An Interview with Amadeu Casas, a Catalan musician with an extensive career in the field of the Blues

"Blues musician is someone who plays the Blues with more or less success, but a bluesman is the one that has lived with discrimination and suffering in a very specific social situation."

Amadeu Casas: El Blues de Matèria Orgànica

Amadeu Casas is a Catalan musician, with an extensive career in the field of the Blues, has engaged in the most ambitious projects of the Blues at Catalonia, as evidenced by being a founding member of the test group prestige: Reunion Blues, Blues Messengers, Slide Company and Tandoori Lenoir. Together with Big Mama, August Tharrats Dani Nel.lo and Txell Sust, which usually works with artists, part of the most serious local blues scene.

He has collaborated with musicians of the caliber of: Louisiana Red, Philip Walter, Guitar Crusher, Johnny Mars, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, Hook Herrera, Julian Piper, Shirley Johnson, Eddie King, UP Wilson, Big Time Sarah, Mitch Woods and Jerry Portnoy. His style, the result of his passionate commitment to the study of the roots of the Blues, is a mixture of Texas, Louisiana, Kansas and Chicago. Versatile guitarist who can perform in concert both rural Blues (acoustic) and Urban Blues (electric), feeling comfortable in both styles. When playing acoustic, its clearest reference are Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy and Lightnin 'Hopkins, and when you play electric, T-Bone Walker and Freddie King.

In the field solo acoustic concerts, combining acoustic guitar with six and twelve-string dobro, an instrument similar to the guitar but with metal resonator, which can hardly be seen on stage home that recreates sounds more authentic rural blues. Lately it has added mandolin to his collection of acoustic instruments, giving a new perspective from the world of Blues. In this aspect, opened for the American bluesman Corey Harris

Matèria Orgànica, a new album by Amadeu Casas, the five in his lonely career, he explores his own inside universe from his Blues influences. The disc is influenced by the forties music, like a little tribute. In this work besides of Matias Miguez and Toni Pagés have collaborated his friends Quico Pi de la Serra, Roger Mas, Elena Gadel and Tom Principato. The musical comeback of Amadeu Casas is characterized by their contribution to autochthonous music from the basis, however, from distant, well-known roots: the blues.

 

Interview by Michael Limnios

 

What do you learn about yourself from the blues, what does the blues mean to you?

Blues music is certainly the one that excites me as a musician and I owe blues everything I know. I’ve studied it all my live and every day I have more to learn. However, it’s a very exciting journey in which you find travel companions that make you grow. I'm a lucky man!

 

In what age did you play your first gig and how was it like?

I was 14 years old. I played with my fellows in a theater and I broke my first string on stage. It was exciting and we played a neverending Blues.

 

How do you describe Amadeu Casas sound and music philosophy?

I think over the years my sound has been improving and I've been learning some different ways to play the blues, from rock to jazz, and trying to recreate the melodies. I really enjoy playing accompaniments not only solos. I don’t like guitar heroes very much.

 

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues?

I’m self-taught and I’ve learned and practiced with the greatest musicians of all time, through their records, repeating them over and over again untiringly. My early influences were the British musicians: Eric Clapton, Peter Green, etc.., later on the Kings (BB, Freddie and Albert), afterwards T-Bone Walker and Tiny Grimes. In fact, the first black bluesmen with whom I learned were Lightnin'Hopkins, Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnson, Son House, Charley Patton, etc... I was always passionate with their music.

 

Which was the best moment of your career and was the worst?

I think now is the best moment of my career. I feel more mature and have more clearly where to go. I don’t remember any time that has been especially bad in my career. One learns from mistakes.

What is the “feel” you miss nowadays from the Blues of past?

I think the Blues is now no longer "modern" in the sense of providing surprises and connect with the young audience. However,  there are some very good performers around the world. It’s global and we can find good blues anywhere in the world.

 

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

Each period has its good things. In the beginning It was exciting to discover old records and listen to them with my friends and try to get the riffs. Later on, when I had the good fortune to play with real bluesmen, it was like my dream came true. Now I'm in a very exciting moment in my career and every day new things happen. The music is the fuel of the soul!

 

How has the blues business changed in Spain over the years since you first started in music?

When I started the Blues didn’t exist in Spain, but we could make English groups covers: Rolling Stones, John Mayall, Cream… Now my city, Barcelona, there are blues festivals, you can listen blues in radio and TV and there’s even a school of Blues . Obviously things have changed.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?

In my opinion, even if you begin or if you are already a professional, you must have a clear objective, be willing to learn and be honest and practice as much as you can. You must work hard and forget about success.

 

Why did you think that Amadeu Casas continues to generate such a devoted following?

Probably because I’ve always been true to my principles and I try to be close to the audience.

 

Are there any memories from Guitar Crusher, Eddie King, and Jerry Portnoy, which you’d like to share with us?

When I meet Guitar Crusher he didn’t know anything about me or the guys in the band. He and his wife, in fact his manager, were really surprised when we started playing with him and it sound real blues.  

With Eddie King, first we only planned to jam for a couple of tunes. However, he felt very comfortable playing with me and after that night he wanted me to play with him in every concert during the whole tour.

Jerry Portnoy played in Barcelona when he was touring with Eric Clapton, and I get the chance to share the time on stage with him. He is a very good person.

 

Tell me a few things about your meet with Philip Walter and Joe "Guitar" Hughes which memory makes you smile?

I was playing with Louisiana Red, and Philip and Red planned to play together at the end of the Philip set, and Red asked him to play me too. Philip didn’t want me to play with them, but Red made me play anyway, and we play several tunes including Freddie King’s Hideway. Philip was surprised that a white European guy knew all the changes. He congratulated me after the concert.

Joe “Guitar” Hughes just arrived to the venue where we were playing and even he had jet lack he wanted to play with us. Someone offered him to share my guitar, but he didn’t accept because he said that my guitar was a very special axe. So, someone had to go to his hotel to pick up his Telecaster so that he could jam with us. I played my 1954 Grestch Electromatic that night.

 

Do you remember anything fanny from Louisiana Red?

When I first met Red, we rehearsed for a while and he asked me to help him to change his guitar strings. Afterwards, as he noticed I played slide in standard tuning, he asked me to show him how to do it. In the concert we didn’t play anyone of the songs we had rehearsed, Red just said the tune and the tempo and we played along. That one was a great concert!

 

Do you have any amusing tales to tell from your shows with Tom Principato, Johnny Mars and Big Time Sarah?

When I met BT Sarah, she was supposed to play the first set and we the last one. Big Time Sarah was very tired after her show and wanted to go back to the hotel, but when she listen us to play "As The Years Go Passing By", she couldn’t avoid it and she joined us and sang all night long. It was big!

Tom and Johnny have become good friends of mine. I have known Johnny for many years. He’s a very peaceful man and we have made many concerts together. He never has dinner before the concert, he always prefers to eat when concert has finished, even if it’s late at night.

The last time he came to Barcelona we went to eat to a restaurant on the beach. It turned cloudy and cold and Johnny we dressed with casual clothes. He was really cold that day. I don’t think he wants to go back to have dinner with me again on the beach again.

Tom is a great guy. He feels very comfortable with my family, he loves our gastronomy. When we do the sound check, one of his jokes is to say: let’s finish and go to “dinner check”.

In my last CD “Materia Organica” Tom plays in two tunes that I named in his honor: "Dinner Check" and "Cafe con Leche", because he loves our “café con leche” (coffee with milk).

 

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES

I think the blues has what everyone needs: simplicity and emotion. Even when Blues seems simple, it’s really complex. The different ways of playing it makes it a very rich style, that as all popular roots music, connects us with a higher dimension.

 

What the difference and similarity to the feeling between the electric and resophonic guitar?

They are very different instruments so your emotions when you play one or the other are also very different.. With electric guitar I play with either pick or fingers but the resophonic has a heavier strings gauge, that’s why I always play with fingerpicks and I usually tune in open G or D and use the bottleneck.

 

Do you know why the sound of slide is connected to the blues? What are the secrets of resophonic guitar and slide?

I think the slide has a direct connection with the way the black singers sing. It’s closer to the way they sing and the modulations can’t be written on a pentagram. The slide has a very dramatic feeling. It can also be very soft or aggressive. It is a great invention!

 

From the musical point of view, is there any difference between a blues musician and bluesman?

Obviously, a Blues musician is someone who plays the Blues with more or less success, but a bluesman is the one that has lived with discrimination and suffering in a very specific social situation. Luckily I'm just a blues musician with a great respect for this music, since I grew up with it and it is the music that moves me.

 

What is the best advice a bluesman ever gave you?

Johnny Mars told me several years ago “be yourself” and since then I've always tried it, but it is not so easy.

 

How do you describe your contact to people when you are on stage and what compliment do you appreciate the most after a gig?

The audience is one of the most important parts of a concert, so the best compliment for me after it, is somebody telling me that it has been a great concert.

 

 

 

 

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