Every Day In May – Day 27: Pauly Fuemana Interview

May 29, 2016
7 mins read

The idea? Every day in May, to mark NZ Music Month and 38 years of his own rancid opining and reportage, Gary Steel will present something from his considerable behind. Personal archive, that is. The following is a transcription of my interview with Pauly Fuemana aka OMC from 4 November 1996.


omcGary Steel – You’re not finding it tiring?

Pauly Fuemana – No, because during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s I never had a job. This is a job, you know. I’m actually doing something, staying away from boredom. I just bought a gym, a home gym. It’s not for muscles, I needed it for stamina. I went to Europe for three weeks and in that three weeks, man! I looked back on my faxes and stuff and I did like six video programmes – Viva, Bravo – 16 interviews a day, with two shows to do each day for three days in Germany. And you think, man, is my stamina really up to this? I didn’t actually think about it until I was flying out. When I was flying out of the country, getting served by the stewardess. That was the hard part, the flying. I took a buddy of mine, and they spelt his name with two R’s, his last name’s Cathro and they thought he was Irish so they kept searching his bag and oh… He’s running the Sambuca bar at the moment, he’s in that type of crowd, the Loaded Hog crowd. Models. You should go out with a model man, they’re nice, you can sleep with her too man.

[It’s to my eternal regret that I didn’t ask Pauly to elaborate on this last sentence. What the heck? I was probably too busy eating peanuts to notice].

G – Was it seat of the pants stuff, or scheduled?

P – The schedule always changed. Everybody’s fighting for that spot, fighting for the interview.

[Tape is turned off while Pauly decides what to eat. He explains that he has a massive record collection].

P – I don’t listen to anything that’s just out. I listen to everything that’s like 10 year periods. Like The Ramones, they’re so rough and ready, and that was like before punk. And listening to Wire, man!

[He orders kumara chips and fish, and talks with food in his mouth].

G – Do you get into jazz at all?

P – Yeah, I like John Coltrane and all that. I listen to everything. The album that we wrote, we basically took all the ideas from the past. I love jungle, drum’n’bass, I love lounge, Escovel and Carlos Jobim, Sergio Mendes, because I grew up on it, and I kept a lot of the vinyls. I’ve had that for as long as I can remember, in good nick. The reason I don’t listen to a lot of artists these days, it’s like they’re stealing off each other eh.

G – You don’t use samples at all?

P – Everything is all live instruments. We use synth… Alan’s the man. [He’s referring to Alan Janssen].

G – Someone said it sounded like New Order. Have you heard that comparison?

P – Yeah, that’s where we get the whole vibe, especially for ‘On The Run’ and ‘She Loves Italian’, because Alan worked in the Steroids and Body Electric and all that. It’s a Prophet 5, an old woodgrained keyboard from the ‘70s. This keyboard is old enough to be my granddad!

G – Have you listened to any of Alan’s old things?

P – ‘Pulsing’! With Gazza on there. I met him in Wellington. Wellington’s my refuge, they treat me different down there. Auckland it’s ‘that was good but what’s the next one?’ Wellington’s ‘come in man, you’re welcome’. They stick it on, ‘choice’.

wysiwyg_full_paris96G – Aucklanders always want to jump onto the next thing.

P – Sometimes you gotta push back. They should research the background. I went to number one in Johannesburg, in Ireland. In Germany… They told me the reason they liked it was because of the trumpets. I was on Top Of The Pops with Boys Own, East 17 and the Spice Girls, so… all basically summer oriented. They’re all really into summer, because they don’t have it for too long!

G – When does the album come out over there?

P – It came out about two Mondays ago. We sold about 100,000 copies.

G – Do you find NZers a bit negative?

P – You can’t get away with the bullshit over here. This is home. I’ve been asked by management companies to be based over there. It doesn’t appeal eh. Even my girlfriend’s cynical. The record company… You give them something else and they say “it doesn’t sound like ‘How Bizarre’.” You can’t win eh. I’m not from the UK. They’re not going to criticise me like NZ. I don’t mind the criticism, it doesn’t bother me. I was telling Graham Reid, my car gets vandalised all the time. It’s ongoing. I’m just so used to it.

[He jokes about today’s press obligations: ‘Oh it’s so hard eating in expensive restaurants, oh I’ve had a hell of a day. Those kumara chips are just a little bit salty.’]

G – Is the album going to be released in America?

P – Yeah. Danny Goldberg and Mercury. Next year.

G – Won’t you be sick of it by the time it’s released there and you have to promote it?

P – No, it just lessens the load.

G – Was Europe a blast? Did you get time to kick back?

P – In London I did. Belgium was really beautiful. [He talks about the paedophile story]. They have jokes about it! They barred Michael Jackson from playing there!

G – How many times did you go on Top Of The Pops?

P – Three times. It’s exactly where they film Eastenders. And there’s five rehearsals. The crowds are not rent-a-crowds. They’re people who’ve been waiting there all night. Compared to NZ things, Top Of The Pops is really well organised. They’ve got 45 million viewers worldwide. I was hanging out with the Spice Girls, they’re vibrant girls. They’re really short! [They commented on how tall he is, even though he’s the shortest in his family]. I met Bryan Adams. The first thing he said to me was ‘Are you from LA man?’ And I said ‘No.’ ‘You’re not Hispanic?’ They say there’s a connection between the Hispanics. The Aztecs, that we all came from the Aztecs. I went on MTV Europe, I met Pip from Shazam. She goes Kia ora! I did a couple of acoustic numbers for MTV Europe. We did about five teenage magazines in Germany. I hated the photoshoots the most. ‘Give us a smile’, and I’d say ‘I only smile for my bank manager’. And it’s like nine in the morning and I’ve been up since like quarter to six. No way! ‘It’s really important, we have 40 million readers.’ ‘I don’t give a fuck who reads your magazine, I don’t wanna know, just take the photos and get out of my hotel room! There’s no set hours, it’s constant and you’ve gotta do it over again.

G – How long have you been back in town?

P – Two weeks. I’ve been hanging out with some old friends.

G – What have you done to your hand?

P – I’m getting all my tattoos on my hand removed. Old gang tats. [He talks about going to a club called The Polar Bear in London that was full of Kiwis, Peter Urlich was there, etc]. Peter Urlich got up and sang ‘Ten Guitars’, and everyone got into it, but then he got up and sang it again, and everyone started getting abusive. I like Samba, reggae, heavy rock – Smashing Pumpkins. We finished the album a week before we left. Honestly, I’ve been signed to Polygram for a year, and we wrote everything two years ago. The only reason we left it so long was that in those days Alan had Sisters Underground, and we were just coming off the Proud tour. But I just kept writing.

maxresdefaultG – You mention the guy who fell off the boat.

P – We were actually diving off this cliff. There were about 19 of us, and it was like 25 feet up, and he went to the highest peak, dived off, and didn’t tell anyone that he couldn’t swim, and there were heavy currents. They found his body three days later lodged 74 feet under the waterfall. The helicopter rescue team said they just had a case a few days previous, that there was a jet boat lodged under there, got sucked in by the currents. That broke us all. It was heavy. He came from a Tongan family, all girls, and he’s the only boy. [Paul lights up a cigar]. I hate water, I don’t swim, I don’t know how to swim. I dived off too, and I don’t know how to swim. Pavement [magazine] and others got it wrong, said he was in my band. He wasn’t. He was in a friend’s band.

G – Tell me about your girlfriend.

P – She’s hardcase. You’ll never see us together in a camera shot, I promised her that. She’s my best girl, because she knows me in and out. We have a solid friendship rather than a relationship, because relationships come and go, but friendships stay. Even during the hard times. And I went through all that. Had no money, no nothing, no car. So now I’ve got a car, a really nice apartment, some furniture. Paid all my HPs off.

G – What happens if it’s a big flop?

P – The richest man in American said ‘before you become successful you must always learn failure first.’ Failure’s nothing if you’ve been there. If it’s a big flop, then so be it. [But it’s sold 100,000, which is more than Super groove could sell in a year, he says]. Everybody says we’re behind the rest of the world. It’s not true. You walk around Auckland and you’ve got everything. People look for the right stuff, bring it back. [Then he talks about going to a marijuana café in Amsterdam.]


Notes – It’s strange reading this transcript after all these years. I tended to paraphrase and/or shorten my questions because I knew they were never going to figure in the finished story, but this seems like an odd interview to me now – Pauly flits all over the place, sometimes in the space of one paragraph. I wish I’d been more tuned in to what he was all about at the time. Instead, I had just started my underground record shop up the road from the restaurant where the interview took place, and I had pretty much devoted myself to experimental music, so the Pauly interview for the Sunday Star Times was really just a way to earn a few bucks. For the full story on Pauly Fuemana/OMC, Simon Grigg’s book How Bizarre is a true insider’s account and comes highly recommended.

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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