"We were sitting there, just listening to the songs really quietly, when all of a sudden there was this bang and the walls started shaking and books were falling off the shelves. We had to run outside and get the attention of the builders saying 'No, no, no! We're actually in here. You're not supposed to knock that wall down!'"
Rock and Roll Machine-ists Karin Canzek and Matt Stroobant are recalling a nearly fateful day of work at Auckland's Frisbee studios above the old Killing Rooms, about 18 months ago. Along with drummer Rich Mixture (Shaft, WWIV, The D4, Rainy Days) and engineer Bob Frisbee, they only narrowly dodged the wrecking ball. The rest of the building had been evacuated, but apparently no one thought to inform the band. Crisis averted, it was back to business - recording the long awaited and much anticipated self-titled Rock and Roll Machine debut album.
The Rock and Roll Machine first appeared on the scene in late 1999 featuring Paul Robertson (Teagan, Slave Trader, Rainy Days) on drums, Karin (WWIV, Rainy Days) and Matt (WWIV, A Bit Off) on bass/vocals and guitar/vocals respectively. With their raw-edged primal rock'n'roll the three-piece soon gained a reputation for wild on-stage antics. A reputation much enhanced by Matt's infamous 2001 accident, when he shattered his foot jumping off the speaker stacks during a whiskey-fuelled gig at the King's Arms.
"I played the last chord until the pain kicked in," he laughs at the memory.
High profile tours and gigs with the White Stripes, MC5 and Dead Moon followed, in addition to a few shows across the ditch. In 2002 the band headed further afield on a promising three-week international tour with dates in New York, L.A., Detroit and London, playing alongside the likes of the Dirtbombs, Von Bondies, The Kills, Electric Six and The Datsuns, as well as old school legends Dead Moon. The tour, which had them
headlining some shows, was organised by John Baker, White Stripes' tour manager and their manager at the time. It was back when the whole rock and roll garage thing was blowing up for The Datsuns and the D4, but any thoughts of coat-tailing came to nought.
Returning home with no new contracts to wave the Rock and Roll Machine continued gigging sporadically and writing new material. They instinctively keep a low profile with limited media exposure and an apparent aversion to self-promotion.
Before this album the recording output extended to only a handful of hard-to-find, limited edition 7" singles on the Action Records and Pitshark labels. Among them Pump Gas/She Got Oh! was recorded on the vintage equipment at London's famous Toe Rag studios with Liam Watson (The Headcoates, White Stripes), the balance at Frisbee studio recordings. So why did it take so long for the first Rock and Roll Machine album?
"I dunno," Matt shrugs. "We did some recordings in the past but we just weren't happy with them. We were rushed for time and the recordings went stale. It's funny because outside the band it might seem like a long time and some bands come and go within six months. But for us, the development of the music is getting better. The band would often develop faster than the recordings could come out, so by the time we'd record we'd be a different band."
This was certainly true with the line-up change two and a half years ago, when Rich Mixture replaced 'Small' Paul (Robertson) on drums, radically altering the band dynamic.
"With any different combination of people, you're gonna get something completely different. Everyone brings their own thing to the band," says Matt.
So are they pleased with the finished result this time?
"I think it works as a piece of music," says Matt diplomatically. "What we're most excited about now is the fact that we've since done newer, more recent recordings and we've got enough material for another record. It's like any band - the point from recording to actually getting the thing out can often be quite a long time. Whether it's industry or the record company doing it, or lack of money at the other scale."
The self-funded, self-titled album was recorded at Frisbee then Rich Mixture's garage after the demolition episode. Bob Frisbee engineered the basic tracks with the band mixing, mastering and producing everything themselves. It's still uncertain as we talk which record company, if any, will release it, but The Datsun's Hellsquad Records label remains a definite possibility.
"At the moment we're definitely self-releasing it on CD in August, but between now and then it may get picked up somewhere else," says Matt. "What I want to do is get it out on vinyl but that's so expensive to do yourself. But there's so many small labels around the world, so you never know."
First single Creature of the Night
, a catchy hook-laden sure-fire hit with a chorus you can't help singing along to, was released on Hellsquad Records in July - surprisingly on CD, signifying a relaxation of the band's anti-CD stance. With the focus more on the song structure and song itself their sound has evolved from being somewhat one-dimensional.
"It might sound funny coming from a band called the Rock and Roll Machine, but you know we try not to be genre orientated," they laugh.
One difference notable in the live set list is that vocal duties are now evenly split between Matt and Karin, where Matt had previously dominated. Want You Bad and Wild For You, the two album tracks penned and sung by Karin are a good indication of the current Rock and Roll Machine sound.
"We've got a rule," she tells me. "If you write the song you have to sing it."
"The cool thing is we're all heading in the same direction," says Matt. "It still feels really fresh to us and it's getting fresher really. We're really excited about the music and we're looking forward to new stuff coming out. Basically we want to try and keep the momentum rolling."