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Cheers, beers: Muso/brewer Dave Gent at Arrowtown Brewing's HQ. PICTURE: MICHAEL THOMAS

It’s almost 40 years since The Exponents started taking New Zealand by storm with hits
like Victoria and Why Does Love Do This To Me?  Original bassist, 58-year-old Dave Gent,
talks to PHILIP CHANDLER about the band and how he got into brewing beer

Maybe he was destined for stardom.

When he was only about three months old, Dave Gent was flying from Auckland to Dunedin to be adopted out when several All Blacks, also onboard, set up a bank account for him on hearing of his situation.

A part-Maori, he grew up on his new family’s South Otago farm before they moved to
Oamaru.

Attending Waitaki Boys’, he was desperate to get into a band and ‘‘conned’’ his parents
into buying him a bass guitar he saw in the window of a Dunedin music shop.

He taught himself to play, largely by mimicking music off records by repeatedly lifting
the needle.

Moving to Christchurch after school, he answered an ad in a music shop to join a band, originally called Dance Exponents, led by Timaruvian Jordan Luck — ‘‘a week later, we were
playing at the Hillsborough Tavern’’.

Luck by that stage had already written most of their big hits.

From ‘81 till they split up in ‘99, Gent was a core member of one of NZ’s most iconic bands,
playing thousands of gigs around the country.

They also played in London and Australia, and once even supported David Bowie.

Asked if they were living the high life, he says, ‘‘yeah, but you sort of never expect it to
last more than a week, at any stage’’.

‘‘We weren’t like a wild band, but we had a lot of fun.’’

Back in the day: From left, The Exponents’ core members Mike Harallambi, Jordan Luck, Dave Gent and Brian Jones

Perhaps his crowning musical moment is his opening riff for Why Does Love Do This To Me?, which he plays down as ‘‘a half-arsed version’’ of a Nick Seymour line in Don’t Dream
It’s Over.

Ironically, since he’s a brewer these days, he didn’t start drinking till he’d been in the band about six years — ‘‘I just think I was being a bit perverse’’.

‘‘I’ve been in catch-up mode ever since.’’

A few years ago, in ‘‘a drunken conversation’’, he inspired Queenstown mate Phil Smith,
from Great Southern Television, to produce a TV film on The Exponents.

‘‘I was very lucky — I was played by a good-looking chap who could actually sing in
tune.’’

The band, inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame in 2015, last played for a benefit
concert after the Christchurch mosque shootings last year, and are booking gigs to mark
their 40th anniversary next year.

‘‘If people are allowed to do gigs, we’re doing them.’’

Gent shifted with his ‘‘sometime’’ wife Sam and sons Tane and Nemo to Arrowtown
about 20 years ago, mainly for their kids’ sake.

He continues to love living there — ‘‘it’s still a community, there’s not many of those left’’.

While visiting Tane in the United States, when he was on a college soccer scholarship,
Gent developed a fondness for craft beer.

On his return, he says he drunkenly told his mates, Tim Hemingway and Michael
Thomas, ‘‘we should start a bloody brewery’’.

‘‘I sort of forgot about it, but Tim being Tim, he got us all underway.’’

Sadly, Hemingway died the day after their first Arrowtown Brewing beer was put on at The
Fork and Tap in 2017 — they’d bought a recipe off The Tap manager Dan Coxhead.

Latterly, Gent and Thomas have been joined by two heavy-weight business partners,
Navman founder Sir Peter Maire and Xero co-founder Hamish Edwards.

‘‘We’re a very small company trying to have a really good time.’’

They still have their beers contract-brewed but are setting up a brewery on land they’ve
bought in Bush Creek Road.

Jokingly, Gent, who still gigs regularly with Arrowtown bands, says ‘‘arguably I’ve
never had a proper job, and now I’ve got the brewing thing, I definitely haven’t’’.

scoop@scene.co.nz