Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Mi-Sex hits the road on Titans tour

Murray Burns of Mi-Sex on stage on one of the band's recent reunion tours (Redferns)
Murray Burns of Mi-Sex on stage on one of the band's recent reunion tours (Redferns)

Veteran Kiwi rock bands Mi-Sex and Dragon hit the road with Oz rockers The Angels this weekend in a tour billed as The Return of the Clash of the Titans.

And while that title may have a ring of immortality, sadly the groups' histories don't.

All three have continued despite the deaths of their original lead singers. Mi-Sex frontman Steve Gilpin died in 1992 after a car crash, while Dragon's Marc Hunter and the Angels' Doc Neeson succumbed to cancer in 1998 and 2014, respectively.

"Yeah. It's just incredible that they have all passed," says Mi-Sex keyboardist Murray Burns. "It's very sad. But we want to keep playing music. We've had lives full of music. We're having fun."

While Angels and Dragon lineups have kept going through the years, Mi-Sex is a relatively recent revival.

The Wellington-born band effectively called it a day in the late '80s after starting off the decade with a bang - a run of hits on both sides of the Tasman including Australian No 1 Computer Games, People, and 1983 swansong Blue Day.

The reunion started a few years ago when Steve Balbi, a member of the late 80s Oz rock band Noiseworks, suggested he could be the Mi-Sex frontman.

A few private parties led to increasingly regular tours on both sides of the Tasman.

"In some ways it doesn't feel any different and the 25 years there was in between," says Burns of going back on the road. "It's hard to fathom where that 25 years has gone."

Well, Burns has spent much of the intervening period living in Byron Bay and recording screen soundtracks and other acts in his studio, a place which also operates as an unofficial museum for the many keyboards he's collected over the years.

Burns has still got the originals which pulsed behind the New Wave synthesizer-powered hits but he doesn't risk taking them on tour.

"The original analogue keyboards have a fantastic sound, but what you can put together in your bedroom on a computer also sounds amazing. I love the combination of the old and the new."

It will be back into Burns' studio after the tour for Mi-Sex to record a bunch of new songs. They've already released an EP of re-recorded old songs with Balbi on vocals, including 21st century takes on Computer Games and People.

Mi-Sex in their New Wave days (Herald archive)
Mi-Sex in their New Wave days (Herald archive)

But the new songs will be more in keeping with the original band's later period.

"Steve Gilpin's favourite vocal he ever did was Blue Day and I would say, if anything, we would be heading more in that direction as opposed to the sound of Computer Games and the box that put us into," says Burns. "Though we loved what that song did for us.

"Most bands spend 10 years to get where we found ourselves after 18 months," says Burns of Mi-Sex's hit-powered rise in New Zealand and Australia.

"I was 20, 21 years old and at the time it was quite unnerving. But [it was] also incredibly exciting to be jumping on a plane to play in front of substantial crowds."

Jumping on a transtasman airliner to play six big NZ shows might not be quite as exciting it was in 1980.

But Burns is looking forward to catching up with his fellow "Titans" as much as he looks forward to playing.

There won't be much of a "Clash". There will be some stories about the old days to swap. "Yeah. I am looking forward to the backstage hang."

Who: Murray Burns, keyboardist and original member of Mi-Sex

What: The Return of the Clash of the Titans

When and where: Auckland Town Hall Friday February 19t; Claudelands Arena, Saturday February 20; Black Barn Vineyards, Hastings, Sunday February 21; Shed 6. Wellington, Tuesday Feb 23; The Bedford Bigtop, Christchurch, Fri Feb 26; Dunedin Town Hall, Sat Feb 27.

Tickets: Ticketmaster

- NZ Herald

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