The Electric Puha Band, Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Waitangi Day, 1998. L to R, Te Reo Hau, John Donoghue, Richard Rua Mason, Chris Peirce.
TALES OF THE WILD NORTH
RICHARD RUA MASON AND INNUMEROUS OTHERS.
When the final version of Cockroach disbanded following the !981 Nambassa Festival, Richard Rua Mason reformed the band into a three piece working unit with Derek Barnston on bass and Brent Andrews on drums.
Rebranding themselves "The Rockcoach Experience" and definitely the right band at the right time, Rockcoach soon built up a wide fan base all around Northland.
In 1984 they reached the national finals of the NZ Television talent show "Starquest," performing Richard's original composition "Sweet Music in Te Hapua."
In 1985 the band changed it's name to "Electric Puha" and entered Zemer Studios in Whangarei to record an EP. I was recruited as Record Producer for the project and contributed guitar as well.
The EP featured four original songs; - "Sweet Music in Te Hapua," "Love ya Mama," "Kapai" and "Tahiti."
I took the master tapes to Wellington to mix and
master at Crescendo Studios. I applied to NZ on Air for post-production funding and was turned down.
Meanwhile, back in Northland and unbeknownst to me, Richard had given a rough
demo-tape of the recording away to friends who took in to Radio Aotearoa in Auckland. Aotearoa Radio Network then duplicated it and sent it out to all their Stations with instructions to put it on the high rotate playlist.
The song went on to became Aotearoa Network's "Number One Record for Airplay 1990," while back in Wellington the mastertapes were still under lock and key at Crescendo while the studios waited for its bill to be paid.
This was to give "Sweet Music in Te Hapua" the dubious distinction of being New Zealand's first record to become a number one before actually being released. A long, painful search for funds
followed and the record was finally released as an EP in 1990.
In the Spring of 1993, following the disbandment of Johnny and the Skyhawks, I returned to Northland and joined the Electric Puha Band.
From tiny seeds mighty puha grows, and the quartet had now somehow become a loud, thrash-metal rockband, churning out covers of Led Zep, ZZ Top, AC / DC, Motorhead et al.
The band had also become a favourite of the Northland Gangs, and over the next few years, was to perform for Black Power, Mongrel Mob, Hells Angels, Roadrunners and the Tribesmen, to name but a few. Eventually, by special request, we
performed for them all under one roof, at a Xmas Concert inside Paremoremo Maximum Security Prison on 20th December, 1997.
Another version of the band, featuring Richard on guitar, myself on bass
and Ned Pukeroa on drums, chugged along behind the scenes as a solid-working three-piece combo, gigging out the twilight years of the great Northland Pub Circuit. Yet another three-piece version of the band, with Cockroach's Haywood Norman on drums, played
support on Bulldog's Allstar Goodtime Band's Reunion Tour of 1995. This led indirectly to the creation of an Acoustic Streetband version of the Electric Puha Band that would out-survive the electric band and make it through into the new Century. (See Puha
Bandidos Acoustic Streetband below)
With the great Northland Pub Circuit finally going the way of the Moa, the "Electric" Puha Band played it's last gig at the Kohukohu Hotel, on the Hokianga
Harbour, on New Years Eve, 2001.
FOR THE RECORD:
The late Richard Rua Mason's composition,"Sweet
Music in Te Hapua" is a bona fide Kiwi Classic. Although relatively unknown among mainsteam New Zealand, this will change over time. Every Maori Radio Station belts out this song and will continue to do so for generations to come.
To hear "Sweet Music in Te Hapua" and view tribute to Richard Rua Mason click here