Interview: Anthony Gomes
Staying Tuned with Anthony Gomes
By The Wire Megazine Volunteer Contributor and Photojournalist Deb Draper
TALKING MUSIC, HIS LATEST ALBUM, CHARITY AND HUGH’S ROOM MARCH 19TH
Good afternoon Anthony, what a thrill it is for this volunteer photojournalist, of The Wire Megazine to sit down with Billboards #1 Blues Guitarist, Anthony Gomes.
“A very talented guitarist…..where did that voice come from” BB King
1. Q) What does it feel like to be acknowledged by the King of the Blues?
A) “It’s pretty surreal. BB gave me my start in so many ways. Interestingly enough I went to college at University of Toronto, downtown. On Thursday nights on Queen Street West, there was a bar called Chicago’s, it’s not there anymore, sort of near the Black Bull in that area but, on the other side of the street and there was a Thursday night jam. Chicago’s was a small room maybe you could get 60 people upstairs and it was filled, you know this was 20-25 years ago, so Queen Street was maybe even less hip then it is now and a lot more colorful. There was a bunch in there and I would play and they would give me a beer for playing and sometimes they would give me 2 free beers and that was like a million dollars when you were in college, so I would go and sit in and I would play. This gentlemen came up to me and said, “It is great that a young man is into the Blues, who’s your favorite guitar player? “ I (Anthony) said, “oh that is easy, BB King”. Gentlemen said, “ I thought so, I want you to know that I am BB King’s bus driver, and he’s performing tomorrow in Kitchener, and I want you to come to the show and meet BB King”. Now, you have to realize that when I arrived, BB was sitting next to the Pope and next to President of the United States. I had no idea if this gentleman was actually lying or off his rocker, but, he was telling the truth and low and behold, I met BB and he was a wonderful mentor. I had a lot of opportunities to play with him and he wasn’t just kind to me, he was kind to everybody and he was a wonderful ambassador for the Blues. He said a lot of great things about a lot of beautiful people, and I am just happy to be included in that list. ”
You were born in Toronto on May 14, 1970.
2. Q) What is it like to perform in your hometown with a sea of familiar faces in the audience?
A) “Oh man, it’s great, and not only familiar faces but, faces that were there in the formative years. Some of my teachers from high school and primary school still come out. It’s unlike any gig I play you know. I live in St. Louis now so I don’t get to see these people all the time and they were very important folks in my life and still I stay in touch thru social media. It’s just so great to look out there and wow, this person taught me English and they are coming to a show 25 years later, it’s so surreal. It’s great and always wonderful to have family, some of my friends that I made since school, that I am still friends with some of these folks. You get all sorts of friends in life but, there’s no friends like your friends that were there while growing up and cutting your teeth. It’s such a wonderful thing. So, there’s a lot of love in the room, a lot of great feeling and a lot of anticipation, it’s exciting. ”
3. Q) With residing in the “Home of The Blues”, St. Louis Missouri, is there a different feel to your creative process when writing in Ontario versus the USA?
A) “No because, I would say that you are connected. The only thing is, experiences can impact you but, thus, influencing your art, but, I think that I am a Canadian in St. Louis, or I’m a Canadian in Toronto, or I’m a Canadian in Rome, no matter where I am, I’m Canadian and I write with that perspective. I think Canada is such an advanced and civilized country and in terms of healthcare and tolerance, inclusion and celebrating diversity and finding unity, all these things have been a corner stone of my music. I think that being Canadian is what has set me apart from my contemporaries in a positive way. So I am Canadian no matter where I go. ”
4. Q) Have you seen or felt a major shift or change in music today compared to 1998 when your career rocketed forward?
A) “There were significant changes since 1998. Artists used to essentially make half their revenue from album sales and the other half from touring revenue. You used to tour in support of an album, now it’s the exact opposite, you put an album out to support a tour and very little revenue is generated from album sales, maybe 10%. Some bands like U2 have to tour a lot more frequently. I read an article where Metallica said, they have to tour every year in order to keep up their standard of living. Where before in the 90s they wouldn’t have to do that. So it affects everybody from the top grossing artists to the up and coming acts and all points in between, that is a big difference. ”
5. Q) With numerous nominations, awards, accolades and 12 albums, can you tell your fans what your song “The Blues Ain’t The Blues No More”refers to?
A) “In a lot of ways, in the blues world, in the little tiny blues box, I am not talking about being a blues artists in a big box of music. In the little blues box there is a group of people called the “Blues Police” and sometime they are referred to as the “Blues Nazis” in reference to Jerry Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. (we laughed). The Blues Police, are very resistant to change and they like to think of themselves as the taste makers of what actual blues is. In this box, artists like myself are seen as destroying the Blues. In a lot of ways people look at me as a villain in this little blues box and they look at me that way because I’m bringing in rock influences and I am bringing in a Canadian perspective and I don’t fit the stereotype of the blues. I started off as a young man, I’m in my 40’s now, I am white and I am Canadian. Being Canadian and white, as I joke saying, “ it’s like being white twice“. Then you see posters of the blues festivals and it’s usually and African American or an older gentlemen playing a beat up raggedy acoustic guitar and I may look a little more like Jeff Beck then I may look like Muddy Waters. So, for these Blues Police, they have a real hard time with that. The songs are 2 sided in some ways and I am preaching what they are preaching, “The Blues Ain’t The Blues No More”. I really miss Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, I miss BB King. When these artists played their music, even well into their senior years, and they played it with fire and passion, that was incredible because they were the architects of that sound. Even though time had passed and there was maybe a new generation of musicians, they attacked their style like it was fresh and new. But, when you get new artists trying to imitate that sound, I sort of refer to them as war rein-actors, where they all dress up, they know all the battles, but, it’s not real or it is like a Star Wars convention, as they can pretend they are Chewbacca or Darth Vader and it’s great but, it’s not based on reality or in the here and now. To me, music has to be based on the here and now, and the blues that some people perceive is not what the blues is. It is what it is in 2016 and BB King said it best, “the blues are like the law of the land, they need to be amended to fit the times we live in” and HERACLITUSsaid, “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.“ You see, one instant later, its constantly changing, so I’m embracing the change. I’m being unapologetic in my approach to saying yes, I love Muddy Waters and yes, I love Deep Purple and the DNA of the blues is in Rock n Roll and the 2 can coexist and we can blur the lines. ”
6. Q) Who are your influences and does your performance style model anyone specific?
A) “You know, it’s funny. When we opened up for BB it was strange as I started off in awe of BB and the more I got to hang out with him, he felt more like my African American Grandfather. We would just talk about everyday life, how are you doing? Great. How are things going? We would be talking food or something and I would have to remind myself, in middle of conversation, (Anthony WHISPERS), “This is BB King!” I try to play styles from many people, for the guitar like BB King, Albert King, Freddy King, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Archie Blackmore, just so many guitar wise. Vocal wise, I listen to a lot of R & B like Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, and of course BB King. Also, I listen to Rock guys, Paul Rogers from Bad Company and Rod Stewart etc. ”
7. Q) Music Is the Medicine Foundation www.musicisthemedicine.orgformed by you in 2010, and is a non-profit organization that has made a positive impact on the lives of others thru the healing power of music. Music is the Medicine Foundation has helped children with cancer, young adults with Autism, War Veterans with PTSD. Please tell your fans what other awesome things your foundation has done?
A) “We have teamed up with Apple and created the 1st IPOD library at St Jude’s mid-west to help kids cope when they are undergoing treatment. 100% of the money raised goes directly to these programs, it’s a humble foundation, small and an effective “Agent of Change. “
8. Q) Electric Field Holler is your 12th album, take us on a tour of this album?
A) “EFH is celebrating its one year anniversary with lots of accolades and is the strongest release of the dozen albums, a feeling like you hit the mark. “TURN IT UP” is the mission statement of the album and for a bunch of albums were going to make from here on in. The idea is we are blues rock unapologetic, you don’t like it there’s the door. Turn it up to 11 and ask for forgiveness later. Proud of the direction, feels like we are head spearing a revolution it’s ok to be a blues rocker, it’s ok to love Muddy Waters and Deep Purple it’s all good. “
“Back Door Scratchin” We’re always being too serious about our lyrics, in ways I tried to be too serious and ignore some of the funnier songs and BDS is one of those songs and same with Red Handed Blues, another on the funnier side so I’ve allowed myself the luxury of not being serous all the time.
“Whiskey Train” and we tried to do the song on albums “Up to Zero” and tried to do it on “Before the Beginning” and the song was just hanging out there and we stumbled on that riff that is now on the version you here. It all came together real fast. Really excited about that.
“Blues Child” was an idea of being a bluesman, you could be a blues child. You are born to play the blues, I wrote that song with a young man, Tallan Noble Latz, who’s a very talented blues guitar player and singer. He was 11 when we wrote it, in many ways it’s AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL for myself and it just felt natural to do this song on this record. The idea is that blues had a baby and called it rock n roll. So to me, rock n roll is a blues child and you still have the DNA of the blues in ya, so really blues and rock we’re trying to blur the lines and I think like that in many ways when you look at the title in that way it makes a lot of sense.
“Nowhere Is Home”, that song means a lot , it’s a plight of homeless children as there are a million homeless kids in America, they are going to bed hungry, and we are not talking about Africa, not talking about 3rd world countries, we are talking about in our own backyard. Maybe this song will inspire us to make a change.
“Love Crazy” is one of those poppy songs, the thing I really dig about it is, we tried a little left of center with the groove and the drum fills. I really think it takes it home on this song.
“Listen to the Universe” is my favorite lyric on this album, it’s about life and death and all the points in between. It’s soul searching and I don’t know what he answers are, well I think I do, but, I don’t want to share them, as I feel this song is open to everyone’s own interpretation. Just because I may have written it, doesn’t mean that subconsciously there are things I don’t realize about what the song really means. I intuitively feel it and we all feel it, if it really resins in the right way, so your interpretation is equally as valid as mine. “Art is greater than the artist” or greater then maybe the artists intention, but art is only true art if it has intention and it certainly does, both consciously and unconsciously.
9. Q) What can we expect from your March 19th 830pm hometown Toronto performance at Hugh’s Room at 2261 Dundas Street West?
A) “March 19 Hugh’s Room is almost a sold out blues rock extravaganza. An honest music exchange between 2 parties that are there to celebrate music. A celebration of life high energy show. “
10. Q) I heard you have titled your next album, Peace Love and Guitars, that has not been released as of yet. When are you to release?
A) “It is actually, “Peace Love and Loud Guitars”. We are aiming for early next year 2017, as my 12th album Electric Field Holler is still doing well, and still charting on the radio in the USA, few weeks ago, it was #2 on the Blues Rock charts in U.S., so we can’t very well put out another album, while this one still has legs. “
Visit www.hughsroom.comfor tickets and reservations for the March 19th Anthony Gomes magical musical show, starting at 830pm at 2261 Dundas Street West Toronto.