Just A Quickie with Bic Runga, the half-Maori, half-Chinese singer-songwriter from New Zealand.

How many musicians will be on stage tonight at the Band Room?


You realise the Band Room is a small hall on the moors? It could be a tight fit, Bic; apparently they're extending the stage for you.

"I like that sort of setting; intimate. We've got the average rhythm section, keyboards, two chicks singing backing vocals, and we've had been like this since November last year when I made the new album with Neil Finn.'"

Is Mr Finn, he of Crowded House and Split Enz, joining you on stage tonight?

"He couldn't do the tour because he's making his own album, but he did do the New Zealand and Australian tours with us, and he did do the album preview night when we played London."

How did Neil come to be involved in the making of the record?

"I've toured with Neil a lot. I first met him when I was 22, about eight years ago, and we've become friends since then. He's really relaxed and down to earth; you can relate to some people better musically than you can socially, but with Neil it's both.

You toured America together.

"Yes, I was the support act, and we toured on a bus with his brother Tim. I would play drums in their set when they needed a backbeat, and there was always lots of hanging around before shows when we would play music that we'd each found.

"Neil was into reggae, really skanking, dubby reggae, and I was listening to the Cambodian Cassette Archives, by psychedelic Cambodian pop artists. None of them has survived because they were all killed by Pol Pot, but their recordings have survived on tape.

"When you're trying to outdo each other with your musical tastes, it's always interesting to see what you come up with."

Did that lead to some of the instrumentation on the album?

"Neil played the psalterian, a dusty Eastern instrument that he dragged out from under his bed. It's like a zither, and when he played it, it sounded like cans blowing in the wind. It made me think of some dusty Eastern street; it has that kind of atmosphere to it and it sounds incredible."

Why did you call the album Birds?

"In Maori culture, birds are definitely from the underworld and can bring messages of death. To look at them I find them plain creepy: you know exactly what a dog is thinking, but what are birds thinking about? They're not on the same plane as us; they're nothing like us; they're like flying reptiles Yes, so why choose Birds for the title?

"I just liked the word. It's almost clumsy and hard; Birds', not A Bird' or The Birds'. Birds! I'm just aware of them as these crazy neighbours."

Bic Runga plays The Band Room, Low Mill, Farndale, tonight, sold out. Birds is available on SonyBMG/Columbia.