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Billy T K Still Guitar Master
Veteran Strikes Progressive Chord
(Short version, 760 words, Current August 2002)
  Long version

Billy T K is one of New Zealand’s original guitar heroes, having paid his dues in rhythm ‘n blues, rock and more flowing Pacific rhythms over 40-years.

He remains an intense and exciting guitarist melding contemporary blues-rock with flowing progressive Pacific rhythms with a strong collection of original songs, which have often covered by other musicians. 

To date the only albums he’s released have been with Human Instinct and a rare release with his post-Instinct unit Te Whare Mana (Powerhouse) only available in the UK and Germany.  However he’s recently been collaborating with Blerta founding member Tony Littlejohn on a CD of his original songs to be released early in 2003 and featuring the tracks Prisoner, Winning and Destiny. 

Billy occasionally performs with the reformed Human Instinct, appears in Hendrix revival concerts and has a number of musicians he can call on up and down the country for concerts and club gigs. He’ll perform acoustic sets solo or electric sets calling on an experienced group of musicians including Ara Mete, and Pihana Tahapihi who’ll play bass or guitar and drummers including Jim Lawrie (formerly Highway, Rockinghorse, Street Talk and Pink Flamingos).

Billy Te Kahika (Billy T K) began experimenting with feedback and developing his own electronic pedals in 1966 with his Palmerston North-based band The Sinners. As soon as the music of Jimi Hendrix hit the airwaves he devoured the sounds, rapidly learning the contents of each successive album.

After The Sinners folded he was asked to join singer and stand-up drummer Maurice Greer who had just returned from two years in the UK playing alongside the greats of the British rock scene with his unit Human Instinct.

The trio, through a succession of bass players including Peter Barton, Larry Waide and Neil Edwards, quickly became one of the loudest, most highly paid and respected rock units in the country.

They worked most nights of the week and recorded three albums Burning Up Years, Stoned Guitar and Pinz In It which became underground classics catapulting the band to legendary status.

In the late 1980s the German-based Little Wing label re-released a box set of the LPs. In the liner notes the label applauded Billy T K as “technically and melodically … one of the best and most innovative guitarists of the 70s” … the (first) box set ensuring “Billy T K his place beside Hendrix, Beck and Clapton”.

Billy left Human Instinct after their 1972 tour of Australia and began recruiting members for his own unit Powerhouse which was to play more fluid, contemporary South Pacific rhythms with strong Santana influences. The band featured up to 10 members, maintained residencies in Wellington and Palmerston North and played the Ngaruawahia music festival just ahead of Black Sabbath.

At its height Powerhouse played alongside Split Enz and supported John Mayall, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, UB40, Joe Satriani and the Neville Brothers. In April 1996 Billy was invited to perform a “walk on” with his hero Carlos Santana at an Auckland concert. He expected to trade a few licks but was surprised when Santana encouraging him to take all the solos on his version of Bob Marley’s Exodus.

Billy had began to pursue the spiritual side of life, meeting his mediation teacher Maharaji in 1974 - from then on his music began became more devotional. Billy relates his transition musically and spiritually to the wave famed guitarists Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin were riding.

In recent years he’s worked with several bands including Dunedin-based Flying Nun band King Loser, who he recorded an album with.  “These young musicians would race into their pieces and then look at me and let me have my turn, so I’d play something. We did an album together. After that I got a call from DLT, the hop hop band to record a track with them. It was fun, I enjoyed doing that cross over stuff.”

Another cross over project has him working with a team who went to India and recorded some Indian mystics up the Ganges river playing their instruments – they’ve asked Billy to play with the pieces as they meld it into something for the contemporary market.

These days Billy still performs the flowing, rhythmic guitar anthems which he has become known for.  His main influence though remains Hendrix. “His music was disciplined. They were tight arrangements even though there was space for psychedelic influences his music was very structured.”

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Lynda Sayce
Phone Auckland: 8118047

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