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Interview: Shayne P. Carter - Dimmer 'I Believe You Are A Star' Tour (Part 2)

Interview: Shayne P. Carter - Dimmer 'I Believe You Are A Star' Tour (Part 2)

Taylor MacGregor / C.C. / Photo credit: Esta de Jong / Thursday 8th September, 2022 2:00PM

Founded in the mid-'90s following global alt-rock success with Straitjacket Fits, and groundbreaking early Flying Nun releases with The Double Happys and Bored Games, Shayne P. Carter has reactivated Dimmer for a nationwide tour marking the 21st anniversary of debut album I Believe You Are A Star. Kicking off this evening in Te Whanganui-a-Tara with live bandmates Gary Sullivan (JPSE), James Duncan, Louisa Nicklin, Neive Strang and Durham Fenwick (Green Grove, Guardian Singles), Dimmer will be supported for the long-awaited eight date run of shows by Proteins Of Magic.

Read Part 2 of Carter's conversation with Taylor MacGregor (Save Our Venues, host of 95bFM's Freak The Sheep show) below — shedding light on myths surrounding his career, the idea of the 'rock star', current local music favourites, plus a withering take on Tāmaki Makaurau's media centric culture — and read Part 1 HERE.

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: You seem to know a lot about what's going on in New Zealand music and the new stuff coming out. Who would you be taking influence from now if were to make a new record? What's the exciting New Zealand music that you see coming out?

Shayne P. Carter: I don't go out as much as I used to, and I don't go out and buy records or feel like I need to be up with things so much. I am aware that I'm an old guy now, so there's this whole new generation that have got their own thing going on. I've just shifted back to Auckland in the last year, but I love being in Dunedin because you can just wander around and come across a really good band. I remember coming across the Negative Nancies in a loft and I thought what a killer band. I remember coming across Night Lunch and thinking what is that noise. Love Night Lunch. Another really good band from down here that I stumbled across was Human Susan, they are really good too. There's real good skills around but there's always people doing good stuff. I saw Princess Chelsea's set from Whammy Bar that was broadcast and she had a great band. I realised all those people are people I don't really know from the Auckland scene. I was real impressed with her band.

You mentioned Dunedin there. Am I right in saying you worked on Dimmer up here in Auckland?

I sort of went into home exile after the whole Straitjacket thing ended and I went back and spent a couple of years in Dunedin. And that's where I sort of got the start of Dimmer. The first Dimmer single 'Crystalator' instrumental, which was recorded some time in the '90s, that was recorded down there with people I got together with in Dunedin. I eventually shifted up to Auckland and I made the record in Grey Lynn in a Portacom in the back of our flat in Norfolk St.

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. Knowing a little bit about Straitjacket Fits and your, maybe, creative differences within the band, was Dimmer 'The Shayne Carter Project' or was it a collaboration between a bunch of people?

First with the Straitjackets — there was a lot made of the relationships in the band, but a lot of it's also myth. It's also people opining who just weren't there who have no idea, you know. But it's that thing — something gets said over and over until it becomes true. Did you see the Get Back Beatles documentary? What I found really interesting was that Paul McCartney was dreading seeing that, because popular myth was that he was an asshole, and the band had a terrible time. So he's dreading seeing it and Peter Jackson's said to him, no I have been through all the footage and that's not actually the case. There's a couple of things where you have a couple of arguments, which you do when you're working on something, but mostly everyone's having a good time. Paul McCartney was shocked that this popular conception of what was, wasn't actually right. He'd even bought into it and he was there — you know what I mean?

The whole thing made me question official versions of history. And who writes it? It's always written by the victors. It's also written by people who weren't there. There's this thing that, if you want to comment about people's relationships, you don't know you're not there with them. That just made me think on the whole realm of history and how it's written and presented... anyway, that's a tangent.

The fact that even now, what, 30 years later, I'm asking you about something I can't even know about...

It doesn't really matter. But at the same time, it's interesting. Because I thought that when I heard Paul McCartney buying into what he's had thrown at him by outsiders, and I thought that's like me and Andrew (Brough) in Straitjacket Fits. How it became as popular legend that were at loggerheads and all this kind of stuff, and it just wasn't true. There was tension. It was a healthy tension, and it's probably there in most creative jobs, or most situations where you have to work with other people. I think that was really blown up but it was just interesting how something gets told over and over again til it's true. It's like Trump saying the same thing three times and it becomes a fact. "Stop the steal, stop the steal, stop the steal" — oh okay we've got to stop the steal because it was a steal.

Bored Games, very Dunedin. Doubly Happys, very Dunedin. Is this Dimmer record an Auckland record? Is there a kind of geographical influence on the music you're making?

Everything reflects its environment. But all art reflects where it's made if I’m truthful. At the same time, I always say I'm not parochial, but maybe I am. Because I always thought that it was actually quite easy to be creative in Dunedin. In Auckland, it's really hard to hook up with somebody for a cup of tea whereas in Dunedin you just go round to their flat and they've got a practice room, because you can afford to have a spare room in your flat to have a jam. Whereas up here, you got to make an appointment. Many things I like about Auckland including the climate, I'm living here right now, but just the prevailing culture here, the reason I left here was that it's kind of media centric. It's a bit fucking B grade, bro. Everyone's sort of got this mainstream kind of inclination. And that's not where the interesting stuff is going on. Sometimes you wonder where are the freaks? But then you go to the Audio Foundation and go, oh there they are thank God. Probably it's just a bigger place and there's more going on in different pockets, but it's just Dunedin has got a tighter creative community, just purely cause of numbers I think.

I'm going to push my agenda now. I'm working for Save Our Venues and they're building a big block of flats right next to The Crown in Dunedin that puts it at risk of noise complaints. It's pretty dire straits down there at the moment. The venues in Dunedin were obviously a big part of when you first started and where the 'Dunedin Sound' came from... I don't know what I'm trying to say. I'm just trying to tell you that you should help us save the venues [sign the petition to save The Crown Hotel HERE].

Whatever I can do bro! Good shit. Get that in there. Yeah Jones Chin, who runs The Crown. He's gold that guy. The Chins are an old school Dunedin family, man. My mother sung at the club that Eddie Chin, the patriarch of that family ran back in the '60s and '70s. They go right back those people. They’ve always been really supportive.

The first time I saw Dimmer this was at Camp A Low Hum and let's just say I was having quite a spiritual experience. You played 'Seed' for, fuck, I don't know what felt like, half an hour. Often when I've talked about you to people I've described it as my first experience of a true New Zealand rock star. Just the way that you play the guitar and are really in it. The idea of a rock star in New Zealand, I don't know, you might totally reject it but, is that.. bullshit? Is being a rock a good thing? A bad thing?

I'll give you a page number in my book where I wrote about being a rock star. I wrote three pages on it.

I knew I should have read it!

What I said was there's all these rock stars who aren't really rock stars. But a rock star can be someone who plays in front of 20 fucking people, you know, but it's just this quality that makes the person, I guess it's sort of like any kind of charismatic figure, that you just sort of have to watch them. There's something compelling about them. There's people all over who have that. But then again, they're not in the majority, because one of the things I used in my book was, they are in the way most people aren't. There is something compelling about them that you have to watch and listen to what they say or act. So I did say that. I thought I am actually a rock star. And I don't mean that in a wanker way.

I also qualified it and said I've sold barely anything, but it's just something, it's this innate ability that I've got. Some people can fix cars or some people can kick a ball really well. I can also balance it by all the areas of my life that I'm a total loser at. But when I’ve strapped on my guitar, I feel like a winner. And it's really great to have a place in your life where you can feel that way.

I think the thing that keeps me going for this length of time is that without being Mr. Noble about it I do feel a real connection to playing music and I just think music is this mighty force. It's this thing that you tap into. You’re sort of almost a conduit. It's this deep thing and it's not something I can be blasé about, or be a poser about or anything. It's just this thing that you connect into. There's this thing floating around in the ether, and you connect into it. All good musicians do and that's why people love witnessing it, because it's this transcendent fucking thing. If you've actually got the tools for whatever reason to be able to communicate that or convey that, no matter how modest, it is a gift of sorts.

So look, I feel real good the fact that I've spent my life being a loser musician... it goes back to that thing that I said before about loving stuff that where you can tell the people mean it. There's a conviction to it. It's not fake. It's not trying to sell you anything and it's got no agenda, it just is.

It's the best when you're stuck in the middle of that noise and there's bits where it's not happening, but when it happens, it's the best. And it's the best when I witness other people doing it. Bro. It's like love you know. Love makes the world go round. It's just another tangent of love. That's what it fucking is. And I've got to stop. [laughs]

I can't think of a better way to end it. That's beautiful Shayne. I can't wait to read the book.


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Thu 8th Sep 7:30pm
San Fran, Wellington
Fri 9th Sep 7:30pm
San Fran, Wellington
Sat 10th Sep 8:00pm
Christchurch Art Gallery / Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch
Fri 16th Sep 7:00pm
Hollywood Cinema, Auckland
Sat 17th Sep 7:00pm
Hollywood Cinema, Auckland
Sun 18th Sep 7:00pm
Hollywood Cinema, Auckland
Sat 24th Sep 7:00pm
The Regent, Dunedin