Gifted axeslinger Lance Lopez talks about Texas blues scene, Jim Gaines, SRV, Hendrix and Johnnie Taylor

"I think the Blues really just gives us a platform from which to connect with real life and tell the world about it all."

Lance Lopez: Southern Blues Rock 

Blues Rock axeslinger Lance Lopez born in Shreveport, Louisiana. At the age of 12, his family moved to Dallas, where with the exception of a spell back in New Orleans and Florida, the guitarist has called his home ever since. Professional musician since the age of 14 when he began playing local bars in and around the NOLA, at 17 he was hired by soul great Johnnie Taylor, with whom he toured for six months. By 18 he was hired as the band leader of Lucky Peterson's band, spending three years touring throughout the world, that he struck up a close friendship with the larger than life drummer Buddy Miles, subsequently becoming the guitarist for The Buddy Miles Express for a brief time. The former Band Of Gypsys legend would go on to mentor Lopez, leading to him co-producing his debut 'First Things First' (1998). From 2003 to 2007 Lopez released three studio and one live CD for independent label, Grooveyard Records - all of which were heavily influenced by another of the guitarist's main influences - Jimi Hendrix.

After a three year break, Lopez returned with a Jim Gaines produced studio album 'Salvation From Sundown'. Intentionally conceived as a more traditional Texas blues styled offering, it's the guitarist's most mature recording to date, showcasing strong songwriting while still retaining the red-hot fretwork which has elicited none other than guitar god Jeff Beck to call him "A very exciting and intense blues guitarist". A very strong Hard Rocking/Blues offering entitled 'Handmade Music' Lopez working with Jim Gaines, recorded in the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis. Lance is also the lead guitarist/vocalist on the critically acclaimed new release by Supersonic Blues Machine entitled 'West of Flushing, South of Frisco' on Mascot Records. Lance formed this incredibly talented blues/rock power trio with bassist and vocalist Fabrizio Grossi and drummer Kenny Aronoff. Special guests performing on the album include Billy Gibbons, Walter Trout, Warren Haynes, Robben Ford, Eric Gales and Chris Duarte. His “Live in NYC” (2016) released on Cleopatra Records and he is putting the finishing touches on his next studio album – both of which were produced by Johnny Winter guitarist and Grammy winning producer Paul Nelson.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues-Rock culture and what does the blues mean to you?

There are many great Blues-Rock musicians out there today! I really wish it was more on a mainstream level like modern Rock, Country or Hip-Hop is in America where you have many artist that are very successful in their genre. Blues-Rock seems to only have 3 or 4 artist that are all very, very successful and then there is everyone else struggling very hard to tour all over the world and get from one gig to the next, or get gigs period. The Blues is an expression of emotions through music and it’s more of a feel thing. Jimi Hendrix said ‘the Blues is easy to play, but hard to feel’ I agree 100% with that…You can technically play the notes but if you don’t have the life experience and the pain behind it, the people you are playing for aren’t going to really feel it…some people are just trying to dazzle them with technical guitar playing as opposed to expressing their emotions…ya know…B.B. King said “you don’t have to live the Blues to play the Blues…but it sure helps”.

How has the Rock n’ Blues counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Hmm, I'm not sure if there is a "counterculture" in Blues Rock or what that means really...The journey I have taken as a Blues musician is, at times, a very long hard road. The Blues is the music of survivors and I definitely consider myself a survivor...Blues is a music of lost love, hardship and struggle, and also of party time, happiness, joy and love regained or a brand new love. I have experienced it all, as do most humans. I think the Blues really just gives us a platform from which to connect with real life and tell the world about it all. After experiencing hardships and pain, then coming out of struggle, I think my views of the world are with gratitude that I have survived a lot and am able to enjoy the present and make the most of each day, one day at a time...

Why did you think that the Texas Blues & Boogie music continues to generate such a devoted following?

The Texas Shuffle or "Boogie" as you call it, is infectious and it has its own groove. All of our greatest Texas Blues Rock songs that were FM Rock Radio hits in America were shuffles... ZZ Top's 'La Grange' and SRV's 'Pride And Joy', are two very notable examples. In the roadhouses and beer joints in Texas and the surrounding region that's what everyone wants to hear and get up and dance to. Then you add in our intense guitar style and it makes for a very tantalizing combination. So our sound extends from the dusty back roads of Texas beer joints to everywhere in the world because everyone likes to get down and have good time on Saturday night...There is a great song from the legendary New Orleans Blues man, Frankie Lee Sims, called 'She Likes To Boogie Real Low' from 1957...it explains everything. (laughs)

How do you describe Lance Lopez sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

My music is a mixture of all of my influences from Blues, Rock and all of the influences of my roots in Louisiana and Texas…I just try and mix it all up and deliver in my own way…because that’s my environment and where I’m from..I’m blessed to be from a place where most of this great music originated.

Are there any memories from the recording dates of ‘Live in New York City’ which you’d like to share with us?

Well, I was very grateful to have been there at Johnny Winter's 70th birthday party...which was Johnny's last birthday party. I was honored to not only be invited but to perform and to have it documented forever in 'Live In NYC' I had performed at BB King's Blues Club many times before that, but that night was special because it was Johnny's Birthday...our set went by like a flash, so I am very glad they recorded it. It truly was a great surprise when Paul Nelson called me and said that it had been recorded and that we should release it as an album...My fondest memory of the entire night was when Johnny Winter invited me onstage to play "Bony Moronie" (from his 1976 'Captured Live' album) with him and when he called for me to play my solo I ran up and yelled "HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHNNY" and he looked back at me and gave me a huge grin...I'll never forget that.

"I just hope Blues and Blues Rock can become a more mainstream music. I just hate that we lost some of the great blues artist like SRV and others so early on." (Photo by Mark Bickham)

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

I have been very blessed to have worked with and been a lot of my heroes…Playing for Johnnie Taylor when I was young man I was around guys like Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Little Milton and AL Green…very heavy, and that’s when I really learned how to sing…however, B.B. King though was probably the most monumental influence and one of the most gracious people I have been in the room with.

Are there any memories from Lucky Peterson and Buddy Miles which you’d like to share with us?

I learned so much working with Lucky as well as Buddy! Lucky Peterson is one of the greatest musicians I have ever been on stage with…he taught me a lot about playing the Hammond organ and Buddy Miles taught me so much about rhythm and pocket and how to play drums.

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

I just hope Blues and Blues Rock can become a more mainstream music. I just hate that we lost some of the great blues artist like SRV and others so early on.

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

I really wish there were Blues-Rock radio stations in America and the rest of the world just like there is Rock, Country, Hip-Hop and Pop…I think that would really help make Blues-Rock a mainstream genre.  I wish there was just more exposure…because there are so many great artist in the genre who are struggling.                              (Photo by Mike Schara/Smoking Mouse)

"You can technically play the notes but if you don’t have the life experience and the pain behind it, the people you are playing for aren’t going to really feel it…some people are just trying to dazzle them with technical guitar playing as opposed to expressing their emotions..." 

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Texas Blues from Winter to SRV and continue to your generation?

You know, guys in Texas like Billy Gibbons, Johnny Winter, Jimmie Vaughan, Anson Funderburgh, David Grissom, Eric Johnson and Van Wilks are all not only my biggest heroes but some of best friends and mentors I was very blessed to learn from being amongst the best. I take all that I learn from those that have gone before me and try to apply it in my own way…

What has made you laugh from Jim Gaines? What touched (emotionally) you from the famous Ardent Studios in Memphis?

Jim Gaines was one of the greatest Producers I have ever worked with…I call him Uncle Jim. He really helped me bring out the best in my performances. Working with him at Ardent was some of the greatest memories of my life. Billy Gibbons had suggested that I record at Ardent several times throughout the years because they had so much success recording there with Terry Manning. When Jim Gaines and I got together that’s where we ended up working together so it was wonderful. One of the best stories he told me was about Albert King. Albert was hangin out with SRV while Stevie and Jim were working on the “In Step” album and Bon Jovi was performing in Memphis that night and Jon Bon Jovi called the studio and invited Stevie Ray and Albert to the Pyramid(the arena in Memphis at that time) to jam. SRV said he didn’t know if they could make it because he was busy working on the album. When they hung up the phone Albert King asked them “them Bon Jovi’s, they big?” (laughs)

How do you describe ‘West of Flushing, South of Frisco’ sound & songbook? What characterize album’s philosophy?

When Fabrizio Grossi, Kenny Aronoff and I formed Supersonic Blues Machine we wanted the band to be very special and have very special material. The first song we recorded was written by Billy F. Gibbons which he had leftover from a ZZ Top session called "Running Whiskey'. After that we called a lot of our dear friends that were great songwriters for great songs as well as what Fabrizio had been working on for quite some time. Once we had some outstanding material we recorded it and then we reached out to all of our favorite guitarist and asked them which songs they would like to play on. The sound of the recording is Fabrizio Grossi's engineering, mixing and producing...he's the best there is in my book in the studio... Real life stories, and also its a show of unity by having all of our favorite guitarist coming together to perform. It's a giant guitar party, but with really great songs instead of just jamming the same old Blues jam songs.

"Blues is a music of lost love, hardship and struggle, and also of party time, happiness, joy and love regained or a brand new love. I have experienced it all, as do most humans."

Are there any memories from Billy Gibbons, Walter Trout, and Warren Haynes which you’d like to share with us?

I love them all very dearly. Billy (Gibbons) has been one of my mentors since I was 16 years old... Walter (Trout) is a true inspiration and the embodiment of what its like to be a survivor and to come back from the depths. Warren (Haynes) is so great at everything he does...I love just sitting and talking with Warren about all of our favorite music.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from Supersonic Blues Machine?

Oh Man there are always good times when all of the Supersonic Blues Machine guys are altogether! Steve Lukather was with us in Norway last summer...when Luke is around we are laughing non-stop! The most emotional thing is to see Walter Trout onstage after everything he went through with his liver disease...his comeback has been amazing and inspirational.

What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome as a person and as artist and has this helped you become a better musician?

My own personal struggles were overcoming Alcoholism, Drug Addiction and to start eating healthier, lose weight and exercise...I struggled for years drinking and drugging and eating badly while I was drinking...I became very overweight and very fucked up! (Laughs) Now I wake up everyday and make a choice to stay sober, eat better, exercise...to be a better Man for myself my family, my band and my fans.

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

I would say go listen to Albert King’s “Blues Power” that should tell you the whole story…everybody understands the Blues…because everybody has the Blues at one time or another.

"My music is a mixture of all of my influences from Blues, Rock and all of the influences of my roots in Louisiana and Texas…I just try and mix it all up and deliver in my own way…" (Photo by Mark Bickham)

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

I would either want to go New York City around 1968-69 and be in the Record Plant Studio with Jimi Hendrix or all the back to 1937 here in Dallas, Texas when Robert Johnson recorded downtown.

Lance Lopez - Official website

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