“It begins in the heart, in the soul,
and then in the fingers.
Everything else comes way after”
– Henrik Freischlader on why Gary Moore was, and remains, his Guitar Hero
We’re outside in the Harmonie beer garden, sitting in the sunshine, and sipping cool drinks, but talking business. Not the atmosphere to talk about The Blues maybe, but for the man sitting opposite me Blues is very much his ‘business’. The recent trio release and tour seemed like a change of direction for Henrik Freischlader, and now there is another change of direction with the release of ‘Blues for Gary’ a Homage to Henrik’s hero Gary Moore – so I kick off my interview by asking Henrik if this is indeed a change similar to the one Gary Moore himself made, back to his Blues roots?
HF: For me it is actually time to return to the Blues and my personal roots, which of course are Gary Moore. I started playing guitar because of him and in general I would say it’s time for me to return to Old School, which is really fun, to what I love doing, and not concentrate so much on what could be the next step. I think the next step is actually a step back!
Did the Jazz trio project help you get a new perspective in stepping back from the Blues Rock style that your own music had evolved into?
HF: Well, I really can’t explain how this thing all came together. I don’t have anything bad to say about the trio, that it was stressful or something else. I enjoyed this time as well. Then, as soon as I got time to relax at home I began renovating my flat and had everything in boxes. So I took out my old CD’s and vinyl records and I played a lot of Blues and it all came together very naturally. I’d had the feeling that I wanted to do something for Gary for quite a long time but it never felt right to put it out because I was still very sad – and I still am very sad, about his death.
So the start of the project meant the end of the Jazz trio?
HF: Yes. But I wouldn’t consider it as a Jazz trio. It had Blues and Funk and everything mixed up in it, but I honestly have to say that I can’t even play Jazz. There are other people who can play Jazz, and much better.
You can certainly play Blues, and Gary Moore was your inspiration. What was it about Gary that made him so important to you? More so than the likes of Clapton or Hendrix…
HF: It’s something even I can’t explain. I was in a pub with my dad and there was the album ‘After Hours’ playing and there was this one solo on the song ‘Cold Day in Hell’ with such a guitar sound, and the power of the guitar! (here Henrik raps the plastic bottle in his hand against the table in emphasis). I was a drummer before this. I had nothing to do with playing the guitar, with playing Blues even – and right from that day I was totally into playing the guitar, and had that vibe, and discovered many many Blues artists through hearing Gary Moore. Looking back it was the best day in my life. My life changed from that day on.
Had you not heard other players before then like Rory Gallagher or Hendrix?
HF: I’d heard about Hendrix of course. My parents played a lot of music as I grew up. But my mother was playing Jazz records like Oscar Peterson. My father was playing Pop like the Beatles and Hollies and CCR and stuff, so the Blues didn’t really take place in my home – I had to discover it myself through Gary. Which I did through the albums Gary put out during that time featuring guest artists like Albert and BB King, Albert Collins and Peter Green…
For Gary it was a new phase in his career, but for you as a listener it was the first phase.
HF: For me the first phase, but it took me back to discover the Blues.
I mentioned that you discovered his music at what was a new phase in Gary’s career because I noticed that ‘Blues for Gary’ doesn’t explore the earlier, Jazzier time with Colosseum II or the Rockier 70’s /80’s (Thin Lizzy/Greedies/solo) period. Is that because you feel these elements aren’t you?
HF: Yes, because I can’t play that way I think. It was just my favourite songs, and also some of the less well known songs that not many people know but that are most important to me. It’s not meant just as one of my albums but as one that I wanted to put out as a homage to my main influence – for my, how should I say it? Master of the guitar. I got a number of musicians and vocalists who also love and admire the music together for the recording, to make it a present for him.
In fact you have so many guests that you yourself don’t actually sing on the album! I’ll come back to the guests on the disc, but musically – on those opening instrumental tracks (‘The Prophet’, ‘The Messiah will come again’, Blues for Narada’) you sound uncannily like Gary himself. I spoke to Gary’s son Jack in 2012 and he told me “No one can play quite like Dad”. Did you go into the studio with the aim of recreating his sound?
HF: No, not at all. When I started playing guitar I was really trying to copy him because I wanted to learn how to play the instrument. I was just sitting in my room and I couldn’t play like notes or chords. I had no idea, and had never been taught by anyone. I learnt just by listening to great people – and of course the first one was Gary. I sat in my room as a teenager trying to copy every lick that I heard.
It was never my plan to copy anything (on the ‘Blues for Gary‘ record) because, exactly what Jack said, nobody can really compare to the man himself. Also, it’s like, it begins in the heart, in the soul, and then in the fingers. Everything else comes way after.
You had the opportunity, albeit briefly, to get to know Gary a little I believe. What do you remember of that meeting?
HF: We had the great opportunity to open for him at a Festival in Mosbach and the chance to speak for a couple of hours.
Did he give you any advice that you took away from the meeting?
HF: He told me that the most important thing is to keep Blues music and handmade music alive. To do what you yourself feel, and not what everybody else wants you to do
I remember interviews with Gary on TV speaking of his turbulent times with Phil Lynott where it’s clear that the music was always the most important part of being in a band to him.
HF: Always, yes
When we spoke in 2011 you mentioned the song ‘Cold Day in Hell’ beginning your love for Gary’s music. Did you think about including it on ‘Blues for Gary’? It is after all the song that first inspired you.
HF: Yes, but the CD features more, like, quiet songs and ballads. (There’s a thoughtful pause here before Henrik continues) … but if you ask me straight away – I’m very sad that Gary’s not around. The lyrics to ‘Cold Day in Hell’ are not fitting for this recording and how I feel.
Perhaps ‘Empty Rooms’ would have been another great choice that didn’t make the disc?
HF: It was originally planned that we have friends from Hungary who mainly cover the Rock side of Gary’s music playing this song on the album but it didn’t happen in the time we had. However, the guitar player, Zsolt Vamos, is playing on the track ‘Intro’ (the intro on Gary’s tours to ‘Separate Ways’) on ‘Blues for Gary’ . That’s not me, everyone should know – I can’t play that fast!!!
I guess that also explains the absence of Gary’s epic instrumental tour de force on the Thin Lizzy track ‘Black Rose’ on your album?
HF: (Laughs) I honestly have to say (the choice of what to record) all came very naturally to me. I just wrote down the tracks while having coffee one morning and it all made so much sense to me. I wasn’t thinking ‘what are you missing?’, ‘What should you not put on?’ It was just maybe a ten minute decision and then…
It all came down to the quieter Blues moments it seems. At the time I rather liked Gary Moore the Rock guitarist myself and the Blues bit seemed like a step backwards to the Thin Lizzy fan that I was then.
HF: Well that’s the thing you know. I was sixteen when I heard ‘Cold Day in Hell’ and it was especially this combination between Blues and Rock that makes the Blues interesting for a young cat who wants to learn the guitar. Because of all that crazy stuff he can play on the guitar, but of course with all that feeling he puts into every note because he’s not always playing fast, and depending on the song, he plays one note at exactly the right moment, and that one note has more feel than everything else heard from others.
You have a great selection of guests on the recording. Ben Poole was at the Harmonie recently and proudly spoke of the time he spent with Gary in Brighton. Actually you could have covered one of the songs Gary did with Thin Lizzy with twin guitars. Did you consider that?
HF: (laughs) Well, we did that a bit on ‘Where are you now’ with Cliff (Moore – Gary’s brother) where I doubled the guitar to make it harmonies in the solo. With Ben I wanted to do the song ‘Where did we go wrong’ which not many people know from the album ‘Dark days in paradise’ which is not that complicated but is a beautiful ballad with perfect lyrics that are very simple but very on the point.
I have to ask about ‘Parisienne Walkways’ because it’s Phil Lynott and Gary, and that mid-song guitar solo that holds it’s note for what seems like an eternity. Guitar reputations live or die live by how long the sustain can be kept going. I remember being very disillusioned with Laurence Archer in Phil’s band Grand Slam when I saw them at Portsmouth Polytechnic when he didn’t manage the required 30 seconds plus. Did you come to that moment in the studio and think – ‘What do I do now?’
HF: Well of course, in the studio it’s not as it would be live when you’re standing in front of the amp and everyone is waiting on the note. You have to have the confidence in yourself that you are able to play this.
But you did something very clever Henrik. You morphed the start of that note on electric and came out at the other end with an acoustic guitar which I think is absolutely brilliant. I love that moment. Everyone is waiting for this solo and the acoustic comes in…
HF: Which is very hard to play…
What, the acoustic?
HF: (laughs) No. The end of the solo!
Was that total change of atmosphere, in a heartbeat almost, you’re idea?
HF: Well, It’s the last track of the album. The long note fades out in a way – and for me of course it has a deeper meaning…
HF: (Laughs) Which has to be found out!
You have Pete Reeves and Vic Martin from Gary’s own band on the recording (and the tour). Did you tell them how to play? Or did they tell you how to play the songs?
HF: No. We just met in the studio and everything was very natural and came together. We had a quick run through the songs. We recorded live… and that was it.
My personal favourite track, and not just because she came to Bonn Folk Club and let me borrow her guitar, is the one featuring Linda Sutti: ‘With Love (Remember)’. It’s pure Jazz and she sings it beautifully. Who decided to record it in this style?
Gary did it the Jazz way too. These are the same harmonies that Gary did, but again, a track that not many people know. Written I think by Gary. And very interesting because friends of mine Mickey Neher and Roman Babik (Romi) just did an album in Wuppertal where I used to live, and I asked them to listen to the track and maybe do a version of it. So it was Mickey on drums, Roman on keys and then other friends of mine The Royal Street Orchestra recorded the strings. A third studio sent them to us. Then Linda came over from Paris. Sang the song in maybe just five takes – and that was it. I only play one very small acoustic guitar solo on the track!
Why didn’t you sing at all on the album?
It didn’t feel right. I just wanted to play guitar.
Because you couldn’t sing like Gary?
HF: Exactly. So it’s smart to not want it!
You have a vocalist on the disc that I admit to not knowing at all. How did you find him?
HF: You mean Mike or Harrisen?
Mike Andersen I know as he played a while ago in Cologne and has a great soulful approach. I think you would make great music together…
HF: Well we are working together now. He just released a new album in Scandinavia ‘The Devil is Back’ and I will be releasing it on my little label Cable Car Records on 5th May. I just love the guy. Amazing artist, amazing singer and he has a great band with a great vibe when they play live.
Harrisen Larner-Main is the mysterious vocalist I didn’t know. Where did you find him for the vocals?
HF: The very first Gary Moore Memorial Concert took place in Budapest and I was invited to play there, which is where I met this lovely gentleman. We stayed in contact since then and it’s happened every year because there’s a guy in Budapest, Zoli is his name (Zoltán Csillag), and he runs the Gary Moore Fan Club there (http://www.garymoorefc.com) this was the website I always went to when I wanted to find out where Gary was playing.
Why was Gary so popular in Hungary that his Worldwide Fanclub is there I wonder?
HF: Because there’s a guy there who loves him. Very, very, very, very much! The Gary Moore Memorial Concert takes place there every year either shortly before or on Gary’s birthday. This year it was on the 3rd of April with Gary’s birthday on the 4th which is when I released my album as a present. It is meant very much as a present to him and his music.
… and then I met Harissen at one of these concerts. He’s a great singer with a unique voice. Also a very good guitar player, a cool guy, and a good friend. So we stayed in contact, and we will do something together – soon!
A Gary Moore tribute album part two?
HF: No, no, a solo album.
But you could do a second one. A Rock one maybe?
HF: No. This will be the only one. This is it.
But will you be doing other songs live on tour? If I shout out that I want to hear ‘Back on the Streets’ or something… will you hear me?
HF: (Laughing) Well, we will hear you, but we won’t be able to play it right on the spot. We fixed a set-list and it’s not all of the songs from the album. There is some old school Blues stuff. Numbers like ‘Sky is Crying’ which I played when I started playing music for example. So it’s going to be a nice mix between guitar music and old school Blues, then the album will feature songs that we don’t play live so there should be something for everyone.
Who will be covering the vocals on the live shows?
HF: Ben has played on a couple of shows already and both Mike and Linda will come to Wuppertal as special guests on 5th May.
So you will be the singer tonight then?
HF: Yes today it will be me. Hopefully it will be good – I don’t know yet! (Laughs)
Thank you for your time Henrik
HF: Thank you too.