"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
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
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
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
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
Alan: Who has influenced you the most in your music writing and
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
Alan: Looking back on your career so far, what are your fondest
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
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
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
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.
Blues Interviews List
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