The Steroids and White Light Records

In 1980 In Touch magazine got all excited about Wellington post-punk band The Steroids and the launching of their independent record label.

 

B-R-R-R-ing!

Click. “Hello”.

“JG’s back in town”.

“JG? JG Mono? I thought he was dead and buried!”

“Just get over here while the scam’s still fresh. No friends.” Click.

Friends? At 2.30 on a Tuesday morning? This had to be a joke, a prankster. But no, that call was made by A. Steroid direct through the Kent phone to my secret abode.

Slooping down into the desired city area, I observed perceptively that the buildings looked like rejects from an Oliver Twist wet dream. Dank.

I stumbled on an inert, groaning body lying in the alleyway. Well, it was groaning after I stumbled on it, anyway. I flipped a coin in the drunk’s direction. Pity about the drain grate.

 

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Submerged in the shadows of our famed pick-up pozzy, a face appeared. Grubby, clumsy fingers popped a multi-coloured capsule in my mouth. Your trusty sleuth succumbed to its charms, and awoke to the threatening sounds of The Steroids piping out of seemingly invisible Cerwin Vega’s. (Pretty good hearing, huh?) The room was sparsely furnished. Pure white ligh glazed the air, and through the glare I made out the shape of two faces: the first A. Steroid, the second none other than JG Mono – The Elusive One.

My chair suddenly swivelled, facing me with a slate on which was written for my instant perusal:

“And God said, ‘Let there be Light’, and there was White Light”. Genesis Ch. 1 vs. 2& 3.

Announcement: The Steroids have been a consistent feature of the Wellington exposure, people have been asking when The Steroids are going to make a record. THEY’VE DONE IT.  The Engineer of the Year (Gerry Smith) engineered it. Peter Blake (RWP, 1860 Band) produced it. Marmalade Studios recorded it, and White Light Records are the lucky label.

“White Light, going messing messing up my mind.”

I scanned the slate in a flash, and the chair swivelled back to its formative position. It’s time for the hard grill, me-thought.

Rock Kent: White Light?

JG Mono: We didn’t think Lou would mind. But seriously, White Light was conceived through the faith of a few who believe in what The Steroids are expounding, and because of a vast number of requests for vinyl Steroids. White Light because everybody can have some fun with it. The purest can see it as a vision of white light, to the others, mainlining. Anybody that gets off on it can see it. It’s the pure blinding flash of inspiration.

A Steroid: White Light represents something pure, unsullied, untainted. It’s basically just JG. When The Steroids were thinking of recording, we were initially looking towards setting up a label ourselves. We did a feasibility study, but then Johnny came back to town with White Light and – he was going through pretty much the same withdrawals, groundwork and hassles as we were, and actually setting up. And so we decided to combine forces.

JGM: White Light is the planting of the seed of TOPICAL music (work that one out Rob).

RK: Topical?

JGM: Look in the dictionary. TOPICAL music is relevant to what’s going down now and what effects people when they’re listening to it, and that’s culture; so TOPICAL music is the culture of now – going down every day in the country.

AS: What is the relationship between The Steroids and White Light Records, you ask?

RK: No, actually, but…

AS: White Light executive and Steroids management are working very closely together and spreading the workload.

JGM: White Light has been created as a vehicle for The Steroids but plans to carry out all sorts of diversification.

AS: Between White Light and The Steroids is a grey area which works to the benefit of both entities. In the area of promotion the work’s being spread quite evenly.

RK: Steroid, why an independent label?

AS: The established companies are too rigid. There’s much more flexibility and imagination with independent labels. White Light is interested in presenting – not just getting something on vinyl and that’s it, which a lot of established companies doe for New Zealand bands. They record them, put the record out, and that’s it – that’s the end of it. Whereas White Light’s more interested in presenting a total package which doesn’t just stop at the first record.

JGM: As a Jam single said, we’re going underground. It can’t be said we aim to reach a minority for the minority seems to be 99 percent of the music-listening population. Small world, much peace.

RK: How important is the record’s success?

AS: We’re aiming for it to be successful, but our own terms of success are quite accessible.

JGM: If we sell only 500 copies, it indicates to us that there are 500 people out there that believe in what we’re doing.

RK: What tracks are on the single, and why did you choose them?

AS: ‘Out Of Control’ and ‘Mr Average’. We’ve been playing ‘Out Of Control’ for quite a while and it was about time it was immortalised in vinyl for perpetuity. We wanted to do it now while it was a social commentary, but with no political connotations. It’s recorded virtually live. ‘Mr Average’? We liked it.

JGM: There are of course other projects in the planning, but everything in time and all in the name of culture: joke (people laugh, ah-ah-ah). Meanwhile, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel!

(White Light of course).

 

Postscript from 2022

My memory of all this is rather fuzzy, but I seem to remember being approached by The Steroids to embark on this “joint venture”, which involved my freebie Wellington rock magazine, In Touch, announcing the advent of White Light Records and the first Steroids single in a kind of sponsored editorial. I was so young and naïve back then that I would have barely understood what was going on, or what they wanted out of the endeavour, and on top of everything else, my afternoon with the boys was so blanketed in the haze of marijuana that I’m pretty sure I left their abode not really getting how this thing was supposed to work. Of course, this was all long before the internet, email, or even fax machines, so I’m not sure whether the group ever signed off on the ‘advertorial’, or even what the deal was. But I do remember that the prospect of an independent label in Wellington that would release the work of relevant post-punk bands did seem very exciting. Remember, this was the year before the indie scene really kicked off with Propeller in Auckland and then Flying Nun in Christchurch/Dunedin. Sadly, the one Steroids single was the only White Light release and consequently, the Wellington scene failed to capitalise on its talent; very few recordings were made and even fewer were ever reissued, so the scene is even now poorly understood. In Touch sought to chronicle that scene but our coverage was rather too piecemeal. Sadly, I was just too young and inexperienced to know what the fuck I was doing. GARY STEEL

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