The Bilders at Darkroom

Bill Direen
Bill Direen

Wow it certainly has been a long time since I’ve contributed to thebigcity – sorry about that. It’s been a pretty quiet holiday break in Christchurch, at least musically – however I’m really looking forward to Mount Eerie’s tour and of course the great annual trip to Camp A Low Hum – both in February.


Last week however I had the great privilege to catch the latest line-up of Bill Direen’s might group the Bilders. Direen’s back catalog of fantastic songs (‘Do the Alligator’, ‘Love in the Retail Trade’, ‘Sad But True’ etc) is truly immense and this sharp three piece pulled out all the pieces.

Mick Elborado and Stu Page
Mick Elborado and Stu Page

Word has it their drummer (and fantastic film-maker) Stuart Page was in a car accident earlier in the week and shouldn’t have been playing, but he soldiered on anyway. It was also fantastic to see Christchurch legend Mick Elborado back on stage, playing bass the way only Mick can play – he contorted and tore up that ‘Mickenbacker’ on the more excitable numbers. Direen himself was relaxed and demur up front, leading the fellas through-out the night.

Click here for all the photos from the night.

Victor Dimisich Band

Stephen Cogle, Alan Meek, Tony O’Grady, Peter Stapleton and (for the later period) Mary Heney – most of whom also formed Scorched Earth Policy with Brian Crook (em>The Renderers, Bible Black, Bathysphere) and eventually made their mark with the legendary Terminals. The Victor Dimisich Band’s recordings (an original Flying Nun EP and the extremely lo-fi live document Mekong Delta Blues – a cassette only Xpressway release) are highly collectable and very hard to find (despite being reissued with bonus tracks in 1997 on the Medication label), and show Cogle and Stapleton just developing their dark and morbid style (after spending time with Bill Direen‘s many bands).

Contemporaries to Christchurch’s Pin Group and the early rattlings of Bill Direen‘s Bilders, in fitting with the “Christchurch sound” at the time they favored something of a denser and darker than their southern Dunedin neighbours, expressed through a bleak vision and Velvet Underground inspired abandon.
Dan Vallor: Taken from Popwatch #9

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Native Waiter 7″ EP [1982 Flying Nun]
  • Victor Dimisich Band 12″ Ep[1983 Flying Nun Fnvd001]
  • The Mekong Delta Blues Cassette [1988 Xpressway Xway08]
  • Native Waiter 7″ EP [Reissue Crawlspace Space005] Rn
  • My Name Is K [Compilation Medication Med002]


The World

Low key postcard style popsters, the World featured Malcolm Grant (Bats – Brums), Bridget Mulcahey (Bass), Alan Meek (Guitar And Keyboards – The Bilders), Andrea Cox (Violin) and Charles Haywood (Vocals). Released a 7 song cassette album entitled ‘Seven Songs’ on Bob Scott’s Every Secret Thing label.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Seven Songs [1984 Every Secret Thing EST14]


The Bilders

the most recognized of bill direen‘s many underground projects, builders recordings are as varied as they are numerous, and litter his discography (often with infuriating spelling variations – bildirene, die bilder etc). check direen’s main entry for more detail.
picks in bold

  • schwimmin in der see 7″ ep [1982 as die bilder flying nun FN006]
  • volume 1: max quitz [1993 compilation flying nun FN274]
  • volume 2: beatin hearts [1993 compilation flying nun FN275]
  • volume 4: pyx [1995 compilation flying nun FN277]

Bill Direen

One of the longest running mythic underground figures of New Zealand rock who has worked (and commanded) such significant figures in the New Zealand music scene as Chris Knox, Peter Stapleton, Maryrose Crook, Dave Mitchell, Malcolm Grant – the list goes on.

William Direen reviews poetry for the nz listener and is both taller and skinnier than me. I should hate him, but damn it, I can’t bring myself to become even … bitter… about his facility with words and notes and the way he can approximate all those dippy guitar chords that i don’t even know the names of. No, really, i can’t even loathe his fucking theatricality ‘cos the shit’s so damn good at it, and it’s beckett rather than coward and who can complain about that!”. For over 20 years Direen has remained in the shadows and developed a hugely significant body of work spanning any number of genre’s and style distinctions.

Chris Knox

Direen formed something of a legend in late 70s christchurch when he joined the existing duo of Peter Stapleton and Stephen Coogle (who had been performing as the Victor Dimisich Band up until then) to form the Vacuum Blue Ladder – a band that went sadly undocumented (though some of the recordings from the era, including the startling ‘love in the retail trade’ are included on the Direen accreditted Split Seconds).

Disciplined anarchy. Ee were trying to build a better world through making good songs

– Bill Direen

Direens’ discography as a whole is a bit hard to track, with releases under the name Six Impossible Things, Solomans Ball, soluble fish, Feast of Frogs and Above Ground and variations on the Bilders name (i.e. Bildirene, Die Bilder etc) essentially relating to Direen in either a solo or group capacity, often linked into his theatrical performances.

Since Flying Nun issued 4 separate anthologies of his work in the mid 90s (which comprise pretty much the entire Direen discography, with only the fourth volume, pyx being somewhat disappointing) Direen has been relatively quite on the music front. since becoming entrenched in theater through-out the 1980s, Direen then spent many years in the 90s and in to the new millenium as a full-time writer based in Europe.
2006 and 2007 saw new releases, and a return to New Zealand shores for Direen – settling in Dunedin. These new albums are The New York Sack (2006), recordings made with Hamish Kilgour, Allen Meek (original Bilders keyboardist) and others, and Yes Today No Tomorrow (2007), brand new recordings made on the road in USA and Europe 1995 – 2006. (Also with guests kiwi Graeme Galyer & USA musicians). A new novel, Song of the Brakeman, is a science fiction guerrilla story set after the ecological implosion of the world.


picks in bold

  • schwimmin in der see ep [as die bilder 1982 flying nun FN006]
  • ‘solomans ball’ 7″ single [as bilders 1982 flying nun]
  • live at the gladstone [1983]
  • beati/en hearts
    [1983 flying nun]
  • split seconds
    [as bilderene 1984 south indies / full moon publishing FM001]
  • conch3 [1985 south indies PRA 2301]
  • let’s play [1986 south indies SiNZ 11]
  • the cup ep [1987 south indies SOIN 5377]
  • life in bars ep [1987 w/ barry stockley south indies]
  • divinia comedia [1988 south indies SOIN 477]
  • we are the coolest cats in the world [1988 south indies SOIN BILT5]
  • the hat [1989 south indies]
  • cut [1994 imd IMD CD10030]
  • volume 3: split seconds [as bilderene 1995 reissue flying nun FN276]
  • human kindness [1997 corazoo CORA5-1]
  • The New York Sack [2006 Powertool Records]
  • Yes Today No Tomorrow [2007 Powertool Records]

Music Videos