The ‘illy’ school of rock
the front man and driving force behind the band, has been a fixture on Phuket’s live music scene for more than a dozen years and has earned a reputation as an amazing live performer with his virtuoso electric guitar solos and matching vocal ability.
Colin arrived in Phuket those dozen years ago with a guitar, an abiding passion for the classic rock music of the ’70s and ’80s and little else.
He started out as a solo act, but it didn’t take long for him to cross paths with other talented musicians, and seeing the potential for putting together some truly epic live performances, he founded his eponymous band and they’ve been rocking Phuket ever since.
Colin soon noted that to succeed he would have to be fully legal under Thailand’s stringent standards for foreign workers. He is one of only a handful of Western musicians in Phuket that have undertaken the lengthy process of creating a Thai company and obtaining a work permit that allows him to perform.
Over the years the band has mutated and evolved into a tightly knit live act that really know how to get the crowd up and moving.
They have put out an album of original and cover songs but they are perhaps better known for their distinct and unique covers of some of the most popular rock songs of all time.
He has also played on, recorded and co-produced five CDs for international artists who chose to record in Phuket and use the band as the foundation of their albums.
“My whole band is an international band, we’ve got Thai, Filipino, South African, Japanese, Belgian and Italian members – it’s a united nations band.A lot of musicians have come and gone, so it’s always been in a state of flux and evolution.”
“But we’ve had the nucleus of the band going for 10 years, so the band is very tight, and definitely one of the best and most versatile bands on the island, performing anything from dinner music, pub rock, corporate events, weddings and as a full backing for visiting international artists,” says Colin.
“A lot of bands in Phuket tend to play the same material, same songs, same ways… I’ve been lucky enough to run my band a little bit differently. We’ve got an album out and many YouTube clips and so on, which helps set us apart from the usual cover bands.
“We play fully live, so there’s no backing tracks, no cheating, and no machines, laptops or USB sticks. We don’t copy songs, we do our own unique version… we’ll do, say, Born To Be Wild – the classic Steppenwolf hard rock song – but do an acoustic version. The whole band is multi-instrumental so we have a very ‘big’ sound even as a three-piece, and huge sound as five- or six-piece,” says Colin.
Colin’s love of playing guitar has been a lifelong obsession and one he wants to share with the next generation. Having performed all over the globe in cover, tribute and original bands, and alongside some major international stars, his wide-ranging musical experience is impressive.
But back in his home country of Australia, before his music career took off, he worked as a high-school teacher – another passion that has never left him.
“The plan was always to go back to teaching out after I got music ‘out of my system’, but 40 years later I’m still doing it. I never stopped teaching though, and apart from being a working musician, I teach guitar, from beginner to very advanced and bass from beginner to intermediate levels. I also do private tutoring in English, Social Science and Geography, basically anything but Maths and Science,” says Colin.
His approach to teaching both music and academics is all about direct one-on-one contact with his students, which he says enables him to tailor his teaching to their specific needs and accelerate the rate at which they master the curriculum.
“You can’t beat the one-on-one or very-small-group tutoring situation. I teach the Australian Home School Curriculum, which is a recognised diploma course, and I specialise in students from Grades 7 to 10. A lot of my students are the children of expats who have moved around a lot, they’ve had to move schools several times and school is just not working out for them.
“My students could be kids that are falling behind or the parents are just not happy with what school is offering. With home schooling it doesn’t matter where you do your education, if you pass the exams then it is the same, or better, as going through a school.
“Here in Phuket, I say there’s lots of teachers and there are lots of musicians, but there are not many who can do both!” he says with a laugh.