Home' The Wellingtonian : November 17th 2011 Contents 12 THE WELLINGTONIAN, NOVEMBER 17, 2011
Flying high in music business
talks to Flying Nun
Records boss Roger
Shepherd about music,
London and Texan
Top tunes: Roger Shepherd searches for gems at Slowboat Records.
Photo: REBECCA THOMSON
You grew up in Christchurch
in the 1960s and 70s. Have you
been back since the earth-
No. I m very fond of Christ-
church and am very conscious of
the fact the Christchurch I knew
will be gone. Not the suburbs so
much, but the city and venues I
used to go to.
How did you get into music?
My mother suggested I get a
holiday job when I was at high
school. I looked through the news-
paper and the only holiday job
was at a record store. That was
the slippery slope.
You're not from a musical
My parents frowned on popular
culture. Popular music and wear-
ing jeans and a T-shirt were not
allowed. My sister worked at the
EMI store at the end of the 60s. I
don t know how she got away with
What was the first pop
music you listened to?
The Electric Prunes. It was my
sister s record. They were a 60s
American Garage band. I ve still
got all their music and saw them
live in London not that long ago.
The first record I bought was Cap-
tain Beefheart s s Clear Spot. That
was the start of it all going hor-
ribly wrong. I have so many
I remember listening to my
older brother s copy of [The Bea-
tles ] Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts
Club. That was my first experi-
ence of music outside my sub-
urban Christchurch existence. It
was an indicator of what was
coming to New Zealand. At that
time, New Zealand was quite con-
servative. You couldn t even buy
Did you get to listen to a lot
of music while working at the
Yes, you got to listen to every-
thing that came in. I would start
at the As and go through the
alphabet. I worked my way
through the alphabet several
times. I liked the Bs -- The Bea-
tles, The Beach Boys, The Byrds,
and that was just for starters.
You dropped out of univer-
I started an arts degree, but
wanted to have a good time and
that wasn t really happening. So I
ended up working at the record
store fulltime, then managing a
group of stores. I spent a lot of
time watching live gigs.
Networking existed in venues
where there was live music.
And then you started Flying
Initially I just wanted to record
what was happening in the music
scene at the time.
There was a lot of mystique
about how records were made.
People didn t really know how it
was done. Records were made in
Wellington, at EMI in the Hutt
and another place in Miramar.
What was the first band you
My big trip was to Auckland to
sign The Clean. They had made a
record and were startlingly good. I
caught a plane, which was out-
rageous then, it was so expensive.
Everything else was done by
phone. Toll calls were expensive,
too. The Clean were a massive
success in 1981. People had heard
about them, and wanted to buy
their record. It snowballed from
there. Our first office was in Here-
ford St. It had holes in the floor.
Gradually we moved to nicer and
Then you went to London.
To set up a Flying Nun office
there, but they got bought out by
Rupert Murdoch, so I left. We
stayed in London for a long time,
though. Fantastic bookshops and
record stores. I did a lot of read-
ing, listening to music and looking
after the kids.
Why did you move to
My wife is a lawyer -- public law
-- and she got a job offer in Wel-
lington. I wasn t sure about the
move. The weather is challenging.
We re in Wadestown. It s fairly
exposed -- good views, sunshine,
but northerlies and southerlies.
At least I don t have to fight the
And that's when you bought
back Flying Nun?
I became re-acquainted with the
musicians I had known. Also I
was putting together the box set of
Flying Nun tracks for Warners
Music. It was so much music to
listen to, but it re-acquainted me
with the bands on the label. The
[buy-back] deal went through New
Zealand Warners, to Warners in
Hong Kong to Warners head office
[in the United states]. To their
credit, they agreed.
What new acts have you
signed to the label?
We signed Die Die Die and
Greyson Gilmour in the first year,
and Robert Scott from The Clean.
His album The End Runs
Together is really good.
You tried a Texas-style bar-
becue when you went to the
South by Southwest music fes-
tival in Austin?
That was some barbecue! It was
not a barbecue as we understand
it. It was huge. It was a big brick
and wood-fire thing. There were
huge bits of brisket and they
cooked the meat for days. Cooking
time was measured in half-days
not in half-hours.
Where do like to eat and
drink in Wellington?
Nikau is really good for coffee,
and so are Olive and Floriditas.
For food, Sweet Mother s Kitchen
is great. My kids like Sushi Train
in Courtenay Place and Wasabi
Sushi in Cuba St. I haven t been
often, but the Boulcott Bistro is
great for the traditional French
Sav ing lives abo ve all else
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