By REBECCA BARRY
Paselode bass player Nathan Hickey is a mellow guy. But a few years ago he spotted frontman Gerome Mills hauling an armload of dirty glasses up the stairs, saw red and tripped him up.
"Something came over me. The guy's got an effect on people," he says, recalling how funny it was to see the singer roll to the floor while the glass shattered. Funny, until he biffed a heavy glass ashtray at him in retaliation.
It was their last fight. Since then the Wellington five-piece have focused their visceral tendencies on their music, replacing soaring household objects with equally dangerous sludge-riffs, analogue synths and sleazy vocals, recapturing a form of rock'n'roll not seen in this country since Head Like a Hole.
"HLAH and Shihad are pretty much the reason why the majority of the band actually wanted to be in a kick-ass rock'n'roll band," he says of his Welly neighbours. "The level of their music and their shows is just a massive inspiration."
Hickey, who'd grown up in Paekakariki playing guitar in "angsty teenage bands", marvelled at the professionalism of Shihad's first album, which he bought when he was about 13. He went to school with bassist Karl Kippenberger's sister, so one day wagged school to hang out with him. Kippenberger later let him stand next to his bass rig at a packed-out Shihad gig, a night he remembers as the "turning point".
"I don't think I said more than three words to him because I was so starstruck," he says. "But what I learnt a lot from Shihad is how nice they are and how much difference it makes if you're friendly to people rather than having a cocky sort of rock star attitude."
With that in mind he formed Paselode in 1999, recruiting Mills and his guitarist brother Elan Mills, drummer Rhys Telford and keyboardist Luke Benge.
"We've quietly lost our angst," he says of their noisy growth throughout the country's student radio network. For the past two years they have been nominated for the best unreleased song category at the b.Net awards, testament to a time when life in Paselode was not so rosy.
In late 2001 their first attempt at an album - The Arch Enemy Ray Garlton - backfired. Rumours sprouted the band were on the verge of a break-up. Hickey maintains the talk was a product of the band's own "cheap hype" but admits they went through a rough patch around the time of the glass-throwing incident.
The experience forced them to pull together and write a slew of new material. They signed with Wildside two years later, the independent label that launched Shihad, and released The Taming of the Wasps, named because Mills was stung by a nest of the critters as a toddler and has been freaked out by bugs since.
"We'll be driving around in a van to a gig or something and there'll be some sort of creepy-crawly flying around the window and he'll just go nuts and almost be paralysed with fear and be screaming at us to get rid of it," says Hickey. "At the start his brother used to help him out but now we just laugh at him. He's got to get over his fear."
Over the next eight months they endured a "Karate Kid experience", converting a century-old gutted church on Island Bay into a studio with their producer friend and "sense" Nic McGowan.
"We just wanted somewhere really big," he says of the soundproofed room that measures 220 sq m.
"We wanted to go for this huge live massive drum sound and make everything sound as big as possible but still sound like a band playing together, not a band that's been in a studio that's used Pro Tools as much as they can to fix every tiny nuance."
The album was recorded during the height of the garage rock revival, reason enough for them to remove all guitar solos, leaning more towards the flamboyance of Faith No More and the swampy blues of JJ Cale.
"We thought if this is what everyone's doing then we're going to do the complete opposite. We've never tried to follow any trends in the past. If you follow fashion you're just going to get left behind."
Audio recorded during studio downtime is being used for an animated documentary of the band, a six-part series that promises to be a cross between The Osbournes, South Park and Monty Python.
"I've been watching lots of The Young Ones recently," says Hickey. "After not seeing them for so many years and then seeing our animation, it's pretty much on that level. We've all got such different personalities that at the end we're just as funny and offensive."
* Who: Paselode
* Where: Kings Arms, Newton
* When: Tomorrow night with Fanatics, Larry Normans
* Also: Album The Taming of the Wasps out today