COUNTRY ROOTS (circa 1987)
The AXEL GRINDERS story begins – probably, kinda sorta – with Christchurch’s busking proselytisers of country-western sounds, the CONNOISSEURS, whose rough & ready renditions of such as Tex Williams’ “Smoke Smoke Smoke (That Cigarette)” & Merle Travis’s “Divorce Me C.O.D.” reverberated through Cashel St mall on many a cold smoggy evening in the mid ‘80s. When prime movers John Segovia (a/k/a Rent Hamilton), Simon Kearns (a/k/a Doug Hamilton), & Phil Ascott (a/k/a Shorty Hamilton) felt the urge to diversify into amplified rock’n’roll noise - somebody needed to show Christchurch how it was done - they teamed up with a recent acquaintance, Patrick Faigan (a/k/a Duane Zarakov), then recently ex-SAY YES TO APES drummer, & their frequent collaborator Steve McCabe (of the AXEMEN) for a chaotic conceptual-art entry into a battle of the bands type event (as THE OTHER FUCKERS), & later (without McCabe) as the fake skate punk band GRAPHITE LUBE JOB & THE AXLE GRINDERS, performing things like the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’” with the the word “surf” transposed to “skate” throughout. The GRAPHITE LUBE JOB gig was a farewell to the Christchurch scene for Simon but the other three decided to continue in this vein &, recruiting vocalists Marc Walsh (a/k/a Cos Egan) & Jo Pegg, & accumulating a motley set of cover tunes (the Fugs’ “I Couldn’t Get High” rubbed shoulders with Faith No More’s “We Care A Lot” & the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right To Party”,- maybe you had to be there) & a few crude early originals (“I’m A Sick Motherfucker” & so forth), we got busy. Pretty effective, as it went, but it quickly became apparent that we needed something else happening in the lead vocals/front person zone.
THE CELIA ERA/THE YEAR PUNK BROKE (1988)
…which meant a letter despatched to Auckland inviting Celia Patel (a/k/a Celia Pavlova (or later Celia Mancini)), at that time perhaps best described as a rock star in waiting, or a rock star without a stage, or something like that, to move back to Christchurch & join us. She was on, if not the first plane down, maybe the one after that, & the first gig she featured in was a University of Canterbury orientation bash (with Walsh still in the band as 2nd vocalist) where half the band competed with the intoxication levels of the audience & (depending on how you look at it) victory was wrested from the jaws of defeat. The AXEL GRINDERS’ reputation as Christchurch’s party-starter/party-wrecker combo par excellence probably started here, if that’s what people were looking for (they were, apparently), & the Celia-fronted incarnation of the band managed some sort of balancing act between slick professional entertainment & chaos throughout the year of our Lord 1988. New songs started to flow, mainly Segovia compositions with Zarakov lyrics, a few from Celia too (now adding a second guitar to the mix), as well as covers from a variety of sources given the magic AXEL GRINDERS touch, & the booze barns of Christchurch, Dunedin & at least a couple of other places heaved in approval.