Archives for posts with tag: 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.

Christine Voice & Peter Gutteridge of Snapper, 1991

Christine Voice & Peter Gutteridge of Snapper, 1991

Day 23 of the 31 Days of May NZ Music Month via Bandcamp challenge comes to you from the past, the present and the future by virtue of Dunedin icons Snapper.

This is hardly a new release or current New Zealand music… yet it is. The 1988 self-titled Snapper EP still sounds contemporary in 2013 (thinking Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips in a cast of many drone rockers of the modern era). It was re-released last month on Flying Nun Records – early fruit from their partnership with US label Captured Tracks along with the first EP by The Bats.

I remember this EP sounding revolutionary and exciting in 1988. Still does today. The mostly one chord fuzz-drones merge propulsive ‘Krautrock’ beats with the psychedelic melodies from voice and guitar. Everyone knows ‘Buddy’, but all four tracks on the EP are just as strong. Here’s ‘Hang On’:

The re-issued EP is available at all good record stores or direct from Flying Nun Records. In Dunedin you can get it from Portil, or even more fun, from Too Tone Records. Tony is eagerly awaiting your custom for these fine re-issues. In fact, never mind the re-issues, there’s always a good chance you’ll find the original editions in Too Tone’s 2nd hand New Zealand vinyl bin. According to the members of Real Estate, who shopped there on their visit to Dunedin last year, it has the best selection of NZ vinyl anywhere in the world. English cricketer/ commentator Derek Pringle may also agree.

Snapper have re-emerged – Peter Gutteridge along with a transfusion of talent from the Dunedin’s fountain of youth and occasional collaborators from past line-ups. There’s the real prospect of some new recordings from them some day.

Snapper at Camp a Low Hum 2013

Snapper at Camp a Low Hum 2013