For me – Kevin Borich is an underrated and undervalued resource of the Australian Music Industry and before reading any further you should know that this article is written in three parts because I thought it necessary for my own sanity to do so and to try to introduce a quick insight into my experiences with the man on all three levels as easily as I could without losing your interest – The bit for those who don’t know him, the interview and the gig attendance…
There have been many times recently when in conversation with muso’s I mention the name Kevin Borich and the reply is either a blank look or a “Who?”. Sure – there’s a gender gap – I get that, but now is the time new artists should be leaning on those legends still living amongst us, those who have travelled through the generations of change within the industry and whom are most humble and willing to share their knowledge and experience. Who is he you ask…?
Kevin Borich is a New Zealand born Australian guitarist and singer-songwriter. He was a founding member of both the The La De Das (NZ) and The Party Boys and is now the leader of Kevin Borich Express. He has performed at some of Australia’s biggest rock events as well as support shows for international acts including Status Quo and Jeff Beck.
Among some of the awards he has received are the Australian Rock Music Awards for best guitarist in 1977 & 1978, The Australian Blues Music Festival Heritage Award in 1999 and he was inducted into the Australian Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 2003.
In Australian Rock History Borich remains one of Australia’s greatest guitar players and song writers.
Now a septuagenarian and a cancer survivor, Kevin Borich is still touring, and I was going to see him at his Canberra gig but beforehand I was able to catch up with him pre-show and ask a few questions:
AA: In 1975, Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple) joined you for a jam at “Berties” in Melbourne. How did that make you feel?
KB: Well I felt very surprised, because I invited Richie via his Guitar Tech, after his tech said to me that Richie really enjoyed our performance at the Sunbury Festival. Deep Purple played after our set. – So when Richie & his tech came through the packed crowd at “Berties” I was thrilled to bits to be jamming with a great guitar hero such as him. After he thanked us, and we had a great chat all friendly like.
AA: In 1977 when you were supporting the Rock Arena Tour you received an invitation to play onstage with Carlos Santana…How cool was that?
KB: So cool — in-front of 60,000 Aussies, a sea of faces, who went completely nuts as Carlos introduced me as I walked out on stage, his guitar tech then slinging one of Carlos’s guitars on me. You can’t forget a moment like that.
AA: Where would you most like to perform and who would you most like to collaborate with next that you haven’t already?
KB: At the moment I’m doing a new bunch of songs – so far, the great Tim Rogers has sung a duet with me on a new rock song & the wonderful Russell Morris has also sung a duet on another. Doug Parkinson has agreed to do one yet to be done, & there’s a few other artists I’m about to ask as well, so it’s very exciting and I’m so grateful for those who have come on board.
AA: Kevin Borich Express continues to tour Australia and appear in festivals…Do you ever think that’s enough and consider retiring?
KB: No, I can’t retire, I love doing live shows and writing the songs that present their puzzle. If My Health is good & I’m able, it’s onward to the horizon.
AA: If you weren’t singing, what would you be doing?
KB: Ummmmmm Ummm well I love working outdoors – maybe a groundsman, maybe a mentor… Maybe songwriter ??? lol
AA: Despite a very active live music scene in Canberra we find that artists bypass the city on their tours, but this is not the first time we’ve been included on one of yours – What do you like most about performing here?
KB: Well, unfortunately, the live music scene is not what it used to be – I have a section in my book I’m writing that shows how many shows I was doing in the early 70’s/ 80’s – its amazing how many venues there was, mainly Hotels which is now known as the “Great Aussie Pub Scene” – I did 366 shows one year back in those days, we did doubles, daytime shows at Uni’s, and some Schools. I love playing where ever people want me, I’m committed to service.
AA: If you could change anything about the Australian music industry, what would it be?
KB: I’d make it mandatory that commercial radio would have to have a percentage of Australian content to help Australian Artists “of all ages”. Also have it so our live music venues were cultivated and assisted by Government as a community service for the people. Live music helps communities, it doesn’t destroy families like poker machines do. The governments make too much money out of those machines which shows how much they care for families.
The show did not disappoint. Held at ‘The Basement’ in Canberra, ACT (Pictures used in this article are from this gig).
It was what I’d term a medium crowd in attendance and the show started with a local support band – ‘The Roger Bone Band’ who were popular enough to incite some dancing with their hard rock originals.
After a short interlude, on stage were – Kevin Borich (Lead Guitarist, Lead Vocals), Chris Gilbert (bass, backing vocals) and Jon Carson (drums, backing vocals) who collectively make up Kevin Borich Express.
I was lucky enough to get a position right in front of Kevin and noted the atmosphere had changed among the punters with a surge forward toward the stage and with an apparent eagerness to see and hear this artist in action. I must confess though – I am not in favour of wearing beer/spirits perfume – thanks guys!!
Kevin Borich Express delivered just what they had promised and what I both expected and hoped for. We are treated to a set list spanning decades of writing. For me some familiar tunes and others new to my listening repertoire all tarred with the mastery of Kevin Borich shredding and sliding his way across the guitar strings and ably supported by Chris and Jon. As I look around, I see there is not one punter standing still and even up where the pool tables are the leg balanced in the air is tapping a beat!
After the main set and a brief rest period albeit only for the artists because come hell or high water they were being called upon by the punters for more of this magic in an encore performance. Kevin obliged the enthusiastic crowd with not one encore track but three proving he was a stalwart from another generation where stamina was key in every performance.
The night for me concluded with the purchase of the 2015 self-released double album – ‘Totem’ which Kevin signed for me. Totem is a great album full of blues/rock tracks with intense guitar riffs and a bit of funk on one disk and a Jazzier/Blues vibe on the other.
So, there you have it…a brief insight into the life of one of Australia’s greatest and most humble legends of rock but of course there are more stories to be told and more music to be had all of which can be found here: – www.kevinborich.com.au