70s band Waves set to gain new generation of fans

By Scott Kara

Psychedelic folkies Waves will gain a new generation of fans with the reissuing of their music for Record Store Day, writes Scott Kara

The original line-up: David Marshall, Michael Matthew, Graeme Gash and Kevin Wildman. Photo / Supplied
The original line-up: David Marshall, Michael Matthew, Graeme Gash and Kevin Wildman. Photo / Supplied

From the porch of their Herne Bay flat - located where the tall apartments now stand - the lads from 70s psychedelic folk band Waves could see Stebbing Recording Studios.

"We eyeballed that place every day," remembers Graeme Gash, one of three guitarists and singers in the band.

You see, back in the early 70s, Stebbing's was where it was happening, man. It was where some great records were being cut and Waves - acoustic guitars at the ready - were keen to make their own musical mark.

And on July 7, 1975, their rock 'n' roll dreams came true. They picked up their guitars, wandered across Jervois Rd, and through the doors of Stebbing Studios to record songs for their debut self-titled album.

As Gash puts it 38 years on: "We were in a world we had dreamed of being in. It was a mix of excitement and terror."

After a number of years gigging, it was the editor of local music magazine Hot Licks, Roger Jarrett, who hooked Waves up with Direction Records, run by Kerry Thomas and Guy Morris. Those two got the band into the studio to record the album and then released it on their independent record label. "We were just there at the right time," says Gash.

However, Waves - made up of Gash, fellow guitarists and songwriters David Marshall and Kevin Wildman, and bass player Michael Matthew - weren't around for that long. They released Waves in 1975, recorded another more expansive and trippy album, Misfit (which was never released), and had called it quits by 1977. More on that soon, because now they're back - with a little less hair than they had in the glory days. To coincide with Record Store Day on April 20 the band are reissuing their debut album on vinyl along with a double CD of Waves and Misfit.

The reissue process has been a long one, with planning for the vinyl release starting last November. Making things more complicated was the fact there were no master tapes of either album.

"It's kind of tragic really. When Direction Records went out of business, God knows where the masters went."

So the new reissued version of Waves was made by transferring the songs from a mint condition vinyl copy of the album Gash had "under my bed for 38 years" into a digital format at Stebbing by engineer Steve McGough. And Misfit was made from an old DAT tape Gash had stashed in a drawer.

Judging by the smile on Gash's face today when TimeOut meets him for a coffee, it feels good to have the first album back out there, and Misfit released for the first time. Though he makes light of it: "We've spent a lot of time laughing at ourselves recently. We look fabulous in those old photos. It's a terrible reality check."

They had shied away from "reliving the glory days" in the past but when the idea of reissuing the albums came up it just felt right.

"Obviously we're way past wanting to be rich, or famous, and we're just doing it because we want that [Waves] pin back in the [New Zealand music] map. It's heart-warming seeing a lot of the old Waves fans coming out of the woodwork. The most surprising people tell me they were at our shows," he says.

Gash grew up in West Auckland and throughout his childhood he pretty much played music by himself. That was until he met the Chunn brothers - Geoff and Mike, who would go on to be members of Split Enz - one day out at Bethells Beach. "I had friends who had a beach house out there. It was through a mutual friend I met the Chunns, and we found out we could all play guitars and write music. Suddenly I had people to talk to."

Gash, Wildman and Geoff Chunn played in bands together, until the latter got a job as drummer in Split Ends (as they were still known back then). But soon after that, Gash and Wildman met Marshall and with Matthew on board too, Waves were formed.

Along with contemporaries such as Split Enz, Waves were one of the pioneering Kiwi bands who insisted on playing their own songs and avoiding the pub circuit.

"We feel really proud that we were there and championing original New Zealand songs. Because back then it wasn't particularly popular to front up and play all your own music. People tended to get a little bit bored with that."

The band played everywhere from folk clubs, theatres and school concerts, to bigger venues like the Auckland Town Hall and the Mercury Theatre, as part of the famous $1 gigs put on by radio station Hauraki.

"We didn't play pubs. It wasn't really an environment where we could because people were there to drink rather than listen."

And they would come to listen to songs like Letters, a short but gorgeous track about Gash's girlfriend who moved to England who he was left writing letters to, and Arrow, perhaps the band's most catchy song, written by Wildman ("He wrote one song a decade").

Then there were stranger, more trippy songs like Mrs X, a two-part song (one part composed by Gash, the other by Marshall), from Misfit.

"It would have been really interesting to see where [the band] would have gone [after Misfit]. Because it was definitely going somewhere, probably not somewhere everyone was going to agree with because you find that people who are into acoustic guitars don't like it when you go the electric route."

It was the disappointment of not releasing Misfit - WEA record company boss Tim Murdoch didn't like what he heard and the sessions were taped over (though Gash still had his rough copy of the recording) - that contributed to Waves' demise.

"It crushed us pretty badly that we lost that second album. We thought we were really getting somewhere and to have it destroyed was discouraging. All bands have their time and you have to be philosophical about these things and not clutch on to them too tightly. And we had a great time. We went our separate ways, the best of friends."

Who: Waves, Auckland 70s psychedelic folkies revived
Original line-up: David Marshall, Michael Matthew, Graeme Gash and Kevin Wildman
Listen to: Waves (1975), reissued on vinyl, and double CD of Waves and second unreleased album Misfit, for Record Store Day, April 20

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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