Multidimensional musician Ira Ingber talks about Capt.Beefheart, Canned Heat, Dylan and Lowell George

"The blues can be an emotional doorway for self-discovery, and for expression of that which often defies conventional language."

Ira Ingber: Music Flavored Fiction(s)

Minneapolis-born, Los Angeles raised, Ira Ingber recorded his first original song at the age of 15. Playing a Gibson J-200 belonging to Don Everly at the fabled Gold Star recording studio in Hollywood, the path to his future was clearly marked. Within a year, he was asked to become a member of a popular L.A. band called The New Generation. A recording contract with Capitol Records and prestigious live performances followed. Although the band recorded only one unreleased album, the many hours spent in Studio B at the Capitol tower whetted his appetite for learning the ins and outs of the recording process.

Studying music at UCLA and privately with the legendary conductor-educator Joseph Valenti added form and structure to the guitar playing skills he had acquired at an early age. His older brother, Elliot, had given him his first guitar, instruction, and the invaluable exposure to what was then the obscure, and relatively seditious form of music known as the blues. Elliot was a member of the first Mothers Of Invention band, later founded the Fraternity Of Man. It was with this connection that Ira eventually wrote and recorded with Captain Beefheart.

An early association with Lowell George led to Ira's second record deal. Lowell produced several tracks for the band, with the executive producers being Ahmet Ertegun and Robert Stigwood. Ira returned the favor many years later by producing two tracks for the Lowell George tribute album entitled Rock and Roll Doctor. Tours and recordings with the singer/songwriter “Mafia” included associations with J.D. Souther, Karla Bonoff, Jennifer Warnes, Andrew Gold, and Bonnie Raitt.

The stage was now set for Ira's third record contract, this time with Clive Davis' Arista, signing his band The Pets with the resulting album Wet Behind The Ears.  Ira was asked to form a band for Bob Dylan that led to the recording of two Dylan albums. A long working relationship with Van Dyke Parks resulted in Ira's involvement at Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks collaborative album Orange Crate Art, among many others. Ira has composed and performed numerous original scores and songs for film, television and commercials. Ira still an active member in music with recordings - his most recent album Fact Flavored Fiction(s) (2011) - and gigs.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

For me, the blues can be an emotional doorway for self-discovery, and for expression of that which often defies conventional language.

How do you describe Ira Ingber sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

I attempt to make my music sound “inevitable” and inviting. I want it to be delicate, but durable. Above all, I want the listener to find out something about themselves when they hear my music.

"I miss the singular focus that music enjoyed in the past. It didn’t have competition for attention like it does now."

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

Right now is the most interesting period of my life! From my time of working with Bob Dylan, the best and worst moments of my career sometimes took place in the course of a single song.

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

Because of the emotional honesty. When music is “authentic,” it operates on a universal level.

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

Any jam with Lowell George. Being part of the Hotel California tour with the J.D. Souther Band.

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

My late music teacher, Joseph Valenti said, “Play the rests. They are often more important than the notes.”

Are there any memories from Captain Beefheart and Lowell George which you’d like to share with us?

Everything was very measured and intentional with Don (Captain Beefheart).  Every lyric, chord change or guitar riff needed to pass his inspection.

Lowell was a mentor to me.  I met him when I was very young (around 16) and impressionable. He impressed me greatly with his work ethic, multi-talents, and humor. Very few days go by that I don’t think of him. I often think about how much he would have loved the technologies that we musicians have at our fingertips today.

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

I miss the singular focus that music enjoyed in the past. It didn’t have competition for attention like it does now. 

I miss the political/social power that music enjoyed in the past.  Here’s a contrast: “We Shall Overcome” vs. Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” You choose.

I don’t fear the Mileys of the world. In a short time, she’ll be largely forgotten. But a fear that I do have is that, at least in the U.S., music of all genres is being under-appreciated. Symphony orchestras are going bankrupt, and music education programs in schools have been gutted. In my estimation, these aren’t healthy trends.

Which memory from Van Dyke Parks, Canned Heat, Bob Dylan and Grandmothers makes you smile?

Everything about Van Dyke makes me smile. Especially when he says that he’s “not making a dime on this.”

Larry Taylor, The Mole, is very much like an older brother. I’ve known him most of my life.  When he asked me to produce Canned Heat I’m sure that I reacted with a big smile on face.

I have too many Bob Dylan stories to tell that make me smile. One of my favorites is when we were rehearsing “Highway 61” at his house. He was singing in my ear, rather than into the microphone. Why, I don’t know. I do know that I was more than likely smiling.

I was proud to have been a part of The Grandmothers legacy.  Because my brother was in the original Mothers Of Invention, it was important to continue the music, even though the band was long gone.

Do you remember anything funny from recording and show time from The New Generation to nowadays?

I was 16 years old when I was in The New Generation. We were on Capitol Records, which at the time was “the” place to be. We were the opening act for bands such as The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, and Love. Despite such high profile shows, we barely made any money.  In fact, we couldn’t afford to pay to park in Capitol’s parking lot.  When we lost our recording contract, Capitol sent me a bill for over $2k, which was an enormous amount of money at the time. The bill was for studio time in The Tower, which we used mostly for rehearsing. Capitol couldn’t find the other guys in the band, but were able to find me.

I never paid the bill.

How has the music changed over the years? Do you believe in the existence of real blues rock nowadays?

There are a number of very dedicated and talented practitioners of blues music today. Some of them gravitate to the more traditional side; others are creating their version of blues rock. The Black Keys come to mind.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from music circuits?

Musicians, especially guitar players, are often guilty of over-playing. This is especially true in a live context. A female vocalist friend of mine was singing in a club recently. A few guitar players were sitting in. At the end of the song, with the guitar players having completely dominated the singer, she turned to the keyboard player and said, “These guys are playing like they just got out of jail.”

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

The sound of the slide was the closest thing to the sound of a train that a guitarist could create. It’s the sound of longing, pain, joy, anger, and possibilities.

If I told you, then there would no longer be secrets. I’ll only say, “high action, and alternative tunings.” The rest you’ll need to figure out on your own.

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

How about going back around 40+ years, armed with ProTools and everything I’ve learned in the last 40 years?  I could very possibly be anointed as some sort of avatar.

Until they found out the truth.

Ira Ingber - official website

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