Interviews

The Wizard Of Aus(tralia) - In Conversation With Matty T Wall

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(Photo By Internet Archive)

 

Blues is one of those genres that never had any frontiers and never will. From United States to England, Italy, Colombia, Scandinavia in its entirety, just to mention few places, blues has and will always have one of those music languages that speaks to anybody the best and most understandable language in the world, that sonic Esperanto able to reach everybody, no matter whether you are rich or poor or the colour of your skin.

A country like Australia, not just blessed with beautiful landscapes and amazing blue sea but also with outstanding musicians, couldn't remain, of course, insensitive to the fascination that the blues carries with. One of the most acclaimed debut albums of 2016, Blue Skies, comes coincidentally from this wonderful part of the world, thanks to the artistry of Matty T Wall, a young and absolutely formidable guitarist and singer/songwriter.

Blue Skies is a musical journey of epic proportions that allow the listeners to travel into several decades of music. An album that is a true homage to blues and all its transformations during the years, transformations that have then gradually converged into jazz, rock and roots. Wall's vision of how the blues has moved on through time is first class and the success and attention that Blue Skies is getting not just in Australia but also worldwide is very much deserved.

Bluebird Reviews couldn't miss the opportunity to talk not just to a very inspired artist and talented guitarist but also to a very friendly and polite gentleman.

 

matty t wall2

(Photo By Internet Archive)

 

BBR - Hi Matty, Blue Skies is a music meteorite that exploded all over the planet since its release date, thanks to your great talent as a guitarist, a singer and a songwriter. Adding to these aspects a unique, winning music formula like the one you showcase on your debut album and there you will have, using a tennis phrase, game, set and match. How long did it take for you to write and record Blue Skies?

MW - As far as the writing goes, probably a couple of years before its release date. I started to write these blues songs and I thought "I better get a band because those songs are starting to sound all right". Not long after that thought, which was about 18 months ago and with me now having a band, I thought it was about time to start recording those songs. We then started the recording, laying down the basic tracks in about 3 weeks. I have been, after the recording process, in and out of the studio for several times during the course of the next few months, because it was hard to book recording time in that studio due to the fact that it was a very busy one. All in all, it has not been a whirlwind process, because I am a perfectionist and I admit that I can be a bit pedantic, at times. I have got, towards the end of the process, also very involved in the final mixing because I was not totally satisfied about a couple of vocal parts, simply because, when it comes to singing, I don't feel I have a lot of confidence. But I thought it was all worth for me to spend extra time checking all those aspects. Maybe it took a bit longer to complete it but I am very happy about the outcome of Blue Skies.   

BBR - The structure of the album is slighty unusual from a standard format, especially given the fact that this is your debut album. Was the idea of adding those two sublime instrumentals something you planned to do in the first place or are Scorcher and Smile the result of improvised jam sessions, while you were recording the album?

MW - Smile was something that had been floating around for a little while. It was one of those things that we never really played as a band. I really put it on the album as something textural, because I really love albums where the sound goes up and down and take you all over the place. Something that Pink Floyd did exceptionally well in an album like The Wall, where they take the listener to different journeys and this is something that I like to do with my music too. Scorcher, instead, was purely a fun, real blues jam that was planned, originally, as a song with proper lyrics but then I got a little bit carried away (laughs) and I thought "Well, it sounds so beautiful as it is that I better leave things in the way they are". I am not afraid of putting instrumentals on an album. I am actually more comfortable playing instrumentals, in some respects. If you think about how many avant-garde musicians have instrumentals on their records, I don't see why I couldn't do the same, because that is very close to my vision of what music should be and sound like. 

BBR - You are one of the most impressive and talented guitarists we have heard in 2016. Which was the music you grew up with in your household and when was the decisive moment that changed your musical views forever, urging you to learn to play the guitar?

MW - The music I used to listen to, when I was very young, was heavily influenced by my father's records collection. He used to play and love the sound of 70's and 80's artists like Hendrix, Clapton, Led Zeppelin, just to mention few of them. As my older brother started to get into his teenage years, then I started to listen, through him, bands like AC/DC, Metallica, Panthera, a bit more heavier stuff and because of this, I found myself torn between these two different expressions of rock for a while. In the end, I realised that both those musical expressions were influenced by the blues and eventually, through that realisation, I've got pulled towards that musical direction. 

BBR - Your fellow musicians Jasper Miller on drums and Stephen Walker on bass guitar are one of the most powerful and cohesive rhythm sections that any artists may ever dream to have in a band. For how long you have been knowing each other and played together?

MW - Not long at all. Eighteen months, maybe two years with Jasper and I think eighteen months with Stephen. Not a long time at all but I am referring to where we started recording the album, therefore I should add an year, by now, to the time we first started playing together. I guess that, between us, it all clicked very naturally, it's just one of those things that worked out spontaneously. Jasper has got that great sense of swing and he truly loves jazz. Stephen instead is a great fan of pop, funk and fusion, that kind of stuff. I can anticipate you that, on the material we are working on already for the next album, all those different musical influences will emerge even more from all of us. I know that it sounds crazy because we have just released Blue Skies but I look forward so much to release my next album. I have always had that forward-thinking kind of attitude and I cannot wait to get to the next step of my musical journey.   

BBR - One of the most fascinating aspects of Blue Skies is related to the unexpected tangents your songs take during their executions. What is the criteria that you follow when you write music for any of your lyrics?

MW - I would say that, when it comes to write music, the genesis comes from a guitar riff and when I sense that I have found the right one that could be a good platform for a song, I record it on my phone. This is a process I would repeat several times and when I listen to the different riffs, I like to assemble them together, a bit like you would do with a mosaic and place them in a way that would allow me to take different directions through the same song. When it comes to write lyrics, I normally follow a natural flow and let the music that I have written to inspire me. It may start from a word or a sentence that I am thinking of and then I would start to build the lyrics for a song. For what concerns the direction that a song may take, when we record as a collective, I would allow musical freedom to the band to a degree, because I am very pedantic about what I want a song to sound like. Generally, I send the song to the boys  explaining, as much as I can, what I would like them to play according to the way I hear the song in my head. Often, the "unexpected tangents" you were referring that Stephen and Jasper come out with are so good that I would say "Great, I like it, let's do it" but still within the parameters I have set in my head for that particular song. They add, through their craftmanships, a splendid extra flavour to the songs. It's good to have a sounding board like the one provided by the boys, because it challenges me as an artist, bouncing different ideas coming from different backgrounds and allowing me to confront the way I see or hear music in my head all the time.  

matty t wall

(Photo By Internet Archive)

 

BBR - Blue Skies is the best possible proof of how much the blues, as genre, has evolved in the last half a century, thanks to the different shapes and forms you so elegantly presented in your debut album. How strong is the blues scene right now in Australia, Matty?

MW - We have a very strong blues scene in Australia. The way we do blues in Australia is by evolving it and by letting it to emerge and be expressed in different forms. Just to give you an idea, if you think back to the sound of artists like the John Butler Trio, which is a combustion of folkish-acoustic-dance-rootsy-bluesy genres, there is a lot of that sound going on right now in Australia. Lots of people see that as blues. That combustion of genres is gradually morphing into a more electric type of sound in later years. I have never been very strong on acoustic guitar, therefore I am very happy that blues music in my country is moving in that direction (chuckles), an aspect that you may note on my album too.

BBR - Many guitarists, for their own admissions, confessed few times that when it comes to write lyrics for their records, they find this part of the making of an album one of the hardest tasks to fulfil. How difficult has it been for you to write the lyrics for Blue Skies?

MW - You are dead right, it's not the easiest part at all. For lots of guitarists like me, to compose music, to come up with guitar solos is something that is very instinctive and natural. But when it's time to write lyrics...Oh, Man, you've got to think about that stuff! The way I cope with it, generally, is  by writing something that comes to my head, then re-write it and then re-write it again until it sounds ok for me or, at least, passable, I hope! This is the way I deal with lyrics, the one that works better for me. I am not exactly as good as Bob Dylan, about lyrics but I certainly try my best.

BBR -  Among all the Robert Johnson's tracks, why did you choose a relatively dark tune like Hellhound On My Trail to close your splendid album?

MW - I was in my early teens when I heard the first time Robert Johnson's music. The unique thing about him and his music is that you just don't listen to his music. You read about him too, about his dark sides and his almost devil-esque interpretation of the blues and when you are young, you get intrigued and scared by his whole persona and his music at the same time. For me, a song like Hellhound On My Trail incorporates every single aspect of Johnson and his music. A song like that, which has been written like he has indeed met the devil, was for me the best way to pay tribute to his music. Plus, I knew that nobody else had done before a cover of that song. When I read the lyrics, I thought about the feeling I wanted to express through this tune. Whilst listening to this song few times, I found the scariest notes in the whole music world written by Johnson and I thought that the best way to convey my adaptation of this song was by repeating those scary notes over and over again. That is how the whole idea of my version came about, simple as that. The haunting drums coming from Jasper helped to emphasize that scary feeling and I have got to say, I am very pleased about the way that the song came out.

BBR - Matty, are you planning to take Blue Skies on tour also outside of Australia? If so, is there any chance that your American fans will see you performing there any time soon?

MW - It will happen but not this year. I am hoping to be able to do a tour of the US and Europe next year but it is always a bit tricky, to organise a tour of that scale. I would love so much to be able to take my music in those parts of the globe and I sincerely hope that it's going to happen. It's a long way to go for me, living in the other part of the planet, in comparison to you guys and I just want to be sure that a perfect tour planning is in place before I leave the country. Given how long the flight from Australia is going to be, I also want to ensure that I am not going to waste my plane ticket money! (chuckles).

BBR - Music, as an art form always reflects, somehow, one or many sides of an artist's personality. Which side of Matty Wall does Blue Skies reflect, in its whole?

MW - It's hard to say which side of my personality this album reflects. The truth is that everyone has got different sides and react to things in different ways. Through my music, I guess I just wanted to show what can be done with the blues. I was very inspired by Gary Clark Jr. and his album Blak And Blu. When I first heard it, I thought that he was really doing something different with the genre and he really inspired me to express my personal vision of blues and where I see the blues going. In answer to what you asked, Blue Skies is indeed a reflection of myself and my music at 360 degrees. There are so many different moods present on the album, from happiness to sadness, from dark to light. It's a very hard question to answer, you might find even more different sides of me, different shades of my personality on the next album. I guess that the different varieties of music I play on the album is what they call freedom of expression and that, for me, is the real magic of music.

 

 

Giovanni "Gio"Pilato

(K)armine Chameleon - An Interview To Carmine Rojas

Carmine Rojas

(Photo by AK63 Photography)

 

You must be born with those natural gifts that just people like Carmine Rojas possess, otherwise you will never be able to build or acquire them through time and experience, because they are so unique. A truly positive person, surrounded by an aura of pure karma every time that he speaks or smiles, Rojas is not just one of the most talented bass player of the last half a century of music but he is also in body and spirit, one of the youngest looking 63 years old artists that Bluebird Reviews has ever met.

His palmares, as a musician, is something that belongs to the elite of music history, given the fact that throughout his glorious career, Rojas has played with giants of the music business, artists like David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, BB King just to mention few of a very long list. After the end of his long-lasting collaboration with blues titan Joe Bonamassa, Rojas is now currently working with one of the most talented blues/rock artists and an old friend of Bluebird Reviews, Ryan McGarvey. Whilst on tour in Europe with McGarvey, our website had the opportunity to meet Rojas and talk about his remarkable career plus his ongoing side projects.

 

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(Photo by Giovanni "Gio" Pilato)

 

BBR - Carmine, welcome on Bluebird Reviews. You are one of the most respected bass player worldwide and your musical background is second to none. Has the love for this instrument been always the first choice for you, as a young boy, or did you start your approach to music by playing something different?

CR - I started on drums, then I moved to keyboards and then I got cornered, one day, into playing bass for a guitar player who was missing, at that time, a bass player in his band.  I liked so much the tonality and the rhythmic of the bass and I fell in love instantly with the instrument. It felt like I walked unconsciounsly into a lifetime opportunity, without realising in that moment the future impact that it would have then created to my career for which, to these days, I am still very grateful for. 

BBR - Through your eclectic career as a sideman for many of the biggest names in the music industry, you shifted through many different music genres always with an incredible elegance. Which style of music do you prefer to play that is closer to your heart and your background?

CR - My first instinct is to say world music, because it covers literally every music corners and any genres coming from any part of the world. What I really love a lot about world music is the fact that when you take away all the embellishment coming from the guitars, keyboards etc, all you have got left with is rhythm, which is at the absolute core of the genre. Due to the fact that world music incorporates such a wide range of styles and influences, I find the genre highly educational, because it allows me to understand and to add to my background the roots and the culture of many world countries. It can be Irish music, Arabic music, Hispanic, any kind of music or sound. It hits me emotionally a lot. Also, in my personal opinion, I consider almost every music genres part of the definition of world music. It doesn't matter whether it is gospel, blues or rock, because it's all part of that big music umbrella called world music. As a young boy, I used to listen, due to my Latino origin, not just rock music but also genres like merengue, salsa or any sort of Cuban music. Growing up in the 60's, our radio stations were playing Tito Puente, Frank Sinatra and Black Sabbath at the same time, thing that I found brilliant and very refreshing and challenging. I was also fortunate enough to see, in those days, phenomenal live performances of artists like Puente himself, Iron Butterfly, Miles Davis and Led Zeppelin playing on the same bill, Tony Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, just to mention few of them and all this for the mere cost of $3 per gig! Whilst living those moments, I didn't realize immediately that I was going to the best music class in the best music school available worldwide for a young kid, crazy for music like me. I guess that, thanks to the musical formation and inspiration that those incredible musicians gave me, I have then learned to love and appreciate artists like Santana, someone so talented and able to incorporate in his music Latin rhythms, like the ones I mentioned before, combined with rock or blues. That fabulous ability to combine music genres together, which was something that geniuses like Duke Ellington, Count Basie or Miles Davis were able to do so superbly, has always been a huge font of inspiration for me, especially when it comes to create and blend different music styles together. I guess that my head has always been into world music but I never completely realised how much I was into it until twenty years ago, when I finally said to myself that world music was going to be my main focus, because it's what feels more natural for me to play, as a musician. I also guess that I have been blessed, in a way, to grow up in the 60's and the 70's, two decades not just filled with great artists and great music but also with freedom. Freedom of expression and creativity, which is the essence of world music.

BBR - When it comes to describe many aspects of your career as a musician and the excellent relationships you still maintain nowadays with the cream of the music business worldwide, you often used the word "respect", in many interviews. Do you feel that you have been given, throughout all these years, all the respect you deserved by fellow artists you worked with as much as you have given to them?

CR - To be honest, I don't really take the aspect about respect too seriously. Obviously, if any of the artists I work with pays me a compliment about my work, that makes me smile and feel happy, but, true to be told, as the years go by and I get older, this stuff about respect doesn't bother me that much anymore. I don't think that perhaps, even in the past, I have been hugely bothered about it because all that I have always wanted in my life is to be a good player, someone that the crowds would truly appreciate, not just for my natural skills but also for the desire to challenge myself in finding new and contemporary musical expressions and to be able to translate them into music while I am on stage. To be challenged is something hugely important for me because I like to feel that, as a musician and as a person, I am motivated and constantly evolving and moving on with times. Life is always in constant evolution, even now that you and I are talking. And by doing that, you and I are both unconsciounsly evolving as individuals in different ways. I like to apply that same philosophy to my music too, because I feel that music gives so much to me that I feel the need to give back to it for as much as I get out of it. Music talks to me using the sweetest and most emotional language existing and every time I feel that emotion, that connection between music and myself is taking place, when I get into that zone, it feels like walking on thin air when I close my eyes and let the music flow. It's an unsurpassable emotion and the best food for soul that one can ever wish for. It's like gospel to me. 

BBR - Is there an anecdote very close to your heart, related to a special moment of your splendid career that you can share with our readers at Bluebird Reviews?

CR - There are so many stories I could tell you that I wouldn't be able to know even where to start! A lot of them are related, and I am truly thankful to God for that, to the time I was playing with David Bowie. That was a time in my life that I shall never forget, for the amazing feeling I felt about being educated, as a musician, by David's eclectic music catalogue and his talent. I have got to say that for my formation as a musician, working with Bowie has been an incredibly inspirational and educational platform. Through him I had also the chance to meet and to play with an extraordinary musician like Carlos Alomar, an amazing artist with whom I have Latin roots in common, being himself from Puerto Rico. Alomar became for me a real music brother, somebody I could trust and I was so fortunate that he took me under his wings, musically speaking. To these days, I cannot thank him enough for being so good to me, because learning from him has been one of the greatest artistic gift I have ever received in my career. He looked after me and helped me to grow and develop, as a musician and taught me how to become a music director, to learn arrangements, all that stuff. Carlos is like a living music encyclopedia to me. I have been blessed also in my musical development by so many artists, like Patti Labelle or Nona Hendrix, just to tell you the first names on top of my head and it's thanks to each and everyone of those artists that I have been able to grow as an individual and as an artist and to move forward into my music journey. 

Carmine David

(Media Archive - Carmine Rojas with David Bowie)

 

BBR - One of your best friends in the music industry is certainly Marcus Nand, which you have been knowing and working intermittently with for almost two decades. Have the two of you ever thought to re-form that wonderful music project you created back few years ago called Ziroq?

CR - He is a very good friend of mine and one of those very talented musicians I had the honour and pleasure to take under my wings, exactly like people like Alomar did for me many years ago. With Marcus, we are actually entering a new stage of our collaboration as Ziroq, something that I like to call Ziroq Mach II. Besides that, we are planning to tour together in Europe and in places like the Dominican Republic, which will certainly be a lot of fun. I am working with Marcus every time I get the chance to, which is never easy, given how much I am working currently with several musicians in the area of Los Angeles including my dear friend Tal Bergman, with whom we are working together on a project involving a talented young country artist. Going back to myself and Marcus, I am trying to push him to do another solo album soon and to work with him a little like a hidden partner, because I am a great believer of his artistry on many levels as a musician, a singer and as a composer. It's funny how, whenever we get together and play, there are always some elements of that Ziroq sound emerging, a little like a personal music language Marcus and I have developed through the years. We did something together, a couple of months ago, a live webcast which was an enormous fun thing to do. I sincerely hope we can get together soon to try and push forward his talent and bring those positive music vibes that we are able to create every time we play together to the rest of the planet. It will be a masked Ziroq Mach II album under Marcus Nand's name.

BBR - You are a composer, a musical director and a musician. Did you find more challenging working as a musical director for Rod Stewart for almost fifteen years or rather being On The Road for almost 250 days a year with somebody like Joe Bonamassa?

CR - At the time I worked with Bonamassa, I felt I wasn't only just his band's bass player but also an added music director, an extra special force on the side, you know. I have always tried to guide him quietly, trying to shape his music in different forms, because you cannot just tell him to do this and that but rather trying to do so quietly and slowly. I really enjoyed working with Joe, because he is very open about music and he likes to challenge himself as a musician a lot, a little like what Ryan McGarvey likes to do. Joe is one of those rare artists that has got a very open mind when it comes to different music genres, by throwing himself in different musical projects with outstanding results, like when he works with Rock Candy Funk Party, with Beth Hart or with the Black Country Communion. I do believe also that a little part of the secret of his success, together with his great ability, is also due to the people that surround him and look after him on many levels, either musically, like his band, when he is on stage every night or his Production and Marketing Team. With Rod, it was great fun and very easy to work with him. I have always been a great fan of The Faces and The Jeff Beck Group and I remember to have seen them live when I was a kid. I got him completely as an artist, at the time we worked together, working on all that R&B stuff he was into, in true Temptation and David Ruffin style. I just found occasionally complicated to work with some people of his entourage and within his band, because they thought I wasn't schooled enough on R&B and had not enough background or knowledge about it. But I completely took them by surprise when they realised how well I could do arrangements, how well I could work on harmonies and all that stuff. In the end, I said to them: "Hey Fellas, never judge a book by its cover!" and from that point on, once they understood they could trust my musical guidance, it wasn't difficult at all to keep the whole camp united and tight and I believe we did some seriously good work together.

BBR - Do you follow any particular relaxation technique before going on stage every night when you are on tour?

CR - Yeah, absolutely and you know what is it? A very healthy nap before the show! (giggles). I would love to say that is just for meditation purposes and I guess that it is, in a way. If I manage to close my eyes from 20 minutes to an hour, in complete silence, then I get to recharge my batteries completely because I know I shall need that energy to be able to do my job, which is to look after The Man upfront at the very best of my abilities every night, when we are on stage. My job is something I take very seriously, because when I am hired to do a job, I always love to do it at my very best, because I am a professional and I want always to be able to give 100 per cent of myself all the time. Working with a class musician like Ryan McGarvey is a real pleasure and it is always a lot of fun. In few days, I believe on 13th August, if I am not mistaken, we are going to record with Ryan a live CD/DVD that will be released, hopefully, in few months, something that I am sure all Ryan's fans will absolutely love. On top of that, there will be a full European Tour schedule starting in September and the full schedule is available on Ryan's website. That is going to be a lot of fun too, I always love to come back and play in Europe.

BBR - I bumped in one of your fans, one day, that described you as "one of the most solid and consistant bass players of the last 40 years and a true gentleman". In everyday's life, who is really Carmine Rojas?

CR - He is exactly what that fan said. That's a very good question, actually, because I always try to do my job in the best way possible and to be honest and open with fans and people in general. I am a very spontaneous and natural person and I always try to be available for those that really matters to me, wchich can be either friends, family or colleagues. I try to be always that same genuine guy I have always been and I have to thank my family for raising me that way. I hope to be able to leave my legacy as a musician and a human being wherever I go and play, because I like to think that, in those moments, I am connecting and building emotional bridges with people through my music. If I can inspire any kids to play, in any part of the world, that will mean that I have fulfilled my goal as a musician, which is to leave my little footprint in music history and pass the baton to the musicians of the next generations to come. In essence, to answer your question, I see myself, fundamentally, as a giver and if people perceive me in that way, both as a person and as an artist, then I am the happiest man alive!

 

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

Blues Is All That Matters - In Conversation With Russell Alexander Of The Hitman Blues Band

Russell Alexander Graham Chapman

(Photo by Graham Chapman)

 

"Russell will be here in a second" announces the gentle voice and the smile of Joanne Alexander, member of The Hitman Blues Band and, most importantly, wife of Russell "The Hitman" Alexander, frontman and band leader of this fabulous collective from New York. The band has released just few months ago one of the most entertaining albums of the 2016, The World Moves On (previously reviewed on our website) and Bluebird Reviews couldn't miss the chance to meet and discuss about the new album with The Man Himself,  Russell Alexander.

We meet the band in one of their European dates, more precisely in London, UK,  in one of the most iconic and historic venues of the UK capital, The 100 Club. Alexander is immaculately dressed in his stage suite with his typical Blues Top Hat that he loves to feature almost every time that he performses and welcomes Bluebird Reviews with a huge smile and warm handshake.

 

 

BBR - Russell, welcome on Bluebird Reviews and many congratulations on your new album The World Moves On. How long did it take to assemble together the tracks, old and new that ended up on your new record?

RA - All together, probably about three or four months. I started the pre-production in January, then got few things sorted and then we started recording in February. The record had to be done by the end of March. I was told by my publicist that end of March was the ultimate deadline and if we didn't have the record ready by the beginning of April, there would have been no promotion opportunities for the forthcoming tour at all. As you can understand, no pressure at all!  (giggles). But despite all that, I am very happy about the end result and everything worked out really well.

 

BBR - The Blues has been defined, through the years, in many different ways. How would you define, in your own words, your very personal take on this genre that you like to call Original Modern Blues?

RA - See, the blues is a collective genre. You can go back all the way to the W.C. Handy days and then do a kind of progression up, by going through artists like Bessie Smith, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Charlie Patton and then moving another notch to people like Johnny Guitar Watson, Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf. By creating such a great music platform, the artists belonging to the rock scene grabbed on and said "Oh, so this is where our genre come from!". Finally understanding where all this started, the rock artists made their own things, filling the gap, through their artistry, between the Chicago Blues style and the rock scene, based on the roots created by the artists I mentioned before. People like Fleetwood Mac, Cream, Eric Clapton, then as the days went by, guys like Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan did so really beautifully. All of us musicians apply our visions to what we consider blues because we all have a different view about what blues is. Even Stevie Ray Vaughan, back in those days, he was told: "Man, that is not blues". But sure it was, it was performed just in a different way. If we want the blues to survive and I am certain that it will survive, it has to evolve because any music genres need evolution, including the blues, otherwise it's going to disappear.

 

BBR - During the making of The World Moves On, did any of the songs change their shape, whilst you were recording the album?

RA - A lot of times that does happen but on this particular album it didn't. When I walked into the studio, I knew already pretty much how I want the album to sound like. We had a keyboardist, Kevin Bents, who came in and threw in a lot of his own ideas. Some of the songs were starting in a way and finishing in a completely different way. That was the way we used to work on some of our earlier albums and if you hear the original demos of those albums and the way the tunes actually came out, they were completely different. But this one was pretty smooth and I have gotta say I might be finally getting the hang of it at this point, I am not sure but I feel I am getting there (smiles).

 

BBR - The band has been together for quite some time, now. How much has the sound of The Hitman Blues Band developed, through the years?

RA - Well, as you know I had many different players with me over the years. I started the band in 1989 and at the time, it was merely a cover band. Since those days, I went into a lot of changes of personnel and I believe that the only musician that has been with me the longest is Mike Porter (bass guitar), which has been with me for 12-13 years. I have worked previously with Mike Snyder, who is now playing with us both Baritone Sax and keyboards, many times before, since the mid-80's in different other projects but not on a long running like with Mike. This new record is a bit like the sum of our history, as Hitman Blues Band. You can hear in it new versions of songs from my previous records, like Catch 22 Blues from my very first album. That tune has got a special meaning for me, because I had the honour of having my father (Ray Alexander, excellent jazz artist) playing with me, which was a real treat. But then, if you compare, say, that track to the newer stuff, something like I'll Be Moving On or The World Moves On, for example, you can certainly hear the different approach we had on the new songs in comparison to the older one we revisited on the album. I guess that approaching songs in a different way, through time, is part of the evolution of any artist. One great thing was that, once I heard the job that the Team did in re-mixing and re-mastering versions of the older tunes, I was over the moon. Some of those tunes go back all the way to 2000 and it is amazing how fresh and so contemporary they sound still now

The Hitman Blues Band

BBR - Our viewers are very interested to know about the genesis of your nickname The Hitman, Russell. They really hope you have never shot anybody in your life!

RA - No, I can reassure you on that. "They called me Hanging Johnny, away boys away but I never hang nobody" (Hanging Johnny by The Great Big Sea).  I have got that nickname first because I knew so many tunes from the blues charts, back in the days, stuff from, I don't know, 1920s to 1970s all by heart. As you get older, however, you tend not to keep up quite as much as when I was younger and due to the fact that I am so focused and concentrated now with my band, you obviously lose, through time, any incentive to keep up with the Blues Charts and all that. The way that I dressed, also, already back in the mid-late 80's was very much noticed by the fans. I remember, in that period, a friend of mine coming to see me playing in an open jam session and when I walked on stage, he shouted "Hey, look, here comes The Hitman".  So I thought that, considering that so many people called me in that way for many different reasons, it was wise for me to keep that name and that is what I did.

 

BBR -  When we reviewed your record at Bluebird Review, we truly admired the capacity of the band to stick religiously to the tradition of the blues and at the same time, the ability to spice up that sound through your personal artistic touch. Which blues artists have inspired you and made you love so much this genre from the beginning?

RA - Oh boy, how long have you got? That's a huge list to make because there are so many different kind of blues. All the different styles of people like Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Charlie Patton, just to mention very few, they had such a big impact on my musical formation. But that is not all. If you go through each decade of blues with me, I can go on for hours. Maybe the first time I was really exposed to blues, as genre, was by listening in my young age to people like Cream, Canned Heat, Jethro Tull and a lot of Progressive Rock. One day I started listening to Elvis Presley's Sun Session album and I was amazed by how that album was based on blues. Through the years, then, people like Stevie Ray Vaughan and The Blues Brothers revitilised the interest about blues even further and that was really a cool moment for the genre. Then I started working my way backward, musically, discovering, a bit like the rock artists of the 70's I mentioned previously, that the fundament, the ground of that music was the blues. I guess that this is one of the positive sides of getting older. You get a bit more patient, sit down and dig deeper into the sound that was the genesis of what came after. It gives you the opportunity to appreciate where all started and how it started, something that when you are a younger and maybe blinded by the current music you hear on the radio, you don't consider at all.

Russell Alexander SD Photography

(Photo by SD Photography)

 

BBR -  How come that you decided to add to the new album five re-worked tracks from your previous records and not doing an album of all original material?

RA - I had a lot of people saying to me "Hey, you have got these older albums with plenty of great tunes, you should really consider to re-release them because they really sound cool. I had already some new songs ready and I didn't want to make an album made entirely of my old tunes either. So, we asked to the fans and we also discuss within the band which songs of our back catalogue would have been more appropriate to be chosen for this album and in the end, I have got to say I am pretty happy with the ones we chose.

 

BBR - Russell, you have been in Europe to play many times before. How different do European audiences react to your music in comparison to American ones?

RA - The typical answer would be that in Europe they are much more respectful, they listen carefully to the songs and so on. In reality, I don't think that there is so much difference between European and American audiences because our American fans can be as respectful as the European crowds. I also think that, another similarity we find often in our crowds is the amount of loudness, which is mostly the result of how much alcohol consumption there has been on a particular show, it doesn't matter where you are! (chuckles). There is also a fair amount of dancing but, again, it would be entirely depending by how much the crowd would be sober or not sober. Either way, what I generally find awesome about any type of audiences is that they will come and listen to the blues, no matter if it is Delta, Chicago Blues or any other kind of. Because it's the spirit of the blues that bonds them together, it's not important matter of what nationality they can be or their blues preferences. They come just and only for the blues, because they find a connection with it. They come because they want to support it and feel connected to it. Most of all, they want to see it performed live and feel the power of the blues.

 

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

Family Values - An Interview With Walter Trout

walter trout 3 by greg waterman small

(Photo By Greg Waterman)

 

It doesn't happen very often that we humans get so close to Afterlife and, for some unexplicable reasons that we like to call miracles, we manage to make a comeback and live our lives in perfect harmony.

Walter Trout from Huntingdon Beach, California belongs certainly to this very restrict elite of people able to make an extraordinary comeback to life. When virtually everybody was convinced that he would never, even if he would have survived to the liver failure disease he went through, make a return to the music scene, this very talented guitarist and singer/songwriter took by surprise the whole world making a full recovery.

In the space of a year, Trout didn't just make his return to music activity but also released a studio album called Battle Scars, the chronicle in music of his battle for life, followed by a brand new live album called ALive In Amsterdam.

Bluebird Reviews is honoured to reunite, once again, with not only a Blues/Rock Guitar Hero but also with an old friend of our website to discuss about the new live album, why the concept of family matters so much to the American artist and why Amsterdam and The Netherlands have got such a special place in his heart.

 

BBR - Hi Walter, thank you so much for talking to us again at Bluebird Reviews. ALive In Amsterdam is a live recording that frames an important moment of your life and career, given what you have been through during the last 2/3 years. Which are the immediate memories that you have of that fabulous night of music?

WT - Well, I remember it was, to be perfectly honest with you, a rather stressful night. There were many logistic sides to be put together. My wife Marie was trying to coordinate all the different aspects of the concert and its recording so it was rather stressful for her too. I do particularly remember one thing, though, about that night. When I walked on stage, that roar from the crowd and the incredible love that the fans showed me in Amsterdam had the same intensity of the one I felt at the Royal Albert Hall in London, for the Leadbelly Tribute Night. It was truly special.

BBR - I guess that The Netherlands is one of those special places for you, as an artist. That is the place where the first Walter Trout Fan Club started and among all the places in the world where you have been playing throughout your career, The Netherlands is a country that feels a special connection with your music. What is the secret of the special bond that links you and your music to the Dutch crowds?

WT - I couldn't tell you, really. From the very first time I played in The Netherlands with my band, they have just embraced my music and myself completely. The first time ever I went there to play with the Walter Trout Band, I was amazed by the number of the people that showed up. In many countries where we had previously performed, at our very first concert there might have been something like ten people, because we hadn't made our mark yet, in such countries. Then the numbers would have increased with each passing gig. When we did our first show in The Netherlands, in those days, we were expecting pretty much the same amount of people we had in other places. Instead, the whole place was sold out and when we walked on stage the crowd went completely crazy and it was such a beautiful sensation. I was also very lucky, in a way, that in the very same country, later in 1990, I had this major hit with the song The Love That We Once Knew. That song was so successful, in The Netherlands, that it reached the No. 1 in their music charts! I couldn't believe that my song was at the top spot, followed by Madonna, Bon Jovi and Brian Adams. You have no idea how great that felt on many levels. Not only because, for once in my career, I reached the No. 1 with one of my songs in a country but also because The Love That We Once Knew allowed me to reach, through that Number One spot, a bigger and wider audience, becoming also a phenomenal radio hit. You can hear, on my new live album that, as soon as I go into that song while I was doing the Encore, they all start singing it. There is also another song of mine called Say Goodbye To The Blues, present on the live album too and written in cooperation with a dear friend of mine Tim Jahnigen which, for five consecutive years on the national Classic Rock station in The Netherlands has been voted by the people as the best blues song of all time. What a honour for me. Those two songs have been my most important hits in that part of the world and I am so thankful and overwhelmed for the love that the people of The Netherlands has showed me since the beginning. Words cannot even start to explain my gratitude to them.

BBR - ALive In Amsterdam's tracklist includes, as one would expect, many tracks from your latest studio album Battle Scars. Do you ever feel uncomfortable to play certain songs from that album that rewind back to a difficult time in your life?

WT - I don't feel uncomfortable but sometimes some songs affect me emotionally, because, as I am singing those lyrics, it feels like I am re-living the experience. Occasionally, it really takes that pain back in my mind and I must confess that more than once, on my last tour, at the end of one or two of the songs of that album, I needed to hide for few seconds from the audience and have a little moment on my own. I always like to be able to live the lyrics of the songs I write but I guess that, in Battle Scars, there are times in which that emotional involvement and by living those lyrics in a particular time of my life it gets a bit too much even for me. 

Walter Marie

Walter Trout & his wife Dr. Marie Trout

 

BBR - This live record sees an energised Walter Trout on many levels. Your ability to play guitar is second to none but the really surprising factor is that your singing style has reached some new fabulous highs. How much has the first leg of the Battle Scars Tour helped you to reach this new found and incredible singing versatility?

WT - That is hard to say, because, when I was very ill, I remember I could barely speak. I did not have any strength at all and if you remember my vocals on the album The Blues Came Callin',  I finished that record after a really long and painful process, right before I went to the hospital. There was a song on that album that I wrote for my wife Marie, called Nobody Moves Me Like You Do and when I hear that song, I can remember and hear the struggle I faced in recording those vocals. I literally had to sing that song one line at the time, take a break for five minutes, get a bit of strength back and then press the Record button again to sing the next line, because I did not have any energy left in me. So, when I started to get my strength back, to sing became a brand new and rather joyous expression for me, like I never felt before. It was the same for the guitar playing. When something like that is taken away from you and then that thing comes back through hard work, it becomes more meaningful and important for you then it was before. When I am singing, it feels very liberating for me because I feel like I gained that power again, in my voice. 

BBR - You have covered a few songs of some of your fellow blues/rock musicians throughout your career, as also shown in this new live album in which you play songs from John Lee Hooker, BB King and Luther Allison's repertoire. Has the fact that you have been recently to Jeff Healey's memorial inspired you to record one of his tracks, in the future?

WT - I might do that but, to be honest with you, I had not really thought about it. I am just starting to think about making another studio album, to be made probably in January or February 2017 and that is on top of my agenda. But it would be a good idea recording some of Jeff's music. I loved his music and I was very lucky to get to know him even before he became famous worldwide. When I went to play in Canada, back then, there was, as opening act, this local kid that I had never heard of and I remember that myself and Coco Montoya sat in the wings of the stage and we had our jaws dropping to the ground by watching Jeff playing. I have got to watch him go from being a little, local kid in Canada to become an international music hero. I have been so privileged to see him blossoming, not just as an artist but also as human being. Jeff was really a very special person in many ways.   

BBR - You allowed a lot of artistic freedom, on ALive In Amsterdam, to Sammy, Michael, Johnny, your son Jon and your long time friend musician Andrew Elt. Do you feel like this new album is not just your personal "Thank You" to all the fans that have supported you through thick and thin in your career but also to your "On The Road" family?

WT - Of course. Those guys were there with me all the way. When I was sick, they told me that if I could ever get back to music, they would have been there for me. They had the chance to go on and play with other people but they waited for me. Michael (Leisure, drummer of the band) once told me: "I don't care if Roger Daltrey hires me to play drums. If you get to the point where you can play again and you really want to play again, I am here for you". All the boys in the band told me that. I so much love those guys. I am so in debt with those fellas for hanging there with me for almost two years. They prayed and they waited for me, having no idea if I would ever get back again to music and I want always to be there for them as much as they were there for me. It is a real family On The Road. All of them auditioned for me, no matter whether they have been in the band just for one year, like Johnny (Griparic, the band's bass player) or something like 9 years for Michael or even for 16 years like Sammy (Avila, the band's keyboard player). But they all auditioned and when I hired each of them, I said to all of them from Day One that I wanted to make this band feel like a family because I want us to be a family, when we are on stage. I want that feeling to translate into our live shows. We are not just four guys going up there, trying to play together and put up a good show but we are four guys that really care, respect and love each other. I want us to communicate that to the crowd, as we play. I always wanted that.  I remember the time when I started to be a musician, age 14. My ultimate goal that I really wanted to achieve was to be in a band like The Beatles. They really blew my mind and I saw their cameraderie and their tight, close relationship, especially when they first came on the scene. They stuck together like one sole unity, like one person and I thought that was a wonderful thing, what an incredible bond. The actual concept of a tight, close, hard working band like The Beatles, that was exactly what I wanted my band to be.

BBR - Amsterdam, coincidentally, is not only the place in which you recorded your splendid new live album but also the place in which you shared the stage with the all-stars project called Supersonic Blues Machine, on their very first live performance ever. Can you share with us any hidden backstage and onstage tales of that special concert?

WT - Man, that was an incredible experience and that band is really an amazing group of musicians. One thing I can tell you is that, all those guys, as accomplished, revered, esteemed and respected by the world of music as they are, they are all just so down to earth and a group of very humble people. We got there a couple of days early to do a bit more rehearsal because we never played together live before, so I got to be around them for a while. I was amazed about the fact that there was no egos involved, no attitudes and we truly enjoyed hanging out together. We all became very close friends and, since that show, we all keep in touch very frequently. We exchange a lot of e-mails between myself, Billy Gibbons, Robben Ford or even, at times, jam together, like few nights ago when Fabrizio (Grossi, bass player with Supersonic Blues Machine) came to a club where I was testing some songs with my band for the forthcoming Tour and he just joined in on stage with us. They are, sincerely, a great group of guys. We have another show, as Supersonic Blues Machine, coming up in August in Norway, at the Notodden Blues Festival and funnily enough, I am going to headline one night with my band and then next night I am going to play with those guys. Joining us as well, that night, there will be also another fantastic musician, Steve Lukather. It's an absolutely joy playing with them. I mean, take somebody like Alex Alessandroni on keyboard, which has played with artists like Christina Aguilera or Stevie Wonder. What an incredible musician Alex is and he is just the nicest guy! Then there is Doug Rappoport on guitar, insanely great musician too. Then you have, of course, the three fellas which are the core of the Supersonic Blues Machine. Kenny Aronoff on drums is a real force of nature, it's like heaving a steamed locomotive within the band. Lance Lopez on guitar, a truly fabulous guitarist and such a humble guy. Fabrizio Grossi on bass is a hugely talented bass player and the nicest guy ever. As an extra added bonus, I have got to tell you also that, after the show in Amsterdam with the SBM, I felt this tap on shoulder and there was Bonnie Raitt, congratulating me for the show! I have always been impressed by her immense talent. The first time I saw her playing was in 1970, at The Philadelphia Folk Festival. She was there, alone on stage playing acoustic and I was so mesmerised by that performance. I still am. I gotta tell you also that, after that show, we were just going away from the venue and I got this message via a Social Network from Bonnie's bass player Hutch Hutchinson, which coincidentally played bass on my albums,  Common Ground and The Outsider too. The message said "Hey Man, we were looking for you because Bonnie wanted you to sit in" but sadly, by that time, we had left already. What a shame, really. To play a song with Bonnie is something that I really want to do before I die.

Supersonic Blues Machine by Pat Scalabrino

(Photo By P. Scalabrino) From L to R: Walter Trout, Doug Rappoport, Lance Lopez, Fabrizio Grossi, Billy Gibbons, Kenny Aronoff & Alex Alessandroni

 

BBR - You have just started the 2nd leg of the Battle Scars World Tour. Have you planned to play pretty much the same setlist present on ALive In Amsterdam or are you going to surprise your fans by playing different songs from your extensive catalogue?

WT - We have  few songs now that we have added to the show. I call them new songs but, in reality, they are old songs that we rehearsed lately in front of people by doing few unannounced club gigs so we could test those songs in front of a crowd. I am talking about tunes like May Be A Fool or Prisoner Of A Dream, amongst others. The nucleus of the show will be still though my latest studio album, Battle Scars.

BBR - Have you had any chance to write new material, while you have been on tour in the past 12 months?

WT - Haven't thought about it at all, no. I am not the kind of guy that write songs, whilst On The Road. I do write lyrics, when I am travelling. I do sit in the back of the van, sometimes, with my headphones so I can tune out from the world. I think about things and I write them down, making those lyrics becoming poetry as best as I can. Then, when I am back home, I try to put them to music and combine the two together. Every time that I get in my hotel room, after a show, I am not the type of guy that gets out the guitar and play. I rather prefer to save myself and my energies for the stage. After all, I am on stage every night for two hours and I completely immerse myself, mentally and physically to the live show. I think it's just wise for me to use my strength for the shows and write new stuff when I am back home.

BBR - "Music is my healer" is one of the most favourite slogans of a fabulous young guitarist and dear friend of yours, Laurence Jones. How much has music been your healer, not just in recent times but throughout your whole life, Walter?

WT - It's been my healer for my whole life. That's why I called my book Rescue From Reality. Music provided me a refuge for a very insane childhood. It provided me a sanctuary that I can escape into, where nobody could touch or hurt me. After the period in which I have been sick, to be able to come back up on stage, in that splendid venue that is the Royal Albert Hall in London and, after almost two years of absence from a stage, to get that reception from the crowd, it lifted my spirit and my soul in an indescribable way. I realised, after that night, that music is now for me something different, something that allows me to get even deeper into myself and closer to my emotions. It gives me the chance to experience a part of myself and my emotions that I didn't even know it was there.

 

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

Ground For Evolution - In Conversation With Dan Patlansky

Dan Patlansky by Sean Brand

(Photo by Sean Brand)

 

It's one of the most gratifying feeling, for who writes about music, to see that there are still artists out there capable of making their sound to grow and evolve and still be successful and original, rather than trying to feed their fans with the same ole music recipe over and over again.

The South African guitar prodigy Dan Patlansky is, undoubtedly, one of those rare above mentioned exceptions and we, at Bluebird Reviews, are truly privileged to catch up once again with this tremendously skilled artist whilst he is touring Europe to promote his brand new album called Introvertigo. Where many were expecting Patlansky to repeat from A to Z the same formula that took his previous record, Dear Silence Thieves to the top of the blues and rock charts all over the world, his new album, Introvertigo, instead takes the listener to the next level of the South African artist's musical journey, moving into territories that embrace genres very close to Patlansky's heart, like blues, rock and funk. When we start our conversation with this very charismatic musician, it's almost inevitable for Bluebird Reviews to ask Patlansky whether he feels that Introvertigo is the natural development of the 2014's splendid album Dear Silence Thieves or it's rather another step in the musical journey of an artist in continous evolution. "I think it's a bit of both. It's an ongoing evolution, that I feel it will never stop evolving. This is due to myself having  a whole lot of different musical influences each time I make an album. I am very open to different music styles and when I find something that really intrigues me, in a particular time of my life, I like to dig deeper into that particular genre, study carefully that music direction and make it my own. I do believe that in many ways, as you were saying, this album is the natural evolution of Dear Silence Thieves. Having said that, I also think that Introvertigo is very close to Dear Silence Thieves in many ways because I used the same producer, the same guy mixing the album and the sound is, at times, resembling parts of the Dear Silence Thieves album. In essence, Introvertigo is a record with a bunch of new songs, moving towards a slightly different direction than my previous record. But I feel it's a kind of an obvious thing to happen, being my music in constant evolution".

One thing that Patlansky has not changed on Introvertigo is indeed the producer. Theo Crous has been worked with the South African gunslinger on both Dear Silence Thieves and on the new record too. "Naturally, given the great success of Dear Silence Thieves, I thought that was common sense for me working again with Theo Crous. Introvertigo was much easier to record, in comparison to Dear Silence Thieves because this time around there was a better understanding, a better chemistry and a better trust between myself and Theo. On my previous record, we were arguing a lot more about the direction I was going to take musically but the outcome of Dear Silence Thieves proved that his input on the album was spot on. When we enter the studio for the Introvertigo sessions, we knew already the way we both like to work, therefore the recording process of the new album was much smoother than the previous one we did together. Theo comes from a music background that has not got the blues on the far front but he rather comes from a more commercial rock scene. That aspect worked perfectly with me, because the core of my music is essentially blues and, as I was writing the new songs, I found this common rock ground with Theo in which my music core was fitting perfectly in. The outcome of Introvertigo was very satisfactory both for me and Theo because I have got what I wanted musically from the album and he has got what he wanted the record to sound like. In my opinion, it was a win-win result for the two of us and we hope, for the fans too".

During the last couple of years, Patlansky has been in Europe to promote his latest two albums several times, including this one. Out of the many countries in the world in which this young and talented artist has performed, the United Kingdom seems to have built a special bond with Patlansky and his music. "Personally, I have always thought that the United Kingdom had stronger musical traditions and knowledge than many other countries in the world. When it comes to blues/rock, in particular, you can easily sense that there is a strong music scene in this part of the world. One of the aspects that I have noticed in this last couple of years, whenever I had the chance to play in the UK, was the fact that when you get people in UK that is really into your music, they will become your most loyal fans ever. The crowds here in UK are really great ones to play for, very appreciative of my music. In a short amount of time, I feel that myself and the UK fans have built together a very strong connection. I am not saying this because we are in London right now, as we speak, but please believe me when I say that the United Kingdom is among my most favourite places in the world to play live. There is such a healthy music scene here, not just for me but also for other artists and I am very excited to come back here in the UK and play whenever I have the opportunity to do so".

Dan Patlansky Bakkes Images02

(Photo by Bakkes Images)

 

One of Patlansky's fondest memories, as a musician, goes back to 2015, when he had the opportunity to tour together with the Guitar Maestro Joe Satriani. To play with such an enormously talented musician, must surely have inspired Patlansky musically in the build-up to record Introvertigo. "Without a doubt. It has been one of the greatest honours of my life to be on Tour with such an incredible artist like Joe and trust me, the Man is a real force of nature. He is such a nice guy and from a personal point of view, one of the nicest artists I have ever met in my career. He made myself and my band feel at home every day, when we were touring with him and his crew. When you are a support artist, sometimes you may feel like you are in the way of things but that was not the case at all with Joe. I learned a lot from him, how can you not? What I really appreciated of him beside his stature as a guitarist,  is the incredible level of consistancy he applies in his performances, night after night. He never has a night off or plays under par, never. That shows really how much he has got his head right, which is a skill that just masterful musicians like Satriani have. It was a world class experience working with him that I shall treasure forever".

Whilst touring with Satriani in 2015, Patlansky had the opportunity to test live, in many occasions, two very powerful tracks with his audience that ended up then in Introvertigo, Run and Stop The Blessing. Bluebird Reviews is curious to know whether Patlansky thought already, at the time, that those two songs would have been the driving force of the new album, in terms of radio airplay. "To be honest with you, the only reason why we were playing those two tracks in our setlists while touring with Satriani, it was because at the time those songs were the only two tracks ready from the new album. Playing those tracks gave us the opportunity not just to test them live but also the chance to get an immediate feedback from the crowds long before the album was released. The fact that Stop The Messing became a single here in UK, on radio stations like Planet Rock, was purely coincidental, as it was just coincidental what brought those two songs in the spotlight too. But I am glad it happened that way, because it gets always tough for me to pick a single song from any of my records and decide which would be a better single than another or more radio friendly. Every song is like a child for me and you don't get to pick and choose any of your kids, because you don't want to disappoint anybody, therefore I am glad that radio stations do that job on my behalf". 

Patlansky is a truly eclectic artist on many different levels. Not only a fabulous guitarist and an excellent singer, Patlansky's songwriting gets better and better as the years go by. One of the songs from Introvertigo, called Western Decay, is not just a splendidly written tune but also one that gives the real feeling that the South African artist means every word he sings, when he worries about the future of the world we are living in. "That is a song about how much the world has changed from when I was a kid and the amount of freedom I had as a young boy, in comparison to this present time. I guess that life in South Africa, back in the days, was pretty much like here in Europe or in the rest of the world. You could go out with your friends, coming back when the sun was down and my parents wouldn't worry at all, because everything was going to be good. It's a total different game, now. Since I have become a father, I can actually sense on my own skin how much things have changed and it's a sad thing to realise. You get the feeling that those days of freedom are long gone and they are never coming back again, because the world is getting more and more crazy, as the years go by. That's what the song is all about. As I said, it really means a lot to me because it makes me appreciate even more the way that I have been raised and I feel blessed for that. At the same time, it makes me feel even more responsible about trying to be the best parent I can possibly be, especially in crazy times like these".

Dan Patlansky Bakkes Images

(Photo by Bakkes Images)

Introvertigo is an album that doesn't just showcase Patlansky's love for blues but also for a quintessentially 90's rock sound, superbly executed through his unmistakable artistic touch. We ask Dan Patlansky which were the 90's rock bands that made a particular impact on him. "Definitely Soundgarden. They were such a big influence for me. Them and the Rage Against The Machine. When the project Audioslave came up, back in 2000, that was for me the best of both worlds I could possibly ask for, musically, because that band was including 3/4 of the RATM plus Soundgarden's Chris Cornell as the lead singer. Cornell is for me one of the best singers ever. Obviously, I listened to many other big rock bands of the 90's, people like Nirvana, that kind of stuff. Truth to be told, I don't think that the 90's was the best ever music era, at least for me personally but there were certainly some decent stuff made in that decade".

Another highly interesting tune present on Introvertigo is, without a doubt, Heartbeat. In this song, Patlansky displays in full his ability on both acoustic and electric guitar, by mixing and alternating the two different guitar types on the same track with very inspired brilliancy. "The genesis of that song it's quite interesting, because that was the last song we recorded for the new album. The only thing I had for that song were the lyrics but I had no music ready at all for that tune. So we started messing around in the studio and then, little by little,  we came up with the riff, then the melody and so we thought "Hey, we are getting somewhere, here!". One of the winning factors about that song, for me , was that it wasn't an over-thought tune at all. It was almost a last minute kind of thing. We did not know until the very end whether Heartbeat was going to become an acoustic tune or an electric one, because we had the platform to build the structure of the song in both ways. I like to play my music differently, either whispered in a more soft and gentle way through an acoustic gutar or more loud and boombastic through an electric guitar. It's a great accomplishment this song, for me, because it shows two different dimensions of my music style. Although it's complicate to play this song live, because I cannot play the acoustic and the electric guitar at the same time when I am on stage. You need some kind of magicians to be able to do that! (chuckles). It's possibly one of my most favourite tracks of the albums, because of the unusual dynamic occurring on Heartbeat".

Patlansky is a truly eclectic musician able to express his talent using different layers of music, in the same way he expresses his personal feeling, through those different music layers. By using different music styles as instruments of expressions, one would hope that, at least, the musical Vertigos are finally over for the South African artist. "Possibly. I agree about what you just said about feelings. Music is a platform that allows me to express who I am, as every art form does with any artists. It can be a painter, a photographer, any kind of. Obviously, rock is  a far easier platform for me to express feelings like anger through, because has got a raw sound in itself, an "in-your-face" type of music approach. You may be able, I guess, to express anger through blues too but, because I love both genres, I guess that this album gave me the opportunity to dislodge feelings like anger and love using different sounds, the ones I really love. Fundamentally, my idea of Introvertigo is like, say, going out shopping at Xmas time and be surrounded by hundreds of people doing exactly the same. That idea of chaos surrounding you, the feeling that you don't want to be there, that is kind of what I was trying to express by using a made up word like Introvertigo. But you know what? You can dislodge any kind of feeling for a while through a record, but an Introvertigo kind of feeling is something I feel I have to live for the rest of my life with, because chaos is something that will never cease to exist, in every aspects of modern society. With the sole exception of when I am on stage playing my music or being surrounded by the love of my family, the best feelings ever in the whole world".

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

Introvertigo is out now and it's available on Amazon

Cementing The Brotherhood - An Interview With The Jelly Jam's Rod Morgenstein

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The Jelly Jam - (From L to R) Ty Tabor (Vocals, Guitar), Rod Morgenstein (Drums), John Myung (Bass)

 

There are things in the world of music that happen really fast, some other that take all the time they need to be put in place. The latter certainly applies to The Jelly Jam, a formidable supergroup of avant-garde rock made by King's X guitarist Ty Tabor, Dream Theater's bass player John Myung and Winger/The Dixie Dregs drummer Rod Morgenstein.

It took 4 albums, including the freshly released Profit and 15 years of history as The Jelly Jam (although just as a side project while performing with their respective bands) to make finally possible to get the band touring for the first time ever. Their brand new album, Profit, is a marvellous and excellently played concept album about an imaginary Prophet, embarking an heroic attempt to save the world and to open the eyes of Those Who Will Not See.

To talk about the band's new album, their forthcoming US Tour and their history as The Jelly Jam, Bluebird Reviews meets Rod Morgenstein, whose career as a drummer includes several Grammy nominations with The Dixie Dregs and multiple chart topping singles with the rock band Winger.

BBR - Hi Rod, welcome to Bluebird Reviews, many congratuations to you and the band for your new, splendid album. Profit is a record full of spirituality and symbolism. Who, within the band, came up with the idea of writing a concept album like this?

RM - We have to thank Ty Tabor for coming up with this concept. In fact, when the creative process began, about three years ago, John, TY and I got together and we each had a handful of ideas. It wasn't a huge amount but, just by jamming a little bit together, the ideas just started flowing. After a week or 10 days of hanging out together, we ended up nearly having an album worth of music, in terms of drums sections being cut, the bass tracks done and a fair amount of the guitar parts done too. When we parted company, Ty had, at that stage all his melodies completed but being also the lyricist and the vocalist of the band, he still had no idea on what the album, conceptually, was going to be all about. A little while after that recording session, which was the fourth for the band altogether in almost 15 years, in conversation Ty told John and I that the whole idea about the album was coming together in his head and that it would be a concept album. The whole idea about the album, lyrically, was all about Ty and his creative juice. Once we went back home, after that session, he had the opportunity to gather together the material we recorded, and by adding all the ideas he had in mind, we ended up with what I consider a truly excellent album.

BBR - It has been 5 years since your last record as a collective, Shall We Descend. How much do you feel the band's sound has moved on and developed since that album?

RM - When we started recording Shall We Descend, we realised that our style was developing nicely and we were creating an interesting sound, recognisable to everybody as The Jelly Jam. Like many musicians, when I finish to record an album, I barely listen to it again, because of all the time that myself and the band spent creating the music, recording it etc. You may listen to it a bunch of times, once it is completed, to ensure that you are completely satisfied about it. But then something kicks in and you almost get tired to listen to it over and over again so you move on to other things. The fact that this is the first time we are going on tour, as a band, meant that we all needed to go back to our previous records and listen to them again, in order to gather a setlist for the shows. I found myself listening to material that I had not listened to for almost ten years! When that happened, I was so pleasantly surprised to hear how strong the music was at the time and still is now and how cohesive we have been as a band since Day 1. That said, this new record has, to me, such a maturity of sound. I guess it is because, although the three of us have not played a gig together yet, in those four different periods of time when we met in the  studio, we have done a fair amount of playing together and getting to know each other better as musicians. I feel that there is a comfort level that kicks in, when you start doing record after record and that is why we are getting more locked in, by playing with John and Ty. Also, due to the fact that this is a concept album and every song is related to the next one, there is, within the band, the strong feeling that we have further evolved, on Profit, in terms of sound and cohesiveness. Given how much our sound has moved on through this new album, it's going to be even more interesting to see what happens when we convene together next time in a studio to start a new record. I am sure it's going to be, again, something completely different but still with a distinctive Jelly Jam sound.

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BBR - Do you feel that The Jelly Jam project allows you, as a musician, to unleash your drumming skills in a way that suits you more than any other music project you have been involved into, throughout your glorious career?

RM - Let's see.. I have truly loved every band that I have played in and I say that because to me, the greatest challenge, as a musician, is to try to be true to the style of music that you are playing every time. What I mean by that is, when I play in Winger, I don't want to have people walking away saying stuff like "What the hell is a jazz-fusion drummer playing in a hard-rock band?". When people would come to see the Dixie Dregs, in the same way, I wouldn't want people walking away and saying: "What the heck is a meat and potato rock drummer doing in an instrumental/fusion/rock/jazz band?". My goal has always been, regardless of which band I am playing with, to have people walking away from a gig, saying "God, I really, really dig that drummer, he really played true to the band's style and he also added elements to the band's sound that I have never heard that way before". Say, for example, the style of Winger's music today. It is quite different from what we were doing back in the 80's. I have always tried, and hopefully achieved with Winger, not just to hit the drums hard, in true rock style, but also to add my experience as a fusion drummer too, by inserting in the sound, here and there, curves and twists that no one can hear from a normal rock drummer. Take for example, one of our biggest hits as Winger back in the late 80's called Seventeen, which was one of the most played videos on MTV. There is a little section, right in the end of the guitar solo where when we recorded that song, the producer asked me to add something that no one has ever heard before in a rock song. I used a technique called Beat Displacement, which makes the music sound like it has been turned upside down and at the time, this was something totally innovative to hear in the sound of a rock band. Truth be told, I was specifically brought into Winger to bring these kind of foreign musical elements to the sound of the band. Nowadays, with Winger, we apply much more to our sound those element of musical escapism. But coming back to your original question, it's not that I feel that The Jelly Jam gives me more freedom to express myself as a musician more than any other band I have been involved in. It's just a matter of a different challenge, for me, because I love playing with The Jelly Jam as much as I love playing with any band I am or I have been involved into. In terms of freedom, there is certainly lot of open space in The Jelly Jam music, as far as what I am able to do, as a drummer. We are not AC/DC, where you hear exactly the same drum beat style almost every time, say, in an album like Back In Black. Which I totally understand, because it is exactly what is needed for that kind of music. But in The Jelly Jam, it is a much busier style of playing and the drums have a lot of freedom to change things up without impacting the song negatively. I wouldn't say that is like being in a jam band, with The Jelly Jam. It's kind of 50/50 between improvisation and mixing things up a little and the way we had originally planned to build a song. With John and TY, due to the fact that they are such superb musicians, nothing that I can do can really thrill them anyway! (chuckle).

BBR - I believe that a song like Perfect Lines defines you perfectly, as a band, with all those twist and turns, typical of The Jelly Jam musical philosophy. Is this song solely related to The Prophet's state of mind and his personal journey on this record or is it more an autobiographical song for any of the band members?

RM - That's an interesting question. I don't really know, to be honest. The only one that could answer this question would be just Ty. I am just assuming that everything, lyrically, was just part of the story and the concept of the record, without having anything to do with anybody in the band. That was a very interesting song in the way it came together. I forgot how far into that song we were, when we recorded it but a certain point, the guys asked me: "Hey Rod, could you just sit at the piano and write something that sounds classical, 'cause that might feel really great with the song?". So I just sat down and start noodling and eventually I came up with the piano part that you can hear in the song. Ty wrote a really beautiful vocal melody on top of it, really wonderful. I think it is the most Prog-Rock orientated song on our new album. I read a review the other day from someone who is totally into Prog-Rock kind of stuff. He kept going on saying things like "That was great, I want to hear more Prog stuff like that by The Jelly Jam". We just want all to know that The Jelly Jam is its own thing. It's not Dream Theater, it's not King's X, not any of the bands that I or the boys play in. Whatever you want to call it, this is The Jelly Jam sound. Over the course of the four albums, the sound of our band has grown constantly and it has moved into different directions. Yes, our style includes surely some progressive elements but we don't think of ourselves as a Prog band. We are more than that. I remember the days with the Dixie Dregs. We, in the band, knew that the majority of our fans were musicians of some sort. With The Jelly Jam, you don't have to be necessarily a musician to love our music. We don't do those 10 minutes-plus long epic tracks. Instead, our songs last for a standard duration of 3-4 minutes, with proper verses and choruses. That allows virtually anybody, musician or non-musician, to listen to our songs and be totally absorbed by them.

BBR - Profit is, to me, the record where all of you guys have really stretched your tremendous skills as musicians with outstanding results. Do you feel like the band, through this record, has finally found the "Treasure chest that will save them from the rest" (excerpt from the song Heaven)?

RM - I do, I truly do. We have done enough recordings and, little by little, I think we now feel comfortable hanging together as friends and musicians, like we know each other better every time we get together. I do believe that this can be heard on our new album as well. I am absolutely positive that our connection as artists and friends will grow even more the moment we will get together on a stage and play our songs to our audiences. During the rehearsal period for the live tour, we felt immediately that we were bringing our songs together very quickly and very nicely. The fire and the excitement is there, we are feeling that this tour will bring things within the band to another level. I guess that, by touring for the very first time, we can stop calling The Jelly Jam our side project, as we have done for the last 15 years and calling ourselves, finally, a band. We are going to hit the road in the middle of July for three or four weeks in The United States and we sincerely hope that we can bring our show soon to audiences around the rest of the world too.

BBR - Rod, the original form of what it is now The Jelly Jam was Platypus, where the band was originally a quartet. How difficult has it been to channel the sound of the band from being a quartet to a trio?

RM - It has been very easy. When we started that project, about 17 years ago or so, John called myself, Ty and Derek Sherinian (keyboards), asking whether we wanted to be involved with him in a project all together and we said "Sure, let's do it". The four of us convened at my house in Long Island and each of us came in with some ideas. We did not have yet a clear direction or a concept on what the project would have been all about, therefore each of us came in with one or two songs or simply sketches. We gradually built on the project and if you listen to the first Platypus album, it is really a fun record but it is all over the map, in terms of sounds, starting with high energy to then moving to the next track, which was a very Proggy one, an instrumental kind of song that perhaps would have sat much better in a Dream Theater album. In essence, the Platypus record was fun, yes, but it was a collection of songs that were not related to each other, neither in terms of lyrical content nor musical togetherness. When Derek departed the band, the three of us decided to continue on and since we had done two records together as Platypus, we evolved very naturally and fairly quickly, I have got to say, in this beautiful creature that it is now The Jelly Jam. Something that, to me, it is an incorporation of heavy and vocal-oriented cool rock songs that also add that special musician element to them. It did not take a lot of work or extra effort for the evolution from Platypus to The Jelly Jam to happen. I just remember when John and Ty came to my house to start putting together material for the first The Jelly Jam record. Things came together so quickly and the way we were building song by song was so organic, just by noodling together as an ensemble. By the end of that day we created two of my favourite Jelly Jam tracks of all time, which are I Am The King and I Can't Help You. In our live shows, we are playing both those songs and we are planning to do at least a couple of songs from each of our past records. We are extremely excited about doing these live shows and we are working very hard on making The Jelly Jam touring on a regular basis. I believe it's a doable thing, even considering how busy we individually are with the other bands we are in. And hey, we certainly have plenty of material that we can pick and choose to be played lat our shows, being this our fourth album!

The Jelly Jam

(Photo by Internet Archive)

BBR - Fallen is for me one of the most intense moments of the album. Almost a metaphore of what is happening with the band. The right album falling at the right time, falling with the right concept and the right songs. How special was recording that song, Rod?

RM - Fallen is my favourite song on the record, at the moment. It is perhaps, the most basic and simple drumming that I have ever played on a record. As a drummer, my favourite stuff to be played doesn't need necessarily to be something where I need to show off. Every time I listen to that song, the lyrics get me choked up and Ty's guitar solo it's breathtaking. It's truly magnificent.

BBR - Profit is a record that put The Jelly Jam definitely on the shortlist as one of the best progressive rockbands worldwide. Do you feel like this record is your personal masterpiece to date? Because that is what I think.

RM - Well, I am genuinely excited about this new record. I had no idea it was going to turn out as wonderful as it is. Personally, in all 60 albums I have done in my career with several bands, it gets incredibly hard to say: "Hey, that record is my best record of all time" on any of those albums. But one thing I would say for sure, is that Profit is way up there at the top of the list as one of my most proud achievements as a musician. The cohesiveness on this album is awesome, the storyline is so beautiful, the message is so great. Everything about it is so perfect. I am looking at the cover of the album right now as an LP and I am so damn proud of it, I think the artwork should be hanging in a museum, it's real artistry! Profit is a humongous achievement, I believe, not just for me, but also for Ty and John.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

Profit is out now and The Jelly Jam Tour Dates can be found on the band's Official Website

Never Looking Back - An Interview With Ryan McGarvey

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Many people would have been tempted, at a certain moment of their lives, to retrieve back to that comfort zone that is their place of birth. The place where you were born and raised, where your family and best friends live and you know they will always be there for you.

Ryan McGarvey has never been tempted by that. Since a very young age, the Guitarist and Singer/Songwriter from Albuquerque, New Mexico has always aimed to go to the next step of his musical journey, to risk the unknown and to push himself always to the limit.

He has certainly succeeded on that. McGarvey, since his 2007 debut album Forward In Reverse has not just collected numerous awards and played with the cream of the blues/rock worldwide but also gained the unanimous blessing of the music press on being one of the most inspired and talented guitarists of the last decade of rock and roll.

In the last couple of years, McGarvey has been incessantly touring his latest album to date, the 2014 The Road Chosen and Bluebird Reviews has had the opportunity to talk to this extraordinary artist at The Borderline in London, United Kingdom, where we discussed about life on tour and what the future has got installed for McGarvey.

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(Photo courtesy by Supro)

 

BBR - Ryan, welcome on Bluebird Reviews, great to finally meet you. This has been, so far, a sort of Neverending Tour for you, after the 2014 The Road Chosen album. Have you written new material whilst touring the world, in the last couple of years? If so, when can your fans expect to hear a new Ryan McGarvey's album?

RMG - I have indeed. I'm expecting to release the new album by this fall and then to be back on tour again to support the new album. There are quite few musical projects I am involved into right now. There should be a live CD and DVD hopefully released this summer to celebrate the amazing time I had on the last couple of years on tour. Then I have also an album of rock material ready to go, an album of blues songs ready as well, which is something I wanted to do for a very long time and I am also considering to release an album of acoustic material, which is something else that I really wanted to release for quite some time. Quite a lot going on. We are playing some new stuff in what I call right now Part 2 of The Road Chosen Tour and it's very interesting for me to see the way the crowds react to the new songs. 

BBR - You have been always recognised as one of the most inspired and talented guitarists worldwide of the last decade of blues/rock. Given how constantly you are touring and playing night after night, how often do you get to do some practice on your guitars?

RMG - I get that a lot and I am also a complete hypocrit with myself because I am always the one telling everyone "Hey, you have to practice more because if you skip a day, you'll need two days to get back to where you were". And that comes from somebody that never gets to practice anymore, really! (chuckles). I guess that, the fact we get to play every night, helps me to make it up for that. At the end of the day, I pick up a guitar at least once a day anyway, even when I am at home, when trying something new, like a new guitar riff or an idea for a song I have in my head. So the chances I get to skip practicing on guitars are virtually zero. 

BBR - Ryan, out of all the three album you have written so far, which is the song you are most proud of?

RMG - It's a good question. I was trying to think about this the other day and I guess, for me, is more a matter of having a favourite song for each album I have written so far. It's all related to state of minds, feelings, on why I have written some particular lyrics on a specific track in a particular time and what they mean to me. On some of the slower songs, the ballads, I can picture exactly what I was writing about. To those slower tunes, I also like to give things a twist, because I like to write and sing my songs in a way that doesn't feel necessarily related to personal stuff but they could be songs in which virtually everyone can see themselves and their lives reflected in somehow. I love the fact that after the shows, people come up to me and say how much they felt connected to some of the songs and what they meant to them. To come back to your original question, I would say that some of my favourite songs from my albums, perhaps the ones closer to my heart are My Heart To You, Always & Forever and So Close To Heaven. I guess I like those songs particularly because I liked the arrangements and every aspects about those tunes.

BBR - Many fans and people in the music industry have always applauded and highly appreciated the fact that you release albums containing solely original material. Have you been ever tempted to record and release a cover album containing songs of artists of the past and present, very close to your heart?

RMG - I thought of doing something like that. Most of my favourite music, growing up, have been covered by the late great Jeff Healey. I have always loved the way that he covered songs in a very wide spectrum and in a very cool way. We have been playing live few covers through the years and I would love the idea of recording an album of covers, one day, and to give them my own interpretation but still respecting the core of the songs themselves. Maybe someday will happen, you can never tell!

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(Photo by Rhonda Pierce0

 

BBR - Ryan, why do you think that a genre like the blues has been able to survive for almost a century now, in an industry where even iconic bands like Radiohead do not sell records anymore as much as they used to?

RMG - I guess that the main reason is that the blues it's one of the very few pure and honest genres. It's one of those styles that speaks very openly to people, you just can't fake it. I have to say, though, that yes, certainly the blues is a very genuine and honest genre but I guess that what you asked is mostly related to the type of artist you are watching, on the night, more than the genre that he or she is playing. It happened and still happens to me, at times, to see somebody playing live and to think "This guy really sucks". But some other time there have been artists that have been mindblowing to watch. Their music was speaking to people and the crowds were finding a true connection with what the artist was playing because they were able to feel what he was playing. But, coming back to your question, at the very end, it all comes back to the blues. The younger generations may go to a rock, a rap or even a country music concert and during the performance, not to be able to figure out that some of the guitar riffs on some of the songs may come straight from the blues. The root of all genres.

BBR - How was the music scene of Albuquerque, back when you were a kid and how eventually did it influence your growth as a musician?

RMG - It was pretty cool. There was a good number of bands, blues bands back in those days. I remember playing in a bar band for something like 4-5 hours every night, for good crowds or sometimes even for a couple of people. But into my head, back then I always had goals and I have always been a very motivated person and wanted to move forward. I remember that, at the time,  there was a club I always wanted to play into but I had not managed so far to get any bookings there. When I then succeeded to finally play there, I was getting so many booking request from that venue that I was getting a bit bored and tired of it and just wanted to move to something bigger, more challenging for me as a musician. I have always wanted to move forward, in my career and grow up more and more as an artist. Growing up musically, in Albuquerque, has been certainly a positively, formative experience for me.

BBR - Ryan, the number of followers you have in Europe is almost superior to the one you have back in the States. I have bumped into few people today telling me that this is is going to be the fourth or fifth time they are coming and watching you playing. What is really the secret behind your phenomenal popularity?

RMG - To be honest with you, it is really hard right now, in the States, touring regularly for an artist. Over here, in Europe, it is completely a different world. The kind of promotion we get in Europe is different and bigger. It's different for an artist or a band in terms of fans appreciation too. The fans here in Europe come and see us, on an average in a Tour, something like five or six times, following us around in many different parts of the continent. Maybe the fans here in Europe have got more opportunities to follow us around because countries are in a much closer proximities then in the States. But it's truly remarkable, here, as I said, not just the promotion that we get as artists but also the loyalty of the European fans. If you get somebody coming to one of our shows for the first time and he or she will love what they hear, than the fan here will not just come to more than one show but will also buy your entire discography! And at the next show, that very same fan will know already by heart all the lyrics of each song and sing them loud. It's so rewarding to meet the crowds after our shows, all dressed up in our merchandise, coming up to me saying: "Man, I saw your advertising poster in the streets and I couldn't miss the chance to come and see you and get to hear you playing live again", which is so awesome to hear for me. I had that happening at home in the States sometime but that certainly doesn't happen as often as it happens here. 

BBR -  B.B. King once stated: "I've said that playing the blues is like having to be black twice. Stevie Ray Vaughan missed on both counts, but I never noticed". What colours has music brought into your life as a musician and as a human being?

RMG - That's a tough question. It's a very beautiful one, wonderful for sure, although I cannot immediately tell you what the colour might be. I think of this musical environment as a tight-knit big family, where people you have never met in your life which you are a fan of or bought their CDs have the extraordinary capacity to bond with you almost immediately. The minute you run into them, it becomes a completely mutual thing, because you find out they feel exactly the same thing about you. And if you see someone that you really admire, you feel connected to, it becomes, as I said, an instantenous bond. I remember, once, I was at a merchandise table in Denver, Colorado, at a music festival, after one of our shows. After we had been there for so long time, meeting and greeting fans, selling our CDs and all the merchandise, there was still a huge crowd waiting to meet us but the organization told us to move away because there wasn't time left anymore. As we were leaving, a guy steps out of the queue and comes to me saying: "Hey Man, I just wanted to say I really enjoyed the show" and all that stuff. As I thanked him and we were parting company, he said something like he was going on stage and play later and headlining the show, so I said: "Wait a minute. Are you Bernard Allison?" And he said Yes, and I went "Oh, my gosh, I love your music, Man". So, to cut a long story short, in the end, we hugged each other, like old friends would do, with all the people around us taking photos and what have you. It was like that special feeling that gets through me when I get to see friends like Kenny Wayne (Shepherd) or Joe Bonamassa, probably two of my closest musical friends. The special bonding, the cameraderie, that great friendship on and off the stage. Hey, I think I made up my mind about the colour you asked in your question. Let's go for red, a very harmonic colour, which defines probably in the best way possible what I just said.

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

 

Brothers Beyond Blues - In Conversation With Stevie Nimmo & Ben Poole

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(Photo by Adam Kennedy)

 

The moon in Uk tonight is more brighter than the normal, in this beautiful evening in Farnham, South of England. It may be because, paraphrasing the title of the album of one of tonight's performing artists, the Time Has Come for the british gunslingers Ben Poole and Stevie Nimmo to join forces and take on tour together their new albums Time Has Come (Ben Poole) and Sky Won't Fall (Stevie Nimmo).

 

When The Northern Light (Stevie) and The Southern Breeze (Ben) get together with Bluebird Reviews to talk about their tour together, one gets the immediate feeling that this is something that these phenomenal blues/rock artists wanted to do for a long time. (Nimmo) "The idea came up quite quickly. Ben was already with Manhaton, our record label and when I joined in as well, it was like: "Two musicians, using the same musicians as our rhythm section, having two records being released more or less at the same time. This is so obvious, why we shouldn't go on a tour together?". (Poole) "It was such an obvious thing to do together indeed because, as Stevie was saying, we were sharing the same rhythm section on our respective albums and artistically and financially it was the most wise choice to do too. Plus, it gave us the opportunity to do something special together, at the end of our personal sets every night. Despite the fact that we play our music using different styles, every night it was always special to finish the show together combining our styles together on stage. We really enjoyed working together on this tour and we hope that the fans had the same feeling too".

 

To share the same stage, for Poole and Nimmo, might mean as well to change the setlist they play every night fairly often, especially now that they both have new albums out. (Nimmo)"My setlist has been pretty much consistant from the beginning of the tour. I picked what it was, for me, the right mix of some of my older material and stuff from my new album. What it really changed, every night, was the way that each song started, then developed in something very unexpected and ended up in something even more unexpected. Some songs have some kind of structure on which it's dificult to  escape from but other songs haven't and you just can play the latter exactly in the way you are feeling in that particular moment. To let it loose according to the way I feel every night, that it's the best way that it works for me on stage. (Poole) "I feel pretty much the same about improvising on many songs, as Stevie often does on his sets. Also, should one of our sets go on for a bit longer than what we initially planned,for any reasons, I don't know, because of a little banter with the crowd or a guitar solo that went on for a little longer, there is never any big deal or any argument between the two of us.  Because we both know that, sometimes, when you really feel a special bond with a crowd or something magical happens on stage when we play our sets, you just have to let it flow because it's right to do so. We both respect so much one another and we don't mind dropping one song in our setlist in favour of the other, when that happens".

To talk with incredibly talented artists is a trye joy. There are laughters, banters and smiles all around. With such great friendship between the two guitarists, BBR wonders what they have learned from each other, by touring together. (Nimmo) "That he needs to practice a lot more! (chuckles)". (Poole) "I was going to say the same thing about you! (giggles). Seriously, it has been such a big honour to watch Stevie playing and singing. I have certainly learned few tips about techniques on vocals by watching him every night on tour. The camaraderie between artists playing this genre is something truly unique in this business. There might be one or two exceptions, sometimes, as it always happens everywhere but on the whole, all the people and fellow musicians I have come across in this business have all been extremely generous with me and there has always been great support between one another. No egos, no competition, just the desire to play our music and support each other. We all try to make a living as well, at the end of the day, so what is the point really to fight one another?". (Nimmo) "The mutual help and respect between artists is the key to be able to keep playing our music and share it with our fans. You may have noticed as well that, on this tour, the two of us are neither the support nor the main act of one another. It has been like this since Day 1 and it will be the same way until the end of this tour. We even help each other with tips during the sound-check, with things like, say,  "This mic sounds better positioned elsewhere" or stuff like that. It’s on those little but important things  that you see the mutual respect and the appreciation of what we both do as artists and friends. We want our shows to be good, to sound good and we would do anything we could to help and support each other in the best way possible to make that happen".

Ben Stevie

To tour together is often the perfect opportunity to write some new material together that may end, perhaps, on the two British artists' next records. (Nimmo) "We almost did it for Ben’s album, you know. It was discussed before this tour took place but it didn’t happen. My point of view has always been and still is that I want to write a song WITH someone rather than FOR someone. I like the feeling of being in the same room with the fellow artist I collaborate with, to get to know that person, know what he is like, know what he sounds like and then start writing material together. I am sure that, to write with Ben is something that it’s going to happen soon. We know each other pretty well by now, I know what he sounds like and on that respect, to be on tour together has been very beneficial for both of us". (Poole) "To work together is something we spoke about and Stevie said he’d love to help to write some material with me in future. Stevie has got such a natural flow, an ability to write lyrics that, I must admit, it is something I struggle with, sometimes. Stevie writes his whole material all the time and he is very gifted. When I write new songs, I may need sometimes the help of external songwriters to write lyrics on some of my songs. To write something together it’s something I definitely would love to do with Stevie and I hope it’s going to happen soon".

The Stevie Nimmo & Ben Poole Tour has been a highly successful one, as expected, so perhaps now that the tour is over, it is a good time to relax a little or maybe are these two hugely talented Blues/Rock Brothers starting to tour again straight away? (Nimmo) "I shall take some time off and play in a couple of festivals this summer. It will be a fairly relaxing summer for me, not overloaded with tour dates. That was a deliberate choice, because I like to live my life as well. Balancing personal life and work is very important for me. In September and October I shall be busy like hell and it will be great playing with Robin Trower on some dates. Then in November and December I shall be touring around Europe, than back in UK and France until 2017. As you can understand, I shall be so busy that a summer break it's really very much needed for me to have the batteries fully charged for what it's going to happen next". (Poole) "I'll have a little bit of time off myself too after this tour, because the last four-five months have been insanely busy for me. After this little break, I shall be playing few festivals outside the United Kingdom, in places like Spain, Germany, Austria and France. In September my European Tour will kick off and I shall be touring several coutries including the United Kingdom in October and I cannot really wait to be back On The Road full time. You never know, myself and Stevie may cross paths again anywhere. After all, the world is much smaller than what many people think it is!".

 

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

Sky Won't Fall by Stevie Nimmo and Time Has Come by Ben Poole are both out now and available on Manhaton Records

Gio Ben Stevie

 

 

Songs As The Key Of Life - In Conversation With Laurence Jones

laurence 2

It's a pleasant, breezy evening in the south of England, when Bluebird Reviews gets the opportunity to meet one of those artists that is constantly rising, year after year and album after album to music stardom, the young and hugely talented Laurence Jones. The gig tonight in Aldershot, Hampshire is not only going to be a special night of music just for the fans of one of the most inspired British guitarists and singer/songwriters but also for his manager Golly Gallagher, that lives in this quaint Army town.

There is a certain energy in the air, even prior to the concert tonight. Some of the fans can hear from a distance Jones doing the last bits of his soundcheck and it certainly doesn't take a magician to read the happiness beyond the smiles of the many fans waiting to enter the venue and see this phenomenal artist.

When BBR meet Laurence Jones, we are greeted with a warm welcome and one of the wonderful smiles that every night Jones gifts his fans with, during his live shows. Jones looks in great shape, very relaxed and happy, which is quite incredible, given how long he has been touring his current album What's It Gonna Be.

 

BBR - Laurence, What's It Gonna Be is and has been a hugely successful album for you. A record that, in our opinion, establishes you as one of the best blues/rock acts worldwide. Which are your immediate memories in recording this album?

LJ - Just having a great time with my band. I have always done that type of recording with session musicians before and it was great to be there, for a change, just with my band. As you know, I produced the album myself together with my bass player Roger Inniss and I learned, through that experience, a lot of tips while producing the album that producers I have worked with in the past taught me. It was just great, there was no pressure whatsoever and we did exactly what we wanted to do. The whole experience of recording the album with my band has been totally free-style, we just plugged our instruments in and we were off!

BBR - You started playing music since you were eight years old. Did your parents encourage you to play an instrument and was the guitar your very first choice?

LJ - Yes, absolutely. My dad had a classical acoustic guitar and he used to play The Animal's classic House Of The Rising One to me. I remember that, since I was a child, I wanted to be able to play that song better than him! (chuckles). He made me practice something like two or three hours a day and I was so determined, as I said, to be better than him. Then last year, when I played at the Royal Albert Hall for the Lead Belly tribute night, I ended up being on stage with Eric Burdon himself and I knew my dad was in the audience that night. I said to him, after the show, "You see, I am better than you now, because I actually got to play with Eric on stage!" (chuckles).

BBR - Laurence, your songwriting style on What's It Gonna Be shows phenomenal maturity. What is the process that you follow when you write songs?

LJ - There is not a certain order that I follow, while I am writing and that is the beauty of it. A song may come to me by writing the lyrics first then the melody and the vocals, or I can start a guitar riff and build a song around it. Especially with this album, I wanted it to be more about songs and connecting with people, rather than just blasting the album with plenty of guitar solos, which occasionally some guys in this business do. I saw a lot of people in the audience, night after night, coming to my shows and connecting to certain songs from my previous album Temptation and I just wanted to follow that same emotional path, on What's It Gonna Be.

Laurence

Laurence Jones with bass player Roger Inniss

 

BBR - How was your experience working as a producer with young Toby Lee (11 years-old blues/rock guitarist), on his debut EP album?

LJ - That was really cool, actually. He is just a great talent and he has got a lot of potential, for his age and he is very confident. It was so good also because having produced my own album previously, I had more of an understanding about how to produce an album. So I put a good team around us, with Phil Wilson on drums, Jack Alexander on bass and Victoria Klewin on vocals. Plus, as a very special guest, the great Bernie Marsden on one of the songs. Toby is going to go a long way, definitely.

BBR - The last 12 months have been for you quite special. The Lead Belly Tribute nights at the Royal Albert Hall in London first, then the one at The Carnegie Hall in New York gave you the opportunity not just to play in two of the most famous venues in the world but also side by side with the cream of blues and rock and roll. Was there ever a moment in which you had to pinch yourself and realise that you were indeed "living the dream"?

LJ - It was certainly a great experience and what I am going to say about artists and cameraderie may surprise you a little bit. It was great to share the dressing room with Buddy Guy at The Carnegie Hall in New York, although I had barely the chance to see him when he got on stage for the soundcheck and we just said hello, you know, the usual thing but he is such a great guy. What really stood up for me the most that night, though, at the Carnegie Hall, was what happened when all the artists present that night were down below and I had to go back to the dressing room to get a drink. I found my good friend Walter Trout practicing, in my dressing room, all alone on his own. Walter saw me and said" Can I be in your dressing room, please? It's so nice and quiet" and I was like "Sure, no problem". So I pulled up a chair and sat next to him and it was really a surreal moment for me. He played a song called Transition from one of his early albums with the same name, which was coincidentally the first blues album I have ever heard in my life. Walter said he has never ever played that song live in his career and the fact that he played that song to me, in that room, with only the two of us there, meant a lot to me and made me feel so privileged and honoured. 

walterdanaandlaurence

(From L to R) Walter Trout, Laurence Jones and Dana Fuchs

 

BBR - You have been working for such a long time with your manager and mentor Golly Gallagher and played hundreds of concerts with that very talented bass player that is Roger Inniss. How important is it for you to be surrounded, on your day-by-day- musical journey, by a band of brothers like this?

LJ - It's so important. You spend all of your time together, in a tour van, even more time than I spend with my family, to be honest and it's vital to have great bonds between all of us. Last year we did something like 250 gigs together, therefore you can imagine how important it is to get on well with everyone. Golly is a true inspirational figure for me. He taught me so much about this business, with all the great experience that he has. He was in the music business long before I was even born, you know (smiles), working for Sony and many other majors. Golly really showed me the way and taught me how important it is to have a good team around you and I feel privileged to have him as my manager.

BBR - Laurence, we understand that your new album is rumoured to be released late this summer and produced by a real authority of the business, Mike Vernon. Is the new album yet untitled or have you already thought how your next album is going to be called?

LJ - I always like to be a step ahead of the game! (chuckles). I always like to think forward about the next album and the songs I am going to write. To write songs is something that happen very naturally and I feel very fortunate, in that respect because I know that some people in the business really struggle often, when it comes to write new material. I just keep writing and writing because there are so many experiences on the road that I like to write about and share with the fans through my songs. We will be releasing the new album in July/August and it was indeed a big honour to have Mike Vernon to produce my album. He has been working with top artists in his career, people like Bowie, Eric Clapton, Peter Green and on the famous John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers album, an album that really set the scene for the British Blues, back in the day. It was great working with Mike and I was really surprised about how much he let me be myself throghout the recording process. I have been working with producers in the past where they costantly tell you what to do and tell you "that is the way it's going to be". With Mike, it was a completely different ball game. He just stepped in at the right times, when he knew it was right to do so while we were working together. In comparison with What's It Gonna Be, on the new album you will find less overdubs and more of a raw, live sound. We loved working in that way and I am sure the fans will love that too. The raw, straight-to-your-face kind of sound on the new album will be exactly the same one the fans will hear when we will play the new songs live, once the new record is released.  The whole experience of recording with Mike was very relaxing and I sincerely hope to work with Mike again in future. The new album is going to be called Take Me High and I cannot wait to play the new songs to the fans.

Take Me high

BBR - We are aware that your summer tour schedule is building up nicely, with several dates already booked around Europe. When will the American fans have the opportunity to see you there again on tour?

LJ - We are going back to America by the end of August. So far we have just three dates confirmed, one in New York, one in Massachussetts at the Blues'N' Brews Festival in Nashoba Valley and one at the Chenango Blues Festival. It's going to be awesome and I am really looking forward to play there.

BBR - You have previously stated that "Music is my healer". How much has the support of the fans helped you through the healing process?

LJ - It helped me massively. I have had loads of people come up to me, since I have been working with the charity Chron's and Colitis UK (Laurence suffers of Chron's Disease himself) saying: "You are an inspiration and your music really gets me through the day" or things like "Just to see you going up on stage knowing what we are going through with Chron's Disease is amazing". Without playing music I would get easily down and thankfully, I get to challenge my feelings into my music and just trying to be true, to me and to everyone that love my music. If it help the fans as it helps me, that would be the best feeling ever. I can't thank the fans enough for the support. We do a lot of fund raisings for this cause and we raised £15.000 last year, which is amazing and again, I cannot believe how incredible and supportive all the fans have been so far.

BBR - Laurence, the blues is among the very few music genres worldwide able to survive and reinvent itself through time, without losing contact with its history and tradition. What is, in your humble opinion, the secret of this genre's longevity?

LJ - Like you said, it's all about history and people, nowadays, crave for history. It's a bit like going to places where it all smells of history, say a place like Rome, for someone from Italy like you or a place like my hometown and Shakespeare's land Stratford-Upon-Avon for me. History is always there, it's part of our heritage and it's something we know that we can relate to anytime. In the same way, the blues and its history can be found in so many different genres that it could never be lost, ever. It's in pop music, rock, soul, you name it. Blues is the common ground, the genesis for all genres. Think about the 60's and 70's, when England had a massive blues invasion, influencing our music culture. Bands like The Rolling Stones made of the blues their music manifesto in those days. They were not just one of the biggest bands in the world but also the only band able to take a blues tune to the No.1 of the music charts worldwide ever with Little Red Rooster. The Blues is always going to be on top in any time of the world, because it is the root of everything, when it comes to music. And we all know that nothing, without roots, it's going to survive.

 

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

Take Me High is due to be released by the end of July 2016 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon

 

 

 

 

It's All About The Journey - In Conversation With Kenny Wayne Shepherd (The Rides)

The American Blues/Rock guitarist extraordinaire talks to Bluebird Reviews about the making of Pierced Arrow, the new album with the supergroup The Rides and also about his future with The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band 

 

 

KW Shepherd by Greg Logan

(Photo by Greg Logan)

Two decades in the music business and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, one of the most iconic blues and rock and roll artists worldwide, sounds and looks as in great shape as ever.

Shepherd is one of the architects of the contemporary blues/rock renaissance and it is not a surprise to see his artistic path often crossing with giants of the music business, going through the re-discovery of the traditions and the history of the last half a century of American music.

In this respect, by working with the supergroup The Rides, Shepherd has been able to explore even further, together with his fellow bandmates Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg, his love and passion for American music at 360 degrees, something that Stills and Goldberg share too with the Louisiana-born artist.

Pierced Arrow is the band's second album and is the ultimate America's songbook. The record is a true homage to this great country, celebrating half a century of music history. From Rockabilly to R&B, blues and soul, the album takes an impressive turn to the band's highly acclaimed debut album Can't Get Enough. Bluebird Reviews is wondering whether taking such turn was the the plan all along for Pierced Arrow or did the new songs changed their shape during the recording process. "Well, we didn't really have a plan, except that we wanted to go ahead with The Rides and make another great album together. The songs got their shape at Stephen's house, just like what we did on our first album. We wrote the songs over there between myself, Stephen and Barry and we brought also in Kevin McCormick (rhytm section bassist) to join us on some of the songwriting sessions. We never meant to steer the album towards one direction or the other and as a result, you can hear many different musical influences on Pierced Arrow. I think that this new record really further defines the sound of The Rides. It's the sound of a true American band that started as a blues band and then gradually spread its wings towards the genres that made the music history of our country, just like you mentioned. In Pierced Arrow there is blues, there is some old school, vintage rock and roll and much more. Our goal was fundamentally to do a great album and to be able to follow the lead that the songs we were writing were taking us to".

When listening to Pierced Arrow, there is a real feeling that Shepherd, Goldberg and Stills were having a real good time recording the album and letting it loose. A sign that, perhaps it didn't take long for The Rides to write and record the new album. "Well, it took a little while, to be honest but not because it was hard to make it but because of our personal schedules. We finished our first Tour in November 2013 and got back together, at Stephen's house, around the end of January 2014. We immediately started writing songs for the follow-up of the Can't Get Enough album but my schedule and Stephen's schedule with Crosby and Nash was so busy that we had to search for opportunities to reunite over the course of 2014, when we were at home in the same time. That is what we did and since then, at any possible opportunity we got together every few months and wrote new songs at Stephen's place. We gradually wrote Pierced Arrow over the course of 2014 but, by the end of that year, we figured that we had enough material and songs to go into the studio and record the new album. The recording process started at the end of January 2015 and then we mixed the album in March 2015. Our hope was to get the record out in 2015 but the mixing process took a little bit longer then we had expected. Stephen had to leave in the middle of the mixing process to go to Japan with Crosby & Nash and during that time I was offered to go on Tour with Van Halen in the United States for the entire summer, offer that I accepted. Those circumstances forced us to postpone the release of this album until this year. It took a while to get us finally here and to be able to release Pierced Arrow but if you would have taken all the obstacles out of the equation, to write and record the album happened relatively fast. We normally like to record our songs on the first or second take and we still approach our music that way. We tried to record everything in the most authentic and organic way as possible, with very minimal overdubs, which is always the way in which we like to make records".

Pierced Arrow is an album that took many fans by surprise in a great way. Bluebird Reviews doubts that this new record carries any "leftover" track from the recording session of the first album. "You are correct, there were not. There were some ideas that came up, on the first album, by jamming together that then developed further in the studio when we finished the first album. The outcome of those jams though did not make it on the Can't Get Enough album and we did not think they were worth revisiting, while making the second album. There were, however, some songs that we recorded for our new album that were not included on this record. There were a couple of extra songs that I am not sure whether in future they will show up or not on one of our next records, you never know".

The Rides

The Rides - (From L to R) Stephen Stills, Barry Goldberg & Kenny Wayne Shepherd

By the sound of what Shepherd just said, such songs that did not make it for the album's final tracklist may see the light of the day, perhaps, on a possible live album in future. "Maybe, why not? We are recording all the shows that we are doing on the current Tour and we did the same with all the shows we did on the first Tour together too. I have been thinking about, maybe, putting together some performances from this Tour with some from the first Tour and perhaps releasing one live album or maybe two live albums, which would be very interesting". 

Pierced Arrow, among many highlights, also unveils a phenomenal delivery of Gladys Knight & The Pips' classic I've Got To Use My Imagination but in the version made by the great Bobby "Blue" Bland. "Well, that was certainly my most favourite version of that song. I mean, I just love the way that Bobby Bland recorded that song. It is my personal preference, I just love his take even more than the Gladys Knight's one. When we did the first Tour, that's when we started playing that song at first. As you may understand, on our first Tour, at that time we had only one album to play and there was obviously not enough material to carry a show for an hour and a half. So we had to look into each other's catalogues to find additional songs to help and fill in the set every night. We did some of Stephen's songs, some of my songs and then I started looking for some songs that could have been good enough and fitting enough for the live shows. When I heard the Bobby Bland's version of I've Got To Use My Imagination, I thought "This would be a great song for us to do". So we did that on the first Tour and we realised that it worked very well with the audience. So much so that we decided that we were going to record our version of that song on the second album and that's what we did".

The band's name perfectly defines the musical journey The Rides are on and the love for vintage cars that Shepherd shares with Stephen Stills. The guitarist and singer/songwriter, among many cars he owns, has got also a couple of splendid vintage Dodge in his eclectic collection. BBR is wondering, using a language close to Shepherd's heart, whether The Rides pushed enough the accelerator on this album as much as the artist would do on one of his Dodge's. "Yes, I would say so (chuckles). The music, the concerts, our whole relationship and cameraderie as artists, it all takes you on a journey that it's pretty much comparable to an experience one can have by driving a fast car, just as you said. It's that special feeling of having your foot firmly planted on the floor of your car, shooting away on the highway and watching the world go by. I would certainly say that this experience with The Rides resembles for me that type of wonderful feeling. We are a high energy band and there may be times when we push hard on the accelerator, while playing or some other times we can slow down a little but the engine of our band would always remain as smooth as one of the cars you just mentioned".

Life In The Fast Lane is a song from the glorious band The Eagles that sums up well the rhythm of Shepherd's career in the music business. An unstoppable musician, Shepherd always works very hard and tour relentlessly for the best part of every year. After The Rides Tour is over, will this hugely talented artist release new material as The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band anytime soon? "I have been writing songs and making several trips down to Tennessee over the past several months, writing with new songwriters that I have never written with before and working with some of the people that I have been writing with my whole career. So, in answer to your question, yes, I have been writing songs and a new album is in the making. At the moment, I am not exactly sure how the next album it's going to sound like, to be honest with you. We have been writing different kind of songs, some of which sound like nothing I have ever done before and I am not trying to steer the album in any direction in particular. I am just writing songs and going where the music takes us while we are writing. I would anticipate that by the end of this year, I'll be in the studio recording the new album, which should be probably coming out by some times next year". 

Pierced Arrow

The new The Rides album sees also Shepherd harmonizing with Stephen Stills on a couple of songs. In BBR's view, one of such songs, Virtual World, represents one of the most intense musical moments on Pierced Arrow. An experience that must have been truly special for the blues/rock titan. "It has been amazing. It was something I would have never expected to do in this band. I figured that, within the band, I would have been singing just lead vocals, just as Stephen would have but I didn't really anticipate us becoming a harmony group. When that happened on a couple of tracks of the album, it really felt like a truly remarkable experience. I mean, Stephen is legendary when it comes to harmonize. When I think about the great artists he has been harmonizing with throughout his career, people like Neil Young, David Crosby, Graham Nash, just the idea that my name is now added to that fantastic list, makes me feel really happy and proud".

The Rides are currently touring the United States (see the band's full schedule on their website http://www.theridesband.com/) but on their schedule there is no mention of touring European countries or any other part of the world so far. "Well, I wish that there was the chance to tour out of the States but I can't say that there is. I have been trying to push for an European Tour schedule at least but it is a little bit complicated to do that, with this band and this organisation. I don't know whether that might happen, I wish that would really happen but at this moment in time, I couldn't possibly say".

Kenny Wayne Shepherd is not just a phenomenal and versatile musician but also somebody with a deep knowledge and understanding of the roots of one of the music genres that he loves the most, which is the blues. The Guitarist released, almost a decade ago, a wonderful live album and music film about the tradition and the history of the blues through the tales and the songs of some of the most influential blues artists. The CD/DVD is called 10 Days Out: Blues From The Backroads and it is one of the most impressive music documents of the last century on the importance and the influence that blues had and still has in contemporary music. BBR is hoping that Shepherd, one day, will be able to do a follow-up of that memorable project. "Well, it is my intention to release a follow-up to it. The plan was to have much more work accomplished on this project than we have but honestly, with my band, with touring and now having a second band with The Rides and touring with them too, I have not had a lot of extra time, lately, to work on the next 10 Days Out Mach II. It is still something though that I intend on doing and hopefully, soon, I hope to find the right time slot to allow me to pursue this project so close to my heart".

The Maverick guitarist from Shreveport has played and still does with the elite of blues and rock, from BB King to Eddie Van Halen, not least his fellow compadres in The Ride's project. Before parting company, we ask Shepherd whether there are any musicians, of the past or present, that he would have loved to record with in his splendid career. "Well, to be honest, I don't sit around thinking about stuff like "I want to work with this guy or this other guy". I just let things happening and see, in the end, with which artists I was meant to play with, you know? For the longest time, I never had the opportunity to play with Eric Clapton until several years ago, when I was able to play with him on stage. I mean, to record with him, that would be fantastic but, I reckon is hardly ever going to happen because he is very focused solely on doing his own albums. Basically, I am open to make music with anyone that really makes sense to me and I can make some great music with. I think that as long as I remain open to that idea, you never know what it might happen!".

 

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

Pierced Arrow is out now and it can be purchased via Provogue/Mascot Label Group

 

The Texan Torchbearer - In Conversation With Lance Lopez

Lance Lopez 2

(Photo by Mark Bicham)

 

When it comes the time to work hard on creating and playing music, very few people in the world does that better than a blues or a rock musician. The Shreveport, Louisiana-born guitarist and singer/songwriter Lance Lopez knows that very well. Since he moved to Texas at the tender age of 13, Lopez had the opportunity to be "raised" musically by outstanding artists such as Johnnie Taylor and Lucky Peterson, two instrumental figures in Lopez's growth as a guitarist and singer/songwriter.

Lopez is now considered one of the best guitarists of this generation worldwide and universally recognised by fellow musicians and music press as the heir of the great Texan tradition of blues/rock guitar.

After a few year's hiatus of releasing new material, Lopez has now been involved in two records just released, one as a member of the supergroup Supersonic Blues Machine called West Of Flushing, South Of Frisco, the second as a solo artist, releasing a live album called Live In N.Y.C.

In a super-busy moment of his musical career as this one that Lance Lopez is living right now, it must be not easy to balance many things at the same time. "It actually helps me to stay very busy. It makes me much more creative when I am that busy, as long as I don't get too tired. When I am moving and travelling and playing and working on many different things, I find working on many things very helpful to me. It keeps me excited and happy, thinking about all those things happening and to look forward to. When I am working between different projects, it is important for me to do the right amount per time on each project, in order to keep things very fresh. It's all about balancing but to be busy, it's something that certainly helps me to stay very focused and creative".

Despite being a very prolific songwriter and an excellent guitarist and singer, it has been a while now since Lopez released either a studio or a live album (Handmade Music was his last release in 2011). Given his extensive touring schedule, Bluebird Reviews is wondering whether this was a stop gap from releasing new material that he chose purposely to do or Lopez thought that the time was not right to release a new album until now. "There were many different things happening that stopped me by releasing new material. I needed to find a new record company. The right one for me with the right deal, which has been for some times a major issue to resolve. Also, with putting out albums and especially working with Fabrizio (Grossi, producer and fellow compadre on the Supersonic Blues Machine project), I just wanted the albums to be very good and I wanted to be satisfied with them. I did not want to put out something just for the sake of it. We spent, therefore, a lot of time working on those recordings and making sure they were absolutely hundred per cent fantastic, before we released them. Those were really the main reasons. After I have been touring Europe, I think it was 2013, I came back to Texas, in the States, where I have been for the last three years writing more music, more songs and working on the SBM album. It has been a long time coming for new music to be released but that gave me the opportunity to focus on all these projects and ensuring I was releasing the right material at the right time, just when I was completely satisfied with them".

Bluebird Reviews has been talking to Lopez's brother in arms on the Supersonic Blues Machine project Fabrizio Grossi a little while ago. Through his larger-than-life personality, he brought to us all the excitement that Grossi, Aronoff and Lopez felt in recoding the band's debut album and how great it was working with so many music giants and fellow musician friends on the record. Our website was wondering whether Lopez felt as well that the album was going to be so incredibly magic too. "Yeah, absolutely. When I began working with Fabrizio, we felt immediately a great connection, musically speaking. We realised almost immediately that we were meant to work together. I knew it was going to be phenomenal, especially considering how much work we put into it. We really took our time and we really worked very hard on every single aspect of that album. That's what I like about Fabrizio so much. He is a hard working man and he likes to be a perfectionist, two things we certainly have in common, when it comes to music. The special connection between us made to work on the album being a very enjoyable journey, although hard to achieve. I have always worked very hard on producing and ensuring that all aspects of the production side were perfect on each of my previous records and I am aware that not everyone is happy to do that, in this business. Everybody just wants to hurry up their records and get them finished, while with Fabrizio, we just decided to finish the album when we felt the time was right. Many producers and many engineers don't like always to do this and that was really a major factor that made working with Fabrizio a fabulous experience. Now that the album is finished and it is out, it is nice to seat back and appreciate all the hard work that we put into it".

Supersonic Blues Machine

(Supersonic Blues Machine - From Left To Right Kenny Aronoff (Drums), Fabrizio Grossi (Bass), Lance Lopez (Guitar, Vocals))

 

Together with the Supersonic Blues Machine album, this extraordinary artist has also released a live album recorded in New York City and our website asked Lopez whether recording the album in NYC was a purposely pre-planned idea or did Lopez rather thought that, among all the live recording taped, the NYC performance was the most satisfactory for him. "That was not really planned. What happen was that the late great Johnny Winter invited me to perform at his 70th birthday party and he wanted me to perform for him, which was a big honour for me. Rather unfortunately, that was goiing to be the very last birthday party for Johnny (Winter passed away few months after). That night, given the very special occasion, we went on stage, played our socks off and give it all because we knew that was something that myself and the band did in Johnny's honour, not imagining in the slightest that a couple of months later, Johnny would have sadly passed. Rather unexpectedly and shortly after Johnny's passing , Paul Nelson, who was Johnny's manager and I was also working with, told me that they recorded that performance and were so enthusiastic on the outcome that they really wanted to release it as a live album. I told him I was going to check the recording out and see whether it was good enough for me to be released. When I heard it, it really blew me away, I thought it was fantastic. I saw somebody's video recording of that night on YouTube but obviously, the perception of sound you get from a roughly recorded video is completely different from a proper sound recording system. We had some engineers in New York mixing the live tracks and when I got the final mix sent back to me, I thought it was so wonderful that I really wanted it to release it as soon as possible. I didn't want to use Johnny's name for the promotional aspects and did not want to release the album shortly after Johnny's passing as a sign of my deep respect for his music and his artistry. I felt that now the time was right to do so and honour the memory of such a great musician and friend of mine in a very special night of music. That is the reason why the album wasn't released earlier".

Checking out the setlist, the material handpicked for the live album belongs mostly to Lopez's last studio album Handmade Music, with the sole exception of the crowd-pleaser El Paso Sugar (from the Higher Ground album) and a brand new track, Tell The Truth. We asked Lance Lopez whether there was any particular reason why the Texan artist decided not to add anything from a solid, beautiful record such as Salvation In Sundown. "Well, we were still, at that time, touring the Handmade Music album after a couple of years of its release, therefore it felt kind of natural for us to play tracks mostly from that album. What you hear on the album, it is just a condensed setlist of what we used to play on regular nights at that time. We generally played each night tunes from that album but also from the Salvation In Sundown album and my previous ones too. However, for the set at the BB King Blues Club in N.Y, we had to condens and shorten the setlist but still wanted to include the fans favourite El Paso Sugar and a song that is yet to be released on any of my studio albums, Tell The Truth, which is a song on which Fabrizio and I have been also working on for a future studio album".

The live album clearly reinstates the stature of Lopez's talent, a true performer at the peak of his game. But does Lance Lopez follow any particular ritual before he goes onstage? "I just like to warm up beforehand. I must make sure that the band is very well rehearsed and that my amplifier and all my equipment work properly. Then I like also to take some time before the show, say half an hour before going on stage and play some guitar backstage. That helps me to get in the moment, in that special zone in my head because when I then go onstage, in the middle of some of those guitar solos, I go to a different place in my mind and every time that special  moment feels like living a spiritual experience. That is why I feel I need to take that time before the show, to start channeling that kind of experience and share it with the fans".

Lance Lopez 1

(Photo by Sanders Photography)

 

Chris Reddan on drums and Mike Nunno on bass provided a fabulous backbone to this artist's thunderous guitar style and vocals on Live In NYC. "I actually lived in New York City many years ago for a while and Chris Reddan was a long time drummer for Popa Chubby. Mike Nimmo played with Lucky Peterson and various blues artists so I have known them both for a while. When I was touring the East Coast, I would use them as my rhytm section. Chris has worked for many great blues and rock artists and he is one of the number one drummers in blues/rock and one of my dearest and best friends. We all have a very good connection and Mike is absolutely one of the best bass player in New England and the whole of the East Coast. To play with those guys, that night, was a magical moment and I am really glad we managed to capture that moment in time and frame it forever on this record".

Lance Lopez's incredible talent as a guitarist has been compared to geniuses of the instrument, like Hendrix, Winter or Stevie Ray Vaughan. Many tend to forget though that he has also one of the most intense, powerful and deep voices on the current blues/rock scene. To be not recognised adequately for the quality of his vocals must be something that may disappoint Lopez, sometimes. "I am also a vocalist, you are very correct and I guess that, often, my guitar playing and the solos I do onstage might overshadow that aspect of my artistry. To be honest with you, I am not overly disappointed about that because I know that it is something that, my fans or whoever has listened to my studio albums. are aware of and appreciate a lot too. On this subject, working on the Supersonic Blues Machine album was also extra special because it gave me the great opportunity to showcase even further my skills as a lead singer, due to the amount of fabulous Special Guests playing guitar that we had on the album. That allowed me to relax a little and free me up, as a guitar player and focus more on the singing side".

Deep inside, many artists dream to reach immortality through their music. But how would Lance Lopez love to be remembered in a hundred years in an imaginary universal musical encyclopedia? "Nothing too fancy, maybe just the fact that I was the torchbearer of the next generation of blues/rock music. I feel I definitely followed the footsteps of those great artists of the past and present, people like Johnny Winter, Billy Gibbon, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King and all the greatest that came from the US state where I live. What I would love to convey as well, is also that I have tried to be the best musician that I could possibly be, playing in such a great band like Supersonic Blues Machine and performing with many artists, not just from Texas or American but worldwide for international audiences".

 

 

Giovanni "Gio" Pilato

 

Live In NYC and the Supersonic Blues Machine album West Of Flushing, South Of Frisco are out now and available on Amazon

Out On The Tiles

The Iron Horse Tribute to Lou Reed, Jan 9, 2014

The Iron Horse Tribute to Lou Reed, Jan 9, 2014.

"Oh ye of little faith ..." (Lou Reed, "Busload of Faith," New York).

How do we say good-bye to a person who influenced the world for generations in music, writing, performing, poetry, art and consciousness? 

We don't.

We don't say good-bye. (I've decided).

In getting ready to attend the Lou Reed tribute at the Iron Horse Music Hall, I was torn about going, because it would make Reed's passing all the more real. Yet, I did not want to miss the opportunity to be in the same room with fellow fans and bands who also love Lou Reed. The last time I saw Reed was 2008 at the Calvin Theatre . It was a satisfying performance, validating who Reed is, yet filled with surprises, humor, depth and poetics, that let us get to know him even better. The gathering of artists tonight, in their elegant presentation of Velvet Underground songs and Lou Reed classics, accomplished a similar feeling. A tribute to hold these songs and memories for the rest of our times here, allowed Lou Reed's influence to continue to be celebrated.

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Maine Music News

Dont let the name fool you! Maine Music News provides live concert reviews and photography for shows throughout all of New England. Our photographers cover shows in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and anywhere else we can! Our writers provide detailed album reviews and expertly written interviews as well. We may be called Maine Music News, but we dont let the Maine border stop us!