Marcus Phillips

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He is also an incredibly talented musician, is the son of a famous Australian actress, and can even pilot an aeroplane! We sat down and got him to share a bit about himself, his inspiring family and his love of music.

Hey Marcus; what brought you to the Coffs Coast?

I was working as a designer in Brisbane, and my wife actually won the top scholarship to do a PhD with the University of New England in Armidale. So, we moved out of Brisbane and bought a place in Uralla, which is 22 km south of Armidale. I originally was still working in Brisbane and travelling back and forth, but that became untenable. So, I got a job in Tamworth for a couple of years, and then the people that own the company I’m with now heard about me. They got in touch and wanted me to open a showroom in Coffs and run it for them, which is what I’ve been doing now for almost six years.

Not a lot of people know that you are also a musician. When did you first get into music?

I started playing guitar when I was six years old; I had classical guitar lessons with a local teacher for a while and then went on to the Conservatorium. I went to England after that – my parents deported my brother and I for a while … it didn’t work though! We found our way back after three years! But other than that little break, I was playing guitar pretty constantly and when I came back, I joined my first band; I think I was 15 or 16 years old. I was also accepted into the Academy of Guitar in Bondi with John Andrews, who was quite a famous jazz guitar player and George Golla. 

I continued playing with different bands – quite a few well known bands back in the day! My brother was a drummer, by the way, so we’ve had lots of bands together. He’s an excellent drummer – one of the best in Australia, in my opinion. 

Then the whole design thing took off, and I left music alone for a few years. After a while though, I started getting back into it again, then my brother and I started a band called Funk Brothers, which became quite well known.

What is your favourite type of music, and how would you describe your style of music?

My favourite music is fusion, jazz/rock fusion, and that’s people like the later Miles Davis stuff, John John McLaughlin, George Duke, Herbie Hancock. And the closest genre to that is actually ‘70s funk, so that’s why we started the band called Funk Brothers Inc … or the FBI (we actually dressed in FBI style suits too!) We were a corporate band; it just didn’t appeal to me to get about 100 bucks for doing five hours in a pub and carrying amplifiers down the back stairs at 2am, so we got a good agent and did mostly big corporate gigs. The money was much better, and they’d even feed us! And, that’s what we did for years – it worked beautifully. 

We did other big gigs too; like, we used to do seven day stints at Twin Towns on the Gold Coast. We also had a permanent gig for about a year for Gill Hooley’s Irish pub in Brisbane City, and we got a real following from doing that, actually. 

So, you’re getting back into it now – you’re trying to form a new band, is that right?

Yeah, I’m thinking about it – not that there’s a big avenue for bands in Coffs Harbour. I believe the criteria for really getting a band off the ground is having a population of a million people. But what I’m thinking of doing is, and I’ve got a couple of local guys interested in giving it a go, maybe to aim to do festivals and things like that – like the Bellingen Winter Music Festival and the Thredbo Blues and Roots Festival. To do all of those sorts of music festivals is probably where we’d like to head. The idea for the new band name came from when I was in Uralla for the seventh year, and I came up with the name The Seventh Winter, which I thought was a pretty cool name!

Are you looking for more members for this band?

Yes! I’m on the hunt for a really good keyboard player – someone who can do string lines and brass stabs and things like that, because, it’s that sort of music really. We also need a great singer, or singers! I like meeting talented locals! 

You have a pretty interesting family; can you tell us a bit about your parents’ story?

Yeah! My parents were Ten Pound Poms. When they came over here, my father worked as a carpenter for the ABC building sets, and he ended up being a producer and director with the ABC for years. My mother is an unbelievably talented and creative person; she can paint oil painting portraits to look like a photograph! She’s an amazing piano player, singer, dancer … 

She was actually the first woman on Australian television! A bloke came on first and welcomed everybody to television in Australia, and then my mother did a Charleston dance. She then went on to join a singing troupe called the Review 20 for a television program – called Review 61, I think. She went from there to going on the panel of Beauty and the Beast, which was a famous television show back then; it was a daytime show that had a panel with people like Dita Cobb, Maggie Tabberer, quite famous names at that time,  and then she ended up becoming one of those famous names too. She was then in the Mavis Bramston Show, which was another big show back then. She went on to have her own television shows; she had the first midday show in Australian TV, called Strictly For The Birds, which then became Girl Talk, interviewing famous people from overseas that were visiting Australia, like the cast of Hogan’s Heroes. 

She also went to Los Angeles and interviewed people like Omar Sharif, Paul Newman, and the cast of TV shows like Bonanza. She won her first Golden Logie in 1967, and another silver Logie in 1968. But then she sold up in Sydney and bought a couple of hundred acres near Byron Bay, and she sort of dropped out a little bit; she kept working, but nowhere near as frantically as she was before. And she’s actually still working to this day – she just scored a part in a BBC movie! 

You went to the Logies recently; what’s it like being around all that glitz and glamour?

It’s quite amazing! The last one was at a big casino on the Gold Coast, so you gather in the foyer and then you’ve got to do the red carpet, which is about 100 m long, and along either side of that there are these little grandstands with fans who won tickets to be sitting there, and the press. So, you walk down this 100 m long carpet – I had my mother on my arm – and everybody recognised her, so she was being stopped for photographs and interviews constantly! It took an hour just to get down the bloody red carpet, before you’re even in the auditorium! It’s phenomenal. And on our table we had Josh and Elyse from The Block – which was brilliant, because I got a photo with them and so when my clients see it, they assume I was at the Logies because I was assisting The Block with interior design!

Thanks Marcus.

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