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Headfirst into the abyss: RIP Celia Mancini

Alan Holt remembers Celia Patel, better known as Celia Mancini of King Loser, who died yesterday.

Last night I learned that my friend Celia Patel had passed away. If you do not know Celia she is best known as one of the driving forces behind the band King Loser. She was a force of nature, a unique human and I thought I should mark this moment with some thoughts about her and her life.

I’m fifth generation Port Chalmers, did you know that Alan? I’m more Dunedin rock music. Lesley Paris turns out to be my second cousin. Yeah… I know! My grandmother’s ashes are scattered in Aramoana. They come and they go. If you go to the Port Chalmers Mariners Museum you’ve got all my family’s names. My grandfather was a sea captain – looked like Popeye – in World War 2, went across the Atlantic going fuck yous and kicking ass.

The above is an excerpt from the start of a three-hour interview I did with Celia a couple years ago for my Flying Nun oral history book. The interview took place in a New Lynn warehouse space she was living in temporarily. She wore purple satin pajamas and sat on her bed surrounded by decades worth of belongings: boxes containing master tapes, photographs, records, gig posters, artwork, her vintage gown collection and tons of musical instruments.

It had been a while since I had seen Celia and the interview was intense. Celia had a lot to say and would often veer off track to cover additional information that she wanted known. An answer to a question about the early Auckland music scene would also cover Celia’s early love of heavy metal, the secret to why The Doors were a good band, and unprintable comments regarding people who will probably read this.

Farmers put out a t-shirt “Hey Hey join the craze it’s a skateboard daze” with a silhouette of me. This picture from the paper – like Jesus Christ – I’m doing this slalom wearing this Camel cigarettes t-shirt. One of my prizes was opening Lynfield Mall 1976.   

Celia was a doer. She had an unrelenting creative drive and energy. As a child, Celia had been a champion skateboarder. Later on, she had written for BFM’s publication The Book Of Bifim, organized Vesper rallies, managed psych metal band Into The Void and had her own hugely entertaining TV show on Triangle TV called Slightlydelic. Playing music, however, was always Celia’s main love and obsession.

I had known Celia since the early-’90s when she moved to Auckland and formed King Loser with Chris Heazelwood and Pat Faigan. Prior to King Loser, she had been in many bands including garage psych punker’s The Axel Grinders, her Terminals associated lounge act The After Dinner Mints and her metal band The Stepford 5. By her count she had been in 46 bands by 2016.

King Loser

I was at Flying Nun Records when we signed King Loser. To be honest they were by the far the most difficult band we had on the roster. They were also an incredible band, one of the best bands ever – they had amazing songs, charismatic as hell and were snappy dressers.

The thing about King Loser, specifically Celia and Chris, is that both had an unshakable belief in the power and importance of rock music. It is not a hobby or affectation. It’s not a K-Mart-purchased Ramones tee or an artfully ripped pair of jeans. It is everything. It is the world. It is something worth sacrificing friendships, jobs, money, and health for. They sacrificed all these things for their art. They swam into the darkness, dove headfirst into the abyss and came out scared and battered, torn and frayed with some cool tunes and the knowledge that they had created things and gone places that were not ordinary. And if you had a chance to see King Loser then you had a chance to touch upon the abyss and, for a temporary time, share a moment unordinary too.

RIP Celia Patel. You will be missed.


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