Alastair Greene is a busy man. The blues rocker is constantly touring. Last year, Greene released Dream Train and this year saw the release of Live From The 805. Blues Rock Review caught up with Greene to discuss the new live album and more.
20 tracks for 20 years on Live From the 805, how did you go about selecting them?
We performed and recorded over 30 songs on the night of the live recording. I knew I wanted to narrow it down to 20 songs and it ended up not being all that difficult. There were some guitar tuning issues on a couple songs so those were weeded out first. I wanted to really focus on original material so a handful of covers were weeded out next. We played almost all of the original songs that have made it to and stayed on my song list over the years. I wanted to make sure we recorded a lot of the songs from the more recent studio albums. Some of the originals have changed and morphed from the studio versions so I wanted to make sure we captured those.
What was it like to record the live album in your hometown?
It was pretty comfortable once we got rolling. I had a lot of confidence that we were going to play well and that it was going to be recorded well. It was cool to play on a big stage and have a lot of friends show up. I rarely use the term “fan”, I like to think of everyone that supports my band as friends on some level. It was a long night of music and I’m glad we were able to capture it on “tape” and video.
The album also features covers. Are there any that you really wanted to make sure you performed and what was the appeal behind picking them?
The covers I put in the set list and put on the record are songs I’ve grown very fond of over the years. I’m such a huge fan of the artists we cover and their songs, so I wanted to pay some tribute to these masters who laid the ground work for the rest of us. We tend to change some, not all, of the arrangements and feels when we play covers. I try to be respectful in that regard. In the case of ‘Junior Wells’ ‘Lawdy Mama’, our version is basically a rocked up version of the original, with no harmonica. In the case of Jimmy Reed’s ‘Big Boss Man’, we take that to another planet entirely and it usually develops into a vehicle for extended musical expression. I changed the lyrics and vibe on that one to make it a little more universal and to reflect the general frustrations of living in modern times. I’ve been playing ‘Love So Strong’ since the first record I put out in 2001, ‘A Little Wiser’. That song has actually changed a lot in regard to the groove and even some of the lyrics. It’s almost not a cover at this point.
Does your approach change at the show when you know you’re recording for a live album?
I probably warmed up on guitar a little more than I would normally. I’m a guitarist first and foremost so I really wanted to have an “on” night. We had a pretty detailed soundcheck as well to make sure everything was getting recorded properly. We also filmed the show that night so there was camera prep that needed to be done. I’m incredibly impressed with how it was recorded by Sean McCue and filmed by Erik Nielsen. It sounds and looks amazing.
Since making your solo career top priority over a year ago what’s been the most rewarding aspect of that?
The most rewarding aspect is playing music that is close to my heart and comfortable for me to play. I feel at home in the blues and roots music as opposed to some of the other music I’ve performed with other artists over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing ALL kinds of music and I love the challenge of playing other people’s music, but this is home for me musically. A close second as far as rewarding aspects of running my own band is that I’m not always wondering what the person in charge is thinking or why they are doing the things that they do. It can become very tiresome working for people that aren’t focused and make decisions that negatively effect the people in their employ.
You’ll be touring Europe soon. What are you looking forward to most about that?
It’s interesting that you ask that after the last question! I will be touring Europe as part the Sugaray Rayford Band. Sugaray’s music is high energy funky-soul-blues. He’s a fantastic singer and front man. I’m excited about working with him and seeing where it goes. He is a straight shooter and seems very focused on his career and taking care of his band from what I’ve seen so far. The musicians in his band are all monster players and I’m looking forward to playing with them and going some places I’ve been before as well as places I’ve never been. It’s all one big adventure and I’m trying to negotiate the twists and turns the best I can. There’s no instruction manual for this line of work!
Interview by Pete Francis