Q&A with Martin Pugh of Steamhammer, 53 years after they reunited to start work on a new Steamhammer project

"I miss music performed with heart and soul. And that’s been the music most influential to me. My hopes are that live shows would be available to this generation financially. So that they can see live music frequently as we did growing up. My fears are that the music of today will not have the passion and capture people’s interest long term, they’ll miss out on a connection to the soundtrack of their lives."

Martin Pugh: Wailing Again

Steamhammer’s origins began with the blues. Like many of their peers, they soon experimented with instrumental passages, introspective lyrics, and ultrasonic guitar effects, along with folk, jazz and classical influences. After making a name for themselves in the English pubs of the late 1960s, Steamhammer’s self-titled album debuted on Columbia Records in 1968, with Pete Sears on Keyboards. Steamhammer’s first album proved formative to the band’s memorable sound, with performances built on a series of complex movements: changes of key and rhythm, one moment delicate, the next, hard-hitting ‘body’ music. Each instrument – drums, guitar, bass, and flute – alternated lead, the rest providing a background framework for the solos. These were the qualities that captured blues legend, Freddie King’s attention, when he asked the band to back him on two European tours.

Photo: Steamhammer are Pete Sears, John Lingwood, Phil Colombatto, and Martin Pugh

Co-caretaker of the musical vision born in Steamhammer from 1969-1974, and realized further in Armageddon, Martin Pugh and his band mates shared studio time with Hall of Famers like Keith Relf of the Yardbirds and Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones. Martin and the band then caught the eye of blues guitar legend Freddie King, who invited Steamhammer to back him on two tours in Britain; King, who Martin cites as an enormous influence on his own personal sound: a gutsy, complex exploration of raw, wailing tones that come from creative improvisation, intuition, and aggressive finger attack. It was around this time that Rod Stewart came to watch Steamhammer at a London club, and hand-picked Martin to handle lead guitar work on ‘The Rod Stewart Album’, Stewart’s first solo record. After blazing new trails throughout Europe with Steamhammer, Martin then moved to California and signed a deal with A&M Records, recording the Armageddon album in 1974. Martin Pugh has since stayed in L.A./USA continuing to pursue musical projects, writing and immersing himself in the American Blues. 53 years after Martin Pugh and Pete Sears collaborated on the first Steamhammer album, they reunited to start work on a new Steamhammer project. The new album, Wailing Again, released in September 2022, features musicians Pete Sears (bass and keyboards), John Lingwood (drums), Phil Colombatto (vocals and harmonica), and Martin Pugh (guitar).

Interview by Michael Limnios               Special Thanks: Dave Hill (Tenacity PR)

How has the blues and rock counterculture influence your views of the world and journeys you have taken

As a teenager growing up in a small town, blues and rock music spoke to me in a special way, and what a powerful voice it was. I saw that it had the power to change society. Out of my teenage angst I was encouraged by what I experience to go out into the world and be a part of it by the playing the music that was inside of me.

How do you describe your sound and songbook? what characterizes Steamhammer music philosophy?

I first found my sound with electric guitar through a tube amplifier emulating cello and violin qualities. The one thread in the Steamhammer Music was always focused on live performances and my writing always reflects this philosophy.

"As the music changes with each generation and a new musical trend emerges it’s important to embrace all forms of music in hopes it will influence society and human behavior human rights in a positive way. At a time when society is so polarized exchanging and listening to music can provide a common ground and help in bringing communities together." (Photo: Martin Pugh)

Do you have any stories about the making of the new album Wailing Again (2022)?

The making of Wailing Again started with me forming a band to play the 50th anniversary of the first Glastonbury festival, as Steamhammer was one of the original acts on the festival in 1970. When the festival was canceled due to Covid, we carried the momentum on in the form of recording wailing again.

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

I miss music performed with heart and soul. And that’s been the music most influential to me. My hopes are that live shows would be available to this generation financially. So that they can see live music frequently as we did growing up. My fears are that the music of today will not have the passion and capture people’s interest long term, they’ll miss out on a connection to the soundtrack of their lives.

Are there any memories from the late great blues Man Freddie King what you’d like to share with us?

As a young guitar player meeting his guitar hero for the first time Freddy King was larger than life a seasoned blues man. We traded guitars and he pointed out I was using rubber bands for strings. The strings on his guitar were Gibson sonomatics which I could hardly move, I realized then that the power of his sound came through those strings and his powerful emotions.

What is the impact of music on the social cultural implications how do you want the music to affect people?

As the music changes with each generation and a new musical trend emerges it’s important to embrace all forms of music in hopes it will influence society and human behavior human rights in a positive way. At a time when society is so polarized exchanging and listening to music can provide a common ground and help in bringing communities together.

"As a teenager growing up in a small town, blues and rock music spoke to me in a special way, and what a powerful voice it was. I saw that it had the power to change society. Out of my teenage angst I was encouraged by what I experience to go out into the world and be a part of it by the playing the music that was inside of me." (Photo: Martin Pugh)

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

I have learned that discipline and dedication is integral to achieving my goals. Playing and writing daily, regardless of the outcome.

John Coltrane said my music is the spiritual expression of what I am how do you understand the spirit music and the meaning of life?

When I play my instrument, I try not to have a preconceived structure, play with spontaneity, and the music flows through. I feel part of the music and the music is part of me.

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