All material © Blues in London. All rights reserved.
Support Blues in London
Shop for anything here and
we get a small commission
NO EXTRA COST TO YOU!
Words and pics by Blues in London new boy Mr. K
Until the beginning of this year the extent of my Blues knowledge was
a Muddy Waters Chess cd and a Best Of Howling Wolf,
although I had enough George Thorogood & Stevie
Ray to keep the house-a-rockin’ all night long. To me,
it was old man’s music. Too slow. Too reliant on that samey 12-bar
After a long & very noisy love affair with Punk rock I figured Muddy
had it right when he sang 'The Blues had a baby & named it Rock'n'Roll'.
Damn I loved that little boy like my own! Elvis, Little
Richard, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent…
Hank Williams & Johnny Cash, though
not strictly r’n’r, they were the Godfathers for me.
Now I’m not exactly sure when my Blues epiphany took place &
it all started to make sense to me but seeing The Ian Siegal Band
for the first time definitely gave me an almighty shove in the right direction!
Finally here was someone I could identify with. Someone who obviously
had similar cultural reference points. Someone who looked the part, had
a voice like El Diablo himself & could seriously wail, & I mean
w-a-i-l on the guitar! This wasn’t boring pub blues. This wasn’t
disinterested trad journeymen musos knockin’ out plodding half baked
versions of 'Got My Mojo Workin' for the millionth time. I sensed
hunger. Danger. Bottom line for me, it was real.
When Ian sings 'Bloodshot' I know he’s been there…and
I have too! (usually at 4am after leaving Ain't Nothin' But The Blues!) As
far as I’m concerned you can’t buy authenticity, you either
gots it, or you ain't! And ya gotta hand it to him, the boy’s
got it in spades! Equally at home doing his own material or knockin’
out totally on point covers of Tom Waits or Howling
Wolf. The experience opened the door to a whole new world for
me. A world of Lightnin' Slims, of Slim Harpos,
of Blind Boy Fullers. A world of so many distinctly differing
sounds but all of them called 'The Blues'. And you know what? That kid
Rock'n'Roll sure is fine...but he learnt it all from his Daddy!
Now most of my attempts at conversing with Ian have usually occurred when
I’m at least six sheets, two pillowcases AND a duvet cover to the
wind, so it usually involves nothing more than me slurring "Erm…I
really love your band man…" and then asking him to play some
request for me that ain't even in his set! Consequently this ‘interview’
if you will, was conducted in the immensely not ‘Blues’ high
tech way of e-mail. Jeez… whatever would Robert Johnson
Ian, how’s the new album 'Meat & Potatoes' been doing?
Aren’t you like a rock uber God in Lithuania or something!?
Siegal: The album's doing particularly well in Benelux.
We were number 1 in Holland's Jazz and Blues chart and even charted in
the Alternatives above Kaiser Chiefs!
Do you have sales expectations at all or are you happy just getting
out there & playing live? Does The Ian Siegal Band earn you enough
not to have to deal with the 9 to 5 world or like many musicians do you
need to work for a living too?
Siegal: It's more about the live thing for me. Making
a Roots album isn't gonna buy many yachts, although this one's doing pretty
well. I've never had to do a 9-5 and I’ve been at this since I was
20. I've been incredibly lucky like that.
Both your commercially released albums and they' very different
animals. Why the distinct change in sound? 'Standing In The Morning'
shows off your very obvious Tom Waits influences but 'Meat & Potatoes'
is a more 'standard' Blues sound. Was it a conscious decision or
just a natural evolution?
Siegal: A bit of both. 'Standing' was mostly co-written with
a friend and our common ground was that singer-songwriter/Waits-ey area.
The new album I wanted to capture the more raw live sound of the band.
Where do you see album number three taking you? Do you have much
new material written & how’s the deal with Nugene working out?
Siegal: Yes, I have some new material for a cd for next year,
although I tend to work best under pressure so I won't be over-preparing,
so no idea which direction it'll take. Nugene's cool, nice to be on a
small label where you get a lot of attention! It's getting a lot of play
in the States which is cool - looks like we'll be on the next "Blues
Revue" compilation which goes nationwide over there - very good!!
Live The Ian Siegal Band seems to be entirely different to than
on record. Grittier, dirtier, funkier & just plain rocking. Do you
have any plans for a live album & do you think you’ve yet to
capture your live intensity in the studio?
Siegal: I actually think we captured some of the live spirit
on “Meat and Potatoes“, and most of it is just us live in
a little room with a coupla mics. But yes, a truly live one is on the
cards, probably a DVD.
You’ve been 'on the scene' for a number of years now &
have played several high profile gigs, supporting Bill Wyman to name but
one, but as yet haven't made the leap to that next level of recognition,
of say someone like Paul Lamb or James Hunter. Why do you think that is
& what do you feel is needed to take you to that next level?
Siegal: To be honest I’ve never been that ambitious
in that sense, everything that's been happening for me lately has just
sort of happened. Word of mouth I guess. I can't remember the last time
I had to hustle a gig and I did 300 last year! The next level, whatever
that is, will come in its own time. I'm not motivated in that way, only
to improve as a musician and performer.
How do you rate the current U.K. Blues scene, especially within
London as that’s what this site is all about! Are there enough venues
& promoters willing to put on shows? What’s the deal with Ain’t
Nothin’ But, there’s no tickets as such so how do you guys
& the other bands who perform there make money?
Siegal: There are hardly any venues or promoters in London
itself but the UK is ok, just not as good as Europe in general. Seems
to be a lot of apathy here from everyone - musicians, punters, venues.
I could go on about this for hours so I’ll shut up. I don't see
much that impresses me on the UK scene, but there are some amazing guys
like Little George, Big Joe Louis, James
Hunter, Matt Schofield and Sam Hare
to name some. Ain't Nothin is a fun gig for us and not about cash and
the fact that the audience are mostly non-English is frankly a good thing
as they tend to be more responsive. And I love nothing more than hearing
"I didn't think I liked Blues, I thought it was boring but I realise
it's not now!" or something along those lines...
You recently played a few shows with the legendary Pinetop Perkins,
how did that go for you? Personally I think you blew Bob Margolin off
Siegal: Playing with Pinetop and the guys was the greatest
honour of my life.
What kind of gear do you use to get the Siegal sound? Everytime
I’ve seen you you’ve been playing a Tele but older pics show
you playing a Strat.
Siegal: I played A strat for years and still do, it's
just I got this amazing Tele and I fell in love with it. I like vintage
Fender gear mostly but I do think your fingers are the biggest factor.
My National is a 1929 and it's incredible!!
Guitar wise who were/are your influences & what made you first
want to play guitar? Do you rate the U.K. legends like Tony McPhee, Alexis
Korner & Beck or are you more U.S. influenced?
Siegal: Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Robert
Cray, B.B.King, the list goes on - they were
the guys for me. I wasn't a part of the British Blues boom so my perception
of those players is very different from someone 10 or 20 years older than
me. I had the luxury of hindsight and could go straight to the source,
which maybe in the 60's wasn't so easy. I love Alexis
When people talk about you they always mention how great a Blues
voice you have but, your guitar playing is equally impressive. Do you
think you’re underrated in that respect? Your label mate Matt Schofield
recently made the Top 9 in the Guitarist magazine poll of ‘The Future
Of The Blues’ yet you were nowhere to be seen.
Siegal: I'm not the kind of guitarist that makes those
kinda lists, although I will say that I get a lot of compliments
on my playing from older American musicians if that says anything. Matt
is a monster and should have been top 3.
Vocally you can’t help but notice the Tom Waits & Howling
Wolfisms in the way you phrase but you still seem to come out sounding
like yourself. Did you consciously emulate your heroes at the start or
do naturally sound like you’ve been snortin’ whiskey &
smokin’ 60 a day!
Siegal: I probably started out trying to sound just like
my heroes but my voice is my own these days. The Wolf thing is just a
nice little trick to pull out now and again. And smoking does very little
to or for your vocal chords.
In an ideal world where would Ian Siegal be right now? Are you
content playing clubs & the occasional European festival or do you
have grander plans for the future? Do you feel that it’s possible
for your style of music to cross into the mainstream?
Siegal: Not bothered about mainstream and the way things are
progressing I’m more than satisfied. The festivals are getting bigger,
more frequent and we're getting higher on the bill!
Have you ever played in The States? If not, any plans to? Would
it be like sending tea to China? How do rate the ‘new’ school
of U.S. blues. People like Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Johnny Lang, C.C. Adcock
& Eric Sardinas? Do you see yourself as a contemporary or are you
just plain better than all of 'em! Be as candid as you like!
Siegal: I have played the States (tour with Otis
Redding Jnr.) but that was years ago. Myself and the band should
be touring next year on the back of the album and should be doing the
likes of South By Southwest in Austin. I don't rate the
new school in the U.S. at all! I don't see myself as better, but different.
I think UK players can bring something different to it, just as Americans
tend to have a more "authentic” take (sometimes!) - It's such
a broad church anyway.
What would be your Top 5 Desert Island Discs?
Siegal: I would answer that question differently every day. It'd
have to include Otis Redding, Sam Cooke,
Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and Tom
Waits though. Maybe Johnny Cash's "Man
Comes Around" album.
Who do you rate & listen to currently? Is there anyone out
there on the scene who really blows you away?
Siegal: I listen to loads of stuff but it tends to be
older stuff. A lot of Bluegrass and Country at the moment.
Let's play a little word association game.
Name The 1st thing that pops into your head...
Big Joe Louis Amazing
Eric Clapton Over-rated
Johnny Cash Deep
Sam Cooke The greatest
Pete Doherty Tosser
Howling Wolf The man
Stevie Ray Vaughan Genius but I wish people would stop
West Weston's Bluesonics Authentic (and cool)
Aynsley Lister Rockin'
When was the last time you...
Got in a bar fight? Can’t remember
Signed an autograph? Yesterday
Couldn't get into a bar & said 'But I'm Ian Siegal!'?
Stood in front of a mirror prentending to be Muddy Waters?
Paid to get into & watched from the audience? Coupla
Got wasted and thought you were Steve Vai in Crossroads? Never!!
Went down to Cash Converters and attempted to sell your soul?
What was the...
Last thing that really pissed you off? The last question
Last cd you bought? Tom Russell
Last person you wanted to a) punch b) fuck c) kill? Bush,
Finally anything you'd say to anyone who doesn't own any of your
records or hasn't seen you live? The people who think Blues is the preserve
of beardy old gits in the back of dingy pubs?
Siegal: Blues is good time and interesting music that often gets
poorly played by lazy musicians and therefore suffers by association.
It was, in it's prime, Pop music and always progressive and a lot of that's
been lost. And the beardy old gits thing tends to ONLY happen in this
Both Ian’s albums are available online through Nugene Records
Check the official site at www.iansiegal.com
for a full bio & for when he’s playing next near you!