guitar bar
b l u e s I n t e r v i e w
with Smokin' Joe Kubek
by Don Brown Sr.

Author's Note:    This telephone interview was conducted the afternoon of February 27th, 2003. Joe was enjoying a tour break at home in Dallas when I called. We at Las Vegas Blues and Caught Live Too! would like to thank Smokin' Joe Kubek for giving us so much of his time from his busy schedule. We also wish to thank Scott Gurevich for setting up the interview.

Smokin' Joe Kubek, Las Vegas 2002 DB:    What made you start playing the guitar?

SJK:    I don't know, it was something that lit me up from day one. I was fascinated with everything I saw on TV. Back then, you only had about 3 channels and maybe PBS. At a very young age, I was checking out Lawrence Welk, the Ed Sullivan Show, the Smothers Brothers, anything that had someone playing guitar was fascinating to me.

DB:    Did either of your parents play instruments?

SJK:    Nobody played in my family. I had an older brother who brought home alot of the latest music. He was the one who brought home the first Jimi Hendrix album when it first came out, and stuff like that.

DB:    Who were your biggest musical influences?

SJK:    That changes alot. BB King has been a lifelong influence to me. Later on, Freddie King became a lifelong influence to me also. Guys like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, Beck was a real strong influence.

DB:    How long did you play with Freddie King?

SJK:    Not long, only a few gigs. Then he passed away.

DB:    I love the new CD, ROADHOUSE RESEARH, especially "I NEEED MORE". Why don't we get more of your tremendous slide work?

SJK:nbsp;   Like I was telling you the other day about that, I'm gonna go for alot more of it on the next one.

DB:    You produced the new CD. So how do you think it turned out?

SJK:    I love the new CD. I had alot of fun doing it. Although this is our ninth album, it's the first one I've produced.

DB:    You did a great job.

SJK:    Thank you so much.

DB:    I just wish you would have done more slide.

SJK:    I'll tell you what, I give you my word I'll do more on the next one.

DB:    I love it all, but some of the more standout tracks are "I NEED MORE", "RUNNIN' BLIND", and "THE BLUES IS STILL WITH US". I can't wait to see these songs done live.

SJK:    We'll definitely play all of the CD.

DB:    How do you and Bnois keep the music fresh after all these years?

SJK:    One of the main things about this deal is that we're pretty much working all the time. If you're going to be playing on stage all the time, you're gonna grow whether you're trying to or not. You're gonna change, your playing's gonna change, some of your ideas are gonna change. Alot of things will take on new meanings as you get older, and you might reach back to things you grew up with that you thought were hip, and add new ideas to both. For me, I just try to stay inspired by it, and by the time we cut something new, we have a little something different going on.

DB:    Does doing something slightly different every time keep it fresh enough for you?

SJK:    Yeah, but I could probably come up with a new album every week if I was forced to.

DB:    Wouldn't the music then sound forced?

SJK:    Then maybe that's not the word for it. If the record company said they'd let me do an album every week, I could probably come up with ideas every week.

DB:    You must be pretty prolific.

SJK:    Well I listen to alot of stuff, and I get alot of ideas, they just come out.

DB:    What do you listen to?

SJK:    I listen to alot of blues. Classical stuff, like Segovia and Paganini going on. Everything from Tampa Red and Big Bill Bronzy are the flavors of the day.

DB:    What's this thing with you playing with people named King? BB, Albert, Freddie, Bnois, and now Freddie's daughter Wanda?

SJK:    (laughing) That's right, I never thought about that. Wanda's got somwthing coming out, but I don't know when. She's still doing some final touches on it. I'm playing on two cuts that will be on the album. It must be a qualification for me to play on your album that you must be named King.

DB:    You said that you only played a few shows with Fredddie King. Were you there at the end?

SJK:    Yeah, that very last show I was there. It was probably the best I had ever heard him play. I learned alot from that guy, about feeling and putting soul into the neck of it.

DB:    I read he was a giant of a man, what was he like 6'7"?

SJK:    Yeah, but he wasn't that tall. He always had these platform shoes he wore back then. Remember, it was the '70's.

DB:    How about the influence of Freddie, Stevie Ray and your other contemporaries in Texas?

SJK:    Stevie was a big influence, not to say he was a major influence. We were somewhat good friends, we hung out alot together. We found out that our tastes were the same as what we listened to, only he was into it longer than I was.

DB:    Do you think ROADHOUSE RESEARCH is your best work yet?

SJK:    I do. On "HEALTHY MAMA", I wanted to get something different on that. I wanted it to sound like it was done on a cheap PA in Chicago in the '50's, something of that nature. I pictured one of those green bullet mics that blow harp through. That's not what we used, I just dialed it in to get that sound. When I heard it, I thought I kind of dig this, it's different. It makes Bnois sound like he gained 200 lbs. That's the resson I used it there.

DB:    Now that you've produced, what do you think of that job?

SJK:    It's a cool thing. To do it makes the work alot harder. It's tough to be in an artistic frame of mind and also be objective. You're constantly weighing the pros and cons, and I know how hard to push Bnois without offending him. He also know how far he can push me, and the other guys as well. That's the cool thing about producing it yourself.

DB:    What about doing a live album?

SJK:    I'm definitely going to be doing a live album. I don't know if it will be under the current 3 album deal. I'm gonna get to the point eventually to where I'm gonna flat out tell anybody that I go with as far as a record label is concerned that if you want another album, it's gonna be a live one.

DB:    How about doing it at the Railhead?

SJK:    I wouldn't mind doing it there. I like the sound of the Smokin'Joe Kubek Band featuring Bnois King Live in Las Vegas.

DB:    If you do a live CD, it's gotta be a double.

SJK:    You know what, it's funny you said that, 'cause that's what I had in mind. I want to do a live album that gives you everything. You remember back in the old days whan you'd buy a live album there'd be two albums in there.

DB:    Except for Hendrix's BAND OF GYPSIES and the Who's LIVE AT LEEDS, which were single live albums, did you think because of that they were a little disappointing?

SJK:    If you're gponna do a live album, you gotta do it right.

DB:    What do you think about your music being featured in movies?

SJK:    I think it's great, it's one good thing that the last record company did. They seemed to pull alot of that off in the several years I was with them. If you can cut some good music that you enjoy cutting, and you didn't have to sell out or anything, and a movie picks it up and they start using it, I feel like it's a blessing, it's a bonus.

DB:    Where do you see yourself and Bnois in five years?

SJK:    I just see more of the same, and more growing. I don't see the need for a producer to come in and call the shots anymore. We've been doing this for so long that we pretty much know what we want to do. The main thing is that you just want to go in and be yourself, be the best you can be at being yourself.

DB:    Where do you get all your inspiration?

SJK:    To be honest with you, we don't really write until the last minute. When I say the last minute, I mean the last couple of months before we go into the studio. I'm always kicking around ideas, trying out new stuff. I'm always trying to learn something new.

DB:    Do you listen to any new music?

SJK:    Yeah, I like alot of new stuff. It's not the first thing I grab in the morning or anything, but there's always something good I can find in a song, some characteristic. I can get an idea from listening to Eminem to Kylie Minogue. I get ideas from everything. I don't think we're supposed to be closed minded. Hendrix and Muddy Waters were very open minded.

DB:    You know me, I think you still need more slide.

SJK:    You can put it in there that you said I need more slide, and I promise you I'll give you more slide on the next CD.

DB:    When I see you live, you go six songs and a half of pack of cigarettes before I see you pick up the damn thing.

SJK:    (laughing) Alright, I got it in my mind, if you're out there in Vegas I'll get to it pretty quick.

DB:    You did a show in Rhode Island a night or two after the tragedy. How did it go?

SJK:    Yeah, we did. I guess it was within a 10 or 15 mile radius. That was wierd, we had pretty much a sold out night the night after it happened.

DB:    How were the fans?

SJK:    They were great, there was alot of power in that room. It was also a strange thing to know what happened the night before, what a tragedy.

DB:    How was the vibe at the time?

SJK:    It was strange 'cause of what I saw in CNN. It's been a wierd tour, it got strange as soon as we left. The space shuttle broke apart, then we were caught in some of the worst snowstorms since '96, then the tragedy in Rhode Island made the tour seem much longer than the month we were out.

DB:    How long are you gonna be home before you head back out?

SJK:    We're on the road again Tuesday morning.

DB:    Then you head out this way?

SJK:    Yeah, we're coming to Vegas [Boulder Station, March 13, 2003], so get ready. Thanks for calling and helping us out.

DB:    Anytime.

Photography by R.J. Bianchino copyright © 2002-3 Moondog Productions

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