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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bman's Exclusive Interview with Kim Simmonds - Savoy Brown

Bman: I just caught up with Kim Simmonds, founding member and long time band leader of Savoy Brown. It's good of you to take time out your extremely hectic schedule to speak with me.

Kim, first I got to tell you how incredibly honored we are to have you continue to tour. I can recall hearing your music first in the early '70's and I've got to tell you... every time I see you live the hair on the back of my neck still stands up when you go off on one of your incredibly deep blues solos. I have had the chance to review your new recording, "Voodoo Moon" and the first thing that hits me is how different it seems from much of what you have been doing over the past 10 or so years. Much of it seems to have the feel of the great early '70's band that I was first introduced to. Kind of a boogie or r&b groove with the blues overlaid. Now I mean that as a real compliment as i think that your early 70's albums stack up against just about anyone... at any time.

I have seen the band maybe 10 times in the past 7 years and I know that you have your standard repertoire that you are "expected" to play. So do the Stones. But hey, you've written some great songs and they have longevity and of course you blend in stuff from your newest release during the shows. I feel that this new release will make the transition between eras a lot less noticeable. Is this intentional?

Kim:Yes the new material from Voodoo Moon does interface well with the old classics. The period I am going through now reminds me of the best of times with the band back in the early days when I had simalar cutting edge songs.

Bman: Well, I can hear it so the concept is working. I know that you had to make changes in the lineup with Gerry being sick and all. How is he doing? How do you feel that the new lineup is geling?

Kim:The last band line up with Gerry had to end eventually. Gerry became sick of course (he's fine now) and because everyone lived so far apart it made rehearsing very difficult. It took a year for the current line up to really mesh but now it feels like one of the best bands I've ever had.

Bman:'s hard enough to keep a band in the groove when you are in close proximity so I understand that dilemma. I remember talking with you a few years back and you remarked that you were trying something new with your soloing... just kind of trying to play "around" positions that would ordinarily be played. More like jazz improv. How is that working for you?

Kim:I tried some different things out with my guitar playing over the recent years. At one point I put the guitar tuning into a totally different I had no idea of the notes on the fretboard. I played it like that and interestingly, instead of making a jumbled sound, my mind and fingers automatically sorted out what needed to be played and something quite good and profound came out of the experiment.

Bman: I think that comes from natural brilliance and years on the guitar. It's obvious that you have both! Some of the remarks around the Yahoo Group are that you don't change up the "standards" enough from tour to tour. Now I for one want to hear certain songs each time, so don't get me wrong. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with having not had a keyboard on tour and also limitations with you playing lead and doing lead vocals. Does your new band mate help at all with these issues?

Kim:I'm so glad to hear the feedback. I do get conservative in my song choices and limitations in my singing also come into play as you mentioned. Now, with Joe Whiting singing I am able to explore more of the older songs. I think the shows from now on could be more interesting for the faithful. Having said the Grateful Dead......people keep coming to the Savoy shows because they get to listen to the old standards they like, but played differently every night.

Bman: No Question. I mean if you didn't play Hellbound Train and Tell Mama there would be a revolution (joking).Some of my personal favorites that never see the light of day (or dark of club) are "Jack the Toad", 'Can't Get Next To You', and "May Be Wrong"... now there is an incredible recording. I mean with Looking In, Blue Matter, Hellbound Train, Raw Sienna, Lions Share, Boogie Brothers to mention a few... you guys were just banging out great albums. These albums are all packed with great tunes. Do you ever consider adding any of the other older songs back into the mix?

Kim:There has always been an issue of rehearsing because, in the past, the band often comprised of musicians from all over the country. I made a decision to use musicians closer to me so I could rehearse on a weekly basis. This has grown the repetiore a lot. Look out for some surprises in 2012.

Bman: I can tell you no one goes away from your show disappointed but it sounds like you're even mixing it up more. I never miss a show and I'm excited to see what you've come up with. I can imagine trying to get new songs ready if the band mates aren't local.
I have probably written in my report about Savoy Brown maybe 12 times in the past 6 months. The blues groove that you lay down on "May Be Wrong" is just incredible. I occasionally debut albums from the past for which no video exists. "May Be Wrong" is on youtube with only the cover of the album as the video. It was a hugely popular post. I know that you have to restrain your playing to a certain extent for recording but do you contemplate any more of the "deep blues" 7 minute solos... or do production standards limit that type of idea in today's market.

Kim: Playing a deep slow blues is my strong point. I know that. For me, it takes an enormous amount of energy to play a slow blues...I tell my life story through my guitar playing and it can be completely exhausting. I've told that story on stage many times. It is not a completely reneawable source and I protect it. At my age, if I played a slow blues every night (as if my life depended on it) I would have to carried out on a strectcher!

Bman: Oh, it's very obvious that you put everything that you've got into your playing. I have a friend who is a casual blues listener... more of a power pop /Pixies kind of guy and when I described your last show to him he said "I should have gone to that show!". You definitely can lay it down!! I know I told when I talked to you last that I consider you one of the very elite blues guitar players alive today. Sad that more people haven't heard you really play. Hope we can change that!

Lets talk about your gear for a minute. Last few times I saw you played pretty much a "V" through a Marshall 800 combo I think it was. Then you had your "Walmart Special" that you played on slide tunes. You have an incredible slide tone by the way. Are you still with the "V" or are you back on a Les Paul?

Kim:Back with the Les Paul. I travel so much on airplanes and the Les Paul is more practical than the Flying V especially having to play shows with different rented equipment.

Bman: Yeah, I can imagine!I play a little myself. Are you playing stock guitars or are they hot rodded. I put Tom Holmes pickups in my "V". It has a real pure sound.
I'm guessing that the "Walmart Guitar" has a high action and heavy strings to accommodate the slide work. What gauge strings are you using and what do you use on your standard setup?

Kim:I've never been "into" equipment. Of course I love guitars and have played all the classic ones over my career. But I find I play the same (after a few weeks) no matter what guitar I have. The guitar sound itself will want to play you....but I force my personality on to the instrument and I play it.

Bman: That's one of the advantages of being a great player. You can make every note count on a guitar with a twisted neck and 20 year old strings! Back on Voodoo Moon, we've had a lot of "hits" on our review of the new release so I'm guessing that your fan base are digging it pretty well?

Kim:It's been a super success with the fans...and also the neutral critics are applauding it. I'm very happy that I'm still moving forward.

Bman: How do you like being able to offload some of the singing work so you can focus on the heavy lifting (lead guitar)? I know that formula worked well for you in the past. I mean, when your fans come to see you, lets face it, we all want to hear you get into a groove and then just part our hair with your deep blues solos!

Kim:People say I am playing better with the four piece line up. I think I'm more relaxed and can pick my opportunities as to when to attack or lay back. With the three piece line's attack, attack, attack.....of course some people like that too.

Bman: I can imagine you don't have a lot of time to think about it when you're on stage. Yes, a lot of us do like the constant attack, but you and I both know you can be more affective when you can strategically place the attack. I really appreciate your taking the time for our interview. You've put together a really good recording. I'll look forward to seeing you again soon!

Kim: Many thanks for wanting to interview me.
Thanks to Tom MuNeill for the photography.
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