the only place to get Kevin's music
Few musicians in this country are held in such high esteem as Kevin Borich. As one of the greatest blues guitarists to emerge on the Australasian music scene in the late sixties and early seventies, Borich forged an enviable career with his band The La De Das, with his own solo projects and working alongside the cream of the crop both locally and internationally. His career has spanned five decades and the man shows no sign of stopping yet. But these days, the fast paced lifestyle of Bondi, in Sydney’s trendy eastern suburbs, has given way to the serenity of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland. “Bondi was great when we were there,” he explains “because we could get out more and I was working more. But then the kids came along, and then all the work dried up for music and we thought, ‘Well, it’s time to go.’ And we moved up here. It’s great up here, very peaceful.”
The Borich family has been living on their little patch of paradise for about ten years now. “We’ve just got some virgin land – about eighty acres - out at the end of the road through the bush and we’ve got a beautiful view of the valley. It’s like New Zealand over here!” Kevin, of course, hails from the Land of the Long White Cloud. “Basically, I’ve just got a little hobby orchard with some apples. I grew up on an apple farm and I want to grow some organic veggies so I had a go at doing that. And I have a studio here.”
The studio does get a bit of a workout but, he adds, “It’s not a commercial one. I’ve done a couple of albums for people who are close friends but it’s basically for myself to rehearse with the band when I’ve got work coming up or tour or whatever and I record all my stuff there.”
At the moment, he is in the process of rerecording some old songs. “Before I had cancer in 2005, I was working on that and the cancer came along and it basically took a year out of my life. But I got over that and it’s been full on work to try and catch up, which we have. And now I’m getting back to finishing those songs plus I’ve been writing stuff so it will be a mixture of older ones and new ones. I’m not going to put a deadline on it. I’d rather just casually do it when inspiration comes and when we get the boys up to do it. I’ve had my son up. Lucius is my son. He plays in a band called COG. I’ve just done a tour with him. There were quite a few young people from his fan base and they are taken aback by the energy! They think thirty five is old! The best accolade I had was from one chap, not on this tour but a few tours ago when I was working with my regular drummer. He came over, all wide-eyed, and he said ‘You shit on all the bands I listen to!’ and I thought ‘Now there’s a good accolade!’ Here’s a sixteen year old kid and his dad was always telling him about it and he’d never heard of me.” Borich laughs. “That’s one of my favourite quotes! He hadn’t been indoctrinated by the media or the TV or anything like that. He’d just come along with Dad and we blew him away. So that meant a lot to me.”
Working with his son has been a wonderful experience for the performer and the proud parent is brimming with deserved praise for his talented son. “He knows all my stuff, plus some new ones that are going to be on that next CD and he’s just a brilliant drummer! I’m trying to get him to go overseas and work over there because he’s just that calibre of musician.”
Echoing the sentiment of many other musicians, Kevin says that the live pub circuit is ‘a bit slow’ at the moment. “I’ve been talking to people and they say there’s not a lot going on because of the recession and everything. We had our best times in the seventies and eighties. Pubs are not putting on live bands anymore because of the poker machines, noise restrictions and all the rest of it. We went through a great cycle back then and now live music has a lot of competition with computers, stay-at-home entertainment and that sort of thing and it’s quite a bit tougher these days. It’s not like the seventies and eighties when you could go to a pub and they had a great PA system and bands like Midnight Oil and The Angels and other great pub bands like INXS came up through there. You could work a lot in front of people and now a lot of those venues are gone. Now it’s more sporadic. There seem to be more festivals these days.”
And, sadly, there always seems to be a cause in need of help these days. Artists seem to be inundated with requests to give their time and service to any of a number of benefit concerts and such. “And some of them are very heart wrenching and tragic.” Kevin admits with a sigh. “It seems that life is full of horrible things and it becomes quite depressing if you start to analyse it. You’ve got to keep positive about things. You know, there’s the cancer thing and I do all I can for that. I’ve actually got a cancer page on my website so, for people who are going through something like that or know somebody or caring for somebody, it’s probably worth reading what my wife has to say about how we dealt with it. I was lucky to find mine early because it showed itself through the lymph gland in my neck. So that was a warning and a lot of people don’t have that advantage because it’s internal. We got it early but it was a rare one and they flattened me with radiation and chemo and it took me a long time to get over the after effects of that.”
But Kevin does not just attribute his recovery to the chemotherapy and radiation alone. “It was that and reading a book by Ruth Cilento. We did a lot of alternative things in diet and quite a ferocious onslaught of vegetable juice and raw carbs with the juice and things like this that actually had a positive effect on my immune system. But even Ruth, she was eighty years old when I talked to her on the phone, said ‘You’ll still need radiation for the cancer you’ve got because it’s so aggressive that all the stuff I suggest will help but it won’t knock it on the head.’ I’ve kept up the regime. I’ve given up sugar and all the sweet stuff. No sugar. I love sugar. It’s hard to do. It’s like giving up smoking, apparently. I believe that’s hard to do but I’m a non smoker. But you’d always be breathing in smoke at gigs. But I guess you can’t put it down to that. It actually came when I’d move up here to a pristine area but it was before smoking laws and all that.”
Kevin is also thankful to his wife, Melissa, for all her support throughout this difficult time. “I was lucky to have a woman who stood by me and who was very, very helpful because when you’re going through chemo and all these health regimes, you’re a bit shell shocked. You need a carer and there are a lot of people without a carer.”
Now, five years on from his diagnosis, life is much better and he is moving forward. “I’m fine. You wrestle with your mood or whatever and it’s effected my hearing as well. I’ve been thinking of getting a hearing aid. Of course, I’ve been doing forty years of rock and then this thing came along and flattened out my top end even more! I was going to try one of these hearing aids. It was $10,000 for the top range hearing aid. Can you believe it?” he laughs. “I just did Rockwiz at Toowoomba and they asked a question but I heard the wrong thing. It’s funny. It’s hilarious how it happened. I think they’ll have a good laugh about it when they see it.”
So, did he know the answer? “I knew the answer to what I thought she was saying! It’s about a lyric to a song. She (Julia Zemiro) would say a word and people would have to sing a part of the song that the word would be in. She said ‘crying’ and I thought she said ‘time’ so I started singing ‘Time Is On My Side’ by The Rolling Stones. I was really quick. I thought ‘Fantastic! I won!’ and I start singing ‘Time is on my side’ and the look on her face as she’s waiting for me to get to the word ‘crying’ and it’s just not coming because it’s not in the song! And then Brian Nankervis says ‘Oh, I know what’s happened here. He thought you said ‘time’ instead of ‘crying’!’ It was hilarious!”
In over forty years in the industry, Borich has met and worked with some pretty amazing people, including some of his heroes. He was more than happy to share some of his stories from those days.
“There are all these great memories in the memory bank but sometimes you need a bit of a nudge for them to come out,” he declared. So, yes, I did nudge the memory bank and some rather impressive recollections came pouring out…
“I saw Bo Diddley some time ago on Rock Around the Clock,” he recalled “And I actually got to jam with him at Bombay Rock many years later. And I had a great, funny thing on stage when I was sitting in the VIP area and Michael Gudinski was sitting at the next table and he had something to do with bringing him out here and Bo was playing and Michael said ‘Get up and play with him.’ So he got one of his boys to organise it and I got up on stage and I noticed that the guy backing him was playing in an open slide tuning, which is a different tuning to a normal tuning, and so I picked up the guitar, whacked on the slide and had a big grin on my face and Bo looked over at me and he said ‘You better tune that guitar, boy!’ and I said ‘It’s cool!’ and he just didn’t think I knew and he said ‘You better tune that guitar!’ And we just looked at each other and he had this dirty look on his face and I was smiling and bouncing around like a punk, going ‘Yeah, come on!’ and he just kind of tossed his head to the side and said ‘This kid doesn’t know what’s going on.’ And he launched into his song and I launched into it with him and, of course, after a couple of bars, his head turned around and he had this big smile on his face and away we went!”
“And the Santana concert was a big one for me because of the magnitude of the crowd. It was 60,000 people at Calder Raceway in Melbourne and I was standing at the side of the stage after I had done my set before Santana went on and he looked across at me and beckoned me over. I looked over my shoulder, thinking he was looking at somebody else and then a roadie comes up and grabs me and takes me on stage. The crowd went nuts and that was about ‘75 I think and, in the ‘80s, they came out again and Paul Dainty got in touch with me and said ‘Would you like to come to the Entertainment Centre and play with Carlos?’ and I said ‘Fantastic!’ and I went down there and Buddy Miles was playing with him on that tour. He used to play drums for Jimi Hendrix and so the closest I ever got to Jimi Hendrix was Buddy Miles’ big bum!”
Some of his greatest memories are of playing with local artists from his era. That list includes top names like Renee Geyer, Ross Wilson, Joe Camilleri and, of course, The Party Boys. “All the great singers we had with The Party Boys!” he reminisced. “Joe Walsh slept on my couch. He came out with The Party Boys. Paul Christie had the idea for The Party Boys and I thought of the name and the two of us got it going. He got Joe to come out. Joe was in Sydney rehearsing and I get a phone call. He’s in a hotel and he says (Kevin does his best Joe Walsh impersonation and, I have to say, it’s spot on!) ‘Hi man! Joe here. Hey, you got a couch?’” “I said ‘Yeah’ and he said ‘Mind if I come over and sleep on your couch?’ True story! We did the tour, I got to know him and it was really great and then before the last tour when they came out, about four or five years ago, I get this call from Luke Everingham, who runs a festival back of Taree on a hundred acres of cattle farm. It’s just this little festival that I’ve played at where there’s only about 500 people and you camp and you play in this cow shed sort of thing. So, he rings me up and he says ‘You know Joe Walsh. Why don’t you ring him up and ask him to play at our festival?’ and I said ‘Mate, you’re joking, aren’t you? Joe Walsh play for 500 people out the back of Taree?’ So, I emailed Joe and he comes back and says (again, Kevin does his best Joe Walsh voice.) ‘Yeah man! I’m gonna be in London, doing some shows on my own and I’ll come back there and it’ll just be before The Eagles tour of Australia and I’ll come and stay with you.’ And so he did! He slept for two days. We flew to Sydney and drove all the way to Taree from there. And he sat in the back of the car with his roadie and you could see the looks they gave each other the longer we drove, with all the stage gear in a trailer at the back. It was a long way from the way he usually tours! And so, there we were in Taree, playing in a cow shed with Joe Walsh! It’s on my website. Joe’s such a great character. He’s got this great song, ‘Life’s Been Good’ and it’s got this line ‘Just leave a message, maybe I’ll call.’ He doesn’t really call very often. He just got married again, to Ringo Starr’s wife’s sister. A lot of people think, the way he talks and carries on, he sounds like he’s drugged out but that’s just the way he is. He’s been straight now for about fifteen years. He’s a very intelligent guy. His father was a code breaker in the war and you’ve got to be smart to be able to break codes.”
Kevin Borich humbly acknowledges the part his music has played in inspiring many promising musicians to pick up a guitar and pursue their dream. “I seem to push a few buttons that are right with people.” he concedes. “People always mention the word ‘passionate’. You might not be the greatest guitar player in the world but what you’re doing is enough to push their buttons. It makes you feel good to know that you’ve actually touched people’s lives and it gives you an extra boost to know that what you’re doing has given them inspiration. And it’s nice that people actually take the time to let you know. Times are tough but you’re buoyed by this influx of people saying ‘you’ve gotta keep going!’ I’m very grateful that I can. I’m very lucky to have something to do that I’m passionate about. It’s not just a mundane exercise. It’s a ‘luck’ thing to be born with something that you can follow through with as a dream and turn it into a reality.”
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © 2010 Sharyn Hamey All Rights Reserved.
Last updated by Rock Club 40 Apr 8, 2013.