Xpressway To Yr. Skull - Bruce Russell on Xpressway Records

Originally published in Ha Ha Ha No.5 – 1990

Dunedin collective Xpressway Records are the people who put real substance back into the tape release market with their compilations of This Kind Of Punishment, Victor Dimisich Band and the best compilation since Onset/ Offset’s 20 Krypton Hits vol 1 – the Xpressway Pileup tape – which brought together old and new, north and south, and, with a few exceptions was full of classics that may never have seen the light of day. 

OK Bruce. If The Dead C is Bruce Russell as non-musician is Xpressway Bruce Russell as music obsessive? 

Yes, I suppose you could say I am obsessive about some NZ music. Let’s say it’s a lonely little crusade for good taste amidst the shit-eating triumph of the marketplace as the real FNun ‘stars’ advance to that great MUSHROOM cloud of REAL R ‘n R ‘success’ and the people who made a lot of the music that made the 1980s interesting get left in the lolly scramble holding some old sweet wrappers and a few unbelievable assurances about payment in the never never. We want to show there is another way to carry the torch into the 90s that doesn’t involve getting better (read bigger). It is possible to succeed internationally on the basis of real music minus hype made in the traditional way. You CAN sell singles that don’t promote pox ridden LPs of weedy shit if you want to and you aren’t constrained by past blunders to a path where lots of money MUST be made. 

There’s a vinyl version of Xpressway Pile Up coming out on Scottish indie Avalanche. How did this come about? Is Scotland some sort of NZ music stronghold? 

Scotland is I believe a ‘stronghold’ of good taste in most spheres of artistic endeavour relative to England. I don’t think there are more fans of NZ music per capita merely one who wants to co-operate with us. The Pile Up release is an experiment. I don’t know what will happen next. It depends on whether it sells and whether Avalanche pay their debts better than FNun. 

Tracks on the LP in order of appearance are 

1/ Plagal Grind – Midnight Blue Vision
2/ Victor Dimisich Band – Native Waiter
3/ The 3Ds – Meluzina Man
4/ The Dead C – Three Years
6/ Shayne Carter & Peter Jefferies – Randolph’s Going Home
7/ Peter Jefferies – On An Unknown Beach
8/ Snapper – Emmanuelle
9/ The Cake Kitchen – Airships
10/ Plagal Grind – Yes Jazz Cactus 

The plan was to duplicate the feel and overall balance of artists/ styles that made the TC so jolly. The CD has the B-side of Randolph and six tracks remastered from the TC. Just the obvious ones like Stephen Kilroy, The Terminals, Double Happys, Snapper and Nocturnal Projections. 

Are you intending to release any ‘new’ old classics? 

Well, yes, there are always gems to be found even just in my personal TC collection not to mention those of my ugly friends but we don’t have any plans to go backwards in the near future. If we do a compilation this year it will be all new stuff. 

Do you sense a move towards harder more discordant sounds among NZ bands? 

I don’t like theories about movements in music, personally. I don’t know about any ‘move’ in ‘music’ as a whole. As far as X/Way is concerned our artists are doing the same shit they did as FNUN artists. It’s just now they aren’t lumped in with the ‘pop’ music. 

Tell us the story behind the Victor Dimisich tape? Any chance of a Pin Group compilation? 

The VDB tapes came from a filing cabinet in the FNun office, the latest in series of FN ‘tape archives’ in which it has laid since 1983. It only just survived the experience and was disintegrating while Peter Jefferies remastered it. As I understand it Roy Montgomery has the PIN GROUP master tapes. I would love to do something with them as you can imagine but as yet have no concrete plans. 

Who are the Xpressway collective? You’re a label that gets things done, is your set-up a reason behind this? 

The X/Way collective is a core of Peter Jefferies and I and includes Alastair Galbraith, Michael Morley, The Terminals. It’s an organic thing. Yes, we do get things done. This has a lot to do with keeping our attention fixed within self-imposed limits. We try not to bite off more than we can chew. The way forward I think is to phase out Aussie pressed vinyl altogether and licence our product to US based-indies like SILTBREEZE. That way we don’t have to make a capital investment in a very dodgy industry and we just import enough to satisfy NZ demand. So what if it isn’t in every two bit record shop in the country? If people want the stuff, they can seek it out, if not, they’re the losers I guess. 

Do you see your role as complementary to FNun? 

Ah…well, yes, we do have a ‘complementary’ role to FNun in that we aren’t doing the same things for the same reasons so our roles in that sense very complimentary. Like negative and positive areas comprise a monochrome image. 

Peter Jefferies has a tape release due out on X/Way. How about filling us in on that and any other new X/ Way products. 

Peter has recorded a four- track album with 12 ‘songs’ and ‘pieces’ on it. He did it last September while residing at the secret X/ Way headquarters in Port Chalmers. It features a full cast of P. C. talent – Kathy Bull, David Mitchell, Robbie Yeats, me, some townies too. Alastair Galbraith and Nigel Taylor contribute. It covers a fuckin’ broad range of countryside. Some is intolerably heavy and some is positively pastoral. 

It’s all pretty weird tho’. We would like to have some rich foreign punter do it on LP and CD as well. The single, ‘Catapult’, (which is out now) is a forthcoming non-selection from the album. The Terminals have done a 7” produced by Mr Jefferies on 4-track at Alastair’s commodious Studio 13/ Wren building. It should be out when the Plagal Grind EP finally slides out as they were sent for cutting together. Maybe October. Maybe not. 

Any chance of a Bigger Than The Both of Us type collection of early Nun material? 

God, I don’t know. I’ve given up trying to get Roger to do something like that. I don’t think any of the musicians involved would let him do it now. Who knows? I doubt we’ll be hearing much of that music again. There is a lot of now music that absorbs my attention/ cash rather than archival stuff.