The Axemen

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Background information
OriginChristchurch and South Dunedin, New Zealand
GenresIndie rock, rock, punk rock
Years active1983–present
LabelsSleek Bott, Flying Nun, Siltbreeze
Past members

The Axemen is a New Zealand band formed in 1983.[1][2][3][4]

They played at the protests for homosexual law reform in 1983, with member Little Stevie McCabe being severely beaten up in the Christchurch Cathedral Square toilets.

The Axemen's founding members, Bob Brannigan, Little Stevie McCabe and Stu Kawowski had played in various bands, apart and together, in the South Island cities of Christchurch and Dunedin.

Before Bob Brannigan and Steve McCabe met, Steve was playing in a two-piece band at Cashmere High School called The Gorillas with Peter Rees, evolving comix maestro and classical guitarist.

Brannigan and McCabe met through a mutual friend and played gigs in Christchurch and Dunedin under many names including The Whining Plums, Hey, We're Wolves and The Twins in the early '80s. It was at a Twins gig at the notorious Empire Tavern in Dunedin in 1983 where Stu Kawowski was first unable to control himself and leapt on stage to commandeer the bongos, instantly adding another dimension to the unit.

Art School Photography graduate, photography guru, filmmaker, artist,[5] promotional maverick and explosives expert Kawowski was playing drums with Above Ground, Bill Direen's band at the time he met the other members of the Axemen and soon 'joined' the Axemen as a permanent fixture.

Brannigan, McCabe and Kawowski remained the 'core' of the Axemen in the 20th century, however many New Zealand musicians played with them over the years as guest / transient / semi-permanent members, making their influence and the influences they assimilated (like the borg) an important breeding ground and virtual swap-meet of ideas and influence in Kiwi music circles.

In February 2009, US record label Siltbreeze re-released the Axemen's 1984 protest album :Big Cheap Motel" [6] on 12" vinyl. Originally the album was released as a cassette packaged in a small bubble-sleeve with a straw, mimicking the milk drink "Big M" that the album was aimed at. The Axemen were invited to play at Christchurch's "Summertimes" Festival[7] in January 1984, a public music stage set up in Hagley Park, Christchurch. The band was shocked by the large-scale sexist "Big M" advertising surrounding the main stage, and decided to write a suite of protest songs about how the Christchurch City Council had "sold out" to the "Big M" sexist marketing. The Axemen recorded the concert, as well as studio versions of their songs and released a 45 min cassette entitled, "Big Cheap Motel".[8] Siltbreeze later the same year re-released 'Scary! pt III', an experimental album featuring small-form collaborations with sublime Chch artist Lissa Bruce, and multiple band incarnations from the late 1980s and early 1990s.

A four piece Axemen (McCabe, Brannigan, Kawowski & Stojanovic) toured the United States for five weeks in October and November 2009, opening for Times New Viking[9] Starting out on the West Coast in Sacramento 27 October, travelling down the West Coast, across the South, up the east to New York then heading west and ending in Chicago on 28 November. The band played 26 shows and covered approx 7,000 miles on the tour.[10]

The Axemen's debut 2xLP "Three Virgins :: Three Versions :: Three Visions" was re-issued and released on 7 June 2011 by Siltbreeze. This album was originally released on New Zealand label Flying Nun Records in 1985. The first pressing was 667 copies made at the now closed EMI pressing plant in Lower Hutt, NZ. A mint copy of the 1985 vinyl was "needle drop" transferred to digital files at Shadoks Music Studio, Amrum, Germany.[11] Then it was mastered at Fir International, Zaandam, Netherlands, and lacquers cut at Prairie Cat Mastering, Belvidere, Illinois, U.S. The vinyl was pressed at Record Technology Inc., in Camarillo, California, U.S.

A four-piece AXEMEN incarnation featuring McCabe, Kawowski, Stojanovic and newcomer William Daymond toured Australia[12] in December 2011, a new line up that added William Daymond on bass guitar, allowing Dragan Stojanovic to resume his lead guitar duties. Bob Brannigan declined an invitation to join the band on this tour, due to irreconcilable differences with Steve McCabe. Originally the band were to headline a festival in Wandella, South New South Wales, but due to bureaucratic red tape, this festival was cancelled. The organiser Samuel Miers then proceeded to book the Axemen into 10 dates starting at Brisbane, and ending in Adelaide on 23 December.[13] Midway during the Australian tour Steve McCabe's shoulder was fractured after he was attacked by a wild Australian punter.

In 2012, the Axemen headlined a Christchurch 1980s reunion concert at the Dux Live venue in Christchurch, and also did a mid-winter pair of shows at Mighty Mighty in Wellington 22 June, and Wunderbar Lyttleton on 23 June.

The 'Class of 2011' Axemen (McCabe, Kawowski, Stojanovic, Daymond) recorded a new vinyl album Sac Tap Nut Jam in Wellington in 2013, which was released through Spacecase Records, California.[14]

2014 saw the re-release of 1989's Derry Legend[15] on vinyl by Luxury Products USA[16] after 100% analogue re-mastering by Angus McNaughton of Auralax Mastering in Auckland. The re-release package contained a newsprint poster and single sheet fold-out newsprint collection of media reviews and photos from the Axemen archives. The re-issue was also available as an audio CD, and as a compact cassette.


Bob Brannigan currently plays in Shaft, the band he formed with Stu Kawowski, Johnny Segovia and Danny Mañeto in Auckland 1992. (Kawowski, Segovia and Mañeto are no longer in the lineup, which is ever-changing but is currently made up of members of The Situations).


  1. ^ "THE AXEMEN Sac Tap Nut Jam (LP)". Flying Out. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  2. ^ "The Axemen 1983 – present : press release" (PDF). Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  3. ^ "Axemen One-Sheet – Album Out Next Week". Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  4. ^ "Axemen, Lo-Liners, Dark Matter & Cranks". The New Zealand Herald. 2 December 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  5. ^ a b "home.html". Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ "DIRT GAME MIX". 11 October 2008. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  8. ^ Collett, H. (1984). p. 34, "Adverts inspire Axemen", The New Zealand Times. 4 November 1984
  9. ^ "Matador Records". Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  10. ^ "Times New Viking / Axemen Tour 2009". Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  11. ^ "Welcome Shadoks Music Studio". 13 May 2011. Archived from the original on 13 May 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  12. ^ "Axemen Australian Tour". Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  13. ^ "Axemen Tour Diary 2011". Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  14. ^ "Spacecase Records". Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  15. ^ "Axemen – Derry Legend". Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  16. ^ "Luxury Products | Axemen – Derry Legend". Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  17. ^ [2]


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