The evening was sunny and bright full of hot April sunshine, but before the music time to sit and have a conversation with Duke about his music, influences and ambitions.
Duke Garwood, a musician to the core from Kent is a bluesman who delivers in the studio with solo albums and through many collaborations.
Currently finishing a tour, tonight is his penultimate show and onwards to London to finish this road trip promoting his latest album Heavy Love, that is full of musical artistry blues with an edge and receiving critical acclaim – read Bluesdoodles Review here.
Bluesdoodles asked: <strong>What is your inspiration when writing and playing your music?
Duke: I listen to loads of stuff, I hear lots of snatches spoken words, overheard conversations, and this all distils and turns around in my head. I then, when in the right place, sit down in silence and the music comes to the guitar. So it is the melody first? Yes, often in a way it is doodling of sound and the words that fit.
B: How do you define yourself?
Duke: That is difficult, not as a Singer/songwriter, nor do I want to be boxed into a genre. I have a high ambition of being a Music Maker. I have to work hard to create as it is easy to get lazy, hence different projects’ all helping to create a sound and style that define who I am and the philosophy I live by. I do have to work hard and that keeps me motivated and not falling into a style that is safe but not pushing my own and musical boundaries.
B: Tell the readers a little bit about your guitars?
Duke: On the road I have two loyal hollow body guitars a Gibson and a Harmony; when I am recording any that are around will do! I have nothing special in terms of pick-ups using P90 pickups and heavy gauge strings, pedals, I keep special effects limited with four pedals including my favourite Reverb.
B: How do you keep motivated on the road?
Duke: I like to travel, see different towns and cities, road closures and traffic can be hard work but the high point is the music, doing the show every time. Music is what it is all about and travel is part of being a musician you have to accept.
B: Who were your original Musical Inspirations?
Duke: I loved the early blues musicians and when I was 17 years old I heard Jimi Hendrix again and I was inspired to pick up and play the guitar. Why? Because Jimi Hendrix orchestrated with the guitar he made the music ‘classical’, gave it a wide-angle view in a sense it was a cinematic sound. Definitely from the blues guitarists, for example John Lee Hooker played the world creating a world, sending a chill down the spine, but the music was as an accompaniment to the words. I already played piano, and was at that time bored by stuff and this energised me. Then there were wordsmiths like Tom Waits. I was also inspired by music heard elsewhere, I loved movie music, it tells a story, I found an advert inspiring when at the Cinema in Bromley, Kent it was an advert for Pepe Jeans, visual a mix of Jeans and beautiful people but the guitar intro, with no words at the time I didn’t know it was The Smiths, How Soon Is Now; with the Cinema sound it was an amazing sound; I wanted to make music with the same scope with massive space.
B: Your latest Album Heavy Love; is there a track or tracks that you really pleased with?
Duke: The album I was delighted with every track they all worked well together creating an album, Disco Lights is the track I would pick out as being especially pleased with. There is no filler track, it took time to put together in fact I have eight more tracks, good enough to be included on another record.
B: You have an album you are delighted with, receiving great reviews and a tour nearing the end what plans have you got?
Duke: I would love to tour USA and have that as a goal and Europe is a definite and to write another album with Mark Lanegan. There are dates organised during the summer and festivals including Latitude and Red Rooster either with the band or solo. I have projects in the pipeline with other people and then there are always the jam sessions with other musicians this keeps you musically sharp as you may play the same tune it is refreshed. When playing your own songs are important they are kept fresh. In the immediate future, complete the tour and re-charge the batteries.
B: Thanks for your time looking forward to the show later this evening.
Duke Garwood @ The Louisiana, Bristol
Opening the show tonight was San Moritzz, a solo artist behind his leopard skin draped keyboards, the sound began with layers of electronics and the track never ended – was it one tune, in which case I could see the elements, or more than one track strung together? This keyboard dominated electro-music using a synthesiser and pedals had a very 1980’s sound, tinges of Human League Unlimited Orchestra. There was an atmosphere created and he was appreciated by many in the audience. For me it was music that almost connected but after a searing anthem, there was discord something for me is missing vocals or even a projected backdrop to give the sounds a visual context. For me I didn’t get the music it was instrumental and mute, not a word was spoken introducing the music giving a track explanation and then he left the stage without a word I was definitely confused; though the music was definitely played well and experimental.
Quick, break and Duke Garwood and his band stepped onto that stage and the anticipation went up as many had heard his music on previous visits to Bristol. The crowd in the room over the bar filled and the guitars struck the first note, with Duke up front with vocals and guitar and Paul V. May on Drums and John J. Presley on guitars, this touring trio understood each other and the music being delivered; and we had talking communication between stage and audience and the vocals; much more my sort of music.
Duke’s guitar with the heavy gauge strings means that the lack of a bass guitarist is not an issue as the range of tones needed to create balance were present. The music was stripped down, creating an earthy sound rich in the heritage of blues, folk, and given a modern cutting edge that suited the vocal tones that reminded me of Jim Morrison.
Tonight was about showcasing tracks from his latest album; Heavy Love; this is not done with a hard sale, as there is a humbleness about Duke, he wants you to enjoy, relate to and understand his music far more than doing a sales pitch for the music for sale. He is a singer/songwriter that knows how to deliver his music so that the eclectic demographic in the crowd could all enjoy the music being performed, it made a change to see such a wide range of ages at a live music venue; all enjoying the same music. The title track Heavy Love works well, live in an intimate venue delivered by this trio of modern musical troubadours, Dukes vocals have power, not through shouting but the way his voice curls around the words and are delivered with a whispered intensity. We have audience harmonious Woow and then the track Disco Lights given an outing that again added to the mood of the venue and created a full musical delight. Interspersed through the set are tracks from previous albums and the link between Duke and the audience gets stronger, the guitar at times sweet, other times mystical and even creates a feeling of the desert, there is nothing dry in the delivery full of tones and textures that enchant every listener who collectively create a silent backdrop for Duke to play against. The guitar delivered by Duke is recognisable as he lingers and hangs on the notes then creating space for the reverb pedal to feel the room. The guitar of Duke with its heavy reverb filled the space and vibrated its musical essence around the venue imitating the chilled laid back overtones of Duke’s vocals. I loved his rendition of Hawaiian Death Valley and the collection of songs just kept going. With a demand for an encore we were rewarded with more time in Dukes’ company and then the stage lights went dark and the Duke roadshow moved on. So until the next time.