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Blue Pete
» go to the music page for more
play hi-fi  Bottom
play hi-fi  Glasgow Smile
play hi-fi  The Banking Clone
play hi-fi  Another Blues
play hi-fi  A Night Oot
play hi-fi  Bad Luck Blues
play hi-fi  The Right Stuff
play hi-fi  Gone By Tomorrow
play hi-fi  Need No Doctor
play hi-fi  The Hassle
I used to know you as a jazz musician and chillout producer - what's this thing with the blues?
Mmm… I think I have a good story to explain that. Do you remember the story within the story in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" - the one in which the guy starts having visions of the mountaintop where the alien spaceship would land, and for weeks on end continues to draw it, to paint it everywhere without knowing what it is? You remember how he progressively sinks into an inexplicable obsession until he happens to recognize that shape in an image on a newscast and, existentially, is saved? Well that in a way was me - blues has been my vision, my mountain to climb…perhaps my salvation.

Please explain.
Yes, as you can, I am not black. Working in the cotton fields has no meaning for me, nor does social exclusion. I am a privileged amongst the privileged, surrounded by love and affection, by the small successes and the material things that make life “as good as it gets”, as I was recently reminded by somebody close to me.

But "good people’s bad thoughts" (great definition of blues and, incidentally, the model through which cognitive therapy explains and cures depression) took care of evening things out with a life that - it seems - has got to be at least a little difficult for everybody. So, after having camped for a couple of years at the end of the world, some ten years ago I recovered from a severe clinical depression, without ever really recovering. That is - life is good, except when it's bad.

So, after a life spent trying to be, musically speaking, "good", caught up in that more or less confessed competition that makes you feel inadequate even when you sell records, at some stage I started having my sonic visions - visions of a huge, dark mountain, impervious to the climbers and certainly impervious to me. A mountain which had always been there, without me really seeing (or, rather, hearing...) it. I felt a mysterious attraction for a bitter, essential musical language, produced by a culture which is not mine, with a terrifying power of communication. That was how, without knowing how or really why, I started my climb.

You mean that you “learned” the blues after 25 years of playing?
Oh, aye. And it was quite difficult. Everybody knows that jazz derives from blues, but the jazz I used to play had grown so much apart from the original magic language that I had to start almost from scratch. Just one example: for somebody who always played clean, single-note jazz lines, the bends are hell. Your left hand seizes up, curls around the neck, and you lose coordination, speed…you feel lost in mid-sentence. Plus, blues bends have got to say something. They’re not a technical gimmick – they’re a straight phone line to the soul, and making that connection took me a L-O-N-G time!

Even more difficult was learning to sing. I had tried many times and always found a total lack of coordination between ear and vocal cords – a real obstacle course for a musician, composer, arranger and producer! But I felt that I had things to say – my own things – and I wanted to say them with my own voice.

But the most difficult thing was getting rid of the quest for perfection. Accept that I am not an extraordinarily talented musician – never was - and accept that that’s alright. Focus on the emotions, use whatever big or small technical means I have to give voice to my demons. For me, that is playing the blues.

The blues as a form of psychotherapy, then?
Well, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. What’s for sure is that today I sing with a gritty voice that’s miles away from my speaking voice and comes from parts of me that were never heard before, and sometimes I almost get stuck in the solos because emotions well up and I feel like crying. But then the people in the godforsaken, smoky-like-hell blues joint cheer and clap, and I feel that – finally – I came home.

Your album is by all standards a professional product - why are you giving it away for free?
Because I’ve given up trying to be a working musician. I will try to explain this without too much bitterness, and to focus on the positive. When people ask me how my wife Angela and I are doing with music (we run a small music production company based in Geneva, Switzerland), I always say that “we now have just over 100,000 CDs around the world with our names on. Isn’t that great? Pity that, just as we had “made it”, the record industry died on us”. Yes, in case you haven’t noticed, the record industry is no more.

No – don’t bother telling me about the handful of planetary stars who still generate seemingly huge sales. From the perspective of the average professional musician or producer, they simply don’t exist. What exists for us are labels (I am talking large-ish independent ones) going bankrupt and closing down, or having to reduce their activities to a trickle. The reality is that, in the turn of just a few years, the very idea of paying for music has become outlandish and thousands of people like us are going out of business.

What, then? Give up music altogether? Not really an option - especially not when I’ve become involved in something as personally meaningful as my blues project. Produce a CD, have it reviewed, push, push, push, try to have it distributed or to sell it myself? Ha-ha. MTV artists’ sales: falling. Established blues artists sales’: practically non existent, and falling. Emerging blues artists’ sales: don’t make me laugh. Selling CDs at gigs? Aye – maybe one gig a month, and getting that is hard enough work...

Sorry, but I don’t see the “positive” you want to focus on…
I am coming to that. The positive part is that all these difficulties have led me to concentrate more on the artistic side of the music - I mean art in the sense of expression, communication. I can’t be a working musician? Well, I’ll try to be an artist instead. I’ll try to touch people, I’ll try to share emotions. I can certainly try to do that even if I got back to a full-time, non musical job.

And with playing live being so damn difficult, what better option than opening out to scores of people on the Internet? I am very happy to trade one or two online sales a month (real figures, from exceptionally good artists!) for a couple of dozens of downloads from people who like what I do. In the process, my compositions may even mean something to somebody, and that’s the one and only reason to do art. The record industry may well be dead, but music lives on.
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