Interview: GEOFF EVERETT, blues guitarist (September 2015)

GRTR!’s Mark ‘Mad Dog’ Shaw catches up with blues guitarist Geoff Everett for a few Q’s…

1)  Thanks for taking the time to talk to GRTR! Geoff – talking of which, I’m curious….when you’ve finished your Starbucks and read the paper in the morning – what does a guy like you do next ?

Mark, it’s a pleasure. Thank you. I saw the interview you did with Jim McCarty of The Yardbirds and it’s good to know I’m in such great company!

Well, I don’t drink coffee (it’s bad for you) and I don’t read newspapers (they’re bad for you too!)

My day consists generally of writing/recording songs or at least gathering inspiration so to do.  This will take the form of solitary countryside walks or cycle rides (fairweather and sedate) and an endeavor towards artistic inertia. This last thing is a rarity! I have my own recording studio and record and produce singers-which I’m good at- to backing tracks for a modest fee.

I used to record bands in my previous studio but it’s too stressful and I’m not the best man for that job anyway. There are many great band recording engineers but I’m not one of them.  I teach guitar too but have wound that right down now. It sounds like my life is calm and easy – that’s not the case! I never seem to relax much.

GEOFF EVERETT BAND - The Quick And The Dead

2) You’re about to end an admirable and impressive fifth decade as a hard-gigging performer and artist, you must have seen so many changes – which have been good and which not so good ? Anything you would have done differently ?

Yes, there have been changes, but to paraphrase an old prog song, things are strangely different but oddly the same.

When I started out, pop, rock or whatever you would call it was not a respectable music to be involved in.  This sort of music was considered childish and a fleeting fad.  Contrary to popular belief, there was an aridity of  local venues. Pubs then were peopled by old guys playing dominoes. Sure, there were some bigger music venues in towns for established and older youths who had a band, but for 13 year old schoolkids there wasn’t much; the odd village hall do, etc. It was mainly rehearsals and fantasizing!

Now there are so many opportunities for those starting out.  More places to play; an incredible array of sound effects which can make one chord and two notes sound like a huge concert hall performance. And a there is a huge supply of teachers, tutorial videos and books.

This is a double edged sword I think. In my opinion it can dull the edge of that feverish ambition which sorted out the young guys who would become musicians come what may from those who disdainfully tinker with a guitar for example in between playing their computer games.

It can all be too easy and therefore undervalued. Having said this, it’s so uplifting to see many young guys and girls working hard on their technique and performance “emotions” and referring to the “ancients” for inspiration.  It’s a buzz for me when a youngster comes up at the end of a gig to ask about various aspects of my performance and compliment me on it. They will keep the music we love alive.

I think as for doing things differently, I should have moved to London as a teenager instead of pursuing the safety net of academia. That turned out to be a waste of time – but I’m brilliant at quiz games!!

3) Any regrets or specific “ah-ha” moments?

The only regret I can think of is that of being too loyal to the wrong musicians! I have in the past stuck with certain band members and bands whilst not admitting to myself that they weren’t worth it.  Then finding out I was correct. Best to be true to oneself and serve oneself first and others afterwards. A measure of ruthlessness is not pleasant perhaps but it seems it is necessary sometimes.  Must say though that in the main, the vast majority of guys I have worked with have been splendid and a pleasure to share a stage with.

4) Having been out there doing it for almost 50 years, where do you stand on the currently-burning debate…..was it better back in the day when it was perhaps less competitive but you could get a gig and get paid/sell records versus today when social media makes certain things like distribution easier than ever but it’s harder than ever to get paid as a musician?

This is a tricky one Mark! I have deliberated over this for some time.  However, I have to say after  much thought that today’s set up is superior. Nowadays, everyone can be heard and everyone can hear everyone.

In the past, it was almost impossible to reach and be heard by a substantial number of potential fans. The downside of the present system of course is that fans can hear your stuff for nothing and don’t feel the need to purchase.

In addition, royalties and plays can bring in very small returns. Some still realize though, as I do when I hear something I really like, that it’s special to “buy into” an artist; to have something tangible like a CD complete with sleeve notes in your hands. But yes, it’s a better system now.

5) Do you think the blues/rock genre is in a decent state today ? Do you listen to any of the new batch of artists kicking around these days?

I’m heartened by the myriad radio stations – internet and otherwise – who play and promote lesser known artists. I must admit I don’t listen to much of other people’s material. Some of which I do hear is staggeringly good which makes me wonder why on earth they are not given air play by the “large” media operators.

I heard a track today which followed one of my tracks on Australia’s Rock and Blues Downunder progamme by a band called Dallas Frasca. In a class far in excess of what you may hear on say, Jools Holland’s programme.  Equally, and of course, there is much stuff which is weaker and derivative.

6) Your many influences are apparent in your recorded output, has there been any particular artists that you’d single out as leaving a greater imprint on your musical DNA than others?

We all share as musicians stuff which subconsciously osmosis – like enters our poor brains.  I laugh sometimes when a punter comes up at the end of a gig and really well – meaningly compliments me with: “Ooh, I can hear you’ve been listening to ….X Y or Z.  Old Geoff had in lots of cases been playing this way long before X Y or Z had their first Christmas present plastic guitar!  But indeed I can say that The Stones moved me many years ago. As have others too many to mention: Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, even Buddy Holly.  Steve Marriott of course. He was priceless in the vocal stakes.

7) I have to ask you this (my Dad made me promise)….what are your recollections of playing with The Savages ? My old man, who played a bit himself in the day, reckoned they were known for mainly being back-up to Screaming Lord Sutch’s theatrical antics but, in fact, that were a damn good band – a fact which by-passed all but the purists back then ? Didn’t Carlo Little basically invent the double bass drum kick ? And Bernie “Strawberry” Watson was a bit special but lost interest and went off to “classical”?

Oh dear – I hope your Dad won’t be disappointed with my reply Mark. The Savages with me were renamed The Ravers for a while – but were still also know on some posters as The Savages. Does that make sense?  There is a band family tree featuring the Savages on the internet. I would recommend a peek. It’s fascinating!

Tony Ellis on bass, Mike Crawford on drums, myself on guitar and Screaming Lord Sutch on vocals was the line up I was involved with. The original band – and there have been many incarnations – was an amazing band in it’s own right as your dad points out.

Our line up did a series of gigs mainly in London but particularly  regularly at Cynthia Lennon’s club in St Martins Lane. Dave Sutch would turn up with a motley crew of people. Madame Cynthia Payne; Jet Harris ex The Shadows; Zany and irrepressible Sue Pollard, etc. So you can imagine the shenanigans!

Geoff Everett

8)Any embarrassing stage moments over the years?

A few. I remember a reunion concert in a theatre for a band I had played with a few years before. I thought I would show off my new wireless system. At rehearsals it was fine but a roadie had turned the power off and back on again just before the first number started. This changed all the settings and a dreadful cacophony of noise spewed from my amp drowning the first couple of bars. I had to quickly substitute the unit for a good old fashioned guitar cable!

On another occasion in the 60s I was playing an awful cheap keyboard on one number which was kindly lent by the other band Episode 6 who had a female singer and whose guitarist on that gig was Ritchie Blackmore. They had a minor hit with Morning Dew. Other members were Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.

Anyway this awful little organ was miles out of tune with the band so I had to mime the entire number which was fine until the keyboard solo was due. An embarrassing lack of lead instrument was the result at that point. It turned out in the end that the band had not tuned to the keyboard so it was their fault after all!

Another emb mo was when  Christopher Greener stood at the back of the hall during a gig. I could see him head and shoulders above the crowd. I told him over the microphone to be careful not to fall off the table he was obviously standing on. I was then informed that at 7 feet 7 inches tall, Chris was the tallest man in the UK!  He was standing. He was very good natured about my gaffe.

A gig at the famous Eel Pie Island was another cause of an embarrassing moment. The venue – built over an old coal pit and with a horrifically dangerous sagging floor – used to get unbelievably packed. It was such that it was almost impossible to raise your arm to take a sip of drink.

From stage to bar at the back of the venue could take, and I’m serious, twenty minutes!  I was at the bar talking to Art Wood (Ronnie’s brother) – singer from The Artwoods who we were supporting. (I still remember the sign above the bar and the huge scowling gorilla type of guy serving beneath it- “If you have any complaints we will be amused to hear them”)  I suddenly realized that I was due on stage more or less at that moment.

My scrabble through the crowd was uncomfortable and was met with scowls and threats. My undignified scramble onto the stage was accompanied by hoots and cheers from a delighted audience just before I joined in the first number on guitar. I was just turned 16 and not blessed with much self esteem. But I recovered..!

9) Apart from the famous Rod Stewart quote (“give 100% to wine, women……and don’t forget the music”), throw us your best/funniest anecdote from your long career ?

I was playing with a band called The Cruisin Mooses  at a social club. The drummer, the very talented Bob Henrit and I were being childish and foolish during the bingo break. Anyone who has played this sort of social club knows that the bingo game between music sets is sacrosanct.  No one must speak. We would shout out: “Same old faces, “Fiddle” and “Put it back” at whoever won a prize. Eventually a club official scolded us. Bob said we were only having fun.

The official said that Bob had the wrong attitude to be a musician and would never get anywhere. He wasn’t even a good drummer. What had he ever done of note in the music world? Bob said he had in fact done a bit. He started out with Adam Faith in the 50’s. Cliff Richard, his next door neighbour at the time, had got him the job.

Apart from playing with too many to mention famous bands Bob told him that he was in chart topping Unit 4 plus 2; Argent and had done many years and still was with the Kinks. Oh, and tours with The Zombies – remember them? The official thought for a moment then said. “Well just keep quiet!”

10) What advice would you give to young budding guitarists ?

Simply listen to the old good guys but more importantly turn off the multi effects unit and plug the guitar straight into the amp and practice until your fingers bleed. Even more importantly, listen to all styles of music from classical to country to rock. All have much to offer and to incorporate into your style. Not rapping of course!

11) You’re gigging hard in southeast later this year, what plans do you have for 2016 ? Any more interesting collaborations on the cards ?

Oh yes. There will be more work outside the UK and some interesting plans afoot which are still embryonic. I was going to have Chris Farlowe on the Cut And Run album.  Can’t remember why that didn’t happen but I will have him on the next album. If he wants to do it of course. He has an amazing voice. It was quite surreal when we discussed the Cut And Run project on the phone, Chris was doing his Christmas shopping in M and S. I was saying :”Humbug to Christmas” and he was quite put out by my cynicism. He’s a lovely bloke.

12) Quick message for your fanbase out there?

I would like to thank everyone who has bought and believed in my music.  I always dreamed of making and selling music but I’m still quite amazed that it has actually happened.

In addition – watch this space. More to come. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  Love you all. X

Note: Professor Honeyjuice, refers to a song title on “Cut And Run” called Professor Honeyjuice Blues.

PS – Mark – re Professor Honeyjuice .  He is my alter ego. It came about in Athens whilst sitting with our Greek agent outside a bar watching the slender, well dressed young women pass by. After some discussion about melons (the fruit), I said that the ones we were eating were Honey Dew melons. He mis-heard and thought I had said Honeyjuice. I was peering over the top of my reading glasses at the  time. He said I looked like a professor then immediately decided to christen me Professor Honeyjuice. I have been known in Greece as Professor Honeyjuice since. The lyrics of the song fills in the gaps!

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