Interview with Arizona blues – rock guitarist Brandon Teskey. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – 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?
Brandon Teskey: – Hi Simon. It’s great talking to you and thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I was into music at a young age. My parents love classic rock and though they weren’t musicians, they loved music and noticed I had a musical interest at an early age. They bought me toy guitars and a trumpet, a kid’s keyboard, and by the time I was 8 years old they bought me a saxophone. When I was 11, the music obsession really took hold and that’s when I started to play guitar. My parents actually said no at first when I wanted a guitar because I had quit saxophone. It took a few months of listening to my pleadings before they agreed to get me a cheap Epiphone. I think by the time I was 15 or 16, I was pretty driven towards being a professional musician.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
BT: – Yeah, I have definitely have grown as a musician over the years. Unfortunately, no one picks up the guitar for the first time and is Eddie Van Halen. I think my own style of playing emerged from listening to my biggest influences and blending various elements of those musicians into my own thing. Players like Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Jeff Beck, SRV, Clapton, Eric Johnson, David Gilmour, Albert King, Wes Montgomery and many more.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
BT: – I do think there is a difference between playing and practicing, but during the periods where I have nothing going on, usually I’ll take some time to transcribe something new everyday. Usually it’s not a whole song or solo, but when I hear a line that stands out to me, I’ll transcribe it. Sometimes it’s even other instruments I’ll transcribe. Usually for about 30 minutes to an hour and a half a day, I’ll put on the metronome, come up with a progression or vamp in my head, play some rhythm and then just solo. It’s almost just stream of consciousness when I do that, open creativity. I try to focus on coming up with lines that are rhythmically interesting and new harmonic ideas. It also gives me a chance to work out some of the lines I’ve transcribed and see if I can work those in naturally within the context of my playing. Sometimes I will put on backing tracks and play to various progressions, or blues tunes. But I try and mix it up and keep it fun and interesting. Other times, I’ll be using a different part of my brain and just spend an evening writing a song if I’m in that state of mind and the inspiration is coming to me. Sometimes I’ll spend some time in the melodic minor modes or diminished or whole tone scales. Sometimes I’ll just spend some time reenforcing my vibrato technique, or spend the afternoon playing slide and making sure I’m accurate and in tune. I’ll learn or come up with new chord voicings and try to use them in a song. There’s always something I can do to improve.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?
BT: – Yes, there were definitely periods where I hit strides in my growth as a player and learned new things that were revolutionary to me as a musician. I think that growth is still continuing now. We were evolving from more of a rock band with a slight blues influence, to a blues band with a rock influence. I felt like I was going back to my roots as a player which I found inspiring. My approach to songwriting had to change. It was like going back home after moving away a few years and realizing I never should have left.
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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
BT: – Well you definitely need soul. Albert King might have pulled off the majority of his solos with only four notes, but there’s no way anyone is going to be able to convince me he’s wasn’t a fantastic guitarist. He had soul in everything he did, great tone, and had his own unique voice on the instrument that’s instantly recognizable. That being said, having harmonic knowledge allows you to open up different doors and gives you tools to do more complex things.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
BT: – I always try to stay true to the emotion of the song and what the music calls for.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in blues when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
BT: – I hear blues as the foundation of most American styles of music. I hear it in the guitar solos of country musicians. I hear it embedded in rock music, Indy beats and in Jazz. Blues might not be the most popular music and to be fair, I don’t know if it ever was, but it’s the cornerstone of American music. Because of that, I think there will always be an audience for it, and people will be returning to the source for new inspiration.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
BT: – All right, we’re getting pretty philosophical here. Hahaha… I tend to view the spirit as one’s true self, our transcendent consciousness. It can definitely be expressed through music in a finite artistic interpretation. As far as the overarching meaning of life, I think it can be summed up as, love, but I believe each person has their own individual purpose within that framework of that universal meaning, and part of the journey of life is figuring that out.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
BT: – My list of things I wish I could change in the musical world is long, but towards the top is the disposable mentality of music and especially new music. Maybe it’s because everyone gets music for free, and it’s been devalued in the collective unconscious, but it’s not just in music. Across most artistic and spectator outlets, it seems there’s a lack of new ‘heroes’. Perhaps video games and social media have absorbed the mental real estate that music used to occupy in our culture.
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
BT: – It changes all the time. Lately I’ve been listening to Robben Ford, Django Reinhardt, Kirk Fletcher, John Coltrane’s a Love Supreme, Jeff Beck, Muddy Waters’ album Folk singer, Wes Montgomery’s Smoking at the Half Note album, The Rolling Stones, Lonnie Johnson, Rival Sons, Muse. So it’s all over the map.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
BT: – England in 1965. Seems like the greatest chance of success for a blues rock guitarist whose goal is to play stadium size audiences. Hahaha…. I’d also buy a bunch of vintage guitars and cars to have my grandparents give them to me in the future. That might create a time paradox and cause a chain reaction that would unravel the fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe, but that’s a chance we’ll just have to take.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan
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