Phuket’s Australian veteran rock guitarist Colin Hill played in the multi-genre music show The Lost Legends at the Grind Café at Underwood’s on the Bypass Road in February 2021.
Phuket Music Scene editor Andy Tong Dee interviewed him after the show for the Phuket News.
Colin, You’ve played here for 14 years now. Do you think there has been declining demand for western rock music generally around the island?
No, not at all, even though the tourist demographic has changed quite a lot in the last two years. I think the demand for loud pub rock died out a bit, but it was balanced by more acoustic style venues and melodic rock gigs.
So the volume level has gone down over the years?
In some venues, most certainly, but you adapt to still play with power and aggression where needed but at lower levels. These days I do not use amplifiers at all except for big events gigs – everything goes through the PA system, but I still pretty much sound exactly as I did in the 70s as a youngster.
Is there declining demand for full bands rather than just using backing tracks?
Yes, absolutely. It’s just an economic reality all over the world even before COVID. To stay employed we must become adaptable or go the way of the dinosaurs. When I first arrived in Phuket 14 years ago, I started as a solo act with backing tracks, but within six months I had formed a band and continued this way up until about two years ago. By then 50% of gigs had shrunk to solo or duo acts and many of these were pure acoustic style. I have had to reduce the price of the band to keep the band playing.
Has your playlist changed much over the years?
It’s totally dependent upon the venue’s choice, but not really. Classic songs from many eras are still popular, but I when add new songs they are nearly always from the 70s or 80s era. That fits into the demographic market I perform to mostly.
Do you have fewer students now who want to learn rock guitar?
No, there are still plenty of students, both young and mature, who like to learn rock guitar. I’m so proud that Nong Ten, one of my students, performed an excellent solo opening set tonight. One thing I do notice is that very few young students know about the 90s music era. Mention Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Metallica and even Nirvana and you are met with blank stares. Talk about Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Jimi Hendrix and they know who they are.
We are now in a very different world post-COVID. How are you coping?
I’m surprisingly busy. Four full days teaching and four or five gigs a week, so I am blessed but tired! I believe it is because I play a different repertoire to most acts and I make the guitar the centerpiece of everything I do. Audience turnout varies, but generally is still quite good. I am almost the last man standing from the heady times pre-COVID. Sadly, many foreign musicians have had to return home.
How do you think music is likely to change genre-wise in the future?
The rise of independent [Indie] music online will guarantee it will remain varied and healthy, but the financial returns are going to be massively reduced. A lot of pop now is computer programmed and not organic in a music sense at all. It all uses the same four chords and samples.
It seems likely we will see more Asians on holiday here and fewer and younger westerners in future. Are rock’s days numbered?
There will always be some kind of demand for any kind of music. As Neil Young said, “Rock n Roll can never die”; it will live on forever. Many of the ground breaking rock bands will go down in history on the same level as the classic composers such as Mozart. However, Pete Townsend of The Who has stated that guitar rock “has gone about as far it can go”. Yet people never seem to get tired of a three chord blues song played with feeling. It’s as organic as music can ever be, no matter where the tourist audience comes from.
So when do you plan to retire as a professional musician?
Not yet! I am still playing well enough to get standing ovations for guitar solos, which still surprises me! I still get hired for top level recording sessions with 10 albums recorded for various artists in Phuket alone and I’m busy as a guitar teacher. One day I will return to Tasmania and take up gardening or just ride motorbikes. I have done about 16,000 gigs in my life over a 48-year career with almost no breaks, all over the world, but I’m starting to feel it a bit now. But there is still life in this old dog yet!
Colin, thanks to you and to the band for such a spectacular performance tonight. I’ll be at the next one for sure!
© Andy Tong Dee
This this is part of an article that first appeared in the Phuket News. To see Colin in action, click here!
To visit Colin’s website, click here.