Mi-Sex at the Lady Hamilton Nightclub 1978
|Genres||Rock, new wave|
|Years active||1978–1985, 2011-current|
|Past members||Steve Gilpin
Phil "Smarty" Smart
Mi-Sex (also spelt MiSex) is a New Zealand new wave rock band that was originally active from 1977 to 1986. Led by Steve Gilpin as vocalist, Kevin Stanton as guitarist and songwriter and Don Martin as bassist, they were best known for their singles "Computer Games" in 1979 and "People" in 1980. They were also known for their cutting edge production and dynamic live shows.
Mi-Sex evolved from the band Fragments of Time, a band which itself formed from members of earlier bands Father Time and Think. The band centred on a trio of performers: Steve Gilpin (vocals), Don Martin (bass), and Kevin Stanton (guitar/songwriting/vocals).
Gilpin had earlier performed in New Zealand, and had won the talent quest in 1972 (second place in the same show was Shona Laing). Invercargill-born Burns was influenced by progressive rock bands such as Yes, whereas Stanton's influences veered towards heavy metal.
In 1977, Gilpin performed with a variety of house bands of varying ability. During this time, he met Don Martin and they spoke of forming their own band. Martin bought Kevin Stanton on board and together with former Father Time members Alan Moon and Phil "Smarty" Smart, they formed Fragments of Time. Both Martin and Stanton had previously won Battle of the Bands competitions in 1971 and 1972 respectively. Influenced by British new wave and pub rock and a commission by EMI's Peter Dawkins who wanted a punk/new wave record to introduce EMI's new roster of bands playing that style of music, the band's line-up changed, with Moon being replaced by Murray Burns and Phil Smart also leaving, replaced briefly by Steve Osborne and then Richard Hodgkinson. Between them, they concocted a quirky, futurist, paranoia-themed blend of new wave, punk, and pub rock, amalgamating some of the textures common to Britain's Ultravox with those more associated with The Stranglers. They blended this with a liberal dose of on stage theatrics. At around the same time, they changed their name - urgently needed for the upcoming EMI 'demo.' In a meeting in a room at the back of the Aranui hotel which they were playing in, Martin and Burns accepted the name Stanton had come up with and agreed upon with Gilpin to Mi-Sex; this name was taken by Stanton from an Ultravox! poem set to music titled, "My Sex" (1977). They released their first single for EMI, "Straight Laddie" (originally intended simply as a demo), during 1978.
Early New Zealand performances included the Wellington Technical Institute and Dr Johns (Ray Johns), on the same day with demo recording at Dellbrook studios in Tawa, and the bus breaking a gearbox on the Ngauraunga Gorge section of motorway.
In August 1978 the band headed to Sydney, where they quickly became a major live drawcard. They were soon signed to the Australian division of CBS Records by the label's then A&R manager/House producer Peter Dawkins, the same producer who had recorded their EMI recording of 'Straight Laddie'.
Their first single for CBS, "But You Don't Care"/"Burning Up", was released in Australia in June 1979 and their debut album, Graffiti Crimes was issued in July 1979 to coincide with their national tour as the support act for Talking Heads. The LP included their biggest hit, the synthesizer-driven "Computer Games", a Stanton/Burns composition released in Australia on 1 October 1979. The single went to No.1 in Australia, made the top 5 in New Zealand, and charted in 20 countries including Canada and South Africa.
The follow-up album, Space Race sold well and produced another big single, "People", but the band were unable to maintain their early momentum and two later albums failed to produce the same interest. Mi-Sex took a hiatus break from February 1986 with Stanton moving to London to work with Fairlight and produce feature film sound tracks.
Gilpin remained in Australia, working with his cover band Under Rapz. In November 1991, while returning to his home after a gig, he was seriously injured in a major car accident, and lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered. He died in Southport Hospital on 6 January 1992.
The band reunited for a fundraising concert following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, with former Noiseworks bass player Steve Balbi on lead vocals. As of 2014[update] they were back in the studio working on new songs, 30 years since their last release. Stanton had been forced to sit out, having recently undergone serious surgery on his spine which rendered his entire left arm useless, but repairable with intricate neurosurgery.
The "Culture" controversy
Mi-Sex gained considerable publicity during 1980 thanks to then Prime Minister of New Zealand Rob Muldoon. The New Zealand government had slapped a 40% sales duty on records, much to the objection of the New Zealand Arts Council, record retailers and record companies. On 21 April, Muldoon claimed that popular music was "not culture", stating that "The records sold in this country are not Kiri Te Kanawa's, they are 50 to 1 those horrible pop groups and I'm not going to take the tax off them."
Mi-Sex were due to start a major New Zealand tour five weeks later, and - sensing an opportunity for publicity - Kevin Stanton invited Muldoon to attend their Wellington concert during a radio interview in Hamilton, an invitation which he was forced to accept. The Prime Minister attended the concert along with his daughter (who reportedly loved the concert) and met with the band after their performance, but the sales tax remained. Muldoon was pleasant but Burns recalls seeing a newspaper article the next day in which he'd said it was about as cultural as On the Mat, which was a wrestling show of the time.
Mi-Sex received seven awards at Australia's 1980 TV Week/Countdown Music Awards: 'Most Popular Album or Single', 'Best Australian Single' and 'Best New Talent (Johnny O'Keefe Memorial Award)'.
In 1999, "Blue Day" was covered by Eurodance-pop artist Nicolette. Released in New Zealand by Universal Music, it reached number 20 in the charts. While the version horrified some purists, it was well received by the band and Nicolette subsequently collaborated with Colin Bayley on several songs.
|1979||Graffiti Crimes||CBS||6||New Zealand||463031 2|
|1980||Space Race||1||New Zealand||SBP 237442|
|1981||Shanghaied!||-||New Zealand||SBP 237701|
|1983||Where Do They Go?||-||New Zealand||MX 203364|
|1988||Mi-Sex EP||CBS||-||New Zealand||651091-7|
|1985||'79-'85||CBS||-||New Zealand||SBP 8117|
|2007||The Essential Mi-Sex||Sony||-||New Zealand||B000NJLPUW|
|1979||"But You Don't Care"||Graffiti Crimes||33 (NZ);
|1979||"Computer Games"||Graffiti Crimes||5 (NZ);
61 (US Hot Dance)
|1980||"People"||Space Race||3 (NZ);
|1980||"Space Race"||Space Race||19 (NZ);
|1980||"It Only Hurts When I'm Laughing"||Space Race||84 (Australia)||-|
|1981||"Falling In and Out"||Shanghaied!||48 (NZ);
|1982||"Down the Line (Makin' Love on the Telephone)"||-||37 (Australia)||-|
|1982||"Lost Time"||-||57 (Australia)||-|
|1983||"Only Thinking"||Where Do They Go?||48 (Australia)||-|
|1983||"Blue Day"||Where Do They Go?||36 (NZ);
|1983||"Five O'Clock (In the Morning)"||Where Do They Go?||-||-|
Note: All New Zealand chart figures are from the New Zealand national sales chart.
- Eggleton, D. (2003) Ready to fly: The story of New Zealand rock music. Nelson, NZ: Craig Potton Publishing. p. 85. ISBN 1-877333-06-9.
- Dix, J. (1988) Stranded in paradise: New Zealand rock'n'roll 1955-1988. Wellington: Paradise Publications. ISBN 0-473-00639-1. p.233-234.
- Vicki Anderson (March 25, 2014). "When Muldoon met Mi-Sex". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved November 25, 2014.
- Dix, J. (1988) Stranded in paradise: New Zealand rock'n'roll 1955-1988. Wellington: Paradise Publications. ISBN 0-473-00639-1. p.237.
- "Top 40 TV". Televisionau.com. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- "Countdown Show no.:235 Date: 19/4/1980". Countdown Archives. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- Nicolette | Artists at muzic.net.nz
- Dix, J. (1988) Stranded in paradise: New Zealand rock'n'roll 1955-1988. Wellington: Paradise Publications. ISBN 0-473-00639-1. pp. 342-343.