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Superette - Interview: David Mulcahy from Superette

04 Feb 2019 // An interview by Darryl Baser

David Mulcahy is somewhat of NZ music legend. He's been writing and recording music since the early 1980's and as a member of the Jean-Paul Sartre ExperienceSuperette, Spider, Eskimo and many others, he's gathered a significant back catalogue of memorable albums, EPs, singles and videos. Darryl from Muzic.net.nz spoke to David on 25 January about Superette's Tiger album being re-released, what is musically on his agenda, and much more.

During late 2018 Flying Nun re-released Superette’s Tiger LP, along with 6 bonus tracks which were demos for a follow up LP. Unfortunately, the band split up and the album never happened.

These days there is a Superette diaspora: Ben’s in Wellington, Greta’s in Auckland, and David is in Lyttleton.

I’m basing this around the re-release of Tiger in 2018. What spurred that?

Well, it’s part of the programme Flying Nun were doing of reissuing albums from the 90's, not necessarily the 90's, but the back catalogue of Flying Nun. That was one of a group they announced two or three years ago (laughs) that’s how long it takes records to come out.

Ben [Howe] who was in the band was pretty much running Flying Nun at the time. He sort of put off putting it out, I suppose he didn’t wasn’t to appear, um, like favouritism, just because he was like in the band, sort of thing. It got shunted down the line, but that was the reason for it, a few people wanted to hear it and they have a programme of reissuing their back catalogue.

Cool, I can totally understand the whole favouritism thing, not wanting to appear… it’s not really nepotism if you’re doing it for yourself.

Yeah, they’d already done 6, 7, or 8 reissues of other albums so it was reasonably tasteful in the line.

Indeed, appropriately down the batting order. It’s summer, you can tell.

For you has it spurred anything new, in terms of hearing stuff come out again, like any more songwriting or plans for releasing, that sort of stuff?

Well I’ve been constantly doing music forever so it, nah, I wouldn’t say it’s made me do more, but it’s made me look at that actual piece of work, which has stood up a lot stronger than my memory of it was, and all the demos that got released for the second album. It was interesting hearing them because I had no memory of them whatsoever, so that was quite interesting.


It was interesting in your review where you thought one of them was better than some of the other songs on the album, which was interesting.

Yes, I loved the album when it came out, but when I heard Pretty Picture, I thought that’s a really good song.

Um, they’re OK, it’s a bit bitter sweet for me, because they’re all like, um, the soundtrack for the breakup of the band sort of thing, they’re all Peyton Place themed songs. But apart from that, yeah they’re good.”

Yeah, songs generally capture a snapshot in time.

Yeah it’s what a record is supposed to do isn’t it..

On a good day...


So, you say you’re always creating, what is musically on your agenda? Are you in a recording phase, a writing phase?

Um, well I’m in a band, I live in Lyttelton, and we’ve just done some recording, and have been playing live, um, we’re all old guys, so it’s kinda like…

We’re planning on going down south, doing a mini tour down there and see what happens from that. But you know to get anyone that interested it’s hard, ‘cause of the age group we’re all 50+ you know.

Indeed, I know what you mean, I wonder if you have seen any of the shows at The Cook [in Dunedin] in the last year or so? At 48 I’m one of the youngest audience members.

[laughs] year right, I guess that can be true, we supported Dimmer when they last came through, and that was interesting, playing to a bigger audience than we normally do, so…

Cool, so, this is rude, and I’m sorry, but what is the name of the band you’re in?

It’s not rude at all mate, we’re hardly known, we hardly exist, yeah, we’re called Medal, like, you know Victoria Cross.

Ah cool not METAL, but MEDAL?

MEDAL, it's kind of, um I call it Motorhead, mixed with Wire. It’s pretty loud rock and roll, it’s sort of intelligent dumb music.

Nice, intelligent music for dumb, people, or vice versa?

No, dumb music for intelligent people. [laughs] If you get it round the wrong way it’s no good.  But that might go over their heads won’t it?

So, a winter tour, is Medal recording?

We’ve just recorded an album, and we’re going to start feeding that out and um get more of an online presence with video stuff and release stuff, and go down play The Cook and Wanaka, Invercargill, and Queenstown, a little winter tour. That’s the plan at the moment.

We’re doing a mid-Canterbury gig in a month, but that’s a private party, they’re quite good because you get paid heaps of money and everyone has a good time. It’s someone’s 50th.

Nice, that would be a hoot. So, who else is in the band with you?

In that band.. Mark White, he’s the drummer from Into The Void, I played with him for a few years in a band called Sexy Animals and the other guy is John Billows, I’ve played in a band with him called The Cranks previously, and he’s been in The Renderers, and lots of other bands, underground bands. They’re both really good musicians, got lots of energy, and we have lots of fun. I think it’s a really good band actually, not sure if people will like it, I think, the music’s good it’s quite strong. A lot of the bands I’ve played in since like forever really have been like friends, they have all had obvious weaknesses why it isn’t going to work, in a bigger sense you know, but with these guys it seems like the right place at the right time, we could definitely do something.

That sounds wonderfully optimistic..

[laughs] Yeah, that’s not normal for me. If I’m optimistic, it must be bloody brilliant.

It’s not normal for many musicians. Shit, this could work?!

It already does work, it connects, that’s what I’m trying to say.

You feel the whole... it works…

Yeah, the right people playing, playing the right…It’s really different you know…

How does it, what are you writing this for a website, or?

I’m writing this for NZ Muzic.net it’s my evening job.

That’s been around for years hasn’t it?

Yes, it has, I’ve only been writing for them for a while, I did lots of music writing in the 90's.

Yeah, I recognize your name, you’ve obviously been around for ages.

Nearly as old as you..

Yeah 48, you’re seven years younger than me.

But yeah, got into music writing as I was a musician myself, all that sort of hoo har… But yeah by day I work in the ODT newsroom as a video journalist and editor.

So yeah, you’ve recorded an album, you’re drip feeding tracks, I’m making sure I’ve got something that ties from Superette to what you’re doing now, a cohesive narrative.

Well we did, we played at The Others Way, that was the first time we’d played – this is Superette – I think we’ve played two times in the 13 years since we split up. We split up in ’96 /’97 and then we played again in 2003 or something like that, 2008, they might have been Arch Hill or Flying Nun things where a whole lot of bands play. But the thing we did at Others Way was good, I was really pleased with the response we got from the audience, they really, really enjoyed it. I don’t know if we played that amusing.. [laughs] but they really got into it, so that was pretty cool. But we can’t really do anything cause the other two, Ben and Greta, are just way too committed with their lives and where they’re at, so that’s.. trying to do anything more is pretty much impossible, which is a shame, but that’s the way it is.

Yeah, they’re both in Auckland, and you were based in Auckland for a while eh?

Yeah, we were all based in Auckland, I moved up there ’89 I think it was there for 11 years I think, off and on, sometime overseas, then I came back to Christchurch in 2000, and I’ve been playing in lots of little bands down here.

What prompted the move back down?

Um, initially I first came back to bring up my teenage daughter for five years, then back to Auckland for a year, then my mum got really ill, so I moved back to Christchurch, so for the last ten years I’ve been looking after her, and how she’s gone into a rest home this last year, so now I’m free again, which is pretty weird, I don’t have any responsibilities.

Yeah, that’s kind of a freedom, no parenting needed for either generation, not looking after your mum, or looking after kids anymore…


What's the incentive for people to buy the reissue?

The incentive for people to buy the reissue is there are six demos from a potential second album, for people to think I wonder what that would have been sort of thing, if it had been focused on, made to work.

But it’s not going to happen because everyone’s too busy. Well I have time for it, but no-one else does, because if you’re going to do it, we really need, you know, if we’re going to take two, two and a half weeks out of our lives and go into a studio and rehearse and get them down. It would take that much time, and I suspect the others don’t have that time to give. And Ben lives in Wellington, Greta lives in Auckland and I live in Christchurch, so we can’t really do it bit meal just do a day here sort of thing.

No, you’d want to do it properly?

Yeah, I would, I could sort of, yeah yeah I do, and personally I want to do something new if we were going to put some energy into it it’d be good to write new stuff. But, um, I just don’t think it’s going to happen, ‘cause they’re too busy.

I’ve got plenty to do anyway, I’ve got music projects for Africa.

Medal, and others?

Yeah I’ve got, I did heaps of electronic music myself. I had it up on Bandcamp for years, but it never really made any impact, so I took it all down, so yeah I do a lot of that. I do a lot of acoustic music, which is, kinda, it sounds good to me, but I don’t like performing it…It’s the last thing I’d wanna, it’s the last thing I’d wanna go and see if I went out to a show or anything, you know to see this delicate emotive stuff, I just think that’s boring. I like making it myself, and listening to it myself, and I think other people like to listen to it, but not, I don’t like too… I mean have you ever been to gigs like that? Everyone’s sitting around, you can’t drop a pin, and it’s just like oh my God.

Err, Nadia Reid, when she played an album release gig at 50 Gorillas in Dunedin, I’ve not seen any performer of any age command an audience like she did by just standing there..

Yeah, well if you’re good at it, that can actually work, and I’m just not that good enough to do that. It depends how you see that. I see that as very inward looking, and I see our music rock and roll is more outward sort of expression, that’s the difference for me..

That’s an interesting way of putting it. I’d never thought of it that way.

Yeah and electronic music too, it's kind of a more mental, meditative ride to it.

More cerebral?

Yeah, although that [electronic music] can work well live if its loud enough.

I like the social aspect of rock and roll, it’s very funny, dumb and stupid, yet it can be very moving as well you know.

Yeah, one of my favourite live bands in NZ for a while were The D4 they were funny.

Yeah there were really good, did you ever see Stitches? That was Dion and Jimmy Christmas I think.?


Ah they were very good 90's, pretty D4, but they were between Nothing At All and… I forget... but they were really good, great garage rock”


Quote of the interview, Dave Mulcahy talking about his new band: “If I’m optimistic, it must be bloody brilliant.”


About Superette

Superette formed in 1993 with David Mulcahy leaving the JPS Experience for a new pursuit. Together with drummer Greta Anderson and bass guitarist Ben Howe Superette was born.

Ben and Greta have also performed under the guise of Ben & Greta.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Superette


Tiger (Reissue)
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Year: 2005
Type: Album
Year: 1995
Type: EP

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