John Mayall: ‘My interest in the blues began as early as 1947 when I was 13 years old’

Vendredi 21 Mars 2014

Interview. John Mayall is touring all over Europe to present his upcoming album A Special Life. He will play in Paris at the New Morning, on 18 April 2014. He has been kind enough to answer my questions.

Like many British musicians that appeared in the 60’s, you were greatly influenced by the blues. What is the reason why all these British young men, including you, were suddenly fascinating by this music made by these foreign musicians that had a totally different experience?

My interest in the blues began as early as 1947 when I was 13 years old and started teaching myself boogie woogie and blues on the school piano so it's fair to say that alot of the peole you mention weren't even born. The only difference was I didn't have an audience who understood this kind of music until nearly two decades later Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies created a place where teenage musicians such as the luminaries you mention were at last able to discover and learn the music for themselves.

In the British bands of the 60’s, musicians use to come and go from a band to another one. For instance, musicians such as Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor or John McVie used to be members of the Bluesbreakers. Can we speak of a community of artists? Or were they very individualistic?

I should say that because the music was a new means of expression, everyone of any worth began to develop their own styles. The rest is history. Very exciting times indeed!

In 1964, you backed John Lee Hooker during is British tour. What memories do you have of this experience?

The thing I learned most about playing with John was the dynamics whereby you didn't have to be cranking it out at full volume.

In 1968, you recorded the album Blues from Laurel Canyon. Could you talk to me about the life in Laurel Canyon?

It was an exciting first taste of what life in LA could be and it didn't disappoint. I felt the need to put my experiences and adventures into music and 'Blues from Laurel Canyon' was the result. I've lived in Los Angeles ever since.

For your 40th year of career, you recorded the Along for the Ride album with a great deal of prestigious musicians. What memories do you have of this recording?

It was a great experience for me to gather together so many of my favorite musicians. It was a little tricky to organize but the backing tracks were mainly done in Los Angeles and then I took the tapes to London and captured the talents of those who lived there. I also went to Chicago and worked with Shannon Curfman and the great Otis Rush on other tracks. My current bassist Greg Rzab appeared on the track with Otis and I.

How do you play blues when you get through a period of absolute happiness?

I've always had an optimistic outlook on life as illustrated in the track 'A Special Life' on my new album. One can live a life of happiness and fulfillment and at the same time reach into the core of life's experiences and reflect them in the blues.

There are many covers if A Special Life, your latest album. How did you choose the songs?

For once, all the tracks are hardcore blues pieces some more traditional than others but it was the right time to honor my roots.

You are touring extensively in Europe and you will be at the New Morning in Paris on 18 April. Could you tell me more about the gigs?

The Paris show will be almost the last gig on the tour and the band members for the last five years and of course featured on all albums since the permanent end of the Bluesbrerakers are Rocky Athas on guitar, Greg Rzab on bass guitar and Jay Davenport on drums. All their information can be found logging onto our website
Looking forward to seeing you in Paris.

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Boris Plantier