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Entries in Forget the Past (19)


Forget the Past - three years later


Three years ago today we released Forget The Past. I’d recorded Edge of The City with The Trains in 2012 at a much flasher studio across town, but we did this at the more modest environs of Mt Eden’s The Lab - with the wonderful Olly Harmer engineering.

 So this was an entirely new band - except for the guitarist John Segovia who I’ve been lucky to work with throughout my career. We all knew each other (save for Nick who I hadn’t met till he turned up at practice - and what a find that was!) but I had no idea if it would click. 

 I remember playing the final mixes to friends and family in the studio at a piercingly high volume - we’d worked hard on this - and it was quite an emotional moment; there were even tears at the end of Winter Sun. It was released, got great reviews, but didn’t trouble the charts - a record like this doesn’t these days, and I’ve learnt that you’re crazy to worry about that stuff - but it has its fans and when I dialled this up today and listened to it through for the first time in sequence since we recorded it there’s nothing here I would change.

This was the first Working Poor record - we’ve released two more since then - 2015’s Stranger In My Own Hometown and 2016’s To Hell With These Streets and are working on the new one now. But Forget The Past - produced by legendary drummer and producer Wayne Bell – was the beginning and it will always hold a place in my heart.

Go check it out on Spotify, Bandcamp, iTunes etc... and if you want a signed cd - of course you do! - they’re for sale at a special price of $10 – and free postage anywhere in NZ for a few days -  through the bandcamp page here.

So here’s some notes on the songs - three years on.


The last song written for the record and one of my faves off it. We still play this live. Think Black and Blue era Stones crossed with The SOS Band’s Just be Good to Me. Cool keyboard solo from Nick on the key change. That’s me on falsetto - a lucky accident – ofc course I can’t do it again. Wayne ensured there was lots of space in this which I like. Mark’s bass is rock solid. Everyone just held back and only played when it meant something. Check out Andrew’s classical guitar lick after every chorus. Written for my daughter who was nine years old at the time - there still is “nobody like her”.

The Working Poor photographed at the Lab, 2014, l-r Andrew Thorne, Mark Hughes, Nick Duirs, Greg Fleming, John Segovia, Wayne bell 

Working Poor

 Perhaps the saddest phrase to enter the language in recent memory - 2014 was election time here and there was a lot of talk from both sides re the “working poor”, mostly platitudes. The song’s told from the point of view of a 28 year old husband/father.

“I went to school/ my teacher said/ working hard is the way ahead/ I’m 28 - still cleaning floors/ my kids still believe in Santa Claus/ we can’t live on what I earn no more/ welcome to the Working Poor.”

He thinks about going to WA to work in the mines where the money is (was - before the mining industry tanked) but he hasn’t got the money to get to Australia. His brother, a meth cook up North tells him there’s plenty of money and jobs in that trade. Musically it’s Dr. John funky - or at least that’s what we were trying for. We weren’t called The Working Poor until after this record was released. Andrew kept referring to us as The Working Poor - and it stuck - but I now think of this as the first Working Poor record. And they are definitely the most underrated band in New Zealand music - hell if I wasn’t in it I’d go see them every chance I got.


 I love hip-hop - and this was my first attempt to fuse narrative storytelling and urban beats (the most recent was this year’s single Uber Never Came - go dial it up if you like this). I think this was the first song Wayne and I started working on. I sent him an acoustic demo and he came up with the beat. I laid down the vocal in his home studio and we finished at The Lab - overdubbing bass, guitars and xylophone!

If the previous song was one side of Auckland this is another - a business man on his way to work - he’s got money but he’s “time poor”. He has the earphones of his phone on and is taking calls while he walks (well, jaywalks). It’s raining. He catches the train into town, finds an umbrella left in the carriage, takes it and that’s when the song starts. We are in his head for the journey from the train to his office - there’s people, cafes, a minor car crash, promo-girls offering milky drinks, people waiting at the atm, he could be the nicest guy in the world or a total douchebag.

“New lovers stroll slow/ and business men walk fast/ and pretty girls always know who’s watching their arse” – is my favourite line.

 There She Goes

 FTP is (so far at least) The Working Poor’s most poppy record - and this is the first sign of that. Maybe I thought we had some chance of getting radio play or an NZ On Air grant! The next three songs are maybe the sweetest I’ve ever got. This one’s a one-sided love song, summertime - “there she goes/ nobody could’ve known/ the closer I got/ the further she was going...” - scenes of domestic bliss that once was.

 Summer In The City

Written on piano on a beautiful summer’s day while the crickets sang outside. I’d been working on a deep dark and meaningful song for hours and was sick to death of it. I wanted something the polar opposite. Sat at the piano and there it was. I can’t even remember the other one. Wayne came up with some great harmony lines, that’s Wayne, Andrew and Nick on bvs. I was thinking of those poppy, cheesy Springsteen songs - which I love by the way - and yeah the Beach Boys.

 Honeysuckle Love

 The hook is in the harmonica which I just happened to pick up and blow and there it was. That’s Dianne Swan on backing vocals - perfect, thanks Dianne. Sometimes when I have a riff I ask my partner for a word - she said - without hesitation - “honeysuckle”. Yep, I can work with that! “Get the mixture right/ live and let live...” - writing happy is something that’s hard. Songs like this are really easy to overthink. I hope I didn’t. A great John Segovia guitar solo, this showcases the live energy of The Working Poor.I always loved Dylan's rough, ramshackle Planet Waves, so this was done in just one or two takes.

People love this song - it’s a no-brainer in a good way.

The Good

A lover with a bad reputation attempts to sway the new girl he likes. She’s talked to her girlfriends, is unsure, he says he’s changed. I don’t know if I believe him but the record is called Forget the Past. Wayne loved this - harmonies, vocal lines - this was my attempt at a classic Goffin/ King thing. I always really just wanted to be a songwriter like the old school soul and Tin Pan Alley guys but no-one wants to record other people’s songs anymore - there’s no money in it. That said I always thought that Gin Wigmore could do a cool, punked up version of this, just swap the gender round. Gin has a pizza named after her in Paihia - a pretty good one too.

 Sleepless Kid

 I’m a child of divorce - a long time back but it sticks with you. But I’m not the kid in this one. Someone messaged me about this song soon after its release saying that this was the saddest song he’s ever heard. Yep, I know what he means. I’ve always seen it as a political thing too - the father has lost his job - there’s financial pressure - both the father and mother love their child - no-one’s to blame - everyone’s trying their best, the sad part is the pressure the kid feels in keeping them together. We’ve only played this live once, but I’m very proud to have written this one.

 Cities in the Distance

Written after seeing the movie Winter’s Bone. A great, great movie - based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel - with two amazing performances by Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes. I watch a lot of movies but this one really affected me. The great, late critic Roger Ebert says it best - “A story like this could become mired in despair, but Ree's hope and courage lock us in. How did she get to be the way she is? We are born optimistic, although life can be a great discouragement. In every bad situation, there are usually a few good people.”

I’m not sure what’s going on lyrically - its relationship to the movie is tangential but I feel that movie’s power every time we play it and this is often in the set list. It might be another father/son song - I liken it to Edge of The City's Cut Man written soon after my father's death. Musically the band kick this one out of the park. Andrew came up with that guitar staccato riff in the verse - we hauled everyone who was working in The Lab that day to come in and help out on the choruses - so that’s Mike Hall and Jol Mulholland hollering along with the band.

Broken Lights, New Mexico


Some songs are bigger than they seem, they get away from you in a good way. This is one of those. It knew what it wanted and needed to be even though I kept second guessing it in the studio. John’s guitar solo is brilliant - we kept pushing him to get angrier, less pretty - he did. Dianne's vocals are perfect. Most days I can’t believe I even wrote it.

 Winter Sun

This started off after I heard someone say - “happiness is overrated”. I knew what they meant. You need the two sides - the dark and the light.

“If the summer sun is all you know / when winter comes/ where do you go?”

The song was also inspired by talking to someone who was wealthy enough to chase the summer round the globe. They hadn’t seen a winter for many years – that’s where the “yesterday is on the other side” bit comes in.

But those people running on the beach (Bethells here in West Auckland, that's where my good friend photographer Nick Kreisler took me for the cover shot) towards the cold sun at the end, their coats held tight against the cold - that’s another kind of happiness.

These days I love winters.

Wayne changed this from a simple acoustic thing to the epic it became and Andrew saved it when we were struggling - with the synth guitar effect.


The Working Poor are

Greg Fleming - vocals/ acoustic

Andrew Thorne - elec gtr/acoustic/bvs

John Segovia - elec gtr

Wayne Bell - drums, bvs, percussion

Mark Hughes- bass

Nick Duirs - piano, keys






It's been a great year. We released an album we're all very proud of. Thanks to all who came out and saw us at shows and my thanks to my incredible band, the Working Poor (too true!) and LAB maestro Olly Harmer. We're back in the studio later this month and are halfway through the next record which is - of course - the best yet!

Remember there's a few Forget the Past cds left and they're available to order at a special price of just $10 each plus postage via bandcamp - go here (great Xmas presents, and I can send worldwide!) Signed too, if you wish! The album is also available at the same bandcamp page for just $8.00 (high res downloads also available.)

The first track to be released off the new record Look Where We Ended Up (Killer's Town) (due mid 2015) is available here - pay what you wish. The rest off the album (title tbc) is in various stages of completion.

Till then follow our soundcloud page, as I'll be putting up a few live things and demos over the next few weeks.






Forget the Past - the making of. By Greg Fleming.

Greg and Forget the Past producer Wayne Bell in the Lab, Auckland.

A Sunday morning 2012 – my daughter’s waiting for her poached eggs, my fiancé is checking out travel deals on the net (a much promised, much delayed New Mexico holiday - making records aint cheap!) and I’m sitting at the table picking on my acoustic guitar. My previous album Edge of the City with my band The Trains had been released a couple of months earlier. It was my dark, rock noir record (sample lyric “I blame myself/ I don’t know why/ am I payin’ for the crimes/ for which I was never tried?”). It got great reviews but didn’t trouble the charts. Part of me was ready to call it a day. And then, sitting there, I came up with Broken Lights, New Mexico. I looked down at my notebook and saw the phrase Forget the past/nothing’s happened yet. Right then I knew that trip wasn’t going to happen.

But other things did – band members quit, moved to New York and got busy with other things. By June 2013 it was down to me and longtime guitarist John Segovia (I could make a record without John but it wouldn’t be that good). We’d meet up on Sunday afternoons and play, but it was all feeling a bit sad and autumnal.

On my iPod, along with BLNM, 10 songs raised their eager hands. These were more outward looking, more melodic, people could use them for their own ends. Although I thought Edge contained four of my best songs, I wanted to explore new terrain; along with “forget the past” that insanity definition mantra “doing the same thing, expecting different results” was knocking around my head. Don’t get me wrong -  I love Berlin and Nebraska as much as the next guy, but I also love classic pop music – the Brill building, Goffin/King, soul and R’n’b, Son of a Preacher Man, Misstra Know it All and I was getting increasingly interested in electronic sounds ( I loved Yeezus). I wanted to make a record that delved into different rhythms, styles and sonic textures, a record I’d want to listen to. Most of all I did not want to make a downer record. My pie-in-the sky blueprint was nothing less than Stevie’s Innervisions – funky, political, tender and tough - a record that gave you a sense of a city and its people, living and breathing.

Most of the songs on FTP were written in 2012/13 while Egypt burned (Cities in the Distance) and while much of the Far North high-tailed it to mining jobs in Aussie if they could (Working Poor). They’re about rush-hour ennui and domestic dramas (Jaywalkers, Sleepless Kid), not forgetting a few nods at Tin Pan Alley moon in June romance (There She Goes, Honeysuckle Love). My favourite song might be Summer in the City – about grabbing a sad-sack friend by the scruff of the neck and taking them out to the beach on New Year’s Day. The last song Winter Sun was inspired by talking to someone who hadn’t lived through a winter for years - they could afford to hop hemispheres and did.  No walking along Bethels Beach to the caves on a cold winter’s day for them!

If I have any talent when it comes to songwriting it’s that I have a good bullshit detector and whenever these songs came on my iPod – as demos – they passed. And when I caught my nine-year-old daughter walking round the house singing The Good, Summer in the City and the shout chorus of Cities in the Distance I knew I was onto something (don’t worry she was back to Lorde soon after).

Feb 2013 - I’ve said that Wayne Bell is “NZ’s answer to T Bone Burnett, except Wayne’s a better drummer”, but that probably undersells him. Anyway, I suggested Wayne have a listen to the demo of Jaywalkers, try a loop behind it, (I was listening to lots of hip hop). He did, brilliantly. I laid down a vocal track soon after. It was different, not what was expected. Forget the past - yeah. One down 10 to go. Wayne agreed to produce and he’d get Olly Harmer to engineer at The LAB. (You can’t underestimate the importance of an engineer – it’s all about wavelengths in the end, and being on the same one.)

Next I hesitantly sent out emails to the musicians I wanted. To my amazement they all agreed – suddenly I had the infamous Wayne Bell/Mark Hughes rhythm section, John of course as well as guitarist ace Andrew Thorne and keyboard player Nick Duirs from the Calico Brothers (turns out he could sing like an angel too.)

The band (now called The Working Poor) was now a three guitar, keys, bass, drums line-up. We rehearsed – a lot - in a great little practice studio in Takapuna called The Bassment (Lorde used to practice there before she was Lorde), blue plastic walls and the North Shore’s best covering For Today next-door. That’s where the album came together.

Musically Wayne led with the groove. He played with time signatures (the middle eight of There She Goes), rhythms (Working Poor went to New Orleans), settings (the loping, r’n’b opener Nobody  which Dianne Swann reckoned sounded like the S.O.S band if fronted by Mick Jagger – and I’m pretty sure it was a compliment!) but most of all Wayne cut things. Whole verses went from Cities in the Distance and The Good, Petty’s dictum “don’t bore us/get to the chorus” was cited more than once while recording. By Xmas 2013 it was done.

So, what have I learnt making this record?

No-one’s going to miss the fourth verse.

 I can sing falsetto.

The effectiveness of a chorus dissipates the longer it takes getting to it.

New Mexico is a long way away.

Forget the Past is available now on Bandcamp - (if you download from Bandcamp the artist, rather than Apple or similar, gets to keep more of the money which means-  in a perfect world – that they will be able to make another record next year and, yes, streaming royalties are crap)


Originally published 2014 at elsewhere a great site which covers great music of all kinds.


Working Poor added to No Depression music player

Working Poor has just been added to the No Depression music player amongst some great company.


Lucha Lounge show introduces The Working Poor

Last night Greg and The Working Poor - Nick Duirs, (keys) Wayne Bell (drums), Mark Hughes (bass), John Segovia (guitar) and Andrew Thorne (guitar) played Lucha Lounge - the first outing under the moniker The Working Poor. The Working Poor is the same band which recorded this year's much acclaimed album Forget the Past which contains the song Working Poor. "We're working up lots of new songs," says Greg. "The band's really cooking and people are really getting into it. Last night we played a hard'n'fast rock'n'roll set, expect more of that in the coming months."
Like Greg's Facebook Page to keep up to date with future shows.