Geraint Watkins – Keys To The Highway

Whether on acoustic piano, electric piano or Hammond, you could not pick a more adept keyboard colleague than Geraint. Here, Pete Sargeant pitches some questions to Watkins as two of his solo albums are at last re-released…

Dan Burns-Forti

Let’s start with a personal question – I MC’d a show at the Boom Boom Club in Sutton starring Robbie McIntosh the guitar demon and you! I recall joshing bassist Pino Palladino over his saving The Who’s butts in the US…do you recall that particular performance? I recall a scorching Use Me…

Oh yes that was a really good gig, yes Use Me..we had Beavis drumming, the excellent Pino and the genius Robbie on guitar..magical. All I had to do was muck about with the clavinet – which does sound pretty good on the Nord.

For current live performances, what are your preferred stage keyboards and gear?

The Nord electro 3 HP is pretty good all round – it’s got all the keyboards that were on the back of that classic Billy Preston record and it’s light so I use that a lot so much. I bought an Electro 5 but I prefer the organ on the 3 -don’t get me started on gear, Pete …if I want a proper piano though it’s the Roland RD. I like using a fender guitar amp on stage – I really don’t like depending on the monitors. Or maybe I like the look of it!

In a recent interview with another keyboard star I detected the influence of George Shearing – how would you describe his style? And does it appeal to you?

For years I just thought he was the blind piano player from Battersea that tinkled beautifully on that Nat King Cole record and then a few years back i heard a load of his own records – he is a monster on accordion, too.

What was the first music album you bought and where did you purchase it? Any favourite tracks?

Please Please Me – the Beatles – all the tracks are favourites. Bought it in Caerphilly.

Which are your three favourite songs in the Slim Chance setlist? And where did you first play with the much-missed Ronnie Lane?

Loads of good songs – Ladz, Debris, Annie…ask me tomorrow and it could well be a different three. I never played with him – I knew Charlie back in the day and I guess in the absence of Ian Stewart, I got roped in and very glad I did.

I love live albums…for keyboard playing it would be Donny Hathaway Live on Atlantic..are you familiar with that release?

I’m actually not that keen on live records but I do make an exception with this one – one of my favourites.

We really enjoyed Ronnie Wood’s live show celebrating the Chess music label at Hammersmith…you looked to be enjoying the whole shebang, any memories?

It was a bit chaotic – I like chaotic, though. Hamish Stuart – great to work with. And rehearsals were very good.

How do you look after your voice? If you do…

Good question…I did rather take the Bob Dylan/Joni Mitchell approach and just not care and whatever comes out comes out but less and less came out so I did pack in smoking over a year ago. I noticed Tom Waits even packed it in – who knows?

For a younger listener, could you suggest a recording (album or individual track) by each of the following artists – 1/ Blossom Dearie 2/ Georgie Fame 3/ Herbie Hancock 4/ Nina Simone?

For years I’ve been learning the piano solo in My Baby Just Cares For Me and I nearly got it but she was just mucking’ about – genius Love Me Or Leave M – I like too, similar kind of piano. Georgie Fame – Rhythm & Blues – Live A The Flamingo” is one of my faves. I know I said I wasn’t that keen on live records but that’s the other exception and you could argue it’s not strictly live because the recorder didn’t work the first time so they had to do the whole gig again. That’s semi live. There’s still loads of Herbie Hancock I haven’t heard so can’t say – my favourite is still Watermelon Man! Same with Blossom too – it’s all great except for that dippy dippy do scat thing – that would put anybody off together with the name Blossom Dearie – I like the name now I know how great she is but I do wonder what might have been.

Which of your own recordings finds you at your most romantic? And which your most lively?

They’re all romantic and all lively – I don’t know why

I saw Muddy Waters when I was very young and was stunned by the liveliness of Otis Spann…did you ever see him?

I never saw him unfortunately – but he was great…he’s on some Chuck Berry too.

Surprise us by naming a pop chart hit that you played on! – did you make Top Of The Pops??

Green Door ..This Ole House …Shakin’ Stevens. We did TOTP once and after that they decided he looked better on his own!

Gershwin or Cole Porter? Any favourites from either?

Gershwin – no contest I mean he wrote Summertime and Rhapsody In Blue for a start.

On which of your own albums are you most pleased with the recorded keyboard sound(s)?

I don’t know – there’s always something. Funny thing – the other day I had the radio on and a record started with organ and I thought what a great organ sound why can’t I get a sound like that?? – of course it was me, it was a Nick Lowe record. It just goes to show…

Best piano intro to a recording? (any artist) – and why? I love New Dope In Town by Spirit (John Locke)

Got to be ‘Mess Around’ by Ray Charles-when I first heard it, it knocked my socks off and still does

Which musical hero were you most pleased to meet, in person?

I did share a dressing room with Professor Longhair once though I was too awestruck to talk to him

A Fats Domino cut we should hear or revisit?

Any one. All great. My most recent favourite was What’s The Reason I’m Not Pleasin’ You’ La La Don’t Lie To Me – they’re all great.

Pete Sargeant

 



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(Thanks to Matt Reynolds and Geraint)

Feature Image Photo Credit: Dan Burns-Forti

Other Photos Supplied By PR

Jungle Records have re-released two Geraint Watkins albums – 1979’s ‘Geraint Watkins & The Dominators’, first time on CD with exclusive new songs AND 1997’s Watkins ‘Bold As Love’. You can purchase both albums here: http://bit.ly/2SmfYEr

In addition, Geraint Watkins and The Mosquitos will perform a special Christmas Show on Sunday 23rd December 2018 at Blues Kitchen Brixton, Brixton, London, United Kingdom. Tickets are onsale now and available here: http://bit.ly/2rb3aot