Second Child, Nirvana, End of Tour Days and the Rock Scene in New Zealand 1992

Posted: November 3, 2015 in Other Bands and Nirvana

Rather like this video – neat concept. I noticed that Damien Binder of Second Child is working on his next album – he’s a really nice bloke so wanted to share the crowd-sourcing link given the target is only $3,000 and he’s two-thirds of the way. It’d be great to smash it plus I fancy a copy of the record so this is entirely selfishly motivated(!)

http://www.pozible.com/project/198232

You’ve not heard of Second Child? Ah! Well, Nirvana’s support on February 9, 1992 at the Logan Campbell Centre in Auckland, New Zealand. I dug back into my transcripts from the “I Found My Friends” book to pull out some of the material from Damien about Second Child, the Nirvana show, his life n’ times…

“Chris Van de Geer and Luke Casey had the name Second Child originally when I joined in 1987. Luke and I were still at school at the time and one day he told me about some guys he was jamming with in Titirangi (outer western suburb of Auckland) and that they were looking for a singer. I turned up to meet some pretty serious Goths (Chris and his friend Paul who played bass) who were friendly enough. I couldn’t sing to save myself at the time but the rest of the band took me on because apparently I was into it and had the right attitude. I was lucky they were open to me given my skills but then again they were into the punk ethics of DIY with a ‘there are no rules/teach yourself/untrained is best’ mentality so I was in. I was bursting to perform and express myself and these guys were happy to let me do it. Besides one else wanted to be the front man so it worked out.

On reflection the name Second Child fit well though we thought of changing it a few times. Chris and I were both middle children in our families, and despite it not being a conscious thing, the concept of middle child/second child syndrome was something we evidently related to. It stuck and we grew into it I guess.

By 1990 we were a strong part of the punk/alternative scene in NZ but this scene was not large by any means and we often struggled to find places to play. Sometimes we would organise our own gigs with other bands at local community centres/halls. For a time I worked at a famous Auckland venue called the Gluepot and that connection helped us set up gigs for Second Child. Once for a short period, management paid us $300 dollars for a Thursday night provided we brought in an audience. This was amazing to us as we rarely if ever got paid. Around then a terrific guy called Kirk Gee started to manage us. He had been to a few of our shows and really liked what we did. He worked as a writer among other things at Rip it Up magazine, which was the local monthly rock bible in those days.

Murray Cammick ran the magazine and also had his own record label called Wildside. Murray was something of a local legend in the NZ music industry. He’s a more than slightly eccentric fellow, but a good guy and a real hardcore music fan. I remember he was always trying to get me to listen to Otis Redding at every opportunity. Kirk talked us up to Murray a lot and convinced him to sign us (though we never signed anything). I realise now how important it was to have someone like Kirk in our corner. True believers in what you do make a big difference especially if they are connected! I think he secretly financed a tour we did once, driving us in a van around the North Island of NZ. I guess we thought the label was paying for the tour (or more likely didn’t think about it at all) but when we found out this was not the case and confronted him he wouldn’t take a dollar from us. In 91 we ended up putting out our first album ‘Magnet” through Wildside.

There wasn’t any major radio behind the band at that time except for BFM (college radio equivalent). One of the DJ’s there, Simon Coffey helped get us gigs with other bands early on while Lisa Van de Arde, who hosted a NZ only content show on B called ‘Freak The Sheep’, was a fervent supporter and got us airplay and interviews which helped a lot.

Elsewhere there was self-released underground press like Stamp magazine. We had a fan in Stamp’s editor Jonathan King and also in John Russell who wrote for various underground music zines and later, for Rip it Up.  Both championed Second Child, through writing reviews and features. In the process, while being valuable allies they would also become good friends. Jonathan in particular was a strong force in our development. He would later go on to direct nearly all of the bands videos as well as videos for my solo records.

When “Magnet” (7 song EP) came out it was only on vinyl in a very limited pressing. We didn’t exactly set the charts on fire but we drew well live and we had some memorable shows around its release. Musically we changed quite a bit afterward. I think we had been a little uptight, as you are naturally when you are finding yourself, so gradually we loosened up a little. After it’s release we started listening to different music and inevitably different influences crept in. Our line up at the time of the Nirvana show was Chris (guitar), Theo Jackson (who had recently replaced Barbara Morgan on bass after she left), Jules Barnett on drums and me (vocals and guitar).

Later we would have a variety of drummers. Luke Casey even came back to play on a few recording sessions before we settled around 95 on Ben Lythberg who would play on our first full length album “Slinky.” Ben was a really laid-back relaxed guy and an unfussy yet powerful and tight drummer…Beside finding new members Chris and I had started to get into more melodic guitar music starting with Husker Du/Bob Mould and SST bands through to The Pixies, Sub Pop label bands, Afghan Whigs and early REM to name a few. I got turned on to Dylan in a big way (better late than never!) around this period too so our tastes changed and we became interested in more formal rock songs with choruses etc rather than the 8min-never-repeating-the-same-part-twice epics that we had become known for.

Looney Tours were the company who brought Nirvana out and the Logan Campbell Centre held about 2,000 people. We used to call it the Logan Concrete Centre because it sounded like shit in there — not exactly known for its warm acoustics. The Powerstation where I believe the gig was originally to be staged was a much better, more intimate venue. It could hold 800-1,000 at most.

At their sound check, which we were present for, I recall Kurt said, “I want cd quality sound” over the mic to the sound person. He seemed a little annoyed at what he was hearing back through the monitors. I don’t recall much, if any interaction with them. It lingered with with me that he/they seemed rather sullen and exhausted and played that way too. Their performance was workman-like but lacking any great enthusiasm. As I said they looked like they weren’t that thrilled to be there. Jules Barnett recalls “Nirvana opened with Negative Creep, Kurt walked out onto the stage, slung his guitar on and said “Hello…this is a song off our first album, which you can buy at Really Groovy Records “[sic]. Their set was okay enough, however not very energetic…Krist jumped around in his bare feet while Kurt was much more subdued. ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ was right near the end — if not an encore- and got the most rapturous applause during the opening chords.”

I don’t remember even seeing them much before and definitely not after. They kept pretty much to themselves.

Chris (guitar) recalls ”We didn’t get to meet or hang out with them, we watched sound check and yeah, they were pretty subdued and exhausted I think the NZ show was on the tail end of their tour, they had basically just blown up in NZ with Teen Spirit crossing over to being number 1.”

We were possibly the last stop in nowheresville that they had to be before going home so I think they did 1 or 2 songs as an encore and got the hell out of there. Kurt especially looked tired and depleted. A friend told me he visited Real Groovy Records (a once famous Auckland record store) either the day prior or after the gig and bought a copy of a record by the NZ band The Axemen.

As far as our performance I thought we went down really well. It was the first time Second Child had played together on a stage of that size and it was slightly strange being that far away from each other compared to tiny stages that barely fit the drums, let alone the band that we were used to. We were accustomed to having the audience in our faces but after I met some people who said they were blown away by us. It was certainly a thrill however to be in front of that many people and I felt pretty at ease with it after a few songs.

I learned a valuable lesson that night. Don’t ever, if you are supporting a big band, say this is our last song! I think that got us the biggest cheer. I in turn promptly told the crowd the fuck off, serious young man that I was. I hadn’t yet developed my inimitable stage banter at that stage it seems!

A somber finale song, a track in support of the Red Cross Japan tsunami appeal:

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Comments
  1. Jules Recalls: ” Nirvana opened with Negative Creep, Kurt walked out onto the stage, slung his guitar on and said “Hello…this is a song off our first album, which you can buy at Really Groovy Records “[sic]. Their set was okay enough, however not very energetic…Krist jumped around in his bare feet while Kurt was much more subdued. ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ was right near the end — if not an encore- and got the most rapturous applause during the opening chords.”

    Credit where due please.

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