Interviewer: Vasja Ivanovski, Skopje,
- Something about your musical beginnings, what got you into
It was accidently hearing a band live. When I was about 12
years old I was visiting in San Francisco. One day I was walking around Golden
Gate Park and I heard a sound I'd not heard before, live music. That was pretty
much it. I became a musician on the spot as far as I was concerned. It was the
impact of seeing a band live that caught me. There is nothing else quite like
that. Recordings are great but they just aren't the same experience as the real
- Your early influences were...
In the early seventies, in the beginning of my career, it was
a Boulder, Colorado guitar player named Tommy Bolin. He was among the most charismatic
musicians I've ever seen to this day. In retrospect, a bit limited in scope
as a player, but in style and phrasing there was no one like him except for
Hendrix and later, Robben Ford. He was the kind of guy who recruited guitar
players at every show. I was electrified the first time I saw him. Of course
on a larger scene there were the more well known players: Beck, Clapton, Page,
Blackmore. They all influenced me to some degree as did Joe Walsh, Leslie West,
Billy Gibbons and B.B. King.
- Who would you regard as your biggest influence so far?
In overall importance, it would be Robben Ford, because of
the harmonic depth and nuance he teaches -- the expansiveness and subtlety of
it. He made it ok to push the envelope harmonically - to use notes that others
couldn't fit in to blues. He found a way to sell it, to make it work. He's the
guy who comes closest to playing the way I feel inside.
- Is there anyone you would like to work with?
There are many. I hear so much inspirational music everyday,
even sometimes in TV and radio commercials that I cant take in all the change
and innovation. There is hardly anyone I wouldn't want to work with. But the
idiom I enjoy the most is a mixture of several styles and, is kind of obscure.
Its musician's music I guess. I like rock's dynamic range because you get everything
from a whisper to a thunder, but I like jazz's harmonic structure and the depth
that gives you. I like the simplicity and rawness of blues but I donít like
to be locked in a pentatonic frame all the time. I think Keb Mo is a pioneer
and someone I'd be honored to even sit in with. Although I donít have much country
or country-blues in my style I think I would enjoy playing with Norah Jones.
Bruce Hornsby is someone who moves me. His bands are incredible. I've always
wanted to jam with Clapton just because I think it would be fun.
- What unfulfilled ambition do you have?
To create a work so powerful, so new, so revealing, that people
get inspired to become musicians.
- What was the first record you bought?
I bought three albums the first time. Young Rascals - Greatest
Hits, Steppenwolf (canít remember the album title) and The Byrds - Greatest
Hits. I think I was 13 at the time and these were just names I recognized. I
really didnít know what I liked until later and The Young Rascals are still
cool in my book!
- What was the last record you bought?
Eldar, the debut release from an 18 year old Soviet piano player.
He is mind boggling. He is one of the new crop of prodigies that will take things
to the next level. Julian Lage, the guitarist currently with Gary Burton, is
- Five desert island albums of your choice would be...
While I'm a guitar player, that doesnít seem to much influence
my choice of listening music. As far as just plain spiritually moving music,
there is a CD called Prayer Cycle featuring a variety of artists such as Alanis
Morissette, James Taylor and some people whose names I can't easily type. Itís
pretty powerful stuff. In the pop vein I like a variety - Peter Gabriel, So,
wouldn't be a bad nomination for an enduring record, I think. The Beatles' Sergeant
Pepper's has an even bigger footprint. I can see all kinds of possibilities
that are suggested by that record. Shawn Colvin's A Few Small Repairs is one
of the most eloquent pop statements I've heard. I donít get tired of that CD
because of the songs, her voice and the great playing and production. There
is a recording of Jascha Heifetz, my favorite violinist, playing Tchaikovsky's
Concerto in D which I have loved since I first heard it 30 years ago. Listening
to that performance has inspired me to practice my guitar a number of times.
- Beside your material, which covers you usually do on stage?
Old blues and R&B. Take Me To The River, Love and Happiness,
various B.B. King things. Itís just kind of whatever the mood dictates and what
the assembled musicians know in common. I play quite a bit with my friend John
Lee Sanders and we do a lot of his great original material. He's an extraordinary
writer, not to mention a fantastic singer, keyboardist and sax player.
- What do you think about contemporary blues scene?
Depends on where you are. In the US we're kind of stuck in
a retro phase. No one really fresh has emerged in the past 10 years in my opinion
although there are some amazing talents, just no one that changes the entire
context of a style. I think there is a certain stagnation which is characterized
by trying to keep the music contained within some particular past decade as
though it were a museum piece. I understand the respect and homage paid to past
artists but blocking forward motion of the art form isn't the answer to preserving
the past. However, soon someone will certainly come along and blows the doors
off the idiom and thus start a new movement.
- Is it hard to get blues gigs in the States?
In the last 5 years I have really only done a small number
of select gigs and just for fun, not to support myself. I've been making my
living for some time as a studio owner/engineer/ producer. In the San Francisco
bay area there is what I consider a pretty healthy blues circuit of maybe 20
well known clubs that have live music nearly every night. Of course, club gigs
still pay what they did 15 years ago so making a living can be tough. I donít
know much about other towns but I've heard that in LA, a huge city with what
must be thousands of night clubs, there is apparently almost no work. I donít
understand that. New York is supposed to be tough too but I think it has to
do with the enormous number of musicians feeding at the same trough. I think
Nashville is a fairly hard nut to crack too until you get inside the clique.
- You have shared the stage with some big names, any particular
experience worth mentioning?
Any time a musician has relaxed and played to their true full
potential, even if itís for two seconds, its a blessing. When I was playing
with harmonica player Mark Ford we used to have these magical moments when everything
would come together and something unique would happen. Thatís memorable. Of
course there were times with Miles Davis when I was struck by the awesome-ness
of that experience. He had a way of bringing more out of a musician than the
player knew he had inside. You would be playing and think you had finished a
solo only to look over at him and realize he didnít think you were finished
yet at which point you had to start searching deeper for something else to play.
- What fact about you would surprise the fans?
Perhaps that I was born with two thumbs on my right hand. Or
that my third and fourth toes on my left foot are "fused". Its true
actually.I donít know if its surprising but I have no formal musical training
whatsoever. I've never taken a music course and I donít read notation at all.
I can stumble through a very basic chord chart but thats about it. I play by
ear and what little theory I know I've picked up along the way from other musicians.
- What is your current stage equipment (amp, etc.)?
Its pretty simple, compared to some of the rigs I've tried
over the years. I play a Fender Robben Ford guitar through a Carl Martin compressor
pedal, into a 1995 Fender Concert Reverb Amp, 1-12" speaker. In the effects
loop of the amp I have an Alesis Nanoverb which I use mostly for a discreet
delay. My reverb, most of the time, comes from the amp's internal spring unit.
For many years, until just recently, I also used a Boss SD -1 overdrive pedal
for extra kick on solos. At that time I didnít use the channel switching in
the amp. For some reason I made friends with the dirty channel of the amp recently
and I have dropped the SD-1 pedal from the signal chain.
- Guitarists tend to build their guitar collections, what about
Not really. I think the most guitars I've owned at any one
time is about 6 or 7. There have been times when I've owned one guitar only.
I have no urge to collect guitars for show or nostalgia. I only want the ones
I actually use. I've tried many different guitars over the past 35 years but
once I got this Robben Ford model Fender I kind of relaxed on my search. If
I never find a guitar any better suited to me than this one I will have still
been blessed. Actually I have two of the RF models and they are as different
as night and day. Supposedly they are physically identical except for color
but they sure donít sound that way.
- Something about your future plans?
I have just released my third solo CD called "i"
(available direct. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Itís an instrumental work and I either played or sequenced every part on it,
hence the name. I'm just starting another instrumental project as well and I
am planning a blues CD with my friend Mz Dee who is a wonderful singer. My band
will continue to do locals dates and I'm booked a few months ahead in the studio.
- Any tour in Europe in prospect?
At present, no. But I hope something happens in the near future
because European audiences are rightly known by musicians as astute and knowledgeable
listeners. It would be a very nice thing to get a chance to come to Europe and
perform a set or two of original music. There's not a much bigger thrill than