Jug-bands, trumpets and dinner with Billy Gibbons. Not things I expected to crop up when I assembled my notes for the continuation of my interview with Jimmy Bowskill. Whilst a lot has changed since Museumsplatz 2010 though, one thing hasn’t – Jimmy is still a thoroughly nice bloke with a huge musical future ahead of him.
It seems Jimmy Bowskill’s lot in life, in Bonn at least, is to be the support act that is coming offstage before the majority of the evenings audience has arrived for the main event. A lot of people were kicking themselves (or the parking lot queues) for missing Jimmy at Museumsplatz in 2010 and on Sunday the Harmonies frightening 9.30pm curfew meant a 6.30pm start. Having been ‘on time’ for both his ‘early starts’ here I can safely say that next time Jimmy Bowskill comes to town he will have a complete audience as the main event.
On Sunday however, Dr Feelgood were the main attraction, and as we sat watching John ‘Big Figure’ Martin soundchecking his kit it seemed like a good time to suggest finding a quieter corner of the Harmonie to continue with the interview that I first began on a balmy July evening two years ago in a small trailer where Jimmy was celebrating after a knockout show with Guitar Gods Beck and Bonamassa at the late and lamented Museumsplatz.
Last time we spoke was at the Bonn Museumsplatz in 2010 Jimmy, where you supported Joe Bonamassa & Jeff Beck. Did you do any other gigs with your fellow JB’s?
No that was the only show
So Bonn had an exclusive? I saw you watching Joe from Backstage. Did you pick up any tips?
Laughs – It was good to see him play for sure.
The Museumsplatz stage has gone now though. What do you remember of the setting?
I just remember it being an awesome venue. That was an exciting time too, with those guys. It was a great experience for sure.
You didn’t get to jam with them though?
Shame, it would have made a great picture, the three JB’s onstage!
When we talked after the show you’d just signed with Thomas Ruf’s label and were looking forward to your first studio RUF recording. It’s just been released here in Europe. Tell me a little about it.
Well we just gave Thomas our live CD you know and he’s a great guy to work with. Everything was very positive with the live CD so we went ahead.
Isn’t it odd to be based in Canada and have a German label?
Well, We play a lot over here now. The majority of our touring is in Europe now so it just made sense.
What surprised me was that when we last spoke you were looking forward to recording the RUF disc with your own band, and you DID record it with your own band – but completely changed the band?!
Yeah! (laughs) I just decided it was time for a change. Wayne (Dedder) became a father and didn’t want to tour anymore. Things just kind of fell apart and came together again. It’s funny how it happens that way.
The new band are a bit confusing. Drums is fine, it’s Dan Reiff. On the disc your bass player is Ian McKeown but on the Bands website it’s Ian Wilson. Was this a very short contract or musical differences?
It’s still Ian on bass. There’s only been the one Ian – Oh, of course, sometimes the press use his middle name. (laughs) There’s only one Ian – Ian ‘Wilson’ Mckeown.
And both the new guys are Canadian?
Yeah. Ian lives in Cobourg, not too far from where I grew up, and Dan’s from Oshawa so we’re all pretty local. We played together in different bands. Funny situations – like I played bass with Dan playing drums in kind of a singer/songwriter folky act… and with Ian, we play in a jug band. He plays trombone, and I play fiddle, with old time jug-band music and we just kind of came together you know. Really we’ve been playing together a lot.
Which brings me nicely to my next question. You play trombone on the new CD too I believe?
I play trumpet on the record. Ian played trombone. HaHa! We did some horns together.
Well it sounds good on the disc. Anything else you play you want to tell me about?!
I really play a bunch of stuff. It’s just a bit of a hobby. You know, I play fiddle, mandolin, I play a lot of upright bass and electric bass, and a bit of piano.
There’s some funky bar-room piano on the new CD
Yeah, thats me!
I arranged the interview through your manager Steve, who is also your father. There are quite a few Fathers as managers in the music business it seems. Some, like Tim Barwick (The Brew) and Keith Matthews (Krissy Matthews) even play in the band. I read somewhere your own father used to sing in a band. Was there ever a thought of him joining your band?
He dabbled with singing when he was younger. We never really thought of him in the band. It’s just good being family run on the business side of things. He’s always managed me and we’ve done it together through the years so it’s just been natural that we’ve progressed together. Business-wise he’s someone I can trust and who really supports me. It’s great to have family involved when you can.
Tonight you’re supporting a British R&B institution in Dr Feelgood. Does ‘British R&B Institution’ actually mean anything to Canadians? Is it an influence on your music?
Oh, Yeah. Of Course. Rhythm and Blues could be classified as Blues-Rock could it not? Bands like Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green. Back in the day with Cream and Zeppelin. We’re big Free Fans. I’d never bought a Dr Feelgood record before but since we were booked for the show I’ve been on it. Ian (McKeown) is a Dr Feelgood fan. He’s a walking encyclopedia of music.
Last time we were talking about you touring the UK. Did it happen?
(Laughs) It didn’t happen yet! It should happen though really soon, we’re working on it. Trying to hook something up. Hopefully we’ll make it over there on the next tour.
A hard one now. The highlight of your career so far? Apart from playing Bonn of course!
(laughs) That was a big one for sure. Jesus, (pauses for a think) that’s hard to say… I’ve been lucky to have met some of my biggest idols through the years. There’s one show I did in London, Ontario opening for ZZ Top where one of my biggest guitar influences Billy Gibbons heard the soundcheck and he invited me to lunch with him. Having lunch with Billy Gibbons, that was really cool. A highlight for sure. I had an opportunity to play with Dickey Betts which was really amazing too when my band opened for his in Toronto. I got talking to Dan Toler, his right hand man and guitar player, and they invited me up for a tune that night which was incredible.
What would Jeff Healey have made of the little kid he knew from outside his theatre playing with these people?
Yeah, wow! That’s another one. Probably one of the main highlights, that first night I met him you know outside his Club in Toronto. God, he really helped me out a lot. He helped me get my start. I wouldn’t be where I am now without Jeff’s help for sure.
Where you are now involves an increasing amount of touring. We’ve talked today about Europe and in future the UK. My last question has to be – do you still manage to enjoy playing music like you used to?
Oh I still love it. Especially now with these guys. We’ve been playing together for what, eight months now? Something like that, and it’s been really inspiring you know, writing music together. It’s just such a difference. An awesome experience and really inspiring – especially now. So it’ll never get old.
You’ll get old – but not the music?
(Laughs) I just love playing. That’s what it’s all about.