Monday, March 14, 2016

Pheaturing Phile Alum Mick Clarke

Hey there, welcome to the Phile for a Monday. How are you? Here's a nice little story to start off with. A group of Syrian refugees was welcomed into Vancouver on March 5th with open arms... and paws. The refugees were staying at the same hotel where an annual furry convention called VancouFur (see what they did there?) was taking place. It's unclear what the adults thought about the humans dressed in animal costumes, but the kids couldn't get enough of it. For the uninitiated, "furries" are people who dress up as anthropomorphic animal characters (meaning they have human personalities) as a hobby. The VancouFurries were notified via memo that refugees were staying in the same hotel. The note stressed that “a major concern that VancouFur has is ensuring that each and every one of the refugees (and attendees) feels welcome and safe and the fact that this is likely to be a major shock to them... Keep in mind that they likely will not want to interact with you and consent is important to everyone.” As it turns out, the kids had absolutely no problem interacting with the furries. far refugees lucky enough to get into Canada have been welcomed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, via video message by Canadian students, and a furry convention.
Dos Equis is retiring the actor behind their famed spokesman, "The Most Interesting Man in the World." The Mexican beer brand announced the end of his commercial run on last week. The campaign ran for nearly nine years with the now 77-year-old Jonathan Goldsmith playing the character; Dos Equis plans to replace him with a younger Most Interesting Man. His tagline "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I drink Dos Equis," worked so well that it inspired endless parody catchphrases and Halloween costumes. His final Dos Equis commercial sent him off with both spectacle and respect (respectable?). A rocket.
In a move she must have known would delight Scooby-Doo fans around the world (or perhaps make them feel like she betrayed everything the gang stood for), a California woman named Sharon Kay Turman led cops on a high speed chase... in an excellent replica of the gang's Mystery Machine. According to KRCTV, the Redding Police Department were looking for the 51-year-old in relation to a probation violation and tried to pull her over on a traffic stop when she took off. The chase reached speeds of over 100 mph, which is officially fast enough to knock the glasses off Velma. Turman left the Mystery Machine when it was spotted by a California Highway Patrol helicopter and escaped on foot. She's still at large, wanted by the Redding Police Department and Shasta County Probation. She got away with it, too, because there were no meddling kids.
New light has been shed on the patriarchy's general unwillingness to reciprocate. In a study commissioned by the Trojan Sexual Health Division of Church & Dwight Canada, it's revealed that collegiate Canadian women are far more generous when it comes to giving oral sex than their male partners. When 899 students were surveyed about their latest sexual activities, over two-thirds of participants disclosed that oral sex had been given and/or received in the encounter, though a disproportionate number of the givers were women, and the receivers men. This is in spite of the fact that a greater number of men said giving oral sex was "very pleasurable" than women. So if Canuck dudes find giving oral sex pleasurable, what gives with them giving it way less? "Cosmopolitan" writer Hanna Smothers suggests the gender disparity between givers of oral sex "could be [due to] that there's not so much cunnilingus going down on casual hookups or in friends-with-benefits situations," given that the women in the study "found giving and receiving oral sex to be better when in a serious relationship (cohabiting, engaged, or married)." Interesting. What do you think?
Some workmen outside London discovered a monster recently. The creature, which was already dead when found on railroad tracks near a city playground, looked like a figment of the imagination that would've been best left there. Are you ready?

Look at the hands. Look at the feet. Look at the shaggy fur, enough of it to adorn the most frightful bogeyman with a terrible rat-cap. The man behind the photo, Tony Smith, gave an appraisal of the size, saying, "I've got a cat and a Jack Russell and it was bigger than both of those put together." He also explained, according to the BBC, that, "We were going to stick it in the bin. But before we did we thought we better take a picture... people won't believe it's real." Unfortunately for fans of massive, horrific beasts, Smith is absolutely correct: it's not real. Or, rather, it's real, but it's probably not as big as it looks. Twitterers and experts alike jumped to correct the assumption that if this rat was in New York, it would be capable of dragging a trash can instead of a pizza. Instead, it's a trick of perspective. "The Independent" quotes Professor Steven Belmain from the University of Greenwhich's Natural Resources Institute, who confirms that there's no way the rat is actually that big. He says that the rat is "a fine large specimen," but nothing to run home screaming about. "All wild rats in England are Norway rats... There are rodents in the Tropics such as cane rats that get that big, but there is no way a Norway rat will get that big." The professor also says, "Part of the explanation is that people don't actually see rats very often or only catch a glimpse of them as they move so quickly, so when they do see them up close they are surprised how big they are." What? Brits don't see rats on their subway tracks as part of their daily routine? Londoners, you are truly a blessed people. And not just because this rat is probably only large instead of ginormous. There's a giant rat where I work... or a mouse. Ha.
A few weeks ago Facebook revealed new reaction emoji's you can comment with. Well, I said it before, I think they are getting just a little bit too specific.

So, are you excited about the new Batman v. Superman movie that comes out in a few weeks? I am, but I saw a screenshot of the movie and I think I know who won.

There's another superhero against superhero movie that is coming out but I don't think this fight is as exciting...

I kick ass at thumb wrestling by the way, I probably could beat both of those dudes. Hey, did you see Ted Cruz's new campaign slogan?

Ha. At least he's honest. I cannot vote as I am not an American citizen, but if I could I wish I can vote for this guy who has a great campaign slogan...

A lot of people compare Trump to Hitler, which I don't think is fair... until I saw a painting that he has hanging up in his house.

Hmmmm. Okay, so, I have been showing you for weeks now why presidential candidates shouldn't pose with kids. Well, finally, here's the last reason I'll show you...

"Yes, I'm comforting you." I am still gonna show you why I kiss Jeb and his disappointing and disgusted looks by the way. Like the time he remembered his dad saying that Dubya was his favorite.

So, one thing I like to do in my spare time is to look up certain words on Twitter and see what people are talking about. One of those words I look up is "Foghat" and this is what I recently saw...

Thanks, Paul. I think. Alright, so, my son Logan is visiting for a month and we have been watching "The Walking Dead" together. We talked about how we used to watch "Sesame Street" together, and it made me think that now that puppet show is on HBO it's a little bit different. Which brings us to the pheature...

"Ernie, it's going to be okay. Prison isn't too bad, unlike the POW camp I was in during the war. Now that place was hellacious. The guards only gave out one jug of water a week to each family. You had to conserve your water to stay alive. There was no water for showering, or washing your hands. The inmates had to piss on each other in order to bathe. Can you imagine the smell? Prisoners would work all day in the quarry, baking under the sun in piss soaked age. Every afternoon the guards would gather up the women and children and rap them while the men watched. Then every night they'd make the men bare-knuckle fight each other to death. If you won, your family got to eat the guy you killed. And you did it, because the guards sure as hell wouldn't feed you. It was horrible, Ernie. I'm just glad I was a guard and not one of the prisoners there. we tortured the shit out of those gooks!"

If you spot the Mindphuck and I'm sure you will, then let me know. And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, here is...

Top Phive Reasons Why Dos Equis Is Retiring The Most Interesting Man In The World
5. His liver is now the size of a sombrero.
4. There are worries he;ll get caught up in President Trump's mass deportation of Latinos.
3. To renew his contract, he was demanding TRES Equis.
2. Dos Equis was tired of all that pesky "brand recognition."
And the number one reason Dos Equis is retiring The Most Interesting Man in the World is...
1. The actor playing the role was no longer thirsty, my friends.

Back in December, Patrick Rempe from Vero Beach, Florida, rammed his car into the front doors of the Indian River County jail. When he discovered that wasn't a viable form of entry, he tried to drive through the fence. And when that didn't work, he tried to scale the fence and became caught in the barbed wire. Why? He told police after that he just wanted to visit friends in jail, which is even more ludicrous than the guy who posted his bank robbery on Instagram. If it sounds like Rempe had impaired judgment, he did, because he was high on flakka. Flakka is a variety of illegal bath salts that cause users to experience "excited delirium" through symptoms of hyperstimulation, paranoia, and hallucination. All those drug symptoms also added up to lots of charges for Rempe: aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, battery on a law enforcement officer, three counts of felony criminal mischief, leaving the scene of a crash with property damage, and driving under the influence. If the side effect of a drug is that it makes you want to break into jail, that should be enough of a public service announcement to deter people from using it.

IKEA is a Swedish puzzle manufacturer.

Alright, today's pheatured guest is a Phile Alum and a Bristish blues legend whose two latest albums "Ruff'n'Roar" and "Shake It Up!" are both available on iTunes. Please welcome back to the Phile... Mick Clarke.

Me: Mick! Welcome back to the Phile, sir. How have you been?

Mick: Very well thank you... keeping busy.

Me: Okay, you're from England like I am... Surrey if I remember correctly, am I right?

Mick: We live in the beautiful Surrey countryside down towards the Sussex border. It's great, but we're currently fighting off hoards of property developers who see the green fields as ideal places to build housing estates. Life is never simple.

Me: You said last time you were here you lived in L.A. for a year. What made you do that?

Mick: This was in 1979 and I'd been a professional musician since about 1968, playing in bands such as Killing Floor and SALT. So I'd done quite a lot of work all over the U.K. and Europe and seen different styles of rock come and go, but by the end of the 70s it felt as though that whole scene was over in Britain. Punk had come in in about '77 and then "new wave" and there was no market for long haired blues rockers. Los Angeles sounded like an exciting new adventure. However what I found was a lot of pop rock bands doing showcases on Sunset Strip trying to get record deals, and I didn't find much that I could fit in with. In those days there wasn't much blues happening in L.A., though I did get to see Paul Butterfield, John Hammond and a few others. I nearly joined Badfinger, who were living there and had a new album coming out, but that didn't work out. So a year later I moved back, which was quite hard, because there was no doubt that life in L.A. was easier in many ways. London at that time was still pretty grey and depressing. But they brightened it up considerably over the following few years, in the 80s, and it's a lot different now. After a few years I started the Mick Clarke Band and ended up doing a lot of work in Europe, so I think I did the right thing. Plus of course getting married and having a happy life here.

Me: Do you get to come over to the states often?

Mick: Not these days. I did a bunch of tours back in the 80s and 90s and made a lot of friends, mainly in the north west, Portland, Oregon area. But I never came home with any money! And then there would be six weeks of bills waiting for me, so it wasn't easy. When things started picking up in Europe for us I concentrated on that.

Me: Okay, you knew my dad, right? You opened for Foghat here in the states. When was that and was he aware of you do you know?

Mick: That was in the 80s and we opened for him a couple of times, once in Portland and once in Olympia, Washington. Nice guy... I remember a smiley face coming in to the dressing room to say hello. He would have probably known of me as a member of Killing Floor. We'd known Rod Price a bit... I think he played with a band called Black Cat Bones who were always busy on the same circuit as Killing Floor. And I have a vague memory of dropping by at a Foghat rehearsal, when they were preparing to go to the states for the first time. I think at the time they were called Brandywine... is that right?

Me: Yeah, Brandywine and Black Cat Bones was the band Rod was in.

Mick: At the time I thought "why would you want to go to the states"... I thought that the U.K. was the centre of everything in those days. Clearly I was a little short sighted!

Me: Ha. Foghat did a version of "It Hurts Me Too" a few times, and that is one of my favorite blues songs, and you did a gray version in the past.

Mick: Well, so many songs in blues are 12 bar, 1-4-5 format, so it's nice to find a good song that's different. "It Hurts Me Too" (or "It Hurts My Toe" as it was rechristened in South London) is an 8 bar, and it's a great song. I still play it occasionally, and I've written a few 8 bar blues of my own which I also play. I like to include one 8 bar song on every gig, just as a change from the 12s. They can be a bit more melodic.

Me: Mick, you have been recording for a long time... when did you first decide you wanna be a musician?

Mick: I was over at a friend's house in London, around 1963... still at school. There were a couple of other friends over and they were having a kind of jam... acoustic guitar, harmonica, maracas...  probably trying to play some Bo Diddley or something like that. And I just liked the idea of getting together and making music... it seemed exciting!

Me: Have you always been into the blues?

Mick: I'd grown up with the development of "beat" music in the U.K. When I first became a teenager bands like the Beatles and the Stones were just appearing. All those bands played a lot of what we then called R&B... they were playing a lot of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed... and then a few bands started specialising in the bluesier end of the spectrum, bands like Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, and my tastes gravitated towards them. Through them I heard about people such as B.B. King, Otis Rush...

Me: Do you remember what the first song you leant to play was?

Mick: That's easy... the Shadows' "Apache." Because if you play it in the key of G, you can play the first four notes on open strings without having to actually put a finger down on a fret. And once you've played that one, difficult, fretted note, the next five notes are also open strings. Then you just repeat the whole thing. So voila! You've played several bars of a real song with minimal effort. After that it gets a bit tricky.

Me: As a kid did you go to the clubs in London to see any bands such as Savoy Brown?

Mick: Certainly. We lived in a pretty boring suburb to the South West, but you could get on a Northern Line tube train and half an hour later step out into a different world... the West End of London, with clubs such as The Marquee and 100 Club. I loved it. Actually my introduction to the blues world came to me... John Mayall's Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton came and played at my school fete, in a marquee right next to my house. So I got an early lesson in how it should be done. There was also a great little club in a pub called the Nags Head in Battersea, South London, where I used to go and see bands including Savoy Brown and Black Cat Bones, who at that time featured a young Paul Kossoff on guitar. The Nags Head was great because it was so small and intimate. My best memories are of seeing the early Fleetwood Mac there, and really seeing Peter Green develop as a great blues guitarist in front of my eyes, just a few feet away. One time the band I was with, Cliff Charles Blues played the interval spot there, using their gear. Peter Green complimented me afterwards, and I can't tell you how much that meant to me!

Me: You started off in the same year I was born in the band Killing Floor. Do you guys still play together?

Mick: Yes, we got back together a few years back and have recorded a couple of new albums, "Zero Tolerance" and "Rock'n'Roll Gone Mad." Some tracks on "Zero Tolerance" have the complete 1968 five piece line-up, which is something that few other bands could boast. However my friend Lou Martin sadly died a few years ago... much missed. We played a few festival dates around Europe, which were a lot of fun, the last being Sweden Rock festival in 2012, which we did as a four piece. The four of of us are very close friends, although we're scattered all over Europe. One in Wales, one in Switzerland. But I think all the stuff that we went through back in the 60s, hard as it was, gave us a kind of a bond. I hope we can do some more work together some time.

Me: Killing Floor was Freddie King's back up band, and you even played with the great Howlin' Wolf. Where you nervous when you first met those two, Mick?

Mick: We'd met Freddie before, when we opened for him once on a previous tour, so we kind of knew him. The trouble was we couldn't always understand him, as he spoke with a strong gutteral Texas accent and used expressions we weren't familiar with. For example he'd say, "Hi man, what's happening'." Not being familiar with this as a casual greeting we would carefully and meticulously explain to him exactly what was happening at the time! He gave us some funny looks. Of course he was a wordly 33-year-old and we were... well I was 19 and about as green as any kid could be. So he probably felt he was working with a bunch of children, but he was always extremely polite and easy to work with. Wolf was of course known for a being a bit grumpy, but we had a few chats, with Freddie usually around and some alcohol involved. Bill, our singer, had the job of escorting him to a few gigs, so probably had a chance to chat more. I think he felt that Wolf was pretty badly treated by the agent, so they probably had a lot in common! Lou told me that one time Wolf was having a moan about white people not being able to play the blues, and Freddie gestured over to me and said, "You can't tell me that guy can't play the blues." Excuse me blowing my own trumpet again, but as they say, you can't take that away from me.

Me: My dad used to go to all the blues shows in London back then so I am sure he would of seen you. Anyway, did you do a lot of rehearsals back then or was it "here's the set list and good luck"? 

Mick: We over rehearsed! Killing Floor's whole take on the blues was that we wanted to take the original songs and arrange them in our own way, adding riffs and little changes that would make them interesting and different. Which was great to an extent, and I think we did come up with some interesting stuff, but the thing about blues, as I've learned since, is that you've got to feel free and just play from the heart. That's hard to do when you're never more than a few bars from a break or a key change! So really we could have loosened up a bit. We didn't want to be like some British bands who were obsessed with trying to sound exactly like the originals, so I think we had the right idea but we just needed to let the music breathe a little more. But there... it took me a long time to learn. Even in the 80s, when the Mick Clarke Band was touring in the states, we had a lot of arrangements in the music. We played with Johnny Winter, and my friend Dangerous Dave, the harp player, asked him what he thought of us. He said he thought we were good but too arranged... and he was right. Now, it's just a jam. The set list is vague and the music will go wherever it goes. Loose and sloppy sometimes (speaking for myself) but always real, and I think it's better for it.

Me: So, you have a band now called The Mick Clarke band... who is on the band and how did you all meet?

Mick: Well, it has changed line ups a few times over the last thirty years! The first line up was the remains of SALT, Len Davies on bass and Ron Berg (Blodwyn Pig) on drums, with Lou on piano when possible. These days we're a basic three piece, usually with Chris Sharley (Sassaffrass) on drums, who first joined the band in the early 90s, and Eddie Masters on bass. Sometimes we augment with Dangerous Dave on harp or Dave Lennox on keyboards. So every gig is a bit different really, and I think it stays fresh.

Me: Your guitar playing is really unique, Mick. Is there anybody you are influenced by or do you just do your own thing?

Mick: That's nice of you to say... I'd like to agree, but I know where the influences came from, and they're all fairly mainstream. Clapton was a big one for a start. But I think Freddie's influence was also huge, much greater than I realised at the time. And then a bit of Rory's attitude and aggression, plus influences from all of the great players... particularly Otis Rush, B.B., and a fair dollop of Billy Gibbons! Love that stuff! And I try get a bit of Mick Clarke in there somehow too. On the slide I originally liked Ry Cooder and Lowell George... then when I played with my band the style developed into a kind of rocked up Muddy Waters approach. These days I try to get it as rough and raw sounding as I can... back to a kind of Hound Dog Taylor or JB Hutto approach. All the young players now sound like Derek Trucks which is great, but I prefer to look back to a more abrasive style.

Me: Do you like playing lead, slide, or rhythm the best?

Mick: Y'know I love playing rhythm! Very satisfying if you can just lock into the drums and get it get it tight. Rhythm is so important. Many times when we've been recording the whole track has come together when I've gone back to it and added a good tight rhythm guitar. But also it shouldn't be too perfect. I remember putting the rhythm guitar on "Talking With The Blues" back in the 90s, and it was good but a bit dull. And Nick Robbins, the engineer, said, "Play it like you were 19 years old." so I tried to think myself into the part, loosen up and give it a bit of teenage recklessness and it came out great!

Me: What about acoustic?

Mick: Well, I've never been much good at that finger style thing, and I don't even own a high quality acoustic guitar, so I think I'll leave it to others. Rory was great on acoustic. Maybe that's something I'll get round to... I can see myself when I'm 80 playing nice tasteful stuff on an acoustic... maybe, who knows?

Me: You mostly play a 1963 Gibson SG Standard, which is what Rod Price played in Foghat. Shit, I hope that's right. Anyway, what do you like best about that guitar?

Mick: Yes, that's my guitar, which I call Gnasher. I think, though it's a long time ago, that the first guitar I saw Rod with was a Gibson Melody Maker, which was interesting because I hadn't seen many around. And I remember he got a nice sound out of it. In the photos he appears to be playing a couple of SGs... don't know which years or whatever.

Me: Here's a picture of Rod playing his SG...

Me: My dad always like the Gibson Junior. Here's a pic of my dad... haha.

Mick: Yes, a Les Paul Junior I believe... a very raunchy little guitar. And it looks like he replaced the original P90 pickup with a humbucker. I had a similar guitar when Killing Floor started... an SG Junior, also with one P90. Again, a very fiery instrument which I wish I still had, but I couldn't afford to collect guitars in those days so it had to be traded in.

Me: So, have you collected many guitars over the years?

Mick: Not as many as my counterparts in the states probably have... they're too expensive here. As I said, my SG Junior had to go so I could buy Freddie King's big old 345 from him. Unfortunately that had to go too because I couldn't get on with it, so I traded for the 1963 SG Standard. I also had a Strat which had to go to buy some speaker cabs! My favourite guitars, apart from Gnasher, are a 60s Danelectro 3022 which is just lovely to play and has an amazing bell like tone, which can get really raunchy with a bit of tweaking. I also acquired an Epiphone 335 and put Parsons Green pickups on... supposed to be identical to the original Gibson humbuckers. Anyway it records nicely and I enjoy playing it. For slide I use a Korean Squire Strat with Fender Texas Special pickups, or sometimes on record I play slide on the Danelectro.

Me: Alright, before we talk about your latest releases I wanna ask you your opinion on a few different guitarists... ready? Chuck Berry?

Mick: Chuck! Whoa! The King of Rock 'n' Roll... the man. I only saw him once at a big concert in London, and what struck me was the subtlety of his tone... a surprisingly light touch. A great player and innovator.

Me: You recorded with him, am I right? What was cool or was he a pain? Haha.

Mick: No, that was probably one of the other Mick Clarkes out there. It can get a little confusing and frustrating, but I can't blame their mums for calling them Michael. Of course my friend Lou toured with Chuck and found him hugely amusing... lots of stories.

Me: Oh. Side note, what do you think of that song "My Ding-a-Ling"? When I was a kid I had that 45 and loved it. Hahahaha. I didn't know then it was about his penis.

Mick: Well, Chuck has a sense of humour and also likes to earn money! And I bet every time he's sung that song he sees the dollars rolling in. I see he has a Facebook page... you could drop him a line.

Me: Buddy Guy?

Mick: Fabulous. One of the only blues albums you could get when I was younger was "Folk Festival of the Blues" with Muddy, Buddy Guy, Wolf, Willie Dixon... a great live session (most of it). And there are a couple of stunning Buddy Guy solos on there which introduced him to a whole generation of players like myself. And I know it was a strong influence on E.C. You can hear him quoting from it sometimes in his solos.

Me: B.B. King?

Mick: Chairman of the Board. My favourite album was always "Blues is King" which I think you can now find as "Live at the International Club." The power and intensity of his playing on there is phenomenal... listen to "Nightlife" and it will make your knees weak.

Me: Slash?

Mick: I know very little about him. I know he can definitely play.

Me: Keith Richards?

Mick: Mr. Rock 'n' Roll. His solos can be a bit hard to listen to sometimes, but he is king of the rhythm guitar. A national treasure in my opinion.

Me: Kim Simmonds?

Mick: I got to play with Kim just once with the British Blues All Stars and I really enjoyed it. I just played a straight rhythm guitar behind him while he did all the hard work up front, although at one point we did some lead guitar trading. We did a few Savoy Brown numbers and it was great.

Me: Alright, I can ask you about a hundred different guitarists, but we have to talk about your music. Let's talk about your latest live album "Ruff 'n' Roar." Most of the songs on that CD you never released before, am I right?

Mick: Not sure, about 50 / 50 I suppose. I'd done a version of "Happy Home" on the duo album with Lou Martin, but this one's with the band, a straight ahead Elmore type slide shuffle. Other songs were things that I've played many times on stage but never actually recorded. Then there's "Cheap" which is a kind of dirty ZZ Top kind of shuffle, which I've actually recorded a couple of times before.

Me: How did you choose which songs to put on the album?

Mick: I didn't! They were just the songs I decided to play on that night. I keep a record of set lists, so I when I went back to play that club I tried to pick mainly songs that I hadn't played there the time before.

Me: Is it hard for you to make a set list? I am guessing your set list changes all the time.

Mick: I do give it a lot of thought. Because if you get it wrong and peak too soon it can feel terribly lonely up there, and the last half hour can feel like an age! I try to build in some flexibility so I can change things around as I go if I need to.

Me: It was recorded at Scratchers. Where is that?

Mick: Scratchers is at the Three Lions pub in Farncombe, which is just near Godalming in Surrey. (Which is south of London by the way, for those not familiar with the U.K). We first played there back in the eighties and it was always good. In those days the audience used to sit cross legged on the floor! We were all a bit younger then. But it's still a good place to play and it's only about twenty minutes from where I live.

Me: I love your last studio album "Shake It Up!" Is it mostly covers or originals?

Mick: All originals. I was trying out a few feels that I hadn't really done before, like some funky stuff (or at least my idea of it). And some straight ahead slow blues which I hadn't done much of on record.

Me: I bet you can do a fucking killer version of Foghat's "Night Shift," "Stone Blue," or "Drivin' Wheel." What do you think? Next album maybe?

Mick: Yeah, these tracks take me back to the 70s... I was probably listening to them on the radio in L.A. in 1979, and it's the kind of style I was recording in the 80s and 90s. When I find the energy to do another full tilt blues rock album I'll bear them in mind!

Me: When you write what comes first, the lyrics or the music?

Mick: Usually the music... a good riff is a good start. Then if that suggests a title I go from there.

Me: Is there a favorite song you have ever recorded, Mick?

Mick: Always the next one... it's gonna be great!

Me: So, how did you choose "Shake It Up!" to be the title track?

Mick: Will the title attract sales? But I also knew that "Shake It Up!" would be an easy track for radio stations to play... short and lively. I sound very cold and calculating don't I? But it's no use making records if they never get heard or bought by anyone.

Me: I love the song "Blues Start Walkin'." There's so many songs with "walkin" and "blues" in the title. That's an original? Vaguely I think John Mayall did a version. I could be so wrong though. 

Mick: That's great... thank you. Yes, it's an original, based around the "Key to the Highway" sequence. No, I don't think Mr. Mayall has recorded it though he's most welcome if he fancies it. I like the lyric though... when the blues starts walking it's gonna walk all over you. Well, very true, when the blues does hit you you're gonna know all about it.

Me: So, did you know Don Nix? He wrote "Goin Down." I know he worked with Freddie King.

Mick: No, we worked with Freddie well before he recorded that song.

Me: The music business was so different back then, wasn't it?

Mick: Yes, I think agents and record companies were the establishment in those days. There were set ways of writing contracts and the naive young artists were not supposed to understand the business... just sign here and be grateful for whatever you get. Certainly agents and record companies that I worked with later were much more artist friendly, much simpler contracts and fairer all round. And of course, now the artist has taken a lot more control with the internet.

Me: Do you prefer recording or playing live the best, Mick?

Mick: I really enjoy recording. Of course playing live has a certain buzz which can't be replicated in any other way. But it can be hard, and most of the time when I'm on stage I'm worrying about whether I'm getting it right... am I playing well, too loud, not loud enough, what's coming next, what the hell are the lyrics to this verse that I've just started singing, is the audience still there? That kind of thing. I usually don't really enjoy the gig until the next day, when I can sit back and think well we all got home safely, nothing got lost or stolen, and we got paid. And hopefully we played okay. So yes, I really enjoy recording. I love to go into a real studio with an experienced engineer and do it properly. But I also love recording here in my home studio, because I can go in and do a bit whenever I feel inspired, and I can muck about with things for as long as I need to. I've done the last few studio albums all by myself, so I've taught myself a bit of keyboarding and drumming. It's a lot of fun to do and with a few studio tricks it doesn't sound too bad. I've just done a version of the old Patsy Cline song "Sweet Dreams" in a similar style to the great Roy Buchanan. I love Buchanan's version and initially I didn't think I would have the nerve to approach such a classic, but I also wanted to hear the song played in a more straight ahead way, sticking more to the melody. So the great thing now is that if I want to hear something I can go and make it myself. The same day that I finished mixing it I took a photo of the sunset for the artwork and the next morning put the track out as a download single. I love that immediacy that we have now. I think it's a bit like the real old days when Elvis would have recorded a new single in an evening and a week later it was in the shops all over Tennessee. Full circle.

Me: I looked at your bio and one thing surprised the shit out of me... you recorded with Cliff Richard?! What was that experience like?

Mick: Read it again.. Cliff Bennett! Mind you I did meet Hank Marvin once... very nice chap. Cliff Bennett is a great blues and soul singer, one of the best. Probably best remembered for 60s hits with "The Rebel Rousers" but we had a really good blues rock band together... Toefat (Mark 3).

Me: Oh, well, my mum used to date Cliff before he was Cliff... when they were teenagers. He was Harry Webb back then. She also dated Brian Jones and Noel Edmonds. Half my American readers won't know who those people are. Hahahaha.

Mick: Brian Jones and Noel Edmonds? She moved in very varied circles.

Me: Ever wonder why Cliff Richards never made it big here in the states?

Mick: Cliff I think would love to be more real rock'n'roll, but he just ain't! He is what he is, a great pop singer and all rounder... he did have a big hit over there at one time, "We Don't Talk Any More" so I don't really know why he couldn't capitalise more on it. Ask an American.

Me: I will, and that was his big hit over here. Alright, so, this is an easy question for you but I am asking my Alum this year as this is the Phile's tenth anniversary year what they were doing 10 years ago... what were you doing in 2006? Playing the blues I am sure. Haha.

Mick: Running around all over Southern England looking at houses, because we wanted to move out of London. Also, I think, recording the "Solid Ground" album which came out the following year, and we would have done a few festivals... maybe Switzerland, France, Sweden.

Me: Mick, thanks so much for being back on the Phile. I hope this was fun again and you'll come back when your next CD comes out. Are you currently working on anything?

Mick: An album of instrumentals... two down about ten more to go.

Me: Plug your website and please come back soon. I am a HUGE fan, sir. All the best.

Mick: Thanks a lot, Jason... or come and like the Facebook page at Thanks again, and keep rockin'.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Mick Clarke for a great interview. The Phile will be back next Sunday with young singer-songwriter Alicia Rae. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is the best!