We shared so many deep thoughts and much appreciation for our love of the blues. Here is a brief interview with Markus K, which opens a window into his blues world as a player and a committed blues aficionado.
Q. How long have you been playing the blues?
A. I started probably from about the age of 12. I bought a Spanish guitar on holiday in Mallorca, and I put steel strings on it so it would sound more bluesy. I didn’t immediately realize that was what I was trying to play, but there was something about the twang that stirred something in my soul.
Q. Was there a turning point that you can explain that brought you into the world of blues music?
A. There was a performance at school by some guys who were just playing 12 bar blues all evening. No singing at all, just 12 bar blues in various keys. There wasn’t even that much variation in tempo. I came home with it totally ingrained in me, which was both inspiring and annoying.
I now realize that what they were doing has very little to do with the blues. They were just playing a musical format that has become the thing that people associate with the blues, unfortunately.
Then I started hearing the British guys doing their thing with the blues, and that was a lot more interesting. ‘You Gotta Move’ on The Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ had a big impact on me. It got me much closer to what I consider to be the essence of the blues.
With my trio GILES [http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/Giles ], I played at many of the major blues festivals in Europe, and I have to say that I find most blues bands pretty boring.
Q. Do you have any blues entertainers that you think are real innovators?
A. You mean, apart from me? (laughs)
There are some very good guitarists around, but everyone seems to be stuck in that same ’12 bar blues syndrome’. There are only so many ways you can rehash that format. I feel I took it as far as I could with ‘Lost A Friend’ (on the Blue Funk album) [http://www.markus-k.com/blue-funk], and now I am completely done with it.
As far as I am concerned, the last breakthrough came from Kelly Joe Phelps. Whether he is a blues entertainer or not is a matter of opinion, but I consider him an innovator. He is also an extremely good singer and guitarist and I definitely look up to him in all respects. ‘Jerico’ on ‘Sling Shot Professionals’ [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SS1a7vI0iRo] is one of my all-time favorite songs and recordings, but not many people would recognize it as blues.
And people like Ry Cooder still keep producing good music, with real feel, rather than format.
Q. How do you feel to keep such a long traditional alive and passing on the songs of the blues masters?
A. I feel the blues goes all the way back to the very first musical expressions. To me, the blues sounds like a yearning of the soul to come home. I hear that yearning in ‘Dark Was The Night’ (Blind Willie Johnson)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNj2BXW852g , in Emmylou Harris’ version of Shenandoa
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuEszkR3x1g , and it is also there in Gandharva Veda
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gz4tC23vDbA , the traditional Indian music.
Tom Poole, who you recently put me in touch with, has a very similar appreciation of blues and he has a wonderful gospel-type voice. I found a kindred spirit in him I think.
For me, real gospel and real blues are the same thing. If people were to come away from a gig with an experience of a sort of spiritual healing and ‘coming home’ than that would be make me really happy. I think the world is going through a huge transition right now, with enormous changes, and I think music can help to make that transition much smoother.
It can soften the blows and give an experience of oneness. That is what I look for in music, an experience of that oneness that unites us as human beings.
Thank you – check me out at www.markus-k.com