click here for more
click here for more
Interview: Shayne P. Carter - Dimmer 'I Believe You Are A Star' Tour (Part 1)

Interview: Shayne P. Carter - Dimmer 'I Believe You Are A Star' Tour (Part 1)

Taylor MacGregor / C.C. / Photo credit: Esta de Jong / Wednesday 7th September, 2022 2:04PM

Touring nationwide this month to mark the 21st anniversary of Dimmer's debut album I Believe You Are A Star, Shayne P. Carter's musical career encompasses such pivotal Flying Nun groups as Straitjacket Fits, The DoubleHappys and Bored Games, plus numerous more side projects and sonic adventures. Inductee for the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame, the Ōtepoti artist's autobiography Dead People I Have Known (2019) was awarded the E H McCormick Prize for General Non-Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. A true Aotearoa music icon, Carter had an engaging chat with Taylor MacGregor (Save Our Venues, host of 95bFM's Freak The Sheep show), touching upon the anti-rockist origins of Dimmer, the stylistic diversity expressed in his back catalogue, current enthusiasms and lots more.

Read Part 1 of the interview (read Part 2 HERE) and don't miss Carter's all-star Dimmer band performing I Believe You Are A Star in its entirety — featuring members Gary Sullivan (JPSE), James Duncan, Louisa Nicklin, Neive Strang and Durham Fenwick (Green Grove, Guardian Singles), supported for every date by Proteins Of Magic. Initially delayed by Covid, the long-awaited tour begins this week in Wellington and Christchurch, details below...

UnderTheRadar proudly presents...

Dimmer I Believe You Are A Star 21st Anniversary Tour
with support from Proteins Of Magic

Thursday 8th September - San Fran, Wellington [sold out]*
Friday 9th September - San Fran, Wellington [sold out]*
Saturday 10th September - Te Puna o Waiwhetū Art Gallery, Christchurch, all ages*
Friday 16th September - Hollywood Avondale, Auckland, all ages [sold out]
Saturday 17th September - Hollywood Avondale, Auckland, all ages
Sunday 18th September - Hollywood Avondale, Auckland, all ages
Saturday 24th September - Regent Theatre, Dunedin, all ages

*Tickets available HERE via UTR
Auckland tickets available HERE
Dunedin tickets available HERE

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Taylor MacGregor: I was gonna preface this by saying that I've had your your book [Dead People I Have Known] sitting on my bedside table for about a month. I haven't quite got there yet. My whole plan was that I was gonna know everything about your life and I could bring it up in this interview, but…

Shayne P. Carter: That's probably quite good. It was quite a scurrilous time.

Congratulations on writing a book, I can't even read a book.

Thanks very much. Yeah it's a shitload of work to speak to writers. And they get paid even worse than musicians. But cheers, I liked writing a book, I really enjoyed it as a creative tangent.

The fact that you can write a book says a lot about what you've done. Reading through your history for this interview, I don't know if many people in New Zealand would have had so many significant projects that are so different, right? Dimmer is one that was a big tangent from what you were doing before that with Straitjacket Fits and Bored Games. How does Dimmer slot into everything for you?

The thing is that everyone's got a story. You can have the most amazing story and tell it boringly. A lot of educational or history books, they're incredible. When people write about classical music, they're writing about the most amazing things but it can be written in such a dry, technical kind of way. I saw that Japanese movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It’s about people who make sushi. It's just such a great story.

To go back to what you're saying about where does Dimmer fit in with Straitjackets. Yeah I was thinking about it. Someone recently described my music as haphazard. As though I was the sort of dude floundering all over the place, trying all these different coats and jackets, and all that kind of stuff, looking for a style, but that's not true. Because for me, even though sonically things have been quite different, they've always had the same spirit. I always come from the same place and they're just different tangents and trying to be exploratory with whatever your vibe is. I can hear all the connections in the supposedly disparate or haphazard discography.

To me it's all connected, and I can hear the same qualities through all the music. All the music, it's kind of got the spooky quality to it. I can hear this anxiety going through all of it as well. And just sort of that slightly off kilter thing I can hear that in all my music.With Dimmer you know, even though it was quite sonically really different from from Straitjackets to me, it was still coming from the same place.

Sorry to rabbit on, but it's also quite interesting because I've played hardly any gigs during Covid. My last gig was playing, I think, was playing at the Flying Nun thing with the Straitjackets. That's sort of this booming rock and roll and now I'm trying to get this Dimmer thing together, which sonically is just a completely different beast.

I hate to break it to you but you've forgotten your last gig. I was actually at your last gig. The Felts at The Wine Cellar.

Oh The Felts thank you! Forgot about that. Yeah cheers, bro. You've been watching me? About three people. Were you one of the three people?

I mean, when we're talking about where you've sonically changed, The Felts was amazing. I'll come back to you and your guitar, but watching you and Hermione (Johnson), I've never seen anyone physically put such seemingly little into a guitar and make it sound so massive. It was amazing to watch you sit in a chair and play very sparsely but it be such a wall of sound.

Thanks very much, yeah. I never know what I look like when I play, but I'm usually quite horrified. You know, it's I think I look cool, but then I'd see myself and I'm just this dick with really bad posture. Once again that whole thing's another branch as well. I've done quite a lot of improvisational kind of stuff. The Felts we've got sort of a vague map, but there's lots of room just for trying tangents and I love doing that freeform stuff. There's a real magic to it when it clicks. I also love the fact that you really risk falling completely flat in your face. The audience feels the drama too... it's this thing that's been constructed in front of you, and you're seeing being built. It's like, oh, is that wall gonna fall down right now?

At the same time, the Dimmer thing has a lot more. You have to be way more on the money with that. I've got some gigs coming up later on the year with the NZSO. That's a completely different beast as well.

It's just the same when we're talking about these supposed stylistic shifts. It's all music, it's all vibrations and it's all noises. There's just different tools to achieve a means to an end. That's why there's great music from everywhere. It all boils down to vibrations and a tone and it doesn't really matter how it's created.

The other thing too really is, it's the spirit to it. You can tell the fakers and you can tell the people who are true. That is when I think about the music that I love. I'm not a genre guy. I love music from all over. It's not genres, it's just the quality of soul for want of a better term. I can tell the person delivering fucking feels it and they mean it. They've got a conviction to it. There's no denying it.

I know you don't want to be bound by genre, but Dimmer for me it's kind of trip hop-y. It's kind of Kraut Rock-y. It's a lot of things that I don't really associate with New Zealand music. I think it's really interesting. It sounds like it's from another place. I guess you made that big shift from being the guitar guy into working electronically. Was that the big move for you? Is that what Dimmer is, an expanding into a whole new idea of how to make your music?

I remember when we did the I Believe You Are A Star album, I know I was and my cohorts like Gary Sullivan (formerly of JPSE), our drummer who I worked with quite closely, we were completely over rock music at that point. We'd both come from these blazing rock bands and it was sort of like, all the tricks were too easy. You want to keep searching. At that time, rock music was really boring and quite retrogressive. There was no new shapes being added to it as far as I could see at that point. For me, all the interesting stuff was coming from the electronic, from the hip hop realm, all that kind of stuff. I just became really interested in the whole thing of minimalism and groove basically.

I guess Flying Nun for so long, its image was the sort of this white jangly South Island music. Maybe because I'm Maori it's got something to do with the fact that I like grooves. But at the same time, I kind of like the awkward grooves, stuff like Can and all that kind of thing. I always loved old school stuff like James Brown and Sly Stone and a lot of black music. But I also like steadfastly fucking white opera. So I guess it doesn't matter. When it did come out, it was different and a lot of people didn't like it because it didn't sound like 'She Speeds' by the Straitjacket Fits. But I dunno, I think time's the great validator. I think the record still sounds real good. So. Nice one. Yay. Thank God, there's so much work that went into it.

Just before this interview I did a quick Wikipedia to see if there's any crucial information on you that I missed. I see it's got like 40 odd people that have contributed to Dimmer... Was Dimmer The Shayne Carter Project?

Yeah, I was sick of being in the band thing. And I thought I don't want to be tied to a band anymore. A lot of people do go through Dimmer and it's actually sort of a dark comedy on I Believe You Are A Star, cause we probably used out of those 40 people, probably about 35 of the recorded parts on that record that we then threw out. But they shouldn't be personally offended because I personally threw out about 3000 of my parts. We only threw out one of theirs so it's sweet.

Who's playing this time around? Who have you got in the band?

Because it's been a year we've had to make some amendments, because people have had other things happen the lives and all that kind of stuff. So who have we got? We've got Louisa Nicklin. She's on guitar and vocals. We've got Gary Sullivan who's the drummer. He's been there all the way. Neive Strang doing singing and bits and pieces as well. James Duncan. We had Lachie from Die! Die !Die! playing bass, but he's had other stuff going on. So James has shifted to bass, because we also realised we didn't need three guitars. Oh and Durham Fenwick (Green Grove), who's from Guardian Singles. He's come in to handle the electronics and loops and all that kind of stuff.

The last time I saw Neive before this project, I was actually mentoring her at high school about four years ago. So it's quite a wide demographic in the band. But I actually really liked that. I liked working with a variety of people... I like working with other musicians. It's a generous place to be with other people. And if they're good you can always learn something from a good musician, from anyone who's good at what they do. When you work with other people, it brings out other parts of your own musical character that otherwise might be latent. So I'm doing The Felts or standing in front of the NZSO, it's all muscles I'm not always flexing in my other things. So, yes, it's good man, brings out all the new parts of you too.

Read Part 2 of Taylor MacGregor's interview with Shayne P. Carter HERE + don't miss Dimmer at the dates below.


Share this
Subscribe/Follow Us
Don’t miss a thing! Follow us on your favourite platform  

Help Support Independent Music News
You can show your support to keep UnderTheRadar running by making a contribution. From $5, any amount can make a huge difference and keep us bringing you the best, comprehensive local content. ♥
Support UTR!

Sat 24th Sep 7:00pm
The Regent, Dunedin