Exclusive Interview with Michael Arlt

Michael Arlt

How did you discover the bluesharp ?
~ Back in the 80's there was a harmonica player in my brothers band before the Blues Shacks and I liked the sound so much that I bought me one in a music store around the corner.

If everything would be possible (waking the dead included), which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session?
~ Little Walter is one of my heroes and he would probably fit pretty well to the sound of the band. But I also couldn't stand playing a session with Sonny Boy Williamson or William Clarke or Paul Butterfield or Walter Horton or ... or... or... or...
We did though played a session with Kim Wilson which was like a dream come true.

What is your favorite blues harp brand / type and tell us why?
~ go for the Hohner Marine Band and sometimes for the Marine Band Deluxe. After years of trying them all I got back to where I once started and to me the Classic Marine Band is the perfect instrument.
If you can't do it there ... ;-)

What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp?
~ Use your tongue and don't forget to listen.

Tongue blocking or lip pursing, what do you prefer and tell us why.
~ Tongue blocing offers more opportunities. First you get a bigger tone even on single notes 'cause there's more room for resonance. With tongue blocking your able to play octaves and also do a tongue vibrato. You can play out of the right and the left side of your mouth (if your good) which also gives you more opportunities in playing licks.

Give us the 3 most important albums every (beginning) blues harp player must buy.
~ Just get a best of Little Walter Jacobs - Chess recordings, Best of Sonny Boy Williamson - Chess Recordings and get a 50's B.B.King recording to learn that less can be more and that tone is important (even if there's no harp on it).

How do you clean your harps?
~ I don't clean them when their time has come I throw them away.

What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you and...you wish they would? (Please provide your answer as well.)
~ Can we, as white middle class boys, really play the blues and is it possible to do without being dump? - I guess all we can do is try and do our best. There are not many black musicians left playing the blues and this music became a worldwide language. So it's also natural that a lot of people are trying. Blues to me is not just about picking cotton it's also about telling a story and feel it.

Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ One big good sounding room. Probably with a lot of wood in it.

Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any "rituals" to calm you nerves?
~ I'm still nervous but I don't use rituals. After 3500 concerts there are still stages that scare me to death. Sometimes a beer helps a bit.

What was the most memorable day in your musical career?
~ Playing the California Doheny Blues Festival and watch thousands of people liking it really thrilled me. You're in the land where this music was born, you're scared to fail, and find out people go crazy for what you're doing gives you a feel that all you went through wasn't in vain.

Michael Arlt

For more info about Michael Arlt you can go to:


Answers given on May 29, 2018