Exclusive Interview with Roger C. Wade

Roger C. Wade How did you discover the bluesharp ?
~ I had been playing blues on the guitar on the streets of the UK with a friend, just for fun and small change, when I saw a harmonica in a music store window and thought I'd give it a go. I did and soon put away the guitar, which meant we were a guitar/harp duo for the first time.

If everything would be possible (waking the dead included) , which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session?
~ That's a tough one, of course, but I would go for William Clarke. He made a massive impression on me at a very formative time in my musical development at the beginning of the 90s. He still embodies so much of what I find fantastic about harmonica in blues, basing it on the greats we all know, Little and Big Walter, George Smith etc, but moving it forward and playing it HIS way. Fantastic stuff!

What is your favorite blues harp brand / type and tell us why?
~ I have recently become a Seydel endorser as I love the 1847 harp. I played Hohner harps for over 20 years but was never convinced of the consistency of their out-of-the-box offerings. They also offer my favoured 7LJI which saves me the hassle of retuning. I played many custom pre-war Marine Bands, which I also loved, but have now settled on the airtight and reliable full sound of the 1847s.

What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp?
~ Listen to as much of the music you are interested in as possible. It's not about how many notes you play and how fast you are, just soak up the music and try and find your way of getting it across. We all need technique but only to be able to say what we want to say. That's music.

Tongue blocking or lip pursing, what do you prefer and tell us why.
~ 95% of what I do is tongue-blocking. I use lip-pursing for effects but rarely need it in the music that moves my soul. It's hotly debated, but the percussive nature of tongue-blocking and the opportunities it presents for rhythm, together with what I perceive as a warmer, fuller tone means I'm a tongue-blocker first and foremost.

Give us the 3 most important albums every (beginning) blues harp player must buy.
~ A "Best Of" compilation of Little Walter, a "Best Of" compilation of Big Walter and a "Best Of" compilation of George Smith.

How do you clean your harps?
~ The Seydel have sealed combs and can be rinsed under warm water, which I LOVE. With the Hohner MBs, I remove the covers which I wash in vinegar/water and then I use a toothbrush to remove that horrible gunk from the reed plates.

What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you and...you wish they would? (Please provide your answer as well.)
~ Does it annoy you that the opera houses get massive state funding and the blues/jazz scene is fighting for survival? Hell, yeah!

Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ I like there to be a good selection of vintage stuff, amps, mics etc. A tuned piano! A good-sounding room and, most importantly, the right person doing the recording!

Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any "rituals" to calm you nerves?
~ No, I don't get nervous any more. Before my time on stage playing music, I spent many years in theatre so I have left most nerves behind me. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy the anticipation before an event, though.

What was the most memorable day in your musical career?
~ I don't know about a memorable day, but the most memorable time was the four months I spend travelling the US, playing in numerous bars/clubs with many fantastic musicians!

Roger C. Wade

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Answers given on july 6, 2016