Jeff Green has just released his latest album ‘Elder Creek’ is out now on the Festival Music label and you catch him this summer at the Cambridge Rock Festival in August…
1. What have you got planned for the next few months e.g. recording, new musical projects etc.
At present, I’m working on putting the band together for some UK dates coming up later in the year. We have the Cambridge Rock Festival on 8th August and the UPF Concert in Rotherham on the 11th of October in the diary and there are more dates being planned. We intend to play the highlights from both “Jessica” and “Elder Creek” as well as some choice prog covers that we’re all fans of and that have influenced us over the years. I’m very excited about getting out there and playing the material live!
Additionally, I’ve just started working on my next studio project. It’s still very much in its infancy, but I have the concept and general outline worked out and have started the songwriting process. I don’t want to give away too much right now, but to suffice to say it’s going to be epic in scale!
2. Your new album ‘Elder Creek’ is based on memory in our lives and some of the lyrics are based on your dad’s poems. How do you set about starting and creating a themed concept piece like this album?
Well for me, it’s very much a case of firstly looking at the big picture… What am I ultimately trying to say? That is actually the hardest part because there are so many aspects to a concept as big as memory.
Once that is established, I decide which points and themes I want to touch on within the concept, taking in to consideration, the points I think are necessary vs. those that may be less important in the grand scheme of things. From there, I draw up an outline much like authors will do when writing a book. The individual songs are like chapters, which serve to express the concept over the course of the album.
The next step is to start putting the music to each song or “Chapter” This is where the fun begins! I look at the mood of each piece and experiment with sounds, chord structures, melodies, harmonies and lyrics etc.… Once the ball is rolling the pace really begins to pick up and in many cases some of the songs seem to write themselves. It’s a very creative process!
3. You have some notable guests like former Pallas vocalist Alan Reed and former Big Big Train vocalist Sean Filkins. When you have guest musicians do you adapt the music say to their vocals or is a case of the guest becomes available and you use them on a song as it is?
Not in the case of Elder Creek. The songs were already written when Phil Chelmsford suggested using some guest vocalists, so it was more a case of doing some research on their vocals and choosing the songs that would be most suitable for their individual talents. Both Sean and Alan did outstanding jobs on their parts and it was a real privilege to work with them. I’m very grateful for their contributions.
Funnily enough, I did arrange some of the songs in a way that I thought would suit the style of Mike Stobbie (keyboards). I’m a big fan of vintage keyboards and Mike is simply the best, so I allowed quite a bit of room for Moog solos, Hammond and Mellotron parts plus his own unique slant.
4. How did you first meet Phil Hilborne and how has your guitar playing evolved over the years?
I first met Phil back in 1987 shortly after moving to UK from California. A mutual friend brought me to a gig he was playing and I was totally blown away. My friend mentioned to me that not only did Phil write for Guitarist magazine, but he also gave private guitar lessons as well. As luck would have it, it turned out that Phil and I lived just down the road from each other in Pitsea, Essex. Needless the say, I started lessons with him straight away!
I was 20 at the time, so I’d been playing for about 7-8 years prior to meeting Phil. During that time I had studied with some fine teachers in Sacramento as well as playing in the high school jazz band and various “Garage” bands. But my playing went on to a whole different level after studying with Phil. Apart from being a fantastic guitar player, he is also a consummate musician. There is a difference!
He really helped me to organize my various influences and direct them in a way that would be the most beneficial to the goals I wanted to achieve. Phil is not only a great teacher he’s very inspirational as well. Just being around him makes you want to pick up the guitar a practice!
As regards evolvement, like most young guitar players during the 80’s I wanted to be the fastest, the flashiest and the loudest (ha ha!) Over the years however, I learned to play for the song. It’s a bit of a cliché but technique for techniques sake only serves to impress guitar aficionados and other guitar players.
While I think that it is very important to develop ones chops to the best of their ability, I feel that it is more important to know how and when to use those techniques. That is very much and art in itself and something that I try and embark on my own students.
I’d like to think that over the years I’ve improved on a technical level, something which I am, and will always aspire to. Most importantly however, I feel that I have matured as a musician and become more tasteful in terms of using the guitar as a means to serve the song.
5. Do you have any touring plans to promote the new album? How easy/hard is it to get a decent series of gig/festival dates together?
(See question 1!) It’s always difficult securing dates with original material and not being very well known, but Dave Robinson from F2 Records (my label) is on the case and doing a great job!
6. Have you found the recent upsurge in interest in progressive music has helped raise awareness and interest in your music?
Very much so. When I began work on my first album, “Jessica” back in ‘98 a lot of people thought that it sounded a bit odd as there were long songs, several of them instrumentals, no standard Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge etc.… structure.
Then it dawned on me that outside my circle of friends and like-minded musicians, not many people were aware of progressive music and what it was all about! Thanks to the upsurge “Elder Creek” was much easier to put out and for people to understand. Long may it continue!
7. What have been the live highlights so far and why?
There have been quite a few, but to narrow it down I’d have to say that playing with the Illegal Eagles in places like the Czech Republic supporting Uriah Heep was one. It was during the late 90’s and it hadn’t been long since the Iron Curtain had come down. The look of sheer joy on the faces of thousands of people is something I will never forget. They had been deprived of Western bands performing there for years.
Some people in the first few rows were in tears during the opening chords of “Hotel California” and told us after the how grateful they were. It really put things in perspective for me… How the simple pleasures in life that we take for granted can mean so much to others. Of course, we didn’t write the material, but it was an honour and a privilege to be ambassadors of this wonderful music.
Another highlight was playing The Royal Albert Hall in London with the Illegal Eagles. Apart from being one of the most prestigious venues in the world, just about my whole family were there! My Mother had gathered up all my Aunts, Uncles and Cousins and my Father actually flew all the way from California to be there. It was a truly magical moment.
However, the biggest highlight would have to be playing The Hammersmith Odeon with my original band, North Point Park back in ’93 supporting Gary Numan.
I had experienced my first ever concert there in 1976 (Rick Wakeman) and many other bands after that. Given the enormity of the situation, I was beside myself with nerves. This was all our own material, would people like it? Would they be yelling, “get off”?
Kipper, Numan’s guitar player could see what a state I was in and he suggested I take a few walks across the stage, much like a football player will do at Wembley Stadium before playing a cup final there for the first time! Anyway, it worked. The band received a standing ovation and for the very first time I felt that my decision to become a professional musician was truly validated. At least artistically anyway!
8. You’ve been a member of the Illegal Eagles but have you ever been asked or would you consider joining a band? I would imagine the dynamic would be totally different than working under your own name.
Yes I have unfortunately, most of the offers have come from outside of Ireland where I currently reside, which for the most part has made it impractical as regards transport accommodation etc. Having said that, I’m planning on spending more time in the UK this year, so you never know!
It’s nice to write the songs, call the shots etc. but it can also be a hassle. Sometimes its nice just to be a hired hand and let someone else make the decisions. As a musician, I’m up for most anything and always enjoy new challenges!
9. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from music?
I absolutely love cooking. I find it to be a very creative process, much like writing music. I like taking established recipes and experimenting with them as well as coming up with my own concoctions. I find the satisfaction of providing a good meal for family and friends much the same as writing a well received song or getting a nice reception after a gig!
I’m an avid reader. I usually have two books on the go as well as a stack of music magazines. I’m also a big aviation buff. I have a flight simulator and would love to take flying lessons some day.
Big sports fan too. Namely Arsenal, San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Raiders.
10. Message for you fans…
I would just like to thank everybody for their support and patience over the years! know that two albums in 16 years is hardly prolific, but there are many exciting things to come. Finally, I can’t wait to play the material live and look forward to meeting as many people as possible at the gigs and be able to thank everybody in person!
Interview by Jason Ritchie
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COLLATERAL Mr Big Shot (Roulette Media Records)
BABY HUSBAND Stop Thinking About Tomorrow (indie)
OF ALLIES Off The Map (indie)
EXPLORING BIRDSONG The River (indie)
MARISA AND THE MOTHS – Slave (indie)
CATTLE AND CANE I Wish I Knew Jesus (Like I Do)
KING VOODOO Creep (indie)
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MAGNUM Sleepwalking (1992)
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