I took some time a couple of weeks back to talk to Rodney Fisher of Goodshirt fame about his latest endeavours, to pick his brain on the past and to try and gauge his plans for the future. He forgot I was coming for the interview and looked at me weird when he opened the door but I don’t hold that against him.
So you just played Big Day Out. What are your post BDO thoughts?
It was pretty odd for me. The stage I was playing at was right in the middle of two main stages so the bleed was out of this world for an acoustic show, but it was good. I had to fall back on comedy a little bit. The line-up in that room was awesome.
How did the experience compare to the BDO you played with Goodshirt back in the day?
It was a totally different experience to any of the Goodshirt stuff. Really it was nice just to be so close to home. I was keen just to shoot off and get the party started back at the bar.
Any other plans for your solo stuff?
I feel like there’s a natural momentum to it that I should be taking more seriously and spending some time on to get it going. I guess it’s just finding that time. We’re doing Goodshirt as well and almost every week I have an idea for another band that I want to start up. I can’t help myself from thinking about other things I want to do. The good thing with my solo stuff is that I can do it along with Goodshirt and whatever else I’m working on. If I can figure out how to do it with just me and a guitar there’s no reason I can’t do something every week.
When you were performing your stuff over in England you had a rotating line-up of a bunch of different musicians you would bring along to play with you. Is that the same kind of vibe you’re working with now?
I started off doing that when I got here but I just wasn’t really feeling it. For some reason I think the evolving band members concept worked better over there than it did here.
I didn’t want it to be a ‘band’. I liked the idea of people getting together and collaborating. It started changing into something that was more like managing eight or nine people to try and do something rather than loosely going, ‘Who have we got this time? What are we going to do?’ There was that excitement of figuring out how we were going to make it work.
Let’s shoot back to the early 2000′s when Goodshirt was relatively new. I always thought your sound was much harder to define than other big Kiwi acts of that time (The Datsuns, The D4). Do you think that helped or held you back?
From the record company’s point of view that was readily complained about, because when you can’t say what something is it’s harder to market it. We’ve got something like ‘Sophie’ which was our big single and none of our other songs were really anything like it, but I guess that’s kind of what we were known for. We were kind of odd and it was just whatever we felt like. We tried to make the videos with that idea as well. We weren’t trying to be too commercial with any of it, we were just trying to make the right thing for the right song, just an interesting piece of art.
I remember reading a quote from you guys years ago that went something along the lines of “There’s not really much point of being a live band in NZ unless you’ve got a whole lot of sing-along hits you can play around all the pubs”. Do you still stand by that?
That might’ve been one of those classic things where you say something and then someone writes it down in a certain way… Because I wouldn’t have said that… Oh actually I think I remember being pissed off about that. I think where that comment would’ve come from is that I started playing in a piss-take Irish band at Murphy’s back in the day and it’s what got me back into thinking about songwriting again. I used to do a lot of it at school, then stopped when I went to art school. I didn’t really pick it up again until I was in that covers band and I saw how people responded to those classic pub rock songs. It made me think about the power of a song. I knew I’d had eight or so shots, I definitely wasn’t singing in tune, but these people were still really loving it. It made you think it must just be that song that they love, so it got me into the idea of writing again.
Do you think the New Zealand scene has changed much since then?
Yeah totally. I don’t understand it or think of it in the same way as I did back in the day. I’m quite excited by a lot of the music which is coming out and I think partly that is because you can do so much just completely off your own back. You can release it yourself and get some proper momentum without having to involve too many other parties. You can just make whatever you want to make and be quite successful at it.
Do you think that affects how you write your new music?
Nah, I just try and write. I probably struggle to write to be honest. I’m just kind of waiting for that time you feel inspired, which is frustrating. There’s some songs which I’ve written in the last couple of years which I’m still calling my ‘new’ songs. It’s kind of shit but I’m waiting for that lightning bolt to hit.
You’re helping new artists a lot with the work you’re doing at the Portland Public House. I found it’s a really nice environment there, there’s no pressure to play in a certain way or do a certain thing. Was that intentional or just how it came to be?
The whole concept around putting stuff in the Portland is that I didn’t want to get too genre specific. If it’s good it’ll work and you can’t ever please everybody. Especially in those early days when you’re trying to develop a brand, sometimes you’re going to do stuff that people will hate, but there’s other people that will really, really love it and there’s a lot more worth in those select people really appreciating what you’re doing. That’s what helps in the long run.
Are you still doing the Songs From The Backyard project?
It’s taken a bit of a break, mainly because it’s not funded by anyone. It was always a bit of a struggle to try and get funds together to be able to do each one. I think there’ll be another incarnation of it, but it’ll be more stripped back in terms of the way we put it out. I did those first ones outside of my means because I really wanted them to have a certain look and feel about them. We shot heaps of stuff to try and get the little moments of really awesome shit.
I’d love to do something based around that idea, but I don’t think that idea is totally tight in my head anymore.
What was that idea?
The initial concept was realising the asset that it is for any act to have good stuff out there of them playing live. You find so much new stuff from looking online, it felt to me that if you can get a perfect little snippet of you being yourself that translates what your music is about then that’s a really useful thing to have.
At the same time I just really wanted to make a music ‘show’.
In the first one I did with Chelsea (Watercolours) I talked about the concept a bit. It was just about getting people in a really comfortable environment to play so that they’re not really thinking about performing as such, they’re just playing really well, almost like you’re in a practice room and it’s recorded amazingly.
I hope you do get back to it; it was a really cool idea.
I will, it’s just finding the time. It’s really time consuming just editing it. You want to put in as much time as it needs to make it right. I miss it actually. I miss staying up really late in the studio with Leon, trawling through the footage to find the little moments and getting it feeling right.
I’ve got too many things I want to do. That and start another three bands. Oh and keep a day job.