Ain't nothing like the Blues!: Mick Clarke
Q. You have, in the past, referred to Sonny Boy Williamson’s Help Me as the song that drew you to the Blues. Do you still feel, after all these years, that no other kind of music affects you in that manner?
A. I love all kinds of music — Classical, Jazz, Rock…but yes, Blues is very special. It reaches the parts other music doesn’t reach. Over the years, I’ve imbibed the spirit of these genres and they have come handy when I am composing new material. I look at life around me and the music that moves me; I experience the Blues in all of it...that’s how deep-rooted it is in my conscience. Give me some Sonny Boy or Elmore James, and I’m happy.
Q. For those who didn’t get a chance to see your earlier bands, Killing Floor or Salt, live in concert, what makes The Mick Clarke Band different? Is it the sound, the Blues you play, or a new kind of chemistry you enjoy with these musicians?
A. The Original Killing Floor band is still very much rocking. After disbanding due to our personal commitments and growth aspirations, the band came together in 2012 and did concerts in Europe. We had a great time and felt like we never really disbanded. 2015 will probably see Killing Floor in action. Originally I hadn't planned to form my own band — I simply wanted to record my own ideas in my own way. So, the band gives me the chance to perform in that way, letting my ideas and feelings out without too much compromise. I have the freedom to try my ideas. Chris Sharley and Eddie Masters are great musicians, and we had a blast recording tracks on my album Solid Ground. It's a great chemistry we share, but more importantly, they are so much in sync with my music. I don’t need to explain too much to them, as most times it feels like they can read my thoughts. My music is hard-driving Blues where I need a tight rhythm section, which the guys provide.
Q. You have opened for Muddy Waters, backed Freddie King and toured with Howlin’ Wolf. For Blues fans, it can’t get any better. Is there anything left on your bucket list?
A. I’d have to go back in time. Texas bluesman T Bone Walker would be heading the bucket list. I would have loved to share stage on classics like Call It (Stormy Monday) or gems like The Hustle Is On, Tell Me What’s The Reason (1953). T Bone had a lot of Jazz influence leading into up-tempo jump blues or Texas shuffles. Then there is Little Walter. The Blues harmonica would never sound the same after his innovations on it. He pushed amplification to crazy limits and achieved weird harmonic distortions that were unparalleled at the time. I’ve been incredibly lucky appearing on shows with greats like Wolf and Muddy, and also the great blues rockers like Johnny Winter and Rory Gallagher. So I’ve already been spoilt. But I should add there are lots of fantastic musicians out there, and new ones coming up all the time — and I’ve got lots to learn.
Q. From a cultural standpoint, why do you believe people the world over continue to identify with the Blues so strongly?
A. It’s great isn’t it? Makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you dance! And I can’t dance! Although it started as an African-American art form, I believe it’s gone international. It takes ordinary incidents in one’s day-to-day life, explores the angst of living, and with a wry sense of humour, brings a smile to one’s face. Ain’t nothing like the Blues!
Q. How would you introduce the Mick Clarke Band to a person who hasn’t heard the music but still has a ticket to your upcoming show?
A. T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Freddie King, Rory Gallagher, Howlin Wolf — stir up the pot with sounds of these greats, add a lot of raw edgy guitar work, and the Mick Clarke Band would be playing for you. Its roots are deep in the real old Blues...but it’s gonna rock! Hard!
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