Q&A with legendary guitarist Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown - their new album titled “Ain’t Done Yet” on Quarto Valley Records

"Blues is a music form that enables to express my feelings and express my deepest emotions."

Kim Simmonds: Rockin' The Blues

Savoy Brown was formed by guitarist Kim Simmonds in 1965 in London, England. Savoy Brown fans might be the luckiest fans in the world. No other blues rock act alive today has delivered so much excellent music for so long, and the group shows no signs of slowing down. Legendary blues-rock band, birthed in London 55 years ago and long-based in upstate New York, announces the August 28 release of their exciting new album, Ain’t Done Yet, on Quarto Valley Records. Energetic blues has been the calling card of the band from the beginning. “Blues rock” became the catch-all phrase in the late 1960s to describe the band’s music along with that of contemporaries such as Cream, Fleetwood Mac and Jimi Hendrix. Along the way, Savoy Brown has toured continuously, making it one of the longest running blues/rock bands in existence. Through the years, the band has headlined concerts at many prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, the Fillmore East, the Fillmore West and Royal Albert Hall in London. The band, having established national status in the 1970s, provided other groups opportunity. Kiss opened the bill on a Savoy Brown national tour as did ZZ Top, The Doobie Brothers and many, many more acts.                                   Savoy Brown, 2020 / Photo by Juan Junco

Simmonds has been the group's guiding hand from the first singles released in 1966 through this newest effort, Savoy Brown’s 41st album release. On the new record, Simmonds (guitar harmonica and vocals) is once again joined by his long-running bandmates Pat DeSalvo (bass) and Garnet Grimm (drums). Energetic blues has been the calling card of the band from the beginning, but Simmonds infuses the 10 tracks on Ain’t Done Yet with a new spirit and vitality - plus some serious guitar chops - in a variety of styles and roots sounds that transcend the blues-rock idiom. Ain’t Done Yet kicks-off in high gear with the album’s first radio focus track, “All Gone Wrong.” “I’ve always liked “All Gone Wrong,” and it’s one of my favorites on the album,” declares Simmonds. A resident of the USA since 1980, bandleader Simmonds has received many accolades himself. Savoy Brown helped spawn the 1968 UK blues boom and later opened the eyes of many 1970s American teenagers to their own home territory blues artists. More than 50 years later, they still remain a progressive blues/rock force. Savoy Brown and Kim Simmonds have a body of work that is matched by only a small portion of musical artists. As they continue to tour the world, young and old find inspiration in their timeless music, classic style and ageless performances. Savoy Brown will support the release of Ain't Done Yet with a late summer tour that extends through 2021.

Interview by Michael Limnios      Special Thanks: Kim Simmonds & Mark Pucci Media

What touched (emotionally) you from the early UK Blues era? How do you want your music to affect people?

The American blues artists I was listening to had heart and soul and were playing in an honest way with little artifact. That was the appeal that made me want to emulate them. I want my music to touch people the same way. I want them to feel the honesty within the music and to feel the energy.

What would you say characterizes new recording "Ain’t Done Yet" in comparison to other previous 40 albums? 

The big difference with the new album is the multi-layer approach I took to recording the guitar parts. The new album is a continuance of the approach I’ve been taking with the band this past decade. It’s all blues-based rock music. I try to find new and progressive ways to write and play the music I’ve loved since I was a young teenager. I recorded Ain’t Done Yet at Showplace Studios in New Jersey, where I’ve recorded many times before, owner/engineer Ben Elliott passed away shortly after the recording and I’ve dedicated the album to him. I emphasized song content on the new album, yet I left plenty of room for band improvisation, for instance, there are two acoustic-based songs and also two six-minute songs where I’m able to stretch out on guitar solos.

Have you recorded your new CD using a more old-fashioned sound because you believe that there are no new paths of sound?

I use a guitar sound that I like. It’s more traditional because I’m that style of player.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

A very difficult question to answer. The musical world is imperfect like everything else but it all seems to work. The less interference the better probably. Let it carry on as is.

"The American blues artists I was listening to had heart and soul and were playing in an honest way with little artifact. That was the appeal that made me want to emulate them. I want my music to touch people the same way. I want them to feel the honesty within the music and to feel the energy." (Kim Simmonds with his long-running bandmates Pat DeSalvo  and Garnet Grimm / Photo by Juan Junco)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

I have learned in music that you never stop learning. That musical inspiration and creativity is infinite.

Do you consider the Blues a specific music genre and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?

Blues MUSIC is a musical style. Blues FEELING is a state of mind.

When was your first desire to become involved in the blues? What were the first songs you learned?

I was brought up by my brother on rock and roll music. I loved Elvis Presley and his mix of blues and rock and roll. When I was 13 I started listening specifically to Chicago blues and realized that was want I wanted to play. The first thing I learnt to play was the Bo Diddley beat.

Is there any similarity between the blues today and the blues of the sixties?

Not much. The talent isn’t as strong as in the 1960’s.

From the musical point of view is there any difference between Europe and US?

There are more similarities than differences. And different countries in Europe have their own personalities and cultures of course. America is more of a freewheeling country that allows you to live more independently and that’s why I emigrated here years ago... and it helps being a blues musician when you live in the country from whence the music came.

Who were your first idols? What have been some of your musical influences?

Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. The guitarist Billy Butler who played with The Bill Doggett Band in the 1950’s and the jazz guitarist Grant Green are two of my biggest influences.

Savoy Brown was formed by guitarist Kim Simmonds in 1965 in London. Simmonds has been the group’s guiding hand from the first singles released in 1966 through the band’s newest effort, “Ain’t Done Yet” (2020) on Quarto Valley Records. (Photo: Kim Simmonds & Muddy Waters / Courtesy of Joseph Pereira)

What do you think were the reasons for the blues boom of the sixties?

People wanted more from music than the dance music from Motown records.

Did you help many artists in the meantime did you found any gratitude from them?

I have helped lots of younger musicians by trying to inspire them. I get lots of compliments from musicians of all ages. That’s more gratifying than any other part of my career.

How was your relationship with the other British blues musicians from ‘60s?

Quite good although I am very shy and could not get past that when meeting other musicians. Because of my shyness, I would mask it and people thought I was something I wasn’t.

Why did you think that Savoy Brown music continued to generate such a devoted follower?

Not going for the money.

How has the Blues music and culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Honesty is what I found in blues music. No smoke and mirrors. That is what I also look for in people.

What does BLUES mean to you?

Blues is a music form that enables to express my feelings and express my deepest emotions.

How do you describe previous album "City Night" (2019) songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

City Night has a minor key approach throughout that gives it a moody feel. I was born with nervous energy and I put that to good use artistically. Life (and music) is all about energy. I was also born with a strong work ethic. It’s in my upbringing and DNA.

"There are more similarities than differences. And different countries in Europe have their own personalities and cultures of course. America is more of a freewheeling country that allows you to live more independently and that’s why I emigrated here years ago... and it helps being a blues musician when you live in the country from whence the music came." (Kim Simmonds with his long-running bandmates Pat DeSalvo  and Garnet Grimm / Photo by Juan Junco)

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My wife, Debbie, has been one of the most important persons in my life. “If you play boogie woogie well, you’ll always make a living” Champion Jack Dupree said that to me when I was nineteen.

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

I still play the blues from the past and listen to it all the time...I miss the artfulness that was in the music back then. As long as new young musicians continue to play blues I am hopeful for the future of the music. My fears are that they will use it only as a stepping stone.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

Multi-racial blues bands in the 1960’s helped to break down color barriers. The music has brought joy and unity to people of various countries irrespective of their political or religious beliefs.

What were the reasons that the UK in the 1960s was the 'Mecca' of Blues Rock researches and experiments?

The down to earth and realness of the music appealed to young British people of the 1960s who were looking for something deeper and with more meaning than what the mainstream music business was often selling. Blues, like jazz, was also an improvised music and appealed to young musicians who wanted to break away from the fixed academic approach. And it was tougher sounding than jazz, which was also an appeal.

What mistake of music you want to correct? Give one wish for the music...

Generally speaking, …take foot pedals away from guitar players. Generally speaking, again…That it is kept out of politics.

What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had? What do you miss most nowadays from the ‘60s?

Carnegie Hall. Moondogs Blues Club. Being surrounded by incredible talent.

Three words to describe Savoy Brown? Do you prefer acoustic or electric guitar?

Blues Rock Band!!! Acoustic playing helps my electric playing…it’s all the same.

Which of historical music personalities would you like to meet?

Frank Sinatra.

"Blues, for me anyway, is a bit like Religion…it’s hard to do it…well. You have to be hungry to really play blues with any kind of feeling. You have to carry a cross."

How is your relationship with Mike Vernon?

Excellent. I have great admiration for him. He deserves more credit.

What does GUITAR mean to you? What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?

Too deep for even me to understand! Good musician? ... Bad experiences!

Three words to describe your sound & your progress. What does the Blues offer you?

An independent man! I have been able to follow my heroes such as Buddy Guy from when I was 13 ‘til now. I’m 71. That’s 50 years of following an artist who has never let me down.

How do you want to be remembered? What do you learn about yourself from music?

As one of the best white blues guitarists. That life is only as important as you make it. Guitar playing can be very shallow or very deep. It’s what you make it to be.

How would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?

I think they understand it is about the music I play and not about myself.

Were there any places for gigs where you did especially well?

It changes from year to year… working class areas seem to be the best.

How has the music business changed over the years since you first started in music?

The music business hasn’t changed at all apart from the technological side.

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

The last 35 years because I’ve lived life on my own terms.

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

I’d really want to go back to the late 1950’s and early 1960’s again in the U.K. To relive those old memories and to see if life was as fun as I remember it!

"There are more similarities than differences. And different countries in Europe have their own personalities and cultures of course. America is more of a freewheeling country that allows you to live more independently and that’s why I emigrated here years ago... and it helps being a blues musician when you live in the country from whence the music came." (Photo: Early days of Savoy Brown, c. 1960s)

How do you feel now that you got more fame and celebrity? Which is the price of publicity?

It makes me work harder. I like where I’m at in life… I’ve fought very hard and have sacrificed to be my own man and not be beholden to anyone. Fact is, I don’t like huge success. It’s a trap. The price of publicity: Less freedom and more people to have to try to please. 

Why do you play the blues? Are "The Blues” a way of life?

It’s in me and it’s got to come out! Blues, for me anyway, is a bit like Religion…it’s hard to do it…well. You have to be hungry to really play blues with any kind of feeling. You have to carry a cross.

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

1969 was a highlight year playing at the Fillmore East. Worst part was when I was bankrupt in the 1980’s and had lost my feeling for the guitar.

Which of your work would you consider to be the best? What were your favorite guitars back then? What are some of your favorite blues standards?

Album: Street Corner Talking, Guitar: Gibson Flying V!!! “Stormy Monday Blues” by T-Bone Walker, “Red House” by Jimi Hendrix, “Smokestack Lightning” by Howling Wolf and many more...

Do you be live that as far as the blues are concerned, Europe has the “brains” and America has the “soul”?

You don’t need brains to play the blues… you need suffering somewhere in your life.

What do you feel is the key to your success as a musician? What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?

Taking chances! Don’t follow the carrot.

Savoy Brown - Home

(Savoy Brown, 2020: Kim Simmonds with Pat DeSalvo  and Garnet Grimm / Photo by Juan Junco)

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