Watching Shane Philip perform is an overwhelming, awe-inspiring
experience. He is in a constant state of motion, with all limbs moving at once,
simultaneously playing the didgeridoo, guitar and drums. And when he isn’t on
the didge, he’s singing.
“It’s not that hard,” Philip said modestly. “After you practice
it for a while, it’s like dancing. It’s like your limbs are doing different
times, but it flows and all comes together.”
Philip first started his multi-instrumental act about six years
ago, after attending an “Island Rhythms” drum show at his local community
“Right in the middle of the show, this guy grabbed a didgeridoo
and played the didgeridoo with these drummers, and it was phenomenal.”
While he had heard the didgeridoo before, this sound was
“The way he played it, was kind of like playing a drum with
your breath, and I’m really into drumming, so it’s super percussive and super
rhythmic, and I was like, ‘wow, this is amazing!’” Philip said.
At the end of the show, he went over to talk to the musician,
Zach, and ended up buying his own instrument, which he took it back to his
small cabin up in Smithers. He taught himself how to play it, calling Zach
occasionally to get him to play over the phone and recording so he could
listen, memorize and parrot it.
Philip already played the drums and a weissenborn guitar, and
he quickly discovered that the sound of the didgeridoo blended really well with
the other instruments. So he decided to incorporate them all into a single live
performance. The end result is an action-packed set that leaves the crowd
staring in wonder before they start to groove.
“The best compliment I’ve ever had was actually at a Whistler
show at Dusty’s. This guy comes up to me and he says, ‘Shane, so what kind of
looping pedal do you use?’” Philip said with a laugh. “I was so happy, I just
said, ‘dude, I don’t have one, I just play live!’”
A career in music wasn’t Philip’s lifelong goal — he actually
used to be a school teacher in Smithers, B.C. “My secret weapon for that one
was me and another teacher, we used to practice at lunch hours writing songs
for the social studies program,” Philip said. “So we would turn the Upper Canada rebellion into a reggae song, and the Lower Canada rebellion into a rap.”
His use of music to teach actually ended up steering him
towards pursuing a career as a musician.
“I just remember one day one of the teachers was like, ‘what
are you doing? Why aren’t you playing music? What are you doing teaching?’”
But Philip had his first big breakthrough into the world of
music in Grade 9.
“In high school, everybody wants to be the drums, but I kind of
had the inside scoop that this music teacher, if she finds a student that’s
kind of tone-deaf and not really good at the instrument, she’ll kick them off
and throw them onto the drums,” he explained.
So he decided to fake being really bad at the clarinet.
“Sure enough, a week later, I was on the drums!” he said,
This performer doesn’t just cater to the bar scene, he’s also
popular with younger audiences, playing for an elementary school just last
weekend. But Philip said he usually gets the same reaction from any audience when
they hear the didgeridoo for the first time.
“The first thing is ‘what the heck is that noise coming out of
that pipe,’ ya know?” he said. “But it’s kind of mesmerizing for them.”
As an avid athlete, Philip also tends to gravitate towards
performing at sporting events, whether they be whitewater kayaking events, or
the Kranked 7 mountain biking movie premiere at the GLC next weekend.
“This kind of music that I’m playing is quite popular amongst
the outdoor crowd,” Philip explained, adding that his sound is sometimes
compared with G Love and Special Sauce, Jack Johnson, Xavier Rudd, and Ben
“I’m kind of along those lines,” he said. “I kind of dabble in
the techno end of things a little bit more than those guys do, as well, because
I have an electronic kick drum and stuff, so it’s sort of appealing to people
who want to actually dance.”
Philip said he loves to play for Australian crowds, but is
quick to point out that his sound is definitely different from the traditional
Australian didgeridoo, which is made of eucalyptus that has been naturally
hollowed out by termites.
“The beauty of being a Canadian boy learning up in Northern
B.C. was that I never had any Aussies to listen to. The only guy I ever
listened to was Zach… and then I just basically taught myself,” he explained.
But Philip must be doing something right on the didge — he
recently played a show at Richards on Richards, opening for the Beautiful
Girls, an Australian group.
“There were about 500 people at this show, and it was mostly
Australians, and they all came the next week to see me at The Railway Club.”
In the past three years, Philip has released three albums — OM
Cooking, Earthshake, and In the Moment — which he says are
much mellower than his live shows.
Now, he is working on a fourth album, which will be recorded
off the floor, to try and capture some of the energy from his live
By: Holly Fraughton