With group leader KIM SIMMONDS about to take Savoy Brown out on the road once more in the US and Europe and a new live album out on Ruf Records AND the band’s 50th anniversary to celebrate, what better time for BM to hook up with Kim for a conversation about music and how he makes it …….
Kim and I had batted a few ideas about as to how we should approach this piece,i e would it be fun to have a question about each album released..or talk about favourite cuts and performances ? But Simmonds isn’t one to rake over the past too much, given a preference and I am always interested in what’s coming next, so what follows is two blokes talking about music with the odd dip into history. Had we spoken a day earlier or a day later, it might have been an entirely different piece, but we both think fans or the curious may enjoy the exchange…and as I know other Savoy alumni, there’ll be more about this remarkable group this year in BM
JLTT: Thanks for taking time out to talk to me again, I appreciate it..now I know you’re preparing for some European dates, but what is happening to Mr Simmonds over Christmas ?
KS : Well Pete we’ve got a couple of dates this month…and we actually have some pre-release copies of the new studio album, so we’ll be doing some shows this month and that’s kind of exciting, because people will be able to buy pre-release albums, which is a nice thing for the fans…and of course exciting for us to have new record out so that’s THIS month but of course Christmas looms and everything kind of shuts down until next year when the new album gets its release and we go out on dates to promote the album and do what we do, really, on a steady run of gigs throughout the year. It’s always a bit more exciting when you have a new collection of tracks out, because it’s so fresh to perform them..you know ?
I understand entirely because if an author is creating a series of books it’s always great to add say number 7 to 1-6 and extend your output. And albums are chapters in your life….
(Pause) Yeah..it could be,,I’ve never thought of it in that way..I know that my FaceBook guy is prodding me for some memories re the past albums and it did occur to me that this may be a good kind of ‘skeleton’ to write a book..people always say ‘You should write a book..’ ( Alan Pearce, I bet !! – PS) and haven’t really been inclined to want to do that..I’ve had various ideas on how to approach it if I DID do it…I was kind of waiting till was older…but (laughs) I’m 66 now..how much older am I going to get ??!..Anyway that’s one approach to it, to take it album-by-album. Cos you’re right it signifies the chapters in my life
I know your school of thought is..well, let’s put it this way : you’re aware of the past but you don’t want to live in the past..is that fair?
(Ponders) I think so, I just read a Rolling Stone article with Paul McCartney and interestingly to me, no he doesn’t want to live in the past. At the same time he was saying he still wants to , you know, be aware of what he’s done, who he is because otherwise , well how and when are you going to enjoy that moment ? To me, that was a very interesting comment..I have not been interested in the past because it can drag you down in a hurry and there’s nothing more boring than someone taking about their past all the time, it just doesn’t appeal to me..I don’t want to BE one of those people. And there’s a tendency to really..stop you from moving forward..but McCartney had a good point there, you DO have to enjoy your history..and I think I do..I’m happy to include some older songs in shows and I enjoy the time periods ..there’s a lot of skeletons in the closet, here and there. In EVERYbody’s past and I think that if you view it like that then the regular person might just understand how difficult it is at times to re-visit the past ..if I wrote a book, you see, and I was really truthful..there’s events in my life that are kind of..entirely private and I haven’t let them out, this against the thought that if you write a book perhaps you should let those out, but again that’s really what’s stopped me from writing a book, part of me doesn’t want to ?
Dylan says that about his main downer period – which produced ‘Blood On The Tracks’ – he says why do people seem to love that awkward era of mine so damn much ? but you listen to ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ the mood of it rather than the lyric maybe and you can’t get a more affecting piece of music, summarizing his state of mind then. I had this kind of conversation with Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds and he doesn’t like the group to be regarded as an oldies act – if you know Jim, he writes all the time ! – and we settled on the notion that the Yardbirds should be a contemporary performing act WITH a history
Right ! well what you’ve got to do is..we can talk about it as artists as much as we want..I agree with both of you, I’m a big Yardbirds fan and I always will be. Yes that’s true and then you’ve got to ‘prove’ it..you have to make the records, play your music and show people that you ARE contemporary. There’s no doubt that when I die, they’ll say ‘ Kim Simmonds – 1960’s Blues Guitarist’..simple as that..I may have done a zillion things since then, but that’s what it’s gonna be ! ( Chuckles ) You are what you are, right out of the box. And if you come out and make your mark, that’s great. That’s what you’ll be remembered for and for those of us that did get established, whatever – let’s be grateful
I saw the Magic Band playing Beefheart music on Sunday night and the room is full of all ages, both sexes, international..the group is elated because here it is -living, breathing, dynamic electric music. It’s no good Kim Simmonds being good LAST night, for THIS night’s audience..you have that pressure, don’t you ?
( We talk about the ‘Songs From The Road’ set – it’s full of original material plus some versions and it’s surely this that gives Savoy Brown its own character and identity)
I think it is indeed important for the band throughout the years that I have had a strong input in the band ..the times that I haven’t are I think the times when it hasn’t been very good, so I have to uphold my end of the bargain. But there have been may times that I have brought people in that were writers, because I like the songs and I have always been interested in songs. If I couldn’t write the songs, I brought somebody in who could write the songs. It’s all about that. See, for the ‘Voodoo’ album and the live one, I was quite happy for Joe Whiting to write some of the material with me. It’s about making it as good as possible and have everyone providing input. It’s always good throughout the years, if I do push myself and I do write that all that is used. I can’t be a bystander in my own band..then it doesn’t work
It seems to me that you’ve had some rather good writers alongside you in Savoy Brown..Andy Sylvester and you wrote some cracking numbers didn’t you ?
(Warmly) Well Andy was fantastic, a really good arranger actually – he would work
hard with Dave Bidwell and they would come up with these cool parts, I’d come along with my songs and Andy was able to arrange a lot of the material..which was very good. You need people in the group who are going to contribute and Andy was very important in that era
You had a really nice vibe going with Nathaniel ( bassist and singer – PS)
(Again warmly) Nathaniel was wonderful, we had great fun together in the 90’s, I think we only made one album..a shame..I think we couldn’t quite settle a drummer for so long, we were such a tight duo that it proved difficult to find..it was only when Tom came in that it clicked. Now he’s one of the best drummers I have ever worked with and so at that point it was – “oh wow ! NOW we have it all connected. And we went in to do that album, a lot of fun..couldn’t have made it without Tom, I don’t think. It’s incredible when you come up with a song and you take it along and you say ‘this is how it goes’ and then straight away the drummer has it PERFECT ! you know what I mean ? Had I recorded that album in my studio though, it would have been better. The demo from my studio was somehow more relaxed
Where you score as a live performer is that you can do the ‘light and shade ‘ thing very well, a Savoy Brown show is and never was not all blasting and not all gentle it’s a journey between the two
That’s very interesting..I have always thought blues should be an orchestral music in presentation and if you listen to on ‘Getting To The Point’ the song ‘Mr Downchild’ and if you are familiar with that one –
Of course I am !! I was down the front watching you and Youlden work the magic !!
It builds and builds to a crescendo, just like a classical piece of music..
Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ !
Exactly ! so I had picked up on that when I heard the blues, the orchestral element…those kind of dynamics..I have two people inside of me – the guy that wants to be poetic and all that and the guy who wants to rock out and make the sparks fly..the guy who wants to rock out and show you his emotions, I’m not too keen on him cos obviously I’m opening myself up. But most people seem to like that side of me, better..perhaps ? I don’t know for sure
If I can interject – I like ‘Solitaire’ ..a lot
(Surprised) Oh do you ? Ah..well there you go, I have those two things, they fight within me..the problem being is I can’t get too refined..as then I lose all attack ! I forget completely to attack the guitar. In the old, some folk would GOAD me. In the studio. So that I would play with fire, or I would get too laid back. And even today I am inclined that way, I have to push myself to get that edge, that fire going. I think it’s probably that battle going on within me that likely EVERYbody has at times. But to take your point it may be that that will make a live performance interesting. I am constantly thinking as I am playing, critiquing myself – ‘Why did I do that ? What the hell am I doing ? The crowd have no idea, of course, what’s going on in my head…
But is that not happening sometimes with other players in your league, maybe ? I‘m sure Harvey Mandel who like you has great range ..his solo records have lyrical moments galore yet he can go out there and rocket up with Canned Heat. I don’t think the ‘battle’ thing is freaky or odd
No, I don’t doubt that for one minute – you’re absolutely correct..you don’t have to be a guitar player to experience the extremes thing, everybody has that in their personalities..I’m certainly not alone here, no. I’m letting you know what I know . On Harvey Mandel yes, knowing his styles yes I am sure he has that slight conflicting thing as well, yes. I think it’s something that we all experience and what happens with myself is that I have the platform to be an exhibitionist, to the extent that I want to be ……
( In Part Two and with the conversation rolling as above, we discuss what Savoy Brown means to many of us players and listeners, other band members and a slide player that has influenced Kim …and maybe not one you might readily guess…)
Thanks Bob, Alan
‘Songs From The Road’ is out now on RUF Records and features a live CD and live DVD