"Blues is foundational. I think the blues tells emotional stories in a context that lets players communicate freely with their voice or instrument."
Jim Allchin: Overclocked Emotions
Jim grew up in a one-room house on a dirt farm in the Deep South. After living the life of a starving musician, he left to earn Masters/Doctorate degrees from Stanford University and Georgia Institute of Technology. He went on to become a world recognized leader in Computer Science and software. Today he codes for fun and he plays guitar for love.
American author F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, “There are no second acts in American lives.” Had he met Jim Allchin, he might have re-thought the statement. The Seattle based musician has lived a self-made life, and no matter what the vocation, he has tackled everything with an unyielding passion. Jim grew up in Florida in the middle of an orange grove. Florida was much more rural then, and there was no town near the Allchins’ home. It was Jimi Hendrix’s music that inspired Jim to pick up a guitar, and he followed the path set by bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers – white southern boys who took a left turn toward the blues and rock. Jim worked his way through school by touring with his band. Jim fell in love with computer science, and his newfound path led to degrees at Stanford and Georgia Tech and, in 1990, to Microsoft, where he rose through the ranks to become co-President of the Platforms & Services Division and a recognized leader in the world of computer science and software. In 2003, Jim faced a health issue, and the experience was life-changing. Jim’s contemporary blues-rock style has a uniquely modern feel with contemporary lyrics and explosive guitar lines, but it respectfully bows to the core soul that has been embodied in the blues throughout the ages. It is Jim’s dream to help foster the blues to a larger audience. His newest album, Overclocked, is an ambitious, perfectly crafted 13-song set of original blistering blues, sophisticated jazz, heavy rock and tender pop ballads spotlighting his virtuoso guitar chops.
Mr. Allchin, when was your first desire to become involved in the music & who were your first idols?
I always loved music. I started playing when I was a teenager. Jimi Hendrix is the one that blew my mind. I also loved Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.
What was the first gig you ever went to & what were the first songs you learned?
I played at a roller rink (outside) with all the guitars and one microphone plugged into a single small amp with an 8” speaker. We probably paid to play there for all I remember!
We played things like Louie Louie, Pipeline, Wipeout, etc.
What does the BLUES mean to you & how has music changed your life?
Blues is a feeling. It is wonderful because the structure of the music is simple and that lets feeling and emotion be the central theme of a song. I have listened to the blues all my life growing up on a farm in the deep south.
Do you think that your music and songs comes from the heart, the brain or the soul?
I feel every note I play on guitar. This is especially true for some note bends. It is not uncommon for certain songs to bring tears to my eyes. So I believe you feel it deep within you. I also like to play some complex solos and that takes practice and therefore coordination of the brain. So, skill to play comes from the brain, but the music comes from somewhere deep inside you.
How/where do you get inspiration for your songs & who were your mentors in songwriting?
I get inspiration from all kinds of music – from gospel to pop. And songwriting comes from experience in the world.
What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician, songwriter and people?
I think there a number of things that make me who I am and that shape my playing and my music. They all sort of flow together to make me who I am. Here are such a few of them. First, I grew up poor in the Deep South, but I also grew up in a happy home. Second, I had the opportunity to be outside throughout most of my youth while working in the fields. And I grew up going to church and singing in the choir. Third, I had to make my own way in the world since my father died when I was pretty young. Fourth, I was diagnosed with cancer almost 10 years ago now and that was another life changing event. I have had an incredible life. I have been very fortunate. I have lived on food stamps not knowing if I would have enough to eat and later in life I ended up seeing the world being extremely fortunate. So, I think I can relate to things going bad in life, but I also know you control a lot of what happens to you – or certainly how to deal with it.
Describe the ideal sound of rhythm section to you? How do you characterize your sound and progress?
There is a feeling that happens when everything is just locked on a groove. Everyone is feeling everyone else and it just flows and drives ahead like magic. The power is huge. I especially love shuffles cause I love the rhythmic feeling of physically rocking back and forth when I’m playing.
What were your favorite guitars back then, what’s on your pedal board? From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?
I play a Strat perhaps more than any other guitar, but I also love PRS and high-end Ibanez guitars. I used to have a 1953 Les Paul, but I sold it when I needed money when I was a lot younger. I don’t use a pedal board per se. I use a variety of amps (e.g., Dumble, Axe-fx, Line 6 X3, Marshall Silver, etc. I usually have a couple of amps that I can switch between easily when I play live.
Whom have I learned the most from? Well that is a great question. I learn from everyone. Everyone has their own style and feel. Eric Clapton’s early blues work was awesome. Ditto for Gary Moore. But I have studied B.B. King’s playing in addition to tons of jazz players who play jazz blues. Etta James just blows me away.
Would you like to tell something about making this new album "Overclocked"? Do you remember any interesting from the recording time?
Well, I thought I was done with the album and then we listened to the mixes and I said it wasn’t good enough and I threw about 50% of the album away and started over with new songs. I still have the first set of songs so maybe one day they will get heard, but not right now. It was a key decision point in the record. I’m glad I stopped and made the change, but it was hard at the time. The result was a much better album.
What the difference between your working on composing, playing, singing, and producing blues rock? What is the “music philosophy” of Jim Allchin?
The emotion of the song counts more than anything else. It’s a simple philosophy.
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 so agree with you. Blues is foundational. I think the blues tells emotional stories in a context that lets players communicate freely with their voice or instrument. My wish for the Blues genre is that younger people get exposed to it. I hope we encourage new generations to appreciate the beauty of this art form.
Which of historical music personalities would you like to meet?
There are so many people who are gone that I wish I could have met. I would have REALLY loved to have met Albert King. I had thought just maybe I would have had a chance to meet Gary Moore, but now that is gone as well. The list is huge. There are a number of incredible guitarists that are still alive that I would love to meet. I have been fortunate to meet some of them, but there are so many people that I admire I am not sure who I would pick first.
What do you think is the main characteristic of your personality that made you a bluesman?
Blues is an art form that lets my pain, my feelings, my everything come out. I don’t know whether the blues needs me, but “I” need the blues.
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