Aaron Keylock – Playing All The Right Moves
With his long-awaited debut album ‘Cut Against The Grain’ out now on Mascot Label Group, our man catches up with Aaron to talk gear, touring and all things related. After a busy 2016 the teenage guitarslinger looks to be just as active in 2017….
How are doing, Aaron? Can we talk about your debut album please?
AK: Good thanks, Glenn! Yes, that would be great.
Firstly though, how is your tour with Joanne Shaw Taylor going?
Really well! We’ve been out for about three weeks now and just finishing. It’s been a real adventure and fun and we get on very well. As a tour it has gone down as a good one.
Oh and how was the Wilko Johnson set of dates?
We did something like six shows kind of round the UK. Again it was really cool tour for us as a band, we visited some places we had not played before, very nice venues and receptive crowds. The first proper run of dates since June, so we were raring to go. That got us fully back into it and warmed us up for the later Joanne shows run.
I recall that I first saw you, even before we met at Ramblin’ Man Fair would have been The Shepherds Bush Empire when you opened for Blackberry Smoke, on my birthday
(Warmly) Oh yeah! That was a great experience obviously. They are a really nice bunch of people, not just fine players and we got on with the group really well. First tour with them, I was sixteen so in 2014. I so liked their music and we do keep in contact. At that time they were looking for a support for dates here and we hadn’t anything on so we could readily do them. I was already talking to them and then they gave us the invite, which was great! Being a huge fan of theirs, they were a huge inspiration and of course their fan following is wow! It is always an honour to go out and play with people you love and respect, like Blackberry Smoke. You pick up so much on how it all works for one thing.
Let’s move on to the album, Aaron. One track we’ve heard you do at the Borderline and elsewhere is Medicine Man…
Now that’s probably the first proper recording I did, that song. That was few years ago we did it, it’s quite an old song now, I was like fourteen when I wrote it, I think it probably came from watching an action film. It was kind of comparing rock and roll lifestyles to the outlaw thing. So, first proper song I wrote that I was happy with at the time and we recorded it then changed it around a lot later. We went in for day to complete it and I am proud of it as a starting point for my writing. And we changed it again for the album. It’s stayed with us, as a song.
One point we have in common, here – your album was produced by Fabrizio and my Dad interviewed him about his band, the Supersonic crew also on Mascot. What was that experience like? He’s worked with some pretty big names.
It was pretty cool, I was talking to a couple of producers when the idea of the album came together and we caught up over Skype a few times when he was in LA and we seemed to get on really well on ideas and all – I was impressed that he was keen on capturing character in the recording. It wasn’t about perfection, so if something’s slightly out of tune or the timing slows then catches up, if the vibe is there it can stay if the character and personality is in the captured sound. And that was what I was going for I didn’t want a clean or hollow sounding record at all. There’s just be no soul to it. The whole time we were out there it was to make an honest rock’n’roll record, you know? It was how I heard it when I wrote the songs rather than a compromise. It was a great experience and we still talk now. It’s cool to have a good working and personal relationship like that isn’t it?
Had you been to America before?
Only on holidays, when I was say 9 or 10 years old. The Disney thing, in Florida. But I hadn’t played out there, no. Professionally it was the first time. I went to LA when I was quite young, but I can’t really remember that.
Although you were busy recording, did you get to go to any music venues or gigs?
We didn’t get to play live anywhere this time, but some of our friends were out there so we caught up. Blackberry were playing at The Wilton. Went to NAMM obviously! So no we didn’t play but we did a lot of musical things on the trip.
Who is currently in your touring band?
I’ve got Sonny Greaves on drums (Dennis Greaves’ son – GRS) and Jordan Maycock on bass. Doing a power trio kind of thing. The album is mainly that, we did add some percussion bits here and there. Some piano, some backing vocals.
People mention the Gary Moore tinge to your song Just One Question. Was he an influence?
(Ponders) I wasn’t really listening to him at the time that song was written. I did indeed listen to him early on. At that point I was going back and hearing Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, that era. That was like where that composition came from. When Gary started he was keen on Albert Collins and so on. So if I am tipping my hat to that Chess material, he was doing the same to his favourite predecessors. I was likely thirteen or so when I write that, but I think it still has a lot of soul and feeling about it, especially live.
A bit of a curveball – can you recall the first album you bought that you loved?
(Emphatically) It was Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pronounced. Their debut.
You are from a village up in Oxfordshire? How would you describe it, in three words?
Could I do that in three words ? It’s a small village. Farm, farm, house, pub, farm. An empty small village…
How do want people to respond to the album as a finished piece of work?
I haven’t really thought about that, Glenn. If people get it that would be very good. If it touches people in a positive way….when I was making it I wasn’t thinking about the buyers or the public, to be honest. You have to make an album that’s real to you. I think. Something to you, emotionally. If people like it, all is well but I wouldn’t want to make one that everybody likes but I hate!
Turning to gear, what are you using at the moment for live shows? I see you with Gibsons, often
Well I don’t use any pedals, I am old school and they kind of confuse me. I am using a Marshall plexi head. A Marshall cab. Really vintage! I am taking out a FireBird, a Les Paul, a Custom Jnr made by some friends JSR in Oxford.
Late in the year 2016 you went on tour with Federal Charm and our good friends Simo…
The idea of that three-act bill really appealed to us, I suppose. We have played with Simo some three times now? So we know those guys quite well. We met Federal Charm at Ramblin’ Man, where we spoke before. It’s going to be a good tour I think. Cool venues I have been to before plus some new ones I am looking forward to playing.
Now one track of yours I have heard which I find interesting in the way it’s done is called Down. Seems to have three time signatures..
Yes!! I had three different parts, of different songs I guess. I just put them all together, to come up with the song. Written on the acoustic. I didn’t know whether it was good, bad, weird or whatever. I took it to the band to see what they thought. Late last year, before pre-production. It just worked really well on a couple of shows. It’s a cool blend of different stuff, Chet Atkins, classic rock..
The record’s out now. Do you then tour it?
Well we are sorting 2017 now so yes hopefully we will get the chance to present it everywhere now it’s out.
Festivals have been a big factor in your career. Any thoughts on the best ones?
Yes, Download started it off, we went for the weekend just sleeping in the back of a Transit van. They gave is a great slot and we went for it. A great vibe, great audience.
Is Johnny Winter a big influence on your slide guitar sound?
Not at first. But then I got into him via what he did with Muddy Waters, I suppose. Then he became a mad obsession ! As a guitar player but more than that, he had such a strong character. I am always looking out for artists who can show me different styles that I can maybe absorb and draw on.
Aaron Keylock’s debut studio album ‘Cut Against The Grain’ is out now on Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group.
You can read our full review of the new album here: http://bit.ly/2kYVdyw
You can purchase the new album from Amazon UK here: http://amzn.to/2jW8ATd
For more information visit Aaron Keylock’s official website here: http://bit.ly/1UqGZzU
(Feature Image Credit: Laurence Harvey/Harv’s Photography. Other photos provided by Mascot Label Group)
Many thanks to Aaron Keylock, Pete Sargeant, Laurence Harvey, Lee Puddefoot, Steve Marsh and Mike Bryant at Mascot Label Group UK for help with this interview