The Bilders

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Also known asBuilders, Die Bilder (1980s)
OriginChristchurch, New Zealand
Years active1980–present
South Indies
Flying Nun
MembersBill Direen

Bilders (or Builders) is a New Zealand music group of varying lineups that produced a string of self-recorded 7-inch vinyl releases between 1980 and 1982 leading to Beatin Hearts, the first studio-album from fledgling New Zealand independent record label 'Flying Nun Records'.

Known variously from pre-internet times as Die Bilder (German, for "The Pictures"), Bilderbergers, Soluble Fish, and High Thirties Piano, their alternative band names reflected a playfulness that challenged priority branding. The band does not maintain a steady profile. Months or years may pass without a performance, however 2018 was a prolific year for remastering and re-releases, with many live performances. New material of the show Expendable Animals, however, was not recorded, unless on iPhones.

Labels such as Zelle Records (Austria), Unwucht (Germany), Grapefruit (USA), Siltbreeze (USA), Powertool (NZ) and SmartGuy (USA) have issued or reissued vinyl releases since 2010. Latest releases are a vinyl remaster of 1994 CD "Cut", vinyl remaster of 2008 CD Chrysanthemum Storm, vinyl reissue and remaster of the 1982 recorded LP Beatin Hearts, a 7-inch EP of new songs Measly (Grapefruit, USA), 'Cell Songs' (on a vinyl compilation by SmartGuy Records), and participation in two compilations of music by Dunedin (New Zealand) bands based on poems by Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) with Zelle Records.

Bilders' material is known for 'rough' music making (often live in the studio), and a lo-fi recording style that has produced "many genuine classic compositions".[1]

Guests and collaborators[edit]

On tour in Vienna 2013

A large number of musicians have taken part in Bilders performances and recordings. In the 1980s co-workers included Bill Direen (consistent member throughout), Campbell McLay, mastermind of the Onset Offset label (bass, 1980–82), members of The Terminals, Scorched Earth Policy and Victor Dimisich Band, along with other prime movers such as entrepreneur/composer Alastair Galbraith 1994, artist and guitarist Alec Bathgate (recording project, 1984), Chris Knox (recording and production, 1982) of Toy Love and Tall Dwarfs, and poet/performer Alan Brunton (opera project Comrade Savage on the life of Australian-born NZ politician Michael Joseph Savage)[2] (Red Mole) and journalist Steve Braunias. Malcolm Grant was Bilders drummer (1980–82) before moving to The Bats.

Guests and collaborators are varied in musical styles and backgrounds. in 2018, a theatre-cabaret event with an important improvisational ingredient played in all the main centres in New Zealand with a flexible lineup. Key members were Stuart Porter (saxophone, improvisation guide), William Henry Meung (synthesiser), Alex Wolken (piano), Brendan Ryniker (drums, South Island), Steve Cournane (drums, Auckland), Susan Ellis (trumpet-cello, South Island), Pania Simmonds (bass, Dunedin), Greig Bainbridge (electric bass), with guests appearing "à l'improviste" in many centres.[3] Latest co-musicians for a short tour of the state of Tennessee with an appearance at Cropped Out Festival in Kentucky[4] were Nashville residents Matthew Swanson (bass) and Chris Davis (percussion).[5] Other US collaborators have been members of Simon Joyner's Ghosts including Joyner himself, with Dave Nance and Chris Deden. Steve Cournane plays regularly, expanding the repertoire to include rarer material (drums, Auckland, NZ). In Wellington (NZ) Direen, guitarist/curator/founder of Marineville Mark Williams and poet/composer/percussionist Jo Contag have formed a new group doing new material composed by the group, known in 2016 as Ferocious. Pianist Andrew McCully will join Builders in Auckland later this year to revive Songs for Michael Joseph Savage. Steve Cournane (percussion and drums) and Greig Bainbridge (bass), working with Stuart Porter of Primitive Art Group (saxophone) are among musicians essential to a Builders tour of New Zealand in 2016.[6]

Other past members include Berlin violinist TThomthom G'schrey (Germany, violin, 1997, 2006–present), Stuart Page (of The Axemen drums and artwork, 1983–85, 2010–present), Robbie Yeats (Dunedin, The Dead C, 2014, drums), David Watson (NYC, 2013, bagpipes, 335 semi-acoustic guitar), Miggy Littleton (Brooklyn, 2013, bass), Hamish Kilgour of The Clean (Brooklyn, 1989, 2013–14), David Wukitsevits of Austrian band Der Nino aus Wien (2013, drums), Jess McCann (Melbourne, accordion), Stuart Porter (saxophones, percussion), Louise Johns (Germany/Singapore, bass), Mark Williams (Wellington/Germany, guitar), Jo Contag (Wellington, drums), Barry Stockley (Wellington/Melbourne, bass and instrumentation, 1987, 2013), artist-guitarist Nikola Kapétanovic (2009–11, [France, electric guitar, dumbra, kalimba), dancer and actress France Herv] (France, 2010, chanteuse, actor), Kersten Ginsberg (Germany, drums, 1997), pianist, composer, improvisor, filmmaker Jonathan Crayford (Paris-NZ) - piano (2010–11, a special poetry-piano project), Rick And (2011, vocal), Peter Scott (2012, bass), Andrew McCully (piano, organ 2007-08, 2010, 13, 14) and Andrew Maitai (drums, 2008). Further groups have played or collaborated in Europe, USA, Australia and NZ; musicians include Jon Evans (Berlin, synthesiser, 2008, Berlin) and French DJ Fred Morvan (beatbox, 2008, Berlin). In 2018 Direen is working with Steve Cournane on a live set that samples all Builders periods. He is also collaborating with new musicians in Australia, Wellington (New Zealand) and the USA.

This list is not complete.

Selected Discography[edit]

Since the early 1980s, Bilders' music has been released on labels such as South Indies, Unwuch, SmartGu, Grapefruit Record Club, Onec Records Plymouth UK, Siltbreeze, Onset Offset Christchurch NZ, Powertool NZ [CDs only 2006–2010], EMI, and Warner Bros Flying Nun.

  • "Cut" vinyl 12" recorded Dunedin (NZ) 1994. Zelle/Powertool/South Indies
  • Oh! 88, on "My Bonie Bell", Burns compilation Volume 2 (Zelle Records).
  • "Chrysanthemum Storm" vinyl 12" recorded 2008 Auckland (NZ). Zelle/Powertool/South Indies.
  • There's a Youth in this City, on "Ae Fond Kisse", Burns compilation Volume 1 (Zelle Records).
  • "Measly". Buildermash EP. Four tracks. Grapefruit Recs GY6-7.
  • "Beatin Hearts". Builders. Reissue of remastered album of 1982. Grapefruit Recs GY6-1.
  • "The Utopians". 7" 45rpm vinyl & iTunes download. Studio recordings from Melbourne and Auckland, with a live extract (Austria). 2014. SmartGuy Records smart35.
  • "Fiat Lux". Builders live recordings 1980-82. Democrazy Records DR 009.
  • "The Flavour of the Meat". 2013. 12 inch vinyl. 33rpm. Grapefruit Record Club.
  • "New York Songs". 2013. 12 inch vinyl. 33rpm. Unwucht.
  • Bilders Live. Tour merchandise CD. South Indies. 2012.
  • "Wonders". 7 inch lathe. OneC Records. Plymouth, UK. 2012.
  • High 30s Piano. (Live studio recordings, 1981-2). 2012. Unwucht.
  • Soloman's Ball. 2012. 12" vinyl (from the quality studio recordings of 1981). Unwucht.
  • Six Impossible Things. 2012. 12" vinyl (from the quality studio recordings of 1980-81). Unwucht.
  • Vacuum, two 7 inch vinyl releases from the cult Philadelphia label from cassettes of early (1978–79) group Vacuum (Peter Stapleton, Steve Cogle, Peter Fryer, Allen Meek, Brendan Arnold). (Siltbreeze, 2011, 2012). Of these only the second remains in production.
  • Above Ground. Siltbreeze. Philadelphia, USA. LP. Vinyl (from cassette of 1983). 2011.
  • Krypton 10. 12" double vinyl album includes BD collabs with Onset-Offset stable in Christchurch c. 1980-82; taken partly from 20 Solid Krypton Hits (above). Unwucht, Augsburg, Germany. 2011
  • Parisian Friday. CD (jewel case). Non-studio recordings (gallery openings, practices). 2010. Bilders Paris Sessions (w. Nikola Kapétanovic). Powertool Music.
  • Flying Nun Box Set (Alligator Song). Limited period usage. Warner Bros. 2007.
  • Divina Comedia. LP vinyl compilation of Builders material 1980-88). South Indies. 1989.
  • Life in Bars. Bill Direen and Barry Stockley. 12" vinyl. 45 rpm. South Indies. 1987.
  • The Cup. Builders. 12" vinyl. 45 rpm. South Indies. 1987. (w. John McDermott, Stuart Porter, Bainbridge, Holdorf).
  • Let's Play. Builders.12" LP vinyl. South Indies. 1986. (w. Bainbridge, Tony Green, Karl Holdorf. Incl. a Vacuum archive song).
  • CoNCH3. Builders. 12" LP vinyl. South Indies. 1985. (w. Page, Bainbridge, various).


  1. ^ Dix, John (1988). Stranded in Paradise: New Zealand Rock 'n' roll 1955-88. Palmerston North, NZ: Paradise Publications. ISBN 0-14-301953-8 ISBN 0-473-00638-3
  2. ^ "- New Zealand Book Council". Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ Hinman, Jay (9 October 2018). "A Few Words About Bill Direen for Cropped Out 2018". Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  5. ^ "FMRL: Bilders w/Brandon Seabrook Trio & The Styrofoam Winos". Nashville Scene. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Blacker than Cohen, gruffer than Waits". Otago Daily Times. 14 May 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2019.


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