What music shaped your life ?
As the youngest of six living at home it was difficult to avoid Adam Faith, Tommy Steele, Frank Ifield and of course Elvis. Luckily, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones soon took over the one and only record player in the house. Later, my father who played boogie piano introduced me to the music of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt giving me a passion for Gypsy Jazz that still burns today. Finally, as a young teenager I fell under the spell of music from Peter Green, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Paul Kossoff, Rory Gallagher and The John Mayall Blues Band which via The Blues Jam at Chess album led me on to all the blues greats. At the tender age of fifteen, I sneaked into The Red Lion Blues Club in Leek to listen to a band everyone was raving about, that was my first encounter with the Climax Blues Band.
When did you learn to play the guitar ?
As a test my father insisted I should try to get a tune out of a ukelele before he would buy me a guitar. After a short but enjoyable time with my uke I received an acoustic guitar on my eighth birthday and have been
learning ever since.
What guitars do you use and why ?
I play a Gibson ES 347, which I purchased shortly after joining Climax Blues Band. I felt totally at ease playing this guitar right from the very beginning. The feel, sound and versatility it provides just makes me want to play! I also play a Fender contemporary telecaster which like the Gibson has humbucker pickups with a coil tap as standard. I play a Yamaha APX7 acoustic guitar which has nearly worn away with use but still refuses to lay down.
Do you play other instruments ?
I studied violin at school, have taught myself to play drums and can manage to play/program a simple keyboard part for arranging/writing projects.
Who are your favourite musicians ?
So many for so many reasons (short list) BB King, Stefane Grapelli, Jimmy Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Peter Green, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Derek Trucks, Rory Gallagher, Paul Kossoff, Bonny Raitt, Bruce Hornsby and Davy Spillane.
You have been playing with Climax Blues Band for over 25 years, how did you first meet
First saw Climax live in about 71 but didn’t meet Colin properly until 1985 when I was approached to record and co-produce the Drastic Steps album at AVM Recording Studios in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Having worked with Colin and George on this project for a little while I was desperate to have a go at playing some guitar on the album. Finally, I was given the opportunity to play on the opening track, California Sunshine and consequently was invited to complete the guitar parts for the whole album. Later I was asked to join Colin and the chaps for some live performances leading to tours of the UK, Europe and America.
Was it hard stepping into the shoes of such a fine musician as Pete Haycock ?
I have always had the greatest respect for Pete as a guitarist and I must say that when playing songs from the Climax repertoire you have to stay close to some of Pete’s original guitar parts, however, I’ve always tried
to run with the spirit of the song so that nothing would be lost but also to absorb myself totally in the moment as I feel it. I definitely believe that over the years I have bought something of my own to the party. I was very sad to hear of Pete’s premature death, yet again the world has lost someone with so much still to give.
What is your favorite Climax Blues Band song ?
Last Chance Saloon. It speaks of a place you have to visit so you can
appreciate when the going is good!
What is your fave song ?
Little Bit Worried (Mose Allison)
What is it like living within the music industry ?
It’s full of hustlers, bull****, stealers and dealers, kind hearted sinning preachers, problems to solve, doors to revolve, places to go, people to know, music to write, accountants to fight, moments of passion, whiskey on ration, sound checks to make, percentage to break, so how do I feel? I love it !
Recording has drastically changed in the digital age how has it impacted upon your own work ?
The possibility to work on any project at home is now definitely available to everybody. There is virtually no limitation to the software versions of pretty much anything that’s ever been used in the making of records. Not everyone, of course, wants to spend time reading endless manuals and constantly updating the program that you’ve only just learned how to use. Producing yourself is not always the best approach, especially, if you have
no patience with computers and simply want to concentrate on the music. However, if you put together a simple package that suits your needs, you can either complete an entire project yourself from start to finish or
bounce your files around the world for others to make a contribution. Either way it still comes down to does your original idea have something to say?
What are your greatest memories of the Climax Blues Band ?
I have had the pleasure and honour of sharing many memorable moments around the world with the band. Touring America was of course a highlight and touring with BB King, John Mayall and many others must be up there at the top of the list. One of the great things about Climax Blues Band is that it can perform in small, up close and personal venues but also reach a large Festival audience with the same touch. I personally experienced this with Climax Blues Band in Barcelona where we headlined the Friday evening Olympic Festival to well over 100,000 people in the summer of 1992.
What do you think Climax Blues Band would make of the album From The Vaults ?
I would like to think he would love it. Climax Blues Band has never been simply just a blues band, it has always been prepared to navigate a route between genres and not be restricted by normality. Colin was himself
experimental with ideas and sounds so I’m sure he would have loved to have been there for the mix. I just hope this opens up a new window for future generations to hear the unmistakable voice of Colin Cooper.