Dave Dobbyn: Hall of Famer

by Frances Morton / 08 October, 2013

Back in 2005 we called singer-songwriter Dave Dobbyn a "national institution". Today APRA proved they agree, announcing that Dobbyn is to be inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame at next week's Silver Scroll Awards. He joins the ranks of Ray Columbus, Shihad, The Topp Twins, Hello Sailor and Herbs. Dobbyn holds the record for the most Silver Scroll awards. He's won three times for songwriting with 'You Oughta Be in Love' (1987), 'Belle of the Ball' (1993) and 'Beside You' (1998).

In this chat from our archives the 'Loyal' man talks to Greg Dixon about summer touring and why he has no regrets calling the cops wankers.

Mr Dobbyn On Tour has become synonymous with summer. Apparently you enjoy doing them?

I must. I’ve pretty well got it sussed now. And I’m addicted to it. Out there, you meet people who have just gone “bugger it” for the year. You can tell people are shaking off a lot of stuff and so you have to rise to that occasion. And the democracy of the beach tends to kick in fast.

Are New Zealanders at rest a better sort than New Zealanders at work?

Well, certainly in the city the pretensions that we wear are gone. I really enjoy the community of touring — now. Before, I used to enjoy the sort of rock thing. But now I enjoy the community of it. It’s bigger than the sum of us. There are a lot of people out there who don’t know what community is. They think it’s them. But it’s not you, it’s this other thing. It’s the luv, man.

Have the summer crowds changed much?

They are lot more civilised and — for me — there’s a couple more generations. Kids doing stage dives at the front, people with babysitters in the middle and grey hair up the back. The crowds get bigger and there is a sense of tradition to it and I like that. It’s precious.

There’s still the boozing. Does that make you fret?

Not at all. I feel very comfortable in it really. People generally deserve to lose it somewhere in the year, to abandon themselves. And in holiday time it’s crucial. European cultures know how to do it better. I want to go to that town that throws tomatoes at each other for a whole day.

You’re touring with a young person again. This year’s model is the multi-platinum-selling Brooke Fraser.

I only tour with the young, beautiful people.

What’s it like touring with younger musicians?

Well, she probably hasn’t had that provincial pub experience where things could go crazy any minute but they don’t, they just hang together. I’m sort of Yoda, the guide into the unknown. I did it with Goldenhorse. Same with goodshirt. If you learn to love touring New Zealand, you will always have an audience.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Thank God It’s Over concert in Aotea Square which degenerated into the Queen St riot.

That concert should be a chapter in The Tipping Point, an example of how things can go horribly wrong.

Do you regret…

… Having called the cops wankers? No. It’s probably what they were at the time. It’s what I thought they were at the time, so that’s what I said. And it got me in trouble. I think everyone deserved to be in trouble that day, in a way. You’ve got to remember the context. The country was still deeply in Muldoonism; Lange had only just won the election. It was just three years since the Springbok Tour. They were shocking, turbulent times. But it was a night of nights that one. Lange came through for a photo opportunity and said, to my old man’s chagrin, “If the Herbs had kept playing there wouldn’t have been a riot.”

You were the fall guy. How did that affect you?

Well, quite deeply at the time. I just escaped into a world of drugs and alcohol actually. That’s how I handled it. There was a definite sense of abandonment. I’ve always been afraid of abandonment. That’s part of the reason you jump on a stage, to be accepted. It was the deepest kind of abandonment inyour hometown to be perceived that way. The six months between the riot and the trial were very difficult, really hard.

Have you made peace with that time?

Oh yeah, absolutely. Who was that guy anyway?

Is it more difficult to write songs these days, or is it more difficult to write songs you’re truly happy with?

The second. I write stuff every day. There’s still a distillation and a connection that has to happen and a love of your craft. Something that will set fire to a whole bunch of people is what you’re looking for, that golden key. I’m almost obsessive about it. I want every one to really shine.

What do you admire most in friends?


Your vices?

You don’t have enough room, even given the size of a Metro page.

How would you like to die?

Well, my first answer was going to be “in the arms of my beautiful wife”. But then I thought, “I’m going to throw up” . Walking in front of a bus would be good but I don’t want to leave too much of a mess.

And your epitaph?

Here lies Dobbyn.

By Greg Dixon. First published, January 2005.
The 48th annual APRA Silver Scroll Awards, Tuesday October 15 at Vector Arena. 

The finalists for best songwriting 2013 are:

'Bird in Hand', written by Anna Coddington, performed by Anna Coddington (Mushroom Music NZ Limited).

'Complicated Man', written by Cy Winstanley, performed by Tattletale Saints

'Royals', written by Ella Yelich-O’Connor and Joel Little, performed by Lorde (Control / EMI Music Publishing Australia Pty Ltd)

'Thames Soup', written by Luke Buda, Sam Scott, Thomas Callwood, Richie Singleton, Chris O'Connor, Conrad Wedde and William Ricketts, performed by The Phoenix Foundation (Native Tongue Music Publishing)

'Wake Up', written by Aaradhna Patel, Evan Short and Peter Wadams, performed by Aaradhna (Universal Music / Control / Kobalt Music Publishing)


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