Monday, September 28, 2020

Big Sideways, Miltown Stowaways , Ivan Zagni and more

Unsung Music was a record label listed on their releases as based at 54 High St in central Auckland. Active in the early 1980s, they were home to some very cool leftfield music happening around Auckland at the time.

Their releases came from a few collectives like Big Sideways, 3 Voices, Avant Garage or bands like Miltown Stowaways (featuring ex members of the Newmatics) and Peking Man.

I'm not sure how they did it, but the Miltown Stowaways managed to release 3 records in 1983, all on three different labels (Unsung, Propeller, Hit Singles).

Big Sideways kicked off in mid 1982, and grew out of a Labour Dept (now WINZ)-funded work scheme for unemployed musicians called the PEP scheme, which ran for 6 month stints. This collective served up a self-titled album followed by a 12" single on Unsung Music.  

Another track off the Big Sideways album, Conversation with a machine (written and sung by Blam Blam Blams' Mark Bell), featured on 'Unexplored – A Compilation Of New Zealand Recordings 1982–86' released on US label Strange Weekend Records in 1986.

 Guava is a wonderfully jaunty track by Ivan Zagni, who was also musical director for Big Sideways. Other members included Kelly Rogers and Sid Pasley (Newmatics), Jacqui Brooks (Freudian Slips), Paul Hewitt (Coconut Rough) and John Quigley and Phil Steele (The Bongos). Rogers and Pasley were in the Miltown Stowaways, along with Benny Staples, also ex Newmatics.

Zagni was born in Norwich, England in 1942, and sang as a boy chorister at Norwich St John the Baptist Catholic Cathedral.

He started playing guitar at age 12 and later moved to London in 1964, working as a freelance session musician.

Zagni's Wikipedia entry says "In 1970 he returned to Norwich to study piano and composition. From 1971 to 1977 he was Choir Master at St John the Baptist Cathedral in Norwich where he composed a number of works for the Cathedral. He then returned to London, becoming increasingly involved in the European improvisation scene and spending six months in Amsterdam."

He moved to Auckland NZ in 1980 with his NZ-born wife and has worked as a freelance musician, teacher and composer. One of his first musical releases here was an EP in 1982 for Propeller called Standards, collaborating with Don McGlashan (Blam Blam Blam/Muttonbirds). He also played guitar on the track Call for help on Blam Blam Blam's album Luxury Length.

Wikipedia on Big Sideways: "They toured nationally with assistance from NZ Rail. Big Sideways continued without Zagni and released the 3-song 12" Let It Out with new members including Graeme Gash and Tom Ludvigson (Low Profile/Bluespeak). Justin Harwood (Coconut Rough/The Chills/Luna) also spent time in Big Sideways. They supported Split Enz on their 1983 New Zealand tour and were one of the last groups to play Mainstreet in Auckland.

"Zagni's work with Steve Garden (Low Profile) on the Avant Garage album and their subsequent collaboration 'A Selection of Trouble Spots' (1984) recorded in Basement Tapes, Garden's basement studio, set the scene for what would become Garden's label Rattle Records."

William Dart noted in 2005 that "In New Zealand, 20 years ago, he helmed Avant Garage, the hippest ensemble imaginable. The classical set knew cellist Amanda Hollins and bassoonist Mark McEwan, rock'n'rollers had grooved to drummer Ben Staples and guitarist Mark Bell, and cellist Pam Gray was a prominent Pramazon and well-known in politico-performance art circles."

Avant Garage started in early 1983 and was the second band put together by Zagni under the PEP scheme, after his time with Big Sideways. Members included Peter Scholes, Pam Gray, Benny Staples, Prasada, Mike Caen (ex Blind Date), Tim Mahon ( ex Blam Blam Blam) and Wayne Laird.

Zagni has also composed music for orchestra, film, tv, and dance performance for the likes of Limbs Dance Company.

Unsung Music at Discogs

Ivan Zagni - Musical Chairs with Andrew Clifford, RNZ, 2003

Ivan Zagni interviewed by William Dart, NZ Herald - 2005


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