In 1994 Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate decided they needed more dwarfs. Having released dozens of songs as duo Tall Dwarfs, they asked fans to send in rhythm tracks, then used selected results as creative fuel for their 1997 album Stumpy. This short film brings the Dwarfs' gleefully low-fi approach to the world of album promotion. Knox and Bathgate alternate performances of various tracks from the album (including some naked keyboarding from Knox) with appearances by various offspring, mates and musicians, free-associating on the word stumpy.
‘Doomsday’ was initially released as a 12 inch 45. The video is shot in a room similar to the one featured in their classic Death and the Maiden (but the bay window isn’t quite as grand, and there are no rabbits). A blue wash runs through the first three quarters of the clip, as Graeme Downes sings off to one side — his lyrics a bleak portrayal of a doomed relationship that could end at any time. (But when?) The instrumental final minute is in full colour, with Downes back in the midst of the band. The homespuns have come off and there are smiles all round.
The opening track from the second Jean-Paul Sartre Experience album indicates a significant change in tone for the band — more layered and expansive, and less angular than some of their earlier recordings. The video was directed and edited by John Chrisstoffels, who shot the stained glass windows and tile mosaics in Christchurch's Anglican Cathedral. JPSE vocalist and bass player Dave Yetton created the pulsing and spiraling video feedback effects. The band appears only fleetingly — in individual close-ups, filmed off a television screen by Chrisstoffels.
Bold lighting and caterwauling guitars push this largely black and white performance clip above others of the era. Silhouette and strobing make for a mesmerising video that deserves a consumer health warning for those affected by flashing lights. After line-up changes and much remembered live gigs, the Christchurch noise-meisters ultimately morphed into Bailterspace.
The Bats in a suitably enigmatic mood in a video directed by John Chrisstoffels that is as mysterious as the song itself. What was said that is causing the protagonist so much reflection is never really clear - and neither is the reason why the unidentifiable figure with the spade is burying cutlery and a barometer on a hillside high on Godley Head overlooking Pegasus Bay. Elsewhere the band perform at King Edward Barracks (now a parking lot in central Christchurch) and in their practice room, as well as with some of their favourite toys. [This video is made available by The Film Archive]
From the time-honoured music video making tradition of "throw a party, add a horse costume and film the results" comes a frenetic clip directed by Andrew Moore. Love's Ugly Children were at their belligerent best on this song from their second album. Drummer Jason Young was the waylaid missionary; and guitarist Simon McLaren got to talk to a horse on the phone and display hitherto-unseen break-dancing skills. The carpet of their flat came off second best in an encounter with some red body paint. Extra marks for the cheese and pineapple hedgehog.
This was the iconic Dunedin group's first music video. Directed by Peter Janes, the promo for the song roams around an aptly chilly looking attic while the band performs. As soap bubbles float towards the rafters, there’s fog on the breath of singer Martin Phillipps, who lulls the listener to swim into space with him … “come along baby we'll live in our kaleidoscope world”. The early Chills song was from Flying Nun’s seminal Dunedin Double EP. It was later featured as the opening (and title) track on The Chills’ debut LP, a 1986 compilation of early career songs.
Bressa Creeting Cake's jaunty calypso romp, described by the band as "a very happy holiday song full of gaiety, summer, and love for one's fellows", gets a suitably madcap treatment in this video directed by Michael Keating and band member Edmund McWilliams (aka Ed Cake). Actor and comedian Jonathan Brugh (What We Do in the Shadows) gets to mug for the camera while the band lurks in the background in their "sinister suits". Auckland's Little Shoal Bay, near the Harbour Bridge, is the opening location, and elsewhere, a guitar is used as a percussion instrument.
This Able Tasmans single starts with a piano intro from Graeme Humphreys (aka Graeme Hill ) — the so-called baroque popsters really loved their keyboards. The clip goes on to showcase the instrumental prowess of a band who weren't afraid to throw horns, bagpipes, and strings into the mix. The first vocal doesn't arrive until almost two minutes in! Director Phillipa Anderton captures the energy of the playing by weaving the camera above and around the musicians. The clip's use of colour is also distinctive: most obviously in a set which is revealed to be yellow and deep blue.
Low-tech legend Chris Knox is an accomplished musician, cartoonist, critic, filmmaker, and jandal wearer. As this collection demonstrates, his genius takes flight in the DIY aesthetic of his music videos. As Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd says in his backgrounder, “this is a unique and important collection of work perfectly illustrating what is possible with the barest of resources and a free-wheeling imagination”. Russell Brown adds his view here. Alongside music videos, the collection also includes interviews with Knox and profiles of bands Toy Love and Tall Dwarfs.