JUSTIN BURFORD The X-Press Interview

Justin Burford is on a roll right now, with upcoming shows in the multi award winning End of Fashion after a seven year hiatus, a new album on the way, and an appearance as Jim Morrison in Perth Symphony Orchestra’s show Love Him Madly: The Doors Reimagined, which promises to be a highlight of the Perth music calendar in 2019. NATALIE GILES sat down for a chat with Burford to get the lowdown. Catch End of Fashion at The Aardvark on Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27 and Love Him Madly: The Doors Reimagined on Friday, August 2 at His Majesty’s Theatre.

Let’s start with what you’ve been up to. How was your recent trip to LA?

It’s such an inspiring place to be. It’s always funny coming from a place like Perth, which is beautiful but fairly limited in its capacity to keep a creative career buoyant, and then you go there and you’re in a town which is entirely hinged on creativity. So just being there is always incredibly exciting and the energy is something I really miss. I’m really looking forward to getting back there as soon as I can.

So what made you go there? Was it to get inspired to write?

I had a few writing things lined up, but I’ve got some mates that live there too, like a band buddy from Cloud Control, and Ben Lee is there now, so it was about catching up with them. I had some dudes here hook me up with some co-writing guys there but to be honest, it wasn’t much I ended up using for the End of Fashion stuff from those sessions. But seeing these guys work was really motivating and it really fuelled the tank.

What else did you get up to over there?

Well, you saw that Delta Airlines lost my guitar on the way over… never got it back, which I’m still pretty upset about. So that meant that I couldn’t do a couple of gigs I had lined up when I first got there. But I did play a solo gig at The Viper Room and an acoustic spot where Guns N’ Roses first got their start.

Fucking amazing! But what inspired you to write more End of Fashion after a seven year break?

Ok, so here’s the story. I bought like a little home studio setup about four or five years ago and started doing some stuff with some mates on a little project called Coco Blu, with a really different sound. It was meant to be a vintagey sounding lost record from the 1960s but with a futuristic bent. But in the process of that, anything that came out sounding a little bit more like rock got sidelined.

Before I went away to LA, because I just needed to get out and go see some friends, I thought, I’ll take some music with me so I consolidated all of the music I’d been recording in the last few years and came across a whole bunch of demos that were definitely more of an End of Fashion sound. I took some of those ideas over and put them in front of some writers but ultimately came home, reinvented them and rewrote some parts and it gave me a good kick up the bum about what I wanted to do with End of Fashion. Until less than a year ago, I wasn’t remotely interested in End of Fashion. It was done, as far as I was concerned. But then I went, shit, there’s something in here.

So it’s an accidental album?

Well my heart wasn’t in it until I heard the sound and it just has this unapologetic, feelgood kind of rock that’s a little left of centre, and you know what, Nat? This is the ultimate lesson in never say never. Cos if you’d asked me a year ago if this would happen, I would have said no way, DONE. DONE! But I’m feeling really good and excited about it. It’s not just like a “bank account is looking pretty piss poor, I’d better put some End of Fashion music out”, because trust me, we don’t make a lot out of it anyway!

Who’s in the new line-up and what can fans expect of your upcoming shows?

So we’ve got Nathan Sproule on drums and Julian Dudman on guitar and we just introduced Anthony Jackson (ex-Birds of Tokyo) on bass and he’s killing it. He’s just owned his place. But yeah, we’re looking at possibly four new songs in the set next Friday night and we’re possibly looking at putting in a song from Holiday Trip of a Lifetime (2012 album) which we never got to tour and never promoted so we’ve never played any of those songs live so that’s a first! Especially because that’s probably my proudest body of work.

So let’s talk about your upcoming appearance with PSO in Love Him Madly: The Doors Reimagined. I know this is your second outing with them after Unplugged: Nirvana Reminagined’s massive success. What’s it like working with powerhouse women like Jessica Gethin (PSO Conductor) and Bourby Webster (PSO Founder and CEO)?

Oh yeah, it’s amazing! Bourby has such a vision in what she puts together. I’m almost just an actor, or the performer. Especially with this show. She really knew what she wanted to put forward in terms of interpreting his music and the time The Doors existed in, so she’s using a lot of visuals and directing the way the arrangements go. I get to just enjoy the ride and bring my interpretation of Jim and how I’m going to place my vocals in there. It just turns over and around me and I can sit there safely knowing that it’s going to be really great.

From what I’ve read, there’s a heavy emphasis on the psychedelic culture of the time. How does that play into it? I’m assuming there’s a lot of trippy lighting and effects?

Nah, we’re just dropping psychedelics into everyone’s drinks, you know… [laughs] try the tea! Enjoy the mushroom canapes! I don’t want to spoil it. But I know she’s got some really cool tricks up her sleeve in terms of lashing the performance to the visuals. There’s a lot of psychedelia in the arrangements themselves. I’m hoping that people walk away going, Justin was amazing as Jim Morrison [laughs] but more than that, wowing at what an orchestra can actually do. Which is what PSO’s entire mantra is. An orchestra is not a bunch of musicians playing dead musicians’ arrangements for old people.

So obviously you’re used to portraying Jim in your turn with tribute band LA Women. How do you bring him to life onstage?

Hey, I can’t be held responsible for what Mr Morrison does onstage. That’s not me, man, take it up with him!

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