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Interview: Jordan Luck of Dance Exponents - The Others Way 2022

Interview: Jordan Luck of Dance Exponents - The Others Way 2022

Mitch Marks / Friday 21st October, 2022 2:59PM

Dance Exponents formed in Christchurch in 1981 and within the year they had a record deal and a song in the top 10. Their first studio album, Prayers be Answered, was released in late ‘83 and was followed by prolific touring, more recordings, and an implosion of sorts, but frontman Jordan Luck is the pop phoenix that keeps rising and reinventing, and he and his various band iterations have remained relevant and in our cultural canon ever since. Prayers be Answered is being reissued today nearly 40 years on, and Jordan and the band will be taking the stage at Galatos on Saturday night at The Others Way to play the album in its entirety to celebrate. Mitch Marks will be there, singing all the songs word for word, but first she caught up with Jordan over Zoom and self-indulgently reminisced about her favourite Aotearoa album.

UnderTheRadar, Flying Out and 95bFM present...

The Others Way Festival
Saturday 22nd October (during Labour Weekend) - Tāmaki Makaurau's Karangahape Road

Featuring... Anthonie Tonnon, Bleeding Star, Carnivorous Plant Society, Ché Fu & The Kratez, Coolies, Daffodils, Dance Exponents, Earth Tongue, Finn Andrews, Francisca Griffin and the Bus Shelter Boys, Half Hexagon, Hans Pucket Midnight Karaoke Challenge, Juno Is, Julien Dyne, Landlords, Laura Jean, Mirror Ritual, MNDSGN & the Rare Pleasures, Nadia Reid, The Newmatics, PollyHill, Proteins of Magic, Repairs, Rita Mae, Shepherds Reign, Soft Plastics, Steve Gunn, Swidt, TE KAAHU, Vanessa Worm

Tickets on sale HERE via UTR

Jordan Luck Band
Monday 2nd January - Tai Tapu Hotel, Christchurch
Tuesday 3rd January - Luggate Hotel, Wanaka

Tickets available HERE via UTR

Jordan Luck: Hi Mitch! I'm in Little River. Sort of halfway between Christchurch heading east towards Akaroa.

Mitch Marks: It looks beautiful there. I'm in Auckland, on K’Rd.

Oh, you’re close to where that band the Dance Exponents are going to be playing.

Yeah, I've heard about that... great segue.

Quite a young wee group and they're re-releasing their debut album — debut studio album — Prayers be Answered.

A reissue… what, for like 40 years or something like that? Is that the tagline?

Yeah, that's the truth of it. Well, it’s actually 39 years old – I think it was November ’83.

I remember. That album was one of the first albums for me that was obviously a New Zealand album. I feel like before that I didn't really understand that New Zealand music existed. I'd heard Split Enz, but you came along and you had the South Island burr in there. I was nine years old and one night, late on the radio, they played the entire album start to finish and I taped it off there. I painstakingly replayed the tape, transcribed all the lyrics. I'm excited that it's getting another life and I'm excited to see you guys play it.

Oh, thank you — especially with the transcription of lyrics, because I might need to borrow them.

I'll tell you what, I will be up the front at The Others Way and I can give you the prompts should you need it.

But how do you feel about it? How does it feel 40 years later, with everything that you've done in between, to come full circle to this album?

Well, trepidation as I say for about 3/4 of the material, but some of the songs they've been on and off in the set – actually Victoria's been in the set pretty much from that period and that turned 40 years old this year, the debut single. All I Can Do, we play quite a lot. Your Best Friend Loves Me Too.

But I think the rest of them, most of them I wouldn't have played… some of them not since the ‘80s, a few through the ‘90s, but probably it’s only those three that I’ve consistently played.

Have you been relistening to your own material then?

I have! I've got a cassette – the car’s got a cassette deck in it. But I've also been learning up the Mockers as well.

Why's that? Just for a bit of balance?

Well, The Culprit and the King is on cassette here as well and [shows me the tape] so here we go.

It's like the ‘80s never ended for us.

It's just that The Culprit and the King, it’s an outstanding record, it’s got Forever Tuesday Morning on it and also One Black Friday. It’s just really good.

In the year 2000 I was writing for Rip It Up magazine when they did a 100 Greatest New Zealand Albums list that we all contributed to and I put Prayers be Answered on mine. I looked it up yesterday and there's an archive of the article online on a Split Enz fan site because Mental Notes was number one – Prayers be Answered came in at #32.

[laughs] Thanks Mitch!

You're welcome! But there was a Dead C album at #33 and it made me think how strange the label of ‘New Zealand music’ is and how diverse we are as a country musically, but everybody gets lumped in together because we're so tiny.

The thing I would say about ‘New Zealand music’ is that if you have recorded here, no matter what sort of material or genre of music you might be doing you’re automatically a cult band.

By virtue of the small population you instantly have a ‘cult’ following?

Exactly, it's like Icelandic music.

Definitely similarities in terms of remoteness and also our—

And the diversity of styles of music.

—our genuine weirdness. Is it the lineup that played on the original recording that's playing at The Others Way?

Yeah, it's myself, Brian Jones (guitar), David Gent (bass) and Harry (Michael) Harallambi (drums) who were on the record, but a lot of those songs prior to recording were with Steve Cowan and Martin Morris who were keyboard and guitar. And also post-the album was completely Chris Sheehan so we're doing some of the songs that were written and played around that period – Only I Could Die, which turned up on the next album, Ashened Ashened Autumn Leaves, and Sex and Agriculture. But playing the Chris Sheehan and Steve Cowan pieces is Brett Adams who is an ex-Mocker, he's in the Bads. So Brett is augmenting the line-up.

Are you in rehearsals? How has that been going?

No. Dance Exponents never rehearsed actually. I think over a 20 year period we probably only went into a rehearsal room… I could only count maybe, 10 times.

There's so much stuff that was done on the road touring, and we'd be rehearsing in the venues. So this will be quite unique. We've played with Brett quite a lot. Well, pretty much all the shows we've done through this century. We do start rehearsing next week at Dave Dobbyn’s studio.

So what are you excited about it? Is this an exciting thing for you?

I find every show exciting. But this is more unique. A lot of the songs were quite old by the time they went on the album. We formed September ‘81. Our first gig was October ‘81, some of them were three or years old and the reason why they ended up on the album was they were already popular live, people would be dancing to them. It’s pretty hard to go wrong if you've got three or four years of music up your sleeve, your first album should be pretty strong. And then after that, it's like chasing more – what do we do next?!

It is weird, isn't it? Because today a lot of studio albums would be the complete opposite – songs that haven't even been played live, they're only performed in that sort of test tube of a situation. It's quite a different experience I would imagine.

Oftentimes it’s a wee bit slower, the turnover as well nowadays. Bands used to be recording at least an album a year and separately, sometimes, three or four singles.

Was Victoria the only single that was released before the album?

No, there was I'll Say Goodbye, All I Can Do, Airway Spies… oh, we’re playing Airway Spies! Which Isn't on the album, but it's on the Australian version.

That makes me think maybe I've got the Australian version. My copy of the LP is on its way on a container ship from Australia as we speak.

Really? Well, they dropped [on the AU version] Swimming To The Table Of An Unknown Girl and put on Airway Spies.

Oh no, I’ve definitely got Swimming To The Table Of An Unknown Girl on mine, it’s one of my favourites.

[Sings] Across the bay, across the sea and an ocean. Stranded on the shore of uncharted land.

[Quietly] I can’t do that thing where I sing along...

[Singing louder] Where the girl came from, we breaststroked on, I don't really know.

Both: [Singing] Swimming to the table of an unknown girl!

Alright, dream accomplished.

I was reading something before that said Jordan Luck can produce amazing pop songs out of his arse. It felt like that's a bit diminishing. Is it that easy? You have written some of the most iconic songs of the last decades here.

It’s like a drunk dropping coins out of his pockets when I record.

That's a nice image. Is it that easy?

Well, I come up with melodies pretty much all the time, it's true. But lyrics I find a lot harder, more difficult these days. But maybe it's because I’m thinking I've kind of said that, or I've felt that. What's the unique way of putting my feelings into the melody? It's good when the melody comes with the words at the same time. But a lot of a lot of the time I've got the chords, got the structure, melody, but the lyrics are kind of “what colour do I use on this piece of canvas?”.

“Which girl’s name am I putting in there this time?”

Usually if it's a ladies name, the melody will come quite quick.

Should we read them as autobiographical?

They're all based on truth. That's why I think I can keep singing them, they're still relevant. Or that relevancy maybe moves a bit to the left or right, because of the circumstances. But they’re honest.

We're always going to be doing the hoovering at some point, aren't we? [referring to Victoria]

Alright, the good story there is that song had been about six months, and I went and saw her, Vicky, at her apartment and she had one of the big promotional posters up on her wall. Framed. And she’s making us cups of tea, 10am in the morning, and she goes, “oh, Jordan, thank you for the song”. I didn't say anything. And she says, “I got rid of the bastard”.

It worked!

[Sings] What do you see in him?

Maybe we all need a little bit of a nudge like that in song. The only songs I've ever had written about me – I mean, my name rhymes, quite obviously with something.


Oh yeah. Good point.

[Sings] Mitchy is a rich girl, Mitchy is a rich girl now.

Maybe that could be my next phase. I'm moving out of my bitch era and into my rich era. See you at The Others Way, Jordan!

Dance Exponents are reforming for their first shows in 36 years, playing all their hits from Prayers be Answered at The Others Way Festival.


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Jordan Luck Band
Mon 2nd Jan 12:00pm
Tai Tapu Hotel, Christchurch
Jordan Luck Band - Live In Luggate
Tue 3rd Jan 7:00pm
Luggate Hotel, Wanaka