Beth Hart Discusses Better Than Home

Posted November, 2015

Photo by Greg Watermann

     

To say that Beth Hart is one of the most amazing new female singer/songwriters of the new millennia would be an understatement. 

Literally discovered in the 90’s while performing on the streets of L.A. by David Wolf (who became her close friend and manager). He managed to land her a record deal with Atlantic in a matter of weeks.

Her talent has landed her on TV (both performing as well as her songs being used on shows) and even in front of our current president (along with the iconic Jeff Beck). 

Because of her openness about her battles with booze, drugs, bad relationships and being bi-polar, Beth Hart has inspired many to fight the good fight against their own personal demons.

I was first turned on to her work four years ago by way of a duet album she recorded with guitar great, Joe Bonamassa, entitled “Don’t Explain”, in 2011. She won me over with her treatment of the Etta James hit, “I’d Rather Go Blind”, making permanent and me an instant fan. A couple of years later, I had the thrill of conducting my first interview with this incredible artist. 

I was recently afforded yet another opportunity to chat with her about her latest CD, “Better Than Home” (an album I absolutely love, by the way), prefaced my first question about it by stating that I felt that it was quite an introspective album from her, then asking if that was an accurate observation.

“Yes, I would say so. I mean, I typically tend to be pretty vulnerable and open in my writing, anyway. But this record, in particular, went a little deeper there. I turned in a lot of songs to Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens. A lot! These are the ones that they felt the strongest about recording.  I think that the chose a collection that just happened to be on a super personal level that they thought would work together for a record.”

I shared with Beth that my favorite cut from the disc is “Tell Them To Hold On” and asked her to share her story behind it.

“Thank you. I love that song! I started writing that a few years ago – several years ago, actually. What inspired me was that I went into the hospital and I really

     

Photo by Greg Watermann

wasn’t doing that well. As I started to come around and feel better, I saw a lot of people there with me that hadn’t started feeling better, yet. I felt so much compassion for them because I had just been through the same thing. So, I was kinda, in part, thinking, ‘I swear to God, it gets better, guys! Just hang on in there! No matter how bad or dark or scary it gets, it always gets better! It’s so worth holding on because it just gets better.’ I think that’s where that came from.”

When I told Beth that I thought that God’s hand was on her when she wrote that song, she said:

“Thank you. I’d like to think that because I really feel like it’s such a spiritual experience writing. It’s such a healing and wonderful experience. I’ve always felt like God and the angels kinda help me out there, you know? Kinda show me the way. I need to believe that, you know?”

Realizing that artists don’t like to pick a favorite song from their albums because it’s like picking a favorite child, I asked Ms. Hart which song she would point people to as a calling card for “Better Than Home”.

“It would be, ‘Tell Her You Belong To Me’.  It was by far the most challenging. It took the longest time to write it. I didn’t know what it was about in the beginning of writing it even though I had lyrics and I had all of the melody. I had all the music done first, which is what I usually do, anyway. But, I had a lot of lyrics and I couldn’t figure out what were the right lyrics. I pondered over it a couple of years. Then, finally, I realized why I was struggling with the lyric because I finally realized who it was about. It was about my dad. That’s why I was afraid to talk about those feelings. Once I figured out what it was about, then I said, ‘Okay, now let’s get this song done!’ I just love it. I love this song so much! I dedicate the album to my dad. I never dedicated a record to my dad before.”

The title song is truly soul stirring. Beth shared with me the story behind it and how it impacted fans.

“I’m close with a few of my fans and, when I say that, I mean that they’ve become really good friends of mine and they’re usually people who deal with similar things from difficulty in childhood or mental difficulties. So, yeah, they’re always a part because I know they’re my sounding board. I get to talk to them and say, ‘Hey, this is how I’m feeling,’ and they say, ‘Yeah, I’ve been going through the same thing, lately! This is what I’m doing to get better and this is what I’m doing that’s making me feel better.’ It’s a fantastic thing – especially when I’m writing a song about that. 

Photo by Greg Watermann

“For me, ‘Better Than Home’ came from a childhood place of having dreams about things being better; things being different; me taking a different course in my life; the way that I looked at myself and the way that I looked at my own family and the way that I looked at life and creating a new family. I like to think that having a band and, then, also getting married and my manager, David, is like my father. He’s like a father figure to me. I like at that as my new family that I created later in life. 

“But it’s really standing before God and what I see as spiritual healing and something that looks over me and guiding me and having the courage to say, ‘This is what I want for my life.’ I think it’s hard when you have such low self esteem to say, ‘This is what I really want for my life’ because you feel like you don’t deserve it.

“So, ‘Better Than Home’ is getting to that place where you realize, despite my insecurities, despite my warped thinking, I absolutely deserve to have everything that I’ve ever wanted: love and health and being able to be responsible for myself and letting go of feeling sorry for myself. All those kinds of things. Music and experiencing life like when you wake up and you go outside and you’re, like, ‘Wow! I’m alive! I’m really lucky and I’m really thankful!’ Those kinds of things. 

“What I did, though, when I wrote it, was I made it about the road so, that way, I wouldn’t have to explain that personal thing that I add to the song but I could use the road as an example. What the road means to me is just getting out of your house. It doesn’t necessarily have to be singing and doing a show. It just means getting out of where you’re hiding from and experiencing life again. And THAT is better than home – better than hiding.”

I discovered Beth Hart from her first duet album with guitarist, Joe Bonamassa. She’s also worked with the legendary Jeff Beck and others. A Boomerocity reader who knew I was going to be chatting with Beth wanted to know whom else she would like to work with sometime.

“You know? I would really, really love to do something with Tom Waits. I don’t know him and I’m sure he doesn’t know who the frick I am but I adore him! I adore his writing. I adore his whole vibe. He is so vulnerable and, then, the next minute he’s absolutely hysterical. He’s got such a broad sense of being able to find art in every form of emotion and the way he does it is so brilliant. I would love to even be a fly on the wall in his room when he’s working. That would be amazing. It’s always been him. Whenever I get that question, I always say Tom Waits.”

In my interview with Joe Bonamassa last month, I told him that I was going to be chatting with Beth and asked him for a comment about her, to which he said, “I think Beth Hart is probably the most naturally talented singer and musician that I’ve ever been on stage with. She has such a wonderful sense of timing and phasing, vocally, and has an infinite capability, vocally. She commands attention. There’s some people who can really sing. They stand up there and sing. She stomps up there and she takes control of the stage. You can’t teach that kind of stage power and that presence. She’s a very, very, very special individual and I’m very proud of the records that I’ve made with her.”

When I shared those comments with Ms. Hart, her response was bubbly and from deep within her heart.

“Oh, my god! That is so amazing! Oh, my god! I love him! He’s so sweet! This is how I feel about Joe: I think that Joe is one of the most extraordinary people

     

Photo by Greg Watermann

because, like Jeff Beck, he really works at his craft. He doesn’t just assume that he has all this talent and that’s all he needs. He works at it. He’s on the road. He’s practicing at home. He’s making records. He’s writing songs. He’s covering songs in a brilliant way. And he’s got a HUGE vocabulary. 

“I think it’s, obviously, a great talent there, but it’s like Jeff. Jeff’s got a great talent but he works his ass off at it. He doesn’t take it for granted in any way. He’s striving to always learn and takes on new challenges. I mean, you can see what he’s done with his career. He’s someone who’s never had Pop success; tons of radio play Pop stations and look at his career! It’s phenomenal and it’s because he works at it. He puts it out there. He never takes it for granted. That’s something that really inspired me when I met him was that I saw his work ethic and his total commitment – not only being an artist but really being someone that gets out there and works the shit out of it. That inspired me so much!

“Also, he’s incredibly humble and the easiest person to work with. He really inspires the people around him by allowing them to be themselves and showing them that respect and that love. He focuses on his side of the street. I think what that does is you work with people and you let them see that they’re there because you believe in them and you love them and you’re focusing on your thing and you know that they’re going to focus on their thing. And, when you bring it together, it makes it this amazing chemistry. You get the best out of people. That’s another thing I really saw from him and made it a conscious effort to do that in my life, as well. I love his flavors and his styles on things. 

“Obviously, as a player and as a singer - love him as a singer! I love his voice. I love how he doesn’t push and do that whole showboating bullshit thing. He really has faith in the material and he allows those songs to be played and to be sung for the sake of the song instead of for the sake of showboating and showboating is bullshit. We know that, you know? That only goes so far. After three or four songs, you’re done. You’ve seen the showboating. It’s over. With him, you don’t get that. You can watch him for two hours and it’s always special and it’s always something that is humble and comes from a real place of love for music instead of having to show you how amazing he is. His amazement is in how respects the music and at it from that place.”

In addition to what she had shared earlier, Beth shared what else is on her radar for the next year.

Photo by Greg Watermann

     

“Well, you know, what I decided is doing nine months on the road a year is just too much. It’s getting in the way of my relationships with family, with friends, with being able to be a wife to my husband, and it’s getting in the way of writing. Even thought I work with my husband on the road, it’s still all about the Beth Hart Show. At home, I want to be able to cook for him and go to the beach and ride bikes with him. 

“I was telling this to my manager recently. I was saying as a writer, I’m not going to write about airplanes and hotels. Who gives a shit about that? I gotta write about real life and in order to write about real life, I have to be connected to real life. 

“So, I think what’s on the focus for me is, like, seven months out of the year on the road, living a real life and being able to write from that place. Being really healthy. Really balanced. I’m forty-three, now. This is the time where you’ve really got to take care of yourself if you want to live to be old and I want to live to be old! I want to have a long life. I want to be able to be there to take care of my husband when he gets really old the way he’s taken such amazing care of me through all my difficulties. So, I’m kinda reprioritizing things and I think it’s a good thing! I feel really good about that.”

If Beth’s future is as full of life as she sounded during our call, then, happily, we should be hearing from this beautiful and amazingly talented woman for many years to come . . . and that’s a wonderful thing.

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Tommy Emmanuel Discusses It's Never Too Late

Posted October 2015

 

     

If you’ve been a Boomerocity reader any time at all, you already know what huge Tommy Emmanuel fans we are here. You can find our positive concert, CD and DVD reviews on Boomerocity as well as two great interviews with the legendary Australian born guitarist.

Ooppss! Strike that. This makes the third great interview with the man.

In our interview with Tommy last year, his wife was expecting a baby at any time. That healthy bundle of joy did, in fact, arrive – a beautiful baby girl they named Rachel - and our chat started off talking about her.

“That’s right! She’s eight months old. Can you believe it? She’s eight months, already! Incredible! Where has the time gone? Unbelievable.

“I have a twenty-seven year old and a sixteen year old, as well. All girls. Just the way I like it. We learn so much from them, that’s the thing.”

Wanting to not exclude his wife, he adds:

“My wife, Clara, is such an inspiration to me at all times. She’s such a good mother. She’s a hard worker and so dedicated and so helpful in significant ways, you know? She constantly shares the load with me – even when I’m not saying anything about it. She just always shares everything with me so that I can go on and do the best I can. She knows how important that is. So that’s a good partnership.”

Sharing even more about his life, Emmanuel said:

“I was divorced in 2002 and I kind of made an agreement with myself that I would not get married again. Then, I met Clara and three years after we met I just knew there was no point in me prolonging it any longer. I don’t want to be with anybody else. I can’t imagine anybody else in my life. So, I asked her to marry me and she said, ‘Oh. Okay.’ 

“We got married privately and then called all of our friends and family up to tell them what we’d done. My other two daughters – it took them awhile to get used to the idea. Then, Rachel came along and it took them awhile to get used to that, as well. It’s been an interesting ride the last few years, you know, just personally. I think it’s helped me focus better on my playing, my writing and all that sort of stuff. And I’ve got new management, new business management. Everything has made a big turn and I’m really looking forward to this next couple of years; with a new album out and some great shows coming up.”

A Boomerocity reader said that he saw that that Emmanuel established a new record company, CGP Sounds and wanted to know if it’s for Nashville based and/or American artists or was he looking to open up opportunities for Australian based country bands who may be hoping to knock on doors in the U.S.

“Definitely, I’m looking for real talent around the world. CGP Sounds, at the moment, we have released two albums, so far. One is called, ‘Just Passing Through”. That’s’ some duets with another guitar player and a violin player. It’s in the Django Reinhardt style – like the swing/gypsy jazz style – which I recorded ages ago. We decided to put that out. Then, my new album, ‘It’s Never Too Late’ – via Thirty Tigers – it’s on my label, CGP Sounds. So, that’s the first two products.

“I’m not planning on rushing into too much too soon. I’m just going to kinda ease into it and then make some decisions on who I’ll sign and what I want to do with them as we get more organized down the track. 

“My managers are in on the label, as well. They’re the ones really driving everything. We all have to be unanimously in agreement on who we want to record and put out, promote and all of that sort of stuff.”

Knowing that Tommy had been on the Steve Vai owned label,  Favored Nations, I asked if CGP Sounds is modeled in the same fashion.

“Steve’s label is Favored Nations and Favored Nations is underwritten by Warner Bros. It’s a big company and he’s got a little bit of it. It has a niche market, you know?

     

We wanted to have a much better situation. I’ve got Jensen Communications as my promotion team and Thirty Tigers and Red are the label and the distributor. Red is Sony Company. They’re all over the world. Thirty Tigers is going to be driving this album for me and Red will make sure that the distribution is done right. But it’s the first time that I’ve had a product that’s had this much and kind of people behind it and people actually doing their job. It’s been fantastic! 

“Already, this is the first week in and we got the Americana chart yesterday and I’m number two as the most added artist on the Americana format. So, it’s really, really exciting for me. We’re hoping for a Grammy nomination in several categories, including Best Instrumental Composition. So, keep your fingers crossed, brother!

“It just feels that we’ve got a great team, now. I feel like we can all really move forward and really go for it!”

We at Boomerocity LOVE LOVE LOVE the new album. I asked Tommy to tell me a little bit about what this particular album means to and for you and what you hope fans will get out of it.

“Well, first thing, I recorded it in bits and pieces because I had a really hectic schedule last year. When I was home in Nashville, I had to get back in the studio and record some of the songs. Then, I wrote more songs when I was away. 

“When we knew that Rachel was coming, I wrote, ‘It’s Never Too Late’. I thought it was exactly what I needed for my album. That song and that saying – that’s why it ended up being there. It’s never too late to live happily ever after. That’s what the saying is. 

“I have a sign in my house when you walk in the front door, the first thing you see is a sign saying, ‘It’s never too late to live happily ever after’. It’s a very positive message to put out there to people and to remind them to get on and find what makes you happy and run at it with all your energy.

“Every song on the album means a lot to me. A lot of people have commented that they felt that these songs are some of the best that I’ve come up with. That’s nice to hear people saying stuff like that. My songs are like children to me and they’re always precious to me. They’re like little jewels and I try to keep polishing them. 

“The other good experience with this album was I decided that I would record some of the songs and mix it with a guy named Mark DeSisto. He’s in Los Angeles. He used to work for me back in the nineties. He specializes in mixing and mastering but he’s a great recording engineer, as well. I thought it would be good for me to have a change of pace so I came here to L.A. for a week and I recorded, I think, four or five songs with him. Then we spent a couple of days mixing and mastering the album. I was really pleased with the work. 

     

“The actual artwork and the photos were put together by my management team. They just did a great job. The cover of the album has little clues to all the song titles in the artwork. If you look at the cover, you’ll see that I’m standing there, looking at a clock. I’m inside the clock. The clock actually goes to thirteen, so you can never be too late. 

“My shadow that comes off my figure – my shadow is actually wearing a cowboy hat so that’s El Vaquero, which is Spanish for ‘the cowboy’. It could also be for The Duke. There’s a song on there called The Duke which is John Wayne. I’ve been a John Wayne fan all my life. I just imagined that, if I went back in a time machine back in the forties and somebody asked me to write a theme for a John Wayne movie, that was my operandi. It was my modus operandi that gave myself that challenge. That’s what I wrote. 

“Blood Brother was a song – I had a very powerful dream that was just like a movie. I woke up from the dream with that song in my head. I wrote it when I was in Spain. It tells a story, really. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s about brothers who watch each other - who watch out for each other – in the military. They’re fighting a war and they’ve got each other’s back. So, there’s that part of it and, then, the other part of the story is I read a story about a guy who was helped by a very poor Mexican family and he went to try and pay them for their help. They gave him food and they helped him get back on the road again, finally. He tried to pay them and they wouldn’t take anything. The old guy said, ‘Today you, tomorrow me. Today, it’s your turn for an act of kindness. Tomorrow, it might be me who needs it.’ There’s that kind of message in the song, as well.

“It’s Never Too Late, I wrote for Rachel because I turn sixty this year and I have an eight month old daughter. I just never thought that this would ever happen to me. It’s, actually, the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I can’t believe how she’s changed my life. Talk about a reason to get going and to get on with things. You’ve got a baby to bring up and to enjoy. It just reminds you that family is what it’s all about.”

What song from the disc would Emmanuel suggest as a “calling card,” if you will, to entice people to pick up the album?

“It’s Never Too Late – the title song. Definitely.”

Two other tunes from the album that Boomerocity absolutely loves are, “Hellos and Goodbyes”, and “Old Photographs”. Tommy shared the stories behind those songs.

“Hellos and Goodbyes, I did the rhythm guitar and then just played the song over the top. I co-wrote that song with a friend of mine back in the nineties. I arrived here in L.A. and I had a dream and in the dream this voice said, ‘Life is just hellos and goodbyes’.  When I woke up, the song that I had been writing, I somehow knew that that was the right title for that song. That is what that song is about. 

“So, the guy that I co-wrote it with, I rang him, firstly, to tell him about the title and, secondly, to say that it’s on my album; that he could break out the champagne now. Ha! Ha! I said to him, ‘The song is called Hellos and Goodbyes’ and there was silence on the phone. I said, ‘What’s up?’ and he said, ‘I just came from the hospital this morning. My father passed away last night in one part of the hospital and my sister had a baby, this morning, in the same hospital.’  He had a hello and a goodbye. It was powerful. It gave me chills. 

“Old Photographs I wrote after I watched the movie, Lincoln. It just transported me, that film. Not the story. Just the movie. It transported me because it’s so authentic. It reminded me of when I used to sit with my grandmother and I’d look at photographs of all my family and of my uncles who never came back from the war and all that kind of thing; and how precious that time was with my grandmother. I wanted to write a piece that sounded like it was from, I don’t know, the thirties or forties. Like some old guy sitting at the piano, playing  for his grand kid. That’s kind of like I wanted to do with that song.

“I heard that everybody who gets the record – I heard that people get a really good feeling from the music and that it brings good feelings to them; good memories. They make of the songs whatever they will. That’s the good thing about a song that has no lyrics. You can, in your own mind; you can imagine what it’s about, yourself. The writer wants you to listen to what he’s writing about through the title. Like Blood Brother. Old Photographs. It’s Never Too Late. Those kinds of titles. 

“Some of my earlier work were songs like Determination, The Journey, Don’t Hold Me Back – they are titles that I come up with years ago that speak a lot about what I’m writing about. It’s telling stories with words.”

When I commented that this is evident of an innate musical genius, Tommy’s genuine humility was unequivocal in his response.

“Well, thanks. I wouldn’t call myself a genius. No way! But I definitely – I channel stuff. When I feel inspired and I know I’ve got an idea that I’m excited about, I don’t quit on it and I use every resource I can possibly can to make sure that I get the right feeling across and the story told in the right way. 

“When I played in Madrid and Barcelona and Valencia in Spain a few years ago when I wrote Blood Brother, a guy I know who is a local flamenco player, Antonio Rey, he knew no English whatsoever. After the first show, he came to my dressing room and he had his guitar in his and he said, ‘Tommy! Tommy!’ and he played a little bit of Blood Brother and he said, ‘It’s flamenco! Your music is flamenco!’ He felt that that song was flamenco song and it totally spoke to him. Yeah! You never know, do you?”

In preparing for my interview with Tommy (and in hopes of seeing if he was going to be performing within driving distance so that I could mooch some tickets from him), I checked out his tour schedule. The guy’s calendar is jam-packed! I asked him if his family was going to be joining him at any time during the tour.

“Yeah. Well, I won’t see my daughters in England until Christmas. But my wife and my new baby will join me. I’ll see them next week in Las Vegas. They’ll then fly on to

     

San Francisco. My wife will be with her sister and her mother will come in from Australia so all of that side of the family will be together in California. Then they’re going to fly ahead and be in Korea. I’ll fly out of San Francisco straight into China and I’ll do China, Taiwan, then Singapore, Hong Kong and then I’ll do Korea. When I do Korea, we’ll all be together there. Then, my wife and my daughter are going to fly with me to the Japan dates. Then, we’ll go home from there.

“The Christmas tour will be with John Knowles, Pat Bergeson, and Pat’s wife, Annie. She’s going to sing, as well. I’m going to do a Christmas tour where the first hour is me solo – all the stuff from the album. Then, the second hour after intermission will be all Christmas music.”

Realizing that his time comes at a premium, I asked if there are any new albums and/or DVD’s in the works.

“There’s a lot of new performances that’s been uploaded in the last couple of weeks. There’s a brand new video for the song, It’s Never Too Late. It’s just been put up about an hour ago. So, yeah, there’s a lot of new stuff to look at. Go to my YouTube channel. There’s a lot of stuff to look at there. 

“We’ve got to do a follow up, instructional DVD for Milestones. I did a course for beginners called, Milestones, which really slowly led you through to becoming a finger style player. I broke everything down into small bits and made it accessible. So, we’re going to do a follow up on that one. That probably won’t be until early next year.

“I’ve got a duets album in the works at the moment. We’re talking to a lot of people. I’m really hoping to get some great artists on my album – that duets project.”

As with past albums from Tommy, Boomerocity eagerly awaits this project. Check out his tour schedule – as well as any news – at www.tommyemmanuel.com. You will definitely want to catch one of his shows. They’ll dazzle and amaze you. Guaranteed.

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John Mayall Discusses "Find A Way To Care"

Posted September, 2015

 

Photo by Maureen Clark

     

If all I wrote was, “John Mayall is a blues institution,” I would’ve said plenty and it would start a conversation that would last hours. The legendary blues man is, of course, the founder of the UK’s John Mayall and the Blues Breakers. That band, founded in 1960’s, had a stellar group of musicians who went on to become blues and rock greats in their own right.  Names like Eric Clapton, Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, John McVie, Walter Trout, Harvey Mandel, Coco Montoya and many others. 

Even more astonishing is that the eighty-one year old icon is still recording and touring around the world. In fact, he has just released his sixty-second album entitled, “Find A Way To Care”. 

To discuss that album, I contacted Mr. Mayall at his California home. Cordial and still quite British, I started out by asking him if this disc was, in fact, his sixty-second album, to which he said:

“Yes, it does sound about right. The thing is, those are all the original albums and, then, there are countless

     

Photo by Jeff Fasano

others which are compilations and repackagings and things like that. Those ones I can never keep track of but the important thing is to stick with the originals.”

When I asked how “Find A Way To Care” was different to record from the other sixty-one albums, with his very proper British accent he replied quite philosophically. 

“It’s all the passage of time and experience, you know? If you’re talking about stuff from the sixties, obviously, there was a lot of immaturity in some respect and there was also an innocence about it and strength to it, in that respect. I think the passage of time, the more you play and the more years that add up, I guess you just keep on going.”

With recording technology and techniques changing drastically since he first recorded, I asked him if he recorded straight to digital or did he do like some other rockers like Joe Walsh or Rick Derringer are doing and record in analog first before transferring the recording into digital.

“I have no idea. I’m a firm believer in keeping up to date with all the latest technology. That’s the way I’ve always been.”

Albums can often be a long and laborious process. Sometimes, it can take months to get an album in the can. When I asked Mayall how long his latest offering took to record, his answer was a head-spinner.

“Well, the band came in for three days. Two of them live in Chicago and one of them lives in Fort Worth. So, they came in for three days and I did some overdubs on the forth day. The following week, we did the mixing.” 

When I expressed my amazement over how fast the album was completed, the blues icon said: 

“Yeah, I mean, we’ve been together for five years and everything’s first take. We know what we’re doing. I’ve always believed that the first or second take of anything is where you get the freshness and the spirit captured.

“We all know each other. We can mind read and all that. It’s really spectacular. Ha! Ha!”

I love Mayall’s treatment of Muddy Waters’ “Long Distance Call” and told him as much.  Knowing that musicians don’t like to pick a favorite song because it’s like asking a parent to pick their favorite kid, I asked John if there is a track off of this album that he would point to as a calling card to people to entice them to buy it.

“It’s almost an impossibility – it all depends on what you’re mood is. ‘Drifting’ (referring to ‘Drifting Blues’) is straight-forward blues. But, then, on the other hand, ‘Ain’t No Guarantees’ is a good stomping one so I just depends what your mood is.”

The title cut is one of four tunes that Mayall wrote on this CD. It comes across as both reflective and instructive. When asked about the story behind the song, he confessed:

“I really don’t know how to explain the song. When I’m writing a song, I want to make it as interesting as possible. Also, it should reflect the mood and the story that

     

Photo by Jeff Fasano

you’re telling. It came together very quickly once you know what the story is. I’m a great believer in positivity.”

I have twice interviewed one of John’s former band mates, Walter Trout, who recently has had an amazing recovery from a liver transplant. Mayall had this to say about Walter Trout:

“Walter’s a pretty amazing character. First of all, he’s survived death. That’s a bit of a remarkable thing, you know. His operation was successful. He’s back strong and he’s back in business, again. I saw him fairly recently. I sat in with him. It was just like old times. As a composer and musician, he’s always coming up with new stuff. I haven’t heard his new album, yet. It’s yet to be released. It’s somewhat biographical and about all that he’s been through. He’s a very creative person with whatever he does.”

As for what’s next for the blues legend, he says:

“That’s pretty much it. It’s quite a big chunk of the year that we’ve got coming up on the road. The album is just out. The dates are already filling up for next year, which is great. There’s also going to be a volume two of the live stuff from 1967 with Peter Green, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood. So, volume two of that will be coming out in the new year. Apart from that, that’s all I’ve got going at the moment. I think it’s quite enough. More than most people.”

As our chat was wrapping up, I asked John Mayall, “When you go to that great blues gig in the sky, how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be?” He answered without hesitation or timidity:

“Well, I hope that people appreciate all the music that I’ve done because I’m quite confident that I don’t sound like anyone else. There’s a wealth of stuff in the music of mine for people to dig into. I think there’s quite enough going on there, already. If I die tomorrow, there’s quite a lot for people to deal with.”

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Joe Bonamassa

Posted October, 2015

 

Photo by JamesPattersonsGallery.com

     

Several years ago, a friend of mine gave me a large stack of CDs. The collection consisted of a variety of different bands and artists from all sorts of genres. I can’t tell you who all but one of the artists were in that stack because only one person I had never heard of actually commanded my attention: Joe Bonamassa.

The albums were two studio discs and a live one (Black Rock, The Ballad of John Henry and Live From Nowhere In Particular, respectively). What I heard was a young man who played rock, rhythm and blues with a fervor, passion and intensity that I had heard in, well, never. 

I became an immediate fan, acquiring all of his work that I could lay my hands on and reviewing his new releases on Boomerocity, starting with Dust Bowl and pretty much everything he’s released since. 

The same buddy who introduced me to Bonamassa’s work joined me in Dallas in 2012 to catch his show at the Music Hall At Fair Park. As amazing as his concert DVDs are, to see him perform in person is even more incredible. Since that show, I have seen him twice in 2014 and hope to see him many more times in the future. 

Joe has been called a guitar prodigy by many. He opened for B.B. King when he was only twelve years old. He’s played – and is playing – some of the most prestigious venues in the world including the Royal Albert Hall, the Vienna Opera House, and the Beacon Theater, to name a mere few. He’s produced fifteen albums – all on his own label, J&R Adventures, and all in the last thirteen years. 

Of course, since becoming a fan, I lobbied for an interview. Persistently. For years. 

Recently, persistence paid off and the interview gods heard my effectual, fervent prayers and allowed my first interview with the guitar maestro to happen.

Joe called me from the road. Actually, he called about an hour before hitting the stage at the USANA Ampitheatre in Salt Lake City as he was wrapping up the last few dates of his “Three Kings” tour. I asked about that tour and the tour that he’ll begin next month that will include shows close to yours truly.

“The Three Kings Tour ends August 29th. The Three Kings Tour was only twelve shows. The show that’s

     

 

Photo by Christie Goodwin

going to be happening in November is going to be a hybrid. I’m actually going to be playing my material. It’ll be horns and a different configuration of the band. There’ll probably be a few tunes that will carry over from the Three Kings but it’s not a tribute to the Three Kings. We’re almost wrapped up with it. 

“The show in November will be promoting more like some of the stuff off of the new album; some of the stuff from this tour; some of the stuff from the Muddy Wolf CD; some of the back catalog. It’s going to be more of a soup to nuts gig.”

Bonamassa has always surrounded himself with musicians who are as excellent in their craft as he is at his. In answer to the question about who his band line-up for the upcoming tour will be, he said:

“It’s a completely different line up. Anton Fig’s playing drums. Michael Rhodes on bass. Reese Wynans’s on keyboards. Lee Thornburg, Paulie Cerra are in the horn section. Depending on the material we choose, there may be a couple of other players. We haven’t really put together the line up, yet, but it’s going to be close to that.”

As for what Joe hopes fans take away from this tour, he said that:

“Every time you go on a different tour, different show, obviously, you want people to go, “That was the best show I’ve ever seen you do.” That’s the goal. This show, like last year, we were doing a hybrid; a forty-five minute acoustic show and then we did the electric show. This fall will be mostly electric. It will be all electric. It’s going to be more of a thing where – I haven’t even put the show together so it’s hard for me to talk about it.” 

Joe’s last CD, “Muddy Wolf at the Red Rocks”,  is especially fascinating especially. In addition to him paying moving homage to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, there’s a DVD that shows him and legendary producer, Kevin Shirley, taking a road trip to the crossroads (both of them) that factors in to so much blues lore. I asked if more projects like that one are in the works.

“The Three Kings is an obvious extension of where we were. But we didn’t take a road trip this year. It was a lot of fun to go to the crossroads, though. It was a lot of fun.”

Bonamassa is doing a lot to promote music education in the schools – especially the blues - with his “Keeping The Blues Alive” foundation. I asked him why does he think it’s so important to promote the blues as he does.

“At the end of the day, how else are the kids going to be hip to what’s going on? I used to do blues in the schools all the time. It was something that, for me, was part of my day. I mean, now that my days are pretty hectic, I can’t do it any more. It’s really important to keep the music going for another generation. Continuing to champion it one thousand percent. You know, sometimes it feels like a thankless kind of job but it really does pay dividends if you can take the time.”

Photo by JamesPattersonsGallery.com

     

As a gifted “musician’s musician”, Bonamassa seems to always have some sort of project going on. When he doesn’t, he’s pulled in to work on someone else’s. One such project is one headed up by one of Joe’s main go-to drummers, Tal Bergman. The band just released a CD/DVD combo which absolutely incredible.  I asked Joe about it.  

“Well, that one is definitely more produced. It’s less ‘jam.’ It’s more ‘song.’ It’s very concise. We have Randy Brecker on there. Billy Gibbons makes a couple of cameos. It was a fun record to make and, also, a fun record to record. It’s a great side project for me. It’s a great experience to be with those master musicians. I’m just a member of the band. It’s not my group at all. I’m just a member.” 

As for tour plans to support it, Joe said:

“No. No. I mean, we play the Baked Potato. Ha! Ha! It’s not about touring. This is a fun project. We took the gig to New York to record the DVD a couple of years ago. That was fun. When you’re in a jazz band and you want to record, you’re on a jazz budget. It is what it is. At the end of it all, it becomes more of a situation where it’s really just a labor of love for us.”

Among the international readership of Boomerocity, there are a lot of musicians who would love this piece to be all about gear and technique. Those conversations are better left to the gear related magazines. However, I did ask him if there was a guitar that he considers the “holy grail” and, if so, does he own it.  

“The holy grail is whatever you deem. To some people, it’s ’59 Les Paul. To some people, it’s a ’52 Telecaster. To some people, it’s an ’82 Charpel that looks like

     

Photo by Christie Goodwin

Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

“As far a celebrity guitars, as for as ‘formerly owned” guitars, I don’t get into that. I collect really nice examples of 50’s and early 60’s Fender/Gibson stuff without celebrity association. If I bought Eric Clapton’s guitar, I’m not going to make me play like Eric Clapton. It really isn’t. You’ve got to play what’s within yourself. A guitar is a guitar.” 

Another talent who Bonamassa has been associated with – in fact, he introduced her to his fan base, elevating her popularity to a whole new level – is the lovely and talented, Beth Hart. Having an interview with her in the near future, I asked Joe what he thought about her.

“I think Beth Hart is probably the most naturally talented singer and musician that I’ve ever been on stage with. She has such a wonderful sense of timing and phasing, vocally, and has an infinite capability, vocally. She commands attention.

“There’s some people who can really sing. They stand up there and sing. She stomps up there and she takes control of the stage. You can’t teach that kind of stage power and that presence. She’s a very, very, very special individual and I’m very proud of the records that I’ve made with her.”

Photo by Marty Moffatt

     

As for future work with her, Joe shared:

“She’s going to be on my cruise this year. That’ll be fun. As far as making another record, I have no idea.”

Joe Bonamassa can arguably be viewed as a workaholic. He’s almost always on the road or in the recording studio and his output of work reflects it. His work ethic is unmatched, his volume of work prolific and the quality of it is flawless. Does he worry about being able to keep things fresh?

“You try to keep everything in perspective. You try to keep everything separated and you try to keep everything in a sense that you can, basically, manage it. Do it well. The whole work ethic thing doesn’t work if you can’t do any of it well or if you burn out.”

What’s next for Joe Bonamassa in the next year and the next five years?

“I have no idea. Ha! Ha! The next year? I have a new album coming out in June next year that I just finished. We have tour dates up into 2017. I’ll be playing Carnegie Hall next winter. Next five years? Don’t even ask. I have no idea.”

Wrapping up our chat, I asked Joe a question I ask many artists who have been around quite awhile or have a large body of work as he does: When you’ve stepped off the tour bus of life up at the great gig in the sky (to borrow from the Pink Floyd tune), what do you hope your legacy is and how do you want to be remembered?

“To be honest with you, there are a lot of people that I see fight to try to get their faces chiseled into the great Mount Rushmore in the sky as far as rock and roll is concerned. As long as I have a positive impact on music inspire a few kids to play the guitar, I’m good. I’m good. You always play your last gig like it could be your last. One day, you’re going to be correct.”

His last two sentences to me summed up his passion:

“I didn’t get into this to get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I didn’t get into this to make the part – to make the team. To me, I just like to play the guitar.” 

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Bernard Fowler Chats About "The Bura"

July, 2015

 

Photo Courtesy of JamesPattersonsGallery.com

     

As I started this piece covering my second interview with Bernard Fowler, I found myself forming it in a way that somehow felt familiar. As I wrote, I kept feeling that I’ve been down this path before so I stopped, thought, and then looked up my first interview with Mr. Fowler (here). 

Dang it! I saw that I was writing something very similar.

I share this – not because I have this masochistic need to publicly humiliate myself – but to show the steady, solid, classicness (I just made that word up) of Bernard Fowler.

When I first interviewed Bernard, he was in the midst of working on his second solo album. That album was recently released (the Boomerocity review is here) and the opportunity presented itself for me to chat with the vocal giant once again. 

We met in a private section of the lounge in the luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel in the tony Buckhead section of Atlanta the day before he and the Rolling Stones hit the stage at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. The purpose was to discuss that album I was just talking about, “The Bura”. 

The setting and environment in the lounge was comfortable and staff at the hotel was gracious and accommodating, making for an easy and quiet place for Bernard and I to chat while my business partner/cousin, James Patterson, photographed the conversation.

Prior to the interview, I exchanged notes with our mutual friend, Steve Lukather, who was on tour with Toto and Yes in Europe. Luke said, “Send my best to Bernard from Norway ! Love the cat! Great singer even a nicer man! I miss him and tell him to say ‘hi’ to Daryl and Woody for me!” Sharing that message put the first of many warm smiles on Bernard’s face.

As we got comfortable and sipped on water on that hot, June day, I asked Fowler for his “elevator speech” about his new project and why he chose that title for the disc.

“The bura is like hurricane force winds that blow off of the Adriatic Sea, between Italy and Croatia. I was touring around that area and a friend of mine was taking me to some small town – I think it was called ‘Rabac’ in Croatia. We were going through a tunnel and some lights started flashing. We got out of the tunnel and he pulled over. I said, ‘what are you pulling over for?’ and he said, ‘The bura!’ I said, “what is a ‘bura’?’ Then this wind came and hit the van and the van started to rock and it shocked me. I said, ‘holy s***!’ He said, ‘this is small bura!’ He said, ‘if we don’t pull over, it will lift the truck and turn it over.’ I’d never felt anything like that.

“The term stuck with me and I liked the way the words sound. I love the way they pronounce that word. I thought it would be a great title for a record.”

As I mentioned earlier, Fowler was working on the album when I first interviewed him so I asked how long the project took him to create and what made “The Bura” different from other projects he worked on, including his first album, “Friends With Privileges”.

“I would say it took about two years to make but I think the total work time would probably be eight months . . . nine months. I didn’t work on it all the way through. I had to go to the studio, do some work there then I would have to leave. I would go and do dates and come back. It was a back and forth kind of thing.

“The only other one that I could compare it to would be ‘Friends With Privileges’. The process was very similar except that with ‘Friends With Privileges’, I did a lot of it by myself. This time, I made a conscious decision that I would have somebody sitting in the chair next to me and that person was Robert Davis – a guitar player. He co-wrote and produced the record with me so the process was pretty similar.

“The other thing that was different was I would go to the studio and work but I wouldn’t take the work home with me to study while I was on the road doing things. I didn’t do that. I might’ve listened to something (but) after I listened to it, I left it. I never listened to it again until I got back to the studio. That was the first time I ever worked that way.” 

I found that method of work interesting so I asked Bernard why he worked that way and why did he feel that it was important.

“I needed it to be fresh all the time. I didn’t want to get stuck. I didn’t want to get used to works in progress. I didn’t want to get used to it. Too many times, I think people – and I’m one of those people – you work in the studio and at the end of the day, you make a rough mix and you’re listening to the rough mix until you get back into the studio the next time. You think something on it is really good and you can’t get past it. You go to the studio and if it’s not sounding that way then people may tend to freak out or, ‘no, I want it to sound more like it did the first day.’ 

“It’s a work in progress so it’s going to change. When you do that, you kinda limit yourself to possibilities. I didn’t want to be limited so I just approached it that way. Every time I went back into the studio, it was fresh. If I had been gone for a while, I’d call the studio and say, ‘Hey, what days can you give me to work?’ and they would give me the days, I would go back in and I would familiarize myself with it. Then the next day I would start to work.”

Fowler mentioned Robert Davis so I asked how he linked up with the guitarist and what made him decide to work with him as closely as he did.

“I got a call from an engineer friend of mine – an engineer out of Los Angeles that I had known for long time and he called me one day. He said he was working with a band; that they

     

Photo Courtesy of JamesPattersonsGallery.com

had a really cool vocalist, a great guitar player. They need some vocal help. ‘Would you, if you can, do me a favor and come by and help them out a bit.’ 

“So, I went to the studio and met the band. I did some stuff for them. Robert was there, obviously. I heard what they were doing and I got to hear them play and I think the first thing I said was, ‘This kid is good.’ I had some solo dates that I would do and I would put together a band and I called him and asked him to be part of the unit. We just got along really well. I enjoyed his playing, his enthusiasm and his fire when he plays. 

“When I thought I needed somebody to work with – we’ve known each other for a few years but the relationship was still fresh so I thought, ‘Let me call Robert. He’s the guy I’m gonna work with.’ I just made that decision. It turned out to be a really good decision.”

I have three favorite tunes that Fowler wrote on “The Bura”. They are, “See You Again”, “Will You Miss Me”, and 

“My Friend Sin”.  I asked him for the back stories on these songs. He began answering with another one of those warm smiles and an easy laugh that I’d grown to expect out of him when he’s happy. 

“Okay, ‘See You Again’, that’s probably one of my favorites – if not THE favorite of mine on the CD. When I was looking to write and compile material for the record, I would go and spend some time with Robert early in the afternoon. I went to his house. Most of the pre-production stuff was at Robert’s house. I went to his house and he goes, ‘B, I got something I want to show you.’ He started playing this thing that he put together – just a drum machine and a kind of keyboard. It felt really good and I kinda recognized it. It was a song that he played for me a while ago . . . but it was really fast – a rocker type thing.  

“So he took that same thing and slowed it down – way down.  I’m listening to it and I’m, like, ‘I like that. Set up a microphone and let me try to put some ideas on it.’ Usually, that’s the way it works. I’ll hear something and I’ll just sing melody without words. But this time I started to sing words. I pretty much ripped myself off of a song I had written before for Ronnie Wood years ago. I just started to sing those lyrics but altered them a bit. I had a face on it. We listened back to it and I said, ‘Hmmm. There’s something there. It’s really minimal. A drum machine, some keyboard and voice, at that time.  

“As things progressed, then I had ideas about certain people doing certain things on that. I think that’s probably the first song that we worked on when we went into the Steakhouse recording studio. Everybody on the record was hand picked for their specialties. 

“My daughter’s school teacher called me up and needed a studio. I sent him to the Steakhouse. I went there to check on him to see how he was making out. He said, ‘Hey, there’s somebody in the control room that you know that you probably haven’t seen in a long time.’ I said, ‘Who is it?’ He said, ‘Well, go in there and see.’ I walked in and it was L. Shankar. I hadn’t seen L. in more than twenty-five years. We used to do recordings together with Bill Laswell years ago. I was so happy to see him. 

“He had to go on the road and when I started working on ‘See You Again’, I thought, ‘Oo! L. would be perfect for this track!’ So I called him. He said, ‘Send it to me.’ So I sent it to him and he was gracious enough to send it back with great violin and some great vocal things on there. It just grew from there. 

“Will Calhoun came into town. Will was the first one to overdub on this record. Waddy Wachtel is on there. Jeff Bova who I spent a lot of years with when I was singing for Herbie Hancock. Jeff was the second keyboard player. He did a great string arrangement for it. I love listening to it. It’s so good. Everybody did great. We were stuck. We needed a bass player but we needed the right bass player so I called this cat. He teaches at a local university. I said, ‘I need a bass player. Can you send me one of your students there?’ He sent me over this guy. A young cat. Emilio Teranova. He came in with an upright. We had a little trouble with the sound. Robert or myself put a t-shirt behind the strings. That stopped the buzz of the bass but it created another thing to that bass. We had it! Then it was just a matter of me doing the rest of the vocals.

“That vocal is the vocal I sang when he played it for me. I didn’t go back in and re-record it. There was something about that vocal. I’m a fan of male falsetto. I loved Eddie Kendricks from the Temptations. I don’t have that range, really. I only use that vocal range when I’m doing a lot of background. I’ll use that part of my voice. But for a lead, I never did that before. I remember being really sick when I sang that, also. As it went on and I kept listening to it, I had a vibe. So I thought, ‘I’m not going to re-record it. I’m going to leave it just the way it is.’ 

“’My Friend Sin’ also was when Robert and I were writing. I went to his house, again, early one afternoon. ‘I got a call from a friend of mine. He’s a movie director. He’s doing a movie and he’s asked if we would write something for the movie.’ I’m, like, ‘Okay, what is the movie?’ ‘The movie is about a kind of preacher. A holy roller during the day but when the sun goes down, he’s a bad man.’ I said, ‘Okay, well, do you got anything?’ and he said, ‘I got a little something”. I listened to it and I said, ‘Give me the mic and let’s try it right now.’ He said, ‘What about lyrics?’ I said, ‘I got it!’ I wrote a few things on a piece of paper. I just had it in my head. It was an easy one. We had a click track. He started to strum. I started to hum. That was it. It was done that fast. It was done really, really fast. 

“That was just the beginning. I thought of how was I going to complete it. I wanted it to sound as authentic as possible. I wanted it to fit. If you were going to listen to Eddie Taylor or Robert Johnson or or Son House, it would be able to fit in there. So I kept the instruments to a minimum. I tapped my foot. I recorded that and Robert. I called Chicago and asked Sugar Blue if he would put some harp on it and I played a Jew’s Harp. I called Slash and asked Slash if he was in town and he was and I said, ‘I’m working on a record. I’d love for you to come by and play’ and he said, ‘Sure! Where are you at? What time?’”

Then, with that infectious smile, Bernard shook his head and said:   

“I love that!” 

Then continuing his story about Slash, he quotes the guitarist: 

“’Where are you at, Bernard? What time?’ He came with his guitar tech. He didn’t come with an entourage. Just the two of them. He walked into the studio with his guitar. ‘Lemme hear what you’re doin’.’ I played it. He plugged in, tuned up and went to work . . . and kicked some ass. I think that day he did three songs and ‘My Friend Sin’ was one of them. I’m very pleased with ‘My Friend Sin’. 

“I did most of the vocals but I needed another texture so my girl, Lisa Fischer, happened to be in town and I got her by the studio and she added that texture that I needed, then it was complete.” 

With Fowler mentioning the lovely Lisa Fischer, I just had to ask the question: When are you going to record a whole album together of just the two of you? Shaking his head slowly for emphasis, he said: 

“Everybody asks that! I’d love to! It’s gotta be the right things, the right songs and probably even the right producer. I don’t know if I would want to produce that. Maybe! But I’m not sure. I think we could do a really killer thing and I think it would be not so traditional between the two of us. We both like kinda different things. It would be good.”

One thing that is a bit different on “The Bura” is that Bernard has three “flavors,” if you will, of the legendary hit by the Box Tops, “The Letter.” I asked him why he chose to do that. He answered with a laugh.

“I did that because – okay, making the record wasn’t easy. I was in my own pocket (paying for the recording costs himself). There was no record company. There was no budget. Reluctantly, I called Pledge Music – no, I didn’t call Pledge Music. Pledge Music called me. ‘We can help you raise money’ blah, blah, blah. I thought about it a lot. I was swinging back and forth. I have a problem asking people for things.  

“So, by the third meeting, I agreed to do it. The pledge started happening. People started to donate money to the cause and we surpassed our goal. As we were recording, we got to the point where it couldn’t keep coming out of my pocket so I called pledge. ‘Call ‘em and tell ‘em that I need that money!’ My manager calls me and says, ‘you’re not going to be too happy’.  ‘Why? What’s wrong?’  ‘Pledge won’t hand you the money until you hand them the record.’” 

When I suggested that that might be a tad backward, Bernard responded: 

“That’s what I thought.” 

He then continued by sharing:

“I was forced to by any means necessary. Because of that, things started to take long. I wanted to get it done quickly and get it out but time! I would have to go on the road to do gigs. There were people who had donated money and they were getting impatient. ‘What’s happening? Why is it taking so long? I sent my money and I still don’t have a record.’ I apologized! I sent two or three apologies on Facebook. ‘I’m sorry it’s taking so long!’ But, for some people, that’s just not good enough and I understand. 

“So, because they waited so long – there was only supposed to be ten tracks on the CD. Ten is always my magic number. Because it had taken so long, I just thought, ‘you know what? Let me just try and give a bonus track or two.’   

“It was towards the end. I knew the Stones thing was getting ready to start up and I had some other things to do so I just thought, ‘you know what?’ 

He then he interrupts himself by sharing a related story:

“Early in my career when I was singing with the New York City Peach Boys, we were the first band to actually put out an a cappella. We put out a twelve-inch a cappella. The DJs – they were able to mix the a cappella with other songs. So I thought, ‘You know what? Let me just do that again.’ 

“So, I just put up the track. The only thing I forgot to do was turn up some delays and stuff. I didn’t have a whole lot of time. The studio had other clients coming in so I put in a kind of dub mix and then the a cappella. It was just to give the fans something extra. That was it.” 

Fowler covered “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and “Helter Skelter” on “The Bura” – the latter being the best cover of that Beatles tune I’d ever heard . . . including U2’s version of it. I asked him if this was his answer to the perpetual “Beatles/Stones” debate.  

“You know what? It’s always the Beatles and the Stones, the Beatles and the Stones. I said, ‘**** it, I’m doin’ one of each! I’m doin’ both on the same record!’ I decided that any solo project that I do I will always do a Rolling Stones song. I’ve been with them close to thirty years now. It will be kind of my ‘thank you’ to them for keeping me around.”

I sensed that, all seriousness, “Helter Skelter” has a strong personal meaning to Bernard so I asked him if it did. 

“Well, yeah, I had been reading about – it was online that I was reading something about the Sharon Tate murders and that stuff. Long story short, the article said how that they did all these murders and they wrote the s*** on the wall. What they were, basically, trying to do – because of the climate at the time – the race relations climate at the time in America; the Black Panther Movement, the Watts riots and all of that stuff – so they killed all of these people and then they would try to shift the blame to the Black Panther Movement to try and start a race war! 

“When I read that, I thought, ‘you gotta be kidding me! Like we didn’t have enough problems!’ Like they didn’t have enough problems! The black folk didn’t have enough problems without this guy trying to stir up more s***. I got a little heated and said that I’m going to cut that.

“I went on YouTube and found a speech by Eldridge Cleaver. That’s the speech that you hear in the middle. Someone pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago, ‘do you realize that that speech that you picked for that is relevant right now?’  I went back and I listened to it and I go, ‘Shit! That’s exactly what’s happening right now!’ It was a beautiful coincidence!”

I had mentioned to Bernard that I felt his cover of “Helter Skelter” was the best treatment of it (besides the Beatles, of course) that I had ever heard and had worn it out listening to it. He said:

“That was the only song on the record that was recorded all at once. Me singing and the band playing all at one time. It is live. It’s live . . . all the way.”

Since we had just discussed his cover of “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’”, I shared with Bernard a recording I had from the first time I interviewed him. It was a conversation between Bobby Keys and myself about Bernard. Bobby was the Stones’ sax player for most of their iconic hits that included a sax. He passed away in December of last year. I played the audio and listened as Mr. Fowler made comments back to Bobby as if he were sitting there with us and then he would look off as if he was glancing back into the past at his dear friend.

I asked Bernard for comments about his late band mate.

“I miss him. I miss him. We miss him. It’s really weird, now, everything kicking up and him not being here, man. Me, (Stones bassist) Darryl Jones, Lisa (Fischer), Keith (Richards), his wife, his manager, and some other friends - we all saw him off.”

Photo Courtesy of JamesPattersonsGallery.com

     

With the shock and disbelief clearly written all over his anguished face, Bernard said:

“We all thought we’d see him again. I thought we’d see him again and I thought that he would play on this record. He didn’t stick around long enough to do it so I said, ‘you know what? I’ll just leave it off. Nobody’s gonna play saxophone on it. No Bobby, no nobody!” 

To brighten the mood up a bit, I asked Fowler for his favorite memory of Keys.

“There’s a lot! I’ll give you a ‘light’ one. One memory is we were in Toronto during a tour. I walk in the elevator and (sniffing), ‘I smell weed!’ I’m on the elevator . . . first floor . . . in the lobby! I get up to the floor. I walk out and I hear this vrrrrroooooommmmmm!!!! There were two HUGE air filters outside his door to filter the f***ing weed!

“That’s one of my fondest memories of Bobby Keys. If we wanted weed and we didn’t have any weed to smoke, Bobby was happy to help us!” 

I then asked Mr. Fowler my only question regarding the current tour with the Stones and that was how it was going for him.

“The tour is doing absolutely amazing! I keep telling people – especially if it’s people who’ve seen them before – ‘you know what? Forget what you’ve seen. You’re seeing it at its best right now! I’m telling you! They are playing so good! Mick is killing ‘em! It’s incredible! It’s incredible to watch. They are playing so good right now. I’ve been there twenty-something years and, for me, it’s the best I’ve ever heard them.”

Bernard then shared his post-tour plans. 

“I got a couple. One is to try to do some dates to support ‘The Bura’. Another is to get back into the studio. I started a project a few months ago that I’d like to complete but I’d like to get into the studio and start work on the next solo record. Hopefully, it won’t be six years before next one. The last one was six years ago – something like that – so I don’t want to take too long. I think I would like to spend more time in the studio doing stuff for myself as well as with other people." 

You can purchase “The Bura” on the Amazon or iTunes widgest, below and follow all things Bernard here on Facebook and Twitter. He really is a blast to follow and he’s always posting great, personal photos from his exciting and eventful life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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