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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. We 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, Soluble Fish, Feast of Frogs and Above Ground and variations on the Builders name (i.e. The Bilders, Bildirene, Die Bilder etc) essentially relating to Direen in either a solo or group capacity, often linked into his theatrical performances.

Since Flying Nun Records 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 millennium 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. A new novel, Song of the Brakeman, is a science fiction guerrilla story set after the ecological implosion of the world.



  • Solomon’s Ball 7″ EP (1981, Self-Released)
  • High Thirties Piano 7″ EP (1982, Self-Released)
  • Schwimmin In Der See 7″ EP (as Die Bilder, 1982, Flying Nun Records Records, FN006)
  • Beatin Hearts (1983, Flying Nun Records, JAN8)
  • Split Seconds (as Bilderine, 1984, Full Moon Publishing, FM001)
  • Let’s Play (1985, South Indies, SINZ 11)
  • C0NCH3 (1985, South Indies, PRA2301)
  • Ginger Jar 7″ Single (1986, South Indies, SNGL001)
  • Cup 12″ Mini Album (1987, South Indies, SOIN5377)
  • Divina Comedia (1988 Compilation, South Indies, SOIN 477)
  • We Are The Coolest Cats in the World (1989, South Indies, SOIN BILT 5)
  • Alien 7″ Single (1991, Hecuba Records, HEX03)
  • Max Quitz (1993 Compilation, Flying Nun Records, FN274)
  • Cut (1994, IMD, IMDCD 10030)
  • Pyx (1994 Compilation, Flying Nun, FN277)
  • Chrysanthemum Storm (2008, Powertool Records, PT085)
  • Parisian Friday (2010, Powertool Records, PT101)
  • Mindful (2010, Powertool Records, PT102)
  • Meantime (2010, Powertool Records, PT103)
  • Bilders Live CDr (2012, Self-Released)
  • Untitled 7″ Lathe (2012, OneC Records, onec023)
  • The Utopians 7″ (2014, Smartguy Records, smart035)
  • Bilders Tour Europe (Live Tapes) (2017, Self-Released)
  • Move Along, Love Among cassette (2021, Thokei Tapes, TT17)


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