The following background to the Tall Dwarfs, Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate has been distilled from many sources....
Chris Knox was born in 1952 and grew up in the town of Invercargill on the South Island of New Zealand. He looks roughly like this:
Alec was born in Tapanui, West Otago, in 1956. He grew up on a farm in Gore. When he stands opposite Chris, he looks roughly like this:
(He's on the left.)
Knox started work as a forklift driver in the Cadbury's chocolate factory in Dunedin (a city also on the South Island of New Zealand), although he has also been known to dabble in cemetary maintenance.
Whilst at the chocolate factory, Chris met Mick Dawson. Together with Tony Hood, they began to jam together.
In 1977, whilst Knox was working in a record store, he met Alec Bathgate and Mike Dooley (who were studying Arts at Otago University). The three of them (along with a friend, Chris Prendergast) formed The Enemy. Shortly thereafter Knox sacked Prendergast and Dawson was recruited.
The Enemy was a punk band to be reckoned with, playing original songs, and one of the very first arising in New Zealand. The name "The Enemy" was actually taken from the music mag "NME".
In late 1978, there was a period of change:
At this point The Enemy had died and Toy Love began its life.
The Toy Love lineup was:
After relocating to Australia in 1980, Toy Love returned to New Zealand and promptly broke up (in August 1980). But, the Tall Dwarfs rose from the ashes.
In early 1981, Knox and Bathgate formed The Tall Dwarfs.
Chris Knox purchased a TEAC 4 track and from there The Tall Dwarfs became the pioneers of lo-fi recording.
In 1981, another interesting thing happened in New Zealand - the independent label Flying Nun started. This label has proven to be a boon for New Zealand music - that label has some of the best bands in the world. Tall Dwarfs release their material through Flying Nun.
From this point the Rough Guide to Rock and Roll sums up the history:
"Tall Dwarfs introduced this concept - accompanied by strong, richly melodic guitar-and-synth material - with the EP,Three Songs: A Future (1981), the first of a succession of sporadic releases on the financially challenged Flying Nun. Early EP tracks were collected for the compilation Hello Cruel World (1987), and with a grant from the New Zealand Arts Council they made their first proper album, Weeville, in 1990. It showcased the band's sound and the sharp, political edge of Knox's satirical lyrics, and it was in retrospect their finest hour. The next - tenth anniversary - album, Fork Songs (1991), was a more uneasy combination, with the alluring tunes at odds with Knox's increasingly bleak and morbid lyrics ('Thoughts of death inside us/Coil and eat the oatmeal of our brains').
By this point, Knox's solo career was beginning to overshadow Tall Dwarfs, who were put on hold after the release of Three EPs (1994). Working solo, Knox produced a sequence of excellent albums - Seizure (1990), Croaker (1991), Duck-Shaped Pain (1993) and Songs Of You And Me (1995). Each of these showed his songwriting talent matched by a highly versatile voice - crooning, singing, sneering as the material demanded. Perhaps the best of the bunch was Seizure, which mixed pop and thrash with introspective songs, and in "Statement Of Intent" issued a splenetic tirade against New Zealand's music industry for failing to encourage and promote local talent. A strong stance on feminist issues has also characterized Knox's solo output, notably on tracks like "Woman Inside Of Me", "Rapist" and "Not A Victim". The Dwarfs returned in 1997 with Stumpy (Flying Nun), a lo-fi gem featuring found sound, self-indulgence and two-minute songs stretched into twenty-minute noodlefests.
In his recent work Knox has begun to assess himself and his career, self-deprecatingly but with some frustration, too, given his lack of recognition abroad."
Alec Bathgate now lives in Christchurch and Chris Knox in Auckland.
Some lesser known facts include:
"Way back in my first band The Enemy I was adamant that they were our official colours; we made badges and so on. Our drummer revolted at one point and he did a pink and green one which I thought was just obscene.Yellow and Black are recognised as being the most graphically violent juxtaposition of colours and I just really like it. It's a little continuing thread for people who've known my stuff over the years, too."
or even one like this:
Then again, you can see Chris' life as seen through his very own eyes - Part 1 and Part 2.In about March 1998, Chris programmed some of his favourite videos for Star Trax (a NZ television program on MTVNZ). His selections were: