Q&A with Portuguese band of Peter Storm & The Blues Society - their field of joy, where their Blues really comes alive

"Blues would have the same projection like, for example, current pop has. This would lead the blues to be present at major festivals, radio stations, large concert halls. But, for that, the Blues would have to reach the masses."

Peter Storm & The Blues Society

Portuguese blues band of Peter Storm & The Blues Society released their debut 8 tracks album “First” (2020). José Reis, Jorge Mr. Shuffle Oliveira, Bino Ribeiro and João Belchior are Peter Storm and The Blues Society. The stage is their field of joy, where their Blues really comes alive! Four seasoned Blues musicians from Portugal who participated / played in bands such as Johnny Blues Band, Minnemann Blues Band, Judy Blues Eyes Band, The Smokestackers, just to name a few. Their qualility as musicians and stage presence are recognized by its pairs and because of that they are often invited to be the support musicians of international bands that are passing through Portugal via blues festivals ... cases of Diunna Greenleaf, Shanna Waterstown, Trevor Sewell, etc.

With their own signature voice and style, PS&TBS Blues takes us to the more conservative side of blues by recreating classics by James Harman, Pistol Pete and Roy Hytower, Albert King, Lonnie Brooks, Buddy Guy, BB King, Magic Slim, Jimmy Burns, etc. PS&TBS presents a versatile and intimate show based on the experience of its great musicians, envolving the audience in a passionate time travel throughout blues history. Real stories, real journeys. A fantastic show!

Interview by Michael Limnios        Special Thanks: Renato Dias (Dream Sessions Music)

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

João: The Blues have always been with me since the first guitar chords. It started out as another style that I was learning but, with my way of life, the options I took and the results of those options, at times I was able to identify myself with the Blues and their meaning. It was always the style that guided me as a singer and as a guitar player but also at a personal and emotional level.

Jorge: I started listening Blues at early age, maybe 8/9 years old. My older brother had a collection “Living Chicago Blues”, which contained themes from Magic Slim, BB King, Lonnie Brooks, and many more ... I soon realized that it would be the style chosen to define my life, I quickly became an enthusiast, and I often say that the blues are the only musical style that I play without thinking about it… As a drummer, I am convinced that when I play, the music comes as an all, and perhaps derive the feeling of commitment, more passionate and intense. I have always been interested in its history, I love everything about its roots, the way Blues developed, and I found my life and background very look alike as many artists I like and listen to.

How do you describe Peter Storm & The Blues Society sound, music philosophy and songbook?

João: Everyone at Peter Storm & The Blues Society has always been blues musicians. Therefore, our sound is the result of the same language and feeling we all share. Everything we make together comes from a strong connection: we have a lot in common through personal life experiences, therefore, being together in a rehearsal room, on the stage or outside, always has that same human connection and friendship. The result of this is heard in the Blues in the style of Chicago and Delta.

Jorge: PS & TBS was a creation of mine in 2016, started out as a trio, later in late 2018, he became what it is today, a quartet. I believe that this is the desired formation, initially difficult to achieve, but over time I brought together the people / musicians I wanted to obtain the sound I had in mind and always been. I had the opportunity to play with some of the most recognized national Blues bands, and it was time to lead something mine, and resulted very well.

"I am nostalgic for the things that have marked me positively ... since the age when I started listening to this day, the blues often they served as a pillow for resting my head, relaxing and meditating. The Blues from the past essentially bring me memories, and this is what I keep with me in my life..."

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

João: The first rehearsal we did in the drummer's attic was a milestone for me. At the end of the rehearsal I felt that we were connected, and we were going to be lined up in the choice of themes and arrangements. The communication was immediate. We all came from the same pot, so the mixture is very homogeneous. The first gig at Vila do Conde Blues Festival proved that the band was up to the challenge. We had just created a blues band to take to the road. The recording of “First” was a challenge too. For the short time in which we decided to record the themes, the versions we chose with our arrangements and the tension in some moments that tested our way of being as friends.

Jorge: In my specific case, my career was very shaped by what I did in Pop Mainstream. I worked and still work with some successful bands from our panorama in the world of Pop, and with these bands I had the opportunity to open Queen concerts, Simple Minds, Ricky Martin, George Michael, The Coors, The Cure, etc ... were indeed remarkable days, being able to share the stage with world famous names. In the Blues I also have memorable days with bands like Johnny Blues Band, with whom I recorded an album “Good Old Times” that can be heard on Bandcamp, and we did dozens of festivals, it was a success. I played regularly also with the so-called first blues band in the country, the Minnemann Blues Band, band with 40 years of career, where also played some of the biggest names in terms of Portuguese musicians. With these bands toured most of the Blues festivals in Portugal, I kept essentially good friendships and memories of nights with wonderful performances. This is what we want from the Blues. Finally, the recording session of “first”, the first PS & TBS album it was also special, for all that involved, an intense weekend, without stop to do everything, then I saw that not only I had a band, but I could also realize that there was the group of people that made sense to start this walking. It was good to feel the delivery and commitment of everyone in the best possible result, that made me rested and happy.

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

João: I'm not in a country traditionally fan of blues. Many of the projects I know are not about "that" blues that brings all the essence of the past. And that's good because there will be innovation of the blues’ sound. And I don't miss those bands that play an exact copy of traditional blues because it is still played around here, in Peter Storm & The Blues Society and other Portuguese bands. And I know that there will always be blues musicians carrying the legacy, decade after decade, in different sounds but respecting the roots, which is the most important thing.

Jorge: I am nostalgic for the things that have marked me positively ... since the age when I started listening to this day, the blues often they served as a pillow for resting my head, relaxing and meditating. The Blues from the past essentially bring me memories, and this is what I keep with me in my life... not exactly any artist specially, but the experiences that are in a way linked sentimentally to the style. My fear is the uncertainty. Right now, for everyone, all over the world, what we are going through ... I am not afraid of anything I can see, touch, or know ... but this phase is making me worried about that, the uncertainty. There is a great lack of knowledge about all, this is not a real social context, I am concerned that the governors / leaders do not know how to explain, do not know what to do, and how most people behave as if everything it was fine ... no, it's not!

I have the hope that everything will be resolved, that we will be able to live in peace again, without fear, with everything we are entitled to, go back to the concerts, go back to being able taking our kids for a walk, being with friends and family, anyway ... it can be even considered utopian, or politically correct, but at this stage, these simple things have a high price and are in fact the most desirable by most of the population.

"It’s awesome experience knowing that people that listen to our recorded album still feel the same when they heard us first time live. Culturally, we are not a blues country. But we are made of fado, that leads to intense feeling, and the same happens with the blues."

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

João: Blues would have the same projection like, for example, current pop has. This would lead the blues to be present at major festivals, radio stations, large concert halls. But, for that, the Blues would have to reach the masses.

Jorge: Each case is different, the musical world in England and the USA is one thing, and in Portugal is another; deep down I would like to reach an international level, and I would like that in Portugal, in general, more musicians thought that way, as a professional, perfectionist, total commitment, sharing, equality, simple things, but that doesn't always happen. Only by thinking big can you become big! That was the reality that I wish I had or could build for future generations.

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

João: Blues in Portugal has been growing. There are more festivals and gig circuits for bands that immerse and those that have been around for a few years, but it will always be a battle. But the main issue is taking blues to the masses and for that it would be needed “mainstream” festivals, radios and everyone involved. Anyway, there’s more promotors and musicians that start to dedicate more time to the blues and that’s super positive.

Jorge: In Portugal, unfortunately it's not just playing the Blues that makes life more "complicated". Portugal is a small country, has a small market even to Pop. All other styles, apart from our Fado, live similarly ... You can't make a living playing just Blues, Jazz, or Reggae. Many musicians of these styles or teach their instrument in parallel in schools (those who have this ability and appetite) or need to have a part-time job in a different branch to be able to fulfill its obligations monthly. The country has about 92,000 km2... a successful band, easily reaching the goal of 40/50 a year traveling the country from side to side. If we are in a band without much success, we must have to deploy to one or two more bands so that we can reach a comfort paycheck. There is no “tour” mentality, because there we left here, for all that I mentioned above ... there is a mentality that is reticent to risk, coupled with this the little financial power and the natural difficulty competing with much richer and more developed markets. However, here we have great Blues bands that naturally make the maybe 10/15 festivals that take place here in two years, will also go occasionally to renowned international festivals, have recorded clubs and seeks in a certain way with greater or lesser difficulty, to make a career, but without having a situation that allows you to live in a relaxed way. The Blues are growing year after year, there are more and more lovers and musicians of the style, fortunately. I have hope for a better future!

"Everyone at Peter Storm & The Blues Society has always been blues musicians. Therefore, our sound is the result of the same language and feeling we all share. Everything we make together comes from a strong connection: we have a lot in common through personal life experiences, therefore, being together in a rehearsal room, on the stage or outside, always has that same human connection and friendship. The result of this is heard in the Blues in the style of Chicago and Delta."

What is the impact of Blues on the sociocultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

João: When I play blues live, I want the audience to feel what I’m feeling. They may not know why I’m feeling that way, but through sound, voice or a “bend” I know I can get my message across. It’s awesome experience knowing that people that listen to our recorded album still feel the same when they heard us first time live. Culturally, we are not a blues country. But we are made of fado, that leads to intense feeling, and the same happens with the blues.

Jorge: I particularly liked that the opportunities were similar for everyone, but you can't make people like this or that, they like of those who give or what is within the reach of their culture. There is a strong will on the national blues musicians, agents and promoters, a desire to take their “product” to the youngest, which are the future, and work has been done to do so. Nowadays there are many Blues bands. When I started in 1995, there was only 3 or 4 ... there are also more festivals and themed clubs of the style, music schools started to teach Blues, and little by little we are managing to regenerate consumers and style lovers. The path is being made.

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

João: Woodstock, for Santana, Paul Butterfield and Canned Heat. Or…probably…any Muddy Waters gig, in that old place called Mississippi!!!

Jorge: I don't particularly have a focused will, but I wish I could work at a higher level, compatible with my commitment and my quality requirements, which I think I have, without presumption or self-centeredness. I wish I had more clubs to record, more concerts to play! I would like, to work (as I've worked on time) with great Blues artists to have this experience and this learning.

Peter Storm & The Blues Society / Photo by Andreia Oliveira

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