By Wal Reid
Kiwi rockers Head Like a Hole, or more affectionately known to fans as HLAH, have seen a few things in their time. Guitarist Nigel Regan jokes at the thought of playing ‘starkers’ again citing, “I think I’m a bit soft around the middle to get naked these days.” The outlandish group from Wellington, have announced they will be re-releasing their eponymous debut album 13 on vinyl and also following up with a nationwide tour to support.
“Pretty much, it’s the 25th anniversary of when we recorded it,” says Regan. “Funny enough, we’ve never had any albums of ours on vinyl, apart from a single we did last year, so we’ve put out 13 on vinyl it’s looking really good. There’s red and black vinyl; we thought “Fuck it, let’s go on the road,” we’re going to play the album start to finish. In fact, three of the songs, we’ve never played live, ever, and a bunch of others we haven’t played for like twenty odd years.”
In 1992, they recorded their first album, 13, at Writhe Studio. The band produced it themselves with the assistance of Brent McLachlan (Bailter Space, Gordons). One of the singles off the album, Fish Across Face made the New Zealand Top 10, however the video was pulled off air because of a scene where orange juice streamed from Nigel's mouth into Booga's mouth (there happened to be a meningitis outbreak at the time).
“That was quite a big deal,” he says. “Funny enough, Booga whose real name is Nigel, was living with a guy called Nigel (Streeter) and he made the video. I remember going overseas when we had our Noise Records deal showing these people overseas these videos, and they were like “Fuck mate, that would cost $300,000 to make in America.”, and we were making it for five."
“After they saw the videos they didn’t want to talk to us anymore. Their name was Mordred, they were like a San Francisco band trying to be Faith No More, they had a rappy singer and DJ but their music was fucking awful. I was like “I’m glad we’re not playing with these guys. That was before the Shihad/HLAH European Tour, we were going to do it with that San Francisco band, but ended up with Shihad.”
With a perspective 25 years on it’s easier to break history up into chunks but narcotics, noise and nakedness pretty much sums up when that album was released, it’s a fairly accurate description. The bands been through a lot, and what hasn’t killed them has made them stronger.
“It was our first album,” he continues. “We were really young. We’d done one recording session where we booked the four-track cassette Shitnoise. We didn’t know anything about it, we were like totally buzzed to be doing it, because when we started we were just getting together to jam for us, we didn’t really think anything was going to happen, but once we went on tour with Shihad and Gerald (Dwyer) got involved and next minute he was like, “You guys want to do an album?”, we were like “Fuck yes."
“Me and Booga have been mates since we’ve been fifteen years old and that time we spent together so it holds really special memories and a place in my heart. I look at the songs and what they’re about. I’m working on – you know when you go to the theatre you get like a programme? We’re doing one of those for the tour, and I’m going to be printing all the lyrics in it, kind of explaining what the songs are about, how they came about. It’s actually going to be a big deal and we’re pulling out all the stops, I don’t want to give too much away but the live show’s going to be fucking awesome you know?”
Over the last couple of decades they travelled at pace, releasing the albums ‘13’ (1992), ‘Flick Y’Self off Y’Self’ (1994), ‘Double Your Strength, Improve Your Health and Lengthen Your Life’ (1996) and ‘Are ya Gonna Kiss It or Shoot It?’ (1998). Constant airplay on commercial and student radio, a slew of stench-ridden “classic” videos and relentless touring saw them build a loyal fan-base across New Zealand, Australia and Europe. Their shows were epic, unpredictable and swinging. This wasn’t rehashed pub-rock or limp wristed pop schmaltz - it felt like some new rock frontier where Judas Priest met Doctor Seuss and shared a joint.”
“First and foremost, Head Like a Hole are a live band,” he recounts. “’I’m really proud of all the albums we’ve done but I think it’s only in the last couple taking all the knowledge we’ve gained over all the years put some of that live ‘feel’ in the recordings.
“There’s this Kiwi guy in Aussie who’s in a band called Seedy Jesus, I think through him it came about that we would put it out on vinyl, and I think I thought “What’s the point of putting it out on vinyl? when what would make it doubly great, is to go out and actually play all those songs off it. It was the vinyl first then playing it live came after that.”
Head Like A Hole will embark on a 13 date national tour in May to mark the 25th anniversary and the re-release of their debut album '13'. The tour will see the band playing this landmark kiwi rock album in it’s entirety across the country throughout NZ Music Month, and hinting maybe they will even get to play across the ‘ditch’
“Yes, I’ve been talking to Booga about that,” he says. “What would be really good is at the end of the tour – I don’t know about a full Australian Tour but, I mean we went to Melbourne last year and I was saying at the end of the tour, “Let’s just duck over for a weekend and play a couple of gigs,” but yeah, fuck, we’d love to do the whole Aussie Tour again, but I think the whole Sydney scene has crapped out, hasn’t it?”
2017 looks to be a very busy year for the band with recording well underway for their highly anticipated 7th studio album in addition to the '13' anniversary tour and album re-release. The band are cautious of labels, especially being likened to a ‘legacy’ band, with bands like Push Push and Mi-Sex reforming recently, its a sentiment that has some truth to it.
“I think we kind of surpassed that,” he says. When we did get back together it was like ‘reunion’ blah-blah-blah. We’ve actually done two albums since then and quite a few national tours, we’ve got some new stuff we’re working on - so to me, we’re actually a real band again. If we weren’t releasing anything, I’d probably have done a few gigs and called it a day. Its quite tough really, because when we play 13, it’s not enough for a set so then we’ve got six albums to draw from, the classics like, I’m on Fire, Glory, Glory and stuff like that."
“I’m just a big kid, I haven’t grown up, I don’t feel much different. My mother often asks me “Do you think you’ll be playing music when you’re 50 or 60?”, my answer is “Fuck yes, If I can, I will be - for sure.”
Head Like A Hole - 13 Tour
April 29 - AUCKLAND, Ding Dong Lounge * (Exclusive warm up show)
May 4 - TAURANGA, 11 Totara Street
May 5 - GISBORNE, Smash Palace
May 6 - NAPIER, The Cabana
May 11 - AUCKLAND, Galatos
May 12 - RAGLAN, The Yot Club
May 13 - NEW PLYMOUTH, The Mayfair
May 18 - LOWER HUTT, Station Village
May 19 - PALMERSTON NORTH, The Royal
May 20 - WELLINGTON, Valhalla
May 25 - DUNEDIN, Refuel
May 26 - TIMARU, RE Music Lounge
May 27 - CHRISTCHURCH, The Bedford
Tickets available via Eventfinda from 9am Friday March 17th
The original album will be re-released on 180 gram heavy vinyl.