Interview with Birmingham power trio of Big Wolf Band - classic rock feel with blues undertones

"Blues is an emotion so what I play is an expression of how I feel from slow to fast blues to strange it’s important to voice and share it Blues is a vehicle it gets me from A to B via C with F and G along for the ride."

Big Wolf Band: Howlin In Albion

The Birmingham power trio formed late in December 2013 with its mind set on original music in the rock/blues genre. The trio made up of Jon Earp (guitar/vocals), Mick Jeynes (bass) and Andy Beddoes (drums and vocals) have been regulars on the gig circuit for years with different bands, bringing an array of experience and attributes to the table. The Big Wolf Band’s original material sits nicely between the two genres of music, taking their influences from bands such as Free, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Gary Moore, Albert Collins, Cream, SRV to name but a few.

The bands original music has classic rock feel with blues undertones that deliver. Big Wolf Band easily slide between a classic rock feel to a more bluesy feel in a heartbeat. This freedom to flirt between the two genres creates the perfect blend for an entertaining performance with highs, lows and everything else in between. Weather your preference is rock or your preference is blues you’re guaranteed to enjoy. The band have plans to record their first EP this year and have already had a number of tracks played on different radio stations both in England, USA, Wales and Scotland. The moon is raising and the Big Wolf Band is coming to play!

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

Jon: The blues comes from the soul, from your feelings and when you play them feelings come through.  I learned how to connect with my feelings and how to transfer that into my playing and song writing.

Andy: Blues is an emotion so what I play is an expression of how I feel from slow to fast blues to strange it’s important to voice and share it Blues is a vehicle it gets me from A to B via C with F and G along for the ride. Blues is a way of life...

Mick: The blues covers everything. Its influence can be heard in all genres of music. Electric blues formed the basis of rock and roll. It is prevalent in soul and funk and the early hard rock bands from the late 60's and 70's such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Cream and even Black Sabbath. I wanted to hear where these hard rock bands got their influence from so I started listening to Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and BB King from the Chicago blues era. This is in turn inspired me to buy albums recorded by the delta folk blues artists such as Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Mississisipi John Hurt, Leadbelly and Blind Willie Johnson who go as far back as the 1920's and 1930's. It is the music from these artists that I love the most as it so raw, heartfelt and stripped back. I also love the way that a contemporary artist such as Tom Waits particularly on the album Mule Variations can use the genre of blues in a weird but innovative way especially on tracks like Get Behind The Mule.

How do you describe Big Wolf Band sound and progress, what characterize band’s philosophy?

Jonathan: The Big Wolf Bands sound is rock blues, throw back feel, influenced by bands such as Free, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and even the likes of Albert Collins. I guess the philosophy when I started the band was to not pigeon hole ourselves and try to bring a fresh flavor to the blues. Sitting in the rock blues genre gives so much more freedom writing wise and has allowed us to develop our own sound. We can take the audience on a roller coaster of a ride, from something with a straight up feel like “Done Wrong By You” to a hard hitting rock blues track like “Heavy Load” we are not restricted in that way. The progress of the band has been amazing and is growing every day.

What is the story behind the name of band the Big Wolf Band?

Mick: The three of us came up with a million and one names but many of them we could either not agree on or more annoyingly had already been used. Jon came up with Big Wolf and the name simply suited the music we were coming up with at rehearsals which was direct and powerful. The name also felt like it could have come from a classic blues era say for instance a backing blues band from Chicago.

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

Jon: Blues is simple to understand and is honest, from the heart and about real life, real experiences and that is why people relate to it so much.

Andy: We are all slaves to music. The Blues dictates the struggle we all experience at various points on life’s journey it’s deeply rooted in culture and like the branches of a tree it spreads from the roots to the leaf. But the true believers of the genre manage to eat the fruit.

Mick: It is because it's influence can be heard in most genres of contemporary music and music fans will always want to hear where the source material came from.

What’s the best jam you ever played in? Are there any memories which you’d like to share with us?

Jon: I reckon performing with the Big Wolf Band; because although the numbers are rehearsed we always have a jam at some point and go off on a tangent, that’s the real buzz, what really gets you going is the improvising. I think our music needs that, freedom of expression, throw back to the hay day of music, to play without fear. Although I have had many a great jam at the Tower of Song in Birmingham.

Andy: When I was about 12 I called round a friends and he was showing me his drum kit someone had given him it was an old set of black Hayemar it had old calf skins on and he was jamming with two school friends and he was struggling to keep time... I asked if I could have a go ...I grabbed the sticks and struck up ...straight away the two other guys nodded and started going for it and it all sounded tight and together ...it was a great feeling after we finished playing it was like yeah that was cool.

I was playing with a Jazz funk band called Nuage9 at the old fighting cocks Moseley Birmingham 1983 in front of Steve Gibbons and meeting him in person after the show ...I did a drum solo and ended up breaking a drum stick half way in I ended up with 3 inches of drum stick.

Mick: The best jams for me have always been the blues jams at the Tower of Song. Musicians pick a key to play in and off you go. For me they have provided an opportunity to meet and perform alongside such great musicians as Jon Earp, Mal Ritter, Gaz Barham, Mark Bennett, Glyn Phillips, Rob Lane (the list goes on forever and apologies to those who I have missed out). These in turn have opened the door for me to join bands where most of the named musicians perform in.

What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had? Which memory makes you smile?

Jon: Some of the best gigs I have had over the years are normally the smaller venues. I did a charity night for Edwards Trust at the Tower of Song in Birmingham when playing for SDBB that was fun. Also more recently was Big Wolf Band at the Prince of Wales in Birmingham, such a fantastic small pub with such great history and so many great musicians who perform there. The place was packed, singing and dancing along and so many fantastic compliments about our original music.

Andy: Sandwell community show 1994 outdoor stage event 13,000 and Tour of Devon Cornwall with unfaith 1995 various venues Exeter Plymouth and Falmouth. Playing at London’s top venues and the famous Ronnie Scots in Birmingham.

Meeting Edwin Star back stage at Ronnie Scotts in Birmingham and giving him a high five respect.

Mick: The most memorable gig was when I was playing in a band called Knievel in 1999 which headlined a Paul Weller tribute night at The Old Railway Inn near Digbeth Birmingham. We had 3 weeks to learn about 7 tricky Jam songs and amazingly we managed to perform really well and received great feedback from 150 plus happy mods. It was terrifying but rewarding. The gigs that have made me smile have been ones performed at The Prince of Wales in Birmingham with both The Sunny Day Blues Band and Big Wolf Band. It is always such a great atmosphere and a really receptive audience.

"The blues comes from the soul, from your feelings and when you play them feelings come through.  I learned how to connect with my feelings and how to transfer that into my playing and song writing."

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

Jon: I think the best meeting /conversation I have had have been with fellow musicians, the ones who have been there and done it. The best advice is always, do what you enjoy and what feels right. I guess the most important meeting for me was finding the Tower of Song venue in Birmingham. I met so many great musicians who were always willing to give you advice, Tom Martin who runs the place was huge in me playing guitar again after a break from music, I guess without the Tower of Song I would not be playing now. Also Mike Davids (Blues Illusion) who I sat in with on a fair few gigs was also a great source of advice and one of the best guitarists I have ever seen. There is also the Crossroads Blues Club which is held every Thursday at the Tower of Song run by Tony Stokes; the monthly jam sessions are amazing and great fun. I love going down to them when time allows. So I guess more than meetings it’s been venues where you can cut your teeth and meet like minded musicians.

Andy: Billy Cobham drum clinic... I thought to myself if I have as much talent as Bill has in one digit I will still be a great drummer.

If bands not out doing paid work after four weeks rehearsing get off the bus and keep walking in the opposite direction...

Mick: Generally meeting up with older and wiser musicians at open mic and jam nights. It's refreshing when these guys impart good advice and offer constructive criticism and are willing to share stories of their experiences.

Keep your bass lines solid and simple and try to serve the song. Just because the drummer does an elaborate fill you don't have to go with him. This advice was given to me by a brilliant bassist called Deano Bass who plays for the fantastic blues outfit Brothers Groove.

"We are all slaves to music. The Blues dictates the struggle we all experience at various points on life’s journey it’s deeply rooted in culture and like the branches of a tree it spreads from the roots to the leaf. But the true believers of the genre manage to eat the fruit."

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Jon: The first thing I miss is that I wasn’t born in the time of real music! You turn on the radio and see production bands and all that crap. Don’t get me wrong there are still pockets of good music out there but it’s a dying breed. From the ground level I hope that venues start picking original artist over tribute acts and so on. The next generation of bands coming through need to be able to cut their teeth in the real world of music, develop their craft from the bottom up. Another worry for the future is live music venues in England, the pubs are disappearing at a worrying rate of knots; this means fewer venues, fewer gigs and fewer bands coming through.

My hope is that the real talent keeps coming through and that quality rises to the top.

Andy: Effortless talent it’s all very forced these days

It’s always a great hope to have success my fear is I will run out of time trying.

Mick: I miss the warmth of analogue recordings. A lot of recordings nowadays is compressed and so clinical. I have a huge amount of admiration for the Foo Fighters who recorded their last album entirely on tape and there was no pro tools in sight. I recommend anybody reading this to YouTube it's really refreshing to watch. I have no fears for music. There is enough good music out there if you are willing to look for it.

Make an account of the case of the blues in UK. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

Andy: At Christmas everyone has the blues in the UK.

Mick: Currently I think Brothers Groove is carrying the flag for British blues. Their music is not only just blues but is heavily influenced by soul, funk and to a certain extent jazz and their musicianship is amazing.

The most interesting blues scene historically was probably the mid to late 60's when The Yardbirds, John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac etc were playing the blues and putting their own stamp on it. They also helped to promote to the European and American audiences the music of the great black American blues artists such as BB King, Albert King, Howling Wolf etc which had sadly been either overlooked or forgotten about in the States.

"I miss the warmth of analogue recordings. A lot of recordings nowadays is compressed and so clinical. I have a huge amount of admiration for the Foo Fighters who recorded their last album entirely on tape and there was no pro tools in sight."

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Soul and continue to Rock and beyond?

Jon: I think the lines that connect all these are the truth in the music, it is not fake, its music with great passion and expression. This is what connects them and what drives them. You can take Stevie Ray Vaughan for example, the feeling that came from his playing was amazing or even ACDC, out and out rock machine they have the same roots, it comes from the heart.  

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

Jon: I would have liked to visit Electric Ladyland Studios when Jimi Hendrix recorded Voodoo Child, the blues version off the album, track number 4 I think. To watch him work would have been an amazing experience.

Andy: Woodstock I would lock Mitch Mitchell in the back of a van and go and play the set with Jimmy Hendrix.

Mick: Any major festival where legends such as Hendrix, Cream, Zeppelin, Purple or Sabbath were playing. The California Jam maybe a good one to pick but I imagine the sound system and toilets were not up to modern standards.

Big Wolf Band - official website

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