Bill Locey: Guitar shredder Alastair Greene gets shot at the blues big time
Local bluesman Alastair Greene lands deal with major blues label
During this interview, a hockey game broke out. Between the second and third period of the opening game of the Stanley Cup Final between your (our?)
Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers, both Alastair Greene and this writer talked fast or until the referee dropped the puck to start the third period. Greene was chatting about his Friday night gig at Yolie’s in Ventura to celebrate the CD release of his fifth and latest, “Trouble at Your Door.”
After being your typical long haired DIY guitar shredder out of Santa Barbara — making his own way in a cruel world with rejection at every turn, yet continuing to make his own breaks — Greene finally caught a big one. This new album will be released on Eclecto Groove Records, an alias of Delta Groove, one of the big time blues labels. In short, Greene will have some help this time around.
A Santa Barbara High guy who studied at the Berklee College of Music, Greene has learned plenty — like how to expand his horizons. Usually pegged as a blues guy, Greene also knows how to rock — and is never short on mind-bending guitar solos. In addition to fronting his own band since 1997, Greene has been touring the world for the past four years with a part of rock history, the Alan Parsons Project.
This Yolie’s gig is much more convenient — the venue is located at the end of Main Street across from Von’s. It’s a Mexican restaurant with a covered patio where the Friday night concerts always feature sound that is just right. During the skate-less intermission, with the scored tied 2-2, Greene discussed the latest in a phone chat.
What’s the latest with you?
Just watching the game and just trying to keep up with everything. I’m not really a full-on hockey fan but obviously, this is pretty exciting.
I’ve heard that. I jumped on the bandwagon two years ago when the Kings won the Stanley Cup. I don’t pretend to understand it, but hockey is very exciting.
Exactly. It’s all good. It’s always fun to root for L.A.
Without living there. So how’s the blues biz? What’s the news?
Well, I’ve got a new record coming out on one of the big blues labels, so that’s pretty exciting. And I continue to do the touring thing with Alan Parsons. That’s still a nonstop adventure.
How often are you out with him and how often are you doing your own thing?
It’s about half and half right now. My band has been getting busier and busier as far as getting out of town and stuff like but with the new record, that will be happening a little more often. Last year we did about 50 shows with Alan and I think we’re about on the same page this year. Between that, I’m playing with my band and doing a little bit of teaching.
Where do you suppose “Trouble at Your Door” fits in with your vast body of work?
I think it’s a pretty concerted effort to embrace the blues-rock title. The last CD I did was more classic rock and the one before that was an effort to try and dabble in Chicago blues, but this one’s pretty straight up. It’s blues-rock with some early ZZ Top and early Government Mule and some Johnny Winter mixed in there. I’m still paying tribute to the traditional guys as far as songs and lyrics are structured. The music is pretty rocking on this one and we’re really proud of it. We recorded most of it live; you know, we overdubbed the vocals but most of it was recorded with few overdubs. I’m rarely stoked, man, and I feel it’s the best record I’ve made.
Alan Parsons must have some stories to tell, I would assume?
I don’t ever really ask him stuff because he gets interviewed all the time. But, you know, on occasion he’ll start telling stories and it’s like one of those old commercials, “When E.F. Hutton talks, everybody listens.” He’ll say something like, “I remember when we were recording ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ ” or “When I was in the studio with the Beatles ...” and then everybody just shuts up. Those moments are definitely priceless.
How has the local music scene changed since you started this crazy adventure?
I’m living down here now. I’ve been in Oxnard for five years now but I’m still playing up in Santa Barbara a lot. There’s still a lot of places I can play up there and I’ve been playing down a little bit in Ventura, too. But since I’m out a lot and the type of music I play, I’m not really involved in any particular type of scene. There’s not really a blues-rock scene in Santa Barbara. Ventura has more of a blues scene it seems than Santa Barbara, but both places are kind of doing their best to embrace live music. It just gets harder and harder each time a bar decides to hire a DJ.
What about Oxnard? Anything happening there for you?
I haven’t really checked out Oxnard all that much. I need to get out and explore, but my goal has always been to get out of town and play other places, especially when you’ve got a new CD and you’ve got merchandise. The people that come to see you locally are only going to buy so many copies of your latest disc.
So I intend to make a concerted effort to get out of town. We’ll be going back up to the Bay Area, and in July, we’re going back through Central California and we’re definitely going to be working on getting out of the state. The record is coming out on one of the four big blues labels in the world at this point — there’s really not that many.
How does that change the equation? You were the total DIY guy and now you’ve got a label.
Yeah, exactly. The last record we put out was on a small label in Santa Barbara and we got a little help with that, but this is definitely a big step up. We’re gonna be exposed to the whole blues world. I’m just thrilled to get a chance to get up to bat in that world, you know, and see what we can do. The main thing is getting more opportunities to play live because I believe that’s where this music really lives.
How many guitars do you have? And how do you find time to practice?
That’s an interesting question because I was just taking some pictures of my Gibsons. I don’t think I have a crazy number of guitars. I’ve probably got 11 or 12 guitars.
I’m not quite in Joe Walsh territory or those guys that have those collections that are just insane. I try and practice every day because we’ve got a lot of shows coming up and you don’t always have time to practice. When people hear that, “Hey, the guitar player from the Alan Parsons Project is playing — I wonder if he’s any good?,” I wanna make sure that I’m on my game.
One more easy one before the Kings game resumes: What advice would you give to the next generation of musicians?
To me, it all starts with having a passion for playing first off, you know? If you’re not happy sitting in a room by yourself playing a guitar, then I would say don’t even try. If you can’t sit there and entertain yourself for a couple of hours with your guitar in an empty room with no TV on or whatever, then I would say don’t even consider it. After that, playing with other people is the first step. That’s when you find out if you can deal with attitudes and rejection and you can start dealing with real life. There’s so much rejection and confrontation that can be involved with becoming a musician. That’s why there’s a million people that play guitar and maybe 100,000 of them are able to pay some bills.
Good answer and good timing. Go Kings.”
Bill Locey, Ventura County Star