There are all sorts of people recording music in Tauranga.
At one end of the scale are professional bands and musicians - practitioners who either have been, or intend to be, in this crazy business we call show for the long haul.
But, in a place such as Tauranga, that only makes up a tiny percentage of the folk you’ll find in recording studios.
Any of the Bay’s studio owners will probably tell you that around half of their business is from people who play at home and at parties for friends, who may or may not have ever played professionally, but who want some record of themselves either to play to the grandkids one day or just for posterity and personal satisfaction.
It’s often older people - perhaps people who have retired and now have some time and some money to devote to something they love doing that has taken a back seat to life’s more pressing necessities.
One of those people - though too young to retire - is Archie Clark. Well, that's what he was called when he played music in the South Island. Most people up here know him as Russell Clark.
Over the past couple of years, Archie has been working with Nigel Masters at The Boatshed Studio in Whakamarama and has now released his debut album, 50 Days In Asia. You can find it on CD Baby, Spotify and all the usual digital platforms.
Archie hails from that legendary West Coast coalmining bastion, Blackball, and spent his formative years playing in West Coast bands before moving across to Christchurch with his young family.
From there he toured the South Island with blues-rockers The Wrongway Corrigan Band and, like many musicians of the 1980s, gigged constantly, playing around Christchurch and the mid-Canterbury area in bands including Streetlife, Stop that Train, Naked by Mistake and Rio and the Hurricane Horn Section.
He was also writing songs, but a growing family needs more than the earnings of a pub guitar player, and Archie started a career in telecommunications and put music on the back-burner as he moved the family to Wellington.
And that's how it stayed for 15 years.
But in 2005, Archie and family moved to Tauranga and a meeting at the Marchwood Blues Picnic with one of our musical legends - Tipi Elkington of iconic band The Hipshooters (now resident in Brisbane) - relit the musical flame.
Also, in the past decade, Archie has become a constant traveller in Asia. He started writing songs about what he saw. After getting to know Nigel Masters, he took those songs, along with some from the old Christchurch days, and hit the studio.
Archie sang and played many guitars, Nigel arranged, played bass and keyboards, and Ian “Beano” Gilpin (Brilleaux, Kokomo) came in to drum.
The songs split roughly evenly, with half of them being about travels in various parts of Asia, starting with the album’s very effective opening title track.
There are songs about Thai hookers (Sex, Lies and Deceit) and the temples of Siam Reap (Gods and Kings), about India’s “untouchables” (Mean Streets) and Vietnam’s road to recovery (Oh Vietnam).
Others are about family, a very affecting song about work keeping him from seeing his young daughter – Be Home Soon – and love songs for his wife Kim. There’s also an early Christchurch blues stomper, Elephant Beer, and an impressive ZZ Top-style rocker, Out Of Time And Money.
Musically, it’s bluesy mainstream rock with a few modern touches. Bits remind me of Bob Seger and the sound of the Silver Bullet Band. A softer Springsteen without a sax maybe?
Archie plays very nice guitar throughout and the songs are strong and catchy. All in all, it’s an album I happily recommend, especially to people who might have travelled that same Asian route. It could bring back a few memories. But even if you’ve never set foot in a Cambodian temple, it’s a good listen.
Archie is currently rehearsing a band for a few possible live outings. In the meantime, check out 50 Days In Asia online.
The Weekend Sun has one signed copy of 50 Days In Asia for one lucky reader.