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All material © Blues in London 2008. All rights reserved.

   
 
 





Words Rick Webb. Photos Andy Hall

Canadian born London resident Son of Dave has spent the last couple of years doing over 200 gigs and building a strong reputation with his dynamic one man band harmonica beat box loopin' shaker rattlin' foot stompin' act.

He's appeared on 'Later', toured with Supergrass and supported Fat Freddy's Drop at Hammersmith Palais. Mark Lamarr is a fan, and apparently so is Grace Jones. Creating what he describes as 'funky ass Devil music without thievery or pretension', he has evolved a sound and an approach that could genuinely be described as something new in blues. What's more, he's brought it to people that normally wouldn't go near anything labeled 'The Blues'.

He's no pop act appropriating a stance because it happens to be fashionable either; his harmonica playing has great tone and is extraordinarily fluid, rich and inventive. Vocally he's no less convincing. Overall it's clear that here is a great blues performer, and one that, in his words, 'brings the blues kicking and howling into the 21st Century'.

We spoke to him before the release of his new CD '02' in February 2006 and the start of a UK tour in April.

 
 

Your first CD, 1999's limited release 'O1', was a lot more of a studio album with samples and sessions, whereas this is much more stripped down. Why the change?

SOD: Necessity. 'O1' was such a big complicated studio record in a way, and no-one got it. Either they didn't receive it or they didn't understand it but it never really got a response. It just went over their heads, or under the rug or whatever. Maybe it was just a piece of shit, I don't know. So it was just impossible to make another record like that because it takes months of studio time and its just too complicated and not much fun layering all this stuff up to create some sort of postmodern work of art for no-one to hear it.

After that I gave up entirely for a while and because I was contributing nothing to society I went busking, which arguably is even worse than contributing nothing to society! But I went busking, just with a harmonica and a shaker, and a suitcase that I would stomp on and that went down gangbusters... I thought 'well, that's the best gig I've had in years!' I realised that's pretty much all that I needed. I was wasting my time with all them sampling machines.

But it got to wearing thin - I couldn't do a full set on a stage like that really, so I remembered I had that looping pedal somewhere and I realised that I could just hum a bass line and lay down a beat and then I could make it something that could last for 40 minutes and not get boring. It was easy after that. I chuckled when I heard it - when I looped it up through an amplifier at home I just laughed! It's just the right combination of sounds... No guitars, thank heaven! No need for solo's or anything either, it's really like having a two or three piece band. The harmonica can do all the power chords you want!



Listening to both '02' and '01', I'm reminded particularly of Money Mark's 'Keyboard Repair' and Beck's earlier stuff... Are you coming at this with any kind of a Hip-Hop sensibility?

SOD: Well, hip hop took the funky beat from James Brown so if they didn't do it I would have! There are so many other beats to dance to than a 12 bar shuffle - it's not 1958 many more and there are a lot of other rhythms. But I wouldn't say that I came at it from being a big hip hop fan and really wanting to meld the two - although thousands of people have probably thought about that. Sometimes they're successful, but it's difficult to do and I knew this back when I was making that '01' record - I knew you can't just take that old blues stuff and put it over a hip hop beat - it doesn't fit! You can't glue them together, that's why it's been done poorly.

In 1998 I was trying to do something up to date, or modern or something... I remember one record businessman told me 'you should do something like like this!' and he handed me a pre-release copy of that Moby record, and I listened to it and I just wanted to scream! I'm not going to say anything bad about that record but why would that even interest me? What has that got to do with blues music! Apparently its a 'modern blues record'!

So I knew what I was up against then - it was the hey-day of the sampling thing. Even I liked the idea of taking something, sampling it, and creating a huge modern thing around that old sample. I liked all the French bands like Daft Punk and Air and a couple of others. I loved all that stuff, for what it was... Beck is his own animal, I'm a fan of his though. But you don't ask 'So Mr. Beck, how would you describe your music?' - he's got his own thing, his own voice.

Robert Johnson and Public Enemy are just not in the same community. Hip Hop and blues don't really mix, although it feels like they should - the notes of the blues, the bent notes and the funky ass drumming of more modern R n B - you should be able to mix a funky break-beat with blues guitars or harmonicas. But if you try to do it by just taking the old thing and just sticking it on to the new thing it's not very pleasant because you realise that how different the attitude is. Just like sticking bagpipes and mongolian throat singing together. You have to find something in between that's unique.

What I'm doing now is for me just a natural evolution of playing the harmonica and trying to keep the rhythm interesting. It only makes sense to do it like that... It comes quite naturally.





How do you think you fit into 'The Blues'? You don't appear to be playing on a blues 'circuit'...

SOD: Well I went to blues jams and played in blues bands all the time when I was 16... They'd sneak me into the Sunday jams in the bars because I was underage... So yeah, I did all that stuff. I got to learn all the standards, I didn't know who sang them originally - I'm only now figuring that out, going back and finding old records...

James Cotton was one of the only guys that came up to Winnipeg - he played a big stomping show and that's why I got into him. He was great - the whole electric Chicago thing, he's a full showman. There's one record that he did - '100% Cotton' where he really pimped up some old blues classics with a big brass section and all that. I only had three blues records for 15 years, and that was one of them!

I haven't been playing at 'Aint Nothing But, or wherever else blues happens, but it's because they haven't asked me! I'll play wherever anyone will have me, and no, we haven't been getting calls from blues festivals, but we've got them from all the other festivals...

Blues is actually kind of cool where it is right now... It's folk music, and it's lo-fi, you go somewhere and there's a jam, or a band. There are no superstars. There's no huge forward motion but it's an established little community, and I respect that. That's why I don't go finding blues jams and trying to shake it all up, because that's not what anybody wants, and I'd just be a show-off or something. I don't really expect to be embraced by the blues community, and I don't really care because because I'm not doing music that's in a genre anyway.

You do appear to be getting out there though... Recently I was speaking to someone who knows nothing of blues, and when I mentioned this site he said 'I saw a guy called 'Son of Dave' on the Jools Holland show!' For people like him maybe you're the most tangible representation of the blues today...


SOD: Great! I'm the next Stevie Ray Vaughan!



Hearing the new CD one of my first impressions was that at last someone's doing something new and interesting with the harmonica. Is this just because you've always been into the harp?

SOD: Well, I have no other talents! Guitar is a struggle - I can do it when really necessary, rhythm guitar, but it was always really the harmonica - I'm not much of a fingers man. I'm very aural, guttural... This is probably the last layer of the harmonica! It'll probably be Son of Dave for the next little while and then that's it - the harmonica will be no more! We'll put that instrument to bed!

Just to get technical for second, what kind are harps are you using... Sounds like you're using some low keys...?


SOD: Yeah, Low F, low D, low E flat, low E...

Do you work on them yourself or do you have a 'harp tech'...?

SOD:
I have a tech, yeah! But I'm not going to tell you who he is! He's just a good guy, exceptionally keen. He's heavy - got all the tools. I just destroy mics, I go through those AC30's all the time. I don't treat them well, I'm not polite with them. They're not clean and this poor guy goes in and changes the insides for me and re-solders them - I don't know why he answers my calls! Bless him!

What about the other gear you use... A sequencer?

SOD: Yes... I also occasionally use an octaver pedal to hum a bass line because I don't have a particularly low voice. Only if you're blessed with a proper baritone voice can you hum something close to what a bass guitar puts out. It's a very low frequency. So to give the kids what they want so they can feel their titties rumble I cheat and I hum through that octaver pedal. It works nice with the harmonica too sometimes...




Catch Son Of Dave for yourself at the 'O2' album launch party on
Friday 24th February 2006
...

The Luminaire
, 311 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 7JR 020 7373 7123
£8.50 entry.  7.30pm - 2am.


"...with exotic guests... Guest star vocalist Miss Martina Topley-Bird, the stunning Seffi dancing a Blues Flamenco, support from the blistering Manuela & The Music Makers and spinning platters, the infamous Gaz Mayall."


More details on Son Of Dave's website: www.sonofdave.com

Check out our live review from January 2006: here

More photos at: www.andyhallphoto.com

Location: Caravan, Spitalfields www.caravanstyle.com

 

 

 

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