|Christchurch's premier grunge outfit Pumpkinhead came on the scene in the early 90s as a Red Hot Chilli Peppers covers band, building up a large following for their energetic performances.|
The band comprised:
Brent Milligan - Vocals
Aaron Hogg - Guitar
Vaughan Watson - Bass
Jason Peters - Drums
Jason Harman - Guitar
The band worked their way around to including original
material in their set and these songs had heavy influences
from the New Zealand bands the members had grown up watching.
Consequently Pumpkinhead managed to turn out some pretty
poppy and hook-laden songs, which won them more fans
and eventually saw them included in Failsafe Records
Avalanche and Good
Things projects. The poppy melodic "Ambulance Song" and Avalanche's "Swimming" and "Home" show what the band were capable of.
Unfortunately there was also a tendency for the band
to drift off into sounding like the bands they used to
cover and tracks like the Rage Against The Machine cloned "Time" (probably the only down point on the otherwise
impressive Avalanche album), showed the band's tendency
rather than create, this eventually leading the band
off in less interesting directions.
After the release of the Avalanche CD Pumpkinhead were
probably the biggest band in the South Island, drawing
up to 1000 people to a concert and getting good money
at their gigs.
The band had moved well away from the kind of music
that the Failsafe label usually worked with tending toward
the grungy and American funk punk sounds, and consequently
label owner Rob Mayes was happy to see the band move
on to a label more suited to it's sound if possible.
However toward the end of the year the band had still
any headway towards further recordings and the band approached
Failsafe to discuss a future album. The label agreed
to work with the band hoping to pursue Pumpkinhead's
more pop sounds and negotiated an agreement toward recording
and releasing an album.
Soon after the band announced that they had had heavy
record company interest from labels competing for them
to sign, but had chosen to go with the more suited Wildside
label, a nice piece of media manipulation on the part
of Pumpkinhead, but a move which succeeded in pissing
off the Failsafe boss Mayes, with his anti 'music industry
What followed was a pretty public exchange of words stemming
from the incident which Mayes perceived as the band wasting
his time and using his label to manipulate themselves
a deal, and connect the label with the band's music style
which it was not really interested in representing in
the first place.
The band's singer Milligan used many interview opportunities
to use the label as a lever, and later as a target.
Mayes didn't hold back his views on the band either,
notably on one event as a guest on Christchurch radio
station RDU's New Zealand music show the band were discussed
by Mayes and DJ Tim Baird, Mayes calling Pumpkinhead
Christchurch's own Spinal Tap, referring to the bands
tendency to rock posturing including fire-breathing and
rock-star-isms. Mayes and Baird also took the piss out
of the band's recently screened video for their Wildside
debut single water, a video which the pair found amusing
for its cliché genre-styled efforts.
Pumpkinhead were not amused and at a local club the following
Friday the band's drummer attempted to pick a fight with
Mayes, and was quickly extracted from the venue by bouncers.
Milligan continued to use the tenuous situation with
Failsafe for publicity and the situation peaked with
music rag Rip It Up Magazine (owned by Wildside Records
boss Murray Cammick) using the issue as a selling point
one particular issue.
Mayes resented being dragged into a marketing ploy
and eventually steered clear of commenting on the situation
the band slowly moved on to other things, ceasing the
label's and band's connection.
Pumpkinhead went on to release another couple of singles
and then the Sloth album with Wildside and continued
to build it's following.
They sacked guitarist Harman for not fitting in with
the band's image and replaced him with ex-Supertanker
David Hunt, a creative and talented guitarist, but a
surprising choice for the grunge stylings of Pumpkinhead.
The band were enlisted as Coca Cola faces, with the band
performing an "I like Coke"-type song for a television
ad campaign, boosting the band's bank balance considerably.
During this time singer Milligan had been developing
a solid drug habit focusing on heroin usage, and this
led to the band's financial ruin and eventual demise.
The situation came to a head on the band's ill-fated
last tour where the band performed a show at Auckland's
Powerstation. Milligan was reportedly totally trashed,
but not too trashed to stop him removing the band's door
and blowing the lot on smack. As if this wasn't enough
he also completely depleted the band's funds from their
accounts and blew that as well.
The band had risen to quite a height and so had a long
way to fall.
The band sacked Milligan initially and then the remaining
members split also.
Guitarist Aaron Hogg went on to form a hardcore three
piece Glue Fist, which recently changed it's name to
the more family-oriented Slim, singer Milligan entered
a drug rehab program and eventually kicked the habit
that killed his band. He and drummer Peters formed an
industrial, sampler based rock band Defcon, a band heavily
influenced by similar sounds from overseas. The band
did have some well-attended gigs but locally the view
was that the band were pretty bad on the creativity front
and they eventually disbanded in mid 1998, Milligan to
concentrate on paying back his debts built up from his
drug habit, Peters to go on to Korn-styled rockers Submerge.
Bassist Watson moved genres a little and linked up with
twisted pop merchants Squirm, as well as jamming with
other poppists such as Cinematic man Jeremy Taylor.
David Hunt moved on to join The Stereo Bus formed by
ex-JPSE man David Yetton.
Back To New Zealand Music History