You're pretty popular in these parts, the northwest. Portland in particular has a lot of love for you and the blues in general. I notice you're not playing this area on the tour, though, any particular reason?
I have some shows at the end of July and we're trying to book a Portland and Seattle gig around that time.
This is your fifth collaboration with Eric Corne. What is it that makes your working relationship such a success?
I think Eric Corne almost intuitively understands what it is I'm trying to do. He's worked with a lot of great artists such as Dwight Yoakam and Lucinda Williams. And I think he instinctively understands what I'm getting at. He's just really great at what he does. He's still young and he's still getting going. The first album we did was Full Circle and we hit it off immediately.
Besides Blind Willy Johnson, what were some of the influences you drew from for this album?
When I did that interview and I talked about Blind Willy Johnson as kind of following me around, all I really said in there was that when I decided to do a blues album, and I wanted to get into a certain frame of mind to write it, and I made a conscious decision to immerse myself in the innovators of the genre, so I went into the frame of mind to tap into the essence of the early guys. So Blind Willy and Robert Johnson and Sunhouse and Big Bill Broozy, and Charlie Patton and Skip James and all of the acoustic country players and I tried to tap into their spirit, but I kept going back to Blind Willy because it's kind of the most spiritual stuff I've ever heard. I just tried to tap into all of that and translate it into my own style. I didn't set out to make a country album, just my interpretation of that the blues is. So, when it was time to write the album, I tried to write from my own experience and be an observer of this era we're living in and be like a reporter of all of this.
Have you played with Elvin Bishop?
I've never worked with Elvin, but there is an influence there, but it was mainly Mike Bloomfield that made me want to play electric lead. Nobody in the world had played anything like that when he first came out, at least I hadn't heard anything like it.
More influences? Bob Dylan is still major to me and I listen to him all the time, the Beatles, the Stones, The Band. I'm a typical 60s guy, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, I'd go see them in the front row, five feet away from them and watch and study them playing. Roy Buchanan was a strong influence too.
If you were to put together the ultimate band who would be in it with you?
One of the things I learned from John Mayall about putting together a band is that you all have to have the right chemistry. I don't know if these guys would have the right chemistry, but I would choose Sam Lay on the drums, Paul McCartney on bass, me and Jimi Hendrix on guitars and Jon Lord on keyboards and there ya have it. I would probably have to consider Steve Winwood in there, as well.
Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
I have a lot but I'm not really guilty of them though. When I'm not playing I'm more likely to listen to Plaicdo Domingo or Ella Fitzgerald or Joni Mitchell or James Taylor. I usually don't want to hear electric guitar and just want to clear my brain. So, I tend to turn to singers a lot, soul music, a lot of Miles Davis.
What would you consider to be your most memorable moment in Canned Heat?
Coming out alive, that was a major achievement. The whole thing tends to blur, honestly.(laughs)
On the track “Lonely,” you talk about things like electronic devices, Facebook and other comforts that tend to take away from real life, as much as they add to it.
Well yeah, that tune was inspired by an incident at Starbucks and waiting for my drink and I looked around and nobody was talking to anyone in person. Everyone was talking on cell phones or on their computers when there is people they can look at eye to eye and have a conversation but they were all disconnected. It made me sad, so I grabbed a napkin and wrote the tune in just a few minutes really. In technology you give something up, too.
That relates to the question about technology and downloading, and how it has helped or hindered the industry?
I know it cuts into my living, so try to tell my three sons not to do it and that's how people make a living and your Dad is paying the bills here. But it can be a good and a bad thing, You no longer need the big labels and stuff. A band can do it on their own with a Facebook page and Youtube. Like I say, with every technological advance you make, you also have to give something up. So it's in a state of severe change right now and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.
What would be your biggest Spinal Tap Moment?
There has been a few of them. Back when I was in Canned Heat and I was thin, I was still going for stage image with designer clothes and had a pair of really tight pants, and on a festival stage in Virginia and I did a knee bend and I ripped my pants from the top of the back all the way around to the front and I wasn't wearing underwear, so I had to play the whole gig hanging out. It was kind of interesting.