The Skeptics was a New Zealand postpunk band from 1979 to 1990. They became notorious in 1987 for an unusually graphic music video entitled "AFFCO".
The Skeptics were founded by school friends Robin Gauld
and David D'Ath
in Palmerston North
, New Zealand
in 1979. Gauld and D'Ath added their friends Don White to play the drums and Ian Reiddy on bass guitar. A school music department, keen to encourage and develop students' musical talent, gave the band an old P.A. speaker to use as an amplifier.
The band recorded a handful of very rough, primitive, and out-of-tune tracks during their lunch breaks on recording equipment in the school library. In 1980, not long after these raw takes, Robin met up with his old friend Nick Roughan, who was soon recruited as a new bass player.
The band began to gain a solid and enthusiastic following as their reputation grew. They increased their exposure by playing support slots for bigger, better-known acts on the local pub circuit, like The Newmatics
and The Red. In 1981, they convinced the Palmerston North venue El Clubbo
to give them their own gig, at which they proceeded to break all door take records.
In 1983, after the master tape for a five-track EP was stolen from the office of Propeller Records, the band entered the NZ Battle of the Bands competition held at Mainstreet in Auckland, where they were judged second out of thirty acts.
The Skeptics' first recording appeared in 1982 on Last Orders,
a compilation album which featured pop groups like The Bongos
, The Dabs
and The Prime Movers
. At the same time they recorded a five track EP, Pyronnists Selections
which was to be released on Propeller Records
, but the master tape was stolen from the Propeller office and the EP was never released.
After the Battle of the Bands competition, Paul Rose of Furtive Records contracted with them for a contribution to the "Three Piece Pack" compilation record and an accompanying tour.
In 1983, the Skeptics released the EP Chowder Over Wisconsin.
From 1983-1984 they ran their own club, thanks to support from the City Council arts centre, in a former electrical warehouse in Palmerston North. They named the club Snailclamps after a chalk inscription they found in the warehouse, "C164 Snail Clamps". Initially the venue ran as an underage hangout but became a fully licensed venue not long after, until the band decided to pack up and relocate to Wellington.
A cassette named Skeptics Said was released on the now defunct Industrial Tapes label in 1984. In 1985, the band released an LP, Ponds.
By the time of the Ponds
release, Robin Gault had left the band to concentrate on his university studies. John Halvorsen
, formerly of The Gordons
and Bailter Space
, joined in his stead.
A.F.F.C.O. video controversy
In August 1987, to coincide with the release of Skeptics III
, their second album, the Skeptics recorded a music video
called "AFFCO" in a South Auckland freezing works (AFFCO New Zealand Ltd is a "Meat company processing and exporting more than 150,000 tonnes of beef and lamb products every year"). The video has been screened a few times on TV — once on the last show of Radio With Pictures and also on SPACE. It has also been screened at various art exhibitions in NZ and film archive screenings in Wellington.In 2006 It came # 2 on New Zealand show U choose 40 - Most Shocking Videos Of All Time and earlier this year it appeared on the Top 10 : shocking videos at #4.On August 24 2007 on the C4's top 10 - Thats Shocking! at #2
While working on yet another release,"Amalgam" in 1989, David D'Ath learned that he had leukaemia. D'Ath never got to see the finished product which, due to many unforeseen problems and delays, could not be finished in time as a farewell to this legendary performer.
David D'Ath died on Tuesday, 4 September, 1990. The band ceased immediately after.
"Amalgam" was finally released in November 1990. In the following years to come, the Skeptics' unreleased material began to surface as documents of their existence. The 10" single, "Sensible' which featured studio tracks created back in 1985, was launched in 1991. A full album version soon followed which featured further recordings from between 1985 to 1990.
In 1992, a boxed-set of the Skeptics recordings was produced which contained 'Skeptics III', 'Amalgam', 'Sensible' and a live three song recording EP 'If I Will I Can' taken from the last Skeptics gig in 1990 at the Gluepot in Auckland. Also accompanying the boxset was a 12-page booklet of lyrics and artwork by, and in memory of David D'Ath.
John Halvorsen and Nick Roughan now live in Auckland. Brent McLaughlin now lives in New York. Robin Gauld now lives in Dunedin and is a university professor.
- Various Artists, "Three Piece Pack", Furtive (1982). Submitted track, "Last Orders".
- "Chowder Over Wisconsin", EP, Flying Nun (1983) featured: Boo-Chang / New Barking Riff / Aud Balmoral / The Broach / Stella / The Old Grey Whistle Test / Chowder, Jelly.
- "Skeptics Said", cassette. Industrial Tapes (1984)
- "Ponds", LP, Flying Nun / Ulp (1985) featured: Tone / Bedrock / Freely Gotten Gains / For Silos / Bubba Clutha / Voluminous /Divine Muscles Flex / Ponds.
- "Skeptics III", LP and CD, Flying Nun (1987) featured : AFFCO / Feeling Bad / Agitator / Turn Over / La Motta / Notice / Rain / Luna / Crave.
- "AFFCO", video, Brilliant Film Company (1988)
- In Love With These Times compilation with 'A.F.F.C.O.'. 1988
- "Amalgam", LP and CD, Flying Nun (1990) featured: And We Bake / Felt Up / Pack Ice / Never Tire Of Looking At The Stars / Heathery Men / Bad Wiring / Threads / Spade / Sheen Of Gold / All Sum Nul.
- "Sensible Shoes", 10", Flying Nun (1991) featured: Sensible Shoes / Bub / Blue / PCH Mix.
- "Sensible", LP and CD, Flying Nun (1990) featured: You Look Great / Water / Pressure / Jonny Come Lately / Haks Off / Fwoney / Blue / Men 'O' War / Splenal Langwems / Bulldozer Song / Baron Vice / Bub / Dodunski / PCH Mix / Spring / Sensible shoes.
- Various artists compilation 'Pink Flying Saucers Over The Southern Alps'. submitted track 'Sheen Of Gold'. Flying Nun, 1991.
- Boxed Set: Skeptics III (remastered), Amalgam (remastered), Sensible and If I Will I Can and also a 12-page booklet of lyrics and artwork by David D'Ath. 1992.
- "If I Will I Can", CD EP, Flying Nun (1992) featured: If I Will I Can / Any Any (live) / Two Pot Resin (live) / Mamouth (live). There are also some 'hidden' live tracks at the end of this CD of 'And We Bake', 'Threads', and 'Sheen Of Gold'.