In 2016 Kris Barras released “Lucky 13”. The album was titled as such as it was his 13th year as a professional musician and a “now or never” moment.
That moment led to a first European tour, playing a crowd-drawing set at Ramblin Man Fair and a headline slot at the world’s largest indoor arena blues festival in RAWA Blues Poland the following year. Strutting into December 2017, Kris signed with Mascot Label Group amidst all sorts of conspiracy theories; including one of a suspected terror incident in London upon his first visit to their UK office. The Kris Barras Band new album “The Divine and Dirty” is due for release March 23.
Being an ex-professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter, Kris Barras will take a punch, endure and toy with it after. He’ll then fire it back at you when you least expect it…
“The Divine and Dirty” comes out March 23 in the UK, are folk about to hear two sides of the Kris Barras Band?
Possibly, but we’ll get into that later…It was kind of based on the fact that there’s the dirty, slidey, rockier elements that’s contrasted by the gospel side on the album which brings a balance to it. I felt it summed up the album with the riffs and songs I had written and bringing in the ace backing vocalists really added to it, there’s different sides to everyone and the title came about later on whilst writing.
It’s a great collection of songs that’s going to have a wide appeal to blues rock fans everywhere, what was going through your mind whilst writing?
I started writing for it about 18 months ago and songs like “Hail Mary” and “Propane” have been in our live set for at least a year. I wrote the album quite gradually really, rather than at the end of the process going “Right, I’ve got 30 songs, which ones am I going to do?”. I was sifting through them as I was writing them, throwing out what didn’t work or feel right for where I wanted the album to go and sound. I’d write a song, leave it for a bit, come back to it and if it wasn’t sticking with me, I’d chuck it on the pile aside, perhaps for another time.
Did you draw from moments in your life for the songs such as “Kick Me Down” and “Lovers or Losers” and were there any specific messages you wanted to throw out there?
Some of the songs, you know they’re just stories to tell, are not necessarily things that have happened to me but there are a fair few autobiographical tunes in there and people can figure that out for themselves. It’s quite a nice release to be able to write about things that have happened, people, places etc but they’re not always about me even if they’re sung in the first person. I think anyone who plays music enjoys that release and to let people find something for themselves in a song.
You recorded your last album “Lucky 13” in your own studio, but this time round you’ve had a change of guard…
Yeah, I and the keyboard player Matt recorded, engineered, produced, mixed, the lot on “Lucky 13” which was really well received and led on to a really great year for me. With this album, I really wanted to work with a dedicated producer, a guy that was going to tell me what to do so I could just concentrate on the playing and singing. We recorded it at Momentum Studios in Plymouth UK with Josiah J Manning producing. Josiah was a guy I knew of from a gig and I knew a lot of bands that had recorded with him and I really liked the sound of their albums. We got together, had a chat and it went from there. During the recording, my band line up changed as we recorded the album in two halves. When I started it I was self-financed so could only afford to get 4 tracks down with Huw Weston on the keys and Ricky Mitchell on bass. As the band’s developed over time, signing with Mascot Label Group and commitments getting bigger and bigger by the weeks they’ve had to drop out due to work and family commitments. As a result, Josiah has joined the band as permanent keyboard and organ player which is really exciting and his playing is on the album.
When it comes to your guitar playing, do you find it difficult from trying to get as much guitar on the album as a player or do you consider yourself to be more of a songwriter/guitarist?
I don’t really like placing a label on it, to be honest so I’ve not put much thought into which one I am! Hahaha! You know, I just write songs that I want to write and some songs on the album have lent themselves more to the vocal and melody and others are clearly balls out guitar tunes…I don’t sit down and decide what I’m going to write or play it’s really just what comes out at the time. I like to think that I’m not just writing songs where the verse and chorus is just passing time to get to the guitar solo, my songs have more substance to them than that. I really put a lot of effort into creating these songs, with all the songs I’ve written and I hope that people enjoy them and get something out of them for themselves. I think that’s already been reflected in the airplay from Planet Rock with “Hail Mary”.
You mentioned guitar solos, and you knew I was going to ask anyway, what’s your approach to them as there’s a bunch of “less is more” moments (which I think are going to surprise some listeners) on this album…
It varied from song to song how I approached them. To be honest, and don’t tell anyone, I’m not very good at writing solos or playing the same thing twice! Hahaa! I never have been – I’ve always been about improvising. I’ve had to work really hard re-learning some of the solos from my songs to actually play them on this coming tour as some of them are memorable to the audience so I need to give them the actual thing rather than widdling with new ideas all the time!
Everything’s off the cuff when you record then?
For some of them I do have a rough structure, some themes or ideas I want to include so I’ll bang a few takes out and we’ll pick the best one. On some of the solos on “The Divine and Dirty” there was no preparation at all – I was just gonna play whatever I was going to there and then.
…all in one take then, none of the cutting and pasting nonsense?
Well if there was I wasn’t aware of it! Maybe Josiah did that after I left, you’ll have to ask him mate! Nah, not really, all solid, one take, it’s the only way. I know some of your readers like their gear so here we go: most of the album I played my Fender Custom Shop Telecaster that we talked about before, the one I took a punt on eBay for and really liked it. A few tracks had a couple of overdubs with my Strat, but the Tele always sounded best. Amps wise my Laney Lionheart which is a beast of an amp with a 2 12 cab was the main one. For 4 tracks I recorded first prior to my Laney endorsement, I used my Roberts 50W all valve combo amp and that amps still a bit of a mystery if anyone knows who built it?
The first round bell of your Divine and Dirty tour rings out Tuesday March 20 at Thousand Island in London – are people in for it, but in the nicest possible way?
Definitely! We’ve been rehearsing so much and really putting a lot of effort into making the best show that we possibly can. It’s not just about having new songs to play and a new set, but really making a show in the way that songs run from one into the other. It’s really polished, yet raw and we’re really looking forward to getting out there and hitting people with it at Thousand Island and debuting songs from “The Divine and Dirty” for the first time. The other dates of the tour are going to be great also; one venue in Sittingbourne has been upgraded to a larger venue in UKP Leisure as the original venue sold out and Tavistock Wharf is a few tickets shy of selling out…
With your full band on the tour, there’s going to be a bit of a difference when you’re opening for Beth Hart on her UK tour shortly afterwards…
Yes, we’re doing an acoustic trio for that and it’s gonna be great to be out on tour with such a cool and powerful singer in Beth, who’s a label friend. Again, for that we’ve come up with a really cool set with some different takes on the songs which people will love and I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. The audience will see a different side of me on that tour and not just the guitar player some may think I am.
In your MMA fighting days, you stepped into the ring with a whole heap of characters and went toe to toe. Not that music is a competition and shouldn’t be, but if you were to step into the guitar face off ring with anyone living who would that be?
Bloody hell…that’s a good one…give me a minute. It would have to be Joe Bonamassa. He’s the biggest name in my genre and there’d be no competition as you say – it’d be great for a laugh! Joe’s been a big influence on me in the past recent years and is a really nice bloke so that would be awesome to have that shot.
…and a guitarist who has passed on?
C’mon now, you know it’s Gary Moore! That guy played with such balls and passion – it’d of been great to share a stage with him and feel that passion and intensity up close.
Bluesdoodles review – “The Divine And Dirty is a very good album. He is an excellent guitarist and with so many hooks and bristling solos, the album has drive, intensity and passion”. Read what else we said HERE