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INTERVIEW: Walter Trout
He has been accused of playing too many notes and way too loud, but as blues-rock guitarist Walter Trout explains to Richard Bennett, it what he does best.
Former Canned Heat and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers guitarist, Walter Trout will be celebrating his 61st Birthday tonight at the Brook in Southampton, by doing what he loves the most, playing some of the hottest and passionate driven guitar and blues on an intimate stage to an appreciative audience.
“For me it’s all about the live experience, playing the small clubs that intimate up close and personal situation. I love playing with intensity, getting hot and sweaty, in fact thinking about it, all the good times I have had in my live have been when I have been hot and sweaty” laugh’s Trout down the phone, as he prepares for his UK tour, which kicks off in Southampton.
Born and raised in New Jersey, the young Trout was exposed to music at an early age, picking up the trumpet at the age of ten. He soon found himself in the company of two of music’s greatest icons.
“I so wanted to be a jazz trumpet player, and I remember spending the day with Duke Ellington and Tony Bennett, at a local gig they were playing together. That was a pivotal moment for me, to be around those guys, watching them play and talking to them about music. I can still remember sitting with the Duke backstage on a big white leather sofa with him giving me tips and advice on life as a musician, that’s quite a thing for a ten year old, but he set my course for my journey into music” says Trout Like most American boys of Trout’s generation, the appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, in 1964, also had an effect on his desire to be a full time musician.
“Do you know when the Beatles made that first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, it was watched by more then 77 million people, that’s just amazing, and that’s why they had such an effect of the American music scene for years after, everybody wanted to play in a band. Later on, my brother brought home a Paul Butterfield album, and that’s when I started to get into the Blues” says Trout Giving up on his dream to be a jazz trumpeter, after hearing the great Miles Davis “I heard Miles and thought, there is no way I am ever going to play like that, so why even try” Trout picked up the guitar, and so began a career that has seen the boy from New Jersey establishing himself as one of the hardest working and explosive live performers in the music business.
Serving his musical apprentership on the local club scene, Trout was soon exposed to the realities and hardship of a gigging guitarist, infrequent shows, little or no money. A move to LA in the early seventies saw things improve, but Trout was still looking for that first big break.
“I knew a guy in LA who worked in TV and made commercials, and said to him how can I get to play my music on TV, and I remember he said to be on TV you have to be a bad or mediocre, so as I felt I was neither at that time, that put an end to that. Although he did give me a chance to sing on a number of the commercials he produced” Making a living backing the likes of John Lee Hooker, Pee Wee Crayton and Lowell Fulsom, Trout finally got a break when he joined the blues tinged Canned Heat, in the early eighties, but it was his five year tenure with iconic British musician, blues legend, John Mayall, that really kick started his rise as a main stream blues player.
“When I stared playing with Mayall, it was like I had hit the big time, I was in awe of all the guys in the band. Even now I send John an email every year on his Birthday, telling him was a privilege and honor it was to play with those guys, I mean all the greats went through that band Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor and so many others” says Trout.
Leaving the Blusebreakers in 1989, Trout started his own band, and released his debut album Life in the Jungle. With the recent release of his 21st and latest album Blues for the modern daze, the guitarist has gone back to his blues roots, but as with all of his career, that return has been on his terms.
“I wanted to make another blues album, but I didn’t want to record the standard blues songs, so I decided to write my own version of the blues style while trying to stay close to the genres ethos. As it turns out, I think this is one of the best albums I have ever done, I know I really enjoyed making it, and I think that sense of fun and satisfaction comes across when we play some of those numbers live”
And it’s the live arena where Trout feels at home. With a self imposed tough touring schedule, which sees Trout and his band on the road for most of the time, the former trumpet player admits he would not ant to be doing anything else.
“I remember Ellington telling me all those years ago that if I wanted to be a musician I should be prepared to be a gypsy, and he was right, I spend most of my time traveling from town to town, country to country to play music, but you know what I am the luckiest guy in the world to be able to do that, and that is something I will never take for granted”
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