(The truth about the Skeptics’ A.F.F.C.O video reprinted with kind permission of Stephen Judd from his juicy SPLEEN blog)
(September 12, 2003 ~ Stuart Page writes):
I read with interest your rave about meat — the dancing spring lambs, the eviscerator (Wow), and the Skeptics A.F.F.C.O. video.
Your story was not quite accurate — I know this because I initiated it, directed it, shot it, and edited it. Here for the first time, is the whole story which for some reason I just felt inspired to write — maybe it’s because I just found out that one of my favourite people of all time Johnny Cash has just passed away?
In fact I used to see the Skeptics whenever they played — the first time was in 1985 in Christchurch, and it wasn’t long before every Skeptics show started with A.F.F.C.O. — a song which still blows me away and cuts to the bone of NZ culture, ha. Well I was also lucky enough to play a gig with the Skeptics in Palmerston North at Snail Clamps in 1985 with my band The AXEMEN. We had just recorded an album “Derry Legend” at the Skeptics studio Writhe in Wellington with Nick Roughan from the band engineering and co-producing with the Axemen. Later, when it came to paying for the final mixing — we’d run out of money, and I’d just asked the Skeptics if I could make a video for A.F.F.C.O. — which they agreed to. So Don White suggested we just swap the video for the mixing costs. Beautiful!
Meantime I’d moved to Auckland and hooked up with some old buddies up there who agreed to try and sneak into the Westfield Freezing Company to shoot some footage for the vid. We drove out and checked at the office for permission to have a look around, figuring we’d case the joint and comeback later to shoot. Well there was a youg guy working in the office who was excited that we wanted to look around, and took us on a guided tour around the factory. Jesus, I saw guys wading around up to their waists in blood, a six foot stainless steel chainsaw which split a whole cattle beast in two down the middle. a one-armed skin-ripper man whose missing limb was ripped off by a chain wrapped around the cuff of a cattle skin as it accellerated vertically. He got compo, and his job back. Phew! Anyway I decided to film on the sheep floor, more iconically NZ, and easier to get around (less blood and water flowing across the floor where we needed to have electric cables for our lights).
We left and went away to Penrose for lunch — and found it difficult to eat, so my mates (one of whom was a vegetarian) said they’d only go back and do the shoot if I got them pissed on champagne first. This I was informed would help them deal with the mass destruction of innocent animals. So, I agreed, and purchased two bottles of the Australian champenoise, which were summarily swilled, I don’t remember joining in as I had a lot of work to do — but I might have had a swig or two).
So we returned to Westfield works and hooked up with our young friend from the office who took us in and looked after us while we moved slowly down the chain from the initial slaughtering being done by some Muslims who said they preferred to be here killing sheep — rather than having to fight Israel in the Middle East. They had a red line painted on the wall in the direction of Mecca, which although they were supposed to pray to every time they cut a throat, they smiled and said they never bothered.
Along we moved shooting 100′ rolls of 16mm film on a wind up Bolex camera, and lighting the scenes with a 2kW ‘blonde’ and an 800W ‘redhead’. The cables were swimming in a watery blood mixture but luckily we didn’t short out any circuits. Near the end of our short shoot, I became aware of a rippling of descent amongst some of the employees of the works. And in fact while we were shooting the final scenes, a union rep was trying to have us evicted. Our young friend (who must have been the manager’s son to wield this authority over the unionist) managed to hold them off and showed us the side exit. We literally ran to the waiting Morris Minor as the management were entering the front doors.
The scenes of the ‘meat packing’ were shot elsewhere at a factory called Kellax in Mt Wellington and the management were in fact told straight up that I was doing a music video for a song about meat packing. The boss let us in to the factory where frozen meat was band-sawed into pieces and shrink-wrapped before being packed into manila cartons. He was very friendly, and as I had agreed I sent him a copy of the video when it was finished, but no comment was received. I actually sent a copy of the video to Westfield also and asked them if they would make their staff aware of it in case they wished to see it as some had indicated while we were shooting. No feedback from them either.
It has been written that this video was “vegetarian” or “animal rights” inspired etc, which is actually incorrect also. Although neither the Skeptics or I have anything against such groups or ideologies, (in fact I applaud their efforts to manifest their feelings towards our animal friends), this song was written purely about some guys who “pack meat” and the video was made in that light — not wanting to cast any aspersions on the workers in the meat trade — but to document the “process” of a sheep’s life in contemporary NZ. I guess we got carried away wrapping David d’Ath the singer in glad wrap and baby oil and food colouring — but it was the natural result of a collaborative effort by those present at the shoot in an upstairs room at my Freemans Bay flat.
The video has been screened a few times on TV now — once on the last show of Radio With Pictures by Karyn Hay, and again on SPACE apparently. It has also been screened at various art exhibitions in NZ and film archive screenings in Wellington. It features on my Brilliant Films Music video compilation NOISYLAND released through Festival Records in NZ 1992.
I think I’ve emailed this address before but here goes again just in case. My band (http://www.myspace.com/dyingofthelightnz) are currently looking at doing some old NZ music tunes as covers. One of the tunes we’ve looked at is A.F.F.C.O. by the Skeptics. I’ve looked all over to try find the lyrics to the song (my CD of ‘III’ doesn’t have any liner notes or lyrics) but with no luck. I’ve seen a couple of things that would suggest you could be the man to help? Please let me know if you are able.
Well if you listen carefully, the lyrics are very simple. Make them up! However, the song was written by David d’Ath who is no longer with us. But you could possibly find out the lyrics from Nick Roughan who was in the band as well. I’ll forward him your request. Best for 2010. Stu K