Electric Field Holler, your most recent album, has a great blues/rock feel to it. How did the album come about ?
We wanted to make an album that was unapologeticaly blues rock. I often feel like blues rock is the bastard step child of the blues world. It is tolerated by the blues police because it puts people in the seats but it is neither respected nor celebrated. Artists and record producers feel this disapproval and many times they feel compelled to water down the rock aspect to appease the blues tastemakers. They ask questions like; Do we have enough old school blues content? Do we have a shuffle and a slow blues? How will the blues community react to this album? This time around we decided that we wouldn’t concern ourselves with this nonsense. I listen to Muddy Waters as much as I listen to Deep Purple and there’s nothing wrong with an album that draws from both of these influences. Instead of being ashamed or underplaying the rock influence we were loud and proud. Take it or leave it. Luckily, most people took it and applauded our artistic integrity.
In the song Turn It Up there's a line saying 'Don't try to stop me once I start, cause I've got a blues soul and a rock and roll heart' . Is that you making a statement ?
Yes, it was very much us making a statement. That line in “Turn It Up!” became the mantra of the album. One challenge the blues has is that it is seen as the root or beginning of western music. Rock, Pop, R&B and many others genres were all born from the blues. They are allowed and encouraged to evolve. Metallica sounds nothing like Elvis Presley. Blues, on the other hand, is met with a lot of resistance if there is any evolution to the music. The argument is that it is no longer remains blues but becomes some other genre of music that it influenced beforehand. I feel that blues is alive and well and should be permitted to grow and develop. B.B. King told me that the blues were like the laws of the land and they should be amended to fit the times we live in.
Do you have to live the blues to sing about it ?
All great music has to be performed with feeling. I don’t care if it’s classical or country. It has to have feeling. And, the blues is certainly no exception. Blues relies on feeling and expression as much or more than any other genre. In order to emote blues, I feel like one has had to have experienced some deep pain, especially early in life. B.B. King, Clapton, Hendrix were all motherless children. Ray Charles saw his brother drown when he was four (he was blind at 7) and both his parents died as a teen. That leaves an indelible mark on a person. You learn to survive and deal with the pain. The healing is where the blues comes in. In the end, you don’t have to live or be living the blues to play it but you’ve had to experience it at sometime and be able to connect to those emotions. Out of the pain comes something beautiful. As an audience, we all relate to the blues because all of us have experienced some sort of hardship and the euphoria of overcoming it. The blues reminds us that we’re not alone.
It's pleasing to see that your songs are all originals, also Jim Peterik of Survivor on one track, how did that come about ?
I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Jim Peterik on each album I’ve done. Jim has been a wonderful mentor and big brother. I met him very early in my career about 20 years ago. I was working at a music store and he wanted to buy a Stratocaster. He narrowed it down to two and asked my opinion of which was the best one. I put them through the paces by playing some blues licks on them and I guess he liked what he heard. He called me the next day and asked if I would be interested in the two of us writing together. We have a great writing chemistry and can write 2 or 3 songs in an afternoon. We started with the title “Love Crazy” and in no time we had a song.
Where does your inspiration come from ?
Inspiration is a fickle master. You have to always be ready to receive it and you never know when it will strike. Inspiration comes when I feel passionate about something and feel compelled to write about it. Songs like “Blues In Technicolor”, “When The Right Woman Does You Wrong”, “Last Bluesman Gone”, “Turn It Up!” all came very quickly. Once I get an idea of the song I try to put it away immediately after the initial burst of inspiration and let my subconscious finish it without thinking about it too much. I know that sounds sort of out there. Maybe it’s best said that I put it in the back of my mind and don’t try to work too hard to finish it. I may be driving down the road and come up with a line that works with the song. Or singing in the shower and a melody or riff appears. Bit by bit, it usually finishes itself. The end product sounds more natural doing it this way.
Do you have a favourite track on the album ?
I like some better than others. My favourite is Listen To The Universe because the lyrics are the deepest and most abstract on the album. I also like the autobiographical story and groove of Blueschild and the message of Turn It Up!
Who are your main influences, both in writing and playing ?
My favourite singers are Otis Redding, Wilson Picket, Paul Rodgers, Rod Stewart, Steve Marriott, Ray Charles and B.B. King. Like guitarists, they have their licks and approaches that are unique. Guitar wise it’s the 3 Kings, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Albert Collins, Richie Blackmore, Gary Moore, Billy Gibbons, Otis Rush, Jeff Healey, Rory Gallagher, Buddy Guy, Elmore James, SRV and Eric Clapton. Songwriters... wow, that’s a tough one. I love B.B. King’s depth of the blues, I’m a huge fan of Albert King’s nasty groove and Albert Collins’s humour. I enjoy how Billy Gibbons takes the blues and pushes it to the mainstream. British bands like Free, Jeff Beck Group and Deep Purple are also big influences.
What do you do to pass time on the road ?
I practice guitar or do graphic design when we’re heading down the road. That makes the long hours zoom by quickly. Plus, my bandmates are great company, so there’s always a fun story or two.
Do you class yourselves as a power trio ?
Yes. There’s nowhere to hide when you’re a trio. You’ve got to come out swinging.
Who, living or dead, would be in your dream touring band ?
The band I have now. Drummer Fred Spencer and Carlton Armstrong on bass.
What would you say was your 'Eureka' moment, when it all came together for you ?
I was in college and sitting in at a jam night at some hole in the wall blues bar. If you jammed they gave you a free beer. If you did a really good job they gave you two. In college that’s like a million dollars. I played for about 20 minutes. A gentleman came up to me as I left the stage and asked me who my favourite guitar player was. Without thinking I said, “B.B.King”. He said, “I thought that might be the case. I’m BB’s bus driver. We’re in town tomorrow, would you like to meet him?” Of course I said yes and met my hero the next day. B.B. King became a wonderful mentor to me as he has done for so many. His acceptance and wisdom made me believe that a white boy from the Toronto suburbs could play the blues and have something unique to offer. That was a Eureka moment where I had the faith to follow my heart and pursue my dream of playing the blues.
What's this about you writing a book ?
My book is basically my master’s degree thesis reworked. I studied American cultural history at the University of Toronto and wrote my thesis on the racial evolution of blues music in the 1960s. How many people actually get to use their degree in their profession?
I see you've been around for nearly twenty years, have you toured the UK , bearing in mind it took Eric Gales twenty five years to get here ?!
We have played just one festival show in 2003 at the Colne Blues Festival and really enjoyed the festival and audience. It would be a dream to do a proper tour of the UK.
Our readers might not be aware of your Music Is The Medicine Foundation, can you enlighten us ?
We started a foundation a few years back called Music is the Medicine. Basically, we believe that music is a healer and it can impact change in tangible ways. We are doing some modest but groundbreaking work in music therapy. We’ve donated a recording studio to a Montreal Hospital for a music therapy program for mentally ill patients. We’ve donated instruments to kids with non verbal autism and War Vets with PTSD. We had one veteran who couldn’t speak for several years but after learning the guitar he began to talk again. Music became the bridge to communication. We also partnered with Apple and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. We were able to donate several listening stations loaded with music. Kids could listen to music, helping them get through their time in the hospital. Music has been so good to me I wanted to do something to give back. If anyone would like to learn more they can visit MITM online atwww.musicisthemedicine.org
What's next for Anthony Gomes ?
We are on tour right now. When we’re off I’ve been in the studio working on the follow up to Electric Field Holler. I couldn’t be happier with the results. The album is tentatively titled, “Peace, Love and Loud Guitars” and will be released sometime in 2018.
Thanks for taking time out to speak with us, I always finish with my signature question, what's your favourite biscuit (cookie) ?
Anything with chocolate in it!