his superb band or solo, sitting on a stool with his old resonator, his
performances are captivating Ė the hottest property on the European
blues scene. In the shadow of the British Blues Scene stalks the
lovechild of Howlin' Wolf and Big Mama Thornton" Mojo
"You should be very proud to have this young man in your own country.
You have someone right here who can really sing the Deep Blues. He got
in his voice. If my Daddy were alive today he'd say ďThat's
my boy!Ē Big Bill Morganfield
ďThe closest thing Iíve heard
to Chester Burnett.Ē
"I don't have to tell him
nothin', he got it.Ē Hubert Sumlin
Alan: Thanks Ian for sparing me the time. First off, what are your
first musical memories?
to Beatles and Stones but Buddy Holly was the main thing in my house
through my Dad. I guess through that I got into blues, with Chuck Berry
and Little Richard. And at that time bands like Slade and T-Rex were my
Alan: Did you come from a musical family?
Ian: My cousin is and was an amazing musician, played with Screaming
Lord Sutch and is an incredible piano player. Apart from him, not
really, just big music fans in my family. My Dad sings now in a choir
and he told me only about 5 years or so ago that when he was about 18 he
used to sing in a rock and roll band but heíd never told me and Iíve
been in music for donkeyís years. It was a local band doing Buddy
Holly, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochrane and all that kind of stuff.
Alan: And did you always want to become a musician?
Ian: I just drifted into it really. It just kind of happened.
Alan: What first attracted you to the blues? Was it the old records
of your parents?
Ian: Maybe but I got into blues independently from them. I donít
really remember not being aware of blues, I donít remember not being
aware of Muddy Waters and all those great Chess records.
Alan: At the age of 18 you taught yourself to play guitar and went
busking in Berlin. What was that like?
Ian: It was cold! It was February and it was minus 20 degrees and I
learnt to play very very quickly. I was a below average guitar player
but because I was living hand to mouth I got reasonable quite fast
otherwise I didnít eat.
Alan: I understand that youíve toured twice with Big Bill
Morganfield. Tell me about that.
Ian: It was more than twice but it was okay. I carried him pretty
well! Big Billís great, man.
We had Mud Morganfield here at Carlisle on Friday. Have you played
Ian: Yes, Iíve played with him and Mud is alright.
Alan: Youíve also played twice with Pinetop Perkins. What was that
Ian: Again, more than twice. It was amazing. I was an invited guest
to play with Pinetop in London and in Edinburgh and then one night all
his band joined me on stage at one of my gigs. That was just an honour
but my main thing of that experience was to play with Willie 'Big Eyes'
Smith on drums, to have a real blues drummer like him playing (no
disrespect to any other drummer). Normally I would never ever do songs
like Hoochie Coochie Man or Mojo Working but to play these
with Willie was a totally different thing. Just amazing.
Alan: Of course Muddy and Howlin' Wolf are big influences on you.
What makes them stand out for you?
Ian: Well, they were just the best. What else can I say? I love
Sonny Boy and Elmore James and all those guys but Muddy and Wolf were
just...well, thereís a reason they were the two main guys. They were so
creative and their lyricism and creativity is second to none.
Alan: When did you first meet up with Matt Schofield and Jonny
Ian: I met Matt about 15 years ago at a jam session in London.
Everybody on the London scene, James Hunter, Big Joe Lewis, everybody
used to go down there and 18 year old Matt Schofield came down. He was
not far off being as good as he is now and just blew everybody away.
Alan: You mentioned that you have a new album in the pipeline. Can
you tell me any more about that at this stage?
Ian: It was recorded in Coldwater, Mississippi at a place called the
Zebra Ranch, which used to be the studio of a guy called Jim Dickinson
who is a legendary producer and musician from north Mississippi. His
sons are the North Mississippi All Stars, Luther and Cody Dickinson, and
Cody is now running the studio and he produced the album. We had a
bunch of the youngest sons of local legends, Burnside, Kimbroughs, Bobby
Bland's son on drums. An incredible experience to work with these
So what does the blues mean to you?
Ian: Oh, thatís a horrible question! I guess it depends how you
look at it and I could say that itís my life and my living but itís my
passion too, not just blues but country and all American roots music is
just incredibly important to me and to everybody. Itís a vital
expression of the human condition and it continues, it survives. Itís
great to see Lucy Zirins, a young English girl getting up and playing
resonator guitar and playing the blues. Youíve got young guys, Scott
McKeown and all these young kids playing and it proves the importance of
blues and how it transcends generations.
Alan: Are there any particular songs that have special meaning to
Ian: Many, many. I played a few tonight actually. Thereís one I
played tonight which means a lot to me which is a song by Warren Zevon
whoís only really famous for writing a song which he considered a piece
of shit, 'Werewolves of London' - that was his big hit, but he
wrote a song called Donít Let Us Get Sick which I played this
evening. Heís an incredible song writer. Also I didnít play it today
but I have been playing on this tour a song by Stephen Collins Foster
who was around at the time of the American Civil War and he wrote a lot
of songs which became popular in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. Thereís a song of his called 'Hard Times Come Again No
More' which Iíve been playing a lot recently and that one resonates
with me. Dylan did a version of it, Springsteen did it Ė itís just
amazing that this song from a couple of hundred years ago keeps going
and still means something. Somebody sang it at Obamaís inauguration and
itís incredible that what was at the time just a pop folk song still has
such resonance and meaning. Those songs really mean a lot.
Alan: Youíve toured Europe a lot. How healthy do you think the
blues scene is in the UK compared to Europe.
Ian: You can write ďGrrrrrrrrrĒ for my answer to that. You know
this festival, Carlisle, definitely shapes up but generally speaking Iím
afraid to say that the UK does not come up to the standard of European
blues festivals. Iím not pointing the finger of blame at anybody in
particular. I think, and I've said this before, itís lack of
sponsorship from local business, government, arts councils, all that
kind of stuff. Blues festivals in this country are run by passionate
hobbyists, cottage industries and thank God they do it but they donít
get the support, whereas in Europe they get all kinds of government
Alan: Carlisle is a classic example.
Ian: Yes, here at Carlisle Nick does everything, it's incredible
what he does, and itís against all the odds but look how successful it
is. I wish it could be all like this.
Alan: Youíre currently doing your first solo tour, as a
double-header with Ben. Is this type of solo tour going to continue in
Ian: Yes, Iíve always played a lot of solo gigs although this is the
first major solo tour Iíve done. Yes, for me itís pretty much the same
thing Ė whether itís band, solo or whatever, itís about just getting out
there and playing good songs for people to listen to. Hopefully that
Alan: Is the band continuing?
Ian: Yes, absolutely, I believe it is in some form or other. We
have future bookings so weíll be out there performing but it might
transform into something else or we might add other people.
Alan: So, what about Ben Prestage. Where did you first meet?
Ian: Last week Ė at the first gig, we hadn't met before. I knew
about Ben of course but we met at the gig an hour before we went on.
Alan: Thatís amazing because you obviously just gel.
Ian: I think thatís because we come from the same school.
Ben: Yes, we spent six hours a day rehearsing...
Ian: Oh yeah Ė months! Constant emails and mp3's back and forth.
No, we obviously come from a similar musical background and we have
the same musical influences. He has a very broad range of influences,
as a I do, country, blues and all kinds of stuff so the common ground is
enormous and itís so easy.
Alan: It looks so easy to see you on stage.
Ian: Iím dealing with a musician and itís not like dealing with
someone who just does their thing and they donít know how to branch out
or communicate with other musicians.
Alan: Just a word about Carlisle. This is your 4th
appearance at the 4th Carlisle Festival...
Ian: I thought it was the 3rd?
Alan: No, youíve just done the 4th! People would be disappointed if
you're not here next year and I wondered if you had any additional
comments about the festival.
Ian: Thereís Nick but I know thereís also bunch of people who work
their asses off. Itís just a pleasure to be in a situation where people
are passionate about music and making it work. Itís how it should be.
Actually I donít want to praise them too highly because itís how it
should be. Iím passionate about it and they are and itís like, thanks
for being as caring about it as I am. Thereís so many of them that
donít care, they just donít give a shit.
Alan: How do you see the future of blues music?
Ian: Well, every few years people talk about a blues boom happening
and it doesnít seem to be really happening but I genuinely think that
right now there is something. You know with the success of people like
my friend Imelda May, even thought itís not strictly blues, itís blues-ish,
itís in that genre, itís American rootsy music, and Jim Jones reviewed
her very well. And, although Iím not particularly a fan, Seasick Steve
is doing good things so it does seem that there is an awareness of it
amongst the youth. There is an awareness of what is being thrust before
them and what they are accepting and they are getting into. Donít call
it blues, just call it cool. Black Keys, you know, all that stuff
means that itís probably the healthiest time for good roots music.
Alan: Future plans?
Ian: Iím going to York tomorrow, thatís about as far ahead as I
think. Iíve got a new CD coming out in the Spring [through Nugene
Records] and Iím already planning the next one.
Alan: Well, thanks very much Ian, greatly appreciate your time.
Filmed in 2007 at the High
Barn, Ian Siegal's incomparable rendition of Mary Don't You Weep ....
Ian Siegal and Ben Prestage at Carlisle
Blues Festival play a great cover of a Tom Waites song ....
Ian Siegal Band live at Paradisco Amsterdam play Mortal Coil Shuffle
Siegal albums are available from Nugene Records.