British guitarist Robin Bibi talks about his experiences in the blues circuit, British scene and Dr. Who

"The blues is about being alive!! Its part of the human condition... I can express sorrow, joy, pain, happiness and every emotion through the blues…As long as we have emotion we have the blues..."

Robin Bibi: God Save The Blues

Robin Bibi is one of the UK’s top blues/rock guitarists and having paid his dues working with such names as Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Ben E. King, The Pretty Things and Helen Shapiro, launched the Robin Bibi Band in the late 90s. The Band’s debut album "BLUE THRASH THERAPY" (1997) quickly sold out leading to a recent re-release. The follow up "LANGUAGE OF YOUR SOUL" (2000) immediately received airplay on Paul Jones' Jazz Me Blues. "LIVE THERAPY" the band’s first live album (2003) as was the Studio album "TRIBUTE TO FAST" a celebration of the songwriting artistry of Robin’s old friend Brian Holmes.

2006 saw the release of Robin’s acoustic solo album "FAST LIFE SONGS" which has also received critical acclaim and continues to sell well. 2009 saw the release of the bands second live album "SWITCH ON THE LIVE" a powerful high energy album and next year an acoustic live album "FAST DREAMS COME ALIVE" recorded at the Bulls Head Barnes. Another limited edition live acoustic album is now available recorded at the Oval Tavern Croydon featuring Robin and Alan Glen, one of the UK's very finest harmonica players.

Blues, Funk, Rock, Reggae and Jazz/Fusion are all rolled together in The Robin Bibi Band's own totally unique feel-good concoction. Above all, the Band’s aim is to give their audience a night to remember whilst guaranteeing the best British Blues Rock can offer in a tried and tested, exciting, spontaneous, power trio format with the highest level of musicianship the style can offer. Because of their widely known reputation with a highly entertaining stage presentation, the Robin Bibi Band are now one of the busiest bands and have played most of the major Blues festivals in the Europe. Robin has now made his debut in the USA playing successful shows in Atlanta, Alabama and Muscle Shoals.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

The blues is about being alive!! Its part of the human condition... I can express sorrow, joy, pain, happiness and every emotion through the blues…As long as we have emotion we have the blues...

How do you describe Robin's sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

Robin Bibi Band is my own personal vision of the music I want to create. Even though it has the emotion and FEEL of the blues it doesn’t always have the musical form of the blues. I have played all styles of music in my career, Rock, Jazz, Funk, Country etc as well as blues and I mix these styles together to create my own unique personal blend. Improvisation is vital too...we never play the same song quite the same every gig. Every time we perform its a unique experience...so my music is my personal statement of life...!

"The best advice I've ever been given was from a session guitarist who showed me how to play guitar using "Hybrid Picking" eg fingerpicking with plectrum and 3 fingers." Photo by Sarah Reeve

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and worst moment of your career?

My whole life has been totally interesting from my first gig at the age of 15 to now. It’s all been wonderful. I've had total fun...there is no best and worst but some things have been memorable for different reasons...I must say one of my best experiences was opening for BB King at the Royal Albert Hall and meeting him after the show. I gave him a copy of my first album "Blue Thrash Therapy" and he asked ME to sign it for HIM!! What a dude! When I first became a professional guitarist I was involved with various punk bands and there were a few times when we nearly got into some dangerous situations on stage with fans of other bands who didn’t like us much for being loud and aggressive ... happy days! (We were lucky to get out alive a couple of times!) I’ve moved on from that now (I hope!)

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Blues music is so heartfelt that anyone with a heart and an open mind will be drawn in...it transcends all barriers of age, race etc...it’s really timeless and it is normally made by REAL Musicians on REAL instruments expressing their personal experience.!

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

I think one of the best jams I ever had was in Ireland at the Blues on the Bay festival. I had 8 gigs in 5 days and on the last day my voice was completely gone! The festival organiser Ian Sands contacted Paul Sherry and Grainne Duffy who played the whole gig with us…It was awesome... A memorable gig for me...there have been so many I don’t know where to start...but playing an open air festival in Lofoten, Norway on stage at midnight with the sun lighting up the mountains behind us was pretty good..! And playing to a full house at the Royal Albert Hall opening for BB King...More of that to follow! Another memorable gig for me was during my short stint filling in with The Pretty Things when Robert Plant and Jimmy Page came to guest with us. Standing next to Jimmy Page on stage and trading solos with him was pretty amazing for me who had grown up listening to Led Zeppelin...

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

All the meetings I've had with professional musicians more experienced than me have shaped my professional attitude. The best advice I've ever been given was from a session guitarist who showed me how to play guitar using "Hybrid Picking" eg fingerpicking with plectrum and 3 fingers.

Are there any memories from recording and show time which you’d like to share with us?

Memories from recording and show time... Well I blew my amp up half way through recording a solo on my album "Tribute To Fast" through playing too loud ... And so many funny things have happened to me on stage I don't know where to start! One thing was losing a front tooth which had been temporarily fixed in by the dentist half way through singing a song called "Let’s Work Together". I found it on the floor, stuck it back in again and continued the song!!

Blues, Jazz, Soul, Reggae...all music that’s coming from the heart and you can dance to...Even good "free" jazz A la Coltrane still comes from the heart...it’s just different styles of Self Expression and the freedom to try new ideas.. Good music can never stagnate..." (Photo Robin and Gip Gipson)

What's been your experience from USA tour? What are the differences between British and American scene?

It was really interesting and fun for me to work in the USA ...Some people say American audiences are more outgoing than British but I found they were really quite similar. Yes the English are reserved but usually I can get through that one...The Americans actually found me a little curious as an Englishman playing their music in the authentic way I do was good for them to see. The first time I actually played a gig in the USA I was actually complemented for playing Authentic British Blues! I guess its true... Having said that once the Americans decide they like you they are very demonstrative which is lovely and very good for the performance..!

What do you miss most nowadays from the early days of British Blues boom?

I wasn’t quite old enough to be on the scene at the time of the original British Blues Boom but I'm sure there were many more little grass roots venues then than now ...so I guess its very important now for us all to keep music LIVE at a grass roots level as this is how real performers start off and learn stage craft...

What are your hopes and fears for the future of blues? Do you believe in the existence of real blues nowadays?

There are lots of very exciting young blues/rock artists coming up...this music will not lay down and die because its REAL..! Its universal and timeless ...Jimi Hendrix is still really popular with young people... There are lots of very talented up and coming young blues or blues influenced performers in the UK / Europe / USA playing to healthy sized audiences... In the UK check out Joanne Shaw Taylor, Aynsley Lister, Virgil and the Accelerators, Laurence Jones, etc etc. 

Which memories from Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Ben E. King, Alan Glen, and Pretty Things makes you smile?

Another memorable gig for me was during my short stint filling in with The Pretty Things when Robert Plant and Jimmy Page came to guest with us. Standing next to Jimmy Page on stage and trading solos with him was pretty amazing for me who had grown up listening to Led Zeppelin...he listened to me play and encouraged me to take solos whilst he played Rhythm guitar...After the second show Robert Plant told me I had played a blinder..! Ben E. King was a truly professional artist... The Pretty Things always made me smile for one reason or another...playing alongside Dick Taylor was totally awesome...he is a true gentleman, a great human being and a British Blues legend who still plays RnB in that Chuck Berry/ Keith Richard style…no frills not too many notes just proper punchy blues...Phil May is still a Star..! I'm still working frequently with Alan Glen and we have done a Live CD together "Live at the Oval Tavern" which also features a guest spot from young Blues singer Chloee Christmas. We have a gig next Saturday in fact..!

You are also known for your acoustic duo. What is the relation between acoustic folk and electric blues?

We love to play acoustic...We love the intimacy, the atmosphere and the whole alternative approach. Again we can express ourselves through singing and playing...I love the acoustic blues, of course Robert Johnson, Lightning Hopkins, Blind Willie Johnson etc and I also love a lot of the English folk artists, Bert Jansch, John Martyn, Wiz Jones...there is a strong connection..! Also the fact that you can’t hide behind amplifiers when you are acoustic...! But acoustic and electric have this in common...Self Expression...!! its still about the relationship you have with your instrument..!

"The Americans actually found me a little curious as an Englishman playing their music in the authentic way I do was good for them to see."

Do you remember anything funny from the Jam nights? What are the secrets for a good jam night?

JAM NIGHTS!!! Ha ha!! One of the most unusual events was a guy who had played DIDGERIDOO with ...ROBERT PLANT!! coming to my jam...jam nights are always fun… sometimes wonderful… and sometimes things go wrong...but I always thank my jammers and remind them that they shouldn't worry about mistakes- the audience understand! Its great when we get truly fantastic musicians coming down on their nights off and rubbing shoulders with players who are maybe still inexperienced ....The way to run a good jam night is to always keep smiling and treat all the players equally and fairly!

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Soul and continue to Jazz and Reggae music?

Blues, Jazz, Soul, Reggae...all music that’s coming from the heart and you can dance to...Even good "free" jazz A la Coltrane still comes from the heart...it’s just different styles of Self Expression and the freedom to try new ideas.. Good music can never stagnate...

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

A hard question ...I would love to take a year with Doctor Who on the Tardis!!! but I think I would have liked to have been at Monterey California in June 1967 to witness Jimi Hendrix's Explosion into the consciousness of the American public... I’ve seen the video of the whole gig many times and it still excites and scares me in its total awesomeness...! Woooaaah!!

Robin Bibi - official website

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