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ROCKWIRED INTERVIEWS JAY GORDON

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL THING!
JAY GORDON TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT THE CD 'GOLD RINGS SILVER BULLETS'
AN EDUCATION IN THE BLUES
AND THAT BEAUTIFUL THING CALLED MUSIC

http://www.rockwired.com/jaygordon.jpg
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH

I remember talking with someone about blues music at a party years and years ago. We named off our respective favorites (mine being Muddy Waters and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown). Somewhere in the discussion, we started speculating if anyone was doing anything new with the Blues. Every now and then, you get rockers turning their amps down to make earnest yet contrived "blooze" efforts, and guitar great Eric Clapton comes around every now and then for a sincere offering, when he's not pre-occupied with Adult Contemporary music. There was nowhere to end this conversation. It ended with a question mark. However, upon receiving JAY GORDON AND THE PENETRATORS' latest CD 'GOLD RINGS SILVER BULLETS', I think I found my answer to the question of who is taking blues into different direction. "(Growing up) You had Hendrix, you had Stevie Ray Vaughan and you had Clapton; I grew up listening to all of those guys and a long, long time ago I decided to really be an original," says Gordon. "The most important thing is to be yourself with the music. You've got to get as much out of music as you can put into it. You've got to take it somewhere else other than sounding like someone else. Whether you're singing or playing your own instrument, you've got to be your own man and focus on being yourself."

GOLD RINGS SILVER BULLETS is not your usual Blues-fair. This isn't blues on the order of 'My baby done left me!'. Jay Gordon's music is the music of survival. It's all about keeping your head held high despite whatever the world may be throwing at you. It's hard to believe that such a beautifully gritty sound can come from just six little strings and five fingers. Guitar pyrotechnics aside; what makes GOLD RINGS AND SILVER BULLETS a success is the songwriting - something that the Blues is not always known for. "This record, the words are very colorful and you can utilize them in such a manner to where you can create a story through them."  says Gordon. "That's what I tried doing with this record."

ROCKWIRED recently had the privilege of speaking to Jay Gordon over the phone. Here is how it went.

GOLD RING SILVER BULLETS is a great CD!
Thanks man! I 'm proud of that album. I think it's the best album that I've done.

And you've released nine of them in your career.
Yeah. This one is the tenth. There are six tracks off of the ninth album that I added on this one and I added ten new songs but it's really a brand new album because the six tracks that I'm talking about were released on an album called SIX STRING OUTLAW. It was released on a French label out of Paris . It was voted “Best Blues Rock Release” in 2004 but the label didn't have proper distribution in the States so a lot of people never heard that record and I felt that it wasn't promoted properly for an award-winning record. The album had a lot of merit. However, six songs from that album have found there way onto this one and now we've got one great album.

On the other albums, you're referred to as the JAY GORDON BAND, but this time, your band is THE PENETRATORS. Is this a new band?
Normally when I release albums, I just use Jay Gordon. I made eight albums with my name and one album with the Jay Gordon Band. With this record, the bass player John Schayer has been with me for ten years and we just wanted to give the band a name, you know? People know who I am, but now it's time for me to let other people in on things and make everybody feel a lot more comfortable and make the whole thing more like a family. I thought The Penetrators was a cool name. John came up with it and we talked about it and kicked it around and we were like 'Yeah, man! That'll work! It'll be a little different.' It puts a little sizzle on it. You know what I mean?

Great CD cover by the way.
Yeah. People look at that and they like it, but they've got different comments on it.

Originally you're from Charlotte , North Carolina .

I was born there and by the time I was a year old, my mother did not like it there so she took me to Chicago , and I really grew up in Chicago my whole life. I consider Chicago my hometown even though I haven't lived there in a long time.

You were influenced by that whole blues scene there.

When I was a kid all I heard was lot of jazz and blues and gospel music. My grandmother played piano and was a big blues aficionado and jazz aficionado and that was all I heard. My ears were geared for the Blues right off the bat. And I liked it. It was different. I really didn't quite understand it but it got to me somehow. When you're that young, you really don't understand anything. I dig the music a lot and as time went on; my first instrument was piano and accordion. My grandmother showed me all of the chords and taught me music theory when I was really young. It was fun and I dug it but I was more partial to strings and to the guitar. I picked the guitar up at nine and I started emulating Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson and all of the acoustic blues cats that were really famous. I was very intrigued by the sound of one guy that would make the guitar sound like two or three guys, especially when they were playing bottleneck slide guitar. At the age of nine I played in open tunings like Open G and Open a, Open D, and E and I did that for a long time. When you first start playing, you learn by trying to emulate. As time went on, when you're 13, 14 or 15 years old and putting together your bands, most white kids didn't understand where I was coming from because I wanted to play the blues, so I wound up playing in cover bands and rock n roll bands doing Beatles, ‘Stones and ‘Sabbath stuff, you know?

Yeah.
But I always stuck with the Blues. Even to this day, the blues is my favorite music. I feel that it's kind of been worn out because a lot of cats play it in the traditional manner and they don't really step out of the boundaries with it as much as I would like to see happen with it. So that's were I come in. You had Hendrix, you had Steve Ray Vaughn and you had Clapton, and I grew up listening to all of those guys and a long, long time ago I decided to really be an original. The most important thing is to be you with the music. You've got to get as much out of music as you can put into it. You've got to take it somewhere else other than sounding like someone else. Whether you're singing or playing your own instrument, you've got to be your own man and focus on being yourself. But still to this day, when people hear my records they always put you in a box and compare you to other guitar players and all that which is fine but I believe I stand on my own merit.

I've played all types of instruments, man. My mother was always very kind to me buying me all kinds of musical instruments. I think I drove the woman crazy. One week I'd want a bass, a piano, a guitar, a saxophone, a flute, and a violin. I actually played violin for a little bit. I really wish I had stuck with it.  I don't know how many times you've actually listened to the record but there are times where I'm soloing you'll hear things that are like violin arpeggios. I'm just trying to put out the best music that I can put out. It's not just about me. When you make a record it becomes everyone elses’. You've got to please yourself first but it's the people that buy your records and support your music and the band that I have is a people band. It pulsates, it resonates, and so does life. Life has its own heartbeat and so does music.

From what I've read you started playing clubs really early.

I was playing bars. My grandmother would take me to all of these famous clubs when I was like nine or ten and that was really how I learned how to play. I was sitting in with people who were really good who could totally kick my ass. I would listen to records and slow down the speed of the album and watch people. I never really had lessons. For the first ten years that I played, I played by ear and then I did take some music lessons to learn theory and all of the scales and the modes and once you learn that, you're on your own. I believe that music comes out of you and it comes from a higher power. Not everyone can play music and I feel very blessed that I'm able to do that. I just think that the ear is a little more important than reading musical notation. Doing that bores me and it's like reading a hum-drum book.  As a kid I sat in with Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Etta James and all of the famous blues guys out of Chicago . I feel I was very lucky to be in their presence and to listen to such greatness. You know what I mean? If it wasn't for those cats I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. I've got to give credit where credit is due

One of the things that jumped out at me was the lyrics in these songs (on GOLD RINGS SILVER BULLETS). Is songwriting something you've always done?
Yes. I never really dug playing cover music at all. I was always a creative person. Even when I was 13 or 14 I was always writing a lot of poems. I wrote my first song when I was eleven. I 've been writing for years and writing all types of music from blues, rock, boogie, ballads, funk, fusion, that’s where it is. If you're going to be an artist, I feel that you have to be able to do it all. You have to be able to sing, be able to write, be able to play and you should be a sponge and soak up everything and utilize everything that comes into your head.

A lot of the lyrics don't have that sort of banality that a lot of blues songs typically do. Lyrically things are pretty strong if you get what I'm saying.

I understand. A lot of blues songs a very repetitious, in music and lyrical content. They're very simple and very dry. They don't use a lot of flash. One time I did an album with this Phillip Walker, this black blues guitar player and I wrote these songs for him and I got to know how he talked, how he acted, and how he viewed life. Those lyrics were real gut-bucket. This record, words are very colorful and you can utilize them in such a manner to where you can create a story through them. That's what I tried doing with this record.

And you did a good job.
Music is my life and I really don't believe in too much of anything else. Personally, I believe in love and trying to live life right and get through a world of madness. It's not easy for anyone to be alive right now, especially in today's world. Music was my escape as a child and as life goes on the guitar becomes your best friend and your whole world. You're able to escape to somewhere else through sound.

There are a couple of tracks off of GOLD RINGS SILVER BULLETS that I wanted to talk about. “Fire And Brimstone Boogie.”

It's a fun tune and it's upbeat. The lyrics are out there. It's about battling the demons within yourself. All of the songs are about sharing things that have happened to me and friends and things that have happened in everyday life.

“Let It Ring.”

Actually, at the time I wrote that song - there are a few lines in that song about raising the dead. There was a period in my life where I went through a lot of sadness and death. It was kind of about making a connection with the dead.

“Original Sin” is a great track
.
Thanks man! The whole album I like but as far as the blues, I think that one is a stellar track and everyone who listens to it is like "wow!" It goes back to the beginning of time. We're all born in sin and sometimes music, even though it's the greatest thing in the world it could be a sin to your life. For the majority of times in my life, it has helped me get through things but at other times, you can get the blues from it.

“Propaganda.”

If you listen to that song, it's to that guy that's calling himself a President. You turn on the TV, listen to the news and its all propaganda. They feed you what they want you to see and hear. This is supposed to be a free world and you’re supposed to feel free to do things but at the same time people are getting in trouble for what they are saying. You have to be very careful especially when you're in the public eye and want to play music.

What's the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Listen. It's the best advice in life and the best advice in music.