RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: August 2015

Pauline Bellamy – Hinterland Artwork

Pauline bellamy ruruLate last year I was trying to figure out what image to put on the front of my new album, “Hinterland.” About that time, I was asked to play a fundraising concert for a Solomon Island flood relief fund that a friend was putting on. Included in the night were art exhibits, including the work of Dunedin’s Pauline Bellamy. I was immediately struck by the stark simplicity of Pauline’s work, and the way her etchings seemed to summon up the ghost of the wind. I asked her to do the album cover and to my very good fortune she agreed.

artwork_disc copy

My only creative direction to Pauline was that I was thinking of a morepork, or ruru (New Zealand’s native owl) for the cover – a reference to a lyric from “Remnants of Ruminants.” Pauline and her husband John have a house in St Bathans, up in Central Otago, and on her regular trips up there Pauline began painting the landscape around her. Painting the cover for my album grew into a run of work exploring the “Hinterland” theme, and the result was this beautiful series of paintings.

http://bellamysgallery.weebly.com/hinterland.html

It’s pretty thrilling for me to see another artist interpret the spirit of the Hinterland that inspired me, in a different medium, and to see that spirit captured so beautifully. When I saw all these paintings displayed at the Bellamy’s gallery, I felt like I could have chosen any one of them as the cover for my album

pauline bellame windmill

pauline bellamy house on loop

In a couple of weeks we are doing an album launch at Taste Merchants in Dunedin and some of these works will be on display, tastefully framed and available to purchase. (They are also available to purchase direct from Bellamy’s). I’m lucky enough to have the original “Hinterland”cover at home, something I will keep and treasure for the rest of my life. Thank you Pauline.

hinterland cover framed small

Remnants of Ruminants

My friend Mark Orton of Seeing Red Media just made this video for me in Central Otago. In it, I charge around in a leather jacket and lace-up gumboots and get to drive a cool-looking HQ Holden. I wrote this song a few years ago after a trip in my old 1978 Ford Cortina up to the top of the South Island, which I blogged about back in 2012 here.

Ruminants are animals that ferment their food in a series of stomachs before digesting it. The process requires regurgitation and re-chewing (“chewing the cud.”) They first appear in the fossil record as small forest-dwelling mammals in the Eocene, around 50 million years ago. Today there are around 200 ruminant species including deer, cattle, sheep, giraffes and antelopes. The presence of ruminants on the Eurasian continent about 9000 years ago allowed a number of species to be domesticated by humans and thus cattle, sheep and goats soon formed part of the basis for agricultural societies.

The ancestors of New Zealand’s first Maori inhabitants brought only one domesticated animal to New Zealand – the kuri, or Polynesian dog. New Zealand then was a land of birds – giant ratites called moa and other birds that filled every conceivable ecological niche. Unused to mammalian predators, this incredible avian fauna soon fell easy prey to hunting pressure, and were finally extirpated.

Europeans arrived in New Zealand a little over 200 years ago, bringing with them their domesticated ruminants, especially sheep. Their possession and knowledge of these animals allowed them to capitalize on the open grasslands and to profit from the land by growing huge amounts of meat and wool. The extinction of the moa and other birds had left a huge ecological void in the landscape that domestic and feral ruminants were able to capitalize on.

And so in the last two centuries we’ve seen progressive waves of ruminants sweep New Zealand  – great flocks of sheep, plagues of wild deer, and more recently almost 5 million dairy cows, upon which the country’s economy is now heavily dependent. The long-term sustainability of this kind of intensive land use is in real question.

A palaeontologist examining New Zealand’s fossil record in another million years will find a bizarre and dramatic sequence indeed – the rapid disappearance of a great avian megafauna, closely followed by a great cache of the bones of domesticated animals – remnants of ruminants by the millions. And then… who knows?

I wonder what will they make of it all?

Remnants of Ruminants

There’s an electric fence around my heart
It goes tick tick tick in the dark

Picking it up on the AM dial
 as I go driving
Through the ribcage of this land

Moving fast through frequencies
Headlights flickering in the poplar trees
Static from stars and small town bars
Lit up for Saturday night

We’ve got an Ice Age here with us
A continent of grass and mud
And remnants of ruminants

I’m driving up the coast to be with you love
To feel your warmth beside me

Something’s broke but I’ll fix it up you’ll see

And memories of sunken shores
The reefs beyond the kelp beds roar
The morepork in the milking shed’s
The last of his kind

(Chorus)

There’s an electric fence around my heart
It goes tick tick tick in the dark
Picking it up on the AM dial
As I go driving
Through the ribcage of this land

Moving fast through frequencies
Headlights flickering in the poplar trees
Static from stars and small town bars
Lit up for Saturday night

(Chorus)

Drums: Steve Hudson
Bass: John Dodd
Acoustic guitar: Bill Morris
Electric guitars: Joseph Hoskin
Dobro: John Egenes
Sound FX: Gunther Flutney