Monday, March 27, 2017

Fare-thee-well Lionel 'Duc' Newbery


Last week one of our contributors passed away. A real gem of a man, Lionel Newbery, or 'Duc' as many people called him, contributed fragments and memories of his ride around the world back in the late '70s to issues #2 and #3 of Head Full of Snakes under the title 'Not Safe'. That's Lionel above on his 1974 Moto Guzzi GT850, the bike he rode from London back to NZ. He still had this bike and it was great to see it again, sitting out the back of his house at his funeral/tangi last Thursday. His kids told me that they plan to do the ol' Guzzi up too, in Lionel's memory.

Last Thursday was amazing and seemed a really fitting send off for someone who was so sort of quietly influential in quite a few peoples lives. Lionel had a large and really loving family, and he was also well known to the locals over in Lyttelton where he lived. It was actually seeing Lionel riding his old red Ducati (below) around Lyttelton back in the very early 2000s that made me get back into motorcycles (having since sold my bike after my cousin died on one). I loved the look and sound of Lionel's Ducati, and he'd often be parked up outside No.6, one of the old cafes that was run by Bruce Russell and his wife Kate back then.


Lionel had shown me photos of his old Ducati GT 750 that he'd bought brand new and raced, but I'd never seen it in the flesh. Turns out his brother had it up in Auckland, and so he rode it back down all the way to Lyttelton for the funeral! I think it bought a tear to many people's eyes when Lionel's son (on the red bike) and his brother (on the GT) started up both bikes to lead a procession of motorcycles over to the Diamond Harbour cemetery. Lionel went in the old Citroen you can just see in front of the motorbikes there.

I thought it would be a slow sombre ride around the bays, but no! These two on the Ducatis took off and this would easily be one of the fastest most hair-raising group rides I've been on. A fitting tribute as everyone agreed, 'that's how Lionel would have ridden'.

The ceremony was beautiful with no involvement from any weird outside participants who didn't know Lionel. The family filled the grave with shovels, everyone got real dirty. There were no speeches, but there were a couple of songs. It was really moving and special.

Here's to you Lionel, and long may the Guzzi run.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Press Article


Was cleaning off my desktop and thought I'd put THIS up on here. It's an article by Vicki Anderson which uses interviews with me, Chris (of QCR), Paddy Snowden and Kerry Swanson. It was done around the time of the last Smash Palace Motorcycle Show. I sorta talked about what I liked about motorbikes and how I got interested in them from when I was a kid. I dunno, it seems relevant?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

New year, same shit... ?

Ok so it's been a while eh. What the fuck's going on? Well, heaps actually. I guess I just haven't been bothered with this particular forum or whatever you call it. I've been thinking about that lately – this particular forum or whatever you want to call it – and the whole Head Full of Snakes publication offshoot, motorcycles, the culture(s) around them, etc. But let's back up a little. 

A month or so ago I went fucking sailing. I'd done a little bit of sailing years ago as a kid and then I worked on boats in Spain in the 90s and thought I was right fuckin over boats. Mostly cause it was all rich folk and whatnot, especially the Spain experience. But this – this [above] – this was fucking awesome. The ultimate in antisocial activities... antisocial apart from those on the boat with you of course, although secretly thinking; hey if I could learn to do it myself I literally could be out there on my own. Yeah. Relaxing.

I did ride up (to Picton) but the ride was awful. That road (Lewis Pass) is totally fucked now that it's the only road that connects north and south (due to the Kaikoura Rd. getting totally destroyed by quakes late last year). They've made heaps of parts of the road 80kph, there's roadworks every few minutes, and endless lines of cars following endless lines of trucks at about 40–50kph. There's also – of course – cops. Heaps of them. Like flies on shit I guess. I got a fine for 'dangerous passing' even though I didn't cross a yellow line and never broke the speed limit. Apparently there's some rule about having 100 meters clear ahead of you no matter what speed the traffic is moving (or NOT moving) at. Fuck it. I took some photos on the bike but they're mostly pretty shit cause like I said it's all lines of cars and roadworks. Fuckin lame. Here's one for context...


See. Fucked eh!? It was like this for nearly eight hours. Made me think about selling a bike and using the money as a downpayment on a yacht – a 30'ish foot keeler like we went away on. Hamish (who took us) said he could take me out some more and learn me real good.

Anyway the holidays were basically over at that point and I was terrified of going teaching again. I wished I could retire already. I felt like I was losing interest in everything... design, school, art... motorcycles... everything except music actually. Been playing guitar a lot. I might start talking about music more on here? Maybe that's a plan. HFoS wasn't ever supposed to be just about motorbikes anyway. Not originally.

Here's a guitar I bought in LA when we were there at Xmas time:


It's a 1967 Gretsch Rally. It's a little beat up, which I like. It wasn't really what I was supposed to be getting. I was really planning to buy either something old and CHEAP, like an old '50s Silvertone or something, OR get a new Gibson SG or something like that. Problem is that once I played this particular guitar I just sorta couldn't stop thinking about it.

Apart from guitars the other thing I thought about a lot as Nadine and I drove around the desert (California, Nevada, and Arizona) was trying to be less stressed out this year. And one of the things I kept coming back to was how I always end up involved in 'serial' publications – projects that once started are very hard to stop/end/pull out of. Obviously Head Full of Snakes is one of these, as was The National Grid, and Cheap Thrills (the most recent one I'd become involved in).


I'd taken the newest issue of Cheap Thrills to launch at a sort of book/zine fair in Mexico City. While I appreciated this, the invitation I mean, I struggled to enjoy being there because I was fucking burnt-out... by having made the thing, and just by having had a generally shitty year. (I know this is getting a bit personal, but stick with me I'm going somewhere with this... I think?) So post-Mexico driving round California with Nadine I made the decision to not do Cheap Thrills anymore. Big decision actually, cause mostly I really like this publication and I think something like it should certainly exist in NZ. Maybe it will carry on, I'm not sure? That'll depend on Erin, the other (main) editor.

Which brings me to Head Full of Snakes. Because really what I thought was that I should STOP doing serial publications, rediscover some sense of enthusiasm (which you need to do stupid shit like make magazines/books/music/culture/the-stuff-that-makes-life-worth-living), and focus on maybe just making the occasional one-off book? One of the big problems that I've discovered with the serial is that everyone's interested in the first and maybe second issue, and then people sort of lose interest from there on in. Head Full of Snakes sold out the first issue in only a couple of weeks. The second issue a couple of months or more. The third issue hasn't sold out yet (two years later), and the fourth issue hasn't really sold very well at all so far. To be fair we were probably better at sending out review copies and stuff like that early on, so it's our enthusiasm in question here too, not just yours.

Head Full of Snakes was fun (and traumatic) when me and Stuart would get together and make it in a sort of whirlwind. There was a kind of satisfying madness to the whole thing. Like it all sort of flew in the face of the horrific realities of the neoliberal world we live in. But... the last issue we didn't make together. And I didn't really like it. And maybe that's why it's not selling so great? Maybe you can tell that it wasn't made with that same sense of mad love? Can that kind if wild romance ever be rekindled???

Hence my feeling like one-offs might be the future? You get the enthusiasm, release the energy, and it's done. If I even keep making books/magazines/publications at all? Funnily enough the last page in Cheap Thrills was a sort of pseudo-ad for something that was really just a joke...


A joke which really got me thinking that maybe Ilam Press COULD run as a small record label? Which got me thinking that maybe making records (and associated graphic ephemera) would be a good break (departure) from making books? Aaron would still make books obviously, but I could start the record label part? (I should point out here that have ZERO interest in making another book for an artist or an art gallery... I want to get as far away from that as I possibly can, and I'm totally sick of working as an artists PR tool. I hope that time of my life is unequivocally over.) I'm possibly (probably!) romanticising the record label thing, but for now that seems interesting anyway and I feel like I'd rather work with musicians than artists.

But Head Full of Snakes you ask? Good question. I really need to talk to Stuart obviously. I feel like we should at least make one more, and if it's going to be the last issue we should call it that and do it right, send it off with some bells and whistles and fireworks and burn-outs or something. Not just let it fade away. I know there's people have some content sitting there waiting for us to make another issue and it'd be good to see that out.

Or... maybe that's just how I'm feeling right now and things will change and we'll get right back into it?

Download over.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Burt Munro 2016

Just before I fucked off to Mexico for a book fair and then road trip around California with the missus (where I am now), I did a ride down to this year's Burt Munro racing in Invercargill. Only took my phone to take photos on and it ran outta juice after the first night down there, but anyways... here's some of the photos. A rag-tag bunch of us (on very different bikes) met up at Smash Palace on the Thursday morning...



Next photos are from our stop in Clyde where we a drunk beer and ate food, Malcolm and Bad Evil (his first big ride on the Norton... actually his first big ride EVER) pretended to be Swedish tourists, and Izzy got dubbed.


Then we went to stay at one of Greg's family members farm houses for the night... can't really remember exactly where? Central Otago obviously. This is Bad and Greg getting ready to leave next morning...


Went to a local pub for breakfast and then did the ride to Invercargill... couple of trailer queens in tow behind Izzy's Nomad.


Arriving on the Friday we went straight to the beach races from the Lurkers clubrooms where we were (very conveniently) staying...


And then my phone died, so ahh yeah. The end.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Stray Cat Rock!



B-grade Japanese biker-chick films! One of my students put me onto these, there's a few of 'em. Stashing this here as a reminder to watch later!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

4th Annual Smash Palace Motorcycle Show!


Just whipped up this poster for the next Smash Palace bike show... Johnny did the illustration. Thanks Johnny! You might recognize these faces/motorcycles? I'll print a limited edition run of these which we'll sell pretty cheap at the show (and maybe also from the bar?).

But yeah it's on the 5th of November this year... which is also Guy Fawkes! So it's probably gonna be a pretty sweet after-party, nudge nudge wink wink. Shakin' Evil will play at it again and so will Greg and Lil' Luke's new band, Slippers & Raisins.

Might even have the Norton goin' for this one?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Norton Commando Fork Rebuild (And Stuff)


Thought it was about time we had an update on this guy! Above is a photo of my Commando at dad's a couple of months ago after I took it there to clean it up after the HFoS #4 launch ride... which was a total wash-out; rain, dirt-roads, breakdowns, crashes etc. Very eventful, kinda fun, but left the old Norton in a rough state! Anyway while giving it a good 'up-close-and-personal' type clean I noticed heaps of shit needed fixing and replacing – starting with the gators below...


Now these pieces of shit had only been on the bike for about two or maybe three months. I'd had Roger rebuild my forks for me in about late Feb or March I think? He put these gators on and I dunno where they came from, but they obviously are shit.


I was hoping I might get away with just replacing the gators, but there was so much shit had got in them by this stage the seals were buggered and needed replacing.




Dropping the forks out was fairly self-explanatory. I followed my manual a bit and winged it where I could. To dismantle the forks I actually went and bought a cheap belt-spanner (see below). You can see by the marks on the lower fork tube that people have been doing it in the past with vice-grips or whatever but I wanted to try out the belt spanner and it was only $20. Stoked I did too cause it worked really well and was well worth the buying.



I could have just replaced the seals but decided to strip 'em right back and have a good look at everything internally. In the end I just replaced the fibre washers at the bottom of the damper rod and the stanchion seals. The bushes all looked fine.


Putting the new gators on the lower fork legs was proving difficult until I heated them up in front of a heater! That made easy work of it. These gators are from John Miller and they're proper Andover ones, so hopefully the bloody last?

Putting the forks back into the bike proved a little more difficult than pulling them out. I think they were like this before, but the right hand stanchion wouldn't go fully up into the tapered yoke. You can see below the left one does, but the right one is sitting quite a bit too low...



This has been a real headfuck! I tried cleaning out and polishing the hole with ultra-fine sandpaper and it didn't make any difference. I know you're supposed to use the chrome top bolts to pull the legs up into the taper (with the washers and instrument housings on), but that simply wouldn't work. It didn't matter what I did this wouldn't go up into the taper. In the end I showed these photos to both Ray Coleman and Andrew Daly at bikenight and they both said they didn't think I needed to worry about it too much, so I've taken their advice and put them back together and I'm trying to forget about... while shit like this really plays on my mind!? Still I think it has been like this for ages...


So forks back in, exact amount of oil in each, and I have to say they feel better than they ever have. Which is weird cause all I did was replace the seals!? And I didn't notice anything was super wrong when I pulled them apart, but they used to be real clunky/noisy... and now they ain't? So yeah I dunno what I've done really but they're feeling really good. I did drop new springs in after Roger had done them earlier in the year – could I have fucked something up then?

While I was doing this I thought I'd try and fix a bunch of other niggly little things too. One being the piece-of-shit petrol tank I'd gotten from India a while back. I'd finally cleaned it out and had it painted (black and gold) but when I put it on the bike and rode it round it started leaking – seeping through the shitty welding round the taps and mounts. Sooo... I'm about to try putting a liner in this tank (without fucking the paint!?). I've got one of the POR15 kits and I've finally got the bungs I need etc so will be doing that soon.

On the last ride the throttle had been sticking really bad, so I stripped and cleaned the carb and also got a new throttle cable. Also I noticed the oil filter mount was loose and when I tried to tighten it the thread in the mount stripped. I'd actually had these re-threaded recently and so obviously that metal's gone soft so I ordered a new filter mount too...


And the tail-light that I'd gotten from MMCC a while back had also fallen off a while ago. It cracked from the vibration, and I'd just been riding round with no light for that last 6 months or so. Anyway I gave the bits to Jimi and he welded it back together but added these neat little braces on the side. He's done a bloody nice job. I'm lucky to have friends who help me with this sorta shit!


So yeah very close to being back on the road again. Really all I gotta do is get the tank liner sorted. I'll try and post again when that's done, maybe document that process here...