"I would imagine the impact earlier on in the history of the Blues had a lot more implications. Now-a-days most of the time I’m in a room with Blues musicians and Blues fans and supporters there are people from all races and walks of life all getting along supporting this wonderful music."
Alastair Greene: California Dreamin'
Guitarist, Singer, and Songwriter Alastair Greene has been a mainstay of the Southern California music scene for over 2 decades. Alastair was born April 18th, 1971 in Santa Barbara, CA. He discovered music through his mother's piano playing at home and whose record collection included classics by The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John, while his father's tastes at the time leaned toward Bach and Beethoven. Alastair was inspired to pursue music as a career by his grandfather, the late Chico Alvarez, who played trumpet as a member of the Stan Kenton Band in the '40s and '50s. Growing up, Alastair took piano lessons and played the saxophone before discovering the guitar in High School. He received a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied for two years before returning to southern California to begin playing with Blues and Rock bands in the early ‘90s. Alastair is best known for his blues-based, soulful, and melodic guitar playing (as well as one of a rare-breed to play slide guitar), Alastair can be heard on CDs by Alan Parsons; Aynsley Dunbar; Blues singer, harmonica legend, and former member of WAR, Mitch Kashmar, Toad The Wet Sprocket's front man Glen Phillips as well as French Blues Guitarist Franck Golwasser.
Alastair has put out 5 of his own CDs and has also appeared on countless independent CD releases ranging from Blues to Southern Rock. The Alastair Greene Band was formed in 1997 and has always played a combination of original material as well as covers. Whether with his own band or as part of others, Alastair has opened shows for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robin Trower, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Lonnie Brooks, Chris Thomas King, Lucky Petersen, Jonny Lang, Billy Boy Arnold, Joe Bonamassa, Mike Campbell's Dirty Knobs, and many more. Alastair released the Blues CD ‘Walking In Circles’ in June 2009 and accepted an offer to be the full time guitarist in the Alan Parsons Live Project in January 2010. The Alastair Greene Band Co-Headlined the 2010 Real Blues Festival of Orange County and the 1st annual Kern River Blues and Rock Fest. The Hard Rock CD 'Through The Rain' was released November 11th, 2011 on LeRoi Records and includes the single 'By The Way' which features a guitar trade-off solo between Alastair and Ty Tabor from King's X. In 2013 Alastair released 'Now & Again', in January 2014 the Alastair Greene Band signed to Delta Groove Productions / Eclecto Groove Records and released the Blues-Rock album 'Trouble At Your Door' on June 17th, 2014. In November 2014 Alastair toured with Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas. The new Alastair Greene record, DREAM TRAIN is to be release October 20th, 2017 in North America on Rip Cat Record and in Europe and other territories on In-Akustik. DREAM TRAIN was produced by David Z and features guest performances by Walter Trout, Debbie Davies, Mike Zito, Mike Finnigan, and Dennis Gruenling.
Alastair, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues & who were your first idols?
Probably around 1988 or 1989. My first heroes were Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
What was the first gig you ever went to and what were the first songs you learned?
The first Blues artist I ever saw was probably Jeff Healey but I could be mistaken. My first guitar teacher had me learn part of Hideaway so that would have been my first Blues song.
How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
I think of Blues and Rock as more mainstream than they were in the 60s as far as being a “counterculture”. That said, growing up I was into Hard Rock that at the time was a bit of a rebellious type of music when compared to what my parents were listening to. I think in order to embrace making music as your life’s goal and listening to music that isn’t “popular” you have to have some sort of that rebelliousness in your personality which I suppose is a by-product of having interest and/or involvement with a counterculture. As to how it’s influenced my views of the world and journey’s I’ve taken, I’ve been able to remain sensitive and compassionate to the challenges of other places in the world outside of the U.S. For all of it’s problems the U.S. still has things pretty easy when compared to most of the world. Having toured all over when I was part of Alan Parsons’s band I got to see a lot of the world and see first hand just how easy we have things in the U.S. compared to a lot of places. It also cast a lot of light on to things that could be greatly improved in the U.S. if we were to look to other countries as role models.
How do you describe DREAM TRAIN sound and songbook? What characterize album’s philosophy?
Dream Train is very much a 70s style Heavy Blues Rock record but with so many other styles mixed in. The record on a whole has some undertones of loss, dissatisfaction with leadership, and standing up for one’s self. There are some fun songs on there as well but for the most part it’s a pretty serious record lyrically. Musically it really has so many styles but at the end of the day, it’s a Blues Rock record.
Are there any memories from DREAM TRAIN studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
There are several. David Z produced the record and we tracked it in Sean McCue’s Coyote Road Studios in Santa Barbara, CA where we tracked our last record. (Trouble At Your Door). We nailed most songs first or second take and had a fun time doing it. We may release some videos of the recording sessions. Other highlights were having some of the guests play on the record. Debbie Davies came up to Sean’s studio and recorded a guitar solo and it was great to watch her play such great guitar up close like that. Sean and I went to Walter Trout’s house to record him and we had a lovely time hanging out with Walter and his wife Marie and drinking espresso and talking about music.
Any of blues standards have any real personal feelings for you and what are some of your favorite?
Some of my favorites are Born Under a Bad Sign, You Don't Love Me, there are so many great standards I enjoy playing. The meaning of the songs change over the years.
Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?
Robert Johnson, Son House, Bukka White, T-Bone Walker, the list goes on and on!
Do you think that your music comes from the heart, the brain or the soul?
"My first heroes were Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan." (Photo by Joy Neely)
What does the BLUES mean to you and what does Blues offered you?
The Blues as a musical art form is an endlessly expressive medium for improvisation based players. It has a deep history and is continuing to evolve.
Three words to describe your sound & progress? What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?
3 words to describe my sound and progress... Always a student. Practice and never giving up.
How/where do you get inspiration for your songs & who were your mentors in songwriting?
Inspiration can come from anywhere, real life, movies, books, etc., My mentors are guys like Gregg Allman who take the blues and put a little twist to it.
What are your best songs, the songs you’d most like to be remembered for?
The Long Way Home, Take Me With You, Through The Rain, Walking In Circles.
What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had? When did you last laughing in gigs and why?
The Sonora Blues Festival in 2010 with my band was very memorable. Great gig. Mexico City with Alan Parsons in 2011 was amazing. I don't usually laugh at gigs unless someone in the audience does something funny.
Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I've gotten a lot of advice in my life. A lot of it was just from observing and listening. You can receive advice I suppose even if the person giving it isn’t aware they are teaching you something at the time. I have a few musician friends I always talk to about what’s going on, Bruce Bouillet would be one. He’s a guitar guru and has been around in the business as a player and producer since the mid-80s so he’s always got good advice and ideas. One thing he stressed to me early on was, this is the music BUSINESS. Learn more about the “business” side of it. That’s something I’m still trying to do.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
For music to be valued and purchased as it was before streaming came into existence.
What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
Well I wish I’d gotten to see some musicians that maybe I could’ve seen but wasn’t aware of at the time or didn’t have the means to go see them. I got to see Stevie Ray once before he passed but would’ve liked to have seen him more. I never saw Albert King or Rory Gallagher which I possibly could have if I was more tuned into to what was going on. My main fear would be that there won’t be another infusion of young fans to get turned onto the Blues. I think we have to change the language in which we talk about the Blues and add words like “Rock” and “Contemporary” to the conversation so as to pick up new fans and younger fans.
Are there any memories from Aynsley Dunbar & Mitch Kashmar, which you’d like to share with us?
Playing with Aynsely was always a lot of fun and always pushed me to play my best in a harder rocking context. He was always really nice and very professional. I hope we get to play again sometime in the future. Playing with Mitch was equally as fun and I learned alot as well. We have done lots of gigs together, mostly acoustic gigs. He played my CD release party for Walking In Circles in 2009 which was a blast.
From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?
On guitar probably Franck Goldwasser. I've learned a lot from him and continue to do so.
Of all the people you’ve meeting with, who do you admire the most?
Well I got to meet Eric Clapton in 2010. He's been through alot and played with all the greats. He'd be at the top of my list.
Who are your favorite blues artists, both old and new? What was the last record you bought?
I love so many Blues artists it's hard to pick just a few. I love the acoustic Delta music, Chicago Blues, Blues Rock. It's endless! I just bought some CDs by the band FREE who I really enjoy.
What do you think is the main characteristic of you personality that made you a bluesman?
Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is?
It's deep history and the fact that is not and has never been a fad. It's real life.
"3 words to describe my sound and progress... Always a student. Practice and never giving up." (Photo by William Edwards)
Give one wish for the BLUES and the future of...
Blues will keep going, there is no doubt. My hope is that it continues to grow and more and more people get into it.
Why do you play guitar and where did you pick up your guitar style & in which songs can someone hear the best of your work?
I love playing pure and simple. It's so much fun! My guitar style is always evolving. It's a culmination of all the music I love which is obviously a lot of Blues but also a lot of other styles. My best guitar playing would be on songs like Through The Rain, Get My Wings, 3 Bullets, By The Way.
Tell me a few things about your work with Billy Boy Arnold and John Mayall?
I played with a band that opened for Billy Boy so I didn't get a chance to play with him or hang with him much but he was very nice and sounded amazing.
We opened for John Mayall about 15 years ago. While we were playing he was standing on the side of the stage with his arms crossed and was listening to us. When we were done and walked off the stage he said, "Allright Alastair!" That was a good feeling.
Are there any memories from the late great Lonnie Brooks which you’d like to share with us?
We opened for him about 10 years ago as well. I got to talk with him for awhile before the show. He was very nice. In fact I'd seen him play a few days before at the Long Beach Blues Festival, so it was cool to get to talk to him after that.
Which of the people you have worked with do you consider the best friend?
That's a touch one of the people we've talked about so far I've done the most gigs and hanging out with Mitch Kashmar.
How did you first meet Alan Parsons, three words to describe him?
I met Alan at a recording session for another artist. In 3 words Alan is calm, quick witted, and wise.
Describe the ideal rhythm section to you? Happiness is……
The guys I play most of my gigs with are all great players. If there was another rhythm section I could play with that is currently playing I would say Jimi Bott on drums with Willie Campbell on bass. Happiness is being able to play a great gig with great players and the audience has a wonderful time. Then getting to go home to my wife and relax with our cats.
What are your plans for the future and do you have a message for the Greek fans?
I plan to keep writing, recording, and playing. I would love to visit Greece. I love Greek food, Greek history, and alot of the music I have heard. I am happy to know there are people there that like my music. Hopefully someday I can come and play my music for you guys.
What characterize the sound of Southern California blues scene? Do you remember anything funny or interesting from recording time and studio sessions?
There are so many bands with different sounds it's hard to say there is a specific sound. Recording with Robinson Eikenberry is always interesting and funny. We laugh constantly about all kinds of stuff.
What would you had given to “THREE Kings” and what would you ask Muddy Waters?
The Three Kings have my eternal gratitude and I've been able to tell BB King "Thank you" before. If I met Muddy I'd ask him if he could show me some slide guitar riffs.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
Impossible to answer! Would I go see Robert Johnson record his songs or would I go see Peter Green play with John Mayall? There’s way too many options!
What is the impact of Blues and Rock music on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?
I think it depends on what time period you want to look into. I would imagine the impact earlier on in the history of the Blues had a lot more implications. Now-a-days most of the time I’m in a room with Blues musicians and Blues fans and supporters there are people from all races and walks of life all getting along supporting this wonderful music. But back to a previous question you asked about my fears for the Blues. How do we take all of this great love and respect for this music, and turn the youth of America (and the world at large) onto it and grow a larger fan base and keep it replenishing itself? I think that’s the main question that we absolutely must be asking and the question that is worth everyone meditating on and finding ways to solve. The MUSIC of the Blues will never die as there are always young players coming up that find the Blues and want to play it. The FAN BASE,….that’s what is in question.
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