Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Chris Duarte

Bman: Hi Chris. Been a fan for a long time. Glad to be finally catching up with you. I reviewed your newest release, Lucky 13 back in November and it cooks! I see that you're touring coast to coast. How is the new release being received?

Chris:  I think it’s going pretty good. Units are moving from the merch table and on this album I wrote a lot of songs that can be played live. In the past I just went a bit crazy on some things and layered too much so that it was nearly impossible to recreate even with two guitars. Try to keep is simple and come up with easy accessible hooks for the songs. People are digging Lucky 13 at the shows and on-line so I’ve been real happy with the response.

Bman: That's great! I remember when I first started to listen to you that my impression was you had a Texas flavor with a taste of Hendrix. That was what first attracted me to your music, that cocky guitar attitude with a lot of sting. A lot of water has crossed under that bridge. Your newest release, Lucky 13 maintains that cocky stinging playing but it goes so much farther.

Chris: I’m always trying to find new and different ways around the blues form. Tone of course is still of paramount importance, it’s my identity sometimes, but there’s still different ways to express myself melodically and sonically. I still want to be intrepid and adventurous when it comes to how I get my ideas out and what I’m trying to say on my axe.

Bman: I can see that. Crazy For Your Love is a particularly hot Texas style number. Is it hard to maintain your own identity when so many people relate your own style to that of SRV because of his popularity?

Chris: It doesn’t bother me a bit to have those comparisons anymore. I’m proud to be attached to SRV. I know I have my own thing from Stevie. I still use it to partly describe my sound so people can grab onto something in their mind and shape some kind of idea for what to expect from a show. I’m pretty sure when they come out and see one of my shows they’ll see that I’ve got Stevie in me but a lot other voices and inspirations I draw off as well.

Bman: You're right. I'm certain that the fans love to hear that familiar sound. Who Loves You has a whole different feel with Gatemouth Brown like guitar riffs. He was always one of my favorites and of course the comparison is more for listeners to understand what they may expect. What got you into this frame of playing?

Chris: That’s me trying to mimic a horn section and play like I’m kind of an old school type swing player that’s definitely got blues roots but dabbles a bit in some jazzy licks that have been acquired over the years. The fun part was trying to get the horn section together. Not bad for my first attempt at horn recreation and arranging. I thought about that just days before we recorded it. I would love to have had more time for more lines from the horns but alas it was not in the cards.

Bman: No, that's exactly right! I can see that. One of my favorite tracks on Lucky 13 is Let It Go. At over 9 minutes, your playing never seems tired or stretched. Is it hard to dig deep for that kind of gut wrenching soloing night after night?

Chris: Seems like I’m always putting on a minor blues on my albums and I have for the last 4 or 5 cd’s, so I’ve got such a complex about sounding like I’ve got nothing new to offer so I went for the ‘smoky vibe’ ala retro Nina Simone kind of nod on the vocals and phrasing. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have had an emotional peak with the guitar getting intense in the solo. I always do that and at the time of recording this song I just went with the usual template. Let It Go was one of those songs that I wrote while we were recording the album. The rhythm tracks and scratch guitar came first then the concept for the vocal styling. We had already crossed the Rubicon on that one.

Bman: It comes off really well. Not Chasing It has a certain looseness that I haven't heard from you before. Only a few players that I know play with "reckless abandon". Is it hard to get into that frame of mind and sustain spontaneity?

Chris:  This was another concept song that I was trying to make it boisterous and heavy at the same time. I wanted really distorted drums and a nasty guitar tone to fill out the sparse bass line I assigned the player to. Start off with that short snakey opening line then it breaks into a heavy riff dominated form. We just didn’t have time to dial in all the sonic embellishments on the song. I do bite off more that I can chew sometimes. I am pleased with the ‘way-over-the-top’ lead guitar tone we achieved. Like anything being recorded now, clever editing and cut n’ paste is done from time to time but when it’s done well you can’t argue with results. I wanted to convey a reckless and manic feel to go with the subject matter of the song.

Bman:  You definitely hit it! I really dig the Meus Via Vita Suite. This goes places that most blues people don't know. Are we going to hear more of this?

Chris:  I hope so. Over the years Mike Varney has slowly let out the artistic reins on me and I’m free to explore different avenues. This was one of those times. My blues fans shouldn’t worry, I’m not going to go out and do a ‘full-on’ concept album that Bob Ezrin would be proud of, but I do like this type of songs and stylings that are strung together telling a story. I had the first song, Let’s Go For A Ride completed and in my head, the other two in the suite had to be written there. Minefield of My Mind is trying to evoke the crazy emotions and terrible decisions that are made when you take part in deleterious behavior, then Setting Sun is saying goodbye to all the craziness. So as you walk this new road you see the sun setting on that part of your life that was with you for so long. Once again I’m happy with what we ended up with for the limited time frame we had to work in. I can play so much better inside the chords of Minefield now rather than how I played it on the album. I just wasn’t that used to the form and my ideas hadn’t any legs under them yet. It sounds OK but I’m so much more complex in the chords now.

Bman:  I'm looking forward to see how it's changing. Jump the Trane is a really cool shuffle finisher. I personally think that Lucky 13 is your most comprehensive work so far. Are you turning the corner into something a bit more different or was this just an experiment?

Chris:  I still want to explore new avenues and to expand my musical boundaries. I’ll always be working on getting to be better with my song forms and lyrics. I’ve still got such a long way to go as an artist. I’ll always have the blues in me and I’ll always try to be looking ahead.

Bman: Thank you so much for your time. Do you have anything in particular that you want to share with your fans?

Chris:  Thank you for having me on here and know that I will never take my fans for granted. Every time they see me I’m playing with all I’ve got. No mowing the lawn here. Never.

Bman: Continued luck with your tour and hope to hear from you again soon.

Chris: Happy to be here and I hope we can do this again in the future. Sincerely – chris duarte  

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