INTERVIEW TO MARK CLOUTIER of THE DOUBLE BARREL BLUES BAND, BY MONTE ADKISON, "THE BLUES STALKER"
MONTE ADKISON’S BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
Monte Adkison, aka "the Blues Stalker," has been listening to the blues for over four decades. Along with many other teenagers who grew up in the southern United States in the early 60’s, she listened to powerful Nashville, Tennessee WLAC radio deejay "John R’s" popular blues radio show after midnight every night. Currently a high school social science teacher in Florida for over thirty years, Monte was the recipient of a scholarship in 1995 from the Florida Humanities Council to study blues music at the University of Tampa where she met the late Tampa Bay harmonica, Rock Bottom, and the late "Diamond Teeth" Mary McClain. Amazed that "Diamond Teeth" Mary had been written up in European blues magazines but not in American, she vowed to change that.
Taking a summer pilgrimage to the Delta to study at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, she spent time researching Mary in the Blues Archives and met David Nelson, then editor of Living Blues which is based there on the Ole Miss campus. She asked David if he knew Mary and he said he had seen her perform at the W.C. Handy Awards in Memphis in ’92. When asked if indeed his magazine was true "Living Blues", if she wrote about Mary performing on her 95th birthday, would he publish it? The answer was yes and Living Blues did and then went on to write an article on Monte’s Blues in the Schools program in a ’97 issue. Monte began writing a regular column for the Suncoast Blues Society newsletter, the Twelve Bar Rag under the moniker "the Blues Stalker." Five years later, the "Blues Stalker" is still writing about talented blues artists who are under appreciated and often ignored by the mainstream press. She also covers other aspects of the blues music industry besides the musicians themselves. Her photographs can be viewed on the Suncoast Blues Society web site www.suncoastblues.org as well as photographs of the popular annual Tampa Bay Blues Festival.
Monte’s commitment to keeping the blues alive is evident in her article, her photography, and in her classroom in Ocala, Florida where every inch of her walls are covered with snapshots and autographed posters of blues musicians that she has met. As she puts it, "It’s my way of sneaking the heritage in----when you’re bored with the lessons and look up on the walls and see a Kenny Neal, or Eddie Kirkland, or Sista Monica—you might just give a listen later in live and fall in love with the music just like I have. It is another small way of keeping the blues alive." You can visit her site at www.bluesstalker.com
this is the reason why I am really satisfied and proud to have at "La Hora del Blues" staff, directly from USA, the valuable support, help and collaboration of this great blues expert and lover, known as "The Blues Stalker". I am sure you will enjoy this page with all her interesting and juicy interviews and photographs, so I can only encourage you to visit it regularly. Welcome aboard! Monte....
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INTERVIEW WITH MARK CLOUTIER OF THE DOUBLE BARREL BLUES BAND
The four piece Double Barrel Blues Band based out of Syracuse, New York, has been on my radar for some time now. Their new release “Bad Bad Feeling” is receiving considerable airplay all over Europe. Guitarist Mark Cloutier gives us the inside scoop on the band.
Blues Stalker: Mark, tell us about the members of the band and how long they have been together.
Mark Cloutier: Let me start out with the fact that we as a band have been together 3 years now. Drummer Garnett Grimm and bassman Bill Sutterly have been gigging with me for about 6 years now-three years in a previous band called Dirty Pool. The Double Barrel Blues Band is an off shoot of The Dirty Pool . We brought John Hart aboard and transferred from a harmonica-based roots blues band to a more rocking blues guitar format. We stay very true to the roots at times, and then we hit the audience with a bit of edgy smash-mouth blues. I think it’s a good formula for us. John Hart has more of a rock n’roll background and I come from a very Jimi Hendrix-Vaughan Bros-Buddy Guy style. Understand, we did a lot of Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jimmy Reed, old school blues in the previous band. I do not play like any of them really, but I think their influence is evident. Garnett has played every style of music it seems throughout his many years on the scene and Bill is blues all the way. Very solid bassman!
B.S.: “Bad Bad Feeling” is your second release, correct? All of the cuts on it are originals? M.C.: Technically, yes it is our second release. Our first release was a bit of 60’s old school recording. A tough Harley-Davidson owner by the name of Eric Dunk recorded us a few years back. Some very rough stuff, but a stuff, but a cool recording of mostly original tunes and some funny outtakes-false stars and even had Eric’s dog walk into the studio while we were playing and actually throw up! We all just stopped and laughed hysterically. We decided to record most of the previous stuff in a more updated studio format—I work at WSYR TV 9 and a fellow work mate has a nice home studio so we went there and recorded our CD live…Brian Anelli Productions----six original tunes and 4 covers. We had maybe three quick punch-ins----that was it, still raw, but a bit better in overall production. I do not think people want perfection in recordings. They want it real. I love many of the old Chess recordings---never overproduced. I think there is a fine line between great production and over-production. Our best is still to come I believe. Our live shows have been selling our CD’s like crazy of late!
B.S.: The band has played some major blues festivals and opened for some major artists. Tell us about that and the Blues in the Bay festival you just recently performed at Labor Day weekend in Alexandria Bay, New York.
M.C.: This past summer alone we have played in concert opening for the Chris Duarte Group at the Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake, N.Y., also opened for the Fabulous T-Birds at the Watertown Fairgrounds Arena, and played the Syracuse Inner Harbor Concert Series opening for Marshall Tucker Band. The Duarte show was a very up close and personal show in front of maybe 75 people but man they were into it. Chris and the band were class acts on and off the stage. We had a blast and gained a bunch of new fans. The other two concerts were in front of a few thousand people and it was then, that we believed, we belonged there---that is where we want to be! The Blues in the Bay was the icing on the cake for this summer. An amazing 5-day fest in the 1000 islands. We played Uncle Sam’s Boat Tour Friday night. Over a hundred people on the 3rd floor overlooking the water and the amazing night scenes. At one point I took my hat off because the wind was picking up, and I tossed it on the floor, a bunch of people started throwing money into it! Great people, food, and fun. Thought it could get no better but the next night the club we played called The Riverboat was jam-packed and rowdy as can be. Sunday was the main stage and there must have been 3 to 4 thousand people there just loving the blues! Monday we hosted the blues jam on the main stage and another couple thousand showed up to soak in the last of the summer blues. Many Canadians crossed over for the fest. An amazing time was had with some terrific jamming. We sold out all of our CD’s and many people bought or DVD from the Watertown Fairgrounds concert. Sold some hats as well.
B.S.: How and where was “Bad Bad Feeling” recorded? How can people obtain a copy of it? M.C..: Our CD is for sale at our shows, online at CD Baby and Nadeau Music. You can go to www.doublebarrellbluesband.com and also buy it there. We have links to various places including my solo blues instrumental recording. Bad Bad Feeding was recorded at Brian Anelli Productions as I mentioned earlier.
B.S.: I understand that you have a recording studio in your home in Syracuse and have used it to record with musicians around the world over the Internet. Tell us about that experience and how it has worked for you. It sound like the future is wide open for this sort of thing where people can record with people that they never have even met. How do the musicians hook up?
M.C.: The experience on the web has been terrific for me. In the last 3-4 years I have come from being computer incompetent, to really getting the most I possible can out of it as far as networking and recording online. You can find many independent musicians on various music sites looking for collaborations. Very talented musicians I must add! I have learned to plug my Fender Strat guitar into my Hughes & Kettner 100 watt head and 4 ten Marshall cabinet, and connect the sound to my computer by way of a USB and Cubease software, then be able to record my music and save it for CD. Also, I have recorded a number of albums with musicians across the world. I think it is the future! Major record labels may turn to this process down the road? May be already doing it, not so sure. If you go to our website there is some really nice press about some of my collaborations. I have sold quite a few CDs and mp3 albums of just my blues guitar recordings. It is a real thrill to see people from across the globe buying my home-produced recordings. Several computer customers have bought all 5 of my CDs! A new one called “Manic Obsession” is complete and ready for CD Baby. I’m waiting for them to finish their “upgrade” which has not been a great transition to say the least. I must mention Lawrence Fritts who gave me permission to use a bunch of his cool backing tracks for my CD. I play some bass guitar and rhythm guitar on some tracks, along with the lead work. I was told by Lawrence that I reminded him of Hendrix as far as my approach to the Strat—I was blown away by that comment.
B.S.: You also have a solo instrumental CD out. Describe that effort.
M.C.: My new CD “Manic Obsession” might be my best effort to date. I tried very hard to keep in interesting from a listener’s standpoint by getting as many different sounds out of my Strat. Some clean as whistle tones and some heavy-handed aggressive sounds as well. I listen to a lot of Jimmy Vaughan, early Buddy Guy and T-Bone Walker….Hendrix and Stevie Ray on the beefier tunes. There are a couple of nice tunes Dickey Betts-like, called “Sunshine Girls” and “So Beautiful” dedicated to my beautiful wife and daughter. I have it up on Kunaki which I use to reproduce and distribute. A very simple way to get my music out---affordable. I believe you have “ “Diary of a Stratman”, my previous release. I think that CD has quite a good collection of sounds and approaches on it. It’s a good party blues as one of my nephews once said!
B.S.: I know you have a favorite ax. Can you describe it to me? What other gear do you favor?
M.C.: I absolutely favor my Fender Strat. It’s the SRV issue. I play with 12 gauge strings in standard tuning. I love the flat tuning but too lazy to deal with at gigs. Probably going to drop tune my new Fender G&L guitar. It has a gorgeous orange finish. As I mentioned, I have a Hughes & Kettner head that sits on a 4-10 Marshall cabinet. The only pedals I use are a Hendix wah and a Zacke Wilde overdrive. I like the reverb and rotary sounds! John Hart uses an Italia guitar designed by Chris Rea. He also has an Epiphone Flying V. We get totally different sounds and styles from each side of the stage. It really keeps it fresh for our audience.
B.S.: Mark, you guys deliver a more rocking version of the blues. Is that reflective of the blues audiences in the Central New York area? Please describe the live blues scene in that part of the country. I sense there are quite a few bar-b-que and biker events.
M.C.: Yes, the Syracuse scene for many years had been dominated by harmonica-fronted bands. Some amazing harp players in Syracuse and the surrounding areas. We may have oversaturated the area in a span of ten years—a ton of blues bands swapping players and playing many of the same tunes. The Dinosaur BBQ played a big part in the thriving scene during all of the 90’s and a bit of 2000. We all know the blues comes and goes in circles. It’s on its way back I believe…. A lot of hard rock in Syracuse right now but I sense the rock scene may be tiring a bit now. We have travelled to stay alive—very, very busy in a 3-4 hour traveling radius. All you have to do is say blues and bar-b-que and people flock to events. The clubs have struggled as a whole though. There is a place called Shifty’s in Syracuse that is really thriving. They book all styles of music and it’s a great atmosphere. We added some rock n’ roll tunes to our playlist but they still hold that blues background within. We miss the Syracuse Blues Connection magazine that dissolved somewhere around the year 2000. It’s always money, you know---the money factor did them in. I spent ten playing the Dinosaur BBQ when it was a fresh concept and really hopping. Personally, I thing the vibe has changed. Many of the fine talented blues musicians around the region are not playing there anymore. Blues is not their first choice. Credit to them, they do well for themselves from a business standpoint. When all is said and done, thank God for a great blues fest in Syracuse, N. Y. The New York State Bluesfest is going strong! We played there last year. It is always a real treat.
B.S.: I notice a couple of festivals this month on your schedule. Any future touring plans?
M.C.: Working on the touring thing….a few promoters here in Syracuse that I am in touch with and am looking to make things happen. I just saw Buddy Guy at the Turning Stone Casino. He played the Showroom and man, a real treat to see a 74 year old man play with 18 year old enthusiasm. I met him at a meet and greet before the show and he was real cool. We hope to put together some sort of a blues event there in the future as I have met Rick, the guy who is in charge of the events. Rick told me he has heard great things about our band. So, we hope to meet with him soon. We want to go to Europe and tour for sure. I know that we can do great there when given the opportunity. The people there really love the blues from what I hear.
B.S.: How has your new release been received in Europe? Are you interested in touring there? Any chance of coming down here to Florida to play and promote the new CD?
M.C.: Yes, I know a lot of folks in Europe by way of the Internet and sales are decent out there- a ton of networking –we are ripe for the pickings. Also, my partner on guitar, John Hart, spent many years in Europe as an army intelligence officer. He played some rock n’ roll there in various bands some years back. His son is in the army and is begging for us to play in Germany….I guess they have many parties on their off time and crank our concert DVD to the max! John’s kid is a great man and was recently wounded in Iraq. Miraculously, he survived but tragically a few of his buddies didn’t make it.
Finally, I just want to say I have the best band mates right now, They are good friends and great musicians. It’s a real honor to share the stage with them. We continue to challenge one another to get better and we understand we must keep things fresh always.
B.S.: Thanks, Mark, for giving us great blues. Tell my friend Tony at Blues Source a big hello from the Blues Stalker.
M.C.: Thank you, Monte, it has been great chatting with you even though I have not met you yet. We have had several offer recently to play Bike Week in Daytona. Maybe we can hook up there if it plays out. We would love to get to Florida to do some show. I will tell my buddy Tony D. you say hello. Cheers all.