Every Day In May – Day 9: Shoes This High

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 piece appeared in the Evening Post on the 4th of November, 1980.


Shoes This High Step Back Home

Shoes This High. Pic taken for my story by Peter Avery.
Shoes This High. Pic taken for my story by Peter Avery.

CONTROVERSIAL PUNK BAND Shoes This High has returned home from their Auckland base for a concert in Wellington.

Shoes This High, who gained notoriety through what some see as their aggressive, almost anti-music stance, moved to Auckland in July – a time when many local Wellington venues were closing their doors.

Originally called The Amps, they were the first of the punk-influenced bands to emerge here in 1978.

Since this, time has seen a complicated story of name and line-up changes, culminating in the current edition of Shoes This High: Kevin Hawkins (guitar), Jessica Walker (bass), Chris Plummer (drums) and Brent (vocals).

“A lot of people think ‘punk rock’ and shut their ears”, says Hawkins.

At first inspired by punk rock groups such as the Sex Pistols and The Damned, their personal favourites nowadays are experimental outfits such as Pere Ubu. They stress that their music is their own: they play original music written by Hawkins and Walker, with beat ideas from Plummer and lyrics from Brent.

“We’d like to think that people come to hear the music, not to be involved in the punk scene”, says Hawkins. “A lot of our music is a lot slowere – a lot of time changes. We’ve even got a new song called ‘Brubeck’ (after jazz pianist Dave Brubeck).”

Notes Brent: We wish more people would come along and see the music for what it is. We just like having fun and being in contact with the audience.”

Brent’s words often contain scathing criticisms of people and society, which has encouraged claims of negativity from some quarters.

Hawkins says: “We do criticise people. We think that a lot of values are quite wrong.”

If the audience feel threatened by the criticisms, they have lost the ability to question and laugh at themselves, he says.

“A lot of people don’t like our music because it’s upsetting. It might make them think,” adds Hawkins.

They are also critical of conventional musicians and bands: “They’re not trying to create any new music. A lot of those bands are really calculating. They get all the work because that’s the sort of bands they’re (the public) used to seeing. They’re conditioned,” says Hawkins.

They, however, relish their spartan existence because “We don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do. We’re not owned by anyone.”

The most important thing, Hawkins quips, is that they have their “heart and shoes in the right place.”

Their final concert is at the St John Ambulance Hall tomorrow, after which they are back to Auckland.

Notes: I get a little sad and a little mad when I read this, because it’s such a wasted opportunity. I doubt that I could have gotten a good interview out of them, because they were very guarded, but had I asked the right questions… Still, we were all young and inarticulate. It was a minor victory just getting articles on bands like Shoes This High and The Gordons in a big daily newspaper, and I think I managed it simply because none of the bosses there knew anything about pop music, so they let me write about whatever I wanted. I vaguely remember the gig – typically, a crappy non-music venue with crappy gear and an audience standing around pretending not to be interested. Amazing band though.


One Comment

  1. David Maclennan

    If you recall, I got a pretty good interview out of them – double-page spread in the July ’80 In Touch (written on a train trip to Auckland to see Wreckless Eric!). I recently found the full transcript of the original interview, all carefully handwritten.

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