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.
This raw and rowdy video gives a fleeting insight into the all-too-short life of Darcy Clay. Recorded on a primitive four-track tape machine, 'Jesus I Was Evil' was a demented fusion of country and garage rock that, combined with Clay's fetching Evel Knievel-style onesies, heralded the arrival of an eccentric new voice. Darcy's school friend David Gunson agreed to shoot the video for a few hundred dollars and a bottle of whisky — editor Ian Bennett ended up getting the whisky. The wry humour and energy captured in the video stands as a fitting testament to his subject.
Made to tie in with director Joe Hitchcock’s feature debut Penny Black, Lapwing is a quirky homage to the camp superheroes of yesteryear, with costumes and a villain that would make Adam West's Batman feel right at home. When Lapwing (Sash Nixon) takes on the evil Dr Curem and finds himself outmatched, he needs the help of the aerially talented Mousegirl to conquer. Full of more mixed metaphors than you can shake to the brim, plus plenty of intentionally lo-fi special effects, the comic short features two heroes saving the day by biting the hand they're dealt.
Nathan Rarere landed a presenting role on What Now? in the 90s, but turned it down because he didn't want to be on TV. Eventually he changed his mind.
Ruban Nielson’s Portland-based Unknown Mortal Orchestra explores lo-fi, funk psychedelia on this bittersweet number from their second album. The video, shot by an American cast and crew at counter-culture hangout Venice Beach in Los Angeles, follows Chris Mintz-Plasse (Superbad, Kick-Ass) as he attempts to extricate a loved one from the clutches of a panhandling, Manson Family style cult. Former Mint Chick Nielson (in black jersey and beanie) and his fellow UMO members have cameos but can’t compete with the family members dancing in the California sun.
Taika Waititi's 80s extravaganza wouldn't have been complete without the man himself arriving on set in a DeLorean — the time-travelling car from Back to the Future. The clip for The Phoenix Foundation is another homage-packed example of lo-fi genius from the Oscar nominated director. Note how Eastern European-derived keyboardist Luke Buda is playing a 'Poland' synthesizer. Said Waititi: "I spotted the DeLorean parked near our flat in Mt Cook, and left a note under the wiper saying 'what year are you from?' Turns it was one of two owned by a local doctor."
Zowie is a musical persona created by Zoey Fleury (daughter of Auckland musician Johnny Fleury). A drummer from childhood, she formed lo-fi punk duo The Bengal Lights while at music school in 2006. Two years later, a growing interest in singing and drum machines saw her reinvent herself as the electro-pop inspired Bionic Pixie. Growing in confidence while writing music overseas, she relaunched herself in 2010 as Zowie. Signed with Sony, she won media attention after playing at US festival South by Southwest. Album Love Demoiition followed in 2012. Fleury's next release will likely involve further reinvention.
After playing together in The Enemy and Toy Love, Chris Knox and Alex Bathgate decided to leave mainstream music behind. The underground lo-fi pioneers made do without a drummer, instead using household objects and handclaps as percussion. 1981 EP Three Songs marked the first of over a dozen releases by the duo, including one (1994's 3 EPs) where they invited fans to send them backing tracks. In 2009 Knox had a stroke. Benefit album Stroke demonstrated the global influence of both Knox and Tall Dwarfs; it included tracks from Yo La Tengo and Will Oldham. Tall Dwarfs also contributed a track.
One Fell Swoop offers more DIY ingenuity from the man who has made an art form out of simplicity: a hand hypnotically moves back and forth, revealing a new notepaper lyric with each motion. The result makes for a surprisingly mesmerising video, with interludes of Knox singing in front of a chaotically shifting background seeming startling by comparison. Some neat visual effects near the end leave Knox’s face disappearing into the background, a noticeable leap from the rest of the clip’s lo-fi sensibilities. Knox directed the video with then partner Barbara Ward.
Dunedin's David Kilgour first came to prominence in the late 1970s with his brother Hamish, as part of legendary lo-fi band The Clean (who occasionally still tour and record). After forming The Great Unwashed with his brother in 1983, he fronted his own group Stephen in 1989. Since then, Kilgour has released a host of solo recordings, three albums as David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights, and two collaborations with poet Sam Hunt. He has a devoted fan base in the United States, and in 2001 was named a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Kilgour paints when he isn't making music.