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coverpic flag New Zealand - Full Moon 249 - 12/14/16

Roger Shepherd
In Love With These Times: My life with Flying Nun Records
Harper Collins

'I wanted to be more than just an observer. I wanted to be a part of what was going on. I had told someone and the word was out, and now I had to actually do this thing. Start a record label. I must have been drunk.'

In Love With These Times: My life with Flying Nun Records is Roger Shepherd's insider guide to NZ indie rock, straight from the heart of Flying Nun Records and the tale (or tales, at least some of them...) of his life starting and building (and living with/inside) a small record label which grew and expanded into something... big. Flying Nun Records has given us a lot of excellent, enchanting bands over the years, such as brothers Hamish and David Kilgour's The Clean, Chris Knox and the Tall Dwarfs, Martin Phillipps' The Chills, The Verlaines, Sneaky Feelings, The Bats, Straitjacket Fits, The Jean Paul Sartre Experience, and many, many more.

Shepherd's memoir book is an enjoying read. He looks back to his upbringing outside Christchurch, and we get to know how he got into music. As a young teenager, Shepherd started working in a local record store. He started to attend rock shows, befriended musicians and bands, and grew the idea of starting his own label. To launch the local bands he loved and wanted to release music by. On records. On vinyl. And the wheel started spinning. Chris Knox was a central character as one of the pioneers in the New Zealand punk, new wave and post-punk scene from his days back to The Enemy and Toy Love bands. Eventually Shepherd got the label going, with a little help from his friends. The story goes on about the birth of the 'Dunedin sound' scene in the small town on the South Island. Flying Nun eventually grew bigger, but in a most amateurish, idealistic way. However, the mail order service ran hot and the world started to listen. The story is touching, humoristic and even sad, as it follows the rise of Flying Nun, the bands, and eventually the label got bigger than he (and his friends) was able to manage. They did a lot of work, but it was no goldmine except for the music coming out of it.

It's interesting to see how and what he was thinking, running a label from way off from the centre of the world of pop and rock - the UK and the US. Somehow, he managed to do so, even though Flying Nun was partly taken over by the Festival Records, Australia, in the 90s, and was merged into Australia's Mushroom Records in 2000. Flying Nun almost disappeared when the label (as part of the Festival Mushroom Records) was purchased by Warner Music Group in 2006. Luckily, Shepherd (and his helpers) came back when he managed to buy back his beloved label in December 2009, along with supporting partner Neil Finn (of Split Enz and Crowded House) and his wife, plus some others. Quite a successful repatriation, I must say, and the label goes on still launching cool acts today (such as Kane Strang, Lawrence Arabia, Yumi Zouma, Tiny Ruins, Shayne P Carter).

Label founder Roger Shepherd started Flying Nun with idealism and passion. He experienced the hard and harsh realities of the music industry, and had to balance, juggle and dribble the constant tension and headache between art and commerce. In 1994, Headless Chicken's "George" was the first (and last) track from the Flying Nun label to achieve a number one hit status in New Zealand. I don't think number one hits ever was Shepherd's goal with his pop'n'rock mission. His goal was to get a record label running. Well, you did it, Roger. Thumbs up and congratulations! Flying Nun Records is still running on.

PS! There is also a Flying Nun compilation called In Love With These Times (1990) named after the Clean's song "I'm in Love With These Times". There are several other Flying Nun compilations which have been released over the years, such as Tuatara (1985), Getting Older 1981-1991 (1991), Pop Eyed (1996), Topless Women Talk About Their Lives (1997 - this is a film soundtrack, go see the film as well!), Under the Influence - 21 Years of Flying Nun Records (2002), Flying Nun 25th Anniversary Box Set (2006), and Time to Go: The Southern Psychedelic Moment 1981-1986 (2012) to name a few. Go check'em out! Go check out all the mentioned band's discographies as well!

Yes, while I'm at it, here's a Flying Nun 25-song-playlist (this is not a best of list, just a bunch of tasters from the 80s and 90s):

  • Pin Group: "Jim"
  • The Builders: "1,000,000 Hearts"
  • The Clean: "Beatnik"
  • Tall Dwarfs: "Sign the Dotted Line"
  • The Chills: "Pink Frost"
  • The Bats: "Made Up in Blue"
  • Sneaky Feelings: "P.I.T. Song"
  • Chris Knox: "Grand Mal"
  • Straitjacket Fits: "Life in One Chord"
  • Jean-Paul Sartre Experience: "I Like Rain"
  • The Verlaines: "Take Good Care of It"
  • Snapper: "Buddy"
  • The Stones: "Gunner Ho"
  • Bird Nest Roys: "Jaffa Boy"
  • Able Tasmans: "Little Hearts"
  • Look Blue Go Purple: "Hiawatha"
  • David Kilgour: "You Forget"
  • The DoubleHappys: "Some Fantasy"
  • The Gordons: "I Just Can't Stop"
  • Bailter Space: "The Today Song"
  • The Great Unwashed: "Neck of the Woods"
  • The Renderers: "Bigger Than Texas"
  • The Magick Heads: "The Back Of Her Hand"
  • 3Ds: "Hey Seuss"
  • Garageland: "Beelines to Heaven"
  • Love's Ugly Children: "Here Comes Stupid"
  • Superette: "Beetle"

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