Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted on Mar 9th 2010 5:01PM by Robert Evans
You've played with some of the biggest stars in modern popular music, who have influenced generations of musicians. So what were some of your influences?
Well, it's because we didn't have any bluesmen in England. It's a strange thing. Someone asked me, "How come you found the blues; how did you latch on to it?" Really, the answer was because it was hard to find there. In England, there was no source, it was so alien, as soon as you heard, well, as soon as I heard it, I wanted to hear more, I wanted to know where it came from, I wanted to know everything about it, I bought books. You'd go to jazz records stores in the West End of London and you'd find a Jimmy Reed album and say, "Wow, I've got to get that!" My first Muddy Waters album, I had to order; I went to this little record shop near Heathrow Airport and said, "I want to buy Muddy Waters live at Newport," and the clerk said there was no such thing. He got out this telephone book of records, and there it was. But it wasn't for sale in England; he had to import it, so it took a month or so to get it. I'd keep going back and buying everything. I'd look through his book for things like Howlin' Wolf, and certainly there it was. And because they were hard to find, they meant so much more, and when those artist came to England you didn't miss the opportunity to catch them.
That must have been expensive. How did you pay for all those import records?
I had a paper route, delivering papers in the morning and groceries in the evening. I was in art school, which gave me money for paint and brushes, but I squandered it and spent more on beer and records than paints and brushes.
Is that what you would have done instead of being a musician?
The very first band I was in, four out of five of us were in art school. And I was training to be a graphic artist, but I wouldn't have been any good. The funny thing is my hobby now is painting, which is what I do when I'm frustrated with the music scene -- I paint.
Do you still play on records?
I actually just worked on John Mayer's recent record. Sadly, that's what I do. I don't get as much satisfaction out of doing that, and nothing against John; he's a lovely guy. But I prefer to make my own records -- and paint -- because there's no boss. I am my own boss.
How would you describe the sound of your group?
I call it rhythm & blues, but that term -- R&B -- has been stolen. But I think that whether it's rock 'n' roll or rhythm & blues, it's soul in one way or another. It's hard to label anything now; there's so many genres ... It's not like "This is rock 'n' roll." All the influences are very apparent in my music, but that includes country, too, and I suppose folk. It involves everything. It's difficult, I could go on and on ... love songs [laughs].
How did you get the name "Bump Band?"
When I was cutting my second album, I was having trouble with one of the songs. The song is called 'So Lucky.' I was having trouble hitting the chorus -- I think it was a little high for me [to sing] -- so I left it unfinished in the studio one night and went home and climbed in bed. My wife woke up some hours later to me singing at the top of my voice, fast asleep, sitting up in bed. I don't even remember it. The next day, I was back in the studio and the artist Gary Panter was there to discuss with me about what were going to do about covers and about titles. I told him about this thing; I said, "It was like a bump in the night, like that Cornish prayer ['From ghoulies and ghosties/And long-leggedy beasties/And things that go bump in the night/Good Lord, deliver us!']." He liked that and went away and did a front and back cover that said, ' Bump In the Night' -- and that's how we became the Bump Band. Front cover shows me sitting up in bed, with sweat and music notes bouncing out of my head. Back cover is me setting up in bed from behind.
So then what's the craziest thing that's ever happened to you on tour?
I actually sleepwalk quite often. I was in hotel in London on tour with Billy Bragg and got out of bed, and I was going to the bathroom. But I opened up the wrong door and walked out into the corridor stark naked. I couldn't get back in my room and was still going for a pee, so I saw another door -- it was a fire escape -- and then that door slammed shut and I was out on the roof of the building on the fire escape. Since I had to pee, and it was raining anyway ... It was a flat roof and I walked along this fire escape/metal walkway. I could see the window to my room was open and it was only two feet away, and I somehow managed to climb back in it. Otherwise, I don't know what the hell I would have done.
Do you have a musical guilty pleasure?
Actually, there's a song at the moment that someone sent me a video of, and it's really bad. It's Russian from the '70s and it's a guilty pleasure because I laughed until I cried. It's a guy walking out onto a TV set with a full orchestra, wearing a suit and tie and what looks like to be a wig. There's no lyrics to the song; it's just la-la-la-la-la [then in deeper voice] la-la-la-la-la.
Beatles or Stones?
Stones! See, when the Beatles came out, I was in art school and they were getting all the press, I was watching the Stones every Sunday night just down the road. They were my band. I was about to leave art school, since I was spending more time in pubs than class, and I was actually booking the band and I was kind of the instigator of the band. The Beatles had this photograph that was over two pages of the four of them and it looked like they lipstick on; it was a black and white photo, but their lips looked a little dark. I had a theme at the end of term called "Exit Beatle." Then then Stones were playing R&B and blues, and they were just a cover band, really, but they were much more gritty than the Beatles, I thought. I loved the Beatles when they came out, but then it was like, "Oh, come on! Pretty boys in suits?" The Stones were much rougher. But I loved the Beatles, it's like Small Faces or the Who. I was a Who fan before I was a Small Faces fan.
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