Skip to content

Birchville Cat Motel


Extremely prolific Wellington experimental sound-artist who also records under his given name of Campbell Kneale, and as a founding member of such varied performance outfits as Lugosi, Hataitai Bowling Club, Black Boned Angel etc.

Kneale has been making music since the mid 90’s, accumulating a vast amount of (usually) limited edition CDr releases and building a name for himself overseas, were he receives a considerably higher profile (though due to the nature of his music – quite abstract, this popularity is limited to an appreciative cult following).

I end up with the same 20 people at most of my gigs and only a few months ago the local arts magazine billed me as a visiting U.S guitarist! Oh yes- my rise to meteoric uberstardom has been filled with many such highlights. However, the ‘aging process’ of Birchville has been tremendously liberating and satisfying in that I have full control over all my music. I record what I want, when I want, for who I want. I’ve connected up with some wonderful people, bands and labels who are very enthusiastic about what I do and made some great friends in some pretty far flung places. I guess this makes me feel like I am ‘successful’- not in the traditional sense of having my photo taken regularly at parties with complete strangers who just “looooove my muuuusic…” but in the sense that I have the artistic liberty to be who I am. I am above the system. Punk rock, baby.

Birchville Cat Motel Interview from Perfect Sound Forever

The first track is an 11-minute piece built around an endlessly repeating four-note piano figure or sample that sounds like it came from an outtake of the sessions that produced the theme tune to Desert Island Discs. It is warm and engaging and melodic, and it is both horrifying and wonderful to hear it gradually consumed, betrayed even, by a gnawing, biting, groaning wave of ectoplasmic noise that Kneale adds ever so slowly.

The 101 strangest records on Spotify: Birchville Cat Motel – Driving Bruce Russells Volvo/Stellar Collapse (The Guardian)

Though primarily the alias of Kneale, Birchville Cat Motel recordings often featured like-minded improvisational musicians, such as the superb Jewelled Wings on Freedom From. An all acoustic, no overdue stew of drone and clatter driven by just about any household item imaginable (one such moment devolves into an orchestra of wind-tubes), the recording features prominent Wellington artists Kieran Monaghan and Bill Wood (Surface of the Earth).

In 2002 I had the pleasure of conducting an email interview with Kneale, before I was really too familiar with his work. Kneale was candid and satirical, which lead to a rather entertaining interview, that can be read here.

Kneale reinvented himself with With Maples Ablaze (Scarcelight, 2004), a symphony of musique concrete. Sounds and noises were contributed by the likes of Dead C‘s Bruce Russell, the Vibracathedral Orchestra‘s Neil Campbell, Simon Wickham-Smith, Jonathan Coleclough, the Blithe Sons’ Glenn Donaldson, and The Terminals‘ Peter Stapleton. Each movement follows a different orbit, but they all revolve around Kneale’s aesthetic of invisible music.

The History of Rock Music / Scaruffi

Kneale has since gone on to establish quite a name for himself in underground circles, with Wellingtons improvisation scene being touted as something of a second-coming for New Zealand outsider music.

In 2008 Kneale quietly retired the Birchville Cat Motel name, focusing on his newer projects Our Love Will Destroy The World, Brilliant Swords and Powers (along with others) however a comparative trickle of releases has continued to appear; mostly as online only BandCamp releases on the Campbell Kneale BandCamp page:




Leave a Reply