Monday, August 24, 2015

Chicago blues/roots musician Voo Davis adding electricity to music scene


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

With his latest album, "Midnight Mist," Chicago blues/roots singer-songwriter Voo Davis further cements why he is one of most creative and energetic musicians on the scene today.
Davis, who toured with former Koko Taylor guitarist and Blues Music award-winner Eddie King, will perform Aug. 28 at Two Brothers Roundhouse, 205 N. Broadway Ave., Aurora. The show starts at 9 p.m. and there is no cover.

I had the chance to talk to Davis about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. Your latest release, "Midnight Mist," is receiving a lot of critical acclaim. How do you think this album stands apart from your two previous efforts?
I feel "Midnight Mist" is a bit of a mix between both albums. It's more mature than the last two albums and it was recorded smarter than the previous albums.

https://soundcloud.com/voodavis

I guess the critical success is due to the fact that not one song is like another and in a day and age where entire albums sound the same, "Midnight Mist" doesn't have two songs that sound the same without sounding strange or like something doesn't belong.
Q - I understand that the album was recorded in three days. Do you think the fact that it was recorded in a short amount of time gives the record more of a live feeling? How did the recording process go?
I used Ben Mumphrey as a sound engineer, who has a great resume working with live punk, blues, rock, New Orleans music, and other genres. Ben said to me once, "If you do it five or ten more times, is it really gonna get better?"

And the correct answer to that is no. As least not for me. 

So I don't feel it's got a "live" quality to it, however it's definitely got an aged quality to it. It sounds like something from the '70s in terms of sound quality, which in my opinion is much improved over the super polished computer made music we're given today.

I don't like to go back and fix a bunch of errors... If the tempo is right and we are all hitting the changes, what's there to fix??

I mean we were adding songs at the end too... we had plenty of time. If I can't made an album at studio in the country in three days, then I can't make an album.
Q - You directed and edited the video for the song "Riverside Blues" yourself. Was that something you were comfortable doing? What was it like filming the video in and around Clarksdale, which of course has been home to many blues musicians?
It wasn't something I was comfortable with but I had talked to a couple of production teams about concepts and filming, one in New Orleans and one in Chicago, and while they were shaking their heads yes, they were always dragging their feet, not getting back to me or just not doing things they said they were going to do.


So as a last ditch effort, I called a friend of mine who's a photographer, Ben Rinenbach, and asked him if he'd like to make a video. He said that he had no experience making a video. 

Well I've seen his photos and knew he had a great eye for angles, which is what a video is really, and he agreed. We drove down to Clarksdale, stayed in the back of Ground Zero Blues Club, and shot a video.

It was a long day, but I feel we are both very proud of how the video represented the song.
Q - How did you get your nickname, Voo? Who are your biggest musical influences and what impact do you think they have had on your music?
Voo came from when I would do Hendrix songs, people in the audience would start yelling "VOO" then they just started calling me it. And when Eddie King picked up on it, that was that, I was Voo."
Q - What were the biggest things you learned touring with Eddie King?
1. Being on time is important
2. Dynamics in a show is important
3. You're always on stage

 4. Don't get messed up on stage, the show will suffer
5. Don't take shit from people who don't have the common good of the band... and if they are in the band, remove them.
Brutal stuff, but a band that works for the common good, always kill it, guys that drink too much, don't know the set, and are on their phones in between songs never seem to work out to long.
Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?
I don't think I do fit into the Chicago scene.  Like Luther Allison said, "I had to leave Chicago to be noticed by Chicago."

The musicians in Chicago are great, but the culture of music in Chicago has been strangled. If you look in the South and Southeast, they want to hear your music, they want to hear new original songs, and people that are a bit different.

And the clubs pay for this, as do the people.


In Chicago, the clubs either want cover songs all night, bands to play for free, or blues bands that play the same 25 songs regardless of what club you're walking into.

I'm not interested in that, and I'm glad that I had the good sense on my first album to not fall into that trap. It was always important to me to try and find my sound, if it's not embraced in my home town, I will go where it is.

I have many friends that play in Chicago five to six nights a week to an empty or near empty room. I'd rather tour out and play Chicago every three to four months for a crowd than to play for nobody every night of the week.

But Chicago has a music culture problem starting with clubs and festivals that aren't cultivating original music, and SOME musicians that aren't willing to grind it out with original material.

So I guess I would say that I'm kind of a musical misfit in Chicago.