or years, blues rock guitarist ALASTAIR GREENE has proven that one can find their passion in life, travel the world and make a decent coin. So what if you're not a household name? ROCKWIRED first became acquainted with the guy when he released his 2009 album WALKING IN CIRCLES. Ten years later, his reputation has gone beyond the Los Angeles Music scene with a series of releases that have demonstrated his passion for the blues and roots music while never failing to "rock the house". The most recent of his studio output is the 2017 album DREAM TRAIN where GREENE worked with producer DAVID Z and the man and his band's distinctive brand of blues rock was served up with some delectable seventies hard rock flourishes. Touring for the album has kept GREENE and his band busy, so it's no surprise that a live album was released on the heels of DREAM TRAIN. LIVE FROM THE 805 captures a band at the top of their game with electrifying performances from GREENE's formidable catalog and some choice covers thrown in to remind you that he's all about the blues. ROCKWIRED had a chance to catch up with ALASTAIR GREENE regarding his trio's latest live album. Here is how the interview went.
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It's fantastic getting to catch up with you! It's been a while, and now you've got this great new live album LIVE FROM THE 805 out. How do you feel about the finished work?
We're really proud of how it all came out! I've been wanting to do a live record for a while and now felt like the right time to do it. The band has been playing together for several years and we've amassed a pretty good collection of originals and covers. The album that came out before this one was called DREAM TRAIN and I thought that was one of the strongest records that I had ever put out, so I really wanted to keep the momentum going. I thought it would be a good idea to put a live album out so people could hear what we're capable of as a live band.
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Having not heard the album DREAM TRAIN, what made that album such a standout from your previous recordings?
We brought in someone to help to produce it and that was DAVID Z. He has worked with BUDDY GUY and he's worked with all kinds of bands throughout the eighties and the nineties. He's worked with GOVMT MULE and he did KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD's first couple of records and JONNY LANG's first couple of records. It was the first time that I had ever worked with a producer outside of whoever was recording the record with me in the past which would've been SEAN McCUE or ROBINSON JAY EIKENBERRY. This was the first time I had brought in a big name producer. He brought in a previously unreleased BILLY GIBBONS song and we also had some special guests on the record. DEBBIE DAVIES played on a song. MIKE ZITO and WALTER TROUT played on a song as well. Soundwise, it went from seventies hard rock to more traditional blues with some instrumentals. I felt that the album was a strong effort and I wanted to keep the momentum going after that and put a live album out that captured that same kind of energy, but in a live setting.
How easy or difficult was to select the songs for this live recording given how large your back catalog is?
I knew that I wanted to keep the live record aimed toward the original songs. Out of the twenty songs, there are three covers on there. We've played a handful of songs from each album over the years and we got most of what we wanted on this live album. Sometimes, you release a record and you don't play every single song off of it live. If you look at HENDRIX or CREEM, the power trios that we take our influence from, they put out studio records that were a little more involved and then live, they would stick to certain songs and not necessarily play the entire record. We've got 20 or 30 songs from all of the albums that would go through the rotation, so it was pretty easy to pick them. For the live show, we recorded over thirty songs, but I wanted to do whittle it down to twenty, so I just picked the best twenty and that is what you get with the live CD.
Talk about the other guys who make up the trio. Tell me who they are and what it is that you think each of them brings to the table that makes this thing work.
The bass player is JIM RANKIN and he's been playing with us for eleven years now. He's a strong singer and he comes from a classic rock background. He plays tons of songs and he's a very blues-based player. He's got the improvisational background. He's great to have around because musically, he can fill up a lot of space. He sings harmonies and even sings lead sometimes. Our drummer AUSTIN BEEDE comes from a funk and jazz background. He's a great rock player and a great blues player. He can play all of the blues fills really well. Since we've been playing together so much, we've just developed this great chemistry. When a band reaches that point where you are playing really tight and listening and improvising, it just makes it really easy. You don't have to think about it. You just do what you do. They're both great and they've both been with me for a very long time. Sometimes I work with different players depending on who is available for gigs, but these guys have been in the A-team for the past six or seven years for sure.
What performances from this live album stand out for you the most and why?
That's a really good question! I think once we go into the show and got into the groove of things, the performances that stick out for me are those moments where we start improvising or when I start pushing myself in the guitar aspect of things. There's a style of music out there called jam bands, like the GRATEFUL DEAD or the ALLMAN BROTHERS. I wouldn't say that we are a jam band per se, but we definitely take sections of certain songs and stretch them out and try to have a conversation. Those moments stick out for me and on the album there are a few of those moments. We do a cover of the JIMMY REED song BIG BOSS MAN but we did it much differently than the original. It has a much more open solo section that I thought came out really well. There is a song from one of my old records called THREE BULLETS that we've revamped so that it's got a little more of a HOWLIN' WOLF feel. That came out really good! That was an older song that kind of got reinvented. There is also some stuff from some of the newer records. There is a song called BACK WHERE I BELONG that I really like and that one came out really good. There is a song from DREAM TRAIN called BIG BAD WOLF which involves some parts and some harmonies but I thought that it came out really well and strong. So those are probably like three or four of the highlights for me.
When I last spoke with you, you were dividing your time between your own music and touring with the ALAN PARSONS PROJECT. Is that something that you're still doing?
I left the ALAN PARSONS LIVE PROJECT in April of 2017. It's been a little over a year. It was time for me to move on so I've been focusing on my band and I've started touring and doing some shows for SUGAR RAY RAYFORD, who is a soul blues artist. We just got back from Europe a week ago. We just got done touring with him. Right now, it looks like I'm going to be dividing my time playing with him and doing my band and doing a little bit of sub work with STARSHIP FEATURING MICKEY THOMAS. I do a handful of gigs with them. My friend is the guitar player for that band and I occasionally substitute for him. I try to to keep as busy as I can and play as much guitar as I can.
Wow! I actually tried getting MICKEY THOMAS for an interview on ROCKWIRED when STARSHIP released the album LOVELESS FASCINATION, but I never heard back. He might've thought I was going for mockery but I wasn't. I actually love the song WE BUILT THIS CITY.
That is actually the most difficult, most involved song on their set list. I know that a lot of people don't like that song and think that it reeks of eighties commercialism, but the production back the on those records was very electronic heavy. When you hear that song now with a live band, it is much more rocking. It's the same song, but it comes off differently. Coincidentally, today is MICKEY THOMAS' birthday. I think he turns sixty-eight today. He sounds amazing, it's unbelievable!
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In all of the years that you toured with ALAN PARSONS, what do you feel rubbed off on you, as a musician?
I toured with ALLAN PARSONS for seven years, which is a good chunk of time. I learned a lot of 'to-dos' and a lot of 'not-to-dos. Essentially, I learned to listen with a a discerning ear. That was ALAN's strength as a musician. I learned to listen very closely and pay attention to detail with arrangements and what not. I also learned how to travel and how to tour and how to takes care of things that are important such as taking care of yourself and getting some sleep and being able to play big shows in front of a lot of people. Sometimes, you're playing in less than ideal conditions where you don't have a lot of time to set up and you've just got to learn to roll with the punches and do your best. It's not like the audience is always going to notice. I've learned how to carry on and perform under pressure. We did a lot of shows with a lot of guitar features and a lot of signature parts. It wasn't just a bunch jamming. Those songs were put together meticulously, so it gives you a certain kind of discipline playing songs that the fans want to hear a certain way. As musician it's you job to deliver the songs in the way that the fans want to hear.
With this live album behind you, what is next for you musically?
I would like to continue putting out a new studio album for every year to eighteen months, if I can. I still have a lot of ideas floating around and there is a whole lot of music that I want to play that are still related to blues and roots music, but there is still a lot of places that I want to go musically, so I'm going to continue to write, record and release music and play as many gigs as I can, whether that's with SUGAR RAY RAYFORD or my own band. Who knows what's going to come down the pipe as they say. The goal for me is to continue paying and getting better at my instrument.
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