A day in the life of The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps

The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps been the group's only constant member since the band formed in the early 1980s.
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The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps been the group's only constant member since the band formed in the early 1980s.

Martin Phillipps is the frontman for The Chills, perhaps New Zealand's most iconic punk rock band and the group that put Dunedin's distinct sound into the international spotlight. Phillipps is pictured aged 16 with his band The Same, the forerunner of The Chills, about 1979.

We're in the Phillipps home garage, number 5 Albany St. That was when dad was working as the chaplain at Otago University. The house came with the job. We were there from 1970 to 1982. My sister Rachel is two years younger than me. We needed a guitarist and I knew the songs were very simple so it made sense for Rachel to join - she was sort of part of the music scene down here already.

It's quite a neat photograph - there was a series of them done by a school friend of mine. He really knew what he was doing. Three of those five people went into the first Chills.

Clockwise from bottom left: Rachel Phillipps, Jane Dodd, Craig Easton, Martin Phillipps, Paul Baird. Photo: Grant Caley

Around the time that photo was taken was when I first started writing songs. They quickly outstripped the ability of that band to perform them. That was why The Same kind of ground to a halt in the early 80s.

We did surprise the neighbourhood somewhat with our volume, even those we had ridiculous little amps, it was a concrete garage - pretty much designed to wake up the entire street. I've got recordings of us rehearsing there. At one point, the next door neighbour climbed over the wall and came in through the wash house and she's on the tape saying, "Your phone's been ringing all day! I can't hear myself think! You've been playing the same song again and again!"

Our parents were very supportive, but we were encouraged to go and find a practise room.

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Today, Rachel and her family live in Dunedin, as does my older sister and mum and dad - they live in Kaikorai Valley. At least once a week, I'll catch up with somebody. Rachel was in the very first Chills as well, along with Jane Dodd, on bass.
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Paul Baird the drummer died of cancer a couple of years back. He had just such a weird life. So many weird things happened to him, like, going for a swim off the beach at Nelson or wherever he was, and getting bumped around by an 8-foot blue shark - not actually attacked because it turned out it had been feeding on dead seals round the corner. It was just inquisitive. This was at night, being jostled by this huge invisible thing. He screaming his lung out at his friends on the beach who thought he was just mucking around.

In typical Paul Baird fashion, as soon as he got over his bruised ribs, he went back at exactly the same time of night, and swam back out. Just to make sure he didn't have any residual fears.

The Chills' 10 venue national tour begins in Wellington on April 26. For details of other shows, and tickets, see undertheradar.co.nz.

 - Stuff

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