Bringing back some forgotten local gems

Grim Ltd. Photo: Leather Jacket Records
Grim Ltd. Photo: Leather Jacket Records
Matthias McGregor was a fan of NZ music even before he moved here. He remembers going into a second hand record store in Edinburgh when he was around 18, and seeing a sign on the wall promoting Flying Nun Records.

Born in Northern Ireland, he spent time in Scotland, then a decade working in project management for engineering firms in Australia and South America.

“The more I did it, the more I just kind of dreamed of working for myself,” he says, deciding around eight years ago to relocate to Christchurch, and pursue his love of music. He opened The AV Club, a store on New Regent St who specialise in vinyl, and also stock games, comics and more. He’s a big advocate of physical media. 

“I remember picking up my first iPod that I'd had at university, the battery was dead and I couldn't even remember what music was on, and what I'd paid to download onto it. Whereas then you look at a stack of old 45s from the ‘60s, they might sound scratchy, but they're still all there.

“They have a run out groove that you can look up and see where it was manufactured, and who produced it. There's all this data that's baked into the physical object”

As he curated the store and saw what his customers favoured, he came up with an idea. “We just always thought, you can order reissues of Pink Floyd and The Beatles, but they're the same records that are everywhere. So that's where I caught on to this idea of having a label, pressing records, and putting the ones in the shop that we would want to buy.”

This is how Leather Jacket Records came into being, developing a roster of forgotten local gems from the ‘60s through ‘80s, with help from some experts.

“There's a great music historian, Grant Gillanders, who's the preeminent expert on all of the New Zealand ‘60s stuff. He'd found this great unreleased tape by Grim Ltd, who were from Palmerston North.

"They were affectionately known as 'Palmy's Pretty Things', after the UK group who caused outrage in the press throughout their 1965 New Zealand tour, thereby inspiring teenage garage rock bands to form across the country.

“If you listen to Grim Ltd they were doing these rock and roll covers, these standards, but in a really proto-punk way. 

"You can't always say where and when a kind of music started. But we have some great examples of that in New Zealand where proto-punk is concerned, with the rawness of garage rock groups like Grim Ltd in Palmerston North, The Bluestars in Auckland, and Chants R&B in Christchurch, which show music turning in the direction of punk, before anyone had coined that phrase. 

“This live recording of Grim Ltd is definitely in that category, just for having a really kind of raucous energy. It was unreleased for 57 years, but has now been uncovered by Grant Gillanders.” 

Other groups came to McGregor’s attention from chatting with The AV Club’s clientele.

“One of our customers, Paul Lonsdale, actually used to be a Christchurch city councillor, and now he runs the Christchurch Business Association. He dropped into a conversation that he used to be in a punk band.

“Paul's group The Solatudes were interesting because post-punk had started happening when they released their one single. It was this tiny little time period that was post-punk, but pre-Flying Nun."

The band used to perform at iconic Christchurch venues The Gladstone and Hillsborough Tavern, around the time they self-released ‘Home Again’. 

“They made 200 of them, and most of them are long gone. It's almost impossible to find an original, but what they did still have was the master tape. And so, we just got this idea: there were 200 of them in 1981, what if we put out 200 more, 40 years later.”

Another post-punk group with a brief but vibrant lifespan was Playthings, fronted by dual singers Jay Clarkson and Janine Saundercock.

“One of the things with original local records is that loads more people want them than are available. So the Playthings record we got into the shop, and someone actually described it as the Holy Grail. 

“You get that with these rare 45s, they're totems of a time period, especially for the people who were there at the time. But again, the originals were self-released, the covers were screen printed by the band. And so they're these very rare objects. 

“Where reissuing comes into it is that you kind of go well, if loads of people were excited about this record, then, we can press 300 of them, and share that excitement with 300 people, rather than it just being this one rare thing. 

“Paul Kean had joined the band, first as their manager and sound man, and later played bass. So he was keen to go back and remaster those tracks. And so we put out a 12” EP, which has the five tracks from their original singles, and then one extra, unreleased track.”

The first release on Leather Jacket had a personal connection, a single by Sundae Painters, featuring the late Hamish Kilgour of The Clean. 

“When we opened the shop about five years ago that coincided with Hamish returning to Christchurch from New York. He'd come in for hours at a time, just because he liked the vibes, and thought it was something fun to do. 

“He always wanted things to happen at once. He'd come in and he'd be like, I've written all this great music, can we put on a gig tomorrow? And yeah, not the next day, but we did do a great gig with Hamish at the Austin Club, which is a little underground speakeasy in Christchurch.

“Sundae Painters was a vehicle for Hamish’s psychedelic stuff that he was working on with Paul and Kaye from The Bats and Alec from Toy Love.

“So our next release comes full circle back to our first one. The first release was a single, and we're very excited that a full Sundae Painters album is coming out.”

<iframe style="border: 0; width: 350px; height: 470px;" src="" seamless><a href="">Sundae Painters by The Sundae Painters</a></iframe>

By Tony Stamp