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Words and pics by Blues in London new boy Mr. K
September 2005



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 formula.

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 VincentHank 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 say… 



Ian Siegal image sequence

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 the stage!

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 though.

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 the copying!
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!'? Never
Stood in front of a mirror prentending to be Muddy Waters? Never!
Paid to get into & watched from the audience? Coupla months ago
Got wasted and thought you were Steve Vai in Crossroads? Never!!
Went down to Cash Converters and attempted to sell your soul? (no answer!)

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, Bush, 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 country!

Both Ian’s albums are available online through Nugene Records www.nugenerecords.com

Check the official site at www.iansiegal.com for a full bio & for when he’s playing next near you!