Kevin Borich Express lament the decline of the Aussie pub music scene

Guitarist and songwriter Kevin Borich has been in the music biz for over 50 years. He found initial success with the La De Da’s in the early ‘70s before forming Kevin Borich Express midway through the decade. 

In the early ‘80s Borich and Mondo Rock guitarist Paul Christie founded the revolving door super group, The Party Boys, which welcomed everyone from James Reyne, Ross Wilson and Graham ‘Shirley’ Strachan to the Eagles’ Joe Walsh. In the subsequent decades Borich has worked widely as a session guitarist as well as independently issuing a number of solo and Express LPs.

Kevin Borich Express will headline the Wanstock music festival in Doncaster this weekend alongside fellow ‘70s Oz rockers, Spectrum.

“We’re going to be doing all my stuff, which is what we always do, but we’re going to dig back and do a couple of songs from the [La De Da’s] Rock And Roll Sandwich album,” Borich says. “That’s the one that’s just been remastered. It was my first three-piece attempt after the La De Da’s split up. No one wanted the name and I made a business decision that I will keep the name for a while, because I’ll get more work. And it worked and we did a great album.”

A New Zealander of Croatian descent, Borich moved the La De Da’s to Sydney when he was 20 years old. The band had an Australian top ten hit in 1971 with ‘Gonna See My Baby Tonight’, a blues-influenced original that continues to feature on 1970s rock retrospective compilations today.

The La De Da’s played at the inaugural Sunbury Festival in 1972 next to the likes of Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs and the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band. Later in the decade Kevin Borich Express joined the massive Rockarena event, headlined by Fleetwood Mac and Santana, to a crowd of 40,000 people. These lofty heights might be behind him, but rock music remains Borich’s lifeblood.

“If I don’t start playing after two or three weeks I feel like something’s missing in my life,” he says. “We used to do five nights a week. I did 366 shows one year. Because I got busted so many times for speeding, we had to convince the judge that I wasn’t a hoon and that I was on the road for my livelihood, to keep my family going. 

“The Australian pub scene was fertile and wonderful. Unfortunately that has gone due to lots of reasons. A lot of them is that venues get killed by a block of flats going up next door. Live music is a social event, for people to connect and have fun. It’s great for the community and it’s great for society. And yet governments are putting in pokie machines that take the place of entertainment and cause grief in families.” 

Borich has been hailed as one of the great Australian guitarists. His fretboard finesse has led to collaborations with Renee Geyer, Dutch Tilders and Richard Clapton and onstage jams with John Mayall, Taj Mahal, Santana and Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore. 

“You look back and you go, ‘it must have been somebody else,’” he laughs. “Right place right time, like playing with Santana because I was on the bill. Michael Chugg was managing me, so that’s how I got the in to perform on there. At Sunbury, Ritchie Blackmore was on a couple of bands after us and told his guitar tech that he liked the band. Joe Walsh slept on my couch. [I also played with] Marc Hunter and Renee Geyer, Bo Diddley. 

“All that stuff is a wonderful thing to be there and experience and meet people. Joe got to know me pretty well because he stayed at our place a couple of times. I got the call after the first rehearsal and he goes, ‘Hey man you got a couch?’ He just wanted to get down with the locals. It’s been great to associate with that sort of level of people. I count myself a lucky bloke.”

Kevin Borich Express will headline Wanstock Music Festival when it goes down on Saturday March 2 at Doncaster’s Shoppingtown Hotel from 5pm. Grab your tickets via Eventbrite.