Hello y'all. Haven't figured out the change in Harp-L address yet, so I'll
trust to the old address for yet awhile.
I wrote two articles on G. Primich for the Indiana Blues Society and for
Mississippi Saxophone. The latter will be published later this month (?), and
the former has just been published. It is included below. Hope you
enjoy...and watch for article in MS...
BTW...Chris & Bobbie...glad you had a good time with Gary and I've warned him
to just say he doesn't know me (smile)...and see what you all do...
Summer is here and the weather is perfect for volleyball, picnics, and tall,
cool drinks to throw off the heat. The sun finally fades into sultry night,
and a breeze blows in the open windows of the downtown clubs while the blues
leak out. A perfect time for another invastion by Austin-based harmonica ace
Gary Primich and his band. Fresh from recording sessions for his upcoming
album, "Mr. Freeze," on Flying Fish Records, Gary gave an electrifying
performance to an enthusiastic crowd at the Slippery Noodle (Indianapolis, IN).
Though born in Chicago, the 37 year-old Primich moved shortly afterward to
Hobart, Indiana (in the Gary/Hammond area), where he grew up. He briefly
attended college in Terre Haute and then went on to Indiana University in
Bloomington. Thinking he'd "ace" a college talent contest by doing something
"simple" like playing harmonica, he bought his first harp and tried to play a
song he wrote for the occasion. Big surprise! The "child's toy" would not
cooperate. And he's been trying to tame it ever since.
Buying every harmonica recording he could get his hands on, he relentlessly
honed his skills until the late 1970s when he sidled up to a local band and
offered to sit in. Before long the wily harpist was a regular member of his
first professional band, "Nightshift" (my band--cn).
May's visit was, as usual, fast and furious. He drove into town, sat in at
a friend's recording session, conducted a harmonica workshop, played his show
at the Slippery Noodle, and was off the next day to do it all again somewhere
else. I had to pick up speed just to run alongside this dynamo, but it was an
adventure. I did manage, however, to fill him in on what had been happening on
Internet blues/harp discussion groups, get answers to some questions some of
the participants had, and even get answers to a few of my own.
Cathi: Are you going to bribe me not to tell stuff?
Gary: (Laughs) Yeah!
Cathi: I know you've just completed recording your album, due this fall. Tell
us about that...what can we expect?
Gary: Well, it's called "Mr. Freeze," and it's kind of a mixed bag. But I'd
say in comparison to "Travelin' Mood," it's a bit more aggressive sounding.
There are a couple of acoustic songs, but everything's pretty up-tempo.
Cathi: Do you think your hapr playing has been moving in any particular
Gary: Yeah, it's gotten simpler and simpler. As I get older, I play less and
Cathi: More emotive?
Gary: Yes, more to the point. For me as the years have passed by I've thought
more about the sound of what I was playing as opposed to what notes I was
playing. I think the way you make your notes sound is more important thatn the
actual notes you play. Tone and phrasing are the thing.
Cathi: How do you pick the songs you want to record? I know you write many of
Gary: Yes, I always enjoy doing them, but other people's songs . . . my
favorites have always been the not-so-famous ones...great songs many people
haven't heard before, or tunes people don't really expect to hear harmonica on.
Like when I did "Caravan" on the "Travelin' Mood" CD...or "September Song."
Cathi: Do you eventually want to do all originals?
Gary: Not necessarily...just good ones. If I don't have enough good songs of
my own I'll do someone else's. The main thing is, I'm not going to let my ego
get in the way of doing someone else's tune if it's better than mine.
Cathi: Heard you had some great guest artists on the new album?
Gary: Yeah! Gene Taylor on piano, Sara Brown on bass, and Steve James on
Cathi: I read about you using the "real guy" recording techinque...
Gary: Actually, that's a James Harmon term for playing live together -- and
blues IS performance music. You can still go back and put doo-dads on the
tracks and fix 'em up, but it's basically "capturing a performance." It's not
the only school of thought for a blues reocrd, but it's my school of thought.
Cathi: So you don't find yourself oding a million takes?
Gary: No. If you don't get it in the first or second take, you're probably in
trouble. If you don't get it in the third take, you're DEFINITELY in trouble
Cathi: You're out on the road a lot. What's the state of the blues out there?
Gary: (Sighs and laughs) I think the people want to rock (laughs)! They want
to hear strong guitar stuff and REALLY, REALLY want to hear soul and
rock-oriented blues as opposed to traditionally oriented blues.
Cathi: Do you think blues players have to cater to those styles?
Gary: Well, there's always a compromise. You know, even me, the staunch
conservative that I am...I look at the audience and think, "How can I do what I
love and at the same time appeal to the most amount of people?"
Cathi: Can you tell?
Gary: Well, I pretty much know what they want -- they want to hear rock-guitar
blues (laughter). There's not that many harmonica freaks out there -- just
those twenty on the Internet (laughs).
Cathi: How's the band doing?
Gary: They're great. Shorty Lenoir (guitar) has been with me five years now,
and we've got Jeff Minnick (Portland, OR) on drums, and Patrick Recob (Kansas
City) on bass.
Cathi: Do you get a chance to teach many harp workshops on the road? How does
Gary: Mostly at festivals, but I've done a couple lately. I get on my soapbox
about how to play and what to play for awhile, but the most productive thing is
Q & A, because people have tons of questions...things that stump them, advice
they need, things they've read, but can't really transfer from book to action.
You can't really go one-on-one though; it's not productive and I don't think
people get their individual needs met in a large group. The best way is to
Cathi: Well, what general advice can you give beginning harpers? I know you
told one on computer to "change your oil every 3,000 miles." What else?
Gary: (laughs) Get a Sonny Boy Williamson record; get Big Walter and Little
Walter recordings; play along; learn 'em note-for-note; find somebody better
than you and get lessons. It's frustrating sometimes, but like I said, if it
weren't frustrating, it wouldn't be work; if it isn't work, it's easy; and if
it's easy, it's probably not worth doing. Keep trying; you'll get it.
Gary was just through again and seems unstoppable. He dropped off an early
sample of his new album "Mr. Freeze," and I was pleased to find I liked it
even better than "Travelin' Mood." I recalled a studio session, watching Gary
listen to rough cuts of a song he was to add harmonica to. I asked, "Do you
think you can do it?" And another musician there cracked us all up by saying
"He can do it with one tongue tied behind him."
(Added note to you harpers.... Gary once had a car wreck with a newspaper
reporter. He agreed not to worry about repairs -- it was the reporter's fault
-- if the guy would agree to write an article about his band in the next issue
of the paper. And despite the unusual inspiration, the reporter did a fairly
even-handed job of it -- ha. So now that I've written these two articles,
maybe Gary'll let me slide on that amp of his I blew....! Just kiddin'...but
I'll stop pestering you with GP news now...he really isn't the ONLY person I
like in the blues....)
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