In November 2023 Powder Chutes beat off some stiff competition to be named winners of the first AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand (AJHBNZ) ‘Thrash More’ contest, a nationwide music competition celebrating young homegrown talent aged 13 to 25.

Powder Chutes were chosen by Kiwi metal icons Alien Weaponry to take the top slot.

The prize was $10,000, of which $7000 was for equipment or studio recording time, and $3000 to donate to their chosen secondary school music department or community music facility. The top three finalists also received $1000 worth of AJHBNZ experiences.

The $7000 prize money has been put to good use as Powder Chutes have since been holed up at North Otago’s Studio Sublime with Steve Harrop and Tom Havard to complete the recording of their debut album, which is now in the bag with a 12-song album currently being mixed ready for mastering by Chris Chetland of KOG Studios.

Band members Archie Orbell (drums), Clarke West (guitar), Henry McConnell (vocals) and Otis Murphy (bass), all present, or former Mount Aspiring College (MAC) students, say they relished the opportunity to give something back to the MAC music department.

“The band owes a huge amount to Mat Doyle and the positive arts culture at MAC. It’s a full-circle moment for us to be able to donate this Les Paul and pay a little bit back to the school that’s done so much for us. The fact that we could do this during NZ Music Month 2024 is the icing on the cake,” says Powder Chutes guitarist Clarke West.

The lads from Powder Chutes gave the donation a personal touch by carefully choosing an iconic Gibson Les Paul guitar to present, the aim being to provide a legacy instrument that can inspire MAC students for years to come. Of note is that Clarke has long been an exponent of the Gibson Les Paul, and all Powder Chutes’ songs to date feature his iconic Gibson gat.

“We’re massively grateful to AJHBNZ for running such an epic competition,” Archie Orbell says. “As well as donating the guitar to MAC, the rest of the prize money instantly helped us to finish recording our debut album… and the fact that it was judged by Alien Weaponry still blows us away!”

AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand Sales and Marketing manager Mike Voyce says: “The inaugural Thrash More competition asked young Kiwi musicians to step out of their comfort zone and embrace AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand’s philosophy of ‘Live More, Fear Less’. We were blown away by the amount of talented young individuals who entered from around NZ. It’s clear to see that Powder Chutes are incredibly talented and hard-working – and they truly embody the Live More, Fear Less attitude. We can’t wait to see what lies ahead for this up-and-coming band and we’re stoked to be able to contribute positively to their musical future – and the futures of many other MAC students to come, with the donation of the Gibson Les Paul to the school’s music department.”

Much-loved Head of Music Mat Doyle received the guitar from the band on behalf of MAC: “We’re immensely proud of Powder Chutes and the profound impact they’ve made not only within our school but also in the wider musical community. This guitar will undoubtedly ignite inspiration in future generations of MAC musicians.

“We are incredibly grateful to AJHBNZ for their unwavering support of young NZ bands. There is a pivotal stage in every young band’s journey when they transition from school life and must decide whether to continue together. Competitions like Thrash More provide Kiwi youth with the initiative to push through this barrier,” Doyle adds.

Following the presentation, it seemed only right that Clarke strap the Gibson Les Paul on and Powder Chutes put it through its paces in front of the MAC seniors, and fittingly they played ‘Gravity’, the song performed (as ‘Spinning’) which Alien Weaponry chose as the winner of the competition.

The debut album from Powder Chutes is planned for release towards the end of 2024.

Photo cred: Insta @redpointproductionsnz