The hitchhiking songwriters now promoting ‘bad-ass’ ageing musicians

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ABC South West WA

By

Kate Stephens

Updated

October 04, 2018 12:36:21

Video: The hitchhiking musician, Leon Bozanich aka Grindhowl Screech

(ABC News)
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“Within a week of that [diagnosis] I started medication and liver detoxing, stopped drinking, and started eating some food.” he said.The medication helped to prolong his life but Luke Escombe knew time was now against them. Photo:
Leon Bozanich first met Luke Escombe in November 2016 when he was hitchhiking near Bridgetown. Then, they hit another roadblock — Mr Bozanich’s recording gear broke.”I wrote one album and I thought it was possibly one of the best albums I’d ever written,” he said.”When the power went off it just wiped the whole album and I had no recollection of the songs at all.” Bad-ass ageing musicians Luke contacted his friend Simon Lowe from The Ageing Revolution, an organisation that aims to change the perceptions of ageing. (ABC South West: Kate Stephens )
“One day it turned up in the post office,” Mr Bozanich said.”I literally ran all the way home with it, plugged it in, and wrote a song immediately called Love is gonna come because that’s what just happened,” Mr Bozanich said, grinning from ear to ear.After the success of this first project, Mr Lowe wanted to try again. Photo:
Leon Bozanich says as soon as he received his new recorder he was inspired to write a new song called Love is going to come. He was blown away. “Then the voice comes in … and I was hooked.”A few days later Mr Escombe called Mr Bozanich and asked if he could put his music up on his website.”It wasn’t blues exactly, but it had that rawness and that emotion in the singing,” Mr Escombe said.Howling and ScreechingUnder his stage name of Grindhowl Screech, Leon Bozanich’s music took off. “After about six months, particularly the first track on the album, Devils on the Loose, had become my number-one downloaded track,” Mr Escombe said. “We’re showing people — who might be older — that you can still be a bad-ass amazing recording musicians in your 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s,” he said. (ABC South West: Kate Stephens)
“As I heard the guitar I was like this is a really strong, well-recorded guitar, so instantly I turned it up and I was like this is interesting,” he said. “If we can afford to buy 10 Zooms or if we can partner with someone to get recording equipment that’s easily usable in the home — to use it a bit like the baton relay that happens in the Olympics or Commonwealth Games and use them to go around Australia to give people an opportunity to have a voice,” he said. “He [Luke] had a look at the CD and asked me if he could have that one and I gave it to him,” recounted Mr Bozanich.Raw and emotionalA few days later Mr Escombe returned to Sydney and listened to the CD for the first time. (ABC South West: Kate Stephens )
Mr Bozanich counts Mr Lowe and Mr Escombe as part of his enigma family — people who live on the other side of the country but have become a large part of his life. Mr Bozanich continues to manage his illness through medication and is spurred on to write new music that will eventually be sent to Mr Escombe to put up on his website. Never stop writing

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Luke Escombe and Leon Bozanich have only seen each other twice in two years but have become ‘enigmatic’ friends. (Supplied: Luke Escombe)
It was even downloaded by American blues artist Charlie Parr.”I contacted him about the album and I wanted to find out if it was the same Charlie Parr and it was,” Mr Escombe said.”And he just said ‘Please tell Leon how much his music has meant to me. “As long as I live I will be smashing albums out and bothering Luke three, four times a year,” he said. They paid for a new recorder and shipped it out to Leon. He admits they’re being ageist — but for all the right reasons. (ABC South West: Kate Stephens)
His hitchhiking passenger was Leon Bozanich, who was on his way to town to give a friend his latest recording. Photo:
Luke Escombe believes Leon Bozanich’s music is so popular because it is honest and raw. Photo:
Luke Escombe says he was “blown away” the first time he heard Leon Bozanich’s music. I’ve been through some tough times recently and this music has really spoken to me’.” ‘Just weeks to live’Leon Bozanich began playing in bands in Perth in the 1970s, but he fell prey to drug addiction.He eventually got clean, but years of drug taking had taken its toll.”This year I fell over in the lounge room and I couldn’t get myself off the floor,” the 62-year-old said.”I rang a friend of mine, she came and helped me up and took me to the doctors and they basically told me I only had a couple of weeks to live.”

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Leon Bozanich was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver earlier this year. (ABC South West: Kate Stephens)
Mr Bozanich was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. “I saw a sort of leather-clad figure walking along the side of the road and I thought he’s obviously going into Bridgetown, so why don’t I stop and give him a lift?” Mr Escombe said. It is one of mateship, second chances, and bad-ass ageing musicians.It all began in November 2016 when Sydney-based musician Luke Escombe was driving along a highway on his way to Bridgetown in south-west Western Australia. The story of how Luke met Leon has the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster — man meets a leather-clad stranger along a regional highway and their lives suddenly become entwined.But this is not your typical hitchhiking-horror story.