Martin Phillipps in archive mode: Selling off collection and starring in film

Dominico Zapata/ Fairfax Media NZ

Martin Phillipps of 'The Chills' talks about life with Hepatitis C and his battle with drugs and depression.

Piles of music memorabilia, cassettes from long retired bands and old footage from The Chills' glory days are being cleared from Martin Phillipps' home.

The frontman of Dunedin rock band The Chills is in archive mode.

He is set to star in a biographical film that was written with two endings: One in which he dies and the other he overcomes a life-threatening disease thanks to a miracle cure.

The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps at home in Tainui, Dunedin.
SHARRON BENNETT

The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps at home in Tainui, Dunedin.

It looks like Phillipps will see another year yet.

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Film crews from Notable Pictures have been following Phillipps around New Zealand as he put on what could have been his farewell tour this year.

The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps says he is a "natural archivist".
SHARRON BENNETT

The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps says he is a "natural archivist".

The documentary process has moved Phillipps to start sorting through his hoard of music memorabilia, and he's looking to sell and give a lot of it away.

"The reality that I could just die and this house will be full of all this stuff," has been a motivator in this sudden archival drive, he says. "Seriously, I think that would end up creating divisions between family, friends, peers and management."

It wasn't the first time film makers have tried to document the musician, he says. In fact, he says there have been about five other crews whose projects all collapsed.

The Chills in Raglan with bandmates with Todd Knudson on drums and Oli Wilson on keys.
DOMINICO ZAPATA/FAIRFAX NZ

The Chills in Raglan with bandmates with Todd Knudson on drums and Oli Wilson on keys.

"Obviously, I was a wee bit skeptical at first because I think this could have been the sixth documentary on The Chills that has started and not been completed. This has to happen, though," he says.

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Like the others, Notable Pictures is running low on cash. They've gone as far as to start a crowd funding campaign to get the film over the line (it's due to be released early in 2019).

Phillipps says the material is all there, "they could release it tomorrow if they wanted", but the Kickstarter is to raise enough to invest in a higher quality production.

Martin Phillipps is set to star in a documentary about the band due out in 2019.
SHARRON BENNETT

Martin Phillipps is set to star in a documentary about the band due out in 2019.

By the time this film is finally out, Phillipps plans to have released The Chills' second studio album of the decade. The promised release, due early next year, is a major achievement for the band that went radio silent for almost 20 years. Phillipps argues they were always there, chugging along and performing, but the band released only one EP and a live album between 1996 and 2015 when Silver Bullets came along.

Personally, a lot was happening for Phillipps then. For one, he was heavily addicted to alcohol and was spending time cooking up heroin. Then later, he recalls being told by a doctor that even mouthwash with alcohol in it could kill him. The issue being, he has Hepatitis C that was attacking his already unhealthy liver.

So, Phillipps says he's completely sober now.

Martin Phillipps, the frontman of The Chills, is filming for an upcoming documentary about his Dunedin rock band.
SUPPLIED

Martin Phillipps, the frontman of The Chills, is filming for an upcoming documentary about his Dunedin rock band.

"We're back to doing what we ought to be, making more music," he promises.

Despite positive results indicating the virus has been put at bay, Phillipps continues to prepare for the end.

He calls himself a "natural archivist". His Dunedin home, nestled between Anderson Bay and the southern ocean, could be a museum in itself. Some walls are stacked, literally from roof to floor, with albums, posters and VHS tapes. "There are tapes from old support bands that have long gone. They're probably National voters now, wanting their rock years forgotten. I've got the tapes though, when no one else has."

Martin Phillipps' home is stacked with music memorabilia.
SHARRON BENNETT

Martin Phillipps' home is stacked with music memorabilia.

The film won't recount The Chills' history. It wont even talk to every band member. "Not even close," Phillipps says. He estimates about 30 people have played for the band, and he is the only player to have stayed all the way.

It's about looking back at Dunedin, and the band's dramatic history that has been filled with deaths, disappointments, pop hits and drugs. Phillipps is reluctant to call it history, however. The film will also look at what's happening now, with The Chills' comeback.

"At the same time, for me to suddenly realise there could be a deadline, no pun intended, has meant there's an awful lot going on which makes this a crucial period to cover," he says.

Martin Phillipps was told a miracle drug was working while he toured the North Island.
DOMINICO ZAPATA/FAIRFAX NZ

Martin Phillipps was told a miracle drug was working while he toured the North Island.

 - The Press

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