Trout talks politics and music ahead of Leamington gig
ONE thing’s for sure - you could never accuse Walter Trout of not meaning it.
The American guitarist, playing at the Assembly in Leamington on Sunday October 14, is known for his ability to conjure up a fiery guitar solo at will.
It turns out his ability to turn on the taps may not just lie in musical technique. Amiable in conversation, he can move from spitting fury to loving reminiscence at the drop of a plectrum.
He’s here to promote his new album new album Blues for the Modern Daze. Surprisingly, it’s his first entirely blues-based recording and the song closest to the album’s inspiration, preacher and slide guitarist Blind Willie Johnson, is Brother’s Keeper, draws on the Bible to condemn the individualism prevailing in American politics.
Inspired by watching the debates as the Republicans were choosing their new leader. he recalls how one question was whether somebody who doesn’t have health insurance and arrives at the emergency room and is dying should be let in.
He said: “The candidate said no. The entire audience of Republicans applauded. These people are trying to masquerade as Christians, but I don’t know what Christianity they’ve been reading. If there’s a hell, they’re going to burn there, because they take a beautiful teaching and pervert it to their own agenda, and then go and wrap themselves in a flag and a cross.”
Much of it deals with his despair at the way society is heading. He describes the “very subtle” corporate takeover of the political system, and “plutocrat” Mitt Romney as out of touch with most voters, citing the taped interview in which the presidential candidate described 47 per cent of the American public who voted for Obama as “victims”.
Abruptly, Trout declares he’d rather talk about music, his first love from an early age. Growing up in New Jersey, his parents did not play instruments but were “aficionados” who took him to jazz clubs in Atlantic City as well as Broadway plays - among them Richard Burton playing Hamlet. On his tenth birthday he got to meet Duke Ellington, but it wasn’t all easy, his song Saw My Mama Crying deals with his mother’s life after his parents divorced when he was six.
Trout had played trupmet since he was seven, but got his first guitar via the girlfriend of his older brother and began playing in a covers band that got more popular the more gigs they played.
Sensing a dead end, he moved from New Jersey to California in late 1973, but along the way got addicted to heroin. This didn’t stop him playing as a sideman with John Lee Hooker and then Canned Heat, before joining John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers alongside Coco Montoya. He released his first solo album when he was 39, and has since released 21 albums in 23 years. He and tours almost constantly, but puts his success down to luck.
Trout said: “When it came out there weren’t a massive number of blues rock guitar players out there. It was me and Gary Moore. He had a big hit and I had a hit the same year.”
His career almost came to an end when spinal problems caused by his heavy early 1970s Stratocaster caused him to lose the use of his left arm. Unable to play and without health insurance, he even went to try to get a job at a coffee shop, and describes telling disbelieving staff that he used to be an internationally famous guitarist.
A friend put him in touch with a well-known orthopaedist, who told him the operation to enable him to play again would cost him his speech. He visited an acupuncturist in Little Saigon and gradually regained the use of his arm, but even then had to train his fingers to play chords and scales again.
He said: “I had to start over. The first time I played a barre chord my wife and I danced around. We both just freaked out.
“Sometimes I get a little burned out but the alternative of working in Starbucks and realising that I used to be able to play and sing and that people like what I do and play something that means something to them, that means everything to me.”
Tickets cost £17. Doors open at 7pm. Call 311311.