INTERVIEWS

Norman Beaker, NORMAN BEAKER BAND – “Blues is a wonderful way to express your inner feelings”

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Written by Hardwired Crew

The famous British blues quartet Norman Beaker Band will perform on February 11th, from 9 pm in the hall of Dom Omladine in Belgrade. This show is part of a major European tour to promote the album “We See Us Later”. Norman Beaker is the leader of the British blues scene for almost four decades. If you’re wondering why is this band so important to us, I will remind you they recorded live album “Live in Belgrade” on their previous tour in 2015. Norman Beaker Band is: Norman Beaker (guitar, lead vocals), John Price (bass guitar), Steve Gibson (Drums), Nick Steed (Piano/Organ), Kim Nishikawara (Saxophone).

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Norman Beaker Band 2017, photo Paul Wolfgang Webster

First of all, congratulations! It’s been exactly a year since you have officially inducted as a “Legendary Blues Artist from England” into the Blues Hall of Fame. Do you think this is your greatest achievement, the crown of your career?
Norman Beaker: Thank you! I was very surprised and very honoured for sure, I really never expected it. As a blues musician, I suppose it is recognition for what you’ve done for blues music but I always think my greatest achievement is us to have played with so many legendary blues artists and to have been able to do what I love for so long.

Just a few months ago your new album called “We See Us Later” has been released. Can you tell us a bit more about it, what makes it so special?
Norman: This is the first studio album with the new line up of John Price bass, Nick Steed keyboards and Steve Gibson drums. We have recorded several live ones so it was nice to get time, at last, to go in the studio with all new songs and work on them together.

Are there any particular songs from this album that have special meaning for you?
Norman: I have to say they all mean a lot as I wrote them, so although they are not autobiographical lyrically, they all mean something to me.

Who were your idols growing up as a kid?
Norman: When I was growing up people like Lonnie Donegan who had a big part to play in my career later, also Elvis Presley and later Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones, Yard Birds and Pretty Things. From the blues side, my faves were Freddy King, Otis Rush, Howlin Wolf and B.B. King.

The Norman Beaker Band has toured and recorded with the greatest blues, jazz and rock artists from both sides of the Atlantic ocean, as you mentioned earlier, including names like Jack Bruce, Chuck Berry, Lowell Fulson, B. B. King, Van Morrison and many others. Who has influenced you most in your musical creativity?
Norman: I have to say Jack Bruce who I worked with over a 30 years period taught me so much. I loved his music but he played with such intensity that I have tried to carry that on.

Norman Beaker Band currently has four members, four extraordinary musicians. When and how did you get together?
Norman: We often have with Kim Nishikawara on tour. John Price and I have played together for 30 years about and Steve Gibson who we knew from my other band has been with us for about 10 years. Nick Steed is the new guy, he has only been with us for 4 years but gas brought a lit to the sound and the entertainment. I saw him playing with his own band and asked him to join us.

I suppose it’s very hard to be a blues band nowadays. Was there ever a point in your career when you considered giving up on music?
Norman: Yes it lasted for two weeks in the 70s when we were working so hard. We were very tired but two weeks later I was back playing again. It’s very addictive and it gets in your blood.

What does the blues mean to you, is it the way of life? What can the blues teach you about life, art and everything in-between?
Norman: It’s a wonderful way to express your inner feelings and emotions and hopefully share them with your audience. Blues mean to play from your heart and mean what you are playing or singing. Playing the blues has taught me how other cultures and countries can come together on a source of music.

If you had to choose just one blues album of all time, which one would you choose?
Norman: “Five Live Yardbirds” it was the album that inspired me to play.

How do you see the blues scene nowadays?
Norman: It seems to be more rock-oriented now, but hopefully people will always look back where the music started from.

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Norman Beaker Band 2017, photo Paul Wolfgang Webster

Do you have any advice for younger blues musicians who share the same passion as you?
Norman: Enjoy every minute along the way it’s really rewarding even if not financially sometimes. But it’s good for your soul.

Album “Live in Belgrade” from 2015. instantly won all international blues charts, especially song “Only I Got What Other Guy Want”. Can you tell me why did you choose Belgrade?
Norman: We really liked the venue and Nebojsa Petrovic from Rock Svirke who is our agent and he made it possible. This was just a trio tour but it captured a different sound for us, more power trio way sort of like Cream. In fact, there are a couple of songs of Cream on the album as a tribute to Jack Bruce.

What can we expect from your upcoming gigs in Serbia, to be precise, five of them?
Norman: Hopefully people will love the new album material, and I’m sure they will be entertained musically and with some humour and good fun.