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Gold Medal Famous - INSIDE THE MUSIC: Gold Medal Famous

19 Sep 2017 // An interview by butch181

In our latest episode of www.muzic.net.nz's Inside The Music, we interview Chris Wilson of Wellington's Gold Medal Famous.

Check out the video below:

Alex (Interviewer): Tell us about Gold Medal Famous. How long have you been around?

Chris (Lead Vocals, Theremin, Noise box, etc.): Since 2008, and we’ve had the same line-up since 2010. We’ve got our ten-year anniversary next year, and we’ve been reasonably prolific; we’ve got six albums (five out on Powertool Records, and one obscure CD you can get if you ask me) and play usually one gig a month.

Alex: Very prolific. Is it more than a side job?

Chris: It’s basically just good times. When we record we basically have a few drinks and decide we want to have a crack at a genre. For instance, our last album Activity took a while and had the theme of “doing things”. We recorded it with the “firing squad” method, where we used a bunch of weird devices and recorded samples, passing it around, so we didn’t know who recorded what. We did it as a response to some critics who had said the previous albums had sounded too eclectic in sound, so we thought we’d go for a uniform palate.

We are hard to pin down. We even put out a metal album, Album of National Significance, so we have something for everybody. We are loosely electro-pop and on stage, Tamsin plays guitar, synth, hand percussion, and backing vocals, Vorn plays the laptop, responsible for our backing tracks, keyboard, singing and percussion, and I do the lead vocals, theremin and noise boxes, with a bit of percussion as well. It’s basically a lot of fun.

We’ve played Melbourne a couple times, and Tamsin and I played a gig in Tokyo, Japan last year. It’s never been a money-making thing for us. We did have a song used in a nightclub sex scene in the comedy-drama tv series Go Girls, and we got to split half the money from that with the record company. The money is all in the licensing, but we all have day jobs, and Vorn and I have side projects as well; Vorn has his main band Vorn, and also the Wellington Sea Shanty Society and The Gypsy Hendrix Experience. I play in an experimental duo called Selective Yellow.

Alex: You are involved in a lot of groups. Have you always been into music?

Chris: As a kid, I started on the recorder, then moved on to the cornet, baritone and the tuba. I was very lazy at practicing, but I was in a concert band, a brass band, orchestras, and was a part of the concert band that got to perform in Hawaii at the 1994 Pacific Rim Band Contest. All those instruments were in treble clef, so I’ve been able to read music since the age of eight, but I was always pretty lazy. My sister practised all the time but eventually gave up on music because she felt like a robot, but she later got into playing ukulele’s as she enjoyed the amateur aspect of it.

I think my laziness has helped with my continued enthusiasm for music. Gold Medal Famous is designed so that we only need one or two practices before a gig. The music is simple, the only difficulty is remembering the lyrics; we do a lot of 80’s covers, such as Like A Virgin (Madonna), Don’t You Want Me (The Human League), The Way It Is (Bruce Hornsby and the Range), and they require a bit of practice. Usually, when you play a gig, nobody can tell if you have made a mistake unless you are a mega-fan, and then it’s great, they’re paying attention. But you just carry on. There are no mistakes.

Alex: You’ve got an eclectic mix of styles in your back catalogue. Do you have any favourite tracks?

Chris: The one that has had the biggest impact, is the Gold Medal Famous eponymous rap song, which is an audience favourite and has a looped recording of a smashed plate. We did a song called John Key Is A D*ck, and recorded 14 different versions from bbq reggae, modal jazz, and handbag house, to pop punk versions among others, to try appeal to everyone’s tastes. We also did a sequel called John Key Is Still A D*ck. The closest we have gotten to an election song this time around is a song we have yet to record, called Bill English Is A Social Conservative, and is inspired by Napalm Death as it plays for a second, and I yell either “Todd Barclay” or “Double Dip”, referring to his accommodation scandal where he took a large allowance which was immoral. I like our political songs a lot. 

A song that is popular at the moment is We Bought A House, which is a social commentary on the housing crisis. Tamsin and I bought a house in Dunedin because it’s cheaper there. I actually found out yesterday that our tenants have recorded a song along the lines of “Our landlords have recorded a song about buying the house that we live in”. I like the idea; meta-commentary. Good on them for doing it; one of them plays in The Golden Awesome, so she’s a great musician.                                      

One of the ones I enjoy playing live is New Wallet, which is fun because it’s noisy. I’m a terrible guitarist but the song has a great noise breakdown in the middle and at the end and I do a metal growl. It’s good to do that song at the end of the set, as afterwards, I’m not such a good singer. We have a few gimmicks too; one song that is popular with the audience is Party Theme, and we give out medals. We get two-dollar shop medals and tape cheese to them, and we get the audience to be the judges, like an applause-meter. Songs that get a crowd response are some of my favourites, and we’ve done a cover of the Never Ending Story, which is a childhood classic, and I have to sing it an octave lower than Limahl sings it in the original, as by that stage my voice is a bit wrecked.

Alex: How did the three of you initially get together?

Chris: I met Vorn a long time ago when one of his bands, Dangerpin, was playing with The Sproutts in which a friend of mine was playing. Around 2008 we started doing some recording together and then met Tamsin a bit later; got her to join in on bass. We did previously have another person, Beth, involved in the band but we parted ways due to creative differences. Basically, you just want people in the band that are easy to get along with. It’s more important than technical skill; you need to be able to spend a lot of time together in the car. Also in having to fit everyone in the car, not having massive amps is handy. Utility is a big factor.

Alex: I imagine needing little equipment comes in handy when touring in Australia, or Tokyo?

Chris: In Tokyo, we just plugged a laptop into a PA system, but in Melbourne, we borrowed from other bands, so it was alright. I can see why a ukulele or harmonica band would be tempting with space. These days you get amps the size of fridges, and pedalboards the size of these tables joined together; I get confused when I have more than three pedals. I keep it simple.

Alex: Does keeping it simple help when creating your music? What is your process like?

Chris: We just like to have a crack at particular genres. There is one song we did, which is our version of dubstep, called Time To Take Up Photography, which has a lot of bottom end and it distorts PA systems a bit. We just like to try anything. Usually, the lyrics just involve me complaining about something; I think we only have one love song. A lot of social commentaries, responding to political events. We are working on a new album now, with a horror-folk theme, using acoustic instruments with weird synths in the background. Basically, there is no recipe for success, and I’m sure the audience find it confusing, but we do what we feel like. If we want to make a metal album, well we did. Our Live adaptation classifies us as electro-pop, but with recording equipment these days, you can sound like any style you want, and it’s fun to try it all out and experiment. Keeping myself entertained is my personal driver.

Alex: Do you yourself have a preferred genre of music?

Chris: I like Indie-Rock quite a bit. Tamsin quite likes bands artists like Acid Mothers Temple and Frank Zapper. Vorn likes more Alt-Rock bands like Pavement and a lot of electronic stuff as well. Hopefully, I’m not misrepresenting their tastes in music. I like a lot of experimental bands like Sonic Youth, The 3Ds, and High Dependency Unit, as well as abstract electronic artists like Aphex Twin, and experimental drone music, like Brian Eno. I try to go into a floatation tank once a month, and that is a great place to listen to music; at the end of the session, the robot voice can give you a fright, so it’s good to have some music to come out of that state. 

It’s harder as you get older to get into new music. A lot of the new music seems to sound like 90’s guitar; grunge or post-grunge, and has a woozy sound, as if a tape had been left out in the sun. It’s one of those things that motivates us. It’s very difficult to create something entirely different, and we obviously don’t do that, but we try to do something novel. That comes across in our live setup, having a laptop and drum machine, synthesizer, guitar, noise box, percussion, theremin, and several vocalists. It’s pretty different to watching someone hunched over a laptop, or the usual guitar/bass/drums trio; it’s going to sound different. It leads to either people really liking us or really hating us. 

It’s good to have that kind of polarizing effect. We had a song play on RadioNZ recently, and we had a lot of haters, but also some support, and it got us a few mentions during the segment. A lot of haters can be a measure of success. It doesn’t matter if they hate it because it’s their own opinion, but it does mean they know us well enough to have an opinion of us. I find the idea of a lot of people hating our music to be appealing.

Alex: You said you are doing a gig once a month?

Chris: Our last gig was at the Lucky Bar + Kitchen in Wanganui; a really good venue to play in. Georgie and Matt run it, and they treat you really good there, with drinks and food. Wellington has a lot of bands, so it’s pretty active and it’s good to get out into the provinces. There are some pretty interesting bands at the moment in Wellington, such as The All Seeing Hand and Orchestra of Spheres, who are doing something different and doing well overseas. They are all associated with the Pyramid Club, which is an experimental club in Wellington. A good place to play if you are starting out or trying something musically risky. Wellington music scene is really good. A lot of good bands from Dunedin too, there is a good connection between the cities. The older bands are still awesome, like The Bats and The Clean, and newer bands like Idiot Prayer, there’s good stuff going on.

Alex: You mentioned working on a new album. How long until that is released?

Chris: We’ve just done one track so far, but hopefully we will be done in a couple of months, and then get it mastered. We should be able to do two tracks per session. We probably won’t do any more gigs for the rest of 2017, but get back into it from the start of 2018. One of our yearly highlights is playing the Woodcock festival in Tauranga. It’s run by this group called “Tauranga Music Sux” which runs an aggressive, obnoxious marketing campaign that stops munters from turning up to the festival, so you get a really nice crowd. 

This year it got rained out, but they amazingly managed to reorganize everything to play in two pubs, The Hop House and Tarirua Lounge (?). They organized this all in one day, and some bands dropped out, but logistically, I was really impressed. They get international acts as well like King Missile, and this year they had Cosmic Psychos, and last year they had Grant Hart from Hüsker Dü, who recently died. They get some great acts and I really like playing that.

There are a lot of places left in New Zealand that we haven’t played yet, like Christchurch, and we haven’t played Dunedin for a while. We have plenty of places yet to go.

Alex: That’s all the questions I have for you today. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

Filmed by Chris Morgan
Audio by Chris Morgan
Interviewed by Alex Moulton
Title Screen by Chris Morgan and Blake Jones

Filmed on location at Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland


About Gold Medal Famous

Gold Medal Famous is a three-piece genre fluid electropop act founded in Wellington in 2008. Known for their captivating live performances, complete with intense audience interaction and comedic stunts, you might love or hate them, but you won’t forget what you’ve seen.

Signed to Auckland indie label Powertool Records, Gold Medal Famous will be releasing their sixth album Activity on May 27 2017.

Gold Medal Famous are prolific recorders with 28 releases available on their own Bandcamp page in addition to their releases on Powertool.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Gold Medal Famous


Year: 2023
Type: EP
Five Track
Year: 2019
Type: EP
Gold Medal Famous
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Year: 2017
Type: Album

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