Influences: John McVie, Mick Fleetwood,
Has bought gear from CC Music for years and plays in a band with the owner Steve Caban
K: What started you off in music Tim?
T: I started listening to music as a kid and got more and more interested in it by the age of 14 or 15 and then I heard my first Fleetwood Mac record. It wasn’t Peter Green at first, it was Jeremy Spencer’s Elmore James slide playing that just knocked me out. At the same time I heard Jimi Hendrix’s first record and the track that jumped out to me was Red House. That had it all for me but ironically, there were no bass on that track, Noel Redding was playing the bass part on a guitar on that track.
From an influence perspective I would say that the early Fleetwood Mac was the turning point for British Blues. When they came on the scene the sound crystallised and became more pure than the Blues enthusiasts thing that was going on in the John Mayall days. It was all a bit kind of “Youth clubby”, a bit old-fashioned, like enthusiasts playing the Blues. By the time Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac came along it had changed into something else. To his credit though, Mayall was a catalyst for loads of great spin offs.
I wouldn’t say I was just an out and out Blues fan, I listen to loads of other stuff.
I think the thing that probably got me into playing Blues was Fraser Spiers and his band in the late 80’s and 90’s. I played with his West Coast band, he had an East Coast band as well. We had a couple of residences in Glasgow and played every Friday night for quite some time.
K: Tell me a bit about the blues competition you recently played at down in England
T: At that competition there was just such a broad spectrum. There was a solo guy playing to backing tracks, there was a guitar and drums duo, a 3 piece rock band, there was another band quite similar to us from Ireland with a female singer and then there was us, 7 piece Charlotte Marshall and the 45s. There were 5 totally different bands trying to become the “Future of the Blues”, none of whom were real traditional Blues. It was quite encouraging that the sponsors were prepared to look beyond traditional format.
K: Who was funding that?
T: It was 3 organisations: it was the Big Easy restaurant chain, who do New Orleans style food, Blues Magazine and Mascot Label Group, who were the major investors in it in terms of picking up the winner and giving them a deal.
They have got people like Joe Bonamassa, Robert Cray, Beth Hart, Robben Ford, Jonny Lang…loads and loads of other really top artists.
K: So you’ve been playing for quite a few years on the Glasgow circuit and you get down to London with Joe Bonamassa’s record label and then you’re told that you guys are the winners!! How does that feel?
T: It felt good. It felt amazing!
K: Did they do that incredibly annoying X Factor thing with the the big pause…”And the winner is………………………”
T: Well they were only meant to take 5 minutes to decide but they took half an hour and then they just came out with it.
K: The band is so well put together. The playing is phenomenal, the writing is outstanding and even the appearance of the band is really marketable. It’s just such a polished product! The record company must have looked at you guys and thought they had the finished article right there!
T: Well, that’s pretty much what the label boss said. He said “This is the band that were ready for it! They play well, they look good, they are confident…” All those sort of things.
K: With the amount of experience that you’ve built up over the years are there still occasions when you get nervous before a gig? Were you nervous in London?
T: Yes and no. It’s the weirdest things you get nervous about though. A close family member might be in the audience, or a good friend and you get more nervous in those situations than you do playing to complete strangers. But in London, we just went for it and when we went down again to play at the restaurant opening, that was quite a big deal as well but you just have to have the confidence to know that you are good enough to carry it off.
K: So what else are you doing just now Tim?
T: At the moment I’m playing with Steve Caban from CC Music in a 7 piece Country band, Honest Sam and the Dealers and that’s good fun.
K: Seven piece? What’s the line up?
T: Well, standard Guitar, Bass, Drums, Steel Guitar, a multi instrumentalist playing acoustic Guitar, Banjo and Mandolin along with 2 frontline singers. 4 part harmonies feature in the band too.
K: What kind of gigs are you playing?
T: We’ve done some festivals, and played the Kelvingrove Bandstand since it has re-opened and we are playing there again in a couple of weeks at the end of the West End Festival.
K: How does the Country music compare to the Blues?
T: It’s great fun but to me it’s just like another form of the Blues. There’s loads of different arrangements and loads of vocals and me and the drummer just hold it down.
K: Are you still doing the dep work?
T: Yeah I’m still doing that. I’ve been pretty busy recently so unfortunately had to turn a few things down but hopefully the phone will keep ringing. I’m also still trying to make guitars as much as I can from home.
K: So what kind of set up do you have for the guitar making?
T: I’ve got a couple of bits and pieces in the garage. I’ve got a band saw and a pillar drill, a bunch of chisels and a plane…that’s all you need really.
K: So are these guitars for sale?
T: Yeah but I’ve not sold one yet. I’ve been told that you need to make about 20 before you make a good one (laughs). I haven’t made anywhere near 20 and by the time I have I’ll probably be dropping off (laughs). I think with the guitars that you need to pick one style and stick with it to get your skills up as far as you can and for me, the way I want to go is Flamenco type guitars. I made a couple of steel string guitars at college and then I got into Classical instruments and started to do a lot of research on these. Then I started to realise that the only thing that wasn’t being produced much in Glasgow and Scotland were Flamenco style guitars. They are more lightly built than Classicals and they are played differently.
K: Do you have the equipment to bend the wood into shape? Was it steam they used to use for that?
T: It’s a bending iron that’s used to bend the wood. Basically an aluminium block that heats up electrically and the sides are bent around that.
K: What kind of wood do you use?
T: In the case of the Flamenco guitar it’s Cypress for the back and sides. More typically you would use Rosewood or something like that or Cherry. The tops are made from Spruce.
K: Where do you get your materials? Are they all readily available?
T: Yes, just from specialists suppliers. I know a guy in Scotland that will sell you stuff and I got the Cypress shipped here by a Spanish company.
K: What do you put on the headstock? Do you have a “Tim Clarke” logo?
T: Well Spanish guitars typically don’t have a headstock logo. The thing I’m doing with the Flamencos is I’m making them with tuning pegs rather than machine heads, so basically like violin pegs. I also made a kind of deltoid logo that could be interpreted as a TC but in the Classical world, it’s the outline shape of the headstock that is the signature. If you look at one maker’s guitars you will see the same shape replicated in every guitar that he makes.
K: So what about making a bass? Have you ever attempted that?
T: Funnily enough an acoustic bass was going to be my project at college. Now, the reason that the double bass is so big is that it has to be to be able to move that amount of air to make that amount of noise. I’ve got an acoustic bass but you still need to plug it in to make any sort of noise.
There was an American firm, Ernie Ball, in the 70’s that made an acoustic bass that actually worked but it was huge. It was about the size of that table (laughs) . So I spent ages on the Internet researching this and contacting people who owned these things and asking them to stick a camera inside them and take a photograph and that kind of thing (laughs) so that I could make plans. But in the end I didn’t find out enough about it and the whole thing was fraught with difficulties so unfortunately I didn’t do it.
K: So the bass you had with you today? What’s the history behind that?
T: That’s a Fender Precision 1973. It was 3 or 4 years old when I bought it and now, all of a sudden… I’ve got an antique (laughs)
K: On the subject of antiques, do you feel that the sound of an instrument improves with age?
T: Definitely. I think the reason vintage instruments are revered is the fact that the good ones have lasted and the bad ones haven’t. Although I think, pretty much, I sound the same on anything I play (laughs). I think in the end it all comes down to fingers and technique, you know?
K: So typically bass amps are quite heavy, what other gear do you carry about with you?
T: I’ve gone very lightweight. I usually only use one but I’ve got two 1 x 12 cabinets with Neodymium speakers so they are very light. And I’ve got an Acoustic Image Class D Amplifier which is very powerful and half the size of a shoebox. I can walk into the gig in one trip usually.
K: And does that have enough to get you through the gig without pumping it through the PA?
T: Depends on the gig but typically in most pubs I’ve just got this wee amp sitting in the corner and other bass players often come and ask about it.
K: Good for travelling then?
T: Yes, hopefully there will be some of that in the very near future with Charlotte Marshall and the 45s.
K: I’ve no doubt there will be Tim. Thanks very much for your time.
T: It’s been a pleasure. Thanks Kirk.
Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Nikon 50mm f/1.4
Focal length: 50mm
Exposure: 1/60 sec at f/1.4
Time of day: 13:27
Lighting: 2 speedlights with 24″ softbox and 20″ white umbrella