We speak to Will Johns as he brings his band to @KomediaBath as part of Independent Venues Week
Will Johns is recognised as one of the most distinctive and exciting British Blues performers on the scene today. As well as being a spellbinding live act in his own right, he fronts The Will Johns Band, who bring their mix of Blues standards and original music to Komedia (as part of Independent Venues Week) on Thursday 30th January.
Sighting Eric Clapton and George Harrison as his uncles, was a life in music always on the cards or did his mother have other plans for him. Craig Maplesden catches up with Will to chat about his career, childhood memories and being picked up from school in a Ferrari Testarossa.
You are bringing your band to Komedia on Thursday 30th January. For those who are yet to experience your music, what can they expect?
We will be playing a mix of Blues standards, original music from my own albums and a couple of high octane cover versions.
Very guitary but not TOO LOUD!!
You are known for your distinctive guitar sound. Do you think this unique style comes from being self-taught?
Yes! I think we all have our influences etc but after a while, when you play an awful lot and spend time developing your sound, one’s own personality comes through.
You grew up in a musical household, was there any pressure to become a musician or pursue a career in music?
Ha!! Quite the opposite for me. I was raised by my Mother in a basement flat in London. She constantly warned me off a career in music. She had been over exposed to the wild side of Rock by having a sister married to a Beatle (George Harrison) and later to Eric Clapton and another sister married to Mick Fleetwood. I think she wanted to protect me from a lifetime of late nights, no money and disappointment !!!
You’ve achieved a lot of success in your career, both individually and with the band, what has been your proudest moment to date?
I think completing 43 shows with The Music of Cream in the United States last year (2018) was quite an amazing accomplishment.
Not just the grueling schedule but also surviving living with a bunch of guys in a steel rectangle traveling at 60 miles per hour round the country is no mean feat!
If you hadn’t gone into music, what career do you think you would have chosen?
I would probably have been a Marine Biologist or worked on boats in the fishing industry.
What was life like growing up with such famous relatives?
Well for me it wasn’t an everyday thing. As I mentioned, I was raised by my Mum in a flat in London so it was only occasionally that I would go and spend weekends or Holidays with the Rock Stars!
What was cool was being picked up in a Ferrari Testarossa at the end of term and watching my school chums faces.
With such a musical family, you get the impression that there was always a jam going on. Was this really how life was?
No! Not for me anyway. Life was hard and often there wasn’t enough money for food.
Are there any particular memories that stand out from your childhood that made you think a life in music was for you?
Ha ha, probably driving away from school in a Ferrari!
Did your love of Blues music come from your family’s influence or did you just relate more to the sound/lyrics?
Yes, Directly from Eric. It was always apparent to me what was “Real Music” and then there was everything else…
When he turned me on to Ry Cooder and his “Get Rhythm” Album I knew what made my big toe shoot up into my boot.
What music did you listen to growing up?
Firstly my Mum’s Cassette tapes, Tango in the Night – Fleetwood Mac, Private Dancer – Tina Turner, that kind of thing. Then I went thru Jimi Hendrix, Taj Mahal and Stevie Ray. As I got a little older, I was into anything funky like Jamiroquai. Now, its all about BB King for me. Occasionally i listen to Johnny Guitar Watson and Snoop Dogg!
Last year saw you tour with Malcolm Bruce and Kofi Baker, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Music of Cream. With the intimate connection you have with the bands original members, did this make it one of your favourite tours to be on?
Yes!! Its great to play that Music nice and loud on the big stage With those guys, there is a lot of improvisation and because Mr Baker and Mr Bruce are both “Jazzers” they tend to take you through some very interesting times! Try 7 over 4, or 5s over 4s or even 13s over 8s!!
Was the tour also an opportunity for the three of you to add your own styles and interpretations to the the music of Cream?
Absolutely. We decided very early that we would not be playing the material “note for note” and take the music onwards and upwards.
What music are you currently listening to?
Every morning I put on BB King , the Man just sets my heart on fire.
Other than the tour, what does 2020 have in store for you?
I’m working on “The Blues Album”. A collection of standards with my own slants and arrangements and featuring some special guests, friends that I just love playing with. I’m planning on making it only available on Vinyl and it will also feature a book with all my darkest secrets.
All info, links and updates can be found at my website www.willjohns.com
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