Exclusive Interview with Boris Plotnikov

Boris Plotnikov How did you discover the bluesharp ?
~ In 1999 I listened to a tape of the Moscow blues band "Umka and Bronevichok" and there played a harmonica player Voffka Kozhekin. I liked the tone of harmonica and the way he played (he played constantly filling almost every rest) and I decided I want to try harmonica. First I bought a cheap Chinese tremolo and soon I understood I get a wrong one. It took three months to collect money for a real blues harp and I got crazy of it playing every spare minute.

If everything would be possible (waking the dead included), which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session?
~ I have a dream to jam with John Popper!

What is your favorite blues harp brand / type and tell us why?
~ Since 2011 I am a proud Seydel endorser and I play only models with stainless steel reeds. Mostly I play Seydel 1847 silver, but also I have bunch with custom combs and some Seydel Session Steels. I also play Seydel Saxony Chromatic. The main reason to choose the steel reeds as that they do not need to be retuned ever. They keep pitch forever. I never ruined too much reeds, but with stainless steel reeds I don't worry about broken reeds at all.

What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp?
~ Play every spare minute. Learn at least three different books/video instructions from the beginning to the end. Find a competent teacher!

Tongue blocking or lip pursing, what do you prefer and tell us why.
~ Both, but currently I am more lip blocker. However the first 7 years of playing I was 90% tongue blocking but then I discovered overbends and fell in love with hip-hop and fast articulation. Now I use tongue blocking for split intervals and tongue slaps only. For playing chromatic I prefer tongue blocking over lip blocking.

Give us the 3 most important albums every (beginning) blues harp player must buy.
~ Let it be:
Blues Traveler "Four"
Jason Ricci "Rocket #9"
Lee Oskar "The best of"

How do you clean your harps?
~ With water and liquid soap, rather rare. Usually I clean them when I feel I need to do some adjustments inside.

What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you and...you wish they would? (Please provide your answer as well.)
~ What is the main problem in harmonica education?
Me: Everyone try to learn bends too early!

Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ A great recording studio is a studio with a great sound-producer. Even with an average gear. So I think Rick Rubin's studio can be perfect for me.

Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any "rituals" to calm you nerves?
~ Usually I am not nervous when I am a sideman but I am a bit nervous when I am band leader. Sometimes I can drink a bit of alcohol if I am too nervous which occurs very rare.

What was the most memorable day in your musical career?
~ Once I was a biology student obsessed with a harmonica I went to meet my friend who studied music. I have to wait him in a hallway in a local music college. As I have spare time I started practicing harmonica as used to and suddenly a man opened a door and gets wondered of my playing. It was Vitaly Vladimirov, teacher and conductor of big band. This meeting lead me to become a soloist of jazz big band and harmonica teacher in that college.

Boris Plotnikov

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Answers given on October 3, 2017
Photos by: Julia Dmitrieva