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Phillip Barker (in his Blues mode)

DESCRIPTION: Phillip Barker was a Melbourne based contemporary (electronic / blues) music artist and musician. He was also a digital visual artist and poet.


ACTIVITY PERIOD: 1968 - 2019

MUSIC GENRE: Electronic, Experimental, Blues, Jazz, Surf Rock, Psychedelic Rock


INSTRUMENTS: Bass Guitar, Synthesizer, Keyboards, Slide Guitar, Vocals

BANDS / OUTFITS: Solo Artist, Merri Creek Sheiks, Mantis, Boats, Hetherington Brothers, Sativa, 23D, Whatever Next, Soma and The Cats

RECORD COMPANIES / LABELS (Current & Past): Independent



Phillip Barker was a contemporary Melbourne based music artist and musician who was born in Maffra in 1955, but grew up in the Moorabbin area of Melbourne. He took up guitar at the age of 12 and his single mother Beverly paid for his guitar lessons to further his art. When he went to Elwood High he became a member of various high school bands, but most notably 'Mantis' a rock covers band and during that time he got right into the Beatles (with Revolver being his first Beatles album and many more to follow), plus there was Blood Sweat and Tears, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap and Jimi Hendrix. Phil would play Hendrix often on his turntable trying to copy the chords to advance his guitar repertoire.

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Phillip Barker (in his Electronic music mode)

Phillip left school at age 15 to pursue a day job in the public service, but honed his art at night and opened up his mind to numerous intellectual and artistic influences from hanging around the Elwood Hippy House Share scene. During this time he was introduced to Eastern Philosophy and invested heavily in a music listening sense to prog bands such us King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Genesis. In addition to those influences during the 70's he was also heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Peter Gabriel, Tom Waits, Brian Eno, and Robert Fripp during this time. More bands followed throughout the 70's and 80's and during the 80's he worked also as a roadie for local bands and also on the Eagles Australian tour.

Around the mid 1980's Phillip invested heavily into his own compositions and added synthesizers to his music after purchasing a Roland System 100m synth system. This was a period when he got right into electronic music inspired by the work of Fripp and Eno. As his career progressed, he also embraced Jazz and Blues, in particular artists such as Miles Davis and Charles Mingus were key influences and for the blues Robert Johnson and Howlin Wolf were key inspirations.

As time rolled on into the late 1980's, through the 1990's and into the early 2000's, Phillip Barker shifted his musical focus into two key areas - electronic and blues music.

In a solo sense, he developed his skills as a solo artist towards his electronic / experimental repertoire which was greatly enhanced when digital creative platforms emerged for music in the early 2000's allowing him an array of soft synths to use with the emerging digital audio workstations available to him. As a result of this new tech, he sold off his analogue synths seeing in them a sense of redundancy for his music needs to be replaced with more options in a wider soft synth collection.

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Phillip's guitar at his memorial gig with his poem 'Comet Life'.

In a collaborative sense, Phillip focused much of his attention towards the blues, and it was in the blues he focused much of his later energy in a live performing sense. In these later years, Phil pursued his interest in blues music with vigour, collaborating with different musicians from Melbourne and elsewhere. He was a familiar face on the Melbourne music blues scene at venues such as the Elwood Blues Club, and a career highlight for him was performing at the MBAS (Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society).

Paul Buchanan of Amnesia Blues Band recently paid tribute to Phil. Paul said " How very sad indeed, he and I had several jam sessions and man could he play!"

Other creative endeavors also emerged from Phillip such as his work as a digital artist which he used as cover art for his electronic & experimental pieces published on Soundcloud etc. and his poetry which sometimes seeped into his blues compositions. In 2008, a book of his poetry was published in the US (Hayloft Hussy Press - Texas).

Whilst it has been hard to pin point which band Phillip played with when due to his low key and almost secretive approach to publicity and his lack of documentation of who he played with and when over his musical career, we do know that he invested heavily in a blues sense in the blues project the Merri Creek Shieks in the 2010's working with Tony Harding and Leroy Patton, which has been published on Soundcloud and in which he performed a number of gigs in live. He also displayed his blues voice on some of these tracks namely 'Whose been Talkin' and 'Roll and Tumble' (see embedded recordings below).

Phillip Barker was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2019 and it spread quickly, he passed away in hospital in Heidelberg on June the 9th, 3 months later. A memorial gig was held for him at the Lomond Hotel East Brunswick on the 30th of June with many friends and musicians in attendance jamming to his memory, reading his poetry, playing his recorded music (both electronic & blues sets), screening his digital art and speaking of his creative endeavors. He donated his body to Science and there was no official funeral.

By Simon Rashleigh and Tony Harding



Parent Category Page Links: Local Music Artists / Outfits - Australia Local Musicians - Melbourne, Australia

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