As he tells it, Roger Shepherd's new book, I'm in Love With These Times: My Life With Flying Nun Records, didn't start out as the memoir it is.
It was going to be the Flying Nun book, the definitive history of the label and its music. That would have been madness. People at the centre of cultural history are rarely the right people to thoroughly document it as history. Apart from anything else, they're quite rightly not all that invested in the detail. They were there, man.
And so a very memoirish memoir it is. In Love With These Times is droll, laconic, scattered with flashes of insight – into music, society or Roger himself. The timeline casually jumps around much as it would if someone was telling the story to a person in the room. There are, inevitably, a few errors.
I gather some people are miffed that they are not mentioned, or not prominently enough. But it's not that kind of book. There are loads of people and places not mentioned. I've known Roger for 36 years and my sole appearance can be summarised as "Shared a caravan at Sweetwaters that time." Is that all I am to you Roger? History's bunkmate?
More surprising, perhaps, is that there's relatively little of the intriguing view of late-70s freaky Christchurch I got from Roger for my Flying Nun Prehistory on Audioculture. If you do read the book, I'd humbly recommend that as supplementary reading.
There is no settling of scores here. Indeed, Roger goes to almost awkward lengths to praise people he might have had a beef with. The principal exceptions are The Androidss, who clearly troubled his nervous disposition. (Roger! They were teddy bears! Well, yes, teddy bears with drug habits and improperly developed risk assessment faculties, but still.) And Chris Knox.
Chris Knox – or, rather, the difficult side of Chris's personality – gets a going-over of the kind you can only give someone you really love. The younger, confrontational Chris was in many ways the opposite of Roger, who clearly found his habit of getting-in-faces difficult. But the book also lights up Chris's role as the soul of the adventure, from the first time Roger saw The Enemy and everything changed, through the four-track recordings and the boundless and crucial creative energy he provided over the years.
Roger is similarly frank about himself, even unto his diagnosis late in the piece with manic depression. As he writes, it dawned on him that perhaps the reason the whole thing happened and kept happening against reason was the sustaining power of that mania.
Some version of the comprehensive, trainspotting history this book was meant to be will come later this year in Matthew Goody's Needles & Plastic: A Flying Nun Discography 1981-1988, an enhanced discography to be jointly published with Auckland University Press.
For now, this is what it is, and I loved it and read it in two sittings. Doubtless, that's partly because I am roughly the same age as Roger (he seemed so mature and cool when we went to the Record Factory as schoolkids, but there was only three years in it), grew up in the same place and heard the same music. But it's also because this is a story well told.
The book was launched in Auckland on Tuesday night, in the intimate basement of the Flying Out store. Roger answered questions from Graeme Hill and various randoms in the audience. It was fun:
Yes, Flying Nun is still a record label that releases new records. Avoid Avoid have dropped an amazing video for their student radio hit 'Drones', from their album Particle and Wave:
NZ On Air has reworked its music funding structure, to make it easier for artists and labels to record and promote a series of releases as a project. It seems a sensible development on Making Tracks and I know at least one label owner who's delighted with it. New music boss David Ridker talked to Under the Radar about it.
Quite a bit on tonight: Arthur Ahbez plays The Wine Cellar, with friends, the crew from Christchurch's Melted Ice Cream Records invade the King's Arms and lovely Louie Knuxx kicks off the Tiny Warm Hearts release tour at the Las Vegas Club.
Clicks are Anna Coddington and Dick Johnson and this is their debut single together. It's a cover of a 90s Norwegian club hit and it's pretty cool. Unfortunately, I've missed telling you about it until now and the free download expired three weeks ago. So you'll have to buy it or stream it if you like it ...
The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by: