Friday, July 7, 2017

Conversing With The Blues ~~ Jason Ricci Interview

Photo by Alan Grossman used by permission
A Jason Ricci performance is a visceral experience. Wiry and restless with a wild shock of hair, he’s almost skinny enough to hide behind a mic stand, but Ricci is not prone to hiding anywhere but in plain sight.  
I was familiar with his work through a couple of albums and through his presence on YouTube. When EllerSoul Records announced they had signed him to record for them, I was excited as I knew it would be a wild ride, and I was not disappointed by what I heard. Approved By Snakes was an album that came off like a scream in a library. 
He recorded the album over a couple of blistering days here in Richmond, bringing up his players from New Orleans. Once they were through, Ricci and The Bad Kind came to my favorite barbecue joint in the city and on a postage-stamp-sized stage near the Coke machine, they lit up the town like it’s rarely been lit up before.
We heard most of the album live that night, and it pretty much blew the roof off the joint. Rarely pausing for longer than it took to vape a couple of puffs, he ran through his repertoire and told a few stories from his life – those things that brought him to this point.
I was fortunate enough to hang out with him a little before and after the show. I found him to be a passionate and articulate man who was very open about what he’s gone through in his life. We made plans to conduct this interview, and Ricci graciously took the time to answer my questions.
So, without further ado, let’s see what’s on Jason Ricci’s mind.
Porter: Welcome back Jason. Looks like your latest album, Approved By Snakes, is your first new solo album since 2009’s Done With The Devil. What have you been up to in the meantime?
Ricci: Well, I went back to jail in Indiana for little under a year in 2011, prior to that I was on and off the streets in New Orleans and getting in trouble with the law and other people down here in NOLA... You know then I got out, I was on probation, I wasn't allowed to tour or even be in bars for a few years... Finally my probation officer started to trust me a bit. Even though I got out of jail in 2011 I didn't get sober until 2013 and that was really dangerous on probation because I had 12 years of Prison time hanging over my head. If I messed up or got caught messing up and you know, I was messing up daily, mostly with booze but you know sometimes other stuff, I was going to have to real prison for the whole bit... So, in 2013 I had a bad run, shooting meth, I blacked out for two weeks. I don't remember any of it... What I do remember didn't happen and everything that did happen I don't recall at all or is in shattered splinters of nonsense. I pretty much just woke up around a few people I considered quite a bit lower class than me and they were looking at me like: "YOU got to go bro..." So that was pretty humbling... I ended up in the hospital, with the beginning stages of kidney failure. I was physically withdrawing from benzodiazepines, heroin and booze but believe it or not the main drug on that particular run was meth... Meth isn't a regular thing for me historically, but it's big in Hoosier country so you know, when in Rome and all that... I was really super lucky I didn't die or kill someone...I did a lot of dumb shit on that run... I haven't had a reason to pick up any kind of a drink or a drug again since that first sober day in August of 2013.

After getting sober for like a year or so, I did a record with JJ Appleton and Tim Lefebvre called Dirty Memory. I still tour a few times a year with that outfit, all acoustic, just like the record, it's a lot of fun playing stripped down like that and harder than people think in different ways. JJ is amazing and has been a real positive force in my life both personally and musically. He's wicked smart and knows stuff too...

Then I got that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gig through Dan Aykroyd, Paul Shaffer and Tina Terry in 2015 with Zak Brown and Tom Morello and with The Paul Shaffer Orchestra. That was on HBO for almost 13 million viewers and I was hanging with McCartney, Joan Jett, Steve Cropper, Green Day, Stevie Wonder; all these heavy cats were just watching me play... It was crazy and the reason for being there was the best reason ever, which was to induct The Paul Butterfield Blues Band into the Hall. I tried to talk to Elvin Bishop but got nervous and was probably pretty dumb... Willie Weeks and I were not allowed into this after party because they didn't know who we were. I think Miley Cyrus has a crush on me… It was a cool gig. My Wife was there with my Step Mom Tania and we had a ball. That was definitely the coolest gig I ever did.

After that Tina Terry really went to work for The Bad Kind and we did a couple hundred dates a year all over here and Europe until we went in to record Approved by Snakes for EllerSoul.
Porter: You really take some chances on Snakes, dealing with adult themes (prostitution and drug abuse among others), and while Blues Music has a long history of dealing with dark subjects, have you experienced any backlash from your choices?
Ricci: Yeah totally. I'm way more dangerous sober than on dope, at least I have a bigger mouth sober. I think most the blues world treats me pretty damn awesome considering everything and puts up with a lot of my shit. It's very cool, they have my back most of the time. I'm still just a kid that has literally grown up on these festivals, stages, and in this industry. They've seen it since 1995 when I was 20 and playing the King Biscuit Festival.

Blues may have HAD that dark history lyrically, but these days there are some terrified people that don't seem to know or want to know about any of that. I'm not talking about most the fans, all you have to do with them is look them in the eyes when you sing and they'll see your whole life. It's beautiful. I'm talking about a few people in power that like their lyrical mediocrity served safe, boring, bland and full of bullshit. Some of the artists just keep it real safe out of fear for their jobs or because they have nothing to really say or sing about. 
Most of the "backlash" I've gotten, I'll never even know about, you know, because these people, who are afraid to hire me are also afraid to say why. That’s cool it's their gig and their right to not have my bold, queer, ass up there singing about dope whores and the demons and stuff. You know that's very cool with me. I really don't want to be quiet about who I am in MY music. It's cool with me if you don't book me if you’re afraid of that content. The sad part is more people like me would sell more seats and bring in a younger audience so they're only killing themselves trying to protect themselves. It's cool though, like I said it's their right totally, their festivals, clubs, labels, whatever...
I have never done or written anything for publicity and not NOT for it either. I never once thought what people would think hearing these songs when I wrote them in jail and in crack houses because I never thought once I'd live long enough to perform or record them... I don't really care if one single record sells. I don't even really care all that much about the music industry, much less the current blues music industry. That’s not my job to care about that. I'm making art and being me. I'm just happy and grateful to be alive and be around, funny, brave, strong, loving, fearless people every day. 
Eventually I came to a place where I just wanted to live, that’s all, that was the only goal, everything after that is butter on a biscuit, so screw anyone who's scared or offended by my totally not shocking (to me) music. So, making a record and touring and all, that's all just a huge added bonus. I wasn't trying to make anything for anybody besides me. That music was written just for me in jail cells and on the floor of crack houses for no other reason than just to get it out on paper. I made the music that had to be made for me, I wrote about my life. It's not there to offend anybody. I was actually pretty offended when all that stuff happened to me! I am not sorry or scared of the few big babies that don't know the history of what blues music is really about. You don't have to like my music and I would never expect everyone to like it but it does indeed surprise me that people think these topics are "new" or “brave” in the blues? I don't know where these historians are getting their history from, but it ain't from Howlin' Wolf, Muddy, Son House, Fred McDowell, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Little Walter or damn near any of them cats! Go ahead and hate on my stuff, that helps me sell records more than some benign, lackluster, misspelled review does. No one can ever say truthfully, that those lyrics I wrote are insincere because there's a lot of people, cops, judges, mental institutions, family members, booking agents, managers, musicians and more that bore unfortunate witness to all my recklessness, sickness, destruction, crime and general selfish garbage. These are my blues you don't have to get it and you can call it anything you want. I don't care if it doesn't fit into a mold that makes it easier to fit into a divider that some record store going out of business has or a roster spot on a festival. I just make the music.
BACKLASH: The first publicist we had for this record was pretty scared of all that stuff also, even though ironically and historically that’s the stuff that gets good publicity, if you live through it or even if you don't I guess... But see, this publicist wasn't interested in helping me generate actual publicity, he was interested in keeping himself safe and in handing me a ton of generic obscure, silly reviews in mass quantities to satisfy the people paying him. He wasn't working for me or for real publicity. He was working for himself, filling a quota with a bunch of duds. He sent my CDs to anyone and everyone. A few of the recipients were not even real writers, not even hobbyists and ended up pirating our CD and putting it out there for free downloads. This Publicist just piled me up with all these sophomoric reviews that were poorly written with misspelled words and no attention to grammar or syntax, that no one would really even want to read, much more be affected by if they did, just so he could say he did his job to the artists and labels that pay him. Never once did he try to hit an LGBT publication or any publication that might help me in five years or so. He ignored all my emails asking the writers politely to google me first or don’t bother. Then he accidentally sent me an email that had two weeks of correspondence between him and this other guy. I wasn't supposed to see all that stuff. It was supposed to be private. Of course, I read it all, it was pretty revealing, pretty condescending and fear based stuff... You know, basically how frightened he is of subjects like jail, homosexuality, bisexuality, drugs, cuss words and all the stuff the record - and me - are all about. He was only worried it would reflect negatively on him and not even how the public might take it. There was some stuff in there about how I needed to come off more grateful to my peers and such... I was pretty dumbfounded by it. I've always spoken very highly of everyone who has come before me. I was amazed he was scared of the “gay stuff,” the “jail stuff,” and all the kind of real life experience stuff because that stuff is gold to the press. Anyway, that publicist finally quit because I made fun of a bad interview on Facebook simply by publishing it and saying look at this bullshit, so that was perfect. I don't care about getting a thousand reviews where they ask me: "Where I'm from," instead of: "What was it like growing up in Maine?"  It takes five minutes to google someone. If the reviewer or interviewer shows no interest in me, how in hell are his readers supposed to care about me? Damn…at least if you’re a writer, show some interest in your own craft, if not the artist's. Not Spell checking, or working on your own grammar, context, and syntax, that’s not unlike my band not tuning up before a recording! Just basic respect for the reader, the publication, yourself and the artist. You know I'm not desperate for attention despite what some may think and accuse me of. I do what I do, truly because I only care about my family, friends and being true to myself and my own art. I don't need depend on other industry people validating me that have validated some pretty mediocre music. Of course, it rocks when they get it or dig it.

I'm not proud of most of my past but I'm not ashamed either, it's real, it's what happened. I always openly acknowledge my past because awareness about addiction, homelessness, prostitution, sexuality, mental illness etc. needs to be raised. The stigmatization of people who find themselves in that shape needs to stop. Martin Luther King Jr said, “it’s not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends."  I don't want my people out there struggling to feel all alone or hopeless. The story needs to be told, from the street, the way it happened and with the language of the street. It's not meant to shock or alienate anyone, it's meant to be there so other people who have been there can know that I was REALLY there. There's all kinds of lyrics on Approved By Snakes only crack heads and junkies around New Orleans or the South will get. 
Porter: Can you take me through your process on a few of the new songs? Let’s start with My True Love Is A Dope Whore
Ricci: I wrote this because in that Indiana jail all the guys there used that term "Dope Whore" a lot... I knew if I tried to tell them about the girl I was in love with, they'd call her that...I didn't want her to be called that because I did and still do really love her...but you know, they were right, that's what we were, what she and I were doing: selling our bodies to men for dope. We were dope whores no matter what you call it. So, like all things bad/negative about me I tried to own it first, so no one could use it against me and hurt her or me with it. So, I wrote that song because I love her and that shit was true, and damn, I was going to say it first about her and about myself before you could call me or her that... You know the rest of it's just about how awful it is out there on the street and how some of these dealers and people in positions of power just groom you to do whatever they want. It's a systematic and very deliberate process. They take their time doing it. They call it "running a program." It made me really truly hate someone like I had never had before. I fantasized for years about killing him and a few others before God removed that pain from me. "They fooled me but they schooled me," as Big Bad Smitty use to say.
Porter: Demon Lover

 That’s about the same French woman I met here in New Orleans or really about our love affair with heroin and crack. The dope is the Demon in the song but combining that dope with real love for a that was a whole other drug. I suppose I was a Demon Lover too, to her...maybe not, she's tougher than me and French.
Porter: Terrors Of Nightlife

 That’s a Dax Riggs song so I can't definitively say its meaning. I'd love to hear what Dax says about it. To me it's about the balance of good and evil and an addicts cry for the non-addict to understand WHY we do this dumb shit...just how beautiful getting loaded can be even though it's totally destructive.

 I’m Too Strong For You

 That one’s just a funny tune...Like making fun of myself and my own ridiculous ego and some of the absurd thoughts I have...Some people actually think I'm being serious...Playing it live it's way better. Sometimes I talk about a mountain lion named "Puma Thurman" and falling in love with her and booty calls coming from the big cat den at 3:00 am and stuff...On any given night I'll call out: John Popper, Kim Wilson, Mark Hummel, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Rush, Nick Moss or Victor Wainwright or ANYONE I really like and challenge them and try to act like I'm too strong for them, especially if they are in the audience or backstage... It's all a joke but you know it's kind of not also because like everyone knows I'm wicked cool.
Photo By Anita Schlank
Porter: You’ve been very upfront about some of the difficulties you’ve faced in your life. When a person faces adversity like that, they find out who their friends are. Who has stood by you during those times?

That's the truth John. My Mother of course, my Brother, my Wife, my Wife's Mother Tania Karnofsky, Nick Moss, all the people in the 12-step programs around Bloomington, Indiana and a few in New Orleans and one in California they really did a ton to get me well. Tina Terry, my booking agent from back in the Piedmont days, stood by me and when I was really ready we got to work.... She
 was very cool and I'll always love her for that. I wanted to make it up to her now after what I put her and Steve Hecht through while I was on that agency.
Porter: You seem to be a pretty upfront guy about your private life. Have you experienced much backlash from your honesty? Has the LGBT community given you any support?

Honestly, I’ve had no real support at all from the LGBT world. That could change maybe, but I'd be surprised especially since now I married a woman. I've played a few Pride festivals back in the day but I think gay men are scared of drum sets or something (joke). Blues and Blues rock or even plain old Rock and Roll is not really popular with gay, bi or queer men, at least not openly. Lesbians seem to love it, trans people seem to like roots stuff better too, in general. You know there's this whole "gay" identity thing I felt pressured to adopt to be accepted there. The whole feminine, stylish, house decorating queen thing. I felt not only pressured by gay folks alone but also by the whole "Will and Grace," "Mickey Mouse," sexless, cute, "Queer Eye" and "TV gay" straight world as well. I'm not willing to do that. I didn't feel accepted in the straight community OR the gay community because I wanted to be me, not "gay me" or "straight me" or "bi-Jason" or any of that. I certainly wasn't going to be a shallow, materialistic hair burning queen any more than I was going to be a big tough, macho, straight guy either... Those are both sides of me of course, that are in there but there only expressions of me, not my identity, and have nothing to do with my sexual preference. I like wearing cute and flamboyant clothes, even girl clothes and make up when I can get away with it; I also like football and yelling at the TV in a Saints Jersey. I've also been openly critical of the gay scene and of the Pride movement in general and in print because I want to see a more diverse representation of us shown to the public. That's why it bothers me that some of the "straight" acting closeted blues artists and other professionals are still not out. It’s their decision, not mine, but it makes it harder for those of us being real about it, especially when I know a few of these fellas could be powerful leaders and real forces for positive change. I do like the leather scene/fetish, the bear scene, the twinks all that stuff; it's fun stuff but I KNOW there are a ton of queers out there that don't fit any of those molds that feel like they have to adopt one of those identities and that's lonely for them. We're plumbers, doctors, lawyers, pro athletes, politicians, piano and harmonica players too not just hair dressers, florists and drag queens. Some of us talk like rednecks and vote Republican. I just want to see more gay people not giving into adopting some collective identity that’s not them, if it's indeed it's really not them, just for the purpose of feeling part of having a defense mechanism and the comfort of fitting into a larger group. It’s a tough road full of fine lines that I have stumbled all over myself. I’m guilty of almost all the shit that I see others doing that makes me mad.

Again, you know the blues world's been pretty cool with me on this specific subject. Naturally I've heard chatter from the boy's club back stage a time or two but that’s cool, it's 2017, this shit is a non-issue these days and they're dinosaurs which is cool, I'm a dinosaur on some subjects too. Other than Candye Kane, Gaye Adegbalola, Earl Thomas and now Sean Carney no one else was or really is out. I know a bunch of blues artists in the closet. It's sad. Gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender and queer people sell more than the damn straight people these days. Hopefully some of the closeted guys and gals hurting right now will realize they have nothing to lose at all and just come out and be free. When I came out a whole world opened up to me, not just being out about my sexuality but about everything I was suppressing. You know I wasn't trying to be "me" before, I was trying to be "who I thought people wanted me to be"... It was painful, fake and artistically suffocating. I still fight that behavior. After coming out in 2002 I was suddenly free to also be out about my love for punk music, rock and roll everything. I'm done hiding me and what I dig, who I am or was, I don't care who doesn't like it. I have to lay my head on my pillow at night and try and sleep.

Coming out AGAIN as bisexual/queer has been even harder than just being "gay" in some ways... People on both sides (Gay/straight) understand one or the other, a lot easier than they get being attracted to both genders. People ask me all the time: "Are you still attracted to men now that you’re in love with a woman?" Yes, of course I am... That doesn't go away... Then they ask me: "Do I still sleep with men?" I tell them that I'm no more likely to cheat on my wife with a man than she is, or a straight man is likely to chat on his wife with another woman... Bisexuality does not mean I or anyone can't be monogamous. That seems dumb to even write but were all still pretty backwards these days and hung up on titles, rolls and stuff. It's getting better because we’re talking about it more.
Porter: On another subject, you recently got married. Mazel tov. How has that changed things in your life?

 Thanks Mr. Porter!! We (Kaitlin Dibble and I) are just happier, more content and very settled after tying the knot. The search is over and we’re committed to working at it till we die. I really love her she's really smart, hot and funny. She's also a great songwriter and singer. Ike Reilly really likes her music and singing and you don't fine many songwriters better than him. Some other people, including Ike and I, are going to be helping her with working and recording more next year. She'll be on some of my dates this year as well. People have been asking for her more and more often.

Publicly, it's made things easier. Some people are definitely happier that I HAPPENED to marry a woman. That’s sad. I had folks actually say to me: "Jason, I'm so glad you married a woman"... I'd be lying if I said it wasn't easier having the surface facade of heterosexuality because it is. I simply get treated better now that people know I'm sleeping with a woman. Additionally, some gay friends of mine and people feel like I let them down or switched teams or this is a phase and don't talk to me anymore.  I like and love Kaitlin Dibble even though she doesn't have a penis. I also really liked and loved my ex-boyfriend Brady's that simple. I make this joke sometimes and tell people that when they legalized Gay Marriage, I got bored and married a woman. I definitely enjoy shaking things up when it's real and warranted.
Photo By Anita Schlank
Porter: You are now signed to EllerSoul Records, a fine label. [Total transparency, EllerSoul was an underwriter at one time for the show I co-host on WCVE-FM, Time For The Blues.]  How have you liked being on a good, but smaller label?

 Those guys, Wat Ellerson and Little Ronnie [Owens] have been really great to me. They have had to jump on this crazy bi-polar, dark, dirty, messy Moon Cat train and ride. They’ve had to put up with interviews like this one and have dealt with my self-righteous often arrogant ass very kindly and gracefully. The Bad Kind and I are pretty uncompromising guys. We have a very clear vision of what we are trying to be about and what we're not. We really don't care what anyone thinks. EllerSoul being a label that deals with Traditional Blues and really straight up stuff like that...well, this band is a huge departure for them and I applaud them and owe them a lot for taking this ride. For us being on the same label With Anson Funderburgh, Charlie Baty, Billy Wirtz, and The Nighthawks is a real honor...We love those guys. John Lisi worships Anson and Charlie and so do I... We're stoked EllerSoul called us... Kurt Crandall, Anson, Charlie and Mark Hummel helped make it happen and vouched for me. The label has stood behind me when it was tough in more than a few circumstances already, you know about the one I talked about above. I've been a pain in the ass and am conditioned to naturally operate from a defiant, defensive place and they've been more than fair so far with me when I maybe wasn’t all that fair. It doesn't hurt that the band is hot and selling a ton of records right now either. 
Porter: You spent some time in your early blues career with the likes of Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. How did they influence your development?

 First of all, imagine being a black person with all that comes with that in this country and then meeting an arrogant, white, know it all, drug addicted kid on the street in Memphis and then bringing him into your home, around your people and giving him a job, a room in your house, food and sharing your life with him just because he plays harmonica kind of good. Imagine that? Imagine then dealing with all the cultural differences I must have brought into that home, all decades of white oppression I must have inadvertently represented, just by being white not to mention some of my white, entitled, ingrained bullshit I didn't even know I had. Imagine that? David Kimbrough did all that and more for me. That's love, forgiveness, non-judgement and really God's love working. I'm very lucky. I learned a lot and I'm sure I missed some important shit too.

Those guys taught me to let all that white/black "I wanna be black", I wanna be "REAL blues" shit go. Let it go. Be you, Jason. David Kimbrough, Junior’s oldest son taught me all that stuff and that whole world and ALL the people there in Potts Camp, Senatobia and Holly Springs, Mississippi taught me that lesson, over and over until it finally started to sink in a little. It's still sinking in. Again, I was trying to be who I thought they and you and everyone wanted me to be...I can only be me I learned and am learning...Everyone else is already taken.

Musically those dudes are just hard core, dark, one chord stuff about real shit. That’s what I latched onto. I owe David, RL and Junior more than I can ever repay them and they know it. I was treated like family, taken out of crack houses in Memphis, given a home, food, a job, exposed to their lives and culture...I'm a white kid from Maine...There's nothing wrong with that, I had to learn that, I didn't want to be me. They were interested in who I really AM not some bullshit I made up to try and be "one of them." That "real blues man" act got old quick and almost got me killed a few times down there. It was bullshit. When I see white performers on stage now trying to talk black it turns my stomach. I find it racist and insulting to real black culture and history, even from where I sit. I can’t imagine how comical and enraging it must be for people of color. Mathew Skollar has a song called: "Blues Immigrant,” that’s what us white people really are... We’re damn tourists in this music. Blues music was and IS part of the African American/Black experience. That's THEIR culture, their slang, their food, their clothes, their music; it's in everything they do especially here in Mississippi and Louisiana but elsewhere too, of course. For white people to co-opt all of that is not only fake and insincere it's also insulting to the people of whom it really belongs too. It's not yours, white people, at least not most white people, Kenny Brown is different. If you’re white and you really love Blues music and black culture bring your OWN to it! It's ok to be influenced by blues and black culture but be you, that’s what it's supposed to be about anyway. That’s what I learned from the good and bad people of North Mississippi.
Porter: How do you see the Blues changing and evolving?
Ricci: Not much. A few bands are trying. Mostly it's dying, it's pretty much over already. I really like traditional blues bands, I like hearing this stuff played that way. I don't want anyone to think I don't support and dig traditional artists, I practically worship those guys and definitely DID worship them in my younger years. Those guys have a point in that there are a lot of young rockers who haven't done their homework. If you’re going to add to this music you better know what came before first. Shit, it may be dying because of me and others rockers like me messing it up, but we’re too few to cause any real damage. Not like the damage caused by white guys singing about "choo choo toys" in Easter egg colored suits and talking with some Driving Miss Daisy 1920s black accent. That's what young people don't dig no matter how cool the music is. They want something sincere right or wrong. They aren’t real. Most white Blues players today, regardless of whether they are modern or traditional are just not bringing anything personal and real to the people. Again, there are a handful of exceptions.

I truly believe the main reason it's dying or not evolving has nothing to do with what the actual music or artists are really playing (12-bar, traditional, rock, etc.). I think it's dying because people are rarely singing about real life right now anymore. People, especially younger people, need to hear something real in the lyrics. This whole: "Is it blues" thing is a largely white, middle/upper middle-class construct. Sugar Blue, Kenny Neal, Selwyn Birchwood, Omar Coleman, Monk Boudreaux, Billy Branch, Vasti Jackson, Walter Washington, Alvin Young Blood Heart, Bobby Rush, Eddie Cotton and many other black musicians have more real blues pedigrees than any of those white idiots/experts trying to decide on Facebook and at award ceremonies what blues is and isn't. It makes me furious when those heavy cats are overlooked, and they are a lot of the time. I've gotten to spend some quality time with Billy Branch being on the "Harmonicon" gig (Billy, Sugar Blue, me). Billie's music and recordings are strong, smart, political, articulate, deep, sincere and have great musicians playing great funky jams on it. He played with Muddy Waters, he's a multiple Grammy nominated artist, he lives in Chicago, this is his people's music... What more do you want for “real Blues?” Why and how is this artist and others like him ignored?  Racism. Racism is alive and well in the blues today and black players get snubbed all the time and their knowledge, wisdom and history, which is ALL OVER their music, is basically simply ignored and not considered or discussed. I have even heard white musicians complaining that Black players get special breaks. That’s not what I see at all almost anywhere.  All those guys I listed are not huge stars, they are free thinkers, total bad asses and complete professionals and are due WAY more credit than they get. They sing and play about real shit any way they want to. I am prouder to have those virtues and principles in common with them than skin color these days and I learned that from those guys not just how to play behind the beat. Bobby Rush winning the Grammy was a big moment for all of us this year. 
Porter: Will you be touring to support Approved By Snakes?

 I already am, got a ton of dates on
Porter: You’ve been living in New Orleans for a while now. Does the city and the musicians within it challenge you to perform at a higher level? What have been some of your experiences playing with those musicians?
Photo by Anita Schlank
Ricci: Just getting use to drums and bass/tuba here is the thing. Music here is more rhythmically evolved than the rest of the U.S.. There is more observance of the space between beats. I think you just need to be around it rather than try and learn it. My own theory is that it partially comes from the imperfect nature of the tuba... You know how when you blow that thing the note comes out a fraction of a second later...I think that the drummers here just got use to adjusting to those bottom notes dropping early and late and that might be why this City swings so hard. It's way more about that stuff here than harmony and chords. My main heroes here are: Khris Royal, Johnny Vidacovich, Walter Washington, Dumpstafunk, The Hot 8 Brass band and on and on...I've only had the courage to talk and play with Khris since he's kinda my favorite and closer to my age. I still get nervous seeing and hearing him, even though that’s dumb, he's chill. I'm dumb. Khris Royal is on the last song on the record. I got to be on one of Monk Boudreaux's records which is also an amazing honor!
Porter: Okay, and just because I’m a harp player – what type of harmonicas do you like to play? Are they straight out of the box or do you modify them?

 I play Suzuki "Manjis" or Suzuki "Olives" modified by Joe Spiers, or with parts from Tom Halchak at Blue Moon Harmonicas or I modify/customize them myself.
Porter: You put on a great show at Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue and you made a lot of fans that night. Will you be coming back to Richmond anytime soon?
Ricci: Hope to see you 9/29/17 at Buz & Ned’s Real BBQ in Richmond and on 9/30/17 at The Spot On Kirk in Roanoke, VA.
Porter: How was your experience recording in Richmond?
Ricci: Pretty damn cool but the only thing better than leaving New Orleans is coming back. Next one's happening here in the Crescent City where it belongs.
Porter: Is it true that you have been offering harmonica lessons online? If so, how does a potential student find you?

 I have been doing this for about 7 years now actually. I started when I first got out of jail and was put on probation and wasn't allowed to work in bars. Over the years it's become a pretty cool thing and a nice extra means of income. I'm not doing as much these days but still have a dozen or so regular guys when I'm off the road... People who are really serious can reach me through my email: 
Porter: Recently you were voted as delivering the Top Harmonica Rock Song, for your rendition of Lou Reed’s Classic Take A Walk On The Wild Side. You beat out the likes of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and John Popper. How does that make you feel considering the company you are now in?

 It's pretty cool because it's a big website: that normally features just huge, famous rock bands and stuff. Maybe the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gig I did and that record that won the Grammy with Johnny Winter are paying off a bit in the mainstream, maybe it's just dumb luck... Honestly, in the end, I don't put too much stock in those lists, contests, awards or any of those kinds of things. I've been listed on a few and won a few I probably didn't deserve and have been left off from a few I probably should have been included on. They are cool when you make them and I'm really grateful to the writer Fred Marion and Rock nuts for adding the little guy at the number one spot. It got a ton of attention on social media, so that’s real cool and useful. You know someone always gets left off those things, I just happened to get lucky this time!
Porter: Finally, one that I always wonder about with creative people, what is the philosophy that guides your life and your art?

 I'll give you three quotes:

1.) "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will."-Aleister Crowley

2.) "The heart has its reason's which reason knows nothing about:"- Blaise Pascal

3.) "Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that and no other shall say nay. For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.'' -Aleister Crowley
So, there he is. Outspoken, brash, but very honest with his words and with his music. Approved By Snakes is a welcome return for Jason Ricci and The Band Kind. He is not your grandfather’s blues, and he might not even be your blues, but he’s a fresh approach to the genre that is bringing new fans to the music.
Be sure to see where Ricci and Company will be playing., and check him out for yourself. If he’s playing anywhere near you, be sure to go see him, because you are in for a wild night!

1 comment:

  1. Great interview. Found out some things about that 2012 2013 interlude that I didn't know before. I love that list of 25 that you posted but I didn't even know you were on it because I went from the bottom to the top listening to everything. Pleasant surprise to see you in the number one slot, brother!