Interview with Michael Kaeshammer: Boogie On The Blues Highway: Video, Photos

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Interview with Canada-based pianist/singer Michael Kaeshammer: Boogie On The Blues Highway

How has the Blues and Jazz Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Through my father’s record collection and his constant ragtime and Boogie Woogie piano playing at home, Blues and Jazz music has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. The music and its lyrical content mostly touch on everyday life and is a direct reflection to what’s going on historically in a country and era. It’s this honesty to say and stand for what you believe in and what your daily life consists of, that has influenced not just my own writing and music but my life in general. Over the years, it becomes so much a part of you that you don’t identify it anymore as Blues and Jazz but just as music that lives within yourself.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I’ve had many musical interests from the time I was a child until today, and I continue to search and grow (one of the most important aspects of being a writer and musician). My sound is a reflection of all the music that I have shown an interest to in my life, from Ragtime/New Orleans Jazz/Kansas City Blues to R&B/Memphis Soul/Early Rock’n’Roll to Pop Music/Hard Rock/70s Rock, even Classical music. It’s all music and it all has a part in my sound because I have immersed myself in these styles at one point or other in my life. The way I play the piano is the way I want to hear the piano played, that’s why I play it that way.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Two come to mind. First, a recording session with Art Neville and Eddie Bo in New Orleans. Simply listening to their stories and becoming their friends taught me more about music than any university or other teacher ever could have. Second, backing up New Orleans singer Marva Wright at Storyville on Bourbon Street changed my life as a musician. Her approach to finding a deeper meaning to be on stage and connecting with an audience has stuck with me to this day.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Besides the two mentioned in answer number 3, a recording session with Curtis Salgado and another with Cyril Neville for my “Something New” record come to mind. Drummer Johnny Vidacovich’s approach to music has also left a lasting impression on me.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I think it’s important to stay with the times. Real music and real art has always been a reflection of the times they were created in. Today we live with lots of technology and electronic gadgets, so it’s a good thing that these things get incorporated in today’s music (although I don’t do it and it’s generally not done in the Blues and Jazz genre). My point is that innovation and change in music is healthy and even necessary. The problem with this is that a musician’s ability (or lack thereof) can be altered to anything with this technology in the studio, and so what I miss the most from music in the past is that recordings are not about capturing a performance anymore as much as they are about making someone sound good who actually doesn’t. Although the best music today is still about capturing the best performance.

What touched (emotionally) you and what are the secrets of 88 keys? What do you love most of playing piano?

Life is the single most important inspiration and the easiest way to let your emotions reflect in your music. The secret to the 88 keys (and I think to any instrument) is that you transcend the fact that you are dealing with styles, key centres, 12 notes or an instrument that is generally considered a furniture piece. You have to get to the point of letting the instrument be a part of you, not to sit at the instrument and play it but rather become one with it. And that is what I love the most about playing piano. It’s like having a whole symphony orchestra at the tips of your 10 fingers.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Be yourself and stay true to it. Do what you do and try to do it the best way and let an audience gravitate towards you. Don’t try to please an audience because you think they like something that’s not fully yourself.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Music for a listener is a vehicle to let emotions come out and run free. The style of music is completely irrelevant; lucky so many people love so many different styles of music, it would be terrible if everyone would be the same. Music can soothe you when you’re going through challenging times, music can inspire you when you need to lifted up, music can bring you joy when you’re happy, music can be romantic when you’re close to another person, music can be political when you’re trying to make a stand, and so on. Music if life. Life is music.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

1824 in Vienna to be part of the first performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

Interview by Michael Limnios / Photos by Tine Acke

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