Roger – Le festival sans nom, salon du polar de Mulhouse 2013
Besides writing books, you have another passion: music. Can you tell us about your passion for music?
Well, I have always been passionate about music, and just as I found a great empathy in American literature, so I found a great empathy in jazz and blues and country music.
Someone once said to me that music was the way in which one person translated their emotions into sounds, and then gave those sounds to someone else who translated them back into emotion for themselves. I agree with this. I think good literature works on an emotional level, and I definitely feel that good music works on an emotional level.
My mother was a singer and actress, my grandmother was a pianist, and as a child I started to learn the trumpet at the age of eight. I continued until I was a teenager, and then I started to get into blues and rock music, and I stopped playing trumpet.
I was first listening to Son House and Blind Willie McTell and Lightnin’ Hopkins, and from there I discovered a great love for the music that came out of the West Coast of the US in the 60s, such bands as Love and Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Thirteenth Floor Elevators and Jefferson Airplane.
It was only recently that I started to devote some serious time to playing guitar and writing music, and I feel it is just another way in which I can express myself creatively.
I like to conceive of a song that I write as delivering an emotional message, and when the message is delivered the song is done. I think writing books and writing music are very similar. Literature is evoking an emotion with words. Music is evoking an emotion with sounds.
I think writing a song is like writing a chapter, and writing an album is like writing a book. Both are there to deliver a message, and both can accomplish this but in different ways.
You are part of a rock band, can you introduce the band?
Well, the first incarnation of the band was more blues and country-blues orientated, and we were called The Whiskey Poets. We have now been playing together for a year or more, and the material we are writing has changed considerably.
We felt that it was right to find a name that was more appropriate, and thus we are now called Zero Navigator. The name was chosen as it does not connect us to any specific genre of music.
What we are writing is quite diverse and unique, and we wanted a name that really meant nothing at all, and yet was easy to remember, hard to forget. Band names take on a life of their own, and soon represent nothing but the music.
We are a three-piece (I play guitar, Chris Malin plays bass and Simon Chisholm plays drums), and the vocal duties are shared between all three members. There are songs where the vocals are solely by the drummer, others where I sing, others where two of us or even three of us sing simultaneously. The drummer and I have very different vocal styles, and we choose who will sing dependent upon the song itself.
An album project in the future?
Yes, we are recording a full album called New Reality in the UK in October. It will be mastered and produced before Christmas, and then it will be available on iTunes and elsewhere.
You do concerts and jam sessions around the world, when you can…
Yes, but it is too rare! I would like to do a lot more, but sometimes it is not so easy to organize.
Once the album is complete, the band will be playing gigs in the UK, and we intend to appear on the continent at some of the very many small rock and blues festivals that take place in France and Italy and other countries.
What are your musical influences and favorite musicians?
I listen to everything from Mississippi and Delta blues to Led Zeppelin to Suzanne Vega to Tom Waits and everything in between.
You cannot even begin to understand and appreciate contemporary western music without appreciating Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Bob Wills, Johnny Cash, Chet Atkins, Howlin’ Wolf – they are all there in the pot, everything from zydeco to rap, and they are all important.
I do not read music for the guitar, but I read music for the trumpet, though I do not play trumpet any more.
Amongst my favourite musicians would have to be Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Tom Waits, Mike Bloomfield, Kelly Joe Phelps…and the list goes on! It isn’t really possible to select favourites. It’s like being asked who my favourite authors are…an impossible question!
The Whiskey Poets – Brand new day (live performance 2012)
Optreden Crimezone Award, special guest R.J. Ellory (live 2013)