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Shayne Carter, Dead People I Have Known

Shayne Carter, Dead People I Have Known

Alexander Bisley

Shayne Carter, of Dimmer and Straightjacket Fits, has songs such as ‘Getting What You Give’, ‘Case’ and ‘If I Were You’. At 54, he’s penned his autobiography, Dead People I Have Known.

Carter appears about jaded living in Auckland for many years. Before Dimmer’s classic first record, I Believe You A Star, he was crashing on cushions at a soccer friend’s abode. “He was a driver for a brothel where his girlfriend worked. Each day he’d take half-hour showers, as if he was trying to scrub the thought of that away.”

Carter’s complicated Maori father is one of the seventeen or so deaths written about. "I got depressed and watched pornographic gifs on slow dial-up internet and thought I'd probably die. That’s when I started drinking again.''

After Sony dropped him when Star didn’t sell, at least one friend suggested he do something else. Never! “It was my blood and my self-definition, an outlet for all the bad things I felt, and, sometimes, the good. Leaving all that…was my idea of a nightmare. Music kept me sane, even if it could drive me insane.”

At times, Carter comes across obnoxious, as in an incident with Julia Deans. He outs himself as a watcher of Hollywood romantic comedies. I enjoyed reading about his favourite musicians such as Marvin Gaye and Bob Dylan; the influence of albums like Time Out of Mind and Blood on the Tracks.

He seems happier back in hometown Dunedin. “Auckland was obscenely expensive…my income dribbled in in tiny, uncertain amounts. The reports I made each year to the accountant were ugly, and I felt a bit ashamed.”

Shayne Carter talks at the Auckland Writers Festival. I am looking forward to hearing Jacinda Ardern, Jeff Tweedy, Antony Beevor, Vincent O’Malley and Kirsty Gunn talk.


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