new zealand electronic poetry centre

Bruce Russell

 Capital of the minimal  


Bruce Russell has an MA in Political Studies, and works as an information designer. He has previously worked in the field of archives management, during which time he ran the National Radio sound archive. As a sound artist Russell is known mainly for his involvement in New Zealand’s longest-running improvisational 'post-rock' group, the Dead C., although he also works in the field of radiophonic composition, and records as a solo artist and with the trio A Handful of Dust. He performs with electric guitar, electronic devices and analogue tapes. Bruce also runs the internationally respected record label Corpus Hermeticum 

Russell is one of the most literate polemicists this country has thrown up. Combining Nietzsche’s aphoristic approach with the structure of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1918); Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach (1845) with the mock-academic tone of Tzara’s Dada Manifesto (1918), his writing is a didactic menagerie. If his sonic experiments are indebted to the futurist Luigi Russolo's The Art of Noises (1913), then his parodic absurdism is also informed by Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle (1967). When Brian Edge writes:

…the greater proportion of what Mark E. Smith calls ‘rock and pop filth’ is crude, stupid, vulgar and superficial. The harmless palliative trash and glamorous diversions seen on television, in magazines, heard on the radio, in discotheques, pubs, clubs, burger bars, jean shops and supermarkets is neither stimulating nor demanding on the intellect [Joy Division + New Order: Pleasures and Wayward Distractions, Omnibus 1984]

it is Russell, making a welcome spectacle of himself, who politicizes the problem for local artists:

I've come to this theory that there's this thing called 'kiwi' music and it's not the same as New Zealand music. The kind of music that's being sold to New Zealand as a cultural expression (is what's) acceptable to commercial radio programmers. That baldly is how it works. I'm not saying that's wrong and ought never to be done, but somebody's got to be prepared to put a bit of money towards people who are prepared to do things for artistic reasons. At the moment that's not a debate that anyone is willing to admit is real. I'd like to think at some point they'll step back and say "there's all these other people that keep doing this nonsense music!" - not just people I'm involved with, there’s a whole swathe of people up and down the country involved in stuff that is always going to be a fringe interest that is valid, and is New Zealand music as much as is what 'kiwi' music is. [PSF interview]

Track: Pleasure Without Separation (mp3: 10MB)
Album: Pieters/Russell/Stapleton: 'Sex/Machine' (Metonymic) 1999
Personnel: Kim Pieters (bass), Bruce Russell (guitar), Peter Stapleton (drums/percussion)


THE DEAD C (with Michael Morley & Robbie Yeats)

  • Perform Max Harris TC (Diabolic Root) 1987
  • The Live Dead See TC (Xpressway) 1988
  • DR503 LP (Flying Nun) 1988;
                           [re-issued on CD, Feel Good All Over 1992]
  • Perform DR503b TC (Xpressway) 1989
  • Trapdoor Fucking Exit TC (Precious Metal) 1990
                           [re-issued on CD Siltbreeze 1993, and second edition 1995]
  • Helen Said This LP (Siltbreeze) 1990
                           [re-issued on CD w/Trapdoor Fucking Exit, Siltbreeze 1993]
  • Eusa Kills LP/CD (Flying Nun) 1990
                           [CD re-issue Flying Nun 1992]
  • Runway TC (Precious Metal) 1990
  • Harsh 70's Reality 2xLP (Siltbreeze) 1992
                           [re-issued on CD w. two tracks omitted, Siltbreeze 1998]
  • Clyma Est Mort LP (Proletariat Idiots Productions) 1992
                           [orig. bootleg, re-issued Siltbreeze 1994]
  • The Operation of the Sonne LP (Siltbreeze) 1994
  • World Peace Hope et al CD (Shock) 1994
                           [compiled tracks from DR503b with other compilation tracks and unreleased material]
  • The White House LP/CD (Siltbreeze) 1995
  • Repent CD (Siltbreeze) 1997
  • Tusk CD (Siltbreeze) 1997
  • DR503C CD (Flying Nun) 1999
                           [compiled tracks from earlier versions of DR503, Sun Stabbed EP,
    Live Dead See TC and unreleased tracks]
  • The Dead C. 2xCD (Language Recordings) 2000
  • New Electric Music (Language Recordings) 2001
  • The Damned CD (Starlight Furniture Co.) 2003

A HANDFUL OF DUST (with Alastair Galbraith and Peter Stapleton)

  • Concord LP (Twisted Village) 1993
  • The Philosophick Mercury CD (Corpus Hermeticum) 1994
  • The Eightness of Adam Qadmon TC (Corpus Hermeticum) 1994
  • Musica Humana CD (Corpus Hermeticum) 1994
  • From a Soundtrack to the Anabase of St.John Perse TC (Corpus Hermeticum) 1995
                           [reissued on LP by Bluesilver, 2000]
  • Now Gods, Stand Up For Bastards CD (Corpus Hermeticum) 1996
  • Topology of a Phantom City TC (Corpus Hermeticum) 1997
  • Spiritual Libertines CD (Crank Automotive) 1997
  • Jerusalem, Street of Graves CD (Corpus Hermeticum) 1998
  • For Patti Smith CD (FreewaySound) 2002


  • Project for a Revolution in New York LP (Siltbreeze) 1998
  • Maximalist Mantra Music CD (Crank Automotive) 1999
  • Painting the Passports Brown CD (Corpus Hermeticum) 2000
  • The Movement of the Free Spirit 10" (Smalltown Super Sound) 2000
  • ‘Tunnel Radio: Autours Detour’ broadcast by Radio New Zealand’s ‘RPM’ 6/2/02 and Austrian Public Radio’s ‘Kunstradio’ in the ‘Isol’ series.
  • ‘Topsy Turvy Land’ broadcast by Radio New Zealand’s ‘RPM’ 4/11/02.
  • ‘One Hour as Time’ broadcast by ResonanceFM, London, as part of a series entitled "one hour as ...." broadcast times: 16:00 - 17:00 h (UK) 15:00 - 16:00 h (CET) 31/01/03.
  • ‘Access to Evil [Thank You for Talkin’ to Me Amerika]’ broadcast by Radio New Zealand’s ‘RPM’ on 17/08/03; ORF Kunstradio 16/01/04.


  • Pieters/Russell/Stapleton Last Glass CD (Corpus Hermeticum) 1995
  • Pieters/Russell/Stapleton Sex/Machine CD (Metonymic) 1999
  • Pieters/Russell/Stapleton ‘Cold Sweat/Max Sings’ 7" (Ecstatic Yod) 2002
  • Morley/Russell 'Radiation/Four Letters' 7" (Corpus Hermeticum) 1995
  • Dust/Omit Deformed CD (Corpus Hermeticum) 1996
  • Dust/Omit Fore-Casts 7" (Fisheye) 1995
  • Tetuzi Akiyama/Toshi Nakamura/Greg Malcolm/Bruce Russell International Domestic CD (Corpus Hermeticum) 2003
  • Birchville Cat Motel/Bruce Russell CD (Celebrate Psi Phenomena) 2003
  • Ralf Wehowsky/Bruce Russell Sights CD (Corpus Hermeticum) 2003


In 1979 punk was music with a secret. It was an esoteric, underground thing. I became obsessively interested in any form of music out there on the edge. In Dunedin I started to see live bands like Toy Love and, very early on, The Clean. They were a great band and standing right there in front of you. There was something about them – they inspired other people to do it themselves. I can remember telling a flatmate they were the best band in the world, and they were at that point. Their legacy is fairly widespread.

The Fall showed me the possibility of stepping outside my music. The first time I saw The Fall, I was actually quite frightened. It was flabbergasting. They were surprised to be playing in a place like the Town Hall, bemused by where they found themselves. New Zealand was probably the only country where they’d had a Top 20 hit at the time.

I bought my first guitar in 1983, when I was between degrees in political studies. I had three lessons and never had another. I’ve spent a lot of time watching others. I don’t play the guitar regular, in a proper fashion, and have never wanted to. I learned to make new sounds with it. What interested me wasn’t so much melody or making songs as the sound of electricity happening, the actual noise of amplified strings and wood. This kind of music has no profile in New Zealand.

Bruce Russell [from an interview with Stan Darling,, The Press, March 19 2003]


© Bruce Russell 2004


Last updated 13 August, 2004