PAUL SPEIDEL INTERVIEW
METRONOME MAGAZINE - May 2006
Songwriter-guitarist Paul Speidel has been performing around the New England music scene for more than ten years now. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Speidel incorporates his innate sense for blues and gospel to create his electrifying instrumental pieces. His latest CD entitled Guitar Bass Drums is a live recording that was captured over a two night stay at Waltham's legendary Rendezvous Club. I spoke with Paul about his influences and his music... METRONOME: When did you form The Paul Speidel Band? The band actually started in 1994. I was doing a lot of freelance work around Boston and I was doing a gig down in the Providence area with a jazz quartet. We were playing one of these corner bars that serves both Bud and Miller (laughs) and realized very quickly that jazz wasn't going over at all... and, we were booked for two nights. So the next night we realized, maybe we should play some blues. So we switched bass players for the next night and went back as a four piece blues band. I did some screechin' vocals and we played a bunch of old blues standards. That was the inception. METRONOME: Were you a session player before that? I had come to Boston in 1990. I'm from Chicago originally. I came to Boston to try and work my way into the scene. I did a lot of teaching and tried to get whatever work I could playing wise. METRONOME: Did you attend Berklee College? No. I'm probably one of the few guitar players in town that didn't. METRONOME: You ended up staying here... I did. Isn't it crazy? I can't believe the caliber of players I've met around here. The intensity of the people. It's a great scene in a million ways. It's crazy for a guitar player to be here I guess. METRONOME: Were you influenced by the blues growing up in Chicago? Definitely. The ironic thing is, I never played in a straight out blues setting until I came to Boston. In Chicago, you hear blues on the radio even on the non-blues and the non-public radio stations. Growing up with the classic rock stations, they played local blues artists and blues cuts all the time. It was just part of their regular rotation and programming. I remember Lonnie Brooks playing at my high school. I remember when I got my first Son Seals record... METRONOME: When did you pick up the guitar? I started playing when I was twelve. I thought it was too late because you hear all these stories about all these kids that started when they were five. I'll just play for fun, I thought. I still am I guess. METRONOME: How many CDs does the Paul Speidel Band have available? We released our debut self-titled CD in 2004 and we just released a live recording. METRONOME: Was your debut album all originals or a mixture of covers and originals? It was all original material. I sometimes struggle with myself; am I being selfish liking to write my own versions of blues progressions? It really stimulates me creatively to play a style I love. Who wants to hear someone else play another solo on 'Stormy Monday' again. We try to mix it in and we mix in a lot of our other influences too. We try to do interesting things with the arrangements so that it's fun to play and hopefully interesting for people to hear. METRONOME: Your new album Guitar Bass Drums is a live CD that was recorded at The Rendezvous Club in Waltham, right? That's right. METRONOME: Was it recorded during a one night performance or over the course of several different shows? We did two nights. The Rendezvous is a club that we've been in and out of for a lot of years. There's three or four clubs in the Metrowest area that we've been fortunate enough to play in for a long time and that was one of them. We wanted to record in a club where we really felt comfortable. So I called up Jimmy, the owner of The Rendezvous, and told him what we were interested in doing and he said, "Sure come on down." We did two shows in two consecutive weeks. A friend of mine has a really nice digital board and was able to do that end for me. METRONOME: So you culled the best of both nights for the album? Exactly. We had about eight hours of material to go through. It's all live, there's no overdubs or anything like that. It's all raw. METRONOME: Who is in the band with you? My drummer Brendan Byrnes has been with me pretty much since the beginning. We met in 1993 and we've worked a million different settings together. We've been in GB bands, we've done function work... he's been the drummer in the Paul Speidel Band the whole time. METRONOME: Who is playing bass? On the live album, Guitar Bass Drums, it's Steve Skop. Steve is an old friend of Brendan and mine who's played a lot with us in a lot of different contexts. Steve is actually not on the debut CD. The bass player for the debut CD was Ed Spargo. He's a killer player, but he took time off last year to do his own album and basically he couldn't do a lot of things with me during that time. Steve actually has played with the band, he subbed for Ed. Steve and I play duos around town too, so it was a real natural fit to have Steve play with us. METRONOME: Did Ed Spargo play regularly with the band? Ed had probably been with us for about a year or two before we started tracking the debut CD. I can't say enough about his groove playing. He locks in so strongly that you feel like you've been playing with him for years. He's really going full out promoting his new CD. METRONOME: When you write your material, who and what are some of the influences that you tap in to? Especially since your songs are all instrumentals? Yeah, everyone thinks I'm crazy not to have a singer. Again, I feel kind of selfish. I just like to play and I guess if I were playing a different style of music, it would be jam band music, from that perspective. METRONOME: Along the lines of bands like Phish and Widespread Panic? Yeah, sort of like The Allman Brothers and the music of the late 60s. There was a time when jazz players, rock players and blues players... I think they were really a lot more influenced by each other than they are now. Duane Allman was listening to John Coltrane so he would build these long solos. The language was different, but it was still the same idea of building and telling a story. I like playing with my three piece and having the three of us tell a story. It comes from the jazz idea of the interplay with the drums, the bass and the guitar. I try to write around that. I try to write, not too complicated blues progressions, things with some feelings, but something that's interesting and contemporary. I love Blind Blake. I wish I could have played with him. Blind Willie McTell is one of my favorite guitarists but we have Marshall stacks nowadays. As much as I love the old players, we live in the 21st century. What do you do now? METRONOME: How do you make the music grow? Exactly, how do you make it grow? My friend Paul Rishell is an amazing country blues player. He plays that style the way it was played. When I play, it just doesn't come out like that. It comes out like me. METRONOME: Who are some of the players that you emulate or feel like they might influence your playing? I consider myself a blues player but I think mostly it's just an homage to... sort of a wannabe feeling for me. I love Freddie King. I love Albert King. I also listen to alot of Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass. Both of those guys play blues in the jazz idiom as much as they play it in any other kind of progression or any other style. My Mom was a classical musician and a church musician. She played piano. She played a really neat sort of Pennsylvania mountain ragtime, church style, gospel style piano. METRONOME: When you say Pennsylvania... did she grow up there? Yes. She grew up in the mountains. One short of a barefoot, hillbilly kind of background. A very creative person. She was a big influence. So I hear a lot of that. METRONOME: It's nice to be able to tap into that kind of thing because the lineage is strong to begin with... Yeah. She was a huge influence. It's like when you see somebody do something up close you think you can. I don't know if it's a good thing (laughs), but I haven't stopped. She taught me my first piano lessons when I was five. METRONOME: So you play piano too? People have paid me to play piano but I don't know if I recommend it (laughs). People paid me to sing too and I wouldn't recommend that either. METRONOME: If someone had never heard your music before, how would you describe it? I think the easy answer is, a little too jazzy for straight up blues and a little too bluesy for straight ahead jazz. I read a great interview with Bill Bruford, a drummer from the 70s, and he said that people consider him too much of a rock drummer for jazz circles and too much of a jazz drummer for rock circles. He likes being in the middle and that's how I feel. My jazz experience opens up a lot of possibilities. It's a very liberating style that through it's history has always been open to different influences. I like that kind of freedom. But when you listen to great jazz guitarists talk... Barney Kessel was once asked what he listens for in another guitarist, and he said, "Feeling." Where does feeling come from? In my book, there's only one answer, blues. I feel pretty strongly about that, so that's why I'm self consciously playing blues in my mind. I'm trying to play with feeling. I'm trying to communicate something. I'm trying to play from a spiritual place if you will. If you play too many odd notes or chords, as jazz players do, you get away from the feeling. METRONOME: What kind of guitar or guitars do you play? Historically, the Strat has been the blues guitar. By default, I've been playing Gibsons. I've got a beautiful ES-125 that I bought from a fellow that I used to work for in the early nineties for $100. It was a commercial instrument when it came out but it's got beautiful tone. I played that for a long time. My wife is also a fabulous musician and she bought an ES-135 in the nineties with P-90 pickups. When I got out of high school, I worked on a farm and got up enough money to buy a Gibson Victory M10. In 1982, Gibson attempted to crossover into the Fender market. Oddly enough it was designed for country playing. I like the versatility of it. So I've been playing three different Gibsons for the most part. METRONOME: What kind of amplifier do you use? The first tube amp I got was a Gibson Falcon but I don't take that out anymore. I have a Fender Twin that is pretty much my work horse when my back is strong enough (laughs). METRONOME: You mentioned that you teach music. Do you teach privately? I teach a full load of private students. My Mom and Dad were actually teachers. My Mom was a class room teacher and she taught some music. My Dad taught out of college himself. I guess it's in my veins. METRONOME: Do you teach guitar and bass? Yeah. I actually gigged a lot on electric bass when I was younger. I never played upright. METRONOME: Where can people hear you play live? We've been playing at the Plough & Stars in Cambridge for the last six years. METRONOME: I thought they were closed. What happened over there? They just reopened. They got bought out. George sold it from what I can gather. Their web site has a blurb about it. They started booking bands but I haven't seen anything yet. I broke down. I have a booking agent now. METRONOME: Who are you working with now? Her name is Cheryl Symister-Masterson. She has a company called CK Promotions. METRONOME: Where does she work out of? She's out in western, Massachusetts. She books acts up and down the East coast. METRONOME: What made you contact her? Basically, I was getting to the point where I didn't have the time to do everything. Booking the band is a full time job. I have a family of six and I teach a lot, so finding the time to keep the band busy was beyond my reach. I decided to focus on the recording and the management side of the band and have someone else take it to the next level for me. METRONOME: So you're looking to play out and tour more often? I think down the road ideally with the family, trying to balance it all, I would really enjoy being able to go out once every month or two for a week at a time. To me, the singer/songwriter model is the best. Small, mobile, you have a niche audience. METRONOME: Are any of your children musically inclined? No, two of them are older and out on their own and a couple are too young yet. METRONOME: Where can people buy your CD? We're selling the CDs from our web site, www.paulspeidelband.com and at our live gigs.