article from Option, 1991.
BY BILL MEYER
In 1986, Peter Gutteridge found himself in a predicament. He had co-founded and left two of New Zealand’s best-regarded independent bands, the Clean and the Chills. His last band, the Great Unwashed, had fizzled after promising beginnings. He had a backlog of songs and no way to present them. He did the time-honoured DIY right thing - he bought a four-track recording machine and started writing and recording music at home using guitars , keyboards, and a rhythm machine. from these humble beginnings grew Snapper, an unstoppable musical juggernaut.
Working alone, Gutteridge developed a sound very different from his previous bands. The Clean and the Chills had defined a Dunedin indie-pop sound which emphasized jangly guitars and melodies. Gutteridge began writing material that started with rhythms and sounds: lyrics and melodies developed organically to complete a song. The sound of these songs was a wash of distortion, feedback and sustain. Gutteridge explained: “For years I played without a distortion unit. It’s only in the last three years that I’ve started to use one and it’s a whole sort of area, something I can apply where one normally doesn’t. On some of my tapes I even apply it on drums. That’s not the only thing we do, but you can do things with the sound that you couldn’t possibly do otherwise. You can make a note last and sort of hum behind you, you can make it loop. Instead of a chord just going WHAM and dying off, you can play with it and make it feed through. It becomes sort of like a tentacle, something long and drawn out.”
After a number of months working alone, Gutteridge played his tapes to drummer and fellow ex-Chilll Alan Haig, who liked what he heard and began collaborating with Gutteridge. They were joined by another kindred soul, ex-Bird Nest Roys guitarist Dominic Stones, and played a few gigs as the Phroms with Gutteridge handling keyboard duties. they did an opening spot for a band called the Delawares and lured that band’s Christine Voice into their ranks. She traded off on keyboards and guitar with Gutteridge and Snapper was born.
Snapper introduced the world to the band’s approach to music as organizes layers of sound. The cover, painted by Christine Voice, is all bold colours layered over one another, a vivid representation of the band’s music. Three of the songs are gate-crashing musical assaults with metronomic drumming propelling shifting layers of guitars and organs, all run through Alron distortion units. Over the top. Gutteridge and Voice chant punk-rock vocal mantras that are long on enthusiasm, attitude and atmosphere, short on specific meaning. Appropriately enough, the video for the opening track, Buddy, featured a club of bikers roaring down the highway. The record’s last song, Hang On, slows things down to close the EP with five minutes of hovering hypnotic menace.
Gutteridge reckons that the band has enough material for two good albums. Snapper is scheduled to go into the studio in June 1990 to record another album for Flying Nun, but in the meantime Gutteridge has found other avenues to put his music before the public. In 1989, Xpressway, a cassette-oriented New Zealand label, released an hour-long collection of Gutteridge’s 1986-87 four-track recordings entitled Pure. Pure illustrates both the development of the Snapper sound and a hint of what the EP doesn’t reveal. Many of the cassette’s 21 tracks are just Gutteridge alone with his drum machines, cheap keyboards, and fuzzy guitars: others include various Snapper members. Xpressway will also include a Snapper track on it’s label compilation, Xpressway Pile-up.
Since the EP, Snapper has continued to play around New Zealand and write songs. Although the record was very well received in England and Australia, impecuniousness kept the band at home. “We’d like to go to Europe, England, and definitely come to America”, notes Gutteridge, “but we want to record first as well. Then it would be really interesting for us...taking (our music) right outside of it’s environment.”
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