After work, when his toddler twins go to sleep, Burgess transforms into songwriter and lead guitarist for the UK-based hard rock band Scattering Ashes.
Burgess brings the metal to the Jaguar studio. He was the lead designer on the Jaguar XF and its devilish sibling, the Jaguar XFR-S, a car as low and growling as the fat minor chords Burgess picks. In a video featuring its song Cut Me Down a cadre of Jaguars XFRs blaze through streets and industrial backlots.
“I’ve always moved from one artistic form to another and felt comfortable doing it,” Burgess said. Freehand drawing came naturally to Burgess, who was fascinated by cars growing up in Stoke-On-Trent, but who never thought of automotive design as a career. “As with music, there are certain things you can learn and be taught and there are other things that are God-given talent that you’re born with, singing being one of them, which I can’t do. But drawing being one that I can.”
It was Burgess’ music, in fact, that facilitated his exposure to automotive design. A college instructor who was a fan of his band recommended him for car design program at Coventry University. He joined Jaguar 15 years ago.
“There’s some things in life where you really enjoy, where there is freedom of expression and a little bit of chaos,” he said. “I think when it comes to my music I like the fact that it’s loud an expressive and visceral. When it comes to design and designing cars specifically, I find I’m very restrained. It’s the lines that you don’t put on the car that are more important than the lines you do put on the car.”
Though there is a tendency in the automotive industry to anoint and celebrate individual designers, Burgess says the collaborative process in the studio is what he thrives on. “I love the social aspect of creation,” he says. And then there are the perks of befriending metal-smitten Jaguar fans including Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden and Billy Duffy from the Cult.
His boss, Jaguar design director Ian Callum, encourages Burgess’ darker ambitions. “Ian said, ‘Isn’t it strange you’ll encourage chaos in one element of your life and seek absolute discipline in another?’ I think it does apply to a lot of creative people, whatever medium they’re working in.”
But the XFR-S may be the car that best demonstrates the yin and yang of Burgess’ character. “The beauty is that you’ve got this very aggressive, very purposeful car that still looks like a Jaguar, but it’s got this extra level of menace and purpose to it that a normal car just doesn’t have,” he said.
Lest he be thought of only as the rocker car designer, Burgess cultivates yet another extracurricular pursuit: painter. “As I’ve become older I’ve wanted to embrace the peripheral artist stuff, music being one, but also just painting,” he says. “I’m quite happy to be a jack-of-all-trades.”