Culture Street

Brian Nankervis co-created and co-presents the  music quiz show RocKwiz on SBS. He is currently preparing for three special live shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide this December to celebrate the music of Australia's most famous songwriting and production team Vanda and Young.

You co-created RocKwiz. What was your inspiration for the show?

Rockwiz began life in the Renegade Films office in Prahran, Victoria, sometime in 2002. Kenny Connor and Peter Bain-Hogg were tossing around ideas for television shows and they agreed the climate was right for a music quiz show. I wasn’t there, but I wasn’t far away. Kenny was a friend of a friend and we’d bonded over a passion for concerts and rare vinyl. I’d met Peter at The Last Laugh then worked with him on the  Jimeoin Show at Channel 7 in 1995. One night on Jimeoin, the regular warm up guy was unavailable and Peter suggested I entertain the crowd. Part of my hastily developed routine was a “pick the riff” segment, using fragments of songs on cassette that the audience had to identify. It was always a hit. I continued to use this segment in other jobs, including a slightly modified version for the ABC’s ‘Hessie’s Shed’, filmed in the Gershwin Room at the Esplanade Hotel, St Kilda in 1998.

The inspiration has come from years and years of listening to music, buying records and cds, hanging around record shops, seeing bands and reading about music. Loving music. The combination of being a music fan (I'm happy to be described as a 'music tragic') and a performer who has always used music in my live shows has helped create a unique and successful television show.

What has been the best highlight for you so far on the show? 

It's hard to pick a best highlight from ten years of television shows (153 episodes) and about 50 live shows, but there are a number of performances I'll never forget. Martha Wainwright and Dan Kelly singing 'Slave To Love', Marcia Hines announcing that the first gig she ever saw was Woodstock, Judith Durham rehearsing 'The Carnival Is Over' at an empty Myer Music Bowl, Suzie Quatro telling jokes to a stunned audience, Archie Roach and Sarah Storer singing 'From Little Things Big Things Grow', Angry Anderson and Megan Washington singing together on the bus back to Sydney after a great show in Newcastle.

Tell us about the upcoming tour?

We are excited about hitting the road again for these Vanda and Young shows. ROCKWIZ SALUTES VANDA AND YOUNG will feature an eclectic mix of Australian heritage artists alongside contemporary stars, household names and young up and comers, performing songs written, played or produced by Vanda and Young. ROCKWIZ SALUTES VANDA AND YOUNG will of course be hosted by the wonderful Julia Zemiro. I'll be judging, scoring and putting on the kettle. The legendary RocKwiz Orkestra … James Black, Peter Luscombe and Mark Ferrie … will back the artists and play those Million Dollar Riffs and Australia’s favourite roadie, Dugald, will hold up the scores and tune the guitars. And of course … it wouldn’t be a RocKwiz show without contestants being drawn from the audience to hit those buzzers and answer curly questions.

Why are you saluting Vanda and Young?

We are always looking for new ideas, new ways to structure our shows and after the 'RocKwiz Salutes The Bowl' shows in 2008, we've been toying with the idea of paying tribute to an artist or a musical movement and the musical life and times of Vanda and Young seemed like a great basis for a live show. Harry Vanda and George Young are responsible for writing and producing some of Australia’s biggest hits … Friday On My Mind, Good Times, Love Is In The Air, Wedding Ring, St Louis, Walking In The Rain, Evie (Parts 1, 2 and 3), … the list goes on and on and on. These songs have become part of our pop history … some of them became international hits for artists like David Bowie and Grace Jones. As producers, Vanda and Young shaped the sound of Aussie Pub Rock, producing and guiding bands like The Angels, Rose Tattoo, Choirboys … and AC/DC no less!

Who will be some of the artists featured?

Traditionally, RocKwiz keeps the identities of our artists a secret until they hit the stage. My lips are sealed! Right from the beginning this has been one of the features of the television show and we continue that practice for the live shows. Audiences love to try and guess who will step out from behind the red velvet curtains and they seem to have confidence in us. There is an added level of excitement built in to the shows when we don't reveal the names of the guests. I can say that there will be multiple guests and there will be a mix of ages as well as experience. I will say that for a show of this nature, we thought it was important to have some artists who have worked closely with Vanda and Young and this has influenced our choices. Saying too much will spoil the fun so I'm stopping there. Trust us to show you a good time!

How big really is your record collection? Do you have favourites?

It's big. really big. Too big! Hundreds, thousands of cds, cassettes, vinyl LPs and singles. in boxes, book cases, plastic tubs, under the bed, at the RocKwiz office, in storage, in a dark cupboard at a beach house. I cull occasionally, but there are too many sentimental and important connections that I'm just not willing to break. I'm a hoarder, happily married to a fellow hoarder who understands the importance of these rich treasures.

Picking favourite records is like picking highlights of the show, or picking favourite children. Impossible ... but since you asked so nicely, here are five that I'd grab if the house was burning down. 'Blonde On Blonde', Bob Dylan, 'Let It Bleed', The Rolling Stones, 'West', Lucinda Williams, 'Blue', Joni Mitchell and 'Gossip', Paul Kelly and The Messengers.

ROCKWIZ SALUTES VANDA AND YOUNG will be hosted by Julia Zemiro and wrangled and adjudicated by Brian Nankervis. The legendary RocKwiz Orkestra; James Black, Peter Luscombe and Mark Ferrie, will back the artists and play those Million Dollar Riffs and Australia’s favourite roadie, Dugald, will hold up the scores and tune the guitars.

Tickets to ROCKWIZ SALUTES VANDA AND YOUNG  are now on sale.

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