A life of music and sport

Arrowtowner Paul Winders. PHOTO: PHILIP CHANDLER
Arrowtowner Paul Winders. PHOTO: PHILIP CHANDLER
Already well-known as a longtime guitarist with The Verlaines, Paul Winders has added to Arrowtown’s amazing pool of talented musos since moving to the township. But he’s also impacted the lives of many young Arrowtowners through his roles at the local school. He talks to Philip Chandler about his various gigs.

As Arrowtown School’s sports coordinator and a guitarist in local bands, Paul Winders has made quite an impact during his 15 years in the township.

However, the 59-year-old’s more widely known as a guitarist for many years with seminal Dunedin band, The Verlaines.

Six months after joining the band in 1992, they recorded an album, Way Out Where, in Los Angeles.

That record’s now been remastered at London’s Abbey Road and will be re-released in vinyl on Record Store Day this Saturday.

Raised as one of eight kids on a farm just outside Invercargill, Winders says he wanted to be a teacher and a jockey when he was little.

"But then by the age of 10, I was too big to be a jockey, and then I wanted to be a race commentator."

While a pupil at Invercargill’s Sacred Heart and Verdon College, rugby was his passion, though, and he was a Southland under-age rep.

"Back then it was rugby, rugby, rugby, we didn’t know anything else."

Winders learned piano from a nun, but at 14 taught himself guitar.

"I think guitar was more my style — it’s a bit hard to lug a piano around a party."

Music took over when he went to uni and teachers college in Dunedin — those were the years, he says, when there was live music in different pubs from Tuesday till Saturday night, though unfortunately those venues mostly don’t exist any more.

After teachers college he taught in Napier for two years, then returned to Dunedin to finish his degree.

He’d been a fan of The Verlaines — formed in 1981 by Graeme Downes — and when they were looking for a guitarist, he signed on.

Winders played full-time for five years, then part-time.

He only left when he got married and had three kids, he says — "it’s no kind of life when you’ve got kids".

Meantime, he’d moved to Riverton where he was associate principal of the seaside town’s primary school for 10 years.

His artist wife Cathy Tane set up the Riverton Arts Centre, which has since been bowled as a quake risk — sadly, she died of cancer in 2007.

Winders then met and married Riverton woman Janey Wallace and moved to Arrowtown where she was living.

Meantime, he’d got into songwriting, and subsequently recorded two albums with muso mates as Paul Winders and The Goodness.

He says he thoroughly enjoys his Arrowtown School gig.

"You get to do the fun stuff, none of the serious stuff."

After an Otago Rippa Rugby tournament started, he became renowned for coaching the year-6 Rippa team which won the provincial title 10 years in a row.

That also used to mean they qualified for the nationals in Wellington — in the first year, when the team included future ski racing star Alice Robinson, they were runners-up.

Super Rugby Aupiki winger Olive Watherston was another Rippa player.

Explaining the school’s long period of domination — the comp’s since been pulled — Winders says "the younger kids see the older kids playing and they want to do what they did, too".

"Sort of pass the baton."

He also takes school camps — on a trip to Riverton this year, he had the students pull mussels off a rock then cook them in boiling water over a fire on the beach.

Another role is taking the kapa haka group.

While many kids are glued to their devices these days, he says the Arrowtown crew "all seem really outdoorsy kind of kids, and they’re always trying to get outside and run around".

Winders — who’s also been inspirational to kids learning music — plays electric guitar with local band The Crown Rangers and acoustic guitar with The Happy Sundays.

It’s great there are so many musos in Arrowtown, he says — "if you’re short of someone you just ring up one of the other guys, and there’s so many you can call on".

He says he’s "a sucker for pop songs, Kiwi bangers, mainly".

"I do find it very energising."

Another local muso says Winders almost incites the crowd when he plays.

"Incendiary would be the word I use.

"He stands on tables at the New Orleans yelling to people, ‘it’s not a f...king funeral’.

"He wants them to get the vibe."