Spanish harp player and singer Quique Gómez talks about his experiences and friends in the blues fields

"The Music is culture and everybody has to support the music. If there is places where to play the music will keep alive."

Quique Gómez: The Universal Language of Blues

Madrid-born chromatic harp player and singer Quique Gómez is a self-taught musician. He formed his band, Juan Bourbon, Juan Scotch & Juan Beer – one of the top bands in the Spanish blues scene in recent years. Between 2002 till 2012, he runs with his band the Moe Club's Jam Session, Blues reference Jam of the capital, and that counts with the best musicians every week. While working sporadically with his band, in 2002 he joins the Tonky Blues Band, one of the pioneer blues bands in Spain. In the last years he's formed a not true blues band of Gatos Bizcos.

He goes to Chicago for first time at 2007 and since then he goes every year to the states where he shared stage with artists like Eddie C. Campbell, Tail Dragger, Bob Stroger, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Billy Branch, Billy Boy Arnold, James Wheeler, J.W. Williams, Magic Slim, Guy King, Buddy Miles, Carlos Johnson etc. during his visits to Chicago, where he spends periods of time when possible. It's in one of these visits to the Windy City when he meets Bob Stroger, renowned blues bass player and singer.

Quique Gómez is considered one of the top young musicians of the international blues scene. He tours Europe and South America with artists like Bob Stroger, Zach Prather, Eddie C. Campbell, Jimmy Burns, Tail Dragger and Willie Buck. In the last years he recorded some Cd's with his friend the Argentinian guitarist Jose Luis Pardo. He is the singer of one of the most prestigious Big Bands in Europe, the Bob Sands Big Band. Quique tours since 2008 in Europe with Bob Stroger and an band, formed from Italian guitarist Luca Giordano whom he recorded 2 Cd's, the second one “Chicago 3011 Studios Session” with special Guests as Bob Stroger, Eddie C. Campbell, Jimmy Burns, Billy Branch and a great rhythm section. Quique Gómez is passionate about Delta and Chicago blues, but he is not limited to these fields, as he's recorded with numerous bands, with styles like Jazz, Pop, Rock, Funky, and Soul.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

Well, The Blues and I we have been together for years. The Blues is not only Music, it is something else…For me it is my way of living and also a way of discover new places and new friends.

How do you describe Quique Gomez sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

I started out with the old school blues (Muddy, Sonny Boy, Junior, Horton...) so my sound goes a little bit on that way, but I have many more influences, not only from the blues. I like big tone on the notes, I don´t need to play 7 notes in a second to feel satisfied. The band has to sound the best we can and sometimes the band sounds better if you don´t play or you just don´t play to much… I love to play, travel and meet people around the world, the music is the universal language and as a musician I feel very lucky…I met a lot of great friends since the beginning of my career and I hope to keep on doin’ it!!!

Which is the most interesting period in your life?  

I decided to leave everything in Madrid and to go to Chicago in 2008, which was my dream…Once there I had a lot of great experiences that changed in some way my life….I had the opportunity of to play with some of my idols and even I played in the Chicago blues Festival with my friend Steve Arvey.  Everything in my life since that moment changed and I don´t think I would be where I am now if it wasn´t for that period…

Which was the best and worst moment of your career?

There are a lot of great moments like when I had the chance to go to play to Africa, (Kinshasa Jazz Festival in Congo 2009) or when I played on the Chicago Blues Festival with Willie Buck one Saturday afternoon with the park packed of people. I had the chance of doing an amazing tour in 2010 with my friend Luca Giordano in Europe backin the great Jimmy Burns...3 great weeks playing in great stages around Europe…the band was sounded great!!! In Chicago too…. I played with Eddie C. Campbell on his birthday party in the Buddy Guy Legend´s with Buddy standing on the bar and  backing one of my favorite artists ever...The worst moment maybe was in a tour with Bob Stroger in 2011 I felt in Milano and I broke my elbow so bad…I had to do 2 more shows with Bob and then I had a 10 days tour in Italy with my “brother” Luca Giordano releasing our first cd …I had to play 12 shows with a plaster in my arm and when I got back to Madrid I had to start a rehab that made me lose my flight to Chicago that year...Now my elbow is okay…

"Maybe Europe is more traditional now. There are not really many people playing traditional Blues on the States…"  (Photo: Quique on acoustic set with Juan Bourbon, Juan Scotch & Juan Beer)

Do you remember anything funny from the Moe Club's Jam Sessions and the Tonky Blues Band?

When I began the Moe´s Jam Sessions I was 20 years old and during the 10 years I played there with my band Juan Bourbon, Juan Scotch & Juan Beer I had the chance of to play with almost everybody in Spain and a few blues legends on small Stage (Bob Stroger, Tail Dragger, Eddie C. Campbell, Jimmy Burns, Rockin´ Johnny Burgin...)

Tonky was already playing Blues in Madrid since the 80´s and he came to the Jam and he took Curro Serrano (the guitar player) and me for his band….We stayed with him around 2 years till we decide to focus on our band (we were doing with Juan Bourbon, Juan Scotch & Juan Beer more than 100 shows per year at that time). With Tonky, I had the chance of playing with Buddy Miles …

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

The Blues is related to a specific period of time and its society. It is a very powerful style….when you play it you can throw away all your problems for a while...It is true that we love the Blues in Europe but all around the world is the same…

What’s the best jam you ever played in?

In Chicago with Luca we were called to do the after blues festival party at one the great blues clubs, Rosa´s Lounge…We did it for first time in 2011, we were playing with our great friend and blues legend Bob Stroger on Bass and we needed a drummer, I said Luca why don´t we call Willie “Big Eyes Smith” on Drums?…Next day we were playing with Bob and Willie and Aryo Sumito (Billy Branch, Robert Jr Lockwood) on Piano...And all our friends they came...Jimmy Burns, Rockin’ Johnny, Peaches Staten, Eddie C. Campbell, Tail Dragger, Eric Davis, Pete Galanis, Breezy Rodio, Willie Buck, Lurrie Bell…That was an incredible night that I won´t forget !!

"The Blues is not only Music, it is something else…For me it is my way of living and also a way of discover new places and new friends." (Quique with Bob Stroger and Luca at Rosa´s)

What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

I remember a show in Spain, in Soria, a festival with Jimmy Burns, Luca Giordano, David Salvador and Guillaume Destarac…It was 2011 and there were like 5000 people in the audience….We burned the Place!!!! Jimmy was on fire…

The Released Party of the first CD of my band Los Gatos Bizcos on Sala “El Sol” in Madrid was a very expecial night when we packed one of the most emblematic venues of Madrid. That Was April 2012.

It was a great experience to Play in Kinsasha too for that great audience…

There are some more, Like the Show with the Bob Sands Big Band in Joy Slava Theater in Madrid where I was singing Sinatra or The Show of Juan Bourbon, Juan Scotch & Juan Beer on Teatro Lara (180 years old Theater)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you?

Definitely my first trip to Chicago changed my life and I meet my great friend Luca and also Breezy Rodio who took me on his house. That year, one night Lurrie Bell was playin´ at Rosa’s Lounge, on the west side of Chicago...I was there like on every show Lurrie was doing. That night he called me to play with him and when I went down the stage A guy came to talk to me….that night was the first time I talked to my  great friend Eddie C. Campbell….

Luca and me, we went to see Kevin Johnson on Delmark and Bob Koester opened the door…he recorded a bunch of my favorite recordings with my favorite musicians, and he was sleeping on a couch on the store!!! Very nice guy!

"Some people told me in my beginnings not to play the harp all the time behind the vocals and that’s a great advice that helped me out a lot when I was backin many people…" (Photo: Quique with Eddie C. Campbell on stage)

Are there any memories from Eddie C. Campbell, Tail Dragger, and Bob Stroger which you’d like to share with us?

Well, I have very good memories with all of them…with Eddie spending days with him in Chicago goin to jam together and visiting his family and also playing with him on his birthday. Now he is on rehab after some health problems he had in Germany this January, while he was touring. This year he came to a BBQ we did with Bob Stroger, Billy Branch and Rosa (Billy´s Wife), Rockin' Johnny, Dan Carelly, Pete Galanis, he was on a wheel chair but he was looking better.

With Tail, I toured in Spain and South America and the states, where I had great experiences, but I should say that I had the chance of spend some days in Chicago with Tail, driving his van, goin out to shows with him and also playing in a Festival on a Beisbol Stadium, and I really enjoyed my time with him. First time I meet Tail he was playing with His Band (Rockin´ Johnny Band) on Roosters Lounge, on the heart of the westside of Chicago. Somebody  told me that Sam Lay (Wolf’s legendary Drummer) was probably going to the small club and I was there with Luca….That night I had the chance of playin with Tail and Johnny and we had a great moment listening old histories of Sam Lay talking about The Wolf or Little Walter at the door of the Club.

Bob Stroger was the first blues legend I had the chance to play with. Bob is a gentleman, a friend and one of the most incredible people I have ever met. I learnt a lot talking with him on the van while we were touring in Europe, he is like an encyclopedia but he never tell you if you don´t ask him….My first year in Chicago he invited me to a BBQ at his house and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith was there, Little Smoky Smoothers, James Wheeler…a very especial day

Which memory from Willie “Big eyes” Smith, Billy Boy Arnold, Magic Slim, and Buddy Miles makes you smile?

I played with Willie once and was a great night for me; he was smiling all the time….

I meet Billy Boy at Artist´s Lounge in the Southside of Chicago (the club doesn´t exist since 2012). On Mondays Billy Branch was playin´ there with his band…It was hard to get there if you don´t get a ride, but Luca and me we used to go by train if we were not gettin a ride…That night we were there and then Billy Boy Arnold got into the club and stayed standing next to me… I was asking Luca, - Is this Guy Billy Boy???? You never know, everything can happen in Chicago.

When I played with Buddy Miles he used to give me his vocals microphone to play my solos, he was site on a table because the chairs didn´t feet him.

Photo: Quique with Bob Stroger, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and "Little Smoky" Smoothers, Chicago

What's been your experience from the US trip?

I feel lucky, because I had the chance of playing with some of the old school guys they are still playing and see where everything happened

What are the differences between European and American scene?

Maybe Europe is more traditional now. There are not really many people playing traditional Blues on the States….

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

Madrid is a good place for livin, and also for the Blues, even if we have a great crisis because of the politicians. We have governor that is tryin to bury the live music….There are half of the places it used to be because they are closin´ the venues instead support the culture….Even though we have very nice clubs in Madrid and Spain. Any moment of the year, any week you can go out almost everynight and see a show….I have to say that it used to be better.

"The Blues gave me a way of livin….and the Blues are the roots every of music we listen today…" Photo: Quinque with Spanish band of Gatos Bizcos

What do you miss most nowadays from the Blues of past?

All the guys they are gone and I never had the chance of meeting them!!!

What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?

The Music is culture and everybody has to support the music. If there is places where to play the music will keep alive.

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

I don´t really know why a southern man in US took a harmonica in some moment around the 1900. The harmonica became a new instrument since then ……

How do you feel as Spanish and an Italian (Luca Giordano) to play the blues around the world? 

It is Great!! We enjoy the travel because we are “travellin´ men” and we love to play Blues so….could you imagine something better???

"The Blues is related to a specific period of time and its society. It is a very powerful style….when you play it you can throw away all your problems for a while..." (Photo: Quique and Luca)

What is the best advice ever given you?

Some people told me in my beginnings not to play the harp all the time behind the vocals and that’s a great advice that helped me out a lot when I was backin many people….

What is the legacy of Blues in the world?

The Blues gave me a way of livin….and the Blues are the roots every of music we listen today….

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

I always thought about that I grew up on a wrong period of time like most of the Blues and Jazz players today.

I would really love to see Sonny Boy Williamson playin in Helena, Arkansas in the late 40’s or Muddy Waters in Chicago in the 50´s.., Robert Jr. Lockwood, Lonnie Johnson, T-Bone Walker ...but I would say that there is a big moment I would love to be there…a show of Count Basie Big Band with Frank Sinatra at the Sands in Las Vegas.

Quique Gomez - official website

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