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John Rooth or ‘Roothy’ as he’s known to most of us, is Australia’s favourite 4WD celebrity and quite possibly the reason that many of you reading this article first became interested in getting out into the bush in a 4X4.
Roothy was the face of 4WD Action for many years, and shared his off-road adventures with us on monthly 4WD Action DVDs – DVDs that were a must watch for 4X4 enthusiasts back in the day. Somewhere in amongst all of that both Roothy and his much loved sidekick Milo – a very well travelled 40 Series LandCruiser – became household names.
The last few years have been a time of change for Roothy. He parted ways with 4WD Action, took a short breather, gave Milo a wash and then got stuck into a new DVD-based project called LowRange. Season 1 of LowRange was successful enough for ‘the boys’ to get stuck into a second season, but when the promotion started for season 2, there wasn’t a Roothy in sight!
We were lucky enough to bump into Roothy recently and being the unassuming gentleman that he is he agreed to return serve on a bunch of questions that we fired his way.
The interview is below and we hope that it will give Roothy fans an insight into his recent past, and, more importantly, what he has planned for the future.
L4X4 – Can you tell us a little about why you chose not to appear in season 2 of LowRange?
Roothy – It must be hard for people to understand because heading bush filming off-road DVD’s seems like the best job on earth. And it can be, but I’ve been doing it solid for almost twenty years for other people including that LowRange year.
I’d always promised myself a time would come when I’d just be totally honest with people about what I use and recommend. Last year I did a couple of trips just with mates in old trucks and really had a ball. It was fun filming LowRange but I’d had enough.
I’ve always done pretty much what I wanted to do work-wise and last year that meant not doing another season of LowRange.
L4X4 – Is ‘Unlock Australia’ still fighting the good fight and are you still involved?
Roothy – Unlock kicked off as a protest group and that’s where it had its best run, unofficial protests that saw heaps of people come out and be counted. Then, because I figured I had to get others involved, we morphed it into a not-for-profit company. I was hoping if I stepped away a bit other 4WD identities would join the fight.
Unfortunately that didn’t happen, they’re a busy lot in this trade. But I’ve found often the best way to get the message across is to meet with people and politicians and talk to them about unlocking the bush.
It’s amazing how many people of influence have no idea that there’s any other interest in the outdoors other than that expressed by the Greens! Personally, I’ll never give it up, I believe the bush belongs to all Australians and will keep pushing that wherever and whenever I can.
It’s selfish, I’ve got kids and I don’t want them growing up restricted by bollards and gates in the least-populated country on earth.
L4X4 – When you weren’t filming and writing for 4WDA or LowRange, you found time to run for the Senate in Queensland at the 2013 and 2016 elections. Are you planning to have another crack at the Australian Senate in the next Federal Election?
Roothy – Hahaha, can you imagine me going to Canberra? Day 2, Milo’s throttle and diffs locked and climbing the steps at Parliament House maybe? Elbow deep under the bonnet of Mal’s Commonwealth car maybe?
Look, I stood because I figured there’d be no chance of going to Canberra but I’d get to make some noise about the things I love… like common sense and access to the bush. It shocked me that – both times – I got closer than anyone figured, which shows there’s lots of people out there who feel much the same way about our basic freedoms as Aussies.
I got to talk to a lot of influential people though, did interviews all over our country and the world and was amazed by how much support there is. Most people feel they’ve had their rights to camp, drive, ride, fish and hunt restricted by city-based influences that just don’t make sense.
Maybe I got too close last time because I doubt I’ll do it personally again. That’s scary, as much as I like the Liberal Democrats’ policies I’m not the bloke to wear a suit in Canberra. I’ll be leaning on a few people pre-election though.
L4X4 – It was big news when you left 4WD Action after being ‘the talent’ in their DVD productions and their Magazine for so long. It was a distinguished career and, like the Leyland Brothers before you, you introduced a generation or two of Aussies to their country and the 4X4 vehicles they could access it all with. There were obviously good times and perhaps not so good times. Can you tell us what you miss the most from those days?
Roothy – They were great times and a great bunch of people to work with. To get producers and camera crews who could put up with all the conditions the bush can chuck, sleep out in swags and deal with mud and rain and heat and dust means working with an amazing bunch of characters.
In the beginning, the big boss at Express Media called the shots in the office and left the bush part of it to me. He left me to it and in return he’d do whatever was required to back us up. And that’s what I miss most because eventually, with the demise of paper magazines in the face of digital competition, that trust was compromised by business interests.
Mostly that was my problem I think because I’m a bit restless and don’t take well to people telling me what to do, always have been like that. I’m still mates with 4WD Action though and still get a buzz when people tell me I helped inspire them to get out there! Hell, if I can do it in a $500 truck, anyone can…
L4X4 – There has been a fair bit of activity on your website www.roothy.com.au since June of this year and it’s clear that you’re still behind the camera, cooking up a storm and fixing old 4X4s – including building Milo V2.0. You obviously have plans for 2017… can you tell us a bit about what you’re up to and if it involves, regular writing, long trips and a film crew?
Roothy – OK, so in 2016 I spent a lot of time spreading the Unlock word. I also had to do heaps of work to old Milo because she’s been pretty much flogged out with nothing other than patch-up work to keep her going.
I’ve got a manager these days, Simon Hay, a beaut bloke whose heart is in the right place when it’s not under his old 60 Series and together we’re always working on the web site and shop. Which means he does most of the work and I muck around.
In 2017 there’s a regular radio show starting up on the 2UE lifestyle network, ‘Roothy’s Australia’, with the Duck and I rabbiting on for a couple of hours about places to go and Aussie history and all the things I love including pushing the cause.
I’ve got a couple of new books coming out on the web site and in BCF, I’m writing a regular column for 4X4 Australia magazine and doing stuff for Channel 7 more too. Oh, and there’s a book deal with a major international publishing company and heaps more product testing for Opposite Lock and the other companies I work with like LightForce and Engel, Terrain Tamer and MaxTrax.
I love testing off-road gear when I can be honest about it. But the big news I guess is that I’ll be hitting the tracks again for some DVD’s later this year, but this time around I’ll be doing things my way all the way. Watch out for that!
L4X4 – We had a chance to check out the original Milo recently in Adelaide and to state the obvious, she’s had a hard life but ‘wears it well’. Is there a rebuild planned or will Milo be keeping her battle scars and retiring in style with her patina preserved for posterity?
Roothy – Funny you ask that, I’ve spent the last four or five years bouncing over corrugations wondering whether I should rebuild her from the ground up or preserve her just the way she is.
Yes, there’s some big work due and it’ll come when Milo 2 is ready to go to work in her place… but, no, I want to preserve as much of that old bus as I can. She earnt every one of those scars! And if I had to go tour the Kimberley tomorrow, I’d get there in Milo no problems at all.
She’s a pretty amazing old truck. Anyway, Terrain Tamer built that motor and gearbox and I reckon it’ll go forever if I keep the good oils and filters up to it.
L4X4 – What is your all-time favourite bush cooking recipe and why?
Roothy – Roast lamb, gravy and damper. I thought I ate too much of it as a kid in South Australia but maybe not yet.
L4X4 – Just like the song sorta says, “You’ve been everywhere man…you’ve been everywhere…”. You’ve seen pretty much all of Australia – can you tell our readers what your favourite destination is and why it’s so special to you?
No, I haven’t seen all of Australia by a long way. Every-time you take another track you usually find a few more tracks that might lead somewhere special too.
This is an incredible country we live in. I love heading west though, love those huge blue skies, the big brown rivers and knowing you can pull up almost anywhere for an undisturbed camp. I spent a lot of time working out west once, it feels like home.
L4X4 – Have you ever tried calling your wife “The handbrake” at home and how well did that go for you?
Karen’s a pretty amazing girl, She’s kept the home fires burning, brought up our kids and made room for me to go do whatever I wanted for over 25 years.
The Handbrake thing is my joke because if she feels really strongly about something, she’s usually right and I’ll usually pull up. She’s Welsh, and they’re all witches you know. A lot of the Handbrake jokes are hers, we lie in bed making up yarns and laughing. She’s my best friend.
Now the kids are older I’d like to take her bush more often. Wow, I might have dropped a hint on the next Milo DVD eh?
L4X4 – In closing, is there anything that you’d like to say to all of the Aussie 4X4 enthusiasts out there?
Sure. Australia’s waiting for you, just get out there!
Roothy’s website is www.roothy.com.au. If you haven’t already, check it out and keep an eye out for his about to be released book Roothy’s Milo
Thanks for your time John!
If you’re a dead set 4X4 enthusiast, sign-up for our FREE eMag here > The Magazine