BluesWax Sittin’ In With
By Robert Putignano
In Part One of his interview with Robert Putignano, guitarist Craig Chaquico told us about his musical upbringing and influences, playing in the Bay Area, and his experience with Jefferson Starship. This week, in Part Two, he talks more about his new release on Blind Pig Records, Fire Red Moon.
Bob Putignano for BluesWax: Craig, what’s your Web site?
Craig Chaquico: www.CraigChaquico.com
BW: Will you be touring to support this new disc?
CC: Definitely! I’m looking forward to it, and so far my regular fan base has been into it.
BW: Great! We’ll be looking forward to seeing you and your band out east.
I liked that you co-wrote seven of the ten tunes on Fire Red Moon, and enjoyed the instrumentals, too.
CC: Thank you, I tried to stay true to the covers like “Born Under a Bad Sign” as I felt we needed to pay homage and respect to the originals, but as you know I’m thinking Cream’s version. I wanted to take from Jack Bruce’s singing melody through my guitar. Plus, I went back to listen to Clapton’s playing as well; that was very important for me.
BW: Those teen year impressions really stay with us throughout life.
CC: Exactly! So when I covered “Crossroads” it was the same idea. It was important for me to have each song to have its own spin. On “Born Under a Bad Sign” we gave it a modern spin; I wanted to give a bit of a Pink Floyd keyboard spin too, you know all of the stuff we grew up with. My second solo I tried to cross between Jack Bruce’s vocal melody and Clapton’s guitar solo and something that was also uniquely me, that’s why I went into a funky thing too, which is something I never heard anyone else do. On “Crossroads” I wanted to capture what originally inspired me, but also wanted to add a biker blues feel as well. Not that it wasn’t there already, but I also saw some exotic dancers working through this version, too.
BW: Hey now!
CC: That’s just me; you know, I’ve never been to one of those places, [Laughs] but I heard they play music like that there!
BW: Stop it! Ha!
CC: That’s what I heard, Bob!
BW: I was supposed to interview Paul Kantner last week, but we got interrupted because of the hurricane, but had I known this I would have tried to have found out more!
CC: I had a nice talk with Billy Gibbons [ZZ Top] one night who told me he had a guitar he called “Pearly Gates.” So I asked why? And he told me that music opens the doors to heaven, and felt that music is somewhere between the angels and arithmetic. So I asked him if music opens the doors to heaven. And he said no, it’s because he knew a stripper named Pearly Gates. Obviously he was jiving me!
BW: Too much information Craig!
BW: Having fun with you Craig, thanks!
I’m happy about your new CD for you and for Blind Pig records too, which has to be positive for you and the label, too.
CC: You bet, we want to get out there on the road and mix it up with this new blues stuff, play some Starship music and the jazz, too. And thanks to you for giving me the time of the day, too.
BW: Oh, come on.
CC: It’s important to have followers support me through and through. Hopefully people will get what I’m doing and support it too.
BW: How long did it take you to put together Fire Red Moon.
CC: It took a while, especially with scheduling everyone. Some of this was recorded in Nashville, New Jersey, with my buddy Bill Heller so it took a bit to coordinate. It was a work in progress and a labor of love, but we did get it done!
BW: Alright. Is this the same band you go out with from your previous endeavors?
CC: Yes it is. Plus I got to write songs with my executive producer Tom Hyman and Bobby Wryick; we worked together on every original song. We are definitely looking forward to getting on the road and play these blues tunes, plus a few surprises.
BW: “Lie to Me” was a great way to open your album.
CC: Thank you, we wrote a lot of the blues songs about women. So, as in music, so in life… “Lie to Me” is like talking to an ex-girlfriend, where you know we’ve gone separate ways, but lie to me just one more time. [Laughs] We’ve all been there too many times, so go ahead and lie to me and just love me too. I also love the way the blues can flirt with the supernatural; these are the types of songs that inspire me, so now I’m thinking it’s a little bit stereotyping women, but as much as I understand this about the blues. We also wanted to give these songs a contemporary and modern-day feel to the songs we wrote. I also like women guitarists because if they are into it they can look and feel better than guys. Let’s face it, “Jellyroll” is not about a breakfast food! Women can do pretty much anything they want to, not just musically, but they definitely can make things look better than men do.
BW: I like the fact that you had some instrumentals on your new CD, too.
CC: As the guitarist who doesn’t sing, I wanted some instrumentals too, so that I can stretch out a little.
BW: No problem for me, my ears gravitate to instrumentals regularly.
CC: Me, too. But you know when I was working with Grace Slick I interpreted her vocals as a musical instrument. Her tonalities and sounds took me away. I liked being there with her as another instrument playing off of her vocals, singing gorgeous melodies, sometimes improvising like a jazz singer. I look at a lot of singers like that, especially with their phrasing, which often gives me ideas for my guitar playing.
BW: Interesting. Are you and the Starship crew still in touch with each other?
CC: Yes, to varying degrees. But as you probably suspect, when you are in a band you are practically married to each other. We still stay in touch. I just sent Grace a birthday card. Grace was one of the best people I met in the music business. She was such a joy to work with the prima donna thing never existed with her. Now she was eccentric, but never on that ego trip that she was the lead singer, none of that. She was kind of like one of the guys in the band, and down to earth. She always blew my mind as I met a lot of other musicians who made themselves special, but not Grace, she’d never rubbed peoples’ noses in her stuff. She’s definitely unique and extremely cool. Well, maybe not always down to earth as she had her eccentricities, yet she was rooted without airs.
BW: I remember seeing her in Central Park singing without her top on.
CC: Ha! That was part of my higher education… [Laughs] I suppose now you can go to college and see that now, too? But Grace would think nothing of doing things like that.
BW: Craig you are a great guy, thanks for hanging out with us and sharing your thoughts and stories with us.
CC: Thanks to you, your radio listeners and to BluesWax, as you give us opportunities to share our music with all of you. It’s a sharing experience kind of like a tree falling in the forest with no sound. Thank you all for that.
BW: Are you planning a follow-up to Fire Red Moon?
CC: Yes I am, it’s a funny thing you should ask that. I was just thinking about new songs for the next record. I will tell Blind Pig just what you said, and will also remind them it was a good thing that they signed me.
BW: I’m sure Blind Pig likes having you on their roster.
CC: I hope so, thanks Bob.
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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