Callum Devlin / A.K. / Wednesday 26th May, 2021 12:34PM
Calling all Chabsaholics and Milky Heads. Goin’ Live With Chabs And Milky LIVE! begins this Friday in Pōneke with the glorious line-up of Orchestra Of Spheres, The Phoenix Foundation and Estère. As a special treat for UTR readers, the two VHS-revivalists granted us an exclusive interview opportunity, undertaken by fellow Handycam enthusiast Callum Devlin of Hans Pucket, Dateline and video production company Sports Team. Devlin grilled James Dansey aka Chabs and James Milne aka Milky on their motives, inspirations and fears ahead of the Big Tour, which will be coming to a main centre near you this season. For fans of music, fun and Top Town, find yourself a ticket before it’s too late…
Goin’ Live With Chabs And Milky
Friday 28th May – San Fran, Wellington w/ Orchestra Of Spheres, The Phoenix Foundation, Estère
Saturday 29th May – Whammy Bar, Auckland w/ Princess Chelsea, Vincent HL, LEAO
Friday 4th June – Blue Smoke, Christchurch w/ The Bats, Ben Woods, Violet French And The Horrible
Saturday 5th June – Dive, Dunedin w/ Night Lunch, Wet Specimen, Juno Is
The interview begins on site and in-studio, with Callum Devlin recalling his own personal moment of VHS video glory on Goin’ Live With Chabs & Milky…
Callum Devlin: You guys had Hans Pucket on the show, a few months back now. I was very touched by the introduction you guys did. I thought it was very funny, but also it was a very generous thing to do. I’ve written you guys an introduction, in the style of your introductions…
James Dansey aka Chabs: Great!
James and James. Two names the sames. But two boys, nay, men! Two sides of the same… tape? But two art farmers of neighbouring fields. James né Chabs is our sound harvester. Do not adjust your… ears. James né Milky sows fertile film in his field. Action! Life! Cut! They are growing life. Going life? Going live.
[clapping] Chabs: That was wonderful!
James Milne aka Milky: Wow.
Where am I?
Chabs: Great question.
Milky: We’re in the Villa Dalmatia, which is the Dalmatian Cultural Centre.
Chabs: There’s a massive genealogical treasury downstairs of the Dalmatian history in Auckland, which is really long and they’re really good at recording it. If you ever want to have a look… they’re more than happy to show you around.
Milky: And the floor below us, there’s a big ballroom and a bar. They have big cultural get togethers and when the borders are open, there’ll be like a Croatian singer will come and play to the Dalmatian community here.
Chabs: We’re up above that. In the business part.
Milky: So they rent out some offices. I had a studio here and then it was a bit too expensive for me, then James, Chabs came and we shared this one little room. We had two desks and it was about 12 square metres? It was pretty small for the two of us.
Chabs: We were like back to back, with a piano in there at one point.
Milky: But then randomly one day the tenants of this space moved out, they just disappeared. The person who had the lease to this place said "the lease has come up". We just made the snap decision on the day and then the next day we’re moving all our stuff, just down the hall and then into this big space, which is six or seven times the size of what we did have. It’s a funny space that we’ve ended up with, but it’s really practical for what we do. We certainly couldn’t have filmed an amateur TV show in our one tiny room.
Was the space the encouragement for the show?
Chabs: It wasn’t the inspiration for me. I really have always liked the idea of shooting live. Not entirely streaming, but even before streaming was a thing, I liked the idea of filming things and recording them at the same time. As like, analytical things even, if you’re practising or whatnot. I like getting as many audio things and making them sound as good as possible. It’s always been a thing that I’ve liked and been interested in. But once we did move into the space we did start talking about it more.
Milky: I bought a VHS camera quite some time ago and I did use it to film some content, ages ago, probably when Absolute Truth came out. And I liked it. At some point I bought a few more.
How many are you at now?
Milky: Probably about 16 or 17. There’s no DV, they’re all VHS or Video 8, VHSC or whatever. At some point the idea really started to take hold.
Chabs: we’d talked about it a lot, and then Covid, lockdown really made us want to do something different and possible.
Milky: We were scheming… when we can do this, we should do this now. Because why not? Before even Covid happened, I think we’d got to the point of connecting VHS cameras with Chabs recording it and us doing it as a live stream…
Chabs: I myself, I didn’t feel particularly prescriptive about anything. I thought we’d just do it… We got Vincent to do it because he’s friends with us and went okay, and then I was just see how it goes. I’m quite happy with seeing how things go.
Milky: We were like, let’s just do it. Our motto is "always improving" [laughter]… The first week we hadn’t even done the intro. Vincent was like "Do I have to introduce myself?" So by the third episode we got a good intro happening.
Chabs: I love that. I love being able to see people improve in public. It’s absolutely not what you’re supposed to do, if you’ve got a thing. Anything. You’re supposed to look like you know what you’re doing [laughs]. I like not looking like I know what I’m doing.
Milky: So many of the best things in the world, are things where people aren’t ready. They haven’t got their product all ironed out and ready for market.
Chabs: Mmmm. Which we definitely don’t, still [laughter].
What are your memories of live music TV?
Milky: It wasn’t much of a thing. I was in Christchurch, we had CRY TV. I can’t remember any live music on CRY TV. It was a bit of a patchy period. It wasn’t like this was something we saw heaps in our teens. It was more YouTube…
Chabs: I was going to say as well… that video of The Axemen playing on Yahoo, which is one of my favourite videos, that was a live performance on an afternoon kids show.
Milky: It was TV3’s version of What Now, or something.
Chabs: At 3:45 in the afternoon, and The Axemen dressed as female movie ushers from the 1960s, with CDs around their necks. Miming a version of ‘Hey Alice’…
Milky: Singing it, because it’s feeding back. And they’re "this is certainly an interesting performance". Also, all that stuff that kept coming up, all the German shows from the late ’60s and early ’70s, like Top Pop.
Chabs: Like Zeppelin playing on Denmark TV.
Milky: Yeah and it’d be some crazy kind of thing with some kids sitting around… 19 year olds, "young people".
Chabs: One of the big live ones for me was always the Stax in Europe tour. They took Booker T and The M.G.’s as the band, and everyone came out. Like Sam & Dave would come out and play. But all that’s shot, awesome black & white, recorded great off the sound desk.
Milky: It’s got all these cool European kids clapping on the one. [Callum laughs hysterically] I definitely think that’s the glory days of YouTube. That was when I discovered my love for digging through archives and finding really cool, weird footage, that was more strangely framed than you might think about doing it now.
Glen O’Brien’s TV Party, have you ever seen that?
Milky: That was an anarchic talk show from the punk era. Chris Stein from Blondie was a co-host on it. It’s this washed-out, black and white, tube cam in-studio thing, but Debbie Harry would be hanging out, playing crazy covers… It was like, we should try and do something like that, of that era. We’re also quite into the idea of in that same way, creating an artefact of a scene.
Doing VHS TV on YouTube… I think even the concept is, in the nicest way possible, a joke. Right?
Chabs: It’s aesthetically pleasing I think.
Milky: I can see that on one hand. It’s a definite aesthetic decision and it’s also, the medium makes you work differently. It creates a different thing to what people are creating on DSLRs. It’s not "it’s the same thing but degraded." I think it produces its own thing completely, because of the way we do it. Even the fact we live mix the visuals.
Chabs: The no edits after as well, it’s sort of warts and all. We do try to push that whole side of it, that it is live.
Milky: It adds that live "thing" to every aspect. It’s not just the live music, but the way we capture it is live as well.
Chabs: It’s funny with those cameras as well. People get really fascinated by them coming in. I feel like people seem to be really relaxed. Something about… doing a slightly weird thing puts people in a weird mood I think, in a nice way.
Milky: It effects people differently and I hope that it creates much more comfortable, immediate performances. Rather than "we’ve got to fucking nail this" — because it’s being captured on HD and it’s being recorded on this beautiful equipment, and it’s going to be on the internet, on the national broadcaster. I think it should allow the performers to do what they normally do a bit more and feel a bit more comfortable…
So how’s this going to go on the road?
Chabs: Great question.
Milky: It’s quite exciting, the idea of packing everything up and making sure you’ve got everything. And also optimising stuff, we’ve got to get our systems working better. We’re taking what’s hopefully a streamlined and more reliable version of what we’ve done in the studio, to capture these bands.
Have you got any concerns James (Dansey)?
Chabs: Nah I don’t actually. [laughs] I don’t, because the unknowns of what might happen are part of it, with the technology we’ve got. My concerns are that the cameras are going to break, that’s my only concern. With this old tech y’know? But I’m not really concerned, it just makes it a bit exciting.
Milky: Don’t worry about that, because we’ve got 13 others. Well we’ve got nine working ones, for six camera angles.
What’s your pitch? Why should people come along to this?
Chabs: They’re pretty sick shows. Vincent H.L, Princess Chelsea doesn’t play very often, LEAO, fantastic band. I think the Phoenix Foundation are doing Friend Ship in its entirety…
Chabs: That’ll be fun. And Orchestra Of Spheres never play, what a cool band.
Milky: We’ve got 12 bands. If you were going to put on a day festival, you could imagine those bands somewhere and it would be a cool festival. But it just happens to be split up between the four cities. Each city has its own spirit, but hopefully each lineup reflects at least a side of independent music in each of those cities quite well. I’ve been probably agonising over it too much, just worried that people don’t quite get what this is on some level. Because it’s a live stream thing, but it’s actually just, it’s a show.
Chabs: It’s just a show.
Milky: It’s a gig. Hopefully you’ll feel like it being a weird, cool live TV broadcast. But essentially it’s just watching really awesome bands play live.
Tickets for Goin’ Live With Chabs And Milky: LIVE are available HERE from UTR.