B   I   O   G   R   A   P   H   Y
Philbo Philbo Philbo

Best known for his recording work with Steve Garden as Low Profile and particularly for the highly acclaimed Elephunk in My Soup and its accompanying clip, Phil continues to explore what he calls hybrid music, a potent brew which is highly percussive, combines electronica with other instruments, and draws on elements from diverse genres including funk and jazz.

Phil has worked extensively in the music industry and related fields and in the education sector, where his work includes teaching children, adolescents and adult students, working as a music technology specialist and working in an advisory capacity. He has also worked in desk top publishing, in the hospitality industry and in the environmental field.

Phil was born in Liverpool and grew up in New Plymouth. He was exposed to a broad range of music from a young age, including classical, jazz and musicals, and grew up hearing a lot of 1960s pop on the radio. He learned tenor horn and played in brass and concert bands, and in chamber music groups. He then took up bass guitar, playing in bands around the Taranaki region, in local Repertory music/drama productions with future collaborator Matthew Brown and in his first pub residency aged 17 while still at school. An after school job from around age fifteen and paid gigs enabled him to buy LPs, and with the help of a subscription to the Melody Maker, he was able to amass quite an eclectic record collection by the time he left school at the end of 1973.

On leaving school Phil moved to Wellington, and after completing a BA at Victoria University, spent two years studying Jazz Improvisation with Colin Hemmingsen at the Creative Music School. During this period Phil also worked as a session musician on film soundtracks, composed and recorded music for an animated film by Euan Frizzell, Goodnight Old Man, and formed the jazz rock fusion band Outlines to perform original compositions written while studying at the Creative Music School.

In 1980 Outlines recorded at Studio II, Radio New Zealand, Wellington for the Concert Programme. Phil attended the National Jazz Clinic, recorded songs for the Pacific Song Contest with others under the name Mixed Company and formed the Protons with guitarist Tony Richards and drummer Lawrence Sampson. After some gigs and recording as a trio, May Lloyd joined the band as vocalist, and in 1981 the band released a single Lights On/Modern Homes, making a video clip at TVNZ's Avalon Studios and more recordings before disbanding.

In 1982 Phil released the instrumental album Hiatus and a single under his own name consisting of a 1980 Protons recording of his anti nuclear song Wolves of Power and a track from Hiatus, Mutants (as a result of nuclear fallout), on the B side. Towards the end of 1982, while still living in Wellington and performing regularly with The Buccaneers jazz band and with the more experimental and groove-orientated Atmospherix, Phil began recording in Auckland with Steve Garden, Mike Farrell, Matthew Brown and others. These initial Auckland recordings were released as the Phil Bowering/Low Profile album Quiet Streets (1983), distributed by Jayrem Records.

Phil performing live circa 1982/83

After working as sound mixer/recordist on the first Off the Deep End festival of experimental music and following the completion of the Glass Cage music video in 1983, Phil moved to Auckland where he continued to record as Low Profile with Steve Garden and others, creating Flamewave Productions in 1984, releasing the highly acclaimed Elephunk In My Soup EP (1984), the 12" single The Cutting Edge (1986), the EP Simon Says (1987) and the album Elephunkin (1987), and developing the Flamewave International record label with the support of Jayrem Records. Phil also co-produced the three Low Profile music videos made with independent film makers: the already mentioned Glass Cage (1983), as well as Elephunk (1984) and Simon Says (1987). After a stint in Britain and Australia during 1985 in connection with this work, Phil returned to New Zealand and by early 1986 was again living in Wellington.

Overall, the 1980s were a very busy time for Phil. During this time he also performed and/or recorded with a number of other ensembles including Cultural Affairs, The Storm Sisters All Time Good Time Band, The Street Band, The Groove, Jazz City and Moving Lines. Moving Lines recorded original compositions at Studio II, Radio New Zealand, Wellington, for the Concert Programme series Crosscurrents and this material was subsequently released as Moving Lines 1 in 1987 by Ode Records. Other work undertaken during this period included running a studio/gallery, recording bands, doing live sound mixing, working as a session musician, doing workshops in schools as a member of a multi-disciplinary community arts team and researching the Rites of Passage of migrant groups, as well as composing and recording the music for Te Whakawhiti I Te Rori (Crossing the Road), an educational resource commissioned by the Department of Education (1987).

In 1988 Phil returned to Victoria University to undertake an MA in Communications. His thesis was a study of the relationship between synergy in the group dynamics of contemporary music making and the use of MIDI/personal computer based music systems in an OSI/ISDN environment.

In 1990 Phil moved to London where he worked mainly in the fields of desk top publishing and graphic design. While in the United Kingdom he completed a Permaculture Design course and worked with a local permaculture group, as well as peforming around London with the Shining. He then joined Nick Ashron's Crazy 4 Animals, performing with them around London and at Glastonbury Festival in 1992. He also recorded with other Antipodeans in London, including Gregg McKenzie, Paul Gilbert, Pip Harker and Jed Town. In 1993 he performed music at the inauguration of Delta, an ecologically-based creative project which focussed on the mouth of the River Wandle, and in 1995 participated in the recording of Delta music.

Since returning to New Zealand Phil has lived in Taranaki, Auckland and Wellington. He has performed in the dance productions Marraminde and Sumptuousity, and with Drum Magic, Ditto, the Skinnydippers, the Ritz Big Band, Uncle John's Band, the Anita Anker Trio, the Flys and the Delta Jazz Trio. He has tutored on a TOPS programme and at MAINZ in Auckland, run music workshops with at-risk youth, been a private music teacher and taught in a number of schools. He currently lives in Wellington.


  Green Man