Live with Phil Knight from Shihad

Backstage with Live

New Zealand rock band Shihad have been a mainstay of the Australasian music scene since the 90s. Guitarist Phil Knight is beloved by fans and those lucky enough to have worked alongside him, so we thought it only natural that we grab five minutes with him to talk all things music, events and some upcoming projects. 

Live: So, tell me a little bit about yourself, Phil and how you started working with Live Event Logistics.

Phil: I was born in New Zealand and I moved to Australia in 1999 with my band, Shihad.

Most of my life I’ve been a professional musician. Shihad had been touring in Australia and that is where I first met Chris and Andrew from Live Event Logistics.

If we needed to move around gear around the country for tours and things, or internationally, we always used Chris and Andrew. I think the two of them, they’ve always been very artist focused. I know Andrew’s a very big music fan.

Then one day a few years ago, I rang up Chris and Andrew and said, “Oh, I’m thinking about getting my HR license, (which is what you need to drive big rigid trucks).”

The band was currently at the quiet part of our album cycle, and we weren’t working much at all.

So I was doing a lot of work, you know, working in warehouses and at freight companies. And then I started doing a bit of driving for Live Event Logistics.

Live: So what do you find is really important for logistics within the music industry being on both sides.

Phil: What’s important? I guess time.

I’ve never been in the L.E.L office doing what they have to do. I’ve only been a truck driver for them. But the amount of time you have to get gear from A to B is very limited sometimes. I guess when they’re busy, they are open 24/7, and scrambling to find freight space on international flights, at the last moment when things change. And band/event gear has to go to some very far-flung places sometimes.

Recently Shihad had to get their gear from Melbourne, to Riwaka in New Zealand, in the South Island. And it had to get there in a couple of days. Andrew had to find space on a plane to get it to Christchurch, in the middle of the Christmas rush, with not that many flights. And then it had to get all the way up to the top of the South Island. So that’s one of the unique types of work that they have to do. And it doesn’t leave much room for error. Tight deadlines must be met.

Live: So I’ve seen on your own Instagram that you are back in the studio. Are you working on anything in particular at the moment?

Phil: Yeah. A cover song for a tribute album, with other prominent Australian and NZ artists, that’s coming out soon. We were up at The Grove Studios in New South Wales. It was fantastic recording with Adam Spark, the guitarist from Birds Of Tokyo. He produced that. And also our singer is just putting the finishing touches on writing lyrics for a new album.

Live: Fantastic. It’s very impressive. So when you’re not touring with Shihad, what other things do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Phil: I like running. I’ve been doing between 10 and 12 kilometres at the moment. And it’s one thing that you’re allowed to do during this Covid lockdown, so that’s good. And apart from being in the band and driving a truck, I’m also a Tour Manager and Production Manager. Just before the Covid shutdown, I had an Italian artist that was going to come over straight from Italy to tour Australia and NZ. I had booked L.E.L to do the truck move from their final headline show, up to Bluesfest. But then of course everything got closed down.

Live: So in regards to moving into that role of being a Tour and Production Manager, is that something that you’re looking to really focus on once you are able to?

Phil: Very much so. I had more tours booked throughout the year. Hopefully they’ll happen in 2021 now.

Live: How does wearing all of these different hats and having a perspective from so many angles of an industry impact the way that you go about each of these different roles?

Phil: The more work I do behind the scenes as a Production Manager, or just drive a truck and move some gear around, when I go back to playing a show as an artist, I sort of feel quite privileged.

Since the first Shihad shows, I’ve always been interested in the behind the scenes stuff, like all aspects of the production, logistics, the trucking, tour management, everything.

So I’ve always been interested and been picking the brains of everyone from the stagehands, lighting people, sound people, production managers, to the tour managers.

From hearing how ACDC get 40, forty foot containers around the world, learning about how many jumbo jet flights it takes to fly their production from Australia to Auckland, to organising multiple sets of steel for their stadium shows. I’ve always been curious about that massive process.

Live: What do you listen to as a guilty pleasure, apart from your own music, of course.

Phil: Well this is very guilty. I mean I just have to open up my Spotify.

The first thing that comes to mind, is Bruno Mars. I saw his stage show a couple of years ago when I was working on it as a local runner. It was an amazing production. Especially the video and LX automation approach. That combined with the artist’s performance made me go and listen to the songs afterwards. That happens to me a bit, after working on shows as a driver.

So I’ve been listening to Bruno Mars when I’ve been running. I go from that one day to Michael Jackson the next. And a bit of ACDC and Lamb Of God in between.

Live: How important do you think music is to people at this current time? What do you think music can bring to people during Covid?

Phil: In times of longing or isolation, music is so important to me, as I can imagine it is to so many other people.

During Melbourne’s first Covid lockdown, there was a period of about four weeks when my wife was waiting for some serious medical test results. They couldn’t get a proper sample and she had to go back three times to finally get a negative result. And as a partner, I was quite worried. The song ‘In Your Eyes’ by Peter Gabriel really resonated with me, and it helped me get through that whole period.

I know music is the most powerful thing for many people on this planet.

Unfortunately, the music Industry, and our community are finding this time really tough.

I think that what’s really hard at the moment, is watching industries like the music and event industry suffer the most during these times, because we were the first to close down, and will probably be the last to open back up again.

But that will be a great day.

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