4 May 2019

Shayne Carter on his memoir Dead People I Have Known

From Saturday Morning, 11:06 am on 4 May 2019

Dunedin music icon Shayne Carter talks to Kim Hill about his upcoming book Dead People I Have Known.

Carter began playing music as a teenager at Kaikorai Valley High School and he's been a member of the bands Bored Games, The Doublehappys, Straitjacket Fits and Dimmer.

Shayne Carter

Shayne Carter Photo: Esta de Jong

On his family:

"We had our issues. My mother had an alcohol problem, there was violence in our household and all that kind of stuff … with the drinker, you feel like you have to protect them... [drinking] becomes the totem pole that the whole household do the dance around. But that's what happened, and it happens quite a lot … I wanted to acknowledge those things that go on that quite often get pushed aside or that people are too ashamed to admit, 'cause it's all part of the fabric."

On punk:

"There were lots of places I didn't really feel like I fitted in ... If punk hadn't come along and if music hadn't come along, I really don't know if I'd have made it, to be honest."

On writing Dead People I Have Known:

"Some of it was really hard to write, some of it was really painful to write. Some of it was also incredibly funny to write, as well. I guess if you're trawling through a life you're going to find all those things in there.

"Things that seem really serious and matters of life and death at the time, when you look back at them they're just kind of absurd and really funny."

On finding his writing voice:

"I realised that the way to write was to write pretty much the way I talk – kind of terse with some swearing."

On telling the truth:

"Most of the places I am the reliable witness, but that's in my mind as well with my own set of justifications. Whether other people see it that way I don't know but I'm not another person so I can only write what I felt and what I wanted to report, really.

"That's what happened, so that's what I wrote."

Shayne Carter will be appearing at the Auckland Writers Festival, the Dunedin Writers Festival and WORD Christchurch.

From 29 May - 9 June, he'll perform An Iliad in Auckland with Michael Hurst a reprisal of their performances last year in Dunedin.

Shayne Carter played:

'Ghost Rider' (a Suicide cover) by Anna Calvi

"Great guitar playing, great vocal.

"Suicide are kind of like this holy grail that you don't disturb… Anna Calvi is quite brave tackling Suicide but I thought she actually did an excellent job with this particular track."

'Nacht und Träume' by Franz Schubert, performed by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau & Gerald Moore

"I love Schubert. All his music and his best music has got this yearning quality to it, looking for something bigger than what's on the surface. Also compared to people like Beethoven and Mozart, he wasn't a virtuoso. So it means his music has got this everyman quality to it that people pick up on which is why it's so popular.

"It's beautiful, it's really affecting and it's a glorious piece of songwriting, I reckon."

'Candy Milk' by Negative Nancies

"I stumbled across them in this loft in Princes Street one afternoon sometime last year and they really blew my socks off. They were one of the best new things I've seen for ages. I totally endorse Negative Nancies and I support them in their endeavours."

'Don't Blame Me' (Live) by Thelonius Monk

"He's a musician I really relate to. When I first heard that I thought 'yeah that's how you play an instrument.

"[On this version] he sets out on his journey and you can hear him floundering around, assembling this piece of architecture… that struggle is really compelling. There's a really great bit of this where someone coughs and he just plays harder. I just love the whole battle going on."


  • Shayne P Carter and An Iliad
  • Dimmer live at RNZ's Helen Young Studio
  • Shayne P Carter: key player
  • Shayne P. Carter - Live at The Kings Arms
  • Straitjacket Fits live at Sammy's