9 May 2017

The spy boss who loves indie

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 2:18 pm on 9 May 2017

Andrew Hampton is an expert on American indie rock of the 1980s and 1990s. He also happens to be the director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

Husker Du - Data Control LIVE 1980

Husker Du - Data Control LIVE 1980 Photo: You Tube

Indie rock followed the punk rock explosion in the 1970s when people “realised they could make their own music without having to go through the majors,” he says.

The centre of the indie scene was small towns such as Athens in Georgia, Olympia in Washington state.

In the pre-internet age it relied on word of mouth, college radio, fanzines and playing live to spread the word – and in rural New Zealand a young Hampton got wind of the underground scene.

“I grew up on a farm south of Ashburton and nothing mattered more to me than Radio with Pictures and New Musical Express and Rip it Up.

“It helped connect me with the rest of the world and was something that helped make me feel a bit different from the other young farmers and rugby heads who were my contemporaries.”

At university he says the interest blossomed and he played in and managed bands, had a show on student radio and set up an indie record label with a mate.

Although he was a fan of the UK and home grown Dunedin scene, he had a particular affinity with the US post punk pioneers.

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth Photo: Wikicommons

“With the US bands there was just something about it that that I connected with and I think it was a lot of them were from small towns, a lot of them looked a bit like the people I grew up with - brushed cotton shirts and raggedy jeans.”

He says there's quite a music fandom scene at GCSB although it's hampered by the fact staff can't bring devices or CDs into the office, he says. He also sees colleagues at gigs from time to time but can't acknowledge them for fear of blowing their cover!

Andrew Hampton, director, GCSB

Andrew Hampton, director, GCSB Photo: supplied

Some of Andrew Hampton’s favourite indie rock acts:

 Hüsker Dü: “They were my gateway drug to US indie rock.”

The Minute Men - self-taught hard core Marxists.

Sonic Youth: Veterans of the genre that first emerged from the ‘no wave’ scene.

Beat Happening: “The most pure form of indie” their ‘Indian Summer’ the ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ of indie rock.

REM: ‘The One I Love’ indie's first cross over hit

Playlist

Hüsker Dü
Pink Turns to Blue

Minutemen
History Lesson Part 2

Sonic Youth
Schizophrenia

Beat Happening
Indian Summer

R.E.M
The One I Love

Fugazi
Waiting Room

Bikini Kill
Rebel Girl

Pavement
Summer Babe