Band’s past to help tell its story

The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps is selling off a small portion of his vast collection to help fund a documentary film about his famous band. Mike Houlahan reports.

Martin Phillipps’ collection of music and memorabilia starts as soon you walk in the front door, and continues all the way to the back of his house.

"Is there any room without something in it? Maybe the toilet," he says.

Now a small section of several decades of dedicated hoarding of music, DVDs, VHS tapes, posters, live tapes and other pop culture ephemera is about to be sold to help fund the making of a film about his band, The Chills.

The film is in mid-production, and the sale of a small portion of Phillipps’ hoard will help finish it to a technical level sufficient for it to be released on the international film festival circuit. Several film-makers have tried to tell The Chills’ story before, but Phillipps is sure this one will make it to the silver screen.

"My record label, Fire, were determined to see it through," he said.

"We had talked it through and they knew I was sceptical of another movie offer,  but they showed they had the interest and the commitment to see it through, even before [New Zealand production company] Notable Pictures came on board with the project.

The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps consults the band archives for material to help fund a new...
The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps consults the band archives for material to help fund a new movie about the famed Dunedin band. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
"The level of work going in to it is extraordinary, and the footage I have seen is of such good quality; they really are going for the whole big-screen cinematic release ... There’s a juggling thing between having to storyboard a movie but also follow what is really happening as well. They are doing a really good job of doing that."

There is a remarkable story for film-makers to tell: the band from Dunedin which went from the Flying Nun label to sign with an major international company, the gradual ebbing of the band as worldwide stardom proved elusive, Phillipps chronic health problems — hepatitis C has badly ravaged his liver — and the modern revitalisation of The Chills, which has seen Phillipps regain reasonable health, and record and tour again.

Collecting was a learned skill for Phillipps, but one he quickly developed as his music career took off.

"I was a natural archivist, and that was through seeing people like Chris Knox and The Clean meticulously collecting their clippings," Phillipps said.

"So I quickly saw the value of keeping everything and would chop out every little mention, all the way back to my very first band, The Same, in 1978-79."

Items to be sold as part of the fundraiser include material of great interest to Flying Nun collectors — of whom there are many, both in New Zealand and overseas — and some real curiosities such as posters, original artworks and a trove of live recordings, not just of The Chills but also of bands which have supported The Chills over the decades.

While some precious moments of Dunedin music history will be sold as part of the fundraising campaign, Phillipps emphasised the bulk of The Chills’ extensive archive remained in his hands and would eventually enter museum collections.

"We have already talked to the Alexander Turnbull Library," Phillipps said.

"They are interested in it, Te Papa are, Toitu, the Hocken, are all interested in aspects of it. I am interested in making sure some stuff stays locally, some stuff is in one of the national holdings, and that I can get something back on my investment ... I am still working out what should go where, because I am not interested in seeing things disappear into people’s private vaults forever."

Notable Pictures, which has already produced films about New Zealand bands Dragon and The Exponents, launched its Kickstarter campaign to fund completion of The Chills film earlier this week. One offering —  copies of The Chills’ Kaleidoscope World LP autographed by Phillipps — have already sold out, but many other items remain available, including posters, singles, artwork, a "Martin Phillipps Mystery Box" taken from the songwriter’s collections, and — for the diehard fan — a $10,000-plus contribution buys you a private solo show by Phillipps.

As of yesterday $8775 had already been raised towards the film company’s $60,000 target, with 26 days to go. The movie is scheduled for release in 2019.


To donate

• To make a donation to the kickstarter campaign visit,

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