Q&A with virtuoso guitarist Randy Jacobs - The Blues, Rock, Funk and Soul are aspects of his life and journeys

"Everyone is the same on this planet when music has a great message, strong melody and a killer groove that touches them. I've seen it. Sun Ra once said "Music is Language" I believe that, it is a universal one."

Randy Jacobs: Shake The Planet

Flashback to 1980 - During his maiden session for Don and David Was, Randy Jacobs meets Sweetpea Atkinson on a cold night in the Motor City at Sound Suite Studio (the recording home of the fledgling band Was (Not Was). The connection was immediate and a bond was forged between the two artists. Their combined talents would help Was (Not Was) become a successful act during the 80’s and into the early 90’s cumulating with the worldwide hit “Walk The Dinosaur” co-written by Jacobs. After their European tour with Dire Straits in 1992 the Was Band went on hiatus and Randy started writing songs for a solo project while earning a living in Los Angeles playing with or recording for the likes of Bonnie Raitt, BB King, Seal, Paula Abdul, Kris Kristofferson, Ofra Haza, Tears For Fears, Warren Hill and others.Sweetpea was also singing for his supper in Los Angeles adding background vocals to artists like Neil Diamond, Bonnie Raitt, Keb Mo, and Bob Segar. Randy had been working with various singers looking for the right voice for his new band when Atkinson called to say that he wanted to be part of Randy’s brand-new thing and so the journey began.

It was Bonnie Raitt who inadvertently gave them their name “Boneshakers” while they were working on her “Longing In Our Hearts” and in 1996 the two were signed to Pointblank/Virgin Records and produced two CDs for the label. “Book Of Spells” (1997) which included Randy’s rockin swing arrangement of James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” and the powerful “Shake The Planet” (1998). After leaving the label Sweetpea decided to go on the road with Lyle Lovett. Jacobs pushed on releasing the CD “Pouring Gasoline” (2001) on his own Bad Monkey Recordings label featuring singer Malford Milligan (Storyville, Double Trouble). Milligan had come to see the Boneshakers a few years before at a show in Austin via Randy’s pal guitarist Stephen Bruton. When he heard that the singer’s job was available he called Randy who was excited at the prospect. The guitarist had actually been asked to join Storyville in 1995 but had to decline because his commitment to the Boneshakers. Milligan turned out to be the perfect replacement for Sweetpea. The pair released one more CD together, the live in concert “Put Some Booty On It, Vol 1” (2002). When Malford left in 2003 to start his own band, fate stepped in to bring Sweetpea back to the Boneshakers. While working together on a session for former band mate producer Don Was, Sweetpea asked if he could rejoin the band and once again the originals were back. They released “Put Some Booty On It, Vol 2″ (2006) featuring their first live from 1997. With a new release in 2017, a Sweetpea solo CD produced by Keb' Mo no less coming to the masses May 2015 and a 2015 tour and live album with Mindi Abair. In April 2017, the band took a short break to record their first studio record. The EastWest Sessions was recorded at legendary Hollywood recording studio EastWest Studios and released on September 2017, is a powerful, bluesy, momentous, and deeply emotional journey.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the music industry? What touched (emotionally) you from 'Motor City' sound?

From my time in the industry (40 plus years) I've learned that hard work, fortitude and will power work better then wishful thinking or luck. What touched me growing up in Detroit was the willingness of people to come together and create something great. The chance to be artist seemed right in front of you if you put the time in and believed in yourself.

What were the reasons that you started the Soul/Blues researches? How do you describe your sound and songbook?

The blues, rock and soul aspects were in my face from the time I became serious about guitar. My Grandmother, my uncles, the music of Detroit, rock, blues and soul was everywhere. From Motown to Bob Seger to Grand Funk, and many incredible local artists you probably never have heard of. We are a hybrid of course, Blues Roots yes but there's rock and soul there too.

"I would say the impact is huge, from every demographic to every country in the world there is music from other cultures that could be classified as blues or folk blues. Whether it's Bob Marley's "Exodus", Olfra Hazzah "Dada Hi Ah" or Keb Mo's "Government Cheese. Anyone can relate."

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

Producer Barrett "Money" Strong, Don Was, The Late Detroit guitarist Bruce Nazarian, Miles Davis bassist Michael Henderson, BB King, Bonnie Raitt, Producer Don "Disco Lady" Davis and Detroit Guitarist Ray Parker Jr.

Detroit legend Johnnie Mae Matthews was "one of the first women music producers anywhere" and she saw me play at the Mozambique club in Detroit when I was 16 and she said "I don't know you but when you played, it hit me to my heart, never lose that and fight for your dream".

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

I miss the interaction or chemistry between musicians. I didn't care about a paycheck when I was building something. Everyone believed enough to put their soul and talent in it. I hope that more musicians go back to playing without track enhancements on stage and recording together in the studio or I fear music will continue just be rehashes and samples of old songs.

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

 No, mp3s and no computer programs to make music. I think computers have stagnated the growth and creativity in music. The MP3 devalued music and with making music on computer, you miss out on learning how to groove and how to create with others.

The Album cover was an extension of the artists vision and think younger fans have missed out on the journey of listening to the whole package. Now they just cherry pick.

"From my time in the industry (40 plus years) I've learned that hard work, fortitude and will power work better then wishful thinking or luck. What touched me growing up in Detroit was the willingness of people to come together and create something great. The chance to be artist seemed right in front of you if you put the time in and believed in yourself." (Photo: Randy & Mindi Abair)

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

Sweetpea Atkinson and I were lurking outside Don Was' home studio back in the 90's on a break from doing tracks for Bonnie Raitt. Bonnie walks up and says "what are you guys doing out here, you shaking your bones or what? That day the Boneshakers were born. Thanks Bonnie.

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

Everyone is the same on this planet when music has a great message, strong melody and a killer groove that touches them. I've seen it. Sun Ra once said "Music is Language" I believe that, it is a universal one.

What is the Impact of Soul/Blues music and culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications?

I would say the impact is huge, from every demographic to every country in the world there is music from other cultures that could be classified as blues or folk blues. Whether it's Bob Marley's "Exodus", Olfra Hazzah "Dada Hi Ah" or Keb Mo's "Government Cheese". Anyone can relate.

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

I would take a 3-day trip to 1969 to see Woodstock, so many great musicians made their ultimate statement there.

Randy Jacobs - Official website

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