17 Jun 2023

'We thought we’d found the holy grail': Kiwi music zine Garage gets new book

From Music 101, 7:30 pm on 17 June 2023
The Clean

The Clean, one of Richard Langston's main obsessions in New Zealand music. Photo: AudioCulture

Richard Langston's Garage fanzine - now being collected into a book - chronicles the creative explosion of music that came out of the South Island in the 80s.

Langston is a well-known New Zealand journalist. You may recognise him from his days working for TV3 and TVNZ, and he still works on Country Calendar.

But before he graced our screens, Langston worked as a print journalist in Christchurch and Dunedin in the early 80s - while also moonlighting as the editor and publisher of an ultra-obscure music fanzine called Garage.

Garage chronicled the massive creative explosion of music that came out of the South Island in the late 70s and 80s, from the Enemy, the Clean and the Builders to the Great Unwashed and Straitjacket Fits.

Pull Down The Shades Garage Fanzine 1984-86 Book Cover

Pull Down The Shades Garage Fanzine 1984-86 Book Cover Photo: Supplied

All six issues are being published for the first time since the 1980s in the book Pull Down the Shades: Garage Fanzine 1984-1986.

Richard says he started Garage in 1984, inspired by the groundbreaking new sound unfolding around him, while living "on the smell of an oily rag" with friends in a draughty villa in Dunedin.

"It was freezing cold in winter and I honestly used to type issues of Garage on my Olivetti 32 in a balaclava and mittens, it was that cold," he told Music 101's Charlotte Ryan.

"It was just such a fun thing to do and I just thought it needed to be done."

Garage started out with a modest distribution of 50 copies, which quickly sold out in Dunedin.

"We didn't really need to describe it, we just put it on the record shop counters and it started to sell immediately," Richard says.

He continued to distribute issues of Garage to record stores around the country and found them to be very supportive of the zine.

"At the time they used to sell, send me all the money and we could print the next issue," he said. "We didn't have any advertising we didn't pay anyone, there was no commercial footing whatsoever, just running on the smell of enthusiasm."

While Garage featured articles and interviews from many important names in New Zealand music, there's one band that's particularly close to Richard's heart - The Clean. Dubbed a 'Cleaniac' by a friend, the band featured heavy in the pages of the zine.

Someone wrote in and said, 'would you lay off raving on about the Clean and focus on something else', he says. "Well here I am 42 years later and I'm still going on about it."

Appropriately, the Clean's David Kilgour wrote the introduction to Richard's book, describing him as "a very excitable music snob" - another title Richard can't deny.

"Well we were all sniffy 20-year-olds and we thought we'd found the holy grail and we wanted everyone else to know about it.

"If it's rough, spirited, got a bit of dissonance and some melody, it's probably going to appeal to us. That was kind of our house music, you know."

Wellington-based poet Richard Langston.

Richard Langston Photo: Supplied

After six issues, Garage came to an end in 1986 - even though a seventh issue had been planned, including a completed interview with Peter Jefferies.

But "life got in the way" and it was never completed, Richard says.

"I think in some way I thought, well I've sort of achieved something here, so maybe I could stop and that's kind of what happened really."

But Garage wasn't quite finished. Two years ago, Richard was approached by a US publisher who wanted to turn the zine into a book - to which he replied, "are you certifiably mad?"

As the project came to fruition, Richard started to track down material for the book - although he still had all six issues, much of the archive was gone.

"Being in your twenties, you think 'I'm done with this now' and I threw out the archive and the archive included all the originals.

"Because they were all pasted onto A4 size paper, you know there was letroset, thick felt pens, it was very basic.

"And I'm sure I got the style actually from my father who used to write signs, we had a dairy when I was a kid and he used to write signs in vivid pen - I think that had an influence on me, that and Mad comics."

Despite his close ties to the music scenes in Christchurch and Dunedin, Richard says he always felt like a bit of an outsider - until now.

"Even though as a journalist you always feel slightly outside of it, but after 40 years I feel sort of part of it, part of that community."

Pull Down The Shades – GARAGE Fanzine 1984-86 

* If you are interested in finding out more - Check out the Garage Fanzine Facebook group here