Walter Trout – Fire and Water

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WALTER TROUT – FIRE AND WATER

VERBALS: PETE SARGEANT
VISUALS: JEFF KATZ

Guitarist and singer WALTER TROUT is laid up in hospital in the States post-transplant, but spared our man a few moments to bring us up to date. His sense of humour is intact and far from feeling sorry for himself…..well, read on

BM: Now this is a conversation that we are both lucky to have. You have an extreme way of testing the strength of your fanbase and coming through for us ! How do you feel right here and now, Mr Trout?

photo by Jeff Katz
photo by Jeff Katz

WT: Well – I’ve felt better in my life! I’m working hard to try and get my strength back and I lost a hundred pounds in about seven months. I lost a lot of muscles and I tried to play the guitar the other day and I’m still in the hospital. My son brought me a guitar and I couldn’t bend the strings, you know?

Yes…..

I didn’t have the muscles to even bend the string. I just have a lot of work ahead of me to get myself back to where I was. But the liver I got is functioning beautifully, except for feeling kind of weak and not much energy I think I’m doing real good. I think the operation was a triumph and a huge success.

Good. Obviously, strength doesn’t come out of a packet – you’ve gotta build it up….

Exactly, Pete.

I remember I hurt my hand once, my left hand, and I couldn’t play for a while. I sat for half an hour every night playing my twelve-string and once I could bend notes on my twelve-string (which you’re not supposed to do but I do it ) I went to the six-string and, it was like wearing lighter shoes Walter.

Sure. I had an injury some years ago where I lost the ability to play and I had to teach myself how to play again. My left arm basically went numb so I’ve been through this before and I sat around for a couple of months back then to really work on it. That’s what I’m gonna have to do when I get home from here…

Ok. Well even when you don’t bend notes, the twelve-string really builds the muscles up and refines your fingering I’ve found. There’s a way back for all of us I think you know?

Yeah. I just have to find the route there, this time.

Now we’ve never met, but I’m connected to you in some ways because I’ve been talking to Laurence Jones who’s got nothing but good things to say about you and I’m mates with Danny Bryant. Tell me how you get on with Danny.

photo by Jeff Katz
photo by Jeff Katz

(Brightly) Oh he’s almost like a son to me. I have three sons and I feel like Danny’s number four. When I met him he was very young and I gave him guitar lessons and I’m really close with his mom and his dad. I just think he’s just one of the greatest people. Him and his wife Kirby are a couple of the finest people and I would say they’re probably my best friends in the UK.

I’ve been on stage a few times with Danny and I’ll play harp if he’s doing a Dylan song and like you, he does have this innate love of Bob Dylan and one of your children is called Dylan I think.

Yes indeed – I have a young son called Dylan.

As I understand it, Danny is helping out with some live dates whilst you’re off the road.

Yes he is. I ended up having to cancel an entire year of work. I had a couple of huge tours booked, with big shows and when this came down I had to cancel everything. I will have no shows in 2014 and then I felt so bad for my band.

Of course.

We were sitting around and talking and we said ‘Why don’t we set the tour up for the band and have a couple of British guys go out and front the band ’. That way, the band can still work. I felt bad that my band depends on me for their pay check.

Dead right!

This way it’s a win-win. Danny gets known in the States and my band get their pay and also on that tour my son is going to be fronting the band also. It will be Danny and my son Jon who recently at the Shepherds Bush Empire benefit show in London they did for me, my son finished the show and just ripped it up. I saw on YouTube, Jon Trout ripping it up.

Walter, I was there as a paying customer.

Oh ok. That’s really cool.

I was there for Blues Matters and I was gonna say I thought Ian Parker was fantastic at that show, I thought your son did a great job and I thought Bernie Marsden was absolutely fantastic. Again, he was someone who’s shared some good times with you and remembers them well.

Yeah Bernie and I go way back. He’s just the greatest guy with a great sense of humour and a great musician. I love that guy.

He’s terrific. In the nineties, he came down to help us with a benefit charity show ..he went to the car, got a guitar and played on the stage with us. What an honour!

Yeah, now he will do great things like that, he cares man.

The first band I ever saw live was Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. It’s when you experience that music, it takes over your soul.

Yeah. That’s exactly what I said at the Classic Rock Awards and I presented a Classic Rock Award to John Mayall and when I gave it to him I said ‘Nobody goes into the blues to get rich or for ego. It’s not about that. It’s because this music is in your blood and it nourishes your soul.’ It sustains you and you love it more than anything else on the f***ing planet !

Now weirdly, I saw you on a bill with another guy who inspired me no end. I think this was at a place in London that used to be called The Town and Country and it was a bill with The Hoax, your band and Canned Heat featuring Harvey Mandel.

(Sighs) Yeah sure, what a line up !

Heaven knows how many Harvey Mandel guitar licks I’ve stolen and played ! I heard very early his ‘Christo Redentor’ album and it’s the most varied album you could possible make. That was one hell of a night because The Hoax were young firebrands, Harvey was rocking it up with Fito and then you came on and you turned it up to twelve. Do you remember that night?

No. (Laughs).I’ll take your word for it. I’ve done a hell of a lot of gigs and a lot of them I just can’t remember! I guess that was with the Radicals line up.

I staggered out of there thinking ‘Wow I’ve seen the range tonight!’

I do though remember playing in The Town and Country with John Mayall, a Bluesbreakers gig during my time working with John, that was a really good one, I recall.

I was with Coco (Montoya) a couple of weeks ago, and an album I really like from that era is a live album which over here is called ‘Life in the Jungle’. That’s a terrific album and I think it starts out with Lionel Hampton’s ‘Ridin’ on the L and N’ and then just rocks it up from here. That’s a live album that shows all of you off very well I think.

Yeah, I think so too. Live we were something else, the dynamics, the material, it just came together every night. John played on my new album, just turned up and started playing, so we pressed record and captured it happening there and then !

Let’s go right back. I’m sure of got some video somewhere of you playing with John Lee Hooker. Am I wrong?

Well it’s in the documentary that just came out. John Lee was the business, it was a privilege to get on stage with John.

That’s in my CD pack, I think.

Yeah there’s a documentary that came with the limited edition. It’s me playing with Big Mama Thornton and John Lee Hooker.

Now at this point, Walter in his hospital room is clearly in severe discomfort – sometimes the subject is far more important than the story, so I suggest to Walter that he gets some attention there to become more comfortable. He bids farewell and we agree to speak again when we can. He is in pain in hospital yet what he is thinking about is looking after his musicians – this one fine human being, readers.