Scavengers

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Along with the Suburban Reptiles, the Scavengers were the first punk band to explode onto the New Zealand music scene. Formed in Auckland in 1977, the group evolved from the 1B Darlings, a contentious…
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Along with the Suburban Reptiles, the Scavengers were the first punk band to explode onto the New Zealand music scene. Formed in Auckland in 1977, the group evolved from the 1B Darlings, a contentious and underwhelming unit best known for frequent on-stage fisticuffs; inspired by an NME cover story on the Sex Pistols and armed with an import copy of "Anarchy in the U.K.," they soon refashioned themselves as a punk outfit, dubbing themselves the Scavengers and adopting suitable stage names -- frontman Mike Simmons became Mike Lesbian, guitarist Paul Cooke adopted the moniker Johnny Volume, and drummer Simon Monroe rechristened himself Des Truction. (Only bassist Marlon Hart retained his real name.) The group soon took refuge in an abandoned warehouse, practicing regularly over the course of the weeks and months to follow; soon, a small band of teenagers began assembling outside of the rehearsal space each day, and a buzz began to build -- clearly, something was afoot.

Along with a handful of originals, the early Scavengers repertoire was littered with covers of the band's primary influences -- Iggy Pop, the New York Dolls, Kiss, and the like -- as well as early punk classics; soon they recorded a 12-song demo, which resulted in their first live date in June of 1977. As media interest in punk swelled, the Scavengers found themselves the subject of considerable media attention, and they reacted in true anarchic fashion, hurling abuse at audiences and pelting fans with garbage. They then took up residency at Auckland's famed punk club Zwines, their first regular gig; soon, however, turmoil ensued when Lesbian abruptly exited in early 1978. His replacement was singer Brendan Perry, a London native who had adopted the name Ronnie Recent; out of the mess came the brilliant "Mysterex," a scathing attack on Lesbian's punk credentials. On June 18, 1978, the new Scavs lineup played a Wellington Town Hall performance which, in retrospect, proved to be the peak moment of the first wave of New Zealand punk, as media interest began to dissipate soon after.

The Scavs next mounted a provincial tour, intended as a farewell prior to the group's planned relocation to London; they aimed to fund the trip by selling their instruments, but ultimately squandered the money and were forced to borrow new gear in order to remain afloat. Ultimately, they toured New Zealand yet again, making enough money to get as far as Melbourne, Australia, by 1979. There they became known as the Marching Girls, with little more than "Routine," an unreleased single intended for Polydor, to show as a legacy of the Scavengers' past. (Some of their demos later surfaced on the excellent AK79 collection, however.) Regardless, the end was near: four months went by before they could even secure a gig, and Johnny Volume's erratic behavior made enemies of several key figures in the Melbourne entertainment circuit. Still, a single, "True Love," appeared in mid-1980; several breakups and re-formations followed in the years to come, although nothing was quite the same as before. Sans his Ronnie Recent guise, Brendan Perry later resurfaced in the highly acclaimed 4AD label group Dead Can Dance.