Friday, April 3, 2015

Ten Questions With........Jorma Kaukonen

Jorma Kaukonen has seen and been involved in a lot of musical history over his fifty-plus year career.  He was a founding member of two legendary bands of the 60's:  the pioneering psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane and the blues rock band Hot Tuna.  Though he's best known for his work with those two bands, he has also enjoyed a solo career since the mid 70's, combining rock, blues, roots and Americana.  His most recent release is Ain't In No Hurry on Red House Records, and this lovely, and appropriately titled, album should be required listening for fans of fingerstyle guitar and blues and roots music.

Kaukonen is also one of the foremost practitioners and teachers of fingerstyle guitar, owning and operating the Fur Peace Ranch, located in Meigs County, Ohio, which hosts weekend music and guitar workshops and also houses a 32 track studio.  In addition to his solo career, he still performs with Hot Tuna, along with his longtime musical partners Jack Casady and Barry Mitterhoff, who both perform on Ain't In No Hurry.  Mitterhoff's mandolin is featured prominently on the disc.

Mr. Kaukonen graciously agreed to sit down for Ten Questions.  We definitely appreciate him taking the time to do so.  If you're familiar with his guitar work with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, you will definitely enjoy his solo work.  

Ten Questions With......Jorma Kaukonen

Friday Blues Fix:  How old were you when started playing guitar?

Jorma Kaukonen:  Fifteen

FBF:  What drew you to it?

JK:  I had been out of the country for three years. My Dad was stationed in Pakistan 1952 to 1955. When I got back Stateside, my best friend at home, Mike Oliveri, had been playing for a couple of years. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen or heard… He started to teach me.

FBF:  When did you decide that you wanted to be a musician?

JK:  I’m not sure I wanted to be a ‘musician.’ I definitely wanted to play music.

FBF:  What kind of music did you listen to when you were growing up?

JK:  Mostly classical, pop and gospel until I heard Elvis in 1955. Then Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins… Jimmy Reed and more...

FBF:  How has the blues shaped your musical vision over the years?

JK:  It has certainly given me a rock solid foundation that has served me well over the years.

Jefferson Airplane (1966):  Bottom Row (L to R):  Jorma Kaukonen, Paul Kantner, Spencer Dryden.  Top Row (L to R):  Jack Casady, Grace Slick, Marty Balin
FBF:  How did you end up in San Francisco?  Can you describe the music scene there in the 60’s?

JK:  I went to California in 1962 to go to college at the University Of Santa Clara… I immediately got involved in the folk scene.  At the time, the music scene was very welcoming and extremely social. I liked that! I missed that aspect of the scene as we all began to develop ‘careers.'

FBF:  How did Jefferson Airplane come to be? 

JK:  Paul Kantner had moved from San Jose (where I was living at the time) to San Francisco.  He connected with Marty Balin and started to form the band that would become Jefferson Airplane. 

FBF:  What led you and Jack Casady to branch off into Hot Tuna?

JK:  For us… it was time to return to our roots.

Hot Tuna (1972):  L to R, Jack Casady, Papa John Creach, Jorma Kaukonen, Sammy Piazza

FBF:  You were a part of three of the major 1960’s rock festivals (Monterey in 1967, Woodstock in 1969, Altamont in 1969) and two legendary bands of that time…..did it register at the time that you were a part of so much music history?  Can you describe how all of this registered with you then and in retrospect?

JK:  It is difficult to perceive your place in the universe… while the action is going on. Looking back… those would seem to be iconic times. While it was going on, it was just the way it was.

FBF:  You’ve recorded many solo albums since the 70’s, and your latest, Ain’t In No Hurry, mixes blues, roots, and Americana.  Is there anything musically that you want to do that you haven’t done already?

JK:  I like the path I find myself on today… it’s just who I am. Of course one never knows what’s going to happen in the future… but today I find myself very comfortable in this idiom.

FBF:  Can you tell us about how you chose some of the songs on Ain’t In No Hurry?   

JK:  I just started to collect old songs as well as write some new ones… For Larry Campbell and I to be able to ‘co-write’ a song with the legendary Woody Guthrie was beyond my wildest dreams. Once I had enough songs to fill the album… I quit looking.

FBF:  What inspires you in your own songwriting?  What are some of your own favorites among your own songs?

JK:  I write about thoughts that are going through my mind at any given time. I’m especially fond of “In My Dreams” and “River Of Time.”

FBF:  Who are your influences as a guitarist and songwriter?  Are there any current artists that you listen to in any genre?

JK:  Whatever sounds and metaphors that are lurking in my brain at any given time. Recently I have been listening to Joe Purdy and Karine Polwart.

Selected Discography

With Jefferson Airplane

Surrealistic Pillow (RCA Records) - 1967

The Essential Jefferson Airplane (RCA Records)

With Hot Tuna

The Best of Hot Tuna (RCA Records)

Solo albums

Quah (Relix Records) - 1974

Blue Country Heart (Columbia Records) - 2002

Stars In My Crown (Red House Records) - 2007

River of Time (Red House Records) - 2009

Ain't In No Hurry (Red House Records) - 2015

1 comment:

Steve O'Mystic said...

spoken like a true artist