Influences: Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix
Has played The Solid Rock Cafe many times.
K: Hi Barry, can you tell me a wee bit about your music and your connection with Glasgow?
B: Well, I picked up the guitar when I was 13 and thanks to Bert Weadon’s “Play in a Day” almost immediately started playing in bands learning the craft and doing a bit of writing as well. I even made a little money playing in function bands and stuff like that. I was still doing that when my day job took me to America. I went to California in 79 and I pursued my career over there but kept playing at the same time. I started a band out there but it was a funny scene in the Bay Area. Back at that time in the 80’s all of the local bands were professional. it was a boom time for live music so there was enough work on the local scene folks could actually eek out living. That meant to find musicians who were of a good enough standard to pay but not full time, well they tended to be pretty weird characters out there (myself included I guess !) . We used to play gigs like the naval bases doing top 40 but with lots of what folk would call Classic Rock and Blues nowadays. My roots were always blues. Mick Taylor, Clapton, Hendrix, I was weaned on these guys. I then moved to Paris, which was again driven by my day job. I was playing at a minimum back at that time. I was concentrating on making a living and raising a family but I did eventually get asked to join a band which was really good fun for while. Then again life circumstances brought me back to Glasgow, so music took a back seat for a while but that all changed a couple of years ago and now I’ve really taken it back up with a passion that’s always been there.
K: It takes a lot of commitment to pursue the music at career, I guess the majority of players out there are in a compromise between passion and necessity
B: The problem about not dedicating yourself to the music as a career from the beginning is that you never really know how good you can be, so that’s a question I’m still really trying to answer. The band that I run at the moment, The Debt Collectors, plays a mix of classic rock and blues and we are really try to push ourselves with regards the material that we play. We mostly avoid the “over-played” stuff. As much as these classics are wonderful I often think that it’s a lazy choice when I hear a band cover them because it takes 5 minutes to learn how to play. So we’re going after songs that are taking us up to as long as 5 weeks to learn but it’s really paying dividends because at the end of every gig there are people coming up and complimenting the band on the playing and singing.
K; With regards to choice of material then, it’s important for you to personally challenge yourself on this stuff?
B: Oh absolutely. At my stage in life, playing music is not just a hobby, we strive to make it art , but it’s not only that, it’s also incredibly good for you. I read a study recently where they took a performing musician and stuck him in an MRI scanner; his brain lit up like a Xmas tree. Performing live music requires fine motor skills, emotional interpretation, rhythm and you’ve got the maths with the timing etc. That’s why it takes you 2 hours to come down after a gig. It’s not just adrenalin or endorphins, it’s something else that’s going on.
K: So are you writing at the moment?
B: I’m doing a bit but I’m incredibly fussy. You could throw together a thousand mediocre tunes but how many great tunes are you actually going to write in your life…unless you’re Lennon & McCartney, maybe half a dozen? I’ve recently upgraded my recording studio to 24 track digital. The garage is all sound proofed and we use it for rehearsals as well. The gear for rehearsals and recording stays in there, minimum time to set up.
K: Have you done any commercial recording on it yet?
B: No not yet, I’m still trying to figure out how to use the software at the moment. It’s incredibly powerful. The majority of the recordings I’ve been doing are just live recording with no overdubs at the moment, just experimenting and using these to help us get gigs. I bought a van as well but that went on fire and I’m fighting with the insurance company as you do.
K: How did that happen?
B: I’m not going to tell you…I’m too embarrassed! My poor wee van got written off….and it had everybody’s gear in it as well, so it was a mad panic to get it all out before it all went up in flames.
K: How important is the money from the gigging?
B: It’s not really about the money for me, it’s just about the playing. Obviously you don’t want to be made a mug of and there are the running costs to consider so you need to make some money but for me it’s more about the music, achieving that moment when you know you’ve nailed it and the audience react cause they now it too, the most gratifying feeling in the world.
K: You mentioned that you do a bit of singing as well
B: Yeah a wee bit. With this band the only tune you’ll hear me singing in the set is the old Muddy Waters classic Garbage Man. I sing a bit like Sachmo or so I’m told. But Blues like that is about all I can sing lead on, I’m mostly just a backing vocalist. The way I play it is influenced by the Rory Gallagher version.
K: Is he a big influence?
B: I just liked the version he did of this. It was a lot mellower than most of his other stuff.
K: What other material are you covering?
B: Some of the stuff is Bluesy, early Fleetwood Mac for example, but I also like classic rock like Led Zeppelin and we even do some prog rock like Deep Purple. I’m try to improve the whole quality of the experience. I’m not up for shlepping gear into storage at 1am after a gig any more.
K: So what kind of gigs are you playing
B: We are regulars at the Scotia Bar, The Rock Hard Cafe in Kilmarnock, Bar Bliss etc. We’re playing all the decent rock/blues venues. There are some venues that are only looking for original music bands and that’s something I’m interested in but that might require a rebrand. The guys are up for in doing that but I think we would go out under a different name.
K: So what was the main difference between gigs in Glasgow now and gigs in California when you were there?
B: The main difference? You could play gigs like this (The Solid Rock Cafe, Glasgow) and make a living out of it…not a great living admittedly but you could get by playing gigs like this back then 3-4 nights a week. The scene was vibrant and the money was pretty good, but that was the 80s so the economy had a lot to do with it, I’m not sure if it’s still like now. The economy was changing and that’s part of the reason we left.
K: What was the day job over there?
B: I used to work for Apple on the original Macintosh Computers. On the rare occasion Steve Jobs would wonder into my office scowl at me and then walk out. He was an incredibly demanding boss, but a really clever guy.
K: What’s your typical audience made up of at your gigs Barry?
B: Last night we played the Bellfield Tavern in Kilmarnock, there was young couple right up next to the band and the older punters standing up the back so the age group spanned from the 20s to 60s. Lotsa Classic Rock and Blues bands are multi-generational, AC/DC is the best example for this. The live music scene around Scotland is a real nugget and it attracts good crowds. There is a remarkably high standard of players on the pub circuit. I’m not talking about the function bands they’re OK too, but the bands that play the blues and rock circuits; it’s very competitive. One downside is that some venues that are booking the bands are not as courteous as they should be, I don’t think they realise the amount of effort that goes into it. I reckon they are in the minority as most others like the management in the Scotia are excellent, we get treated very well when we are in there. That’s a great venue because of the arrangement of the place. You can be as engaged or disengaged as you want. There are some parts in the pub where you can’t hear the band at all and then there’s the area where you can get close up as you want to. The Scotia is a great venue with a very wide selection of music to choose from. They do the folk stuff, acoustic and electric.
K: I guess the other challenge is getting people out of the house to attend these gigs.
B: Well that’s just it. Maybe all of the bands need to get together and get better organised using social media. It’s great what you are doing with this FB Page but how can we really drive the message to folks to encourage them to come out even more. Maybe they need more incentives and to help them understand the value proposition of what they are actually getting. You know, the value of social interaction and quaity live music, which is mostly for free. I think Facebook and Twitter may have peaked for this and there are other apps out there now that are worth looking into to make people aware of what is happening in their city. For example one has a real time map of active venues, and depending on how many people are attending sets how it is being rated…a bit like the traffic activity on Google Maps when it goes red when there are traffic jams, only its a social/cultural Geiger counter.
K: Some great ideas in there Barry! Thanks very much for your time.
B: No problem, you’re welcome.
Frankie Miller, one of Glasgow’s greatest Blues singers, and his signed guitar in the background.
Camera: Nikon D750
Lens: Nikon 24-120 f/4
Focal length: 70mm
Exposure: 1/50 sec at f/4
Time of day: 12:39
Lighting: 2 x 24″ softboxes.
the solid rock cafe