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April 13, 2014 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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Pyramid Club: an interview with Dan Beban

At any given moment, Wellington’s cultural landscape is a site of unrest. Bars close and become other bars, galleries run out of money, or the Council declares buildings unsafe. As was the case with Fred’s, a venue dedicated to experimental music and sound art which was housed in a disused church on Frederick St between 2009 and 2012. The group operated out-of-site for about a year, organising events in spaces around Wellington. Earlier this year, they settled into a permanent location on Taranaki St, called The Pyramid Club. I recently sat down with Dan Beban, the site’s organiser, to talk about his vision for the space, how it fits within Wellington’s performance landscape, and the history of sound art in Wellington.

Can you start by giving some background to The Pyramid Club? Who is involved and how did it originate?
Fred’s and Pyramid Club are part of a longer tradition in Wellington of music and art spaces, sort of DIY places, such as the Spacething, which was on Adelaide Rd for a while, and then it moved to Happy, which changed to Puppies a little while ago. So there’s been this continuation of artist-run spaces.

How do you see yourself fitting within a particular performance and sound art landscape in Wellington?
Pyramid Club is relatively small: there might be 60 people and that’s pretty full. And the acoustics of the room, it’s kind of interesting; it’s almost like a basement, but it’s up on a first-floor level, it has quite a low ceiling, quite a sort of boxy room. There’s no stage, you play on the floor, it’s quite different in a lot of ways to somewhere like Puppies or the Mighty, which is just much bigger; it’s a commercial operation, you know, they’re in the business of selling booze. That’s not our purpose and that’s not our worry. It means we can be more open to people doing weirder shit, where no one turns up, or not many people turn up.

It’s a good time right now in Wellington; there’s a need for places for people to play music, put on exhibitions, whatever it is, and it’s shifting this year. There’s been these things set up, like Puppies, which was Happy, which has been there for a long time – ten years or more now, and Mighty’s been round for seven years – so there’s going to be this shift, unless someone opens up another bar or something, into more DIY spaces, people’s houses and that kind of stuff.

What kind of work are you interested in presenting?
Pyramid Club is just getting going. We’ve only had four or five gigs. [Recently] we had Hermione Johnson – this really great Auckland musician, she was part of a series we’ve got going which is called Extraordinary Renditions – we’re bringing together sound artists and people from out of town to Wellington to perform at TPC, or stage an installation or something like that. Other people coming up: we’ve got a guy called Rory Daly, who’s a sound artist; he uses lots of little toys and electronics and junk percussion and things like that. That’s the kind of shit I hope to encourage more of.

What kind of curatorial involvement do you take with the space?
Basically there’s a small group of people as the core group of PC, and I’m kind of like the director of it. So we have to decide what goes on there, and it’s not like anything can, or anything would fit that space or the kind of ethos of the place, but it’s very open.

The thing I tried to do in running Fred’s was to have this juxtaposition. When you’re curating it doesn’t really do any good to have too many similar things, so what you try and do is juxtapose groups and styles so you expose audiences to different things. So you’d turn up expecting some psychedelic folk band, and the support act is, you know, a solo improvised saxophone piece.

What projects have you got lined up for the future?
At the moment we’re just getting the momentum going and seeing how it works. In a way, it’s sort of like the space itself defines what goes on there; you can’t really dictate too much how it happens because you have to see how people act when people go there.

So we’re just organising weekly gigs with a variety of different bands and artists and things; and other things we want to do is get monthly art exhibitions in the stairwell, I’ve put a call out to people who might be interested in that. And I’d like to run a weekly night school – a workshop thing – so you’re an artist, say, and you come along you present some sort of lecture or workshop or presentation or whatever it is you want to do.

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  1. Esther Goh says:

    Critical appraisal? Not much to say really. A positive and thoughtful articulation of a man on a mission? Not really.
    Mr Dan Beban simply lacks motivation. I don’t know what he’s trying to achieve. What we need is ambitious people who take responsibility for allocated funds and get the job done. I’m tired of lack lustre efforts from people who receive funding. When will Wellingtonians put their best people in positions of responsibility especially when the tax payer is footing the bill?

  2. Dan Beban lacks motivation? I don’t thinks so! Who are these “best people” of Wellington? Pfft.
    As far as I can tell the awesome musical journey in Wellington that has continued ever since the days of Space, owes itself greatly to the encouragement and facilitation of Dan and his mystical cronies.

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