Peter Blast

Peter Blast
Interview by Christopher Duda

1.  How do you think having your band Degeneration (that was stated as the First Punk Rock Group to perform on the Las Vegas Strip in the ’70′s) brought you to where you are now?

Well for one thing it didn’t really affect it at all, but it got my foot in the door, first show the Sahara, pretty crazy. We were doing Punk Rock but it was heavy on the Rock side with a dirty mouth and a bad attitude, Drugs, Women and Booze.

Punk was great because if you were young, rude and out of control and wanted to swear a lot you now had a reason. I feel we screwed up; we would have been signed in a New York minute if we went to the East Coast not West but I wasn’t paying the bills. I think there were only a hand full of bands that were like us and the rest were freak shows that were called Punk. Freak shows are bands are only hiding behind their lack of talent in most cases. But not all for sure, The Stooges, Pistols, The Dead Boys, The Damned to name a few they rocked and of course Johnny Thunders was fuckin’ Rocker! LAMF!

But anyway at the end of the day instead of trying to kick a Dead Horse, you move on. I was into melody and I was ready to start writing some real songs again, so I was heading back to where I started but it has taken years to do that. All my Solo releases have been Edgy Rock and Blues and even Punk with a few really nice Ballads. Right now I think I have come all the way back to the beginning with a twist. I have worked on my craft and you have to grow to glow. You can be famous for your past but in the end it’s what you are doing now that is always the question at hand.

Writing a different style of rock like “Run Baby Run” in Texas with Mark Andes for “Painting Without Canvas” and remembering when I lived in Mexico and writing a song like “In the Name of Love” is like sweet candy for my ears, a simple song with some nice Accordion and a shared vocal with my Friend and a wonderful vocalist and Violinist Heather Horton. But I also go back to that Folk and Country music that my Dad was drilling into me and with adding in the Blues you pop out a tune like ”I Don’t Drink, I Don’t Smoke, but I Lie” (NOTE: There is a Presentation Slide Show on YouTube). So I go down to Maxwell Street and Michigan Ave in Chicago and it’s like memory lane and I do some slow low down and dirty Chicago / Delta Blues with “I Am The One” in which in the Solos I approach them like the British copying us and using some of those late sixties and early seventy effect’s but jumping back and forth to the original Chicago Blues, It’s still like sneaking away at night as a kid to check out what’s happening on Friday night over there on the other side of the tracks, if ya know what I mean. And all those old Cowboy movie’s I watched as a kid come back into play. So that’s how I came back around to where I’m at today.

2. How influential was country music on you and your musical output???

It only had a small influence on me as a kid because my Father was a trucker and listened to Buck Owns, Johnny Cash and stuff like that. He would force me to play this stuff for his friends and I didn’t like being a monkey on a string. I wanted to be doing The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, stuff like that but the Stones back then were doing Blues covers and some of their own and I was listening to the Blues before I ever heard the Stones. As I got older I found if you put it all together it’s Rockin Blues. Pirate FM Radio was also great.

Today now that I know what I know I can split it all up and you have to remember that when I was a kid there were only a few AM Radio shows that played Pop Rock and it was a lot of Motown and Soul music which I still love. Country music today isn’t what it used to be. I like the Old World Country mixed with Folk and Blues which is the True Real Rock n Roll after you put it all together. So now I can do this and that. He turned me onto many Country Artists that I can now appreciate and incorporate into my music today and I do.

I feel this new release of mine is a bit of it all and that’s why I called it “Painting Without Canvas” it’s a road map of life. I have gone full circle, and I do mean full circle its way before I got into Punk Rock, it’s a very different painting then anything I have released before. SOooo, I hope everybody digs it, but if they can’t get their head’s around it then all I can say is don’t fucking buy it. I’m not saying there is no Rock because there is but it’s not a full blown out rock recording. It’s Rock, Outlaw Country, Country Folk Blues, some Slow Low Down and Dirty Chicago / Delta Blues, Pop Rock with a twang and even some old styled Cowboy songs with a few surprises. The Stones do Rock but also do Country Folk Blues Rock on some of their Best release’s ever and some of those influences come from the Southern states all the way through to California with the likes of Gram Parsons and or even the Flying Burrito Brothers and I feel I have absorbed some of it all and I think it shows on this release.

3. How did you come upon the decision to include – Paint It Black on this release as well? Was it from a different session?

I love that song and there are a few reasons why I included it on “Painting Without Canvas”.

For one thing it’s a completely different lot of musician’s playing on Paint it Black (Gino Martino, Jerry Loy and John Horvath) then the rest of the whole CD. Another reason is that it was originally recorded and released in 2004 and then Re Released in 2009 by two different Distribution Companies, and I think it’s still Downloadable but I’m not sure if you can buy the old CD it was on. Anyway these distribution companies that I’m no longer with never returned anything and are still trying to sell it even after the deal went down, and it’s a joke trying to talk to somebody. So now I have had it Re Mastered for “Painting Without Canvas”, it’s the big screw you to those companies and it really sounds better than ever after being re-mastered with all the new gear that’s available today.

It was a wild time recording that song, the engineer recorded it but right as we started mixing it, Bam!! -the guy has a breakdown. I had to take the song to another studio and mix it with a guy that I didn’t even know but he was known to be very good and he did a great job (Rick Barnes), but it was wild. So yeah it’s different for all those reasons but with the Re Mastering of it today you can really improve upon the whole thing and make it fresher than it ever was. I guess another reason and it’s most likely the best reason is everybody has anyways dug my version and its always being requested but you have to remember it’s not like a lot of the other material so it stands out from the other styles of ”Painting Without Canvas”. It’s in the right place at the right time to create a nice flow from beginning to end. So Then Play it all Over Again on Ten!

4. It seems that each new release of yours becomes stronger than the previous, why do you think this takes place and I notice that your last CD “White Voodoo” showed some new directions but “Painting Without Canvas” goes even farther!

Thanks. If you come up with a track you like and then a few more start to fall into place you already know you’re going to make another record and two years have passed. I would hope that I have picked up on a few new things along the way and apply them. You never stop learning until your dead, there are so many ways of doing things right down to how you pick one style and change your attack for another. One thing I think rings true is that the Blues are in a world of its own, it’s a feeling and you can’t really learn it, either you can feel it and live it or you can’t, but Country is also in a world of its own but you are able learn it. I have been recording with Mark Andes (Bass) from Heart, Spirit, Jo Jo Gunn, Ian McLagan and Firefall and Dan Curry on Drums with Chris Kalmas on a track down in Texas and the sounds are just great. I like it there and it’s nice and close to Mexico so “Painting Without Canvas” I think is in a class of it’s own for me. Change is good, also working with Bob Lizik of Brian Wilson Group and Willy Schwarz of Tom Waits added a lot to a new sound that I’m enjoying. I didn’t even realize I was reinventing myself. I have also brought in Pablo Castro and Fabian Bruno from Peter Blast Power Company in Buenos Aires and friends from Chicago on this one. Tony Christiano, Kenny Harck, and Gino Martino.

“White Voodoo” rocks but your right I started adding in some other styles of rock, I mixed it up.  I recorded some tracks with Ian “Mac”McLagan (R.I.P.) from The Small Faces, Faces, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan / Rick Richards from Izzy Stradlin & The Ju Ju Hounds, Sami Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, Michael Monroe and The NY Dolls / Bob Lizik of the Brian Wilson Group, Rick Price of The Georgia Satellites and with my group in Buenos Aires “Peter Blast Power Company” Gaby Zero and Pablo Castro. Lots of different players who all brought something new to me with their own special sounds to the party and I’m learning from some of the Best! I mean the Blues track “The Devils Puppet” was called one of the Best Blues tracks of 2012. There’s something different going down and being recorded for sure, I’m very lucky. “Painting Without Canvas” could have been part two to White Voodoo; it has less blown out rockers but with more melodic up tempo rock and Poetic Ballads. Some have bigger productions, some don’t and some are front porch material but it’s a pretty big front porch. There’s more Violin, Fiddle, Accordion, Bottleneck, Hammond B 3 and a few other surprises but it is definitely more Americana and it’s from coast to coast so that covers a lot of ground… and dirt (Ha,Ha). I think it started to change with the release of “A Plush Horse…with a Monkey on a String”. I had Steve Conte play on three tracks, one being “Butterflies & Damsels in Distress which was in the movie Sugar Boxx but my favorites may be Silhouettes in the Sun and If Only I had a Crystal Ball which was with Bob Lizik. Crystal Ball was a bit of a Middle Eastern feel. Some tracks on Painting Without Canvas have no Drums at all and you don’t even miss them.

5.  You say you don’t drink and don’t smoke but you lie. Is that just a lie in itself because you apparently did both! What is the actual story behind this song?

Oh yeah I have done a lot of both and more. Sometimes you lie about it just to keep peace in the house. Everybody knows the truth but you. Those days are long gone for me, but I don’t think you’re much of a liar if you’re sitting there admitting it to someone, I call that a pretty honest liar.  Everybody knows somebody that has been there and has done it.  People can relate to it, I mean you can even lie to yourself about it. So that is the inspiration of the song, that everybody knows someone who has been there maybe even them self’s, people are good at lying but it’s a good thing to be honest and ask to be excepted for whom you are. You don’t have to lie if people did that but they don’t. They should take a good look in the mirror and tell me what do they see when they look in that mirror? A Saint? I don’t think so, everybody lie’s and if you say you don’t well then there’s one true liar. I think every family in America knows somebody in their own family or another that face’s this kind of problem every day… Except me for whom I am or leave isn’t that the answer? You could always stop what you’re doing and that can change everything but you have to do it for yourself not others. The track “I Don’t Drink, I Don’t Smoke, but I Lie” is food for thought. Everybody should rethink their own lives before pointing fingers at others because maybe you’re no better. Remember that misery loves company and we do have major problems with drug abuse and telling the truth in this Country and other Countries as well, we’re all sinners. But anyway I had a slide show made for this song and it’s up on YouTube now.

I don’t think you ever stop soul searching unless you’re already too far gone. I think the song reflects on a topic that nobody wants to talk about but they should. I’m smart enough to know that I’m going to do my share time in Purgatory and I won’t be alone, trust me. If you are into Country, Folk, Blues, Rock I think you’re going to dig this one because everybody gets the Blues sometimes.

6. I heard through the grapevine that you are not well? Does this rumor hold any weight or in fact is it based on gossip??

Yeah its funny how rumor’s and Gossip make the world go round. Well the rumors are true in this case, so I guess everybody can now gossip about it. I’ll start by telling you that I’m not finished by any means and there will be more music to come but life has taken a turn on me.

Some people go Boo Woo why me, I say why not. Here’s the whole story so the truth is known. I was on the East Coast shooting a video and not feeling well at all, I thought I was just tired from running around. I got home and felt just fine, so I flew to Austin Texas and recorded the last song for my new CD “Painting Without Canvas” with Mark Andes “Run Baby Run”. We had a Blast with no problems at all but when I flew home after about a week I started feeling bad again and it wasn’t from being tired so it was off to see a Doctor. They ran every test on earth and kept me there for three days. The Doctor finally shows up shaking his head and I’m thinking well this isn’t cool and he says “I don’t know how you have been singing, playing guitar and jumping around and traveling without any notice before now”. So he tells me that for the past ten years I have had a severe case of Emphysema. I never knew because my Lungs are huge and it is in the bottom of my Lungs. Emphysema won’t kill you but the side effects will and they are terrible, these are things people don’t know anything about unless you have it. You see there are holes in my inner Lungs and smoking since I was ten didn’t help any of course but I am a pot smoker too, they made smoking cool in the movies.

I’m thrilled to have gotten this new release finished including the art work and all before the bad news hit me but I’m told it will totally catch up with me if I don’t change everything in my life… fat chance of that ya know? I have always said “Live Life, Don’t Watch” and if I’m going to drop well so be it. You see Emphysema is holes in your inner Lungs and the oxygen goes into the holes when you need it in your blood stream, I’m lacking that so anything can happen at any time, this could be my last full length release but I doubt it. I’ve already recorded a few new songs for a follow up to “Painting Without Canvas” in that new style of music I’m doing.

I’m recording and everything is going great and if it gets worse I’ll at least have another EP to release. If there is life after death that will be it before I take that walk into a new dimension. Death is only a new beginning.

Everybody does it at some point in time but for now I’m working as hard as ever. I’ve had so many of my dreams come true and anything more than that is a Blessing. As a kid I wanted to write a song and make a record, well I’ve done much more than that and even have worked with lots of Legends that I listened to when I was younger, what more can you ask for. That’s a Blessing in itself, so I’m taking it all one day at a time but I have a long life line unless I’m looking at the wrong hand (Laughs). I’ve been called a Ghost of an old soul that isn’t at rest yet with stories of past and present and that’s my approach with “Painting Without Canvas”.

I talk with a Priest everyday at St. Peter’s Church in Downtown Chicago to find they opened the same year I was born and their very first Mass was on my Birthday, I think that’s some kind of a sign of the seen and unseen that’s brought me closer to the light. I knew I was named after the Church but now I know why. If worse comes to worse at least I know that I’m going back home. Anyway since getting sick I’ve already recorded five new songs and a spoken word poem. Some really nice and some not so.

7. Would stepping back from the forefront because of the side effects from your illness be a possibility? Would you ever consider writing and playing guitar for another band?

I have often thought of only being a Guitarist for another group and writing the material. It’s a piece of cake next to being the front man singer guitarist. I run around from one end of a stage to the other singing and playing for an hour or two it’s not an easy gig, we just make it look that way it’s called entertainment. Tell me could you do that? Most likely no. So I think just playing and writing the songs would be fun that would be a breeze to do. I can’t imagine not having to put everything together myself it’s always been that way ever since I was around fourteen, maybe even before that. I used to do shows in a garage and charge fifty cents to get in. But by fourteen I was performing in Chicago taverns.

Nobody knows about the feeling of the side effects of Emphysema including myself. They come and go and it can change from one day to the next. You can feel bad during the day and great at night so just playing would be cool and workable but I’m not there yet, not even close. You have to get that oxygen in your blood to carry on or things get strange. Your voice can come and go; you can get so dizzy you just have to sit down before you fall over. I can say that it’s hard to focus when that happens and when you know it’s happening it is a drag. If you didn’t know it, it wouldn’t bother you but you do know and that’s a creepy feeling plus you can feel real shaky inside but your hands are steady as a rock, the med’s do that. Hopefully it will only stay the way it is and I can roll with it. I’m a survivor, a back alley street fighter and you can lose a few battles but the war isn’t over. My new material on “Painting Without Canvas” is now released and I still have more music recorded. I’m also in the studio now recording new material for a future release. Nope this war isn’t over yet, not even close.

8. Do you approach songwriting differently now that you have an illness?

No not really if there’s a story there’s a song to be had. I may be ill but I’m not blind to what’s going on around me. I’m in the studio recording. I’m learning the do’s and don’ts so I can keep going on with my career. Sometimes you just know if you’re truly in tune with yourself and I am. I’m not done by any means. I’m too mean to give in, I’ve been called the Devil and I’ve been called an Angel in a Devil’s costume. I write from both sides I guess because I’m only human unless I am a Ghost running around but I think not. I Bleed