Interview BUZZY JAMES (Moonshine) February 2015
Questions by Philippe Archambeau & Yves Degand-Philippot.
RTJ : First, Buzzy, can you introduce you to our readers of Road to Jacksonville,
webzine dedicated to Southern Rock ?
BUZZY JAMES : Hey, I'm Buzzy James, how do you do?
RTJ: What were your first musical steps ?
BUZZY JAMES : There was a piano in the house growing up my dad played a bit, my grandmother gave me my my first Gibson guitar at age 7, I still have it. By age 8 I had an electric guitar and amplifier, I played hours upon hours in my bedroom.
RTJ : What were your first influences ?
BUZZY JAMES : First? Beatles, soon after I was into the Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Skynyrd, Robin Trower, Led Zeppelin but it wasn't till age 16, when I got to jam with Gregg Allman a couple of times that I started learning where all that great music started and I then started listening to a long list of blues greats. As you can hear in my playing, I liked Duane Allman a lot. Although I don't usually play in open tunings but I do sometimes.
RTJ : Why did you make the choice of the guitar ?
BUZZY JAMES : I was a shy kid and it was something I could do alone. I never even considered another instrument and I still love it to death.
RTJ : Can you tell us more about your first experiences in a band ?
BUZZY JAMES : I started as a little kid so my first band charged kids five cents to sit on my driveway and listen to us play. In the 2nd grade, age 8, we played Hey Jude in the school talent show. In Junior High 13, 14 years old I was playing High school dances and by the time I was a teenager I was playing the Sunset Strip. I had a band called Buster Chops that played every weekend at either the Whiskey, Gazzarri's, Troubadour or The Roxy for several years. I played in other bands as well, usually with guys that were older and better than me, in hindsight they were mentors, it served me well. Who had the idea to take again this name of Moonshine that you used during the 90's before Laidlaw's setting up ? We are (the Laidlaw and Moonshine members) all good friends. The recordings on this record were all done before Laidlaw got our record deal. They were recorded well and we dig the music so we decided to release it and see.
RTJ : What have you done musically, you and Craig Defalco, between the end of Laidlaw and today ?
BUZZY JAMES : We have both been really busy. I just finished building a recording studio in Long Beach California, Buzztone Recording. I did a record with The M.O.B, Michael Olivieri Band a couple years ago, some videos too and I still work with them, I also have a band, The Buzzy James Trio, a heavy rock/ southern rock/ blues band that I perform with regularly and we are about to do a record with Trish Burk on vocals at my new studio. Craig has a recording studio now as well and he's been producing some bands and he's been on the road teching for Ed Van Halen and some others, I think he's out with Alice in Chains right now.
RTJ : How did you find each other again in this new Moonshine project ?
BUZZY JAMES : We never lost touch.
RTJ : For our readers who wouldn't know you yet well enough, can you introduce to us the Moonshine members ?
BUZZY JAMES : Derek Davis on lead vocals, he also plays with Babylon AD, Brian Fox on drums, Mike Malone on keys and harp, Michael Norton on bass and Craig Defalco and myself on guitars.
RTJ : How and where did you record your album ?
BUZZY JAMES : This album was recorded at 5150, at Eddie Van Halens house. Michael Anthony helped us out a lot as well. You can hear his backup vocals on Devils Road. The first tune « Mississippi Delta Blues » is a powerful and groovy swamp Southern Boogie, with tough slide parts. How did you share the slide parts on this record and how and when did you compose this tune ? I had the guitar licks and music for Mississippi Delta, it has some ZZ Top influence and Derek came up with lyrics and melodies. I actually do all of the slide guitar work on this record.
RTJ : Why did you play again « Warm Beer Catfish Stew » and « The Devil’s Road » that were also on the album XX, is it because you wanted to show that you still play the same Southern music ?
BUZZY JAMES : We do love southern music. There have been a couple versions of “Catfish Stew” recorded but I think there is just the one recording of the “Devil's Road” which we just put on there so that more people could hear it.
RTJ : How did this sublime way to play slide that you give us on « The Last Song » come to you ? (The slide on « Devil ‘s Road » remains us the one of the deceased Tommy Crain).
BUZZY JAMES : I think ole Jim Beam had something to do with it. But one thing I like to do is to forget about conventional scales and the math of music and just find melodies the way a vocalist would. And thank you for the compliment, Tommy Crain was amazing!
RTJ : Who composed « Fade Away » that has a very Skynyrdian piano, and how was it composed ?
BUZZY JAMES : That song was, for the most part, Craig's composition. We spent a lot of time working it out though. Between playing live and rehearsing it the song found its own life.
RTJ : The tune « The American Train » is in the same vein than your album The First Big Picnic, does it mean that you keep on playing this Southern Rock that we love and that time has no effect on you ?
BUZZY JAMES : That song was written before First Big Picnic and I believe Southern rock is truly timeless. I like that song, it's heavy.
RTJ : « Southern Blood » is a Southern tune, not only in the title, do you use the Southern flag
on stage during your gigs ?
BUZZY JAMES : That is a cool tune. Derek came up with it. Of course we use the Southern flag on our stage, it's our creed! When Laidlaw toured with Skynyrd, Skynyrd had a rebel flag the width of the huge stages we were playing on. It opened from the ceiling down about half way through their set. The crowd went nuts every time!
RTJ : What are the objectives of Moonshine ? Release a DVD ?
BUZZY JAMES : Or another record in 2015 ? Our objective is always to play good, rocking music. The CD is selling well and there is a buzz about it. We've been talking and we don't have it all figured out yet. I'll keep you posted.
RTJ : Do you think that you can come in Europe ?
BUZZY JAMES : Moonshine would love to tour Europe, I'll keep you posted on that as well.
RTJ : What is the difference for a Southern band coming from Southern California, is it really different from a Southern band coming from the Southern states ? Is the band's sound different ?
BUZZY JAMES : It's funny but you are into what you are into and where you are from doesn't really play a big part in it. I mean I've come across punk bands in Tennessee and Mississippi and I am from California and I've been into southern music since I was young. LA has a very diverse music scene. There is room for just about anything but right now Southern Rock is really big here.
RTJ : About the gear, what are the amps and guitars that you and Craig like to use on stage and in a studio ?
BUZZY JAMES : Craig likes Hiwatt amps and I like Marshall and I currently use a boutique head made by Kevin Nelson, who used to work with Leo Fender, called a BMF which is based on a Marshall JTM 45 and a JCM 800. We only use tube amps. Craig and I both dig Les Pauls. We both also use and endorse PRS guitars and I use Gibson SGs as well. Though I don't use Fender guitars very much, I do own some and my Gibson and PRS guitars have split coil pick-ups and I use single coil settings a lot. On “Mississippi Delta Blues” I used my 68 Les Paul gold top with single coil settings. I have push/pull volume pots that cut a coil when pulled up.
RTJ : 2013 saw the release of the Highway Ryders album with a sound close to Molly Hatchet's one, do you know this band that, like you, send us back to everything that we love in the Southern Rock ?
BUZZY JAMES : I know a couple guys in that band. They are a really good band and they are nailing the Southern Rock sound.
RTJ : Traditional question in Road to Jacksonville : if you have to stay on a desert island,
which records would you take with you ?
BUZZY JAMES : Allman Brothers Fillmore East, Lynyrd Skynyrd (Pronounced leh-nerd skin-erd), Jimmy Hendrix Winterland collection, And if my girlfriend is not with me I might want one with some cheerleaders on the cover.
Traduction : Y. Philippot-Degand