"Steve Roux has been
there-done-that-played-with-them and has a blues CV even longer than the
name of his Brass Knuckle Blues Band. This is a big band with a big
sound and a growing reputation. Stylistically reminiscent of Albert
King’s Stax recordings with ‘B3’ keyboard and three-piece brass section
(Gig review, Worthenbury Blues Festival, 2012 - Michael Ford, editor of
Blues in Britain)
Steve Roux & The Brass Knuckles Blues Band at Blues on The Farm 2011
Alan: Where do you come from and what are your first musical
Steve: I was originally born in Southampton, then moved to a village
north of London called Clifton and then up to North Wales from the age
of 7 til 17. My first musical memories are records that my Mum and Dad
Alan: Did you come from a musical family - is there a long musical
Steve: There is. My Nan’s Dad was a classically trained pianist and my
Grandad on my Dads side used to play piano and sing as the band leader
of ‘Jack Roux & The New Manhattans’ in the late 20’s and 30’s. He always
played at home and kept the baby grand piano that he bought in the 20’s
right up to the day he died. I have that same piano in my house now. My
Dad played Bass in the 60’s in a band called the Graduates along with
his brothers Dave and Paul. They played across Germany including playing
at the Star Club in Hamburg at the same time as Little Richard, Tony
Sheridan, Gene Vincent and The Beatles. They shared digs with the
Beatles at that time. In fact The Graduates were the first band to play
the Star Club, not as popular legend would have it, that it was the
Beatles. The true story is that they flipped a coin and the Graduates
won and went on first. As it turned out that may have been the case even
if they hadn’t as George Harrison turned up late anyway.
Alan: Did you always want to become a musician?
Steve: Out of the Blue I announced that I wanted a guitar for my 9th
birthday. My Mum who knew nothing about guitars didn’t make it easy as
she bought me a full size Jumbo wire strung acoustic with very high
action and a cricket bat for a neck for the "princely sum" of £20 this
sits in my fireplace to this day as a reminder.
Alan: How did you get started in music?
Steve: Well I started playing guitar in bands at school when we lived
in North Wales. My good friend Nick Orrey and I were introduced one day
at school and we hit it off right away discovering that we both played
the guitar, we started to write and record together when we were about
15. We sent songs off all of the time the record companies and radio
stations, we even ended up with an interview as song writers with Zomba
music. We moved to Southsea, when I was 17 we busked and got gigs to pay
the rent, never stopped playing since.
Alan: What kind of material were you playing in the early days and
who were your heroes?
into the Blues. Early influences and artists that I admire, would have
to be all the Alberts and all the Kings. The music that surrounded me
when I was young was a magic mix of JJ Cale, Tony Joe White, Little
Feat, Ramsey Lewis, Jimmy Smith, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, The early
Stones, early Robert Palmer, Free, Clapton, Hendrix, Neil Young, Stephen
Stills and Monassas, ZZ Top, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker.... a great mixing
pot.... The thing that has always impressed and influenced me the most,
is not necessarily any soloing virtuosity but the funkiness, the grooves
and interaction within a band, great players listening to each other and
understanding less is more.....
Alan: What first attracted you to the blues and what does the blues
mean to you?
Steve: It was
a natural connection, I didn’t have a choice, it is what I understand,
feel and play, no contest. The Blues is one of the truest forms of
music, it comes from within, it’s a feel, it’s a groove, its emotion. If
I want to feel good I just stick on some good blues music and that does
it for me. To play it, you can learn the notes, but you cannot teach
someone to feel it, you either do or you don’t.
Alan: Your first album 'Steve Roux' was recorded in Memphis
in 1992, tell me a little about the making of the album and how you got
to record in Memphis.
Steve: Well, as John Wooler the head of PointBlank records said to me
if you’re gonna make a Blues record where could be better.... We rocked
up in Memphis, with Bernie (Fox) and Matt (Little) we got to stay in the
Memphis’s most decadent hotel, The Famous Peabody, wow.... We rehearsed
in Beale Street Studios where ZZ top played and recorded Eliminator. We
were surrounded by history, met some amazing people. We were sat in a
bar one night on Beale St. and in walked Albert King…… We got to record
in Kiva Studios, we walked in and there were pictures, Gold and Platinum
disc of Steve Ray, Albert Collins etc all over the walls. Jack Holder
who engineered our album played and recorded in Albert Kings and Albert
Collins bands…… not bad input… and he told some great stories.....
Alan: You appeared at the Cologne Music Festival where you were
invited to perform with Albert Collins and Robben Ford, that must have
been an exceptional experience.
Steve: It was! We had finished our set which went down really well and
afterwards I remember standing at the side of the stage watching Robben
Ford and his band and then later watching Albert Collins, and as he was
closing his show I was summoned to the back stage area, grab your guitar
you’re on... playing with Albert for his encore.... when I got to the
stage sorting out my amp, who’s also standing there looking as excited
as me, Robben Ford.... we got to play Albert’s instrumental ‘Frosty’
with him and his full band in front of by now an ecstatic audience,
there were hats and beer being thrown in the air by the end we must have
played for the best part of 15 minutes or more, all taking turns to
solo, bringing the band up and then down quiet setting each other up for
the change overs..... plus it was going out live on German radio.....
I’m getting goose bumps just remembering it.....
Steve Roux and the Brass Knuckle Blues Band
playing "Rocket to the Moon"
Butlins Rock and Blues Festival Skegness Jan 2012
Alan: Who has influenced you the most in your music writing and
Steve: That is difficult to answer, when I write I have always tried to
write some thing with a twist to it and I guess all of the music I have
listened to and love, must have got mixed in there somewhere. I always
try to find a connection to the song I am writing, so I have the best
chance of delivering it and the listeners getting it and believing it.
This is a lot easier to say than do and is probably part of the craft we
spend our lives trying to perfect. As far as playing is concerned I
listen and learn, but I have never tried to play overall like anyone
else because I can’t see the point, what is the point of playing like
and being compared to anyone else, that is always a losing game. The
best player I can be is me. This is a difficult lesson to learn, but a
very important lesson. Realising your own voice and style, what you are
best at, that’s the thing. When I was young I used to beat myself up
thinking I should play like others, but this is stifling. The most
liberating thing is when you can shake that off and be you. Don’t get me
wrong here there will always be moments in tunes where influence may
come through but I never feel like I’ve done it or myself any justice,
maybe just paid some homage. What comes out naturally I guess is me and
I hope my style has a sound or style to it, that people might
Alan: Looking back on your career so far, what are your fondest
Steve: I have
been lucky enough to play with some great Blues artists, stand outs as
well as a couple of times with Albert are being on stage with Pop
Staples, John Hammond and Terry Evans, playing the Pointblank/Borderline
festival and other promo gigs at that time. Amongst my fondest musical
memories are getting my first recording deal, also playing on stage with
George Harrison at a private party, playing a selection of Beatles
songs, George borrowed my 345 Gibson. Proudest moments are playing with
Damon Hill and the Conrods twice at the Albert Hall, playing with that
band at various Grand Prix and gigs around Europe raising money for The
Downs Syndrome Association. Always playing in The White Knuckle Blues
Band with Bernie and Rob and now finally releasing a CD together. And of
course playing with The Brass Knuckle Blues Band.
Alan: What is your favourite guitar?
Steve: My 1962 Fender Stratocaster.
Alan: Are there any particular songs that you play that have
special meaning to you?
Steve: Can’t Change the Time that I wrote with Dad... The lyrics
of ‘You can turn the clock back baby but you can’t change the time’
kinda sums up life, we are where we are, life is what it is....
Also the latest original tune It Might Just Be Too Late which I
have written with Bernie and is the title of our latest CD. It is a
modern blues song with a great groove and a hard edge to it, I love the
recording and it has been working well with the Brass Knuckle Blues Band
live, especially with the horn arrangement that Steve (Grainger) has
written for it.
Incidentally the CD is to be released on Kross Border Rekords on October
Alan: Tell me about the time you formed The White Knuckles Blues
Steve: Well Bernie (Fox) and I have played together since, I guess
1990, Bern played on the ‘Steve Roux’ release in 1992. A couple
of years after the CD Bernie and I ended up playing in a band that Rob
Vick was asked to join. Now I remember having never met Rob but knowing
that he and Bern would be the best rhythm section I could possibly get
to play with. A lasting connection was made and this was the start of
The White Knuckles. We wanted to put together an uncompromising 3 piece
blues band. We rehearsed and rehearsed sorting through blues material,
being ruthless in how we wanted to play it, never taking the easy option
of selling out and choosing to play any crowd pleasers, which we were
often asked to do but never would. This was back in 1996 and we are
still together now and have played thousands of gigs together. I would
argue that they are amongst the best rhythm sections in the country.
Alan: In 2007 you then formed The Brass Knuckle Blues Band, how did
that come about?
Steve: Bern, myself and Rob became involved with a band, ‘the
sensational jonny deps’ it came together through ‘depping’ for other
bands and of course our collective striking resemblance to the famous
actor, not! Style wise think James Brown... good horn section… Steve
Grainger on Alto sax and Jon Gooding on tenor, from this a master plan
was hatched. We had always wanted to augment the line up of the knuckles
with horns, Tom Edwards joined us on trumpet and at that time Josh
Phillips but now with Cliff Chapman on keys. It’s a great band to play
in, great players but most importantly great friends, we’ve had a lot of
fun playing the festivals this year. It has been hard work and the
economics of taking a 7 piece band around the country does not always
add up, but the playing is what makes it worth while. Perhaps the one of
the nicest compliments anyone has paid us, as a band, is from a Blues in
Britain review of our set at ‘Blues at the Fold’ written by Michael Ford
& Paul Stiles, the band being compared to having ‘the big-city sound of
Albert King and Albert Collins’ …… that’ll do for me.
Alan: Some music styles may be fads but the blues is always with
us. Why do you think that is?
Steve: Blues music will always connect with people as it’s a form of
music that came about naturally, a way expression, of how people feel,
to make people feel good and to entertain, not driven by money. It’s not
music that has been manufactured for other means and therefore will
Alan: How do you see the future of blues music?
Steve: Well it’s been about for 100 years or more, enjoyed the highs
continued blissfully unaware of the apparent lows. Blues lovers like
jazz lovers, country or folk will always love and support their choice
of music. The core journeyman musicians and I mean the core musicians
and artists, the agents and promoters, along with the help, support and
promotion of people like yourself Alan will insure that in another 100
years when dozens of fads/trends have come and gone the blues will be
alive and well. So the simple answer is that I think the future of blues
music is Good!!
Alan: Thank you so much Steve, I really appreciate your time.