Chris Knox of Tall Dwarfs

Chris Knox of Tall Dwarfs

“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.

Today’s guest is the New Zealand musical legend, originally from the band The Enemy and Toy Love, but most famously one half of lo-fi kings TALL DWARFS

It’s CHRIS KNOX! And we are honoured.

Tall Dwarfs "Hello Cruel World"

Tall Dwarfs “Hello Cruel World”

I first got into the lo-fi pop genius of Chris Knox when I got sent a review copy of his solo album “Songs of Me & You” (pictured below) for the original Velvet Sheep fanzine back in 1995. It was in a resplendent embossed plastic dartboard case and the tunes certainly hit the bullseye.

Chris Knox "Songs of You and Me"

Chris Knox “Songs of You and Me”

When I worked at MTV Europe from 1996, the President, a New Zealander Brent Hansen put me onto more of the Dunedin Sound pioneered and captured by Flying Nun Records. I had heard the “Tally Ho!” compilation before, but was encouraged to delve further into the world of Chris Knox’s band Tall Dwarfs. Brent knew my heroes of the time were Pavement and he knew I’d hear the lineage from Knox to Malkmus. He woz (sic) right!

When Velvet Sheep became an occasional garage rock club night in the late 90s, I invited Brent to come and DJ and he played a nugget called “Rebel” by Toy Love, Chris’ earlier group. I was hooked.

Toy Love "Cuts"

Toy Love “Cuts”

I also got into his compadres The Clean, and it transpired that their Dunedin sound anthem and cult hit “Tally Ho!” was recorded by Chris on his four-track along with many of the early Flying Nun singles.

Here’s what I wrote about The Clean for The Quietus.

Visceral singer/songwriter, cartoonist and sometime TV presenter Knox sadly suffered a stroke in 2009, and such was the love and influence he and his bands had had, a 33 track benefit album featuring the likes of Yo La Tengo, Jay Reatard, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Bill Callaghan and Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel helped pay towards Knox’s recuperation in Auckland.

Since then unsurprisingly Chris has made only a few live performances with an expanded line up of the Tall Dwarfs, but when I befriended Chris via Facebook it was more in hope than expectation that I asked him to contribute to the resurgent Velvet Sheep fanzine with his “song for ewe”.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive this reply:

“Hi Nick. Im Stefan Neville writing for Chris.

“In The Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel is the song Chris has chosen. Since his Stroke 6 years ago Chris had trouble speaking so I am interpreting for him……

Chris says: LOVE!!! Playing with them last year as Tall Dwarfs with Alec and Stefan was divine and exquisite! SPEECHLESS!!!”