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Home arrow eZine arrow Interview with Vasco da Blues
Interview with Vasco da Blues PDF Print E-mail

(For the Belgium Blues Network. Bobtjes Blues Pages is a popular Belgian non-profit making site dedicated to the promotion and preservation of independent national and international Blues Artists. Read the full interview and comments under 'Interviews' on Bobtjes site.)

VASCO DA BLUES:  A "Salty Dog" is slang for an experienced sailor (in the US Marines & Navy), a cocktail made with vodka or gin and grapefruit juice, a traditional folk song and an album made by Procul Harum in 1969. Which one of these combines with you and who is the man behind one of the most popular blues podcasts of nowadays?

SALTY:  Well thanks for asking, I'm not sure which way to go with this one. I'd like to have my sea legs but ain't there yet. Like some vodka n grapefruit and I like that old song indeed. But the real Salty Dog started with my dog 'Neo'. I was living in Tropical North Queensland for a few years when we started doing the blues n roots show there and needed a radio nic. Thought of a few, then the dog returned from the beach yet again and left water and sand all over the house!! I'd call him a bloody Salty Dog - and yeah, you got it, that's when the name stuck. From then on it was The Swing Shift - Blues N Roots with the Salty Dog. And like every other DJ proving his worth, it started live on the midnight to 3:00am slot (3 hours). Graveyard shift, but sorta missin that live radio feeling at times.

VASCO DA BLUES:  You are a musician yourself isn't it?

SALTY:  Yeah I play guitar, dobro and blues harp (and a little mandolin from time to time). I've played with bands over a number of years, and done some solo performing as well. Latest gigs were with the Groove Masters at the Echuca Blues Festival and guesting with the Diablo Brothers on blues harp at the Nighthawks Bar in Melbourne. Used to play regularly in Port Douglas at the Central Hotel every Thursday night and loved cookin with an aboriginal outfit called The Walker Brothers - great guys and musicians. Play on Sunday nights in Elwood when I can with some of the great musicians who live in the St Kilda/Elwood area - you'll hear some of them from time to time on the podcast.

I'm currently recording some new blues n roots material featuring slide and harp work - and if that turns out well I'll put a link on the site for people to check out if they want to.

VASCO DA BLUES:  How would you describe the content of your podcast, musically spoken? How do you select the music that you play in your show?

SALTY:  It's a blues n roots show but also put a bit of alternate country into the mix. This gives me a fairly wide selection - although blues is the anchor. I try and provide a mixture between the styles so there's a lot of new and interesting music for the listener. There's a far bit of new young musicians and bands mixed with some of the older standards. I also include six or seven tracks each week from Australian blues n roots artists - and there's a great set of worthy musicians here. I'll be doing a number of interviews to help promote some of this music. But as you've heard I also play a lot of new US, UK and European music.

I guess in a lot of ways it comes down to my taste. When I preview material, I'm looking for a blues feel or a new urban/country roots sound. I like it to be real musicians playing real instruments - something that gets me moving. From the rapid growth in the audience, I guess a lot of people are looking for the same things as me.

VASCO DA BLUES: In what way is a podcast good for independent blues artists?

SALTY:  Podcasting is new media and it's breaking new ground. For a start it doesn't rely on the traditional means of distribution. Something the current record companies own but its slipping out of their hands. It's also changing the format of music. The album/cd was an invention suited to package music given the technology available at the time, but now we are back to the single track as legitimate. How things will change from here on is up for grabs - its a new world, and very exciting to be part of.

The other important thing about podcasting is that it's time shift (you can listen when it suits you) and it sticks. For example all the old shows are available on www.salty.com.au to listen to or download just as if they were done yesterday. They don't age like a broadcast show does. I have people listening regularly to shows I did more than twelve months ago.

So how is this good for independent blues artists? The web finds them an audience outside of old distribution methods and allows their music to 'stick' in cyber space for listeners to hear well into the future. Being heard on a podcast multiples the impact - I guess what radio shows achieved in the past with heavy rotation playlists - but only a few select musicians got to benefit from that and usually under the control of record company marketing and advertising.

One thing I guess is the example of video - it was said it would kill film but the reverse happened - the demand for film grew instead. Let's hope this will happen for music in general with independent podcasting, and blues in particular.

VASCO DA BLUES:  What should labels, blues artists & bands do to be listed on your playlist? Can they send you a CD, or do you prefer MP3 (which is more easy of course)?

SALTY:  I'm always open to new talent and try to include new blues n roots cuts each week. Artist's can get onto www.salty.com.au and follow the 'Contact Salty' link. That has the address to send in CD's and an email form. If sending MP3's, a link to a website is great to get some background on the music.

VASCO DA BLUES:  What are the legal consequences for the makers of the podcasts, for the listeners who download them, or for the artist/band who submits his work?

SALTY:  This is a tough question, maybe a copyright lawyer could answer this. Salty blues is a broadcast and podcast in the same way as many other Australian podcasts so it fits somewhere between the old and the new. Many artists I play are independent and they are more than pleased to give permission to have their music played.

VASCO DA BLUES:  Why is the blues so popular in Australia, a country that is rather far away from the origine of the blues?

SALTY:  Guess you could say the same for the UK and Europe - and many places in Europe have been important in keeping blues alive when it fell out of favour in it's homeland. I think the blues is it's own messenger and finds supporters in every new generation and every country. Australia has always had a big blues following, and there are many great young musicians who contact me who are under 25 and doing fabulous blues an roots that is particularly Australian. You'll hear many of them on the show. And of course, Australia has one of the best blues n roots festivals at Byron Bay each Easter.

But why in Australia? Well perhaps because the blues is an attitude, it's about struggle and about freedom and about independence, and finding a way out of a problem. All these are very Australian ideals and it's not hard to identify. One thing about listening to the blues when you're down is that there's always a determination to move on, to start anew somewhere in the music. Yeah, blues is the healer! 

VASCO DA BLUES:  Could you tells us about the current blues scene in your country, who are the most popular bands/artists, which ones should come over to Europe for a tour in your opinion?

SALTY:  There seems to be great blues n roots coming from each of the States. Heaps from Melbourne (Victoria) where I do the show (Geoff Achison, Rory Ellis, Abbie Cardwell, Fiona Boyes, Jeff Lang, Chris Wilson, Ash Grunwald, Dutch Tilders, Collard Greens N Gravy, Lloyd Spiegel etc). Perth (Western Australia) has people like The John Butler Trio, Dave Mann, Beautiful Girls, The Waifs. Probably less from the other areas - but Pete Cornelius (Tasmania) PJ O'Brien and The Backsliders (Sydney). There's also a strong scene in Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Darwin. So yeah, blues n roots is alive and well down under!

Most of them tour in the US, UK, Europe, Japan - and there'll be plenty more of that to come.

VASCO DA BLUES:  Your show takes two hours which means about 120 to 130 megs to download, every week. We noticed that a download is not always easy, even with a broadband connection. Is this due to the popularity of your show, too many downloads at once?

SALTY:  I guess it depends on the machine and your broadband speed as we've had no problems at this end. But given that, that's why we also compress the show each week for streaming on www.salty.com.au and on www.myspace.com/saltyblues. The compressed file uses Flash technology and turns it into around 20MB. You can stream it on a 56K connection without much loss of quality.

VASCO DA BLUES:  Your podcast is free for download, will it stay that way or would you consider to make a payable ad-free version like Tony Steidtler-Dennison (The Roadhouse) did?

SALTY:  At the moment the podcast is free and I plan to keep it that way, but that will depend on the new advertisers and sponsors who get on board in the future. The new web site is designed with this in mind.

I'm also talking with other radio stations who want to broadcast the show in Oz, Europe and the US and that will help with some of the costs.

VASCO DA BLUES:  Is there any interest in European blues bands/artists in Australia, would you promote them if they send you a CD or MP3?

SALTY:  I get a lot of emails from the US and Canada saying how much they like the Oz blues on the podcast as they have no other way to hear it - well not that easy anyway. The same goes for European blues. I've played great stuff from the UK, Germany, France, Norway and Sweden and will continue to do so. It's the music that matters most, it knows no boundaries and that's the way I like it! So of course, let's hear what you got.

VASCO DA BLUES:  Do you think that new media like MP3 and podcasts have a big influence on the music business and what are the consequences of all this, as well for the consumer as for those who make the blues?

SALTY:  As I said before, making music more freely available will increase demand for new and interesting talent - and there are/will be many new ways to access this - podcasts are the vanguard of new radio and independent broadcasting. Of course, artists need to make a living and so do those who work in the industry. There's some movement towards companies wishing to control podcasting distribution by having 'exclusive' networks. They may succeed and in so doing be able to charge for listening and distribution just like current record companies eg iTunes, MSN, The PodcastNetWork etc I'd expect to see many different ways developed over the next few years to deal with the problem. However, we can expect a lot more music, independent publishing and broadcasting and global niche markets supported by people from many different locations. Music will be local and global in the same instance.

VASCO DA BLUES:  More and more we see the availability of music in MP3. Companies like eMusic sell per music track at rather cheap prices, no need anymore to buy a complete CD if you only like some tracks and not the entire album. Recording a CD is expensive, especially for many indie bands. Should they not focus on not making CD's anymore, but only offer their best recordings separately on the internet?

SALTY:  Always offer your best, and offer it everywhere you can is my advice. If someone wants to control your distribution - then they had better pay for the privilege. I think the album will disappear as there's no need for that distribution format anymore. But I must say, a unified body of work, when done well, can be more satisfying for the listener. When done well, the 'album/CD' may still have its' place. But albums with too much filler stuff will be more easily found out and consumers will just buy the tracks they want. Maybe we'll see the return of the 'concept' album like 'Dark Side of the Moon' or more recently Neil Young's 'Greendale' - then it makes sense to get the whole thing.

VASCO DA BLUES:  As I'm listening to the latest two shows, I was wondering where you got that nice intro with the didgeridoo, and who plays the rather exciting instrumental which follows?

SALTY:  Thanks for asking this one. Yeah the didgeridoo sample is from great Australian player David Hudson, and that's cut into a sample from Roy Rogers (US) slide guitar playing from 'Avalanche'. The crazy Salty cart used sometimes in the show is a sample from Teddy Morgan's 'Full Grown Man'



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