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. Back in the early ‘OOs I was choosing a band and writing a short profile on them each month in Metro. This one is from December 2002.
A DRUNK DWARF with a donkey head barks out the poetry of Edith Sitwell. There is knife dancing. There is belly dancing. And there is an ice statue of a horse spewing an endless stream of vodka. To get a mouthful, you must queue, and submit to a whip-lashing from two wanton lesbians.
Somewhere in this debauched scene – not a David Lynch film but a fundraiser for Mothers Against Genetic Engineering (MADGE) – is an acoustic performance by the songwriting core of sparkling Auckland popsters GOLDENHORSE, Kirsten Morelle and Geoff Maddock.
“We looked completely sexless and not in the least exotic”, says Morelle. Independent observers testify that, despite stiff competition, the duo wowed the crowd.
Wowing is something Goldenhorse have been doing a lot of lately, with a luminescent debut album garnering effusive praise from far and wide. And rightly so: produced on a shoestring over an 18 month period but sounding like a million bucks, Riverhead is a record full of ravishingly lovely tunes that echo an era when it was permissable for pop music to have depth and beauty and intelligence.
Heavenly pop flops, or hits? If there’s any justice in this world – and we all know there isn’t – Goldenhorse will set an unswerving course for the world map and international territorial conquest.
They’re a great pair, Kirsten and Geoffrey. She’s gorgeous: partly gregarious, partly studious, intensely focussed, loves Kate Bush, the Cocteau Twins, the opera, the National Programme. He’s handsome: vaguely withdrawn, typically Kiwi in his vague cynicism, a dark horse, loves Abba. They both share a taste for Hendrix and Motorhead and they’re both obscenely talented: Kirsten sings like an angel and writes delicate melodies, Geoffrey plays multiple parts and arranges the surreal beauty of the layered composites. It works.
“There are lot of people out there who believe that the legitimacy of music comes at a certain level of deliberately angling yourself away from pop music, that pop music is gross,” says Maddock. “Well it used to be pretty fantastic I reckon, and still could be, it’s just that it’s been hijacked and destroyed.”
Lack of major label interest was an advantage, ultimately. “With (independent label) Siren we’re able to do things our own way, I think that’s the ultimate,” says Morelle. “Would you want to be a little clothes-doll and say ‘yes’ to everything? I’d start stamping my feet and pulling my hair out and screaming at people!”
It’s the creative process itself and writing something ‘real’ that appeals to Goldenhorse.
“Ideally you’d live in a grotto and just be consumed by creativity,” says Kirsten. “But you’d get too fucked up. You need to have a bit of a balance. There’s this crazy idea at the moment, though, that musicians should have a nine-to-five job as well. Be a graphic designer during the day and be a musician by night. I really resent that, because we don’t do that to our sports stars. We don’t say ‘he’s a nine-to-fiver during the daytime but at night time WOW he’s a rugby player’! With sport we totally admire people who do it full on, who do the most they can to be the best they can. But for some reason we’ve got this attitude with musicians that ‘as long as they’re casual about it it’s cool’, and I just want to SCREAM!” GARY STEEL