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Early Blues Interview
Mal Gibson
singer/songwriter/guitarist/record producer/
MC at Colne R&B Festival Acoustic Stage


"Mal Gibson is a well established figure on the UK Blues Circuit with several appearances at Festival Events and numerous live appearances. He is the singer and guitarist of a three piece band imaginatively called The Mal Gibson Project with whom he wields a very red coloured Fender Stratocaster played through a Fender Blues Junior valve amp which is sometimes affected by a Vox Wah pedal. Other members of The Project are Tim Knowles on a Fender Jazz Bass and Simon Ramus on a Gretsch Drumkit.

He also performs a full set of traditional acoustic Delta Blues, Country Blues and Singer/Songwriter tunes including both original and a few well chosen covers. For the solo set his weapons of choice are the famed Dobro guitar used with open tuning and a brass slide, a Gibson J45 acoustic guitar in regular tuning and a vintage reissue Washburn Parlor guitar all combined with various keys of harmonica."
- MG Bio

© Copyright 2012 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
Mal Gibson, Colne R&B Festival 2012 © Copyright 2012 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.


Alan:   Mal, here do you come from and what are your first musical memories?

Mal:     I was born and schooled in Oldham after which I lived in and around the area before moving to Salford. My first musical memories are of my parents’ record collection which mainly consisted of Country and Chart compilations. I remember one of my Grandmothers had a really cool 1950’s furniture type record player and quite a few Rock ‘n’ Roll 78’s by Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly and Cliff Richard. She also had a few 45’s of which there was a copy of ‘Telstar’ – if my memory is correct that also appeared to be the last piece of music she had bought and when I first played it on that old mono player I was completely gaga – that moment still haunts me to this day. However, I had an Uncle who was a complete Elvis fanatic and it was his record collection which had the most profound effect on me as a kid. He also introduced me to The Allman Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Gordon Lightfoot, Harry Nielson and many others which opened my ears to a bottomless pit of all kinds of music.    

Alan:   Did you come from a musical family - is there a long musical heritage?

Mal:     My estranged Father who is from Kashmir played Sitar and my Grandmother (a Lancashire lass) on my Mothers side played piano in the Honky Tonk style and Accordian. Another Uncle played a bit of guitar and he once explained to me that he used ‘Open Tuning’ because it was easier! I’m not to sure about the accuracy of that statement now I know what I know! Nobody in the family, myself included, had any formal musical training. 

Alan:   Did you always want to become a musician?

Mal:     No – I originally wanted to be Spiderman or The Incredible Hulk and that is the absolute truth! However, shortly after finding out about Santa Claus I realised maybe I was being a little bit over ambitious. I expect these days I would be considered as having Special Needs! 

Alan:   How did you get started in music?

Mal:     I remember I used to try to sing like Elvis and I’m not embarrassed in the slightest by that admission! My Grandfather bought me a harmonica for Christmas which I drove my Mother mental with and then my aforementioned Uncle gave me an old Egmond Lucky 7 guitar and a book of chord-shapes and that was that – no turning back! 

Alan:   What kind of material were you playing in the early days and who were your heroes?

Mal:     I started with all of the early 1954/55 Elvis recordings from the Sun Studios period. I followed those recordings back to the early blues, bluegrass, gospel and country music – mainly American stuff. I was helped by my schoolmates’ father who introduced me to Son House, Robert Johnson, Sonny Terry, Lightnin’ Hopkins etc on the one hand, and Bob Dylan, Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger, The Carter Family etc on the other. A damn fine education if you ask me! 

Alan:   What first attracted you to the blues?

Mal:     I can honestly say I do not have the slightest idea! I have never really made any attempt to understand why I ever got into it – being subjected to those early Elvis recordings as a kid must have had a lot to do with it.  

Alan:   What does the blues mean to you?

Mal:     The Blues as a genre of music means only the same as any other musical form to me. I can listen to a Charley Patton recording and feel the same way as when I listen to J.S Bach’s Italian Concerto or a new release by someone like Ron Sexmith. There is sometimes an (un)spoken consensus of opinion that the Blues is somehow more emotive than other forms of music but I just don’t agree – any form of music can move you – it’s all about how honest it is. I perceive the term ‘The Blues’ as being a phrase to describe a particular style of what I believe to be Folk Music. 

Alan:   Who has influenced you the most in your music writing and playing?

Mal:     At the start it has to be Elvis and the writers of the songs he recorded. I was really into Elvis’ guitarist, Scotty Moore and Chet Atkins, both of who have a really cool country-blues style. Over the years I have listened to, written, played and recorded everything from Blues to Electronica and from Gypsy Jazz to Punk. I have also done stuff for radio and tv adverts, theatre productions and special effects. My listening choice at the moment is shared between Bob Dylan on the acoustic side and Jimi Hendrix on the electric side, although I still listen to a bit of Grunge, Punk and Garage like Nirvana, The Pixies, Sex Pistols, MC5, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground and new music which is influenced by such bands. I find the ‘influence’ and ‘inspiration’ I get from listening is never ending - new and old music alike. 

Alan:   Looking back on your career so far, what are your fondest memories?

Mal:     There are way too many to list but one that comes to mind is when a friend and myself decided to do a 2 week Busking Tour of England – from Manchester to London and back via various towns and cities with a two man tent, a guitar each, using only the money we made from busking and travelling by hitch hiking and walking. One night we were busking outside a sex shop in Soho at 10.00pm and the Police had our stuff all over the pavement looking for dubious substances. There were loads of Japanese tourists taking pictures – that was quite funny – then they put us on the nearest bus out of the City Centre and into the middle of nowhere! I wish I could have got hold of those photos! 

Alan:   What is your favourite instrument?

Mal:     My first instruments are Voice and Guitar. I also play the Sitar, Drums and Percussion, Chromatic and Diatonic Harmonica, Keyboards, Piano, Double Bass, Electric Bass and I have started teaching myself Violin. So, anything that makes the right noise for the job in hand!   

Alan:   Are there any particular songs that you play that have special meaning to you?

Mal:     Well now, because I mainly perform my own songs, they all have some meaning to me.
I play one that I wrote about my now 7 year old daughter who was 4 at the time and I like doing that one – it often brings a tear to the eyes of the listeners too – Awww! 

Alan:   How did you get involved with running the Acoustic Stage at The Great British R&B Festival in Colne?

Mal:     I played a couple of band gigs on the Fringe about 5 years ago which were arranged by Cliff Stocker. We were chatting about stuff and he asked me if I fancied doing some busking type gigs as part of a promotional event leading up to the festival. I did the first one outside the Boundary Mill in Colne about 4 years ago and was introduced to Alison Goode. We then did a similar thing over in Manchester – myself busking and the festival PR Team handing out flyers. Cliff asked me if I fancied being more involved in the Acoustic Stage after he got to know I also had experience as a Studio and Live Sound Engineer. I have to say working with Alison, Cliff, Sue and all the rest of the festival organisers and staff is completely effortless and most enjoyable. The audiences at the Acoustic Stage are always fantastic. They are friendly, respectful to the Artists performances and bring a huge amount of energy, excitement and appreciation to the proceedings. 

Alan:   You've introduced many artists on the Acoustic Stage at Colne, which have been the highlights and have there been any amusing moments?

Mal:     This year we had a duo called Leeds City Stompers who play a great mash-up of 1920’s  Blues with a 1930’s and 1940’s swing vibe – they went down a storm along with The Cats, a Rockabilly 3 piece from Scotland. Steve Gibbons played a killer set in 2011 – the crowd refused to let him finish and the schedule ended up running a full hour late – I must offer a belated Thank You to everyone for their patience! Also in 2011, while Dave Arcari was doing his thing, a very happy Lady decided to show him what she had beneath her festival T-Shirt and this year a similarly happy Gentleman decided a strip-tease was the best way to show his appreciation for Franny Eubanks – the Security Staff intervened just before the boxer shorts came down! 

Alan:   You perform solo and in a three piece band, The Mal Gibson Project, tell me a little about the other two members of the band.

Mal:     Drummer is Simon Ramus and bass player is Tim Knowles – both great players with differing musical influences. Tim is well into the 1960’s Rhythm n Blues revival thing and British Indie while Simon has a passion for classic rock players like John Bonham and Ginger Baker. When I write the songs I always record a version on my own. Simon and Tim then expand on what I have done. In rehearsal we don’t tell each other what to play. My recordings create the basic structure and sentiment of the song along with the start and finish points then what happens in-between is left to the players. For me there should no fixed boundaries or technical pre-requisites in music – it’s not a discipline in Quantum Mechanics - we play what ‘feels’ right and try to remember the bits that work. [For more on The Mal Gibson Project click here]

Alan:   You have your own record label 'Green Dog Records', how did that come about?

Mal:     I write and record a lot of songs and I don’t restrict myself to the Blues. I realised that this could be a problem because of how everything has to fit into a musical genre these days. I also have my own recording facilities and I felt I needed an exclusive outlet for the recordings with as little obstruction as possible. So, instead of looking for a so called ‘Record Deal’ from a third party, I decided to give one to myself! I set up a Digital Distribution arrangement to officially publish material to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Napster, Google, and Rhapsody. The ‘Green Dog Records’ label was a direct requirement of this arrangement.  

Alan:   I believe you are recording a new album for Tom Doughty, how's it going?

Mal:     We are about to confirm the start date which should be the next couple of weeks. I believe Tom has been working on new stuff for last year and this is what we will be recording. I’m looking forward to the sessions – Tom has a very unique playing style with great tonality. I will also be putting together a compilation of about 10 Artists who have graced the Acoustic Stage at Colne. This will be released via ‘Green Dog Records’ and distributed online for download. It is intended to promote both the Blues Festival and the Artists involved with any proceeds going to a Charity. We plan to make that available at the beginning of December this year (2012).   

Alan:   I believe you have some plans to bring more blues to Manchester, can you tell me a little about it?

Mal:     This is very much in flux at the moment. If I can secure some funding I’m hoping to get the Manchester Jazz Festival to include a Blues Stage in 2013. I can’t say too much at this point as I don’t want to appear to be blowing bubbles but with anything like this there is always a lot of talking to do and detail to deal with beforehand. On a smaller scale I’m looking at a couple of venues in Manchester and Salford to start an acoustic night. I put one on at the local pub about 2 years ago which went very well but the ownership changed. This time I’m hoping to expand on the idea and make it a twice monthly event in a more central and musically orientated venue. I will be branding the nights as ‘Wood & Heart Productions’ and it will embrace all acoustic music of which there be a healthy representation of Blues, Folk, Country and Roots – I will personally ensure that the standard of musicianship, performance and sound will be high so the success of these events will inevitably come down to how well they are supported.   

Alan:   Thank you so much Mal, I really appreciate your time.   


There are numerous recordings available for purchase at iTunes,
Amazon Mp3, Spotify and other online retailers.
For a full list of available recordings, live dates, links and free stuff head for the website below.



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