Walter was playing the O2 ABC in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow as part the “I’m Back” tour. Walter loves playing Glasgow and loves the Glasgow audiences and venues.
I met up with him the night before and photographed him at a Blues Awards event and took some shots of the gig. I got a call the next day to say that Walter was up for an interview so I headed over to his hotel later that night.
Walter was in great form and when the camera came out I could barely keep up with him. He was jumping all over the place and was great to see him with so much energy and hunger for life. He is most definitely “Back!”
At the time of the interview, Walter’s latest album is called Battle Scars. It’s an incredible piece of work and comes highly recommended from me. He has also written a book called “Rescued From Reality: The Life and Times of Walter Trout” and based on my meeting with Walter for this interview, I will definitely be buying this!
During the interview I asked a dumb question. I asked if Walter could make up a band with any musicians alive or dead who would they be. He looked me straight in the eye, like I was insane, and said …
“That would be the guys in my band right now! Who the hell backs me up better than those guys?!”
Special gallery added below from the gig last night to include those guys. There was an real warmth when Walter talked about them and I thought they needed to be added.
There were 2 Blues Awards given to Walter on the night of the gig. These were presented by Paul Stewart. Walter was unable to pick these up at the time due to illness. Special thanks to Nancy Lippold-Ingram and Peter MacCalman from PM Music for organising the benefit gig for Walter and for untiring support for the Blues scene in Glasgow and the UK. Nancy has formed a close relationship with the Trout family over the years and it was through her that I managed to meet up with Walter for this gig. A favour that will be hard to pay back.
Also present on the night at the informal awards were the fantastic musicians who played at the gig that Nancy set up. For me personally it was quite weird as every one of them feature on this site!!!
Nancy Lippold-Ingram presents the “An Evening for Walter Trout” poster.
Walter Trout receives “Oversea Artist of the Year” for 2014 AND 2015
K: Hi Walter. Welcome to GlasgowBluesPlayers.com. I’ve been listening to your last album, Battle Scars, a lot. I picked up that the words conveyed acceptance of your situation and some regret but your guitar playing and singing, was very defiant and strong. It was like there were 2 different people behind the songs. Does that make sense to you?
W: The whole thing about that album is “Here’s what I went through…but I came out of it”. I’m OK now and that’s what the music should say. It should do just what you said. I didn’t want to have lyrics about me being really ill and weak and have the music be weak and have no energy, you know what I mean? I wanted it to represent “this is before”. Yeah, this is me looking back.
K: How were you when you recorded the album? Were you still in a state of recovery?
W: I felt great and you can hear that on there. If you want to hear “weak”, listen to “Blues Came Calling”. I was weak on there. My lungs were full of fluid, I couldn’t sing, I was getting hand cramps, it was hard to play. I wrote some good songs on there, I thought. Especially, “Bottom of the River”, I think it’s right up there with the best thing I ever did, but playing-wise and singing, I was really weak. I was struggling. On this one, I wasn’t struggling. I was joyous to be strong.
K: What does “The Blues” mean to you Walter?
W: That’s a hard question to answer. I’ve pursued it all my life. I mean, I could come up with a lot of nice adjectives but it’s like asking…”What does your wife mean to you?” It’s like, anything I say is sort of……….not enough.
If I say to my wife…”I love you”, it doesn’t cover it. After what we’ve been through and after 25 years, that word seems weak.
Yeah, so that’s a question I don’t feel like I can answer.
K: I noticed that the old Strat is back on the new album cover, following the theme of so many of the previous album covers. Can you tell me a bit about that guitar?
W: Yeah, well that’s my old Strat and I bought that right off the shelf in 1974 when I got to California from Jersey. It was blazing white and if you look at my book there’s a photo of me taken in ’76 with that guitar and you can see that it’s blazing white and the way it looks now is from…well…I took it on the road for 36 years. It’s retired now. But, I did all that to it myself. I’m the only person that’s ever owned it and the finish is literally worn off from my arm. I put a lot of hours in on that thing. It’s sort of an “entity”. It has my spirit in it. I used to play it all the time. We had a “relationship”. If I played a different guitar and then I put that one back on again, it would get mad at me…and it would play like shit. And then after a while, it would forgive me and it would start playing good.
I know this all sounds weird but, it’s not a guitar….it’s a “being”. It’s like one of my children. So it’s home…safe. You can’t bring your kids on the road and leave them in vans and in hotel rooms. It’s home and it’s safe and I will leave it to my children when I die.
K: I saw Jon playing last night. He was sounding pretty good man!
W: Jon? Yeah, he plays his ass off!! I mean, he’s been on the road with me since he was 3 months old. Yeah, he did his first tour at 3 months old. As he said to me today at lunch, he’s in his element out here. He loves being on the road. He loves being with bands. He loves the whole thing. It’s really all he wants to do. And I’m in a position to help him, so, you want to help your kids.
Back when he was 12 or 13 I would say “Let me help you with this” and he would refuse and say “I don’t want your help. I want to do this on my own”. But now he’s like “Yeah! If you can help me, that’s great”. I have some connections and I can introduce him to some people and he’s come around to realise that. He doesn’t have to go through the same struggle that I did at his age.
K: When you were bringing Jon up, was it a desire for you to get him into music?
W: I have never pushed my kids into this, but they have all chosen it. All 3 of them are virtuosos…it’s insane!
K: What do your other 2 kids play?
W: My other son Mike, plays like, everything! He’s in a band. They have a Facebook page, you can watch them. They’re called “James, Ditt & Trout”. Its Henry James, Adam Ditt and Mike Trout. Right now they have a Jimi Hendrix tribute band and Mike’s the drummer but when he plays with his brothers in “The Trout Brothers”, he plays guitar and he writes songs and sings and he’s got a voice like Steve Marriott. He’s heavily into him and he can kinda sing like that and he writes rockin’ tunes and he fronts the band. Jon writes tunes as well. So Mike is really a guitar player but he can play bass and he can play some keys and he does these recordings where he plays all the instruments and he writes the songs. And then Dylan is the child prodigy drummer. I mean, he could play in my band, he’s that good!
K: What age is he?
W: 14. He’s at Huntington Beach performing arts academy . It’s very hard to get in to. They auditioned 130 people this year and they picked 30 and he got in and he just did a show with them. I saw a video of him playing 5 songs and he is awesome!
I don’t know if this is what he wants to do though. He also likes all sorts of other stuff.
I would never push them into this but they’ve grown up around it and they all have ridiculous talent. It’s incredible, really.
K: So do you play in the band sometimes?
W: I play with them yeah, of course I do. Some day we might do a tour and as I say to Marie, a few more years and I’ll stop playing and I’ll manage my kids. I’ll put em all out on the road. I’ll steal ALL their money and say…”THIS is how the music business really is!!” (laughs) “Get used to it!” And if they can handle that maybe they’ll be alright.
That’s why I’m managed by my wife. She can steal all my money and it stays in the family. The Colonel used to get 50% of Elvis. My wife gets 100% of me and I’m fine with that.
K: So are you working on any new material straight out of the last album or are you just enjoying being back on the road?
W: No, I’m just working the material I just put out and I’m ok not having to write anything for a while. This album was like having a baby! It was like giving birth or something. I’m ok with giving my uterus a little time off. You know? My cervix is stretched. Yeah…I’m ok for a while. I don’t have anything else to say.
K: So, you’re back in Glasgow. You’ve been here quite a few times over the years. What’s Glasgow like to play for you?
W: It’s awesome!! They love my band here. I love this place. I’ve done King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, The Old Fruitmarket, The Garage, The Arches, The Ferry, the ABC, there’s another one somewhere that I can’t remember from about 18 years ago. I’ve played the Ferry about 10 times.
K: When you played last night you played “Almost Gone” from the new album and you said that you don’t normally do that many vocal harmonies in the band but that song was absolutely smoking last night. That’s my favourite track on the album. The intro is sublime, the way it builds and the bass playing the high register and then the break and drums smashing in followed by the screaming harmonica and then just when you think it’s peaked, those harmonies kick in. It’s awesome!!!
W: It’s pretty cool! There’s a story around that one. When I was in the hospital, my wife bought me a new phone. But I had this old phone that I used to play songs into to record musical ideas so I knew I had a bunch of those on this old phone. I got back from Omaha and I was writing the record (Battle Scars) and I’m like… “Where’s that old phone?” There was a lot of stuff in there. So it was the last day we were in the studio and I found the old phone in a place I’d never though of looking. When we’d packed to come home from Omaha I’d put this old phone in my computer bag. So I went onto the phone and I went on to the little recorder and I pushed the button and there was that lick that I’d done on an acoustic guitar and I went into the studio and I showed them the lick and I think we played it twice…and that’s what’s on there!
The band just smoked!
W: Yeah, and if I hadn’t found that old phone on that last day, that song would never have existed. I had the lick on the phone just as I was getting ready to drive to LA to record and I thought “I can do something with this!” And then I wrote the words in 5 minutes and I went up to the band and said “Look this is how it goes, you guys just come in and play something.” I didn’t tell them what to play.
K: So, rewind there. They’d never heard this before, you’ve got one lick and you’ve just written the words and you all got it down in…what did you say?….2 takes?
W: Yeah. You’re pretty much hearing the rehearsal. The thing is there was a vocal track that’s not on there…which is me saying like “Ok, now we’re going to start the song” and then we got started and I was talking them through it as we went like…”Ok now…do a break and then…everybody come in!” So we stop and then BAM!!! we all come in! And then I say “Ok, now I’m singing a verse”…”now we’re going to do 2 solos and then we’re going to a break”. So I’m directing them on there as we go. They’re learning it as we play it. Then I went back and overdubbed the vocal afterwards and when I brought it home at the end of the day it was pretty much done except for the girl harmonies. So I brought it home and played it for my 19 year old and he goes “All you need is Robert Plant and you’ve become Led Zeppelin!!” (laughs!!!)
K: So is that how you like to work usually? Very “in the moment”, live kind of feel?
W: Yeah. I’m a big fan of the Bob Dylan School of Recording. “Here’s how it goes…let’s record it!” Not a lot of rehearsing. I don’t want it to be too polished. I like a little wart on it here and there, you know what I mean? I like it kind of…..spontaneous. I didn’t give Johnny any direction at all on that one.
K: The bass is superb on the start and all the way through but the start specifically. He’s playing the octaves and all over the high frets with some resounding deep tones, really nice.
W: Yeah, I just said “Here’s what I’m going to do. You play something” And when you listen to the bass on that song it just pushes all of us.
K: I like the track even more now that I know the story behind it!
Back to the rest of the tracks then. I heard you say on stage last night that you’re wife went out and when she came back in you’d written …was it …6 tracks?
W: Yeah, I wrote half of it in …5 hours. As I said, it was like giving birth. The whole time I was in Omaha I was in labor and then …boom…out came the kid! It was instantaneous.
K: Is that normally the way it happens?
W: No. Normally if I write a CD like “Blues For The Modern Daze” it would take me 2 weeks. There are 15 songs on there and yeah, I did that in about 2 weeks. I’ve got to get into a situation where I say “Ok I’m gonna do this now!” I’m not a guy who sits around. I don’t want to write songs because when I go into that mode I don’t know who I am or where I am. As soon as I get into writing mode my wife says…”I’ll see you in a couple of weeks”. You know? And I’m just not on the planet. So, I don’t like to get into that mode. When it’s time to do it I say “OK I’m gonna do this now….see you later family” and once it goes boom and it turns on, it’s like…out it comes.
K: Which tunes did you write in the 5 hours Marie was out?
W: I wrote “Please take me home” in 5 minutes…start to finish! I wrote that, I wrote “Omaha”, I wrote “Fly Away”, I wrote “Haunted by the Night” and I wrote “My Ship Came In”. And if you listen…”Haunted by the Night”, “Fly Away” and “My Ship Came In” are all in open tuning. So I just put the guitar into open tuning. Same tuning…G, and did those 3 different songs out of that same tuning.
K: I know you said earlier that were’t writing anything at the moment but what are the plans for the future?
W: I’m in the middle of a 3 album deal so “Battle Scars” was the first one but there will be another one separate from that deal. We’ll be recording a live album over in Amsterdam and Berlin
K: From the way you write to the way you play and the way you talk, everything feels very authentic and I love that. What do you think of the modern stage technology going around at the moment?
W: Yeah, I’m just too old-school for some of that stuff. I’ve seen some YouTube videos where the whole band are wearing headphones and the whole audience are wearing headphones. That’s just….weird.
For my birthday, my wife took me to see Paul McCartney. I’d always wanted to see a Beatle…and he had monitors!! Every other major act your see…they have “in-ears”. Paul McCartney had monitors! Old School! I can’t stand the in-ear stuff. Everything sounds so small and you can’t hear the audience and you feel like you’re in a bubble. It’s horrible.
K: Just to complete the circle to finish off here Walter. We talked about your latest album, what about your first album? Back when you were 38 and going solo for the first time. How did you tackle the jump into your solo career?
W: Yeah, there’s different ways of doing that but me, I just went for it! I quit Mayall on my 38th birthday and I went solo. My first record?…the contract was in German! I didn’t even know what it said (laughs). I just knew that I was going to make a record. Screw it! It sold a lot…I never made a dime, but I look at it like, because I made that first album, I got to make my second album and because of my second album…. I just got to make my 23rd album.
K: Thanks for your time tonight Walter. All the best for the future and all the best for the rest of the tour.
W: My pleasure. Thank you Kirk.
Editor’s note: When I was setting up my camera Walter was playing about with some of the gear and was in great spirits. He was off and running before I could set up I tried to keep up with him us much as I could and he specifically asked me to include these on the page, so here goes. You won’t see anything like this anywhere else on the internet
The Glasgow City Hotel
Finnieston Crane and the River Clyde in the background.
Camera: Nikon D750
Lens: Nikon 24-120 f/4
Focal length: 78mm
Exposure: 1/60 sec at f/6.3
Time of day: 16:16
Lighting: 24″ softbox, hand held by Nancy Lippold Ingram, Nikon SB910
glasgow city hotel