Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

The Eighth Note: Gavin Burgess

‘The Eighth Note’ is 8 quick Questions with Wellington Musicians.

A chance for us to catch up with people & see what they’re up to, or introduce you to a new musician/band and their music.

Today’s guest is Gavin Burgess, who has worked within various musical genres since the 1990s, and releases through his own label.

Who are you? Tell us a bit about your music:
I’m a recording, sometimes performing, songwriter/composer and multi-instrumentalist. It’s been a long journey from my earliest Lo-fi recordings, made on primitive equipment in the early 90s, to my latest album ‘Sophia’s Child’. In between I’ve passed through pop, rock, and gospel acts and even diverted into the realm of classical composition. I find it hard to define myself based on genre alone as I’m more interested in exploring all musical styles and seeing how I can mix and blend these influences. I guess it’s for this reason that I’m now most comfortable categorising my music as progressive rock, although I’m definitely more about composition than intricate noodling.

What have you been working on lately? Any new tracks or albums on the way?
Well, I’ve already touched on that, but quite a lot actually! In May, for NZ music month, I released two singles; I Digress by my side project ‘300 Llamas’ and In Which Aktaeon Is Torn Asunder b/w ‘(You Won’t Bring Me) Down/Celebration’ under my own name, the latter being a first taste of my new album ‘Sophia’s Child’. In June I re-released some old product; a single When Alice Dances, which was first released on the ‘Muster – Whanganui Compilation’ in 1998, and an EP of recordings by my early 90’s band Top Secret. There’ll be another single from ‘Sophia’s Child’ dropping in a few months, and the album itself, which is completed bar one song which we’re still working on, will be out at the end of the year.

Where is the best place people can follow you & find your music?
Everything comes out through my Gavland label. At the moment all of our digital and physical product is on Bandcamp – so make that your first stop:
There’s also a bunch of information on my own Website, if you want to dig into more product info, press clippings, etc. Gavland is also on Facebook.

What were the 3 most influential albums to you growing up?
ABBA – Arrival (the first album I ever owned, a gift from my parents when I was 8 years old)
The Who – Who’s Next (found in a second hand shop and, as per the felt pen on the cover, purchased for $2.50 when I was 13)
Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon (given to me on cassette by the son of my parents friends, who was throwing it away because ‘It isn’t very good’.)

Which other Wellington musician (s) would you most like to work with?
I’d quite like to do something in the studio with Julie Lamb one day. Like me she’s released a bunch of stuff over the last decade so it would be interesting to see if I could contribute something to her work. She used to be my accountant so that would be a nice change of role. Years ago I worked with Mark Henderwood (a song we wrote together is on my album Demos ‘n’ Jams – which is a collection of early lo-fi recordings) and it would be cool to revisit that partnership now that we’ve both gained musical maturity. I’d also like to find another guitarist to work with so we can get some gigs happening but I don’t know who that’s going to be yet. He/She would have to have a quite eclectic and organic style.

What’s your favourite Wellington venue to play in?
Well, I haven’t gigged anywhere for a while now, and the venues have mostly changed since I did. I can tell you the type of venue I’d prefer though, which would be somewhere where the audience can tune in and listen. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re just providing background noise for people to drink to.

In your songwriting or composing (or the band’s songwriting) how do the compositions and songs take shape?
My first step is always to find the spirit of the song – the thing that ties music and lyrics and theme and binds them into a unified whole. This then suggests the rest. In that sense I guess it’s a bit of a spiritual process. I used to work out a song from start to finish on guitar, or sometimes piano, but now I have the luxury of completing compositions in my studio. I love the flexibility this allows. I first work on documenting the basic idea, often with sacrificial demo tracks, but sometimes these first takes stay in the finished piece. Then I start adding, cutting and pasting to flesh out the structure, and then layering, always keeping to the maxim ‘serve the song’.
At some point the track moves from being a demo to a work-in-progress. I tend to build a guide drum track with a drum machine or samples before completing most of the other instrumental parts, and then get the drummer in to track his parts towards the end. Most people work the other way around but I find, with a good drummer who can lock to a click, this works well for me. It also means, as I can play most other instruments at least adequately, I don’t have to lock the arrangement down until later in the process. Whilst I’m working on the tune I spend a lot of time sipping red wine, listening to what I’ve done so far, absorbing the song, and allowing intuition to play its part. Through this process I start to hear in my head the parts and instruments I want to add, which leads to the joy of knowing what to track next – or the sinking feeling of realising I’m going to have to involve a string section, which is always a tedious experience.

Where/when is your next gig?
I’m overseas right now but plan to be back in NZ in the spring, when I’ll be doing some more recording with Nev Messent and Simon Shaw – my old rhythm section from The GB Band. We’d also like to do some small intimate gigs in the Wellington area with a bit of a different approach from your normal band gig – looking to create an atmosphere which shifts the audience from listeners to participants. If we can get the stars to align it would be quite nice to film the gigs for a live DVD as well. I also had a message from Murray Loveridge (Blues Buffet, Quincy Conserve) the other day asking me if I had anything coming up, so I might end up doing some stuff with Murray again as well. And there’s been this idea brewing in my head for a while now – a large outdoor performance with choirs and brass and soloists and all the things that, on top of being subject to the weather, make that kind of event complex – but that’s a bit further off as yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *