Interview: Kevin Bloody Wilson, Rhythm and Roots

Kevin Bloody Wilson, a man with a mission.

Kevin Bloody Wilson, a man with a mission.

Kevin Bloody Wilson is a busy man.

Australia’s master of ‘bawdy’ comedy plays around 120 shows a year – a heavy schedule which takes him all over the world, including Canada where he has a sizeable cult following.

Prior to last year’s Canadian tour, he filled out his Performing Artist Visa Application and ticked the R-Rated box in order to advise audiences that his show was intended for mature audiences. His application was duly processed and approved on the proviso that he refrain from using the word c**t, a word whom authorities advised him was not acceptable in Canada.

On the opening night of his tour in Toronto he stepped out on stage and debuted a new song, You Can’t Say C**t in Canada which featured the refrain ‘but you can say gateway to her guts / fury noose / velvet purse among many other local colloquialisms for female genitalia.  The audience went wild and the song has gone onto become something of a Canadian cult standard.

Born Dennis Bryant in Sydney in 1946, he moved to Western Australia in his early 20s where he found work as an electrician at the Kalgoorlie Gold Mine. He later formed a Country and Western band called Bryan Dennis and the Country Club.

Music became the focus of life and between gigs he hosted a country music show on a local television channel. He was sacked in 1980 for playing a parody song he had written called Heaving on a Jet Plane. At a loose end he packed up his belongings and headed for the bright lights of Perth where he discovered an audience for his irreverent brand of comedy.

His first album, a self-financed affair called Your Average Australian Yobo, went onto sell some 30,000 copies and a new career was born. He has since released 13 other albums and owns his own recording and production facility in Wanneroo in Western Australia.

Kevin Bloody Wilson, while most famous for his parody music, is in fact and accomplished musician with serious songwriting credentials.  The Genie in the Bottle is a country song Kevin co-wrote with Adam Harvey that spent more than 6 weeks on the Australian Country Singles chart as well as reaching the number one video spot on the Country Music Television Channel in 2000.

His latest project is called Rhythm and Roots, a made for television documentary that traces the musical genres hat have inspired him through the course of his life. At each destination, New Orleans for Jazz, Chicago for the Blues and so forth, Kevin wrote a ‘proper’ song in the appropriate style and each song was recorded by a legend of the genre.

The idea was inspired by Kevin’s good mate the Foo Fighters Dave Grohl’s two documentary projects Sound City and Sonic Highways and with a little advice from Dave set about putting his own show together. With 12 one hour episodes it was a mammoth task that Kevin funded from his own pocket. “There is public money available in Australia for these kinds of projects but I didn’t need it. As I was planning the project I thought why take money that some other bugger needs more than me so I financed it myself.” He went onto explain that his comedy career had been very good to him and he wasn’t short of a “bob or two.”

This labour of love that explores where the music came from, where it is today, and where it’s headed in the future is due to be broadcast across Australia midway through next year.

It was while talking about the New Orleans segment of the documentary that Kevin revealed his love for Louis Armstrong and it gave me an opportunity to tell him a story about the Founder Theatre in Hamilton, one of the venues he is playing through the course of latest NZ tour.

Armstrong, an American music icon, played the Founders in 1962, his one and only ever concert in Hamilton. Local Armstrong fan and raconteur Dr Richard Swainson wanted to commemorate the occasion and in 2013 succeeded in getting the city’s permission to erect a plaque in memory of the event. During the course of his research Swainson unveiled a host of interesting details regarding Armstrong’s concert. Arriving in the city late in day, all the cafe and eateries were closed, (this was 1962 NZ remember), so Armstrong purchased some bread and luncheon meat from a Dairy and went about making sandwiches for the band. Armstrong was also carrying two cases. One contained his ‘pot stash’ the other a host of careful folded handkerchiefs. These had been dusted with cocaine and allowed Armstrong the opportunity to take a surreptitious hit while on stage in the guise of wiping the phlegm from his mouth between breaks in playing.

Kevin was delighted with these little nuggets of information and we finished the interview with a frank discussion about the iconic Founder’s Theatre. With the city intent on decreasing its debt load, (the city spent some $70million building the Claudelands arena which opened in 2011), the Founders, which has been superseded by the more up to date Claudelands, may be closed for economic reasons.
Kevin: “You tell the council they are bloody idiots. That’s a world class venue and a very special performance space. I have played there many times and I love it.”

Me: “Kevin Bloody Wilson, you’re a top bloke.”

Kevin: “Too bloody right I am.”

Kevin Bloody Wilson is touring NZ through November and December and promises a “whole shit load of new material” plus the classics.

Check out the full interview in audio:



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