A small contingent of clever laptop and sampler-based sound creators had broken out of their bedrooms, and were playing at parties, clubs and intimate electronic music festivals around Auckland, performing tricky, tongue-in-cheek grooves for those who weren’t afraid to die trying to dance to those indecently tricky rhythms.
Influenced by UK post-acid techno smart bastards like Squarepusher, Aphex Twin and Atom TM, and regular NZ visitors like Bernd Friedman (Nonplace Urban Field) and Amon Tobin, the local incarnation of IDM flourished and then came unstuck, with only the fabulous Dooblong Tongdra and the late-blooming Phelps & Munro putting their heads on the chopping block long enough to get noticed.
Phelps & Munro, the "duo" that still confuses the hell out of would-be historians because the original bio and photographs were all lies: “Roy Phelps and Jackson Munro met while both attending art school in 1992,” runs the script. “From that point on they have become not only formidable musical colleagues but also inseparable friends. Like classic acts Simon & Garfunkel and Kruder & Dorfmeister, they too decided to use their respective surnames, bridged by an ampersand, as their moniker.”
Phillips quickly ingratiated himself into the Auckland electronica geek scene with his raw, home-made but deceptively sophisticated tracks.
Uh-huh! Phelps & Munro is actually the nom de plume of Gerald Phillips, a clever wee bastard who hails from near the top of the island where citrus fruit is plentiful, Kerikeri. Armed with his trusty Akai MPC 2000 sampler, Phillips quickly ingratiated himself into the Auckland electronica geek scene with his raw, home-made but deceptively sophisticated tracks, and the quirky funk of this one-man band was a regular sight over the next few years, culminating in his support slot for Amon Tobin in late 2003.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves: before that, Phillips was to get played on John Peel’s acclaimed BBC Radio 1 radio show in the UK, then work up an album, and get it released through Stinky Jim’s imprint Round Trip Mars earlier in 2003. This 14-track delight, Slowpoke, got good notices from reviewers and elicited enthusiastic noises from fans, and as Kiran Dass wrote in her 2003 piece for NZ Musician, “Slowpoke seems to come out of nowhere to seduce both guitar fans and electronica boffins alike … it boasts a nice balance between the warmth of noisy guitars and the aloof coolness of electronic music.”
Sadly however, Slowpoke is still Phelps & Munro’s only album release to date, partly because he’s got a busy day job in graphic art and advertising copywriting, but also, he admitted to Under The Radar in a rare interview earlier this year, “I think a lot about releasing more music, but don’t for some reason.”
Although he emerged for a one-off gig at the 2013 iteration of the Auckland Laneway Festival, Phillips has become something of a recluse, admitting that “I’m incredibly shy and get super nervous about playing live. Simply put, shyness started to win the battle.”
Gerald Phillips grew up listening to gaming music on his Commodore 64, and still counts that as an influence.
Phillips started making Pavement and Fugazi-influenced recordings on a 4-track in 1996, but soon after bought his MPC 2000 sampler with its famous drum pads.
Phillips describes his music as “guitar layers with jiggy beats and whatever.”