Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Chris Standring. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Chris Standring: – I grew up in a little town in England called Aylesbury and as long as I can remember I have been drawn to music. It might have been when I saw Glen Campbell play on TV as a child in the 60’s. I was hooked.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
CHS: – My early professional years was really as a fusion guitarist. I played with an overdriven guitar tone and got inspiration from players like Robben Ford, Scott Henderson and Larry Carlton. But I never really liked the way I sounded. It sounded to me a bit like a fly buzzing around the room and someone needed to swat it. So when I had an opportunity to make my first album I thought I might go for a clean archtop tone. And because I have a classical background, the clean focused sound appealed to me more, and felt a little more natural. It was a huge challenge however as my technique had to change to really get the instrument to project. But the more I focused on refining this clean sound the more I wanted to leave behind the overdrive tones. The other thing I consciously did to develop my own sound was to stop trying to emulate my heroes. Whenever I wanted to learn new harmonic vcabulary I wanted the ideas to come from me and not licks I had transcribed. Also, composing my own music has helped focus in on how I want my guitar to sound. It’s an ongoing process.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
CHS: – I do practice warm up exercises, especially before a show. Scalic ideas and arpeggio ideas in different keys. It’s a fine balance of trying to get warmed up so I can be on top of my game yet not playing so much that I have no chops left for the show. I don’t practice rhythmic exercises. Rhythmic ideas tend to flow quite easily for me, although I’m sure I could benefit from practicing new poly-rhythmic ideas.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
CHS: – I think disparate influences are good. I like to have my antenna up to anything new. At the end of the day if I’m writing and an idea comes to me that I might have heard someone else do, if it works for me, great. If not I’ll trash it and start over. After recording so much music, artists are constantly looking for something fresh so we tend not to be closed off to anything.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
CHS: – The stamina thing is simply playing a lot. There are no short cuts. I’m not quite sure what spiritual stamina is. However, I do know that every performance I give I am trying to get to the ‘soul zone’, so I can be super in the moment, let the music flow and try to say new things. This is not always easy when there are logistical situations and distractions on stage, such as bad equipment, bad sounding monitors etc. I try to embrace each situation as it is these days and realize that some things are out of my control. It is what it is.
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JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
CHS: – Well it’s a fine balance. For the most part I think the audience, particularly those that are not musicians, respond emotionally, although they will also recognize some impressive technical skill from time to time, but they want to feel something for the most part. Musicians often need more than this and I sometimes do too, but I try to think like an audience member for the most part. I don’t like it if I try to get too clever. Authenticity is key for me. Beauty and soulful playing is my top priority.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
CHS: – Only if it’s what I want. Often that is the case. But I’m not a fan of the performing monkey syndrome. It’s so easy to learn tricks to get the audience to clap etc. However, I am in the entertainment business too. If I’m on stage it’s my job to communicate and make sure they have a good time. Sometimes you can do that through sheer musical beauty. You can draw them in. Other times the band needs to let loose and be funky. I’m a fan of it all provided I’m not selling out.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
CHS: – It’s up to artists to pay attention to great songs and melodies and turn them into standards. We need to find the great melodies and play them. Re-harmonizing is fun and challenging too. I have often thought about doing an album of well known pop songs and completely re-interpreting them as jazz standards. We need to get creative. There are contemporary groups and artists speaking to young jazz players in a good way. I don’t think we need to worry.
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
CHS: – I think if I’m honest music is my spirit too. I am not a religious man at all. I think what we do is way more important than what we say. And our time on this earth is here to show that. I’m also mostly uninterested in the ‘meaning of life’ question. From a Darwinian point of view it is to survive and prosper. We are simply here. But if anything, the golden rule is all you need. Do unto others as you would be done by. Kindness is key. And to be moved through music is quite enough for me.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
CHS: – I’m not one to look back and wish for a better time. I have been quite lucky. I’ve worked very hard at it too, but I’ve made good decisions and things have panned out well. But if I was a youngster wanting to get into the business now I know it would be tough. So for those people starting out I would wish for changes to songwring royalty structures because writers are really getting a bad deal right now with streaming income. Perhaps things will change. We’ll see.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
CHS: – I tend to go back to the classics. Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderly, Chet Baker. Shirley Horn. Those albums were so beautifully orchestrated. Anything with Johnny Mandel arranging for strings, Vince Mendoza. Stuff I can really sink my teeth into and learn from.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
CHS: – I want to take people on a journey. Give them an experience and put a smile on their face.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
CHS: – Maybe the future. Let’s see how much time we all have left.
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…”
CHS: – Who won the world cup in 1966?
JBN: – England national football team. are you footballist, if it is your memorrias?
Interview by Simon Sargsyan