SIL. The album is out this week.
SH. I’m very excited about it. This album has been available for a while on my website and at my shows. We had a deal for it just recently. That helped us get out a special edition. We had to update it to get it ready. I’m very happy with it and also proud of it. It was recorded at home in my living room. Due to disputes with former partners, I didn’t use my studio. Because of that, I did it at home on a computer. I’m pleased with the results. It’s very different working like that, because you’re not hearing everything cranked up. You working on small amplifiers, but I do love the sound of it.
SIL. How did the record come about? Did you put yourself on a deadline, or did you start writing at a slower pace?
SH. It took about a year to do. It was my third attempt at making a record. The first one I was working with partners, but I don’t really care to talk about that, and the second one I was working with Chris Squire, but it didn’t happen. That was going to be a joint effort between the two of us, and then his wife became pregnant, and he moved back to the States. That blew that one down, it took two years to do. Meanwhile, I thought the third time should be lucky, it’s called “Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth”, and we were really brief with it, sonically. It’s probably the best sounding record I’ve done.
SIL. Can we talk about some of the songs? “Nomads” is one of my favorites from the record.
SH. Sure. It has a flamenco influence. It starts out that way, but once the song is established, we bring in Latin drums. It’s two drum kits, but that is misleading, because they sound almost virtual, but neither of them is real. It’s fake drumming, if you know what I mean. Lyrically, it’s based not on my experiences, but my girlfriend and partner, Jo’s experiences. We wrote the work together. She has actually been to some of these places where gypsies perform in coves. I was reading a book about gypsies based in America that has an aspect of the supernatural about it. The guitar playing you have to hit really hard, really hammer the strings to play in that flamenco style.
SIL. How about “Ghost in the Glass”?
SH. It is more jazzy. The guitar is more of a rock style. The strings, the brush kit etc., are really more from the world of jazz. It’s the soulful end of jazz. Harmonically, it’s the south end of blues, but the chord formations are more difficult than traditional blues.
SIL. You’re touring the U.S. now. Are there any cities you look forward to playing?
SH. We’re out for a month. We’re sharing gigs with Renaissance. I would love to be touring every single city in the States. It’s going to be an East Coast tour, but I would love to tour the South. Just give me an excuse, and I’ll be there. We have a new agent, and it’s whatever he comes up with.
SIL. Do you get nervous before you get on stage?
SH. When I started out, I was very nervous. After playing with Genesis several years, around 1976 (he started in 1971), I became excited about the idea of playing for a crowd. After I left the band, and things were less certain, it got tougher for me in terms of confidence. In recent years, when I play I feel more like I’m engaging and connecting.
I love it now, and don’t feel at all nervous. There’s always a moment of uncertainty when you first get up there. But I don’t cave in to that pressure. After so many years of practicing, I have enough technique that I can move in and out of whether I want to play fast or slow, or whatever comes up. I don’t blister it all night because I think it makes people bored with that kind of speed. It’s more about melodic ideas and tone presentation.
SIL. Do you have an artist that you would like to tell you how much their music means to you?
SH. I was a huge fan of Paul Butterfield. When he had the band with Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, I saw them in the mid-60s. It was just phenomenal. I was a harmonica player for ten years before I even picked up a guitar. That’s why I was such a big fan of Paul’s. He’s passed on, and I never got a chance to shake his hand.
SIL. You’ve created a legacy in your career. Is it possible for aspiring artists to now reach those heights?
SH. It’s always been tough. Most young performers approach it from the view of “Should I dumb it down”, and do things they don’t believe in so that they can get in the game. I was lucky enough that I never had to do that sort of thing. When you join a band, you have to make certain compromises in order to facilitate everyone’s ideas as well as your own. But it is still possible. With the advent of the net, people can sell on their sites as well as their own shows. I hope the Internet doesn’t completely kill record shops, because to me, shopping there is akin to making love. It’s the idea of going somewhere and engaging in an environment where music is important. People who don’t have a shop to go to don’t really know what they’re missing. Running around with your ear buds in doesn’t really let anyone into your groovy little world and cuts off communication.
SIL. It ties into a larger idea that if you don’t support the music and musicians, it could all go away.
SH. I agree. You’ve got to support them or they will go away. Music was the thing that changed the world.
SIL. It serves the point that if you want free art, should you expect great art?
SH. There is a price for that kind of freedom.
SIL. Were your parents supportive of you when you first started?
SH. Yes, they were. They were there when I was not doing very well. I was proud that they were proud. It’s my father’s birthday today. He’s 83, and I’ll see him tomorrow. My mother turns 80, although she behaves more like an 18 year old. My father was my earliest influence, and he brought me my first guitar back from Canada in the ‘50s. It was the one I tried to play when I was a kid.