show there, and made it back as far as Auckland.

Pete’s gone now. But not the way he deserved to. Not that any of us get to chose. But Pete deserved serenity and to experience the moment. He would’ve known how to do that; how to let go. I prefer to imagine him slipping away while sitting on his front porch in North East Valley, Dunedin, black cat by his side, mangled cowboy hat on his head, serene smile on his face, taking in the sunshine view of the valley and hills, his spirit dissolving into the sunlight and radiating throughout the Universe of Love.

PURE, with original Xpressway cassette

PURE, with original Xpressway cassette

“Music is the food upon which our souls thrives. Its not a luxury. Its an essential. Children simply don’t grow up properly without it.”

When it comes to writing about the 25 year old wonder that is Peter Gutteridge’s ‘Pure’ album, all the hard work has been done. By PG himself. Above, and below:

“Once in a while, I believe u become a kind of channel, even if slightly muddled. The tainted shamen? I don’t know. What I can say is this record yer hopefully holding in hand had its genesis long b4 I ever picked up a guitar. Ive always loved a dirty drone. Notes corrupted and split apart by the miracle of the sympathetic note- ie. Bagpipe, chanters, organs, piano’s, ad infinitum. Throw a few clear notes in and you achieve creation on yr own terms. Link it up 2 the background hum of the universe doing its thing and u have hypnosis in a sound. Shmaya.”

You can read the whole wonderful introductory notes to ‘Pure’ right here.

‘Pure’ originally came out on a cassette on the (then) cassette label Xpressway Records. Bruce Russell start Xpressway in Dunedin (Port Chalmers in fact, a nearby harbour port town within Dunedin City boundary) as a reaction to what he saw as the more commercial direction of Flying Nun Records.

During the 1980s Peter left his imprint on earliest line-ups of The Chills, The Clean, and The Puddle and was also a key part of The Great Unwashed with the Kilgour brothers before forming Snapper.

‘Pure’ came out in 1989, shortly after the famous EP with ‘Buddy’ on it and just before the other, early 90s, releases. ‘Pure’ pre-dates those Snapper recordings and gives an insight into the genesis of drone that became the distinctive Snapper sound. It has been a largely forgotten remnant of a bygone era for ages.

I’m not sure if it is the case, but I wonder if Matt Mondanile of New Jersey bands Real Estate and Ducktails is at least in part responsible for ‘Pure’ being re-discovered in 2013. Matt knew all about ‘Pure’ and his band Ducktails recorded a great version of ‘Planet Phrom’from ‘Pure’ for the 2013 album ‘The Flower Lane’.

I met Matt in 2012 when I brought Real Estate down to Dunedin to play when they were touring NZ. It seemed the proper thing to do, seeing as how Dunedin was clearly in that band’s DNA.

Matt from Real Estate (& Ducktails) in Too Tone Records 2012

Matt from Real Estate (& Ducktails) in Too Tone Records 2012

Not long after the tour he got in touch and asked if I could get Peter’s OK to cover ‘Planet Phrom’ and also find out what some of the unintelligible lyrics were. Most of the lyrics were decipherable from the Pure tape but there were a few indistinct smudges of words in later verses.

Peter was bemused someone in the US even knew about the song. He couldn’t remember the lyrics, saying it was just stuff he made up at the time, many years ago now. He said it was just about Planet Phrom and the people on it so nothing special. (It is actually about living in a drug haze and, on Planet Phrom, “all the trees are dripping drugs/ In this space paradise”. I think he remembered the words alright).

He asked me to tell Matt he should interpret what he thinks the words were himself and, if he can’t make out the words, just to make up his own and add his own observations about Planet Phrom into the song. That way it would give it his own perspective and mean Planet Phrom was still living on.

[UPDATE: Turns out no, it was just a ‘pure’ coincidence that Matt covered ‘Planet Phrom’ on the Ducktails album just prior to the album being re-issued on vinyl later the same year. The album was re-issued by the same label – 540 Records – that did The Clean ‘Oddities’ and on the recommendation of David Kilgour. Still, a cool coincidence that the Ducktails cover happened just prior to its re-release.]

Here’s Ducktails performing Planet Phrom live in New York.