What is it Keith?

what is it keith


The Players

Greg Malcolm - guitar(s)
Jenny Ward - vocals, toys
Leo Bachmann - tuba
Tony Buck - drums
Gregor Hotz - soprano sax
Joe Williamson- double bass
Jon Rose - violin

The Songs
(mp3 player is required to hear samples)

  1. Intro.
  2. Freedom Suite
    (1.04, 312KB)
  3. Moral Outlaw
  4. Level of taste (1.04, 312KB)
  5. It's popular music
  6. Amazing Grace
  7. Art (1.04, 312KB)
  8. Some Kinda Kiwiana Exhibition
  9. It's about your album
  10. Scandal in the Wind
  11. Stratification
  12. Intermission
  13. Damn the Torpedoes (1.04, 312KB)
  14. Christian Art Stomp
  15. No lyrics
  16. Mainland Jesus
  17. Death Song Warning
  18. Happy or Upset
  19. Does it Float
  20. Outro

Malcolm GMalcolm GMalcolm GMalcolm GMalcolm G

What is it Keith? is based on a real series of events that occurred with the release of Greg Malcolm's Trust Only This Face which contained The Ballad of Peter Plumley-Walker . This song, originally a comment on the media, created another media frenzy involving national newspapers, radio, and television.

The series of events began when Sunday Star Times Journalist Edward Rooney rang Malcolm to do an article on the CD Trust Only This Face posing as a music journalist. Rooney then rang Christian Democratic Leader Graeme Lee and played The Ballad of Peter Plumly-Walker across the telephone falsely stating that this song had Arts Council Funding. Graeme Lee predictably denounced the song and funding.

Rooney then sent a photographer to Malcolm's house and requested Malcolm pose for a photograph in bondage gear, this request was denied therefore a mug shot was taken. The article and photograph then appeared in the news section of the Sunday Star Times, headlined: Criticism over Cash Grant for Sex Song .

The Sunday Star Times article prompted extensive media interest, numerous phone calls were received from the media, and various radio personalities condemned the song and funding.

Greg Malcolm is interviewed on Radio New Zealand by Kim Hill, a radio celebrity, who enlists the advice of Art critic Keith Stuart. For this interview Malcolm had one minute's warning - just enough time to put a tape in the radio cassette player and record the interview. Snippets of this interview are used throughout the CD.

It was not Malcolm's intention to create media interest with The Ballad of Peter Plumley-Walker which, ironically, was a criticism of the initial overblown media coverage. However, the media accuses Malcolm of being in bad taste for bringing the subject back into the limelight when in fact Journalist Edward Rooney created the publicity, the story, and the renewed media interest. The series of events highlights the hypocrisy and dubious nature of the media.

Lawyer Christopher Harder and author of Mercy Mistress Mercy , a book on the Plumley-Walker case, becomes involved. Harder threatens legal action if the song was in any way defamatory. He releases a statement to the media which Malcolm never personally received.

The Dominion headlined Death Song Warning . The same story ran in papers throughout the country and featured in the Court News of a Dunedin paper.

The final episode was reported in the newspaper article Legal Confusion in Song . Harder did not sue as the song was not defamatory.

Public Persecution forced Malcolm and partner Jenny Ward to flee New Zealand. Tearfully they boarded the first plane to Berlin - Schonefeld, taking with them the contraband CDs, a few personal belongings, and the memory of the life they were forced to leave behind.

Upon arrival, Customs officials questioned Malcolm and Ward on entry regulations and the large number of CDs in their possession. After several hours of questioning the story of their persecution in their homeland emerged and the pair were granted Artist Refugee Status Entry (A.R.S.E).

After two days in a holding cell, during which time the pair were treated exceedingly well, the news of their plight filtered throughout Berlin's artistic community. After hearing about their persecution, Record Company executive Volker Schneemann offers his sponsorship and a place for the pair in the Refugee camp at Dunckerland.

At first the pair struggled to adjust to the harsh, dirty, and unsanitary conditions of the Camp. Without electricity and running water, many of the necessities that they had once taken for granted seemed a lifetime ago. Life was made bearable by the understanding and supportive nature of the others within the Camp. The fact that it was a centre for avant-garde music meant the pair could continuing working on their passion.

A small club called The Anorak ran from the camp and was frequented by some of the leading minds in the Berlin avant-garde. The club ran for several years under the guidance of such visionary minds as Conrad Novack, Fenella Baptista, Andrea Ermke and of course Volker Schneemann. By this stage the club had developed a strong following and critical acclaim, or at least notoriety. German Magazine Jazzthetik "Der Laden ist ein Loch- aber ein wichtiges"- W. Kampmann. This loosely translates as "This place is a hole - but an important one"

Sadly it was the appalling conditions of the camp which led to the club's eventual demise, it was condemned unsuitable for living and scheduled for renovation. The occupants were relocated in temporary housing throughout Prenzlauer Berg and the scene diluted. As for Malcolm and Ward, a change in government meant they could return to their homeland.

The recordings on this CD are the only remaining documentation of Malcolm and Ward's collaborations with other exiles during the Berlin Years.

This CD was made possible by generous financial assistance of Creative N.Z.

Newspaper Articles


Criticism over cash grant for sex song

Reporter: Edward Rooney
Sunday Star-Times,
November 5, 1995
Page A3

A publicly funded arts group has been criticized for investing $5000 in a song re-enacting the last moments of Peter Plumly-Walker in a bondage session.

Wellington musician Greg Malcolm's song The Ballad of Peter Plumly-Walker , features the sounds of whips cracking, a male voice groaning and news reports from the murder trials.

The song has been included on an album partially funded by Creative New Zealand - formerly known as the New Zealand Arts Council - which received $19.6 million from the Government this year.

Graeme Lee, leader of the Christian Democrats Party, said the song unnecessarily dragged up a past episode that most normal people would rather forget.

"It sounds like a load of drivel that the Arts Council is seemingly willing to put money into," he said. "It's a load of tripe with no artistic merit which does nothing but give an unneeded message."

Mr. Plumley-Walker died six years ago after a bondage session with dominatrix Renee Chignall and her partner Neville Walker. The pair, who admitted throwing the cricket umpire's body into the Huka Falls at Taupo, were acquitted of murder in 1991 after three trials.

Mr. Lee said Creative New Zealand seemed to have some unusual standards. "It often makes it very difficult for very good artists to get support," he said.

Mr. Malcolm, a former member of a band called The Breathing Cage, said he realized some people might find the song offensive, particularly Mr. Plumley-Walker's relatives.

"For the family, I guess it's a bit of a bad one," he said. "I suppose it's bad to bring it all back up again, but there was all that media at the time which was much more in-your-face than we will be."

Mr. Malcolm received $5000 under a scheme for new artists. He estimated the album cost about $30,000 to make.

He and his partner, Jenny Ward, run the Such & Such Theatre Company, which tours kindergartens performing for children.

Attempts to contact Creative New Zealand chairman Brian Stevenson for comment were unsuccessful.

Death Song Warning

Reporter: NZPA
The Evening Post,
November 7, 1995

A Wellington musician has been warned he could be sued over a song about the death of Peter Plumley-Walker, who died after a bondage session six years ago.

Lawyer Christopher Harder has written to Greg Malcolm saying defamation proceedings would be issued if his song, The Ballad of Peter Plumley Walker , implies the cricket umpire was murdered.

The song features cracking whips, a male voice groaning, and news reports from the murder trials.

Mr. Harder represented Neville Walker, who with dominatrix Renee Chignall was acquitted of his murder after three trials.

Legal Confusion in Song

Reporter: Melanie Buford
The Dominion,
November 13th, 1995

He writes experimental music, and in the end that's what saved him. Wellington musician Greg Malcolm, who was threatened with a lawsuit if his recording of The Ballad of Peter Plumley Walker , suggests the man's death was murder and not manslaughter, is off the hook because the lawyer in question couldn't understand the song.

"I wouldn't even call it a song" said Christopher Harder "I couldn't make sense of it". The song has no lyrics but features sound-bites from the six year old news coverage of the criminal case. Mr. Harder said what he like best about the song was Pauline Hudson's pleasant voice.

Malcolm said he recorded the song simply because the material was there to use. He had tapes of the news reports at the time and a copy of the book written after the case by Mr. Harder. Also, it was "one of those really big events in New Zealand history, like the Parker-Hulme murder tale told in Heavenly Creatures".

He was surprised that the media and lawyer paid any attention to the song. Five hundred copies of the CD Trust Only This Face which includes the controversial song, were made. "We've had interest from radio stations and other dealers, but I think we've sold only one to the public." Slowboat Records owner Dennis O'Brien said this week.

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