Interview with Wilding (May 2021)

Nic: Hi Justin, I’ll come out with it straight off the bat: You were born in the wrong decade. Or should I say decades. Three great 60 albums inspired via your English roots in the 80s/90s to create a very recognisable Wilding sound. Where exactly in England are you from?

Wilding: I’m from Ellesmere Port, Merseyside. It’s an industrial town in the shadows of Liverpool, across from the River Mersey. A cultural backwater sat on the periphery. It’s a melancholic part of England.

Nic: Can you remember what the first ever song you liked when you were a wee lad?

Wilding: Do you know that song “Agadoo”? That one. I perfected the dance moves one summer at a Butlins holiday camp in Barry Island, Wales. If you’ve seen Gavin and Stacey you’ll know the place I mean.

Nic: I sure know “Agadoo” – ‘push pineapples, something about a tree’. Butlins I’m very familiar with – a holiday camp featured in the David Essex movie That’ll Be The Day.

Wilding: I’ve heard of that film. Will have to watch it.

Nic: And the sequel Stardust. What was you mum and dad’s (or siblings) record collection like, or cd collection? Not sure what decade you grew up in.

Wilding: It was small. Dad had Elvis and Buddy Holly records and not a lot else. Mum listened to the Top 40. Strangely I vividly remember an album by ‘Slaughter and the Dogs’ – I was too scared to listen to it.

Dad was a professional musician for most of his life, so it always surprised me how little music was played at home. He played in a Liverpool band called The Remo Four, who were a big deal on the early 60s Merseybeat scene. He played with The Beatles many times. And the Stones.

Nic: It’s all making sense now! I’ve read about The Remo Four in Beatles books. Wow, that’s great DNA to have. it is odd your dad didn’t have many records. Too busy playing, maybe?

Wilding: He probably flogged them to pay for his gambling debts. Kidding – well, kind of. I’m from Dad’s second marriage. By the time I was born he’d swapped playing gigs for working on the factory floor, taking a regular wage. But later on in life he was made redundant and went back to playing music again into his sixties. So in my late teens I saw him play many times – great singer. So yes, Dad’s career and legacy definitely rubbed off on me. Although he never wanted me to be a musician. He saw it as hard work and badly paid.


Nic: Did you like the current Top 40 growing up?

Wilding: Oh loved it! Every Sunday night, Mum would listen to the BBC Radio One Top 40 countdown while doing the weekly ironing in the dining room. As a kid I used to love dumb singalong novelty pop songs. Like Star Trekking. Should I admit that? I wasn’t really exposed to cooler new music until my early teens when bands like The Stone Roses, Primal Scream and Blur started to get into the UK charts. That was when my fandom started. My mind was blown.

Nic: I could have guessed it was those bands. The “Madchester” scene and beyond. Inspiral Carpets anyone? Was there any local band that you loved that never became big?

Wilding: There’s an underrated band from Liverpool called Ooberman, who were knocking about town around the same time I was. They had an amazing song called ‘Shorely Wall’ that had a poignant, yearning spoken word coda. Something in her voice used to break my heart. Check it out.

Nic: First gig you ever went to?

Wilding: The Charlatans. They’re a 90s indie band from Manchester. Have you heard of them?

Nic: The “There’s No Other Way” Charlatans? I bought eccies off the singer at Glastonbury. Made me miss Johnny Cash!

Wilding: Hahaha! Must have been good ones then. Yeah the singer Tim Burgess. He passed out on my sofa once. The song you’re thinking of is ‘The Only One I Know’ – close. Was that your one chance in life to see Johnny Cash?

Nic: Yes. What was the first record you bought?

Wilding: Oh shit, another embarrassing admission. It was the 7-inch of ‘Anfield Rap’ sung very badly by the players from Liverpool Football Club. I was a soccer nut as a boy. I still am. I still remember all the words now. You’re making me realise that my childhood was full of novelty pop songs! This explains a lot about Wilding.


Nic: That’s one thing I noticed about English kids (and adults). They love their music and their football equally: “mad for it”.  Like Melbournians and their Aussie Rules. You’re al brainwashed to follow a team, aren’t you?

Wilding: Yeah, absolutely brainwashed. Foolish. And sadistic. I can’t get into AFL though.

Nic: What are your song writing inspirations?

Wilding: It changes. I used to enjoy drawing from my own past experiences and trying to represent them in song. Usually within a specific setting such as a bedroom, a park, a night out. But I’ve moved away from that personal perspective. I feel more detached from myself these days. So I can’t articulate myself in the same way.

My last album The Death of Foley’s Mall was inspired by the melancholy of people and buildings in my suburb of Coburg. I’m excited by the humdrum. Funnily enough, a friend told me that although Foleys Mall is written from the perspective of others, he thought it was my most personal album yet. So there must still be a lot of me left in those songs.

I suppose to outsiders my musical inspirations don’t change that much. I still like a well-crafted three-minute pop song. With a touch of English quirkiness. But I try not to follow the same formula. All my albums are quite different.

Nic: You’ve mentioned you were inspired by your suburb of Coburg for your last album – what did that actually involve?

Wilding: Yeah it was an odd but lovely time in my life. I was unemployed for several months so had more daylight hours to walk around my neighbourhood and exist outside of my work and friend bubbles. I slowed down, de-stressed and started to take in my surroundings more.

The starting point was an old man who lives on my road who sits outside his open garage all day. From what I can see the garage contains all these wonderfully tacky items I presumed he’s collected over his life – like loads of world globes and sporting trophies. He inspired me to write Time Will Pass. It’s about how I imagined his life had panned out. It also became a warning to me about my own mortality. So it started from that song. Then I became inspired to write about the people I saw around me – some I knew, some I didn’t. And with an old shopping mall being the focal point of this strange community.

I had some uncontrollable empathy at that time. Particularly for old people. And buildings. I get emotional about buildings. I think it’s something to do with being a nostalgic person.


Nic: Have any of your Foley’s Heroes heard the finished product?

Wilding: Yes! But they haven’t realised a song is about them. So far.

Nic: You seem to work closely with Robin Waters and Fabian Hunter – the engineer of your albums – since Wilding is your vision, how much of the reins do you share?

Wilding: Oh Robin’s a big part of the Wilding story. About 10 years ago now, we got talking after I played an acoustic gig at a Carlton laneway party. I managed to convince him we should record together. I think he liked my easy attitude. And I was impressed by his band The Boat People. We made the first Wilding album ‘Bird’s Bread’ in his bedroom. With one microphone, a cheap pre-amp and a bunch of mostly borrowed and found instruments. It was his first album as a producer/engineer. And Robin can play almost every instrument. So I thank my lucky stars I found him. I have such good memories of making that album.

Robin now has a home studio and works with many artists. And I’ve now branched out a bit and started working with Fabian Hunter on Foley’s Mall, who is remarkably talented. I’m actually heading into his studio again later this month to lay down tracks for what will probably be another set of Wilding songs.

Nic: You sent me a cd-r of your first album Bird’s Bread and I recall being blown away with it but at the time I was thinking of chucking the label in, so I missed the opportunity of releasing it. Is that your first ever album of your own compositions or was that in another band?

Wilding: So happy you didn’t chuck in the label Nic! I remember you emailing me to say you liked it. That was cool for me. But yes, Bird’s Bread is my first ever album.

I’d written and released songs before with bands. When I was living in Brisbane, I had a band called The Whistlestops. We called our sound ‘skiffle-pop’ but we basically wanted to sound like The Jam or Arctic Monkeys. We released an EP independently. I love the lyrics I wrote back then and our high energy live show.

When I moved to Melbourne I started a band called The Isle of Man. I’ve never mentioned this to you before Nic, but you gave our EP a HAC ‘Demo of the week’. The song was called ‘I Want My Records Back’ – do you remember it?

Nic: That’s cool. So I’ve been onto you for a while! I don’t remember that as I used to get sent so many demos. I still have the demos – I’ll have to work up the stamina to fetch it from the shed. (later: actually finds The Isle of Man demo tape in a box when feeding the chickens).

Are you in any other bands?

Wilding: I’ve got a few things on the go. I’m not really a ‘muso’ band person if you know what I mean, but I write or co-write songs in other projects.

I have a band with my friend Jack called Mirror Test. We’re both fans of 80s British guitar music so it has a darker edge to it but remains remarkably melodic and poppy. We’re getting close to finishing the album mixes. So yeah hopefully we’ll release some songs soon and play some gigs.

I also helped my brother on a killer bunch of songs. He’s so self-conscious and critical that I doubt they’ll ever get finished or released. You’d like them. Catchy as hell.

Nic: Your records feature a lot of special guests doing an assortment of things – where do you find these talents?

Wilding: It’s from my other passion. Drinking. Nah, I’m just fortunate to have some talented mates. And I’m good at following up with people when they make drunken promises they probably regret.

Nic: I like how you create the full package: songs, videos, insightful bios and, I assume. a rocking live act? Who is in the Wilding band?

Wilding: Thank you. Yeah, I like a good visual aesthetic. But it just absorbs so much of my time. I think I’ll stop making music videos now. But it was good while it lasted.

At the moment the band is just me. Covid put a dent in my full live band plans. Just when I was getting in the mood. I need a giant kick up the arse to start to organising band things again. I’ve got band mates bugging me to get together to play. So maybe soon. We had a great live show. At one point I think I had about nine people in the band. It was a pretty joyous experience.

But the band logistics and together with performance does take a bit out of me. I’d prefer it if somebody else did all the organising and I could just stay backstage until showtime. Then leave straight after the gig. Without speaking to anyone. I’d be a perfect stadium rocker.

Nic: Yeh, a manager would make life a lot easier. And a booker. And a backstage chef.


You put a lot of thought into the lyrics and how they’re very colourful and descriptive. Do you fill books of lyrics and then pick and choose what to use.

Wilding: No I don’t have a book of words independent from the songs. My initial lyrical ideas come from sitting down and playing the guitar. Sort of simultaneous with or responding to the chords I’m playing. Sometimes with a concept in mind, like for Foley’s Mall. Or developed from a line I’ve had in my head. Or a memory of a time or place. Then I go back and listen to what I’ve come up with to see if anything makes sense or any themes reveal themselves. Or if it’s all just gibberish.

I labour over lyrics actually. Many of my first drafts are quite lazy but if I like the melody then I’ll keep it and work on the lyrics later. Words are important to me. I don’t know if my lyrics are objectively any good, but I try my best to make sure they’re not bland or half-hearted.

Nic: Can you remember the first song you wrote and what became of it?

Wilding: Gosh that’s a tricky one! I used to sing unmemorable words to band jams that never really got finished. But my first fully composed song, all my own work, was after my Grandmother died. I was comparing her death to a vegetable patch. I called it ‘Seeds’. Probably the most heartfelt and cathartic song I’ve ever written. I remember burning it to a CD, but I’ve no idea where it is now. Sort of sounded like the Everly Brothers.

What was your first song?

Nic: “Suzy and the dirty feet”. I was about nine or ten. I can still sing it! But my first proper song was “Joh Bjelke Blues” about the premier of Queensland which I wrote when I was twelve in 1977. A couple of friends of mine played it one night on a Canberra radio station and I was chuffed! One of these friends was Charlie Owen, who is a pretty well-known guitarist these days.

Wilding: That’s an early age to be writing a politically themed song! Impressive. You must have been a precocious child. And perhaps are still a precocious man.

Nic: Maybe it’s ADD.  I always ask this question: tea bag or loose leaf?

Wilding: I think that’s an astute question to ask any musician. Tea is a very important element to making an album. Often the only intoxicant allowed in the studio these days.

I’m all about the loose leaf. All the varieties.

Nic: The perfect answer. If I’m ever stuck somewhere with just a tea bag, I have to add sugar to make it a whole different experience.


(photo credits: top – Elisa Bryant 2014; middle – Hamish Hartnell 2019; bottom – Lee Hooper 2012)