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Interviewed by
Michael McClelland
Thursday 11th August, 2011 4:15PM

Whilst his music may be ‘eagerly awaited’, interviewing Wilberforces frontman Thom Burton,  not so much. But it is well worth it despite the cheek, below we catch up with him on the release of the new Wilberforces album out shortly on Muzai Records. Titled Vipassna, it's the second album from the now duo following up their 2009 release Haunted.

First of all, what’s the meaning behind the album’s title?

Vipassana is a transcendental meditation retreat. It focuses on cleansing the mind and body of toxins through ten 12-hour days of silent meditation and breathing exercises, where no one participating may speak or look another participant in the eye. A few friends of mine have done this and found it to be a spiritually and physically beneficial experience, and have consequently changed direction in their lives for the better. Naming the album ‘Vipassana’ carries a lot of meanings for me personally and I don't actually think I have the space to explain all of them here, and I wouldn't want to spoil any subjective reactions or thoughts from any prospective listeners. What I will say is that it is not literally about Vipassana, and that I believe in the phenomenological power of rock and roll music to heal and inspire also.

Does ‘Vipissana’ carry any of the same inspiration as your last album?

No. The previous album was all about the world around me and feeling like I wasn't able to deal with it and the range of human emotions that goes with that. You know, what’s going on with friends, family and just the people around me in the city I live in for example. The whole of the new album is a complete fucking warped delirious apocalyptic nightmare. Not that it means I am a suffering tortured soul, it’s more like an idea for a movie or a scary thought that you might want to share with someone around a campfire because it's exciting and you might end up getting laid in a tent. But yeah, I have amazing nightmares. Cheaper than a movie.

Does the track ‘Haunted’, which is part of the new album, have any connection to your debut release?

No. It was written just after we wrote the last album and before we named it. It's more unfortunate that the title track is on another album. I don't know. That song could probably be called ‘Dedicated To Fuckwits With No Imagination That Make More Money Than I Do’. Oh hi NZ on Air, I have bought you some red roses…

How have you tackled your sound with less members than before?

I'm not sure what you mean here by 'our sound', because it's not something I deliberately have any preconceptions of…It is encouraging that people may recognize that we have a certain sound that sets us apart, that’s fucking great! But not something you can expect and then try and play up or pander to. You set yourself up to fail pretty hard, then. Probably by writing songs DESIGNED for two people to play. And changing my guitar set up accordingly. Then we could start really exploring. And it became fuckloads more fun, we started practicing more etc.

You know, it's a process, there's more than one person and I'm not a dictator. Well…I am in "Sim Latin American Country" for PC and Mac. Great game. My name is Enrique Prendergaast and I wear Ray Bans. But not a dictator in Wilberforces, fortunately.

How do the two of you construct the music?

With guitar and drums! I'm not sure what do you mean? Sometimes we like some obscure song that we think we can rip off and no one will know, and it ends up sounding different anyway, sometimes I write a couple of bits that Chris can figure out what to put with it and we just play around and change things until it sounds better. Sometimes we just jam shit out, I don't know, all the usual ways I guess. I haven't based any song structures on the Fibonacci sequence just yet.

Who’s behind the album cover?

Kei Ho, the same guy behind the Tidal Waves 7" cover and the Moppy "Mokai" album cover, as well as several tour posters for bands like Yokel Ono and Surf City. He's extremely gifted. I would list his contact email here but I don't have his permission and I don't want any one else to work with him because he's our Peter Saville. Ha ha.

Any music videos planned?

We're currently planning a music video with Andrew Moore, who's made a ton of clips for early 90's and late 80's Flying Nun bands and the latest Street Chant clip for 'Stoned Again'.

Do visuals play a big part in music, for you?

No they don't. Not with Wilberforces anyway.

Would you say the music of Moppy and the music of Wilberforces has anything in common?

Hardly anything at all. Apart from the fact that I'm making it, nothing.

How has the release tour gone for you so far?

We've only played one show so far, in Hamilton - it was lots of fun. Great turn out. Static, a new venue there, will be an asset as the owners are really supportive of original and diverse local music. Played with Auckland band Church Of Moloch and Disco Volante, a virtually unheard of band outside of Hamilton who were incredible. We'll see how Auckland and Wellington go. Will probably do like a sequel tour in October or late September to finish off the album tour down there.

Where are you headed next on the tour?

Auckland, at Whammy this Friday with Freudoids, Grass Cannons and Dirtbags. Then Wellington in two weeks after that on the 25th at Mighty Mighty with Forcefields and another very special guest, but we're playing with Times New Viking next week at Golden Dawn, on the 20th which should be exciting…

Any bands you’ve played with that you recommend?

Disco Volante. Dance Asthmatics. Hussies. Sharpie Crows’ new line up kicks arse. Forest Spirits. Doteyes. Girls Pissing's new album is sounding rather brilliant. Hollow Grinders never stop ruling after 16 years or something. And DEAN. You can search most of these bands on soundcloud and find for yourselves, but they're all good live.

How have people responded to the album so far?

It's not out yet bro! But a few people have said kind things on Facebook etc. And friends and flatmates seem to like it, they usually tell me when they think something is really shit. So that’s good.

In a country so small, where connections are so readily made – is it a positive thing for you? Or could it be a limitation?

I can't think about that. It's not something worth reflecting on. And also saying connections are so readily made - that’s blatantly opinion, not a fact. I don't believe connections are more readily made here than anywhere else, in fact sometimes less so.

Where do you want to take Wilberforces after this release?


Michael McClelland


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