Interview with Blues guitarist Rafe Klein of The Name Droppers. 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?
Rafe Klein: – I grew up in New Haven, Ct. When I went to college, I had a guitar in my dorm room, and knew a few chords. It wasn’t until I met blues man Charlie Karp in 2009. I studied guitar under him, and he encouraged me to write.
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RK: – Awe, my guitar sound, and the constant search for the right tone. When I first started playing blues, or R&B, I would prefer a clean tone. Lately I have been trying to get a dirtier sound, without being too distorted. I think I will always be searching for that perfect tone.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
RK: – When the band gets together to rehearse, my sense of rhythm becomes and stays with me. Sure practicing at home on the couch, or learning new stuff I may hear online, helps develope my skills, but it’s being in the rehearsal studio, or on stage with the band that brings my sense of rhythm, to its fullest.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?
RK: – Musically, I have changed from being rhythm guitar player only, to now being a lead player as well. When Charlie Karp was alive he was was the lead guitar player and I just played rhythm. The Name Droppers only have 1 guitar player now, so I have to play both. I don’t think I would be able to play both, if it weren’t for all the years of just playing rhythm.
There are a lot of really good guitar players out there, much better than me, but don’t play rythem that well. They can solo, and shred with the best of them, but some are not the best rhythm players. I’m lucky that I learned that skill first.
JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
RK: – When I go into a recording session I’m prepared. I rehearse the song at home or with drummer Bobby T. or sometimes with the band before. We almost know exactly what the arrangement will be, and usually have all the lyrics ready to go. Before a performance, I like to sit in a room with just the band members, or just by myself. After soundcheck, and the band is ready to play. I like to have peace and quiet, and minimize conversation, before we go out there, and make an enormous amount of noise.
JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2023: Namedroppers – Blue Diamonds, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
RK: – I love that blues deejays all over the USA, and in the UK, other parts of Europe, even in Israel, and in Australia are playing the album “Blue Diamonds”. Either on radio, or internet radio. The album was formed last year through songwriting and musicianship throughout the band. Bobby and I do most of the writing, but Scott and Ronnie always add something to the recording. Something I would not have not thought of, or a different perspective on the song. These days we are working in the studio. I think this time of year, going into the holidays, is a good time to record, since live music slows down, and Christmas music is featured on the radio.
RK: – Fortunately, we live in a community with great players, and if we add horns, or female vocals, or a guest guitarist, we pick the best musicians around the southern Connecticut area.
JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?
RK: – One night we were playing out in Southport, Ct. the band had just gotten tougher, but not fully developed as a band yet. We weren’t that tight. We heard that Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame piano player would be there, and he showed up. He joined us on stage, and the band came together and all of a sudden, we sounded great, we sounded like a band, and it was a blast!
JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
RK: – I think music is more about soul than intellect. 80/20 I would say. You can write clever lyrics, or know all the correct scales on a guitar, but if you ain’t got no soul, you won’t get too far, at least as a performer or a player.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
RK: – I am totally ok with a two way relationship between audience, and artist. I think most musicians feed off of that. Good audiences make the band play better.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
RK: – I don’t know much about Jazz. But as a blues man, or should I say student of the blues, learning what a 1-4-5 progression was the most important thing I learned. It opened the door for me to understand other genres, like rock, or even pop music. In my opinion it should be the first thing a musician should learn. No matter what instrument they play.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
RK: – Soul and spirit take on many meanings. I’m not religious, but I guess I am a bit spiritual. It comes through in my music, perhaps.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
RK: – I wouldn’t change anything in the music world. I think it evolves, and will continue to evolve with A.I. and other factors, like it or not. Sure, the fact that Spotify, and other streaming services basically charge artists so that they can sell the artists’ music, to the public, and artists don’t benefit financially. I can complain that Spotify has a market cap of 30 billion, while the artist and writers struggle to put gas in their cars. I could complain about that but I won’t. There’s nothing we can do about it, plus I’m not in it for the money anyway. I’m in it for the trill, not the bill.
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
RK: – I have been listening to Rodrigues, since he recently passed away. He was terrific songwriter! Of course the new Stones album “Hackney Diamonds”. I love the title, and the fact that the Stones have new original material to share with us.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
RK: – November 1976 San Francisco, California. I would attend the Last Waltz concert.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
RK: – Some of our songs are happy, some sad, some about other people, or places. Bob Dylan once said, “I didn’t want to write another song about myself”. I try not to write songs about myself, but something else, or someone else. I wouldn’t say there’s a message we look to bring. I would hope the music does the talking, and if there’s a message, they will take it thier own way.
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RK: – What is your favorite song from The Name Droppers’ new album “Blue Diamonds”? Why?
Is Bolton your real name?
JBN: – Red House! Bolton is my lastname, my name is Emmanuel.
JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?
RK: – We have given free concerts in the past for certain charities, etc. I would like to know that people who read this interview, would take the time to listen to our album, “Blue Diamonds”.
Interview by Emmanuel Bolton
Note: https://jazzbluesnews.com/2023/03/19/useu-jazz-blues-association-festivals/ You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/useujba/