Local folk: Dean Morris

Dean Morris’ first year on the Hibiscus Coast was about recovery from burn out and featured long walks on the beach and playing music in the sunporch of a bach in Stanmore Bay. Today he is more likely to be hard at work welding in his workshop in Silverdale, as he builds up his fabrication engineering business. But, as he told Terry Moore, he makes sure there is still time to down tools and play The Blues.

I love anything old school – that whole era intrigues me. It seems like things were simple back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s and the technology of that time is something I’m passionate about: the old radios, vinyl records and furniture. If something goes wrong with it, you can fix it.

I have always been involved in various forms of music – promotion and playing live and watching bands. You get a thrill out of playing live and I like helping other musicians, so at various times over 15 to 20 years I’ve done band management, promotion and releasing EPs. I have loved The Blues ever since I first heard Stevie Ray Vaughan at the age of 13 and thought ‘wow, who’s that guy?’ But it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I started delving into it a bit deeper. When Java Jive and the Gluepot in Auckland fell away as live music venues in 2006, I started the Auckland Blues Club. I networked with bands and we created Sunday sessions with people like Hammond Gamble and Midge Marsden. That’s still going, although I’m no longer involved. At the same time I took playing the guitar a lot more seriously – watching those guys play live was great and inspiring so I wanted to hone my own Blues skills. Basically I locked myself in a room and watched old school Blues players on YouTube and taught myself.

I had been coming to the Hibiscus Coast from the age of five with my parents who had a bach in Kauri Road in Stanmore Bay, so the area brings back good memories. When I moved to the Coast to live, five years ago, I was initially a bit burnt out, so I took a break and had a year of solitude. I had just been made redundant from a sales role. The first trade I had got under my belt after leaving school was as an old school brush signwriter and I had my own business doing that for several years. I sold that and at the age of 28 did a bit of a U-turn, taking an adult apprenticeship in fabrication engineering with my dad’s company, Morris Sheet Metals. Both my father and grandfather were fabrication engineers. I love the creativity and control over the work that you have – whether it’s rubbish or very good, it’s all on you and your skills. It takes a long time to master. The work I do now in my own business, Fabrication Specialists, is really varied from a 2.5m tall steel tree sculpture to hang champagne glasses off to a flat bed for a truck. After the apprenticeship I decided to come off the tools and step away. I went into sales as a brand manager but after doing that for some time I was really bored – it was only playing music in the evenings that was my saviour. So I decided to move out of the rat race and came up here although I literally had no job. I lived off savings and for three months drank coffee and played guitar on the sunporch of the old bach in Stanmore Bay. It gave me time to think about direction. I started a home handyman business called Everything But the Dog – with the idea that I could do everything but walk your dog. I fixed old ladies’ fences and aligned doors – sometimes payment was a scone and a cup of tea. It just didn’t feel right charging some people. I made almost enough to live off for about six months. Then I started contracting for engineering jobs to local firms in Silverdale. I was a bit rusty at first, but got back into it and settled in with a couple of guys who gave me a fair bit of work.

I went from contracting to starting my own business a couple of years ago and haven’t looked back. I am focused on the architecture/interior side of things – bar interiors, residential and commercial. That’s what I love and I’m going to launch a range of furniture called Raw Possessions this month. I was sick of not being able to compete with imported furniture so I decided to design stuff that was unique and high end, and made in New Zealand using recycled native timbers and steel. Although we’re busy, there’s a guy who works for me, Cameron, who is also a musician and so sometimes the smokos get longer and longer when we pick up our guitars... but usually they are big days, from working on Hot Rods to making custom chandeliers or an eight-seater table with a steel frame and legs of recycled timber, and everything in between.

At the same time I could see a gap in the market on the Coast for live music and that’s how the series of tribute shows at Jacs started. I did more than 10 shows over a year and a half and they all sold out. That got my groove back on and I began playing some laid back acoustic sessions at Manly Bar and Grill, bringing in some of my touring musician friends from Australia. They are called the couch sessions and I take my own couch from the lounge, transport it to Manly Village, put it in the corner of the bar and play The Blues with some musical mates. My love of vinyl also came to the fore and I started some low key but fun Vinyl Appreciation evenings at The Good Home. It attracts an eclectic bunch and all sorts of music, which we play on a homemade record player. All good fun.

I have been a bit idle lately with music because I’m focused on my business but I had to put my promotional hat on again when I was roped into heading the entertainment at the local RSA. I’m in the middle of a real hectic schedule between now and Christmas organising tribute shows, a Ball with an eight-piece brass band, a Coast Kids talent show and an Open Day. Whatever I take on, I don’t do it unless I can give it one hundred percent: I have been called ‘a bull at a gate’, which can be a good or a bad thing, but it definitely means full commitment to the task at hand. At the same time, I am pretty good at life balance – happy to shut up shop when needed. I have two daughters, aged 17 and 15 and they are fabulous. I see them on weekends and school holidays and when they are around I don’t work, I dedicate my time to them.

About 10 years ago I became a Buddhist, which was all about life balance, kindness and respecting the life around me. It was a point in my life when I realised I didn’t need to go to church each Sunday to be a good person. Buddhism appealed to me because of meditation and appreciating the simple things in life. It helped get the train back on the right track. I have never done drugs and am not a heavy drinker, though don’t get me wrong, I like a beer. A lot of people don’t believe me when I say that I don’t take any drugs – it never entered my head to do so and I guess I must just be high on life.


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