Check out the recent B. Christopher interview with JazzBluesNews!
JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?
B. Christopher: – I grew up in New Jersey. My life in music began when some high school friends were putting together a band. I wanted to be a part of it so I bought a guitar and started learning rock songs and picking up whatever I could from anyone that would share what they knew with me.
It really started to become an obsession very early on. I started taking lessons at 17 years old from the only person I have ever considered to be my teacher. I absolutely loved going to those lessons. He was very demanding, but supportive and insightful. He taught me how to think about music more than the physical aspect of playing. It was more about musical concepts than learning songs or licks. While most of my peers in school were learning to play popular songs I was learning how to play what I heard in my head. How to think creatively. Perhaps a good comparison is the difference between a history class where memorizing dates is important versus a philosophy class. My lessons were definitely on the philosophy side of things. I often still think about things he said and the impact it had on my life all these years later. I have very fond memories of that time.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
BCH: – With each record just about everything changes for me. I have no interest in making the same record twice. I don’t consider myself a purist of any kind. I love the guitar and all of its possibilities. But the blues is always where I fall back to.
I think the development of my own sound lies in that I don’t try to impersonate players anymore. I simply try to play what I want to hear. I have never been all that interested in tracing someone else’s picture. I’m not very concerned with reinventing the blues or even pushing its limits. I just want to play it with authenticity.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
BCH: – The only practice routine I have has been the same for decades. I turn a metronome on and run finger exercises everyday for an hour. I have done it about 300 days a year for 35 years. It is just about timing and maintenance. I also play to blues backing tracks quite regularly. I can’t remember the last time I learned how to play a guitar solo from one of my influences. It’s probably been 20 years since I figured something out note for note.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any changes or overall evolution? And if so why?
BCH: – It’s always changing. If I had to guess why it is always evolving I would say it’s a never ending grind of curiosity and boredom. I get bored very quickly, which is why I struggle to make the same record twice. It has to evolve or I simply don’t want to do it.
JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
BCH: – In terms of prep for recording I stay sharp through the practice routine I mentioned above. The routine is about 17,000 notes , 6 days a week. 102,000 notes a week for 35 years in just warm up finger exercises tend to keep the stamina where it needs to be.
JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: B. Christopher Band – Snapshots From The Second Floor, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
BCH: – I like the authenticity of it. As I said, I don’t have any desire to reinvent the blues. I just want to capture my interpretation of it. The blues changes are the perfect platform to play over as far as I am concerned. The form is simple. But simple and easy don’t mean the same thing. Lots of people think because they can intellectualize it they can deliver it. But anyone that has dug deep enough into the blues knows the well is nearly bottomless and open to all sorts of ideas. Also anyone that tries to intellectualize an Albert Collins solo has missed the point in my humble opinion.
JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?
BCH: – I put a lot of thought and effort into that process. I try to find musicians that naturally play how I hear it in my head. There are lots of great musicians, but not a lot with a great feel as well as unrelenting attention to details. I have been very lucky to work with the guys that I work with. I need to work with musicians that are pros on every level. They inspire me to play as well as I am able to in an effort to not look foolish with people that I have a great deal of respect for. The guys on the records that I make are my favorite musicians. It is a privilege to make records with them!
JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
BCH: – Great question! I think the soul is far more important. The intellect certainly helps in composition and communicating the ideas to the other musicians. But real soul and conviction needs no explanation. There is a huge difference between someone that is talking and one who is testifying. I always liked the guys that play two notes and you know they mean business. Those are the guys that I want to hang with.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
BCH: – I try to make records that I want to listen to first and foremost. I just play and I am thrilled if anyone likes it. That is the only way for me.
JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?
BCH: – The best memories are the recording sessions from the last few years. I have been able to record with people that have been heroes to me since my early 20’s. To work with Nathan East, Anton Fig, Jerry Portnoy, Andy Snitzer, Stu Hamm, Shawn Pelton and Kenny Aronoff is incredible. The best part is just watching them work. It takes about 4 measures to realize why they have had the careers that they have had. Rock stars come and go. The studio guys are the ones that I want to be around.
The first time I recorded with Anton Fig and Nathan East was surreal. I also did some recording with a New York based blues guy named Michael Powers that has had a monumental impact on my playing. He is one of the best guitar players I have ever seen, and by the far the best that I have seen in a club. My time with those three guys I would say were pretty special days.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in blues when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
BCH: – There is always a young rock guy that is pointing to the blues. I think that’s how most younger people have found it for 50 years. The artist that has some commercial success points backwards to the source. Honestly, I’m not sure most of the real stuff is meant for younger people. It takes maturity to understand great blues or jazz. Just as maybe it takes youth and angst to understand heavy metal. It’s not about getting young people to like it in my opinion. They’ll find it later in life when they’re ready for it. The music will be there waiting for them when they decide to look deeper.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and themeaning of life?
BCH: – Music has been the ground floor of my life. It has presented both great days and terrible days, just like anything else. I don’t look for “meaning” in it. I just play and try the best I can to make a good record.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality,what would that be?
BCH: – I would like to see the infrastructure of the music industry come back. Without the labels I don’t think there will ever be another Bruce Springsteen or Elton John. It takes time and money to make legends that inspire a generation to buy instruments and start garage bands. The garage band is the root of most things that I love about music. I like to think there is a group of kids in a garage somewhere right now wearing T-shirts and Converse sneakers that are going to do something great!
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
BCH: – Elmore James, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Snooky Pryor and Clapton. I listen to a lot of blues. Very little of what I listen to was recorded after 1975. I keep going back. I love the old blues records. Even the newer stuff that I listen to still has that same approach. Nobody that I really like these days is reinventing it. They’re just doing it with conviction and heart. Keeping it simple.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
BCH: – I don’t have a message. I am just a guy that has loved to play guitar for a long time. I’ll leave the message to the poets and philosophers.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
BCH: – I would go to the recording session that Muddy Waters recorded Mannish Boy on the Hard Again album. I would love to be in that room for the five and half minutes of lightning in a bottle!