3SongsBonn caught up with Will Wilde in Cologne’s Yardclub recently to find out what it felt like to be headlining a tour of Europe for the first time, and whether I should treat my harmonica to a Coca-Cola…
Obvious first question. How do you feel about this, your first date of a first solo European Tour?
It’s very exciting. Obviously I’ve played here a few times with my sister (Dani) and did a support tour with her last year but it’s really exciting to be doing my first headline tour here.
You’re here without Dani, but you use the same band as she does. How will that work with both of you touring?
We have the same rythm section. Dani’s busy for the rest of this year with RUF’s ‘Girls with Guitars’. After that I don’t really know. These guys work on more of a session basis really.
There seem to be a few of you with a similar pool of musicians – Oli Brown too…
Yeah, it’s all a bit incestuous (laughs)
On the subject of Oli Brown I heard that you and Dani stood in for Jon Lord of all people recently. How did that come about?
Yeah, He had to cancel a whole tour because of pancreatic Cancer. We got a call from A.S.S. (the promoter) asking us to fill in with Oli Brown supporting and that was really cool.
Oli is doing well over here especially since he was televised playing a concert in Lahnstein.
Which is where we’re playing tomorrow.
Hopefully televised! But you’re no stranger to big gigs, I read on your Site that you played the Albert Hall even?
Yeah, that was a few years ago. In fact I was only 18 I think. We were supporting Chris Holland – brother of Jools. At the end we got up and jammed together and he said ‘We’ll have to do something together sometime. So a few weeks later we got a call from Chris and he says “I’m playing in London tonight. Want to come down and jam?” I said “Yeah, okay, where is it?” He just said “Oh, it’s the Royal Albert Hall supporting Jools”
And you said yes
I said yes!
You’re not just a harp player of course. You started out as a drummer and play bass and rythm guitars. Having the same promoter as Germany’s Henrik Freischlader have you thought about doing what he did and putting out a CD with just yourself playing everything?
I did think about it actually for the most recent one, but I don’t know. I use guitar and bass to write with and its helpful to understand about every instrument in the band when you’re writing new material as a band leader. But there’s something about the chemistry that goes on in a live situation with a bunch of musicians in a room and it would be difficult to get that doing everything one track at a time.
Henrik did admit that he wasn’t so hot on keyboards (see my interview with Hendrik on this site) and has a full band on his new one so it’s obviously pretty stressful!
Whereas most people take Harmonica as a basic, unstressful, instrument and Blues as the most basic form of music. So how do you go about making that fresh and appealing to a young audience?
Well I listen to a lot of different music. Funk, Soul, Hip Hop, Gospel, Rock. Just using the harmonica as a lead instrument is possible in just about any style of music really. I think coming from a Blues background its quite easy to adapt it to any style of music. My idea has always been to use the harmonica as a lead instrument, as you would a guitar or saxophone and still push the boundaries of the Blues.
You have a Tamla Motown sound at times – ‘No No No’ for example sounds like the Ronnettes backing you. There’s certainly a 70’s look about your appearance.
“I did have. It’s not so much anymore”
Was it a deliberate ‘Retro’ look?
I’m very intro the Retro thing I guess. Most of my record collection is 60’s, 70’s skip over the 80’s, apart from Robert Cray! I’ve always been drawn to the sound of those decades – but I’m not trying to just recreate a retro sound. I’m trying to take influences from that time period and still create something fresh out of it. Mixing it in with more modern styles and production.
You’re a Seidel player. I only ever see Höhner in shops here.
Hohner has been a market leader for ages but Seidel have one of the oldest factories in Germany or something I believe.
I’m sure there are quite a few Haronica players out there who love your sound so I have a technical question for you. Do you soak your reeds? Someone I read suggested using Coca Cola?
(laughs) No! Personally I don’t clean them or soak them in anything. I find they get better with age. The more you play them… This will sound gross, but there you go – the more you play them bits of lip and skin get caught and help to seal it so it becomes more air-tight, which actually gives you a better tone. So to an extent I do think they actually get better over time.
What does soaking do, apart from make the harp rusty?!
Well the ones I play at the moment, Seydel 1847’s, have a plastic comb and stainless steel reeds so you can actually put them in the dishwasher – which I haven’t done yet!
If you did I’m sure you would have a spare one. How many have you actually got?
I’ve got 12. One for each key. Then a low F, a low F sharp, a high G a couple of minor tunings.
But they’re not like guitars where you have to have a certain make or year?!
I suspect a vintage harmonica would most probably be out of tune and have a few notes that didn’t work on it so, no, vintage harmonicas , not really like vintage guitars!
Finally, how is the project in Embu doing (Will and Dani raise money to support a school in Africa)
I haven’t been there for a while. Dani is still going out there and raising money for the Charity. It’s a different school now and it’s not just musical instruments but other essential school items like pens and paper. And every little helps, she pays for her own flights so all the money donated goes to the charity which is good.
Well I won’t keep you any longer, you have a show to do in an hours time. How many are there after this one?
(glancing down at the laminated tour pass with the itinerary round his neck) I’ve got nine shows on the list. Lahnstein is tomorrow and it’s already sold out so that should be good. There’s also a CD launch party by ‘Rock the Earth Records’. Although I’ve been selling the CD (‘Unleashed’) for a while now it’s now licensed to them so we’re promoting it over here.
Thanks for your time Will.
No problem. Enjoy the show.