Sunday, May 9, 2010
Dudley Taft: Writing in the blues is liberating
Dudley Taft is a blues artist from Seattle. He discusses playing in a band with Trey Anastasio, what he learned from touring as a part of the band Sweet Water, and with whom he would like to write a song.
In high school, you founded a band with Trey Anastasio. Describe what that band was like. Would you have ever guessed that Trey would go on to have the success he's experienced?
That was Space Antelope. We played mostly cover songs, and a few originals. The fun there was mostly in the practicing: we had very few gigs. Trey and I did a lot of improvising, vibing off of what the Grateful Dead were doing. That improvising was very cool and has influenced my career, and obviously his! Trey always had this boundless energy- indefatigable is a good word to describe it. Most successful people I know have serious drive, and Trey really lives his music.
What drew you to the blues?
My teenage years were full of what is now classic rock, and that stuff was really an extension of the blues. I listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Ted Nugent, Kiss, etc., a lot of what was on the radio at the time (this was the late '70s). Listen to Machine Head by Deep Purple- TONS of blues there. Little did I know it at the time, but blues was really the cornerstone of that stuff. Doing research now into the blues of the '40s '50s and '60s, it is evident that amercian blues pioneers like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Freddie King, etc. were really the rock stars. And Lighnin' Hopkins with those huge wayfarer shades! Bad Ass!
Writing in the blues genre is very liberating- unlike in some rock bands I have been in on major labels, I am not worried about writing a "hit" or about taking a long guitar solo. If I have something to say I just say it....
You toured with some very well-known acts as a member of Sweet Water. What did you learn from touring with those bands?
Uh, that Jagermeister can be dangerous.... Some of the bands that I was fortunate enough to plays shows with really enjoy playing live and strive to make it fresh every show. Some bands just learn the songs and play them the same way every time. Like pressing "play" on your CD player. Playing blues involves listening and improvising every night, so that is something that I need to have in order to feel alive!
How would you describe your experience with major labels like Atlantic and Capitol? Do you think you would ever go back to that?
That era is over for the moment. The big cash advance, the hundreds of thousands of dollars in tour support. The labels had such a controlled system that it was tough to make it without them. Nowadays you have to do it yourself which is a lot of work, but it certainly is what you make of it! As a band on a major label, you were very much at the mercy of what the company wants to put their muscle behind. For most bands, like Sweet Water, we were almost ignored. Very frustrating. Second Coming was in a much better position- we were signed by Gary Gersh who was the president of the label at the time, but during our first album cycle, he and the top staff were let go by EMI. So, we really didn't get a good chance since the new regime wanted to focus on their urban artists.
If you could write and perform a song with one artist, who would you choose? Why?
Probably Neil Young. He is a great songwriter, and one of my idols. I'd be happy just to have a beer with him.
What would you be doing if you weren't making music?
Trying to be an actor! (laughs) I really don't know...
Check out this video of Dudley and Blues Overkill.