Interview with Alastair Greene: California Dreamin: Video


Interview with the blues/rock guitarist Alastair Greene, has been a mainstay of the Southern California music scene for over 2 decades.

When was your first desire to become involved in the blues & who were your first idols?

Probably around 1988 or 1989. My first heroes were Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

What was the first gig you ever went to and what were the first songs you learned?

The first Blues artist I ever saw was probably Jeff Healey but I could be mistaken. My first guitar teacher had me learn part of Hideaway so that would have been my first Blues song.

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I think of Blues and Rock as more mainstream than they were in the 60s as far as being a “counterculture”. That said, growing up I was into Hard Rock that at the time was a bit of a rebellious type of music when compared to what my parents were listening to. I think in order to embrace making music as your life’s goal and listening to music that isn’t “popular” you have to have some sort of that rebelliousness in your personality which I suppose is a by-product of having interest and/or involvement with a counterculture. As to how it’s influenced my views of the world and journey’s I’ve taken, I’ve been able to remain sensitive and compassionate to the challenges of other places in the world outside of the U.S. For all of it’s problems the U.S. still has things pretty easy when compared to most of the world. Having toured all over when I was part of Alan Parsons’s band I got to see a lot of the world and see first hand just how easy we have things in the U.S. compared to a lot of places. It also cast a lot of light on to things that could be greatly improved in the U.S. if we were to look to other countries as role models.

How do you describe DREAM TRAIN sound and songbook? What characterize album’s philosophy?

Dream Train is very much a 70s style Heavy Blues Rock record but with so many other styles mixed in. The record on a whole has some undertones of loss, dissatisfaction with leadership, and standing up for one’s self. There are some fun songs on there as well but for the most part it’s a pretty serious record lyrically. Musically it really has so many styles but at the end of the day, it’s a Blues Rock record.

Are there any memories from DREAM TRAIN studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

There are several. David Z produced the record and we tracked it in Sean McCue’s Coyote Road Studios in Santa Barbara, CA where we tracked our last record. (Trouble At Your Door). We nailed most songs first or second take and had a fun time doing it. We may release some videos of the recording sessions. Other highlights were having some of the guests play on the record. Debbie Davies came up to Sean’s studio and recorded a guitar solo and it was great to watch her play such great guitar up close like that. Sean and I went to Walter Trout’s house to record him and we had a lovely time hanging out with Walter and his wife Marie and drinking espresso and talking about music.

Any of blues standards have any real personal feelings for you and what are some of your favorite?

Some of my favorites are Born Under a Bad Sign, You Don’t Love Me, there are so many great standards I enjoy playing. The meaning of the songs change over the years.

Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?

Robert Johnson, Son House, Bukka White, T-Bone Walker, the list goes on and on!

Do you think that your music comes from the heart, the brain or the soul?

I think it comes from a combination of all 3.

What does the BLUES mean to you and what does Blues offered you?

The Blues as a musical art form is an endlessly expressive medium for improvisation based players. It has a deep history and is continuing to evolve.

Three words to describe your sound & progress? What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?

3 words to describe my sound and progress… Always a student. Practice and never giving up.

How/where do you get inspiration for your songs & who were your mentors in songwriting?

Inspiration can come from anywhere, real life, movies, books, etc., My mentors are guys like Gregg Allman who take the blues and put a little twist to it.

What are your best songs, the songs you’d most like to be remembered for?

The Long Way Home, Take Me With You, Through The Rain, Walking In Circles.

What are some of the most memorable gigs you’ve had? When did you last laughing in gigs and why?

The Sonora Blues Festival in 2010 with my band was very memorable. Great gig. Mexico City with Alan Parsons in 2011 was amazing. I don’t usually laugh at gigs unless someone in the audience does something funny.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I’ve gotten a lot of advice in my life. A lot of it was just from observing and listening. You can receive advice I suppose even if the person giving it isn’t aware they are teaching you something at the time. I have a few musician friends I always talk to about what’s going on, Bruce Bouillet would be one. He’s a guitar guru and has been around in the business as a player and producer since the mid-80s so he’s always got good advice and ideas. One thing he stressed to me early on was, this is the music BUSINESS. Learn more about the “business” side of it. That’s something I’m still trying to do.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

For music to be valued and purchased as it was before streaming came into existence.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Well I wish I’d gotten to see some musicians that maybe I could’ve seen but wasn’t aware of at the time or didn’t have the means to go see them. I got to see Stevie Ray once before he passed but would’ve liked to have seen him more. I never saw Albert King or Rory Gallagher which I possibly could have if I was more tuned into to what was going on. My main fear would be that there won’t be another infusion of young fans to get turned onto the Blues. I think we have to change the language in which we talk about the Blues and add words like “Rock” and “Contemporary” to the conversation so as to pick up new fans and younger fans.

Are there any memories from Aynsley Dunbar & Mitch Kashmar, which you’d like to share with us?

Playing with Aynsely was always a lot of fun and always pushed me to play my best in a harder rocking context. He was always really nice and very professional. I hope we get to play again sometime in the future. Playing with Mitch was equally as fun and I learned alot as well. We have done lots of gigs together, mostly acoustic gigs. He played my CD release party for Walking In Circles in 2009 which was a blast.

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?

On guitar probably Franck Goldwasser. I’ve learned a lot from him and continue to do so.

Of all the people you’ve meeting with, who do you admire the most?

Well I got to meet Eric Clapton in 2010. He’s been through alot and played with all the greats. He’d be at the top of my list.

Who are your favorite blues artists, both old and new? What was the last record you bought?

I love so many Blues artists it’s hard to pick just a few. I love the acoustic Delta music, Chicago Blues, Blues Rock. It’s endless! I just bought some CDs by the band FREE who I really enjoy.

What do you think is the main characteristic of you personality that made you a bluesman?

Wanting to express and release whatever emotions I have in a safe and positive way.

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is?

It’s deep history and the fact that is not and has never been a fad. It’s real life.

Give one wish for the BLUES and what is your hope for the future of…?

Blues will keep going, there is no doubt. My hope is that it continues to grow and more and more people get into it.

Why do you play guitar and where did you pick up your guitar style & in which songs can someone hear the best of your work?

I love playing pure and simple. It’s so much fun! My guitar style is always evolving. It’s a culmination of all the music I love which is obviously a lot of Blues but also a lot of other styles. My best guitar playing would be on songs like Through The Rain, Get My Wings, 3 Bullets, By The Way.

Tell me a few things about your work with Billy Boy Arnold and John Mayall?

I played with a band that opened for Billy Boy so I didn’t get a chance to play with him or hang with him much but he was very nice and sounded amazing.

We opened for John Mayall about 15 years ago. While we were playing he was standing on the side of the stage with his arms crossed and was listening to us. When we were done and walked off the stage he said, “Allright Alastair!” That was a good feeling.

Are there any memories from the late great Lonnie Brooks which you’d like to share with us?

We opened for him about 10 years ago as well. I got to talk with him for awhile before the show. He was very nice. In fact I’d seen him play a few days before at the Long Beach Blues Festival, so it was cool to get to talk to him after that.

Which of the people you have worked with do you consider the best friend?

That’s a touch one of the people we’ve talked about so far I’ve done the most gigs and hanging out with Mitch Kashmar.

How did you first meet Alan Parsons, three words to describe him?

I met Alan at a recording session for another artist. In 3 words Alan is calm, quick witted, and wise.

Describe the ideal rhythm section to you? Happiness is …

The guys I play most of my gigs with are all great players. If there was another rhythm section I could play with that is currently playing I would say Jimi Bott on drums with Willie Campbell on bass. Happiness is being able to play a great gig with great players and the audience has a wonderful time. Then getting to go home to my wife and relax with our cats.

What characterize the sound of Southern California blues scene? Do you remember anything funny or interesting from recording time and studio sessions?

There are so many bands with different sounds it’s hard to say there is a specific sound. Recording with Robinson Eikenberry is always interesting and funny. We laugh constantly about all kinds of stuff.

What would you had given to “THREE Kings” and what would you ask Muddy Waters?

The Three Kings have my eternal gratitude and I’ve been able to tell BB King “Thank you” before. If I met Muddy I’d ask him if he could show me some slide guitar riffs.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Impossible to answer! Would I go see Robert Johnson record his songs or would I go see Peter Green play with John Mayall? There’s way too many options!

What is the impact of Blues and Rock music on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

I think it depends on what time period you want to look into. I would imagine the impact earlier on in the history of the Blues had a lot more implications. Now-a-days most of the time I’m in a room with Blues musicians and Blues fans and supporters there are people from all races and walks of life all getting along supporting this wonderful music. But back to a previous question you asked about my fears for the Blues. How do we take all of this great love and respect for this music, and turn the youth of America (and the world at large) onto it and grow a larger fan base and keep it replenishing itself? I think that’s the main question that we absolutely must be asking and the question that is worth everyone meditating on and finding ways to solve. The MUSIC of the Blues will never die as there are always young players coming up that find the Blues and want to play it. The FAN BASE,….that’s what is in question.


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