Many thanks to Ryan McGarvey for taking time after his sensational concert at Bonn Harmonie to answer a few questions at very short notice (he agreed, I had five minutes to assemble my thoughts on the back of a 3songs visiting card, and here we are…) Fender or Gibson? Big venues or small? who was behind the foot-pedal wizardry of Purple Haze? and the secrets of that Toggle Switch solo…
First the classic question to all young musicians – who were/are your Influences?
I grew up on my parents record collection which was very much Classic Rock. Everything from Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and stuff like that… and I kinda traced that back to pure Blues. Real deal Blues guys like Robert Johnson, Elmore James and further up to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, all the three Kings. From there was the big boom in the 90’s with the young contemporary Blues Rock guys that came along. Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Ian Moore, who were doing great in a mainstream way. Then there were guys like Stevie Ray and Jimi Hendrix. I kinda took a little bit from everything.
That’s a long list of inspiration. Do you have a particular guitar hero out of it all?
A real Hero? I’m indecisive on that. I can pick a genre and top people in a particular vein…
Okay, how about a hero in the Blues genre alone?
Ah, (laughing) what kind of Blues? If it’s Rock Blues then Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ian Moore and Chris Duarte (Texas Jazz influenced Blues-Rock). They were the main guys after Stevie Ray and Hendrix for sure that I admired growing up.
How would you describe your own sound?
I’d say we’re Hard Rock for sure but we’re Blues influenced. I think the weight has shifted over the years where I started to get a little bit of an edge to the Blues sound that I do, like it’s a way to avoid being too mundane, too dull. To avoid being just another Blues Band playing just another 1-4-5 song. Just a way to give it something new of our own.
The present band is definitely a power trio ala Cream and Taste.
Definitely. Chris on drums has been with me on tour since 2014 and Carmine has been a friend for close on ten years. We got to talking about maybe doing a side project together. I’d parted company with my bass player and a bunch of personal things had prevented me getting out and finding a replacement. I asked Carmine for suggestions and he said, like, “You’re my buddy. I like your music. Just call me and I’ll be there”. As you heard tonight, it worked out perfectly.
You played a Les Paul, a Firebird and a Strat tonight. BB King famously had to rescue his guitar from a concert hall. If you had to rush into a burning hall with time to save only one, which guitar would it be?
(sighs) Which child would you let die? If you’re asking am I a Gibson player or a Fender player I’d answer “I’m a guitar player!” Even though I’m not a golfer my answer is always that a golfer never goes out with just a putter. Like Kenny Wayne I don’t like the guitar to just sound like one thing, one sound all night gets repetitive. And also, certain guitars inspire you to play in different ways. Like I feel that I dig into the Fender and play a lot harder than I do the Les Paul whereas the Les Paul has a power that does other things better than the Fender. I play other guitars too for other reasons.
I noticed this evening that you played a solo switching the Les Paul’s toggle switch repeatedly back and forth. I’ve never seen that before. What does it do and where did the idea come from?
I remember when I was around 17 and we would kinda do a jam I think I did it by accident and to make it seem like I meant to do it I did it again. I thought it was kinda different, so I built it up and it sounded cool! What I’m doing is using it as a kill switch to have one pick up off and go all the way to the one at the other end, and it creates a kinda neat tremolo effect.
How is the current tour going?
We’re more or less into the last quarter of 30 dates and it’s been great. We have a couple more shows in Germany before we go over to the UK and finish in London at the 100 Club (11 Oct).
With some out of the way places along the way if I recall the list. Aren’t the tiny pubs and places a drag to travel to?
We usually hit the suburbs before finishing in London. Places like Chiselhurst are actually key places. I still keep in touch with some of Eric Clapton’s people around there. Roger Mayer who was a key to the Hendrix sound developing the first fuzz pedal still lives in Chiselhurst.
I take back my comment about out of the way venues Ryan. Good luck whenever and wherever you play!