An hour of music and chat with Dunedin poet and musician Bill Direen.
Bill Direen is a polymath: a musician, writer and performer who has been creating work across a variety of media since the late 1970s. Along the way he’s written poetry, novels, theatre pieces, written translations and made a huge amount of music. Though he grew up in Christchurch, his wanderings have seen him based at different times in Wellington, Dunedin, Paris and Berlin.
If his work isn’t as well-known as it ought to be, it has certainly proved to be enduring. Beatin’ Hearts, the first album he made under the longstanding and adaptable banner of The Builders, was the first long-player released by the Flying Nun label. When it was reissued in 2016 by US indie label Grapefruit, UK magazine Uncut awarded it nine stars out of ten, calling it “staggeringly articulate, deeply beautiful and brimming with nervous energy”.
On the eve of the final performance of a song-cycle that spans the years from 1914 to the present, he spoke to Nick Bollinger about his music and influences and played a few of his personal favourites.