Home Interviews Rock Club 40 chats with BRIAN NANKERVIS

Rock Club 40 chats with BRIAN NANKERVIS

19 min read

RocKwiz is once again taking their very popular music trivia show to the people and, in the words of the show’s Rock Brain, Brian Nankervis, “We’re very excited. We’re happy to be back on the road.”  The upcoming tour, ‘RocKwiz Live! Salutes the ARIA Hall of Fame’, kicks off at the end of September and takes all the excitement of the television show to halls and theatres around the country, inviting fans to join in the RocKwiz Live! experience.

Brian took some time out to chat to us about the tour and give some insight into what it is like to take the show on the road, away from the familiar surroundings of its usual home, The Gershwin Room in St. Kilda’s Espy Hotel in Melbourne.

“You know, it’s incredibly liberating,” he tells me. “We love the Gershwin Room and we’ve made about a hundred and seventy episodes there but to get out on the road, to get into bigger venues and to reach people in other states, is really exciting and I think to change things up is really important and, particularly if you’ve been doing something for a long time, you can get a little complacent. You can start to accept things being the way they’ve always been but to go on the road in big theatres and to not have the restrictions of cameras and lighting, that’s really important. And so we tend to take a few risks. We tend to try things that perhaps we wouldn’t try if we were making a TV show. It’s just great and we tend to travel in a big group. I think, aside from James Black our guitar player having a series off (and he’s back in the fold for the live shows), personnel has been unchanged. Julia, Dugald, the band and myself, the question writers, the producers, the sound guy, the lighting guy; we’ve all been together for a long time. We all get along really well. And so going on the road is…” He pauses before adding “Julia once described it as a very special school camp.”

Having been in the audience of a taping of the show, observing the interaction between the regular cast and crew members, I get the feeling that the comradery is genuine and Brian assures me that it is. The cast really are friends who socialise with each other even after the cameras stop rolling. “When RocKwiz started, we all had ten, fifteen, twenty years’ experience and I think we sort of realised how to behave. We weren’t fresh. We weren’t new to it. In a way, we’d seen some pitfalls. We’d seen some comrades bite the dust because of the way they behaved and so it’s just this wonderful group and, yes, I think it does come through on stage and I suppose there’s a sense of safety there where I know that I can throw a couple of things Julia’s way and no one else might pick up on it but because of our shared history and our friendship, I can say something and she’ll know that he’s going to do that or I can go  into a monologue or I can jump off the stage and I know that Julia will hold the fort or give me room and she knows that I will give her room. I think that makes for a great show.”

These RocKwiz Live! tours have become something of a regular event over the last five years and they have proved very popular. “It’s our fourth national tour,” says Brian. “We did our first one in 2010. And it was such a revelation that we could actually do it in a big theatre. Our first show was in the beautiful Llewellyn Hall in Canberra and we had Peter Garrett cut a ribbon. We weren’t sure how it would go but we got the sound right and like the TV show, I get twenty four audience members up on stage and I run four rounds of questions and that’s how we select the final four.”`

“In 2010, as part of that big national tour, we also produced and filmed a show for ARIA; one of the Hall of Fame shows. We got on really well with the ARIA people and I always thought maybe we could do it again; maybe we could go out on the road. We could do a whole show based on ARIA Hall of Fame inductees. Well, we’ve been kicking that idea around for a couple of years and we’re finally doing it!”

And there is such a wealth of talent to select from. Brian’s lips, however, are sealed about the guest list. “I can’t tell you who’s going to be in the show because that would spoil that little RocKwiz moment when Julia says ‘Who can it be now?’ but what I can tell you is this,” he shares. “I think there are seventy three artists or bands who have been inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame; everyone from Cold Chisel, Men at Work, The Seekers, The Triffids, The Dingoes, Kev Carmody. We will feature artists who were in the Hall of Fame. We will feature songs that Hall of Fame artists have recorded but, in the RocKwiz tradition of matching some household names with some up and coming artists, we’ll also have some younger artists. And we’ve found over the years that RocKwiz audiences like the idea of discovering new talent on the show. This Australian recording industry is very precious to us and it won’t thrive unless there are new artists coming in all the time. People have told me that they really love the fact the two artists will come out at the start of the show. They each do their own song and then the audience knows that these two are going to combine at the end of the night. Now, how will they work together? Is it possible that Billy Bragg can find some common ground with Courtney Barnett? Can they do a duet? What will it be like? Will sparks fly? I think it’s a formula that does work really well. We’re very proud of it and we want to spread the love.”

“The live shows are familiar,” Brian explains. “They are based on the basic structure from the TV show. We have a similar structure but it’s bigger and so, rather than having two artists, we’ll have four and we’ll have contestant karaoke where a member of each team gets up and sings with the band. We mix it up a little. It’s anchored in the TV show but it’s a lot bigger. It’s a lot bolder. It’s looser. It’s louder. It’s a bit cheekier.”

When I ask him about some of those ‘cheekier’ moments from previous tours, Brian recalls an incident in Nambour on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast where they were doing a show and he was being chased around the theatre by a very excitable audience member. “I think she ended up getting up and singing an incredible version of ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ with the band.”

It certainly sounds like a lot of fun. Brian agrees.  “These shows won’t be televised so the only way to see them is to actually be there. I really recommend to your readers to take a chance because the live shows are pretty special. Anything goes.”



by Sharyn Hamey

 Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2015.  All rights reserved

Click here for a full list of RocKwiz Live! Salutes The ARIA Hall of Fame tour dates and to book tickets.




And while you’re here…

why not test your ARIA Hall of Fame knowledge with this Q & A that Brian has put together for you…

Questions …

  1. Which Hall of Fame group began life as ‘Sons Of The Vegetal Mother’?
  2. Who recorded a ‘feminist anthem’ that reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972?
  3. Which Australian group recorded an album in America, featuring Nicky Hopkins and The Band’s keyboard player, Garth Hudson?
  4. Who were the two key songwriters in The Saints?
  5. Who said … “Gay icons usually have some tragedy in their lives, but I’ve only had tragic haircuts and outfits”?
  6. Which Sydney based singer songwriter is known by the nickname Ralph?
  7. Who Can It Be Now? One of the first artists inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 1988, I recorded with The Sapphires, was an original member of Brian Henderson’s ‘Bandstand’ and I had a number one hit Australia-wide with ‘Oh Yeah Uh Huh’?
  8. Who named her autobiography ‘Confessions of a Difficult Woman’?
  9. Which Hall of Famer made her Covent Garden début in May 1888, receiving the following review … “she is a fluent vocalist and a quite respectable representative of light soprano parts; but she lacks the personal charm necessary to be a great figure on the stage”?
  10. Who co-wrote ‘From Little Things, Big Things Grow’ with Paul Kelly? 2
  11. Which instrumental was Steve Kilbey referring to when he said … “I live in Coogee and I see the island almost every day and think about this surf tune”?
  12. Which of the following are NOT death metal bands … Angel Corpse, Goat Lord, Dismember, Air Supply?
  13. Add the next 11 words … They got married early, never had much money …
  14. Which iconic Australian band decided to find a new singer in 2005 via a reality TV show, despite everyone saying NO NO NO!?
  15. Name the Dingoes song that James Blundell and James Reyne recorded in 1992
  16. Name the INXS song that Bruce Springsteen performed at his Sydney concert in 2014?
  17. Which Australian singer played Russell Crowe’s Mum in the musical ‘Blood Brothers’ in 1988?
  18. T or F: Olivia Newton John competed for England in the Eurovision Song contest in 1974?
  19. Who is the ARIA Hall of Fame artist who is the cousin of Grace Jones and was the youngest performer in the world to take a feature role in Hair?
  20. Which band changed their name to Highway in America on the advice of their US record company?

How did you go? Check your answers here to see how many you got right.

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