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.
Indie legend Chris Knox is featured in this episode from a series made for secondary school music students. He performs 'One Fell Swoop' — a love song he describes as an aberration amongst his more "nasty" numbers — and explains its composition while denying Whitney Houston comparisons. Knox is typically forthright in discussing his varied career as musician, cartoonist, TV presenter and "renaissance bloke". He outlines his philosophy of DIY self-sufficiency and extols the virtues of never compromising (so that even failure is "much more meaningful").
Gluey Gluey is an ode to snot and other gross bodily functions - and the clip illustrates this theme with disgusting relish. Like a Roald Dahl story imagined with song: giant nose-picking shots, snot eating, underpants itching, and more. Not for hygiene freaks or the generally faint-hearted.
NZ On Air funding gave director Chris Knox a little more budget than usual and it looks like he enjoyed the experience. Knox and Alec Bathgate perform with bandaged balaclava-like heads and weird painted face masks - English Patient meets a K-Road flower cult - while an upside down world flickers in the background. Mad but great.
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.
A compilation of four short ditties from the Tall Dwarfs’ Fork Songs album - ‘Wings’, ‘Lowlands’, ‘Oatmeal’, and ‘Two Humans’. The linked clips all feature assorted forms of stop frame animation and film scratching - Wings has a hand-drawn animated border; Lowlands uses the phone book as a background for a range of animated doodles; Oatmeal does unspeakable things with two raw chickens and other meat products; and Two Humans flickers through what seems like hundreds of different human faces. Simple but clever, as is the Chris Knox way.
This is one of Chris Knox's earlier video making efforts, and, like many Knox clips, was shot on location in his own Grey Lynn backyard. Knox and fellow Tall Dwarf Alec Bathgate feature in flickering TV screen images, as do scenes of ordinary domestic life. The strange comedy and tragedy face masks look like they're carved out of mouldy orange peel: a very Chris Knox attempt at making composting fun!
Chris Knox's grungy collage-style clip suits this mournful song perfectly. The sequence offering multifarious images of what “turning brown” might mean — from a deep tan to race-swapping — is a particular delight. The shot of Knox's daughter Leisha as a toddler, with the scratched in message "there is always hope" gives the clip a surprisingly poignant ending. In his ScreenTalk interview for NZ On Screen, Knox recalled it was a technical problem that led to him scratching directly onto the film, in the style of his hero Len Lye.
Being one of Tall Dwarfs’ more experimental tracks, it probably makes sense that the accompanying video would be as perplexing. Chris Knox shows his penchant for bizarre DIY animation as line drawings of creatures morph into lines of lyrics, then into human figures who keep losing their heads. The song itself does little to provide any easy answers, the minimal vocals rumbling out of a swamp of muddy riffs. Both 'Disease Day' songs appeared on 1984 EP Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster, which website All Music called "another chillingly perfect gem".
A simple line drawing animation for this little ditty from the Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster EP. The video features smoking sharks, animated versions of the Slugbucket character, Alec Bathgate, and Chris Knox himself. It’s fitfully low-tech as usual, but the clip still manages to use correct apostrophes throughout!
The video for this track from the Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster EP features expressionist shadows, odd science experiments in the basement, Frankenstein-like freaks, a flickering TV set, and an amateur brain transplant — demonstrating clearly that grunge-master Chris Knox is a major horror fan.
The title belies this profile (made for TV rock show Radio with Pictures) of Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate in their early days as the Tall Dwarfs. They traverse their past in legendary punk band The Enemy — with compelling performance footage — and the influential but ill-fated Toy Love. Knox’s seething disillusionment with the music industry is rapidly evolving into the DIY ethos that will reshape NZ alternative music. He is also typically confrontational as they busk in The Octagon while the closing acoustic performance is worth the price of admission on its own.
Chris Knox mines his immediate, 1981-era surroundings for this elaborate stop-motion clip. Record players go crazy, sleeping bags swallow people, and hardly anyone on screen seems to have a face. On the telly are Springboks and protests, plus the Ready to Roll top 20 countdown. And all this unravels a full two decades before editing programme Final Cut Pro made homespun hip again, and directors like Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep) started popularising the craft aesthetic.
Kiwi music legends Toy Love are credited with leading the NZ post-punk sound, delivering a sonic flare from 1979 that scaled charts and smashed Sweetwaters watermelons, before the love ended on a late 1980 NZ tour. In this February 1980 interview for regional show The South Tonight, the band is seen in their Dunedin hometown, preparing for a show at The Captain Cook Tavern. Reporter Keith Tannock asks Chris Knox what he’s rebelling against as the singer chugs a double-barrelled ciggie, and casts shade on boring pub rock music. The band would shortly depart for a stint in Sydney.