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Hero. Legend. Good Bloke.
John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



 

 

Early Blues Interview
Hamilton Loomis, guitarist /
singer / songwriter

_________________________________________________________________________

The Hamilton Loomis Band recently performed to a sell out audience at the Garston Royal Legion, Liverpool, on their 'Live in England' UK tour. I think  Lionel Ross summed it up in his review:
"This was a top quality show from four highly accomplished musicians, who combine magnificently to form a wonderfully tight and well balanced unit. Hamilton Loomis oozes class and is a superlative and charismatic performer. It can only be a matter of time before they progress to the next level and receive wider acclaim. It would be no less than they deserve."

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:         What were your first musical memories growing up in Galveston, Texas?

Hamilton:   I was at the beach every other day, it was very sunny.  Galveston is an island so itís cut off from the mainland.  Itís the same as every other small town so listening to music was mainly my parents record collection which was soul, blues, funk, rock and a bit of everything.  I grew up watching MTV so it all comes together.  

Alan:         Even Prince! 

Hamilton:   Yeah, when Purple Rain came out I was ten years old and it just blew my mind.  I was listening to his guitar playing, and thereís a lot of blues in it. That's where I get some of the rhythm.

Alan:         Did you always want to become a musician?

Hamilton:   Oh yeah.  I picked it up early because my parents were musicians and so there were always instruments around the house so I naturally gravitated towards them.

Alan:         What instruments did you start with?

Hamilton:   The drums, although Iím a horrible drummer now because I've forgotten everything. But my grandfather brought me a drumset when I was 4 or 5 and Iíd beat out rhythms  like Chopsticks.  But once I picked up guitar and bass then they became my main instruments

Alan:         In the early years, I understand that you toured with your family group. Tell me about the music you were playing

Hamilton:   Just to be accurate, we didnít actually tour because I was at school.  I was 14 when we started playing and we did mainly oldies and doo-wop, old rock and roll with 3 part harmony.  That influenced me and itís why I have a lot of 3 part harmonies now.

Alan:         What first attracted you to the blues

Hamilton:   My parents record collection. The Houston blues scene was thriving at that time too with   Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland and guys like that were still around. Gatemouth Brown used to play all the time in Houston Ė he was from Louisiana just across the Border.  And of course theyís where Bobby Bland recorded all his hits for Duke Records in the 60s. 

© Copyright 2009 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:         How did you first meet Bo Diddley

Hamilton:   I went to a concert of his in Houston when I was 16.  Went back stage to get an autograph and I played for him back there while he was signing my guitar case.  And I was playing some of his songs and I guess it caught him offguard that this young pip-squeak was playing some of his music.  The young white generation of my age were high school kids who had mostly never heard of Bo Diddley.  He said ďThatís pretty good son, play me some moreĒ. So I played him some more, nervously and I was back stage for about 10 minutes and he said, ďThat sounds pretty good, we should do something together sometime.Ē  And so, on the next set we were sitting near the front and he said in front everybody, ďThereís a young man who played for me back stage.  Come on up here and see if the guitar player will let you play his guitarĒ.  And graciously the guitar player tore his guitar off and handed it to me as if to give me a shot, so I hopped up and we played a song.  That was probably one of the coolest moments of my life.   And after that song he took his hat off and put it on my head and said, ďThis here is the next Bo DiddleyĒ and that was just the biggest compliment that anybody has ever given me in the world.  So after that show I went back stage to thank him and he said, ďHereís my home phone number. Call me and weíll do something togetherĒ.  I thought he was just joking so I waited about a week and then I called  this number and, sure enough, it was his home number and we went to his  house and did some demos in his studio and  hooked up with his producer, Scott Key, who ended up writing a couple of songs for me including Slow Lover which we played tonight.

Alan:         Tell me about the other Texan blues legends who influenced you in the early years.

Hamilton:   I used to listen to a lot of Freddie King who was from Texas, but I never got to meet him.  Probably the biggest influence on my playing style was a guy called Joe Guitar Hughes.  Not many people know about him because he never made it famous, never really toured because he was a family man.  But he grew up with Johnny Copeland and Albert Collins in Houston  and Joe taught Johnny Copeland how to play.  He was just a total guitarist Ė knew all the chords and all the voicings. And he was just a fantastic musician.  His recordings really donít do him justice but he used to host a blues jam every Tuesday night up in this little part of town there was an all black club and my parents and I would go up there and weíd be the only white people in the place, but when the music started all the barriers were down.  That was the first time I really saw that as a teenager, how music breaks down cultural barriers and thatís a beautiful thing.  So he gave me a shot and he taught me through a lot licks and a lot of lessons things like how to be sparse with effects, gete your tone from your hands not from your effects, learning how to listen to the other musicians, have a conversation with them and donít just play loud all the time but use dynamics.  Things like that have just stuck with me. I got to play with Gatemouth Brown a few times too so I like to slip and slide around and I got that from him.

Alan:         Which is your favourite instrument?

Hamilton:   Itís bass.  Itís fun.  Guitar players and bass players have a completely different role musically and itís a really fun challenge for me.  Back at home in the Houston area I do a lot of sessions when Iím not on tour for other people's recordings and probably 80% of sessions I do on bass, not on guitar.  Itís taught me a lot about rhythm and being a part of the rhythm section, listening to what the drummerís doing.  Even listening to the lyrics to a song, even the bass can have a role in making the song move along rather than just playing the root all the time.  Being a tasteful bass player is completely the opposite to being a lead guitar player. It's just a lot of fun.

© Copyright 2009 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:         Any particular songs you play that have special meaning to you?

Hamilton:   Any time you write a song it has a special meaning to you because it comes from a special place in your life.  Itís a really good question but I donít know if one really stands out, although there are obviously songs which I think are stronger than others.  Perhaps one that really stands out that was fun to write is My Pen because itís about not being able to write a song, and I actually got myself out of a writersí slump with that song.  Iím my own worse critic, Iím a perfectionist, Iím a very slow song writer, I throw away 90% of what I write, so I had to make it sound like it wasnít my fault but the penís fault and that got the humour in.  That is what Iím about anyway Ė not being too too serious.

Alan:         So what brought you to the UK originally?

Hamilton:   In 2005 a friend of mine who is an agent and promoter, Terry Robins, who used to tour over here as a bass player for another artist, and approached me and said he thought he could book a tour for me and he started planning a year in advance and booked a 5 week tour for me on my first time over here.  I just dove in with both feet and just learned really quickly how to drive on the left.  I wasnít supposed to be doing it but the rent car company didnít have van for us so we had to rent two estate cars and I had to drive.  You learn about the ins and outs of different countries that you go to and when you talk to local people and get tips on things, like now I know what speed cameras are!

© Copyright 2009 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:         How healthy do you think the blues scene is in the UK compared to the US?

Hamilton:   Itís hard to say.  The blues scene in the US is kinda dying unfortunately because there are a lot of blues purists in the States, and here as well.  Those purists that like the old traditional blues arenít going to be attracted to my style which is very progressive Ė and thatís okay because everybody has what they like and I totally respect that.  Thatís where my roots are.

Alan:         At UK blues festivals, yes, you get the purists, but for a festival you have to have a good range as well to attract the crowds.

Hamilton:   Exactly.  Whatís good about the US is that the blues will never die because there are such a large concentration of blues festivals, venues, blues societies and promoters.  And thatís great because even though what I do isnít really blues, but it is blues influenced, and we are able to stay working and touring.  Itís hard to really talk about the UK scene because when Iím here itís just full on.  Tonight is the second of 14 nights in a row, all over the UK, from Southsea to Scotland.   I don't really get the chance to experience to listen to music, I'm always working. But as far as I can see, thereís a lot of great blues festivals here and great publications like Blues Matters and Blues in Britain.  

Thatís one of the reasons why I dropped my label, Blind Pig, because they are only in the blues genre.  I want to get in Mojo and you canít really branch out into other genres if youíre on a label which only does strictly blues.  I still have a great relationship with Blind Pig; they are a great label because they let the artists have all artistic control, but I have to expand.  There are a lot of people who havenít been exposed to my music because of the avenues that blues will not let you go in.  So I want to not only stay in blues and honour my roots but I also want to expand to other genres.

Alan:         Well the crowd here loved it.

Hamilton:   When you get young people involved itís even better.  Last night we were in Hertfordshire (Hart or Hert?  Itís like Darby or Derby!) on the university campus with college students and I think itís fantastic when they are getting into roots music.

© Copyright 2009 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:         Your crowd pleasing stage shows are legendary.  Do you have any memorable moments?  I certainly remember you jumping off the balcony at the Colne R&B Festival.

Hamilton:   I donít know what the hell was going through my mind then!  It was my very first time in the UK and my third gig ever in the UK and I was just wanting to make a splash.  I went upstairs, played up there, went on the balcony and jumped.  Yeh, you were there. It was a crazy thing to do and people remember you by it.  But with hindsight it was a bit too much because the next year when I came back I got all these reviews and they were talking about how Iím an acrobat as well and they focused almost more on the stage antics than the music.  But I wanted to be remembered for my music and my songs, so I backed off a bit.  Now that weíre a bit established, itís easier to concentrate on the music.

Alan:         How is your current tour going?

Hamilton:   Great, so far.  

Alan:         Well, tonight here in Liverpool it was a complete sell out.

Hamilton:   Just wonderful. Liverpool is probably one of the best and fastest growing market for us.   This is only the third time I've played in Liverpool. Itís obvious that Liverpool people love their music.

Alan:         So how did you first meet young Alex McKown?

© Copyright 2009 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Hamilton:   We met on My Space.  The great thing about technology nowadays is that you can really hear and see exactly what people are doing.  Alex and his Dad approached me, introduced themselves and asked if they could perhaps jam sometime, and they just left it at that.  I listened to his stuff and I thought that the kidsí got  chops.   So I said, any shows that you can come to Iíll get Alex up on stage.  I feel itís almost a duty of mine to give young players exposure, just like Bo did for me.  Johnny Copeland did it for me too, he got me up on stage at the Juneteenth Blues Fest, which is a huge black history event, and he didnít have to do that but he saw enough in me to give me exposure.   Gatemouth Brown did the same thing.  Albert Collins got me on stage to play with him a few months before he died. None of these guys had to do that but it was amazing.  Unfortunately the young blues players now donít have those opportunities because youíve just about got Buddy Guy and BB King but theyíre old and theyíre so big they are virtually untouchable.  So I was very fortunate and I feel very strong obligation to help.

Thereís another guitarist in the UK who is 12, called Aaron Keylock  who lives in Oxford and heís going to come to our Charlotte Street gig next week and weíll give him a shot too.  Again, I listened to him on YouTube. It's a pleasure for me to help.

Alan:         Tell me about the making of your new album, Live in England

Hamilton:   It kind of fell into my lap.  I hadnít planned on doing it but the chemistry is so great between the four of us.  Stratton, Kent and I fly over here and we hook up with Jamie who lives in Birmingham and weíre all young, all have the same interests, all like the same kind of music and each player brings a different element to the core sound of the band even though itís kinda centred around my songs.  When I got over here, I thought how great it would be if we could record last  yearís tour and my friend Tony Jezzard who lives in Oxford and is the sound man for Famous Monday Blues said, ďIíve got a 24 track, Alesis, HD 24 simultaneous hard disc recorder.  You want to use it?Ē.   Well, hell, yes I wanted to use it.  So we recorded at five different performances and the two best ones were Famous Monday Blues and Liverpool Arena so I combined those two performances, edited them together, took it to a very talented mixologist in Houston called Mike Thompson and he did wonders with matching the tones from the two nights to make them sound identical and Iím really  happy with the results.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:         Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do you thing that is?

Hamilton:   Itís simple!  All of our music came from blues, didnít it.  Even rock and roll in the 50s was nothing but sped-up blues.  You listen to every Chuck Berry song, every Little Richard song, even Elvis did it.  All those songs were just sped-up 12 bar blues.  Thatís the roots of our music and I think itís great that thereís a resurgence of young players now who are really into blues.  They are going to be around for a long time.  Yes, there are fads and there are artists who are flash-in-the pan, we have American Idol, you have X factor, its the same sort of deal.  Yes, theyíll be famous for a little while but if you do whatís hot at the time, youíre not going to have any longevity.  But look at someone like Dave Matthews Band, how would you categorise his music?  You donít.  Itís just the Dave Matthews music.  Iím not particularly into his style but I appreciate his originality and his perseverence doing his own original style of music.  Year after year you build up your following and now heís going to be around for ever because he did it the right way. 

Alan:         Look out for a girl named Lucy Zirins. Sheís 17 or 18 now and sheís plays some of the real old material, like Son House stuff. 

Hamilton:   Thatís great, just what we need.

Alan:         Thank you very much indeed, Hamilton.  Really appreciate your time and best of luck with the rest of the tour.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.

_________________________________________________________________________

CD available here

Hamilton Loomis Website

Hamilton Loomis MySpace

Check out the Liverpool photos herel

Check out Lionel Ross's Liverpool full review here

Return to Blues Interviews List

Website, Photos © Copyright 2000-2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
Text (this page) © Copyright 2010 Alan White & Hamilton Loomis. All Rights Reserved.
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