In Through The Out Door of The Neptune Blues Club
2008 Marc Ford Interview
By James Calemine
Great guitar players are few and far between. Tone-guru Marc Ford ranks as one of the best guitarists in the world. One of the few Caucasians to earn a NAACP award (for his work on Ben Harper & The Blind Boys of Alabama There Will Be A Light album), Ford continues to add eternal soul to any musical endeavor he participates in.
Last year, Ford and I documented our encounters in Atlanta and Athens Georgia, as well as a cosmic odyssey in San Francisco. Ford’s new band and album—Marc Ford and The Neptune Blues Club—prove his songwriting and guitar work stands on their own. On December 4, 2008, Marc and I conducted this short Q & A session to update people on his latest on goings. Marc discusses his new band, his most recent projects he’s produced and what’s on the horizon for 2009. It’s always a gas to talk with him and an honor to spread his message of soulful blues music.
James Calemine: Talk about Ryan Bingham’s new record. You’ve been working on that awhile…
Marc Ford: Yeah, we did two weeks in March. They’ve been letting him do his thing.
JC: When will that record hit the streets?
MF: That will come out in March. You know what? Mescalito has been submitted to the Grammy’s in every category.
JC: Are you going to hit the road with him?
MF: I doubt it. I got a baby coming any minute so I’ll stay around home for a while. Hey…uh…can I call you back? Ben Harper is calling me…
JC: You gotta get that…
MF: I’ll call you right back…
(Marc calls back 30 minutes later from Compound Studios)
JC: You cut the latest Ryan record at Compound Studios, right?
MF: Yeah, Anthony (Arvizo-owner of Compound Studios) and I figured out last night that we’ve made 8 records together at Compound.
JC: Talk about the band on your latest CD—Marc Ford and The Neptune Blues Club.
MF: The record’s great. The week it came out it entered the Billboard Blues chart at #15. It stayed there for a couple of weeks. I didn’t look after the second week because I didn’t want to know. I was just going to stay happy with that because it was total surprise with no promotion.
JC: Tell me about giving songs to BUG music.
MF: Well, it was suggested to me to look at them. I talked to one of the guys and I dumped about 70 songs on them and said do what you want with these. We had one three or four hour meeting and it went really well.
JC: That’s good. Other people can record them—use them in soundtracks.
MF: I hope so. Not only that they will collect on all the past earnings. If you’re getting money from BMI there’s a whole lot out there to be collected.
JC: How many songs do you have ready for the next album?
MF: We’ve got another record recorded. We recorded it when The Fuzz Machine
Got back from touring last year. We took a day off and spent two days in the Compound and made a record of ten songs.
JC: You Elijah, Muddy and Dennis?
MF: Yeah. We’ve been sitting on that until my contract is over with, and I’m good on that now.
JC: So Ben Harper called. You spent some time in his band…
MF: I heard he was playing tonight with some new guys for something different. He didn’t ditch the other guys permanently, he just wanted to do something else. So, I got word to him and he called me yesterday. We’ve been playing phone tag. So I’m going to go see his new band tonight. We haven’t seen each other for a while. So, we’ll catch up a bit.
JC: So what’s next?
MF: Well, the Neptune band has an incredible chemistry. It’s one of the best bands I’ve ever played with and it’s more fun than any other band.
JC: I watched y’all playing “Arkansas Gas Card” on YouTube.
MF: Yeah, killing it. That was early on. It’s a blast. It’s like having Muddy Waters’ band at Chess Records with this crazy harp player and me.
JC: What’s the Fuzz Band up to?
MF: Well, Elijah is out with Ryan Bingham. The Fuzz Band is taking a little time off. We’re trying to get something going here at Compound—like a house band. We’ve been thinking about selling songs over the Internet with the house band here. We can record a tune and play it and people could buy it. Have it on sale in a couple of days. Have a website with a subscription thing involved. Do guitar lessons, pedal reviews or whatever.
JC: Let me ask you—you mentioned guitar lessons—is it hard for you to give a lesson? I don’t see how someone like, you who has such a command over the instrument, having the time or patience to teach someone. Maybe show them some chords…
MF: Yeah, I don’t mind showing someone chords. It depends—most people don’t really want to learn. They want to know a couple of songs on the radio and they want to do it immediately. I don’t have time for that. I had this one kid who really wanted to play guitar. It turned out, he’s really a huge fan. He actually started playing in The Pawn Shop Kings. I went to go see them and it’s so weird to watch this guy do me so well. It’s cool. I taught him when he was like 14. It’s wild. He was like the one guy who really wanted to learn—that’s fun. Usually it’s somebody whose parents are making them or they’re doing it because it’s cool on Saturday morning cartoons. A lot of people have been hitting me up like why don’t you do one of those instructional DVDs. I say I never seen one that has interested me in the least.
JC: I think it’s almost like the magician revealing how his tricks work.
MF: Yeah, but you know what? These guys come down to my shows with pen and paper down in the first row and marking down what my settings are on my pedals. I’m like, ‘Go ahead guys. If you give me a minute afterwards and I’ll show you exactly how it’s done.' They don’t get it. It’s not the gear. They’re like Trekkies…they’re just geeks. They have nothing better to do all day than argue on the website forums.
JC: So you’ll be doing more shows with the Neptune band?
MF: The idea is to get as much affect with the band with little as effort as possible. That’s my new motto—most effect, least amount of effort (laughs). We’ll do blues festivals and fly on the weekends sort of thing. Those were great. We’ll hit Europe in the summer for a couple of weeks. We’re talking about making another record. It’s really a hip band. Saturday we’re going to shoot a private show here at The Compound in a controlled environment and film it for promotion. When we get that together I’ll send it to you.
You know, this guy named Chris Lizotte is coming out with a new record—he’s fantastic. He plays guitar and writes songs. He’s a leader of a band at a vineyard. He’s charismatic. We made a record in here. It’s not traditionally Baptist black gospel…it’s a good record. I play the best and most guitar on a record than I’ve ever played. It’s a magical record. That came out Tuesday. His name is Chris Lizotte. It’s called Signal Hill Revue. It’s outstanding. It comes with a DVD—like the making of it. Everything on the DVD is seeing us playing live. We did the whole record in three days with a whole band; back-up singers—the whole trip. It’s huge. It’s really amazing. On youtube you can see a video of it that the label put out. He’s the guy who did the whole West Angeles Choir thing on YouTube. Also, the Steepwater record I produced is out now too.
JC: Well, you should have fun tonight at the Ben Harper show. What guitar are you taking (laughs)?
MF: (Laughing) I haven’t decided yet. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but you never know. I won’t do like you southern folk and just walk in with it. Well, speaking of—Ivan Neville sat in with us the other night. He showed up at the show. He sat in and we jammed. Him and me had a jam at this thing in Denver a while back. We played literally for like eight hours one day. We went down in the afternoon when we went in to get some songs together. Then he and I went up to Red Rocks and we sat in with Widespread Panic. That was cool. Then we went back to our gig and played for like four more hours until four in the morning. Him and me were just at it. At one point during the show, he leans into the microphone and he goes, ‘You sure you ain’t from New Orleans?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t think so, but I do have a NAACP award!’ He goes, ‘My man’.
JC: Yeah, you are one of the few Caucasians to be bestowed that honor…
MF: There’s a lot of shit going on. In fact, that’s why I’ve been sort of flaky about getting back with people. I’ve been over my head in terms of trying to organize stuff. I’ve got someone to help me with that now.
JC: Well, congratulations on the baby coming. I’ll be in touch before Christmas.
MF: Okay, man. I’ll be around. Thanks.