Articles and Interviews - India Tour 2014
Please note that the original texts of some interviews were altered by editorial or tour management before publication.
Blues musician Mick Clarke on India, EDM and all that jazz
Simply the Blues, a Blues music festival launched in 2012, is back again this year and kicks off this Saturday, October 25, in Mumbai at St Andrews Auditorium and then moves to Bengaluru on October 26.
The fest will see one of UK's finest blues guitarists, Mick Clarke, joined by his band, throwing some jazz rock beats with his 'straight from the wood' guitar sounds for the first time in India. Clarke has backed the legendary Freddie King, one of the three kings (B B King and Albert King) of the modern electric blues guitar, on his tours in Europe. The festival will open up with Big Bang Blues from Delhi, who will chop some R&B, rock 'n roll and blues infused sounds to kick start the evening.
Could this mean a spark of hope for jazz enthusiasts in the city? Or a gradual shift from the EDM-dominated gigs in Mumbai? Vogue spoke to Mick Clarke to find out:
Sneha Mankani: How did the guitar and you meet?
Mick Clarke: I got my first guitar when I was at school—some friends had a band and I liked the idea of making music together. I was sure I could play it, luckily I was right. We did the usual youth club gigs and then I carried on, getting into semi-pro blues bands and playing some bigger gigs, such as opening for Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac in London. Then we formed Killing Floor and all kinds of things happened—shows with Ten Years After and Jethro Tull—plus two tours backing the great Texas blues guitarist Freddie King.
SM: What influenced you to come and play in India?
MC: I saw a documentary on television about Iron Maiden touring India. So I could see that there was enthusiasm for hard rock, and I thought there should be some interest in blues rock too. I got some tracks out on download and streaming and they did OK. Simply the Blues came across as a young outfit, very enthusiastic about promoting the blues in India. I got in touch with their promoters [Starkonnect Events & Promotions], spoke with Anil Mehta, the man behind this festival, and finally here we are!
SM: What can your fans expect from your visit to India?
MC: We play a lively set—fast moving with some shuffles, boogies, rocking stuff, and some down home slow blues thrown in for contrast. I play mainly on my Gibson SG, but I also use a Fender Squire Strat for slide. It will rock!
SM: And what are you most looking forward to, besides performing?
MC: I have heard a lot about India, its vibrant cultural mix, the food (is the chicken tikka masala we get in London exactly how it is in India?) and am excited about coming here for the first time. I would love to see some of Mumbai and Bangalore and hope to pack in the sights and sounds in the days that we are here. I'm looking forward to some real Indian food. It's very popular in England and it will be interesting to compare.
SM: What's currently on your playlist?
MC: I listen to a lot of internet radio. I currently enjoy a station from New Orleans: WWOZ. They play jazz and some great blues and I'm constantly discovering fantastic artists that I'd never heard of before. Latest one: Polka Dot Slim. Check it out.
SM: What are some of your most memorable experiences from yout tours? MC: Where shall we start? We once drove all the way to Berlin from London (this was back in the Cold War days) and found that we were supposed to pretend to be another band—a quite well known one. We were young and stupid so we went along with it, but of course the audience knew something was wrong. There was a riot; police with dogs were called out, the whole thing. The promoter refused to pay us and we had to call the British Embassy to help us get home.
SM: Three tracks that will turn anyone into a true blues fan?
MC: 'Dust My Blues' by Elmore James, 'Help Me' by Sonny Boy Williamson, 'Key to the Highway' by Little Walter.
SM: What is the future of blues in the age of EDM?
MC: EDM has been dominating the commercial space for a long time, with a lot many young players coming in. It's all healthy competition with these numerous EDM festivals across the globe. The Blues genre of music has always appealed to minorities and it will be so for a long time.
Simply the Blues will take place on October 25 in Mumbai at St Andrews Auditorium from 7:30-10:30 pm and October 26 in Bangalore; tickets available on Book My Show.
Britain's Bluesman, Mick Clarke Comes To India
By Sushrita Setty | October 23, 2014, 0:00 IST - Grazia catches up with the musician ahead of his premier at Simply The Blues music festival this Saturday, October 25
India's finest blues music festival, Simply The Blues is ready to kick-start with its third edition this Saturday, October 25, in Mumbai. Ahead of the concert, we caught up with Britain's most revered guitarist, Mick Clarke who was also one of the founding members of the blues-rock band Killing Floor, which backed blues legend Freddie King on two tours. This year Mick Clarke and his band have launched their new album Crazy Blues, and are all set to for their debut to spread the blues fever with, in his words, "original songs and old standards". Just the way we like it.
GRAZIA: You have been playing the blues since the late '60s, how has the genre changed?
MICK CLARKE: In the '60s it was very hard to hear original blues in the UK. When we got something from the States, every band wanted to be the first to cover it. Great songs like, "Pretty Woman" by Albert King had great riffs. The British bands tried to make it into something of their own - such as Cream doing, "Spoonful". Blues Rock progressed in the '80s, and then there was a whole new wave of great players - Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughan etc. Now a new generation plays blues the old way by getting a '50s sound. And so it continues - a healthy vibrant blues scene around the world.
G: You have collaborated with many eminent artists, would you collaborate with an Indian artist?
MC: I'd be happy to collaborate with an Indian artist. My tour promoters Starkonnect Events & Promotions have been talking to me about some of the Indian blues players like Soulmate, Blackstratblues, Ehsaan Noorani. I hope I get to meet them, and if they come for the show, I would be happy to have them jam with me on stage. I miss my old friend Lou Martin (Rory Gallagher's piano player), so I'd love to hook up with Doctor John or one of those great New Orleans players.
G: This is your first show in India, how does it feel?
MC: Very exciting. A whole new continent for me, and a fresh audience ready for some good rocking blues.
G: What can we expect at a Mick Clarke concert?
MC: It's energetic with mainly fast songs. There's no hanging around. Some slide guitar songs. Some shuffles, boogies, blues - original songs and old standards.
G: Walk us through your new album Crazy Blues, where did you draw your inspiration?
MC: The ideas just came as I started recording. A couple of old songs are there, including "Crazy Blues" itself - the Mamie Smith number. But I do it in my own way. I also had a crack at "See You Later Alligator" the old Bill Haley rock'n'roll song. I do it in a kind of New Orleans rocker style with slide guitar. Other things I wrote, such as "Lovin' Heart" - a kind of sixties guitar instrumental - swings along. "Rain" is almost Americana - like Creedence Clearwater. "The Thing" is a New Orleans stomper, with home-made percussion instruments.
G: What can we expect from Mick in the future?
MC: I'm working on new material for the next album and booking concerts for next year, including club dates in England and festivals in Europe.
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UK Blues guitarist Mick Clarke: "My first visit to India has been enriching"
MUMBAI: British blues guitarist Mick Clarke, who started his career in the late 60s and has toured alongside big names like Johnny Winter, Canned Heat and Rory Gallagher, recently announced his band’s – The Mick Clarke Band – India tour to promote his album 'Crazy Blues'. The musician began his career with his band The Killing Floor that backed Texas blues star Freddie King and toured with legends such as Howlin' Wolf and Otis Spann.
As a part of the tour, the band performed in India for the first time, headlining the ‘Simply The Blues’ festival on 25 October in Mumbai and 26 October in Bangalore with a favourable response. Mick Clarke talked about the tour and the opportunity for the ‘blues’ genre to grow in the country.
Why did you decide to tour India?
I saw a documentary on television about Iron Maiden touring India, so I could see that there was enthusiasm for hard rock, and I thought there should be some interest in blues rock too. I got some tracks out on download and streaming and they did okay, and sold a few ringtones too. I did some research on the blues scene in India and came across this very interesting blues festival called “Simply The Blues”. They came across as a young outfit and very enthusiastic about promoting the blues in India. I immediately got in touch with their promoters - Starkonnect Events & Promotions, and all fell into place.
How would you describe the experience?
In spite of the usual jitters, the experience was absolutely enriching. I loved the vibe the audience brought in. There were cheers and excitement all around. Everyone in India is truly amazing. I feel extremely grateful for an amazing audience, and to Mr. Anil Mehta (man behind ‘Simply The Blues’ festival), who made my first visit to India so enriching.
We would love to perform in India once again given the chance.
Do you think ‘blues’ as a genre, in India, has scope to build into something like in the UK?
As Blues legend Willie Dixon so aptly said, “The Blues is the roots, the rest is the fruits.” I think Indian music fans are still in the process of discovering the blues in its different forms – it is mainly a new thing to them. Blues as a genre caters to a very different age group and audience. Being fairly new to India, the growth for Blues will be slow but, it exists, even if it is niche.
Surprisingly, I had one of my blues singles released on Artist Aloud and Hungama, one of my reasons to come to India. I usually release all my tracks digitally to promote it on a larger scale.
Are there any Indian blues musicians that you know of and are a fan of?
Through ‘Simply The Blues’, I have heard of Indian blues musicians such as Soulmate, Blackstratblues and Ehsaan Noorani. I have not really heard them, but I intend to do so. The opening act was by Big Bang Blues from Delhi who were absolutely amazing.
In your journey of more than five decades, what has been the greatest learning as a musician?
Well I have survived, so that is something and I am still here after 50 years. I am being able to make albums, have people come out to see my gigs, and new projects keep coming in such as our India tour. I think I look at my career as a whole, and I would like to believe that I have not done badly.
I cannot really credit one experience or one learning as the most enlightening. Each one has had a lasting impact on my music. From Freddie King to Howlin Wolf to Elmore James, down to Rory Gallagher and ZZ Top, each has contributed to my growth as an artiste. Keeping the faith in music and creating it constantly is probably one of the biggest lessons.
Where are you headed after India and what are your upcoming projects?
I have been playing dates in the UK and Europe, including some festivals in Italy. Now I am back in the studio, working on new ideas, which is what I really like to do. There are more UK and Europe dates being lined up for this year and the next as well. Also, we are already working on new ideas in the studio for an album.
Mick's "Graveyard Shift" at Number One in the India Alternative Music Chart.
Mick Clarke debuts in India with a tour for Simply The Blues
Considered as one of the finest blues guitarists to come out of UK, Mick Clarke, with his band, performed in India for the first time as part of the 3rd edition of Simply The Blues (STB). A property of StarKonnect Events and Promotions, STB brings down globally acclaimed blues artists to India every year.
Blues enthusiasts had a gala night at the concerts as the band enthralled the audience with their electrifying performance on Oct. 25 at St. Andrews Auditorium in Mumbai followed by a gig in Bangalore at Toit Brewpub on Oct. 26.
Backed by Chris Sharley on the drums and Ed Masters on bass guitar, lead vocalist Clarke had the audience in cheers as he belted out singles from all his albums. The act was supported by Big Bang Blues, a six-piece blues artist group from Delhi, which draws its influences from blues, R&B, jazz, funk and rock.
Commenting on the tour, Anil Mehta, Partner, StarKonnect Events & Promotions said: “Blues is in the blood of every true music lover! As blues legend Willie Dixon so rightly summed up: The blues is the roots, the rest is the fruits. Mick has paid his dues on the blues circuit and his style is raw-boned and straight from the gut. The evening was truly a rollicking affair that rocked our senses.”
Tickets for the three-hour show could be bought on BookMyShow.com. Now an established name on the European blues scene, Clarke with his band tours regularly in every country from Finland down to Italy, and aimed to promote the blues via his first foray to India this year.
Mick with his "International Artist of the Year" award, May 2015.