James Wilkinson, guitarist

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Some James Wilkinson recordings can be heard in the Naxos Music Library.
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Guitarist James Wilkinson was born in Canterbury and has performed in New Zealand and internationally for several years. He has been in bands such as Rua, Hampster (with Carmel Courtney), The Two Jimmies and the Bardic Duo, playing styles such as Celtic, jazz and folk.

How would you describe your style of music?
I like to call it a sonic salad. It’s a mix-up of all sorts of things: folk, classical and early music (lute translates particularly well to guitar), Celtic … to name a few. There seems to be a bit of a pop edge in there at times and you know, if the mood’s right it can get a bit avante garde too.
What does New Zealand Music Month mean to you?
Seems like a great institution. Focusing on home-grown talent surely has got to be a good thing.
What’s your favourite New Zealand song and why?
Really hard question! Soviet Snow by Shona Laing, especially her new acoustic version — with me on it. Ooh, did I say that!?
Who's you favourite New Zealand artist and why?
Shihad is my favourite group and Shona Laing is my absolute favourite. My mum and dad bought an album of hers in 1973 and on it was a song called Happy Song. I’ve loved it, and her, ever since. I now have the pleasure of working with someone I regard as a personal hero. How cool is that!
So tell us about your background and a few non-musical interests?
I grew up in Leeston, Canterbury and I come from a fairly musical family. We had a couple of guitarists in the extended family and the odd fireside singalong wasn’t out of the ordinary. Learnt guitar for five years, including two years classical training. After that it was just absorbing and self-taught stuff. I did have a brief stint with the ukelele! I love reading, walking, gardening and astronomy. Astronomy doesn’t work out too well in the city though.
And what are some of your musical influences and highlights?
It all started with Shona and Bach, particularly the Brandenburgs. There was also a group called The Swingle Singers who did amazing things with Bach. I also really like Michael Hedges — a Windham Hill artist. (Windham Hill specialized in contemporary, quite impressionistic and immaculately produced music).
I also have a slight fetish for what’s been termed ‘prog rock’ — characterised by subverting the usual pop formula using classical and jazz features and lengthy solos. Groups like Pink Floyd, Yes, King Crimson, Gong, Caravan, Soft Machine.
I seem to have done plenty of collaborative work with a couple of solo albums thrown in. Possibly my best 15 minutes was in Wellington in 2000. I was the opener for the World Series Guitar Festival at the Michael Fowler Centre playing in front of 1500 people. Apparently I was pretty popular that night, not to mention being paid spectacularly well.

James Wilkinson resources

Some James Wilkinson recordings can be heard in the Naxos Music Library.
Use at a library or enter your library card & password / PIN.

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May 2010