After seeing many
excellent shows with The Blues Band, I met up with Gary after an
acoustic set at the Upton upon Severn Blues Festival.
What are your musical memories growing up in
Well I was quite late in getting properly
into music and it wasn’t until the late sixties that I really started to
take notice. One of the best gigs I went to in ‘68/69 was the first
line-up of Jethro Tull plus Fairport Convention at the L.S.E. My local
venue was The Castle in Tooting where I saw the likes of Free, Skid Row,
Rory Gallagher etc. Fleetwood Mac at The Toby Jug, Tolworth was another
Did you always want to become a musician?
I didn’t pick a guitar up until I was 17
and up ‘til that point I hadn’t had any thoughts about being a musician
at all. However I quickly got the taste for it and from thereon I was
definitely on a mission. Two of my early band colleagues went pro quite
early on and I was desperate to to emulate them.
Who are your favourite artists?
From the blues – Muddy, Wolf, Hooker, Memphis
Minnie, Fred McDowell etc. My absolute favourite is Willie Dixon because
of his writing more than his own records perhaps.
Who has influenced you the most?
In terms of the blues - Willie Dixon. J J Cale is
a big influence both in terms of writing and guitar playing though he’s
not a pure down home bluesman. On the more ‘sophisticated’ side of
things it would be Steely Dan ie Becker and Fagen. More ‘rootsy’ would
be Lowell George and John Hiatt.
What first attracted you to the blues?
Its simplicity in terms of both its musical form
and its emotional directness.
How has the blues influenced you?
It’s certainly the first genre of music I wanted
to play and it wasn’t so complex as to be sufficiently daunting to put
me off so it is my ‘source’ from whence everything else has developed
from I guess. Even when I got into other things and started to get too
clever etc the aforementioned directness and relative simplicity of its
form would bring me back to a good place!
Do you listen to blues music and what is your
Yes – the Chess output in the Willie Dixon years.
What is your favourite instrument?
To play – the guitar. To listen to – again the
guitar, electric a la Peter Green, acoustic a la Kelly Joe Phelps, John
Are there any particular songs that you play
that have special meaning to you?
Absolutely – I can’t see the point of singing a
song that doesn’t mean anything to the singer – hence my enjoyment of
hearing the writer sing the song. All my songs mean a lot to me but a
couple of the tunes on my ‘Human Spirit’ CD in particular hit the spot
‘cos they were written in the aftermath of my son Jack’s very serious
accident in 2001 – notably ‘May you now find peace’ and ‘Solanki’s
knife’. (Mr Solanki was the brain surgeon who saved Jack’s life). Rather
oddly neither song is particularly bluesy in it’s musical form but the
words are definitely the blues in the way that bad things happen but
also there is an underlying optimism in many ‘bad luck and trouble blues
How healthy do you think the blues scene is in
It’s in reasonable shape I think – plenty of room
for growth and improvement I guess but there are some good venues out
there and some great blues clubs keeping the flame burning. What used to
be the more rock blues venues sadly do seem to have embraced the
‘tribute’ craze so wholeheartedly that gigs for the rockier side of the
blues are hard to come by. However there does seem to be a slight growth
in the number of more acoustic blues venues, so I guess its swings and
What do you see as the future of blues music?
Well - I don’t think the blues relies on cutting
edge development in the way that something like avant garde jazz needs
to go forward. Evolution rather than revolution would seem to be the way
the blues goes. Guys like Keb Mo push the envelope some but for the most
part the blues has its forms and traditions and that’s pretty much how
the blues audience wants it to stay. The more in your face style of some
British blues/R & B bands is, arguably, unique to this side of the pond
and nowadays pretty much entirely derivative. Nonetheless the demand for
this type of ‘blues’ is definitely there and whilst it may not grow much
I’m sure it’ll continue in very good health! As mentioned in the answer
to question 10 there does seem to be growing interest in the acoustic
side of things with a number of venues now promoting this side of the
Tell me about the making of Human Spirit?
out as just a day recording 2 or 3 demos with the first GFB line-up to
have something to send to potential gigs. Co-producer and ace engineer
Bill Gautier used the opportunity to track test his new recording set-up
and once we’d done the initial session asked if I had more songs, and if
so, why not do an album. As always I had plenty of tunes so that’s what
we did. We had to fit recording in between Blues Band commitments and
Bill’s bread and butter studio bookings so it did take rather a long
time to finish it but not ‘cos we spent eons in the studio. It was great
to ask some of my favourite guys to come and play on various tracks and,
overall, the process of recording my first ‘proper’ solo album was
really enjoyable. Towards the end of the production process Nine Below
Zero’s Dennis Greaves came in to play a solo on one track and ended up
getting into the album to the extent of helping mix some tracks and
refining arrangements on a couple of songs. The first solo effort was a
compilation of tracks recorded effectively randomly over some years
whereas ‘Human Spirit’ was always meant as an album.
How are Jack’s band APHID doing?
They’re now called ‘Killed by Mime’. Steve Ling
who plays in my band too is their guitarist and together with Jack – who
plays drums (he plays bass in my band – they have been the prime movers.
With new bass player Chloe and singer Gregg they’ve just started gigging
and have done some recording of demos to use to try and get gigs. It’s
quite a heavy band but more ‘rock’ than metal and very powerful. They
sound good to me...........is that a good thing though?
Do you plan to release more solo albums?
Yes – Bill wants to get cracking – I’ve got the
tunes and both he and I want to get the current GFB line-up in the
studio asap. As soon as his studio schedule allows and I’ve surfaced
from my intense gig seeking efforts we’ll get some new tunes down.
Are we likely to see more of ‘The Fletchers’
live and on an album?
Doubtful – The Fletchers was really only a vehicle
to help Jack get back to playing after he came out of his long hospital
stay and we just played in local pubs mostly doing covers.
A lot of music styles come and go but the blues
is always with us. Why do you think that is?
As per my answer to an earlier question – it’s so
simple in form and direct in emotion and thus accessible that I think
some folk will always be drawn to it, providing they can get to hear it
in the first place somehow!
What do you think is the future for live music
in the digital age of mp3 downloads and bootlegging?
I feel the future for live music is reasonably
bright albeit one that, perversely, maybe harder to make a living out of
due to so many people, understandably, wanting to play but happy to do
so for very little. Also the current situation whereby commercial venues
ie pubs and clubs seem to view the bands as revenue flows – hence this
hideous ‘pay to play’ syndrome – makes things very tough. I’m would not
want to be 18 just starting out again!
What are your future plans / gigs / tours /
Most venues sort their programme 6 to 12 months in
advance and unfortunately I had some tricky domestic things to deal with
in ’08 which meant that I didn’t get on the case booking dates for ’09
as much as I would have liked. However gigs are now in the book for
later in the year and some festival appearances on the cards. I have to
fit my own gigs around the Blues Band’s schedule although since the BB
are doing a bit less now ‘cos of Paul, Tom and Rob doing quite a bit in
The Manfreds it’s not too difficult.
Are you still involved in motorsport?
Yes – still give it a go when time and money
permits. In ’08 did a couple of races in a Sports 2000 prototype, a race
in a Ralt RT1 Classic F3 and a Formula Ford 1600. Sometimes I pick up a
little sponsorship which allows me to go and play with the toys! I also
do a bit of driver coaching and instructing which I find is a good
contrast to the music biz!
Gary, thank you so much for your time.
Alan White - earlyblues.com
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