May 29, 2024

Website about Jazz and Blues

Interview with Bob Zaleski: Where you use its power to get yourself back from the brink: Video, new CD cover

Interview with Blues producer and musician Bob Zaleski. An interview by email in writing. In the photo above, left is Bob Zeleski, right is Kevin Hadley․ – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

 When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of? 

Bob Zaleski: – I grew up in the Jersey Delta region of New Jersey and I learned to play by watching the local musicians. I knew from the time I was a boy that I wanted to make records. And being a musician is NOT something I ever made a living out of, I work in a sawmill.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

BZ: – Our producers Benny and Bobby helped me find the sound that you hear on the last 2 records. Benny knows just about every good player in the area and he brings in new people all the time.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

BZ: – I am really not much of a player, partly because I play a lot of different instruments and never really got too good on any of them. I spend a lot more time writing than I do practicing. I can’t read music, I’m self taught. I am a rhythm junkie, Benny Harrison is really the guy responsible for the nice vocal arrangements and harmonies.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

BZ: – Yes, I have changed. I’m less folky and more funky. I try to keep things fresh by trying new things. Most recently I have been experimenting with adding spoken word and narrative passages, kind of Jim Morrison style. I’ve been working on some stuff with a local poet named John McKenna which should be on the next record.

JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

BZ: – I do most of my performing in very informal settings like fish fries and bar-b-ques. Most of the other people in C.O.V. are performing and touring. As far as musical and spiritual stamina, I think I still have plenty. It’s just natural. I’m working on writing songs all day everyday just by listening to what people say and making notes.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: Committee Of Vultures – Everybody Wants The Blues, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

BZ: – All our cd’s are made up of recordings from our vault. We record continuously. Some of the tracks are 10 or 12 years old, some are brand new. When we release a cd we try to include a variety of rhythms and tempos and genres to keep the listener engaged. Me and Bobby Z. and Benny are recording a new song on Tuesday called “Hotel Nacional” which is a bit political. That’s an area where I don’t go too often, but what the hell.

New CD – 2022 – Buy from here

JBN: – Are you convinced that Everybody Wants The Blues?

BZ: – Yessir, I am. Not the kind where you wallow and weep; the kind where you use its power to get yourself back from the brink.

JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?

BZ: – Some are old friends and bandmates, like Kevin Hadley from Union, NJ. Kev and I have been playing together since we were kids. Some are world famous like Rob Paparozzi who plays the harmonica in The Blues Brothers Band; and Ada Dyer has the best voice I’ve ever heard. Benny knows everyone, he tours with The Rascals and Tommy James. He also has a solo record coming out.

JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

BZ: – It varies from artist to artist. Personally I put a great deal of time into the lyrics. Not just the content or substance but the way they sound when you sing them; the rise and fall of the unaccented and accented syllables, the alliteration, the internal rhymes. But without soul you’ve got nothing.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

BZ: – I try to do that musically, but I almost never reveal my inner self. I write to entertain, not to whine about my personal life or to preach.

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

BZ: – Kevin and I were in a band named “Great Unknowns” that opened for the great Bo Diddley. The promoter left him and his band a big cooler full of beer and our band drank it before they arrived. Bo saw Kevin with a beer in his hand and I thought he was gonna kill him.*

*A Side Note On This From Kevin: I was totally set up! First off, no one told our band the beer was for Bo. My band mates, (especially one I’ll just call Tony V.), slammed them down all afternoon like Vikings on the rampage while I did not drink any, at all. I remember it was Tuborg Gold, not my favorite beer. Well, we did our set and I was walking off stage feeling it was a good performance, when Tony V. hurriedly came up to me with about a 1/3 of a beer left in a bottle, handed it to me and said “Hey great job Kev, here have a beer”. I figured what the hell, we were done playing  so I started chugging what was left in the bottle.

What I didn’t know was that Tony V. was well aware that Bo had opened up his cooler, only to find it was EMPTY, and that Bo was extremely pissed off about it!

I felt someone staring at me from across the backstage area as I drank this backwash. It was Bo Diddley, one of my absolute musical heroes. So, Bo comes up to me and gets right in my face and says “You boys done drank all my beer!” Now Bo, was a BIG guy and someone I definitely would not tangle with. I was startled, scared and stuttering “B-B-But B-Bo, you’re my hero! Bo wasn’t having any of that.

He asks me “What band are you with?” I say “Great Unknowns” and without missing a beat Bo says “Great Unknowns, huh? Well, you better stay unknown”!!

It’s funny to look back at it now, although I remember feeling absolutely crushed and almost beaten up by one of my musical idols! That’s my Bo Diddley story. – Kevin H.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in blues when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

BZ: – When my kids were babies I made about 15 cassette tapes full of my favorite tracks and put them on every night when they were laying down to go to sleep. Those songs stayed with them. I think it’s called brainwashing, or programming, but it works and they are glad of it and so am i. None of them listen to rap or hip hop.

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

BZ: – Captains and conquerors leave a little dust, but the song passes not away. Music, the blues in particular, is eternal. You borrow it for a little while, maybe add your little contribution, then you pass it on. But there are a surprising number of people out there who really couldn’t give a shit about music. If you are looking to get rich and famous playing the blues forget about it.

JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

BZ: – I wish there could be live music in the bars, on every corner, in every town, like they used to have in the Mississippi Delta.

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

BZ: – I recently bought Roy Buchanan’s first record which was unreleased and I am always amazed by his playing. I wish I could say that I listen to lots of new releases, but I’d be lying. Jeniva Magnus and Ry Cooder are two artists who still blow me away with their new stuff.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

BZ: – We are all citizens of the world. Greed and self interest and vainglory will drag us down if we don’t get back to basics. Build a bonfire in the field behind your house and watch it burn with people you love and Dylan on the bluetooth.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

BZ: – I’d love to be in Greenwich Village in the ‘60’s taking guitar lessons from Reverend Gary Davis.

JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

BZ: – I absolutely love your questions. I love the knowledge that there is someone else out there whose mistress is music. People like you are the reason people like us keep making records.

JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

BZ: – Haha … I’ve done 10 free shows for every 1 where I got paid. If you feed me and let me drink for free I’m in, baby. This is the Jersey Delta, we do it for love here. And if this interview gets published I’d love to get a copy to show the boys and girls in the band, and the guys at the sawmill. And I hope this is the first of many times our paths will cross, my friend.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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