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March 1, 2010 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

A word with Roger Shepherd

Flying Nun is the very definition of DIY music as far as New Zealand is concerned, spawning or aiding (in one way or another) all your favourite luminaries, from The Clean to Chris Knox to The Mint Chicks. While it may have had a quiet noughties period, any self-respecting music enthusiast has been spewing with joy over the fact that Flying Nun has recently been bought back from Warner (a fucking unheard of occurrence, might I add) by none other than the label’s original founder and owner, Roger Shepherd.

As part of Flying Nun 2.0, he is coming to Vic to discuss the rebirth of the iconic label, and I had the immeasurable pleasure of speaking to him about restarting the golden age of New Zealand guitar pop, and how he plans to go about re-entering a music industry that has changed immensely since he last held the reins at a label.

The Flying Nun repurchase ended up surprising even Shepherd himself. He was hoping to have ample time to contact old bands and acquaintances in order to settle affairs before publicly announcing the news. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

“Well, I was hoping to have until the end of the holidays, just to get things a little more organised… It came out in Australia a day after the deal was finalised. Panic stations and phone calls were my entire next two days,” he says.
The first thing that Shepherd has done after buying back the label is to ensure the longevity of Flying Nun’s ‘classic’ bands, with particular reference to those that are still in action—notably, The 3Ds.

“Yes, well, we’re not re-releasing them as such, more re-pressing them—it’s the first time in a very, very long time that those three albums will be available. It can’t just be a reissue label, there is so much more to do.”

While they and fellow luminaries The Clean are getting the reissue treatment, it has proven to be a hard road to reacquire all of the Flying Nun canon.

“I really did underestimate just how much music there is in the back catalogue, it’s going to be a long task to get it all back out,” Shepherd admits.

“But in the long term, what we hope to achieve is getting out a lot of the historic material in a much more definitive form, material coming out with extra tracks, comprehensive booklets with visuals from the period, and so on.”

There’s obviously a plethora of material to look forward to from the early Flying Nun catalogue. However, it does seem to have come at the cost of some more ‘popular’ material, notably, the Mint Chicks’ back catalogue, which has, as of yet, not been re-bought by Shepherd. Given the strife that was endured to repurchase Flying Nun, it’s quite understandable. At what was essentially the 11th hour for the buyback of the label, Shepherd’s silent partner in the transaction, Ben Howe, was unceremoniously cut out of the deal, and Neil Finn was called in to save the situation. A controversial decision, but as Shepherd points out, a necessary one.

“Well yes, it was very hard, but [Howe] didn’t have the money, we weren’t going to be able to raise the money. It was unfortunate, and maybe I managed it really badly, but I just had to do what I had to do, really. I’m not happy about it, but it just got too difficult.”

Shepherd describes Finn as “someone who has had more experience in these sorts of things, and has had more exposure internationally than anyone else in this country—no one else can really compare to what he will bring to the operation”.

Despite slight hiccups along the way, Flying Nun is most definitely back. While Shepherd wasn’t particularly keen to discuss the new Flying Nun recruits, he was adamant on it continuing as a fresh label: “We refuse to be a reissue label. There are three bands we’ve been talking to, but nothing is finalised as of yet.”

To find out more on New Zealand’s best and most influential label ever, check the discussion Victoria Student Media is hosting with THE Roger Shepherd at the Adam Art Gallery on campus. Sure, go see The Chills, but be sure to go and listen to the man who is responsible for them ever being released at all. You owe it to yourself.

Victoria Student Media presents
‘Hold on to the Rail’
A discussion with Roger Shepherd.
Tuesday March 2nd, 4pm, at the Adam Art Gallery, and broadcast LIVE on The VBC 88.3FM.


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  1. Andy says:


    i am wondering why the discussion with roger shepherd isn’t streaming?


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