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Shayne Carter

Shayne Carter

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Tuesday 15th November, 2011 9:26AM

Shayne Carter is bringing his 'Last Train to Brockville' show back to stages nationwide this month as part of Flying Nun's 30th anniversary album. UTR caught up with him to discuss what being part of Flying Nun for 30 years feels like, what he has been working on recently and what we can expect from this seminal creative going forward.

Tell me what you've been up to?

I have been doing some Adults stuff and Iíve been starting to write the new record. Iím trying to get my shit together to do these back catalogue shows, so pretty busy.

Tell me a little bit about the new record:

I havenít done any writing for a couple of years but even when youíre not writing you kind of are because I find itís a process of fermenting a way. For instance, I saw a new song by The Red Hot Chilli Peppers on television the other night and I thought it was one of the worst things I had ever heard and when you do that, thatís a creative decision in that if you think somethingís shit it shapes your frame of reference in the same way that hearing something great shapes your frame of reference. So I've just been fermenting away - I find itís important to know the time to write and if you do let it ferment away ultimately you turn a tap on and hopefully stuff comes out. So thatís where Iím at with that.

Can you tell us a little bit about the direction you're headed in?

Iíve got ideas but I really wouldnít want to publicly broadcast them at this point.

I guess the opposite of working on new material is going through the back catalogue. Tell me about putting the 'Last Train to Brockville' shows together.

It grew out of something about a year and a half or two years ago; we did a benefit gig for Chris Knox up here. Iíd never actually played old stuff; every band Iíd been in Iíd never played anything from previous bands. I suppose thatís not wanting to be the human jukebox and also not wanting to be the sad guy resting on past glories and also wanting to move forward - that was always my attitude. Then when I did this show at Chrisís thing it was just a hell of a lot of fun to play those songs again and also really good to realize they stood up, so I did a couple of shows earlier this year and similarly they were just great fun. Iíve sort of gotten past that whole disowning your past thing. Itís kind of like a filmmaker or author or something: if youíve made a good movie or written a good book people are still going to want to see that movie or read that book and itís not something to disown, itís something to be proud of, itís part of the story and if anyone has the right to tell it I suppose I have.

How did you choose the tracks for the set?

I pretty much just got songs I always liked and ones that still sounded good; if itís a good bit of music itís a good bit of music. Itís the same way you can go back and listen to classical people - Chopin was written in the 1800ís and thatís still great music as is jazz from the fifties - it still sounds like theyíre playing in the room. If itís a good tune itís a good tune. I just went back and grabbed what I thought were good tunes. When you do it you donít actually know if theyíre going to sound any good.

But they are classic and undying tracks. When it all started 30 years ago did you have any idea it was going to be this important three decades down the track?

Nah Ďcause when I started I was a kid and just wanted to play punk rock. I was 15 and in a punk rock band and so no I never thought about it in that way or any careerist sense. Iíve never been a great one for long term plans anyway. I find that if you want to go from point A to point B you usually end up at point C anyway. So no, itís more stumbling along and trying to write a good tune really.

I'm really interested in the factors that contributed to allow so much creativity to occur specifically in Dunedin at that time. Do you have any idea what those factors were?

I just finished writing a 2500 word story for the Sunday Star Times which theyíre running this weekend exactly on that question and I had to think really long and hard about it. It was really interesting to look back at all of that with hindsight because when it was happening we were just a bunch of people playing in bands just like anyone who plays in bands. But when you get away from it you realize that something did actually happen and I think it really came home to me last year when I was over in the states and I played a couple of shows with Dimmer in New York. We played at a benefit show for Chris and many of the leading lights of the American indie scene were there, and then we went and played with The Clean and they had sold out this pretty big place in Brooklyn and it made me realize that this music has travelled and lasted and it connected with people overseas. Thatís when it hit home to me that something did happen.

It's so weird that it happened in Dunedin too, in this town at the bottom of the world. It happened to the point where you had a dozen bands who were getting released by American labels from a town of 100, 000 people in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, I wrote 2500 words about why I thought that came to be and briefly it was a scene that fermented within itself, it was a time and place, socially Dunedin was really conservative as was NZ, and so there was something to react against. I think all good art has to have something to react against; good stuff always comes from outsiders because weíre not sucked into the mediocrity of the mainstream and not tempted by the mainstream because it is mediocre.

It's that particular and peculiar set of circumstances that boiled together to create this scene and I think itís fantastic that all of that music has been vindicated by time because all good music will be vindicated by time. At the time youíre always surrounded by naysayers but people love standing on the sidelines and picking holes and the proof is in the truth and the truth eventually comes out.

How does it feel to be playing with and going to see the bands you grew up with 30 years ago again this November?

Well I've been seeing The Clean since I was fifteen and Iíve seen many average Clean gigs but Iíve also seen some gigs that have made me think they were the best band in the world so I canít wait to see them. Iím looking forward to seeing HDU play again - I havenít seen them play in a long time. I'm also looking forward to checking out the new bands Flying Nun have signed up and Iím also really glad that I can take my own show down to the South Island.

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