Moments Like These: Dave McArtney - A Glance Back Through Personal Archives
Author: Trevor Reekie
Dave McArtney was a founding member of Hello Sailor, a band that made a significant contribution to Kiwi rock. He wrote the seminal Sailor single Gutter Black. He went on to form the Pink Flamingos, record film soundtracks, produce singles and albums for a bevy of local artists and still gigs regularly. Last year he released a solo album called 'Hook' and is currently writing the warts and all biography of Hello Sailor.
Do you recall who took this photo?
Can't remember exactly. It was either Jordan Luck, Dave Gent or Gary McCormick. It was the NZ Music Awards in 1984 and I think it was at the aftermatch function at the hotel, was it the Townhouse?
What were you up to?
It looks like we're lurking in a foyer or on the wrong side of a closed bar wondering where to get a drink. The bar roller door is down, so it is quite possibly late in the evening - although I don't look pissed enough for my typical demeanour at such occasions at that historical juncture.
What was your relationship to the others in this photo?
I had just gotten Producer of the Year for The Narcs' 'Heart and Soul', and Best Video for Pink Flamingos I'm in Heaven. Of course Steve and Liam were in The Narcs, and Heart and Soul was Single of the Year as well. The Sailors were rather fond of The Exponents. I'm not sure whether they got Group of the Year or what, and Harry (Exponents) was always a good bloke to have a chat with. We're all originally from the South Island, a cultural diversity only noticed by musicians and sportsmen who migrate north to further their careers. Jordan and I were in the process of forming The Big Nose club, which Liam was also about to be initiated into. I won't say what the initiation consisted of, but it was pretty fucking foul. Oh! And the other guy. He was just hanging around, trying to get a sniff of our glory! Glory days indeed; when I was bigger than Russell! You gotta laugh.
Can you remember how the night ended?
It was definitely one of the last years of great RIANZ parties, you know, the camaraderie between bands was alive and kicking, and more outrageous. There's so much more diversity of styles and acts now, with artists focused totally on career so much so that everything has become self-conscious and PC. But that night, things got seriously messy, with Peter Posa, Dobbyn and Neil Finn entertaining around the piano. Sort of singing along until you either couldn't stand up or until the messages carrying the singing mechanics stopped arriving from your brain. Know what I mean?
What are these people doing now?
Well, Russell is getting back into music... I don't need to explain what he's doing, but it makes total sense that he's into his farm and his rugby league. Liam has gone the academic route, like so many old musos, and heads a kind of tertiary music institute in Tauranga. He's done really well, in terms of what he has offered the music / education industry. Steve is in IT and owns all those internet kiosks in airports - still drums a bit. Harry and his partner own a café in Ohakune, and are involved in the ski industry - not sure if he drums still - he should, he was my favourite.
What do you remember of Russell Crowe back then?
We knew his parents who owned the Whangaparoa Hotel, where we played at a lot in the early '80s. Previously at a soundcheck at The Potter's Wheel in Avondale (a pub which the Crowes also owned) in 1979, when the Sailors first returned from the States, Ricky had to remove a persistent 10 year old Russell from his drumkit while we were setting up! I remember him as being quite ambitious. He started that large venue in Symonds St called The Venue, for underage punters. Always seemed to be very organised. He was also quite a charismatic singer, however I thought his voice lacked some sort of quality or X factor.
What are your recollections of the music scene back in 1984 compared to now?
Obviously a lot simpler. We were always in work, actually made a living and were able to support ourselves and our families. I think the cycle has turned fully. Guitar bands... rock'n'roll, seems to be slipping back into the vernacular of popular culture. It's been 20 years, though I'd have to say that there has been an improvement in musical technique and ability. This generation has taken it seriously and worked extremely hard - to the point now that a simple little kick arse band can make it on the world stage. Mass media has educated the ears somewhat, however, we started it. We had the feeling and the passion. We built the stage at the Globe Hotel one rainy Auckland June afternoon, after all.
And what are you doing these days?
I'm helping set up a retreat / nature sanctuary in the central North Island plateau, near Tokaanu on 90 acres of land owned by our family - retirement home for old rock stars! Also finishing a book about the life and death of Hello Sailor in the '70s, and teaching part-time at MAINZ. It's Sailor's 30th anniversary this year, so seeing we still do the odd gig and enjoy it just as much as we did in 1975, we're thinking about doing something noisy towards the end of the year. We are in negotiation with an Australian label to do an acoustic album, as well. That should happen soon. I'm also working with fa'afafine R&B singer Linda E.
If you knew then what you know now what would you have done differently?
I would have had my eyes completely open while I was getting fucked up the arse.
Words of advice to young musos?
Plan ahead with your personal career. Remember that the ingestion of toxic substances is cumulative - what's fun at 20 is death at 50. And keep your eyes open when signing deals.
Moments Like These is a new regular feature for NZM's second century of issues. It is curated by Trevor Reekie who you can contact via firstname.lastname@example.org