Exclusive Interview with Paolo Demontis
How did you discover the bluesharp ?
~ When I was a little boy, my father used to play some tremolo harmonica, I tried sometimes but the only result was hyperventilation and dizziness. Then, when I was a boy, I was listening to Led Zeppelin II album and I was shocked by the "Bring it on home" cover I found there with an amazing harmonica new sound for me...from that moment it was only a matter of time...
If everything would be possible (waking the dead included) , which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session?
~ Well, if everything would be possible, I would like to invite a lot of masters of the harmonica for a jam session, but if I had to choose one I would invite the one & only Little Walter.
What is your favorite blues harp brand / type and tell us why?
~ I'm a Seydel Harmonicas endorser and really love these harps, the best harmonicas I ever played: Brilliant and powerful sound, great responsiveness and durability, my best friends during a gig. I play standard tuning diatonic harmonicas and the big chromatic harmonica.
What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp?
~ Nowadays fortunately you can find a lot of good information about how to start playing a new instrument: When I first attempted to learn harmonica there was no Youtube, no tutorials, no internet at all...and it was not so simple to find so many harmonica albums...so, when I got some of them, I listened to all tracks so many times, probably the only way I had to learn the tin sandwich secrets...so, my new harmonica friends: Take your time listening to the harmonica masters, learn quickly the basic techniques and try to get all you can from the recorded and live played harmonica music! Please, listen to the Old School Harmonica Masters!!!
Tongue blocking or lip pursing, what do you prefer and tell us why.
~ I use all embouchures and I often mix them in the same music phrases... it depends on the music I'm playing at that moment.
Give us the 3 most important albums every (beginning) blues harp player must buy.
~ Buddy Guy & Junior Wells "Alone & Acoustic"
Little Walter "Rock Bottom"
Sonny Terry "Whoopin'"
How do you clean your harps?
~ I only use some damp cloth to clean them from the outside. When I have to make some maintenance, I disassemble all harmonica parts and remove any internal residues in the same way. Fortunately Seydel Harmonicas are almost water proof, so I have to make a very little maintenance and cleaning.
What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you and...you wish they would? (Please provide your answer as well.)
~ Mmm...I try this: a really nice woman interviewing me: "Which is the most advantage you got learning to play harmonica?"...my answer: "Well, playing harmonica is very useful to develop your tongue technique :)"
Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ I learned to record and mix my music, so I have also my own recording studio and love all the comfort I find there: smoking, good drinking, comfortable sofa, soft lights, noiseless room, white paper and enough time to record the best take. I wish sometimes it could also happen at a normal recording studio.
Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any "rituals" to calm you nerves?
~ Normally I don't feel nervous, but just excited for a gig. I try to keep this feeling during all the time before and during my performance, but I also try to relax and concentrate, so I normally drink a couple of beers, a coffee and a rum shot after the sound check during the standard two hours before the show: Old school blues rituals. But half an hour before playing and during my entire performance I only drink water: It helps to concentrate and to stay clear-headed during the show, all the rest is already done before :)
What was the most memorable day in your musical career?
~ Every time I play my music is a special moment for me and I always try to develop myself on my music trip. I can remember a lot of exciting nights, people and venues, but I'm always looking for the next: I hope to never be able to answer this question...
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Answers given on October 25, 2016
Photos by Cristina Leone