I met up with Anthony Gomes when he played the Redstone Room in Davenport Iowa on September 10, 2008. It was the first time we had met each other. Anthony is a down to earth guy who likes to meet and talk to his fans. I started out the conversation by asking about his musical influences.
Billy Rose: Anthony tell me about your musical influences from the beginning.
Anthony Gomes: I would say a lot of Rock and Roll. Guitar based Rock and Roll. The first guy was Jimi Hendrix, I really got into him, Hey Joe was one of the first songs and Led Zepplin, Deep Purple. I was into music that was a decade before my time. Fifteen years before my time, I just gravitated toward that. It’s funny ‘cause kids are still doing that today.
Billy Rose: So are you Blues or not. I was reading were some people consider you Blues but there are a whole group of purists who don’t think of you as a blues artist.
Anthony Gomes: Oh man, like…why even bother (laughs). I mean every time I pick up a guitar theres some Albert King in there…I’m a Blues guy. When I learned to play guitar I listened to Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn, Albert Collins. When I learn my rifts…I’m a Blues guy.
I have no desire to live in the world that Muddy Waters created fifty years ago. ‘Cause nobody is gonna do it better than him. I go see these traditional Blues cover bands and they’re boring. They’re cover bands of something that’s fifty years old. Now when you go see the Chicago All Stars and legends like Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, they’re dangerous man. They invented that and it was cutting edge when they did it.
All these purists man…they want to “keep the blues alive”…it is alive! But you can’t keep the past alive. They’re like Civil War Re-enactments man, they’re not real, they’re not real battles they’re not real flesh and blood.
People want to take what we’re doing and find a box for it. Well I want to make my own box, just like BB made his own box. People got mad at him for putting strings on stuff. They booed Muddy Waters because he plugged in a Telecastor, but he made his own box man. So now we’ve got thousands of blues purists around the world who get mad if anybody steps out of that sacred ground.
My goal is to find our niche on the sonic landscape. My first record was called Blues In Technicolor, and that was really a mission statement for what I was gonna do for my whole carreer. I was gonna play Blues but it was gonna be Blues in Technicolor. I was gonna try to cram as many different things together from a Blues perspective.
I mean we’ve got the internet…I call my cell phone provider to upgrade my service and I’m talking some guy in India. We have a global perspective now. I came from a Blues background…but if I want to put in some Country sounds or Southern Rock sounds in my music, I should be able to do that as a Blues guy, and I shouldn’t be the devil. Some people get mad and say I don’t like Country music. Well then you really haven’t heard Country music. I mean if you go to the Country Music Hall of Fame theres a little guy named Ray Charles in there.
I think The Allman Brothers are cool because they listen to all sorts of stuff and put it together. I think the Stones are cool because they listen to Country and Rock and Roll and put it in there, they know what the real deal is.
I would sooner find my own niche that was terrible that nobody liked than to be parading as a blues purist living in the past. It’s kinda pointless, as far as trying to recreate the past. But as far as celebrating Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter…of course you gotta listen to that. That is the foundation that the house is built on.
So am I a blues guy or am I this or that. Every record I do is gonna be different. When my first record came out people didn’t like it, they said “it’s a little rockish”. I did an acoustic album after that and some people really liked it because it was traditional and other said “it’s not rockin’ enough”. Then I put out Unity and it was kinda Tower Of Power, it had horns and people said “wow don’t like that album, we like Blues In Technicolor better”. Then next Music Is The Medicine and they say we don’t like that we like Unity better.
I’m always challenging my audience and when they look at my catalog as a whole I hope they say this artist really tried to push the envelope and push peoples way of thinking. That’s really my mission and I take a lot of shit for it.
Billy Rose: I have had several artists tell me that they don’t like the pigeon holing. Good music is good music no matter what you call it.
Anthony Gomes: Right! And it’s always changing. The music Shemekia Copeland does is considered Blues but twenty years ago the music she is making would have been considered R&B. In a lot of ways Blues is old R&B. I guess it’s out of style R&B (laughs). You know BB King used to say he was R&B, then somewhere along the line his style became outdated. Then you had the Motown sound and the Chess sound with Etta James…that was Rhythm and Blues…Shemekia has been influenced by that and now it’s Blues because it’s older R&B. When Johnny Cash first started out Country music didn’t want anything to do him ‘cause he was too Rock ‘n’ Roll. Then eventually people come around…that’s the great thing about music. Challenging peoples pre-conceived ideas about everything. It’s a good way to make a paycheck (laughs).
Billy Rose: When you write, where do your ideas for songs come from?
Anthony Gomes: Well there are some ideas that are concepts…in our music humanity is almost always attached to our songs. The new song Painted Horse the idea was that at one time a painted horse was undesirable because it wasn’t a purebred, but a painted horse can still win the race. We’re all sort of underdogs…it’s a metaphor for humanity as a whole. All the colors of humanity is in this horse. It represents our mission statement with music too. Like with the New Soul Cowboys, we’re cowboys but we’re not just cowboys we’re new soul cowboys (laughs). We got the three part harmonies and we got the arrangements but we don’t have the twang. Trying to find the common bonds that we all have. We try to put really honest life experiences in songs too.
They kinda find themselves. If you work too hard at it, it won’t turn out (laughs). You have work hard at refining it but the initial inspiration has to be this flash.
Billy Rose: It been nice talking to you Anthony and nice to meet you. I wish the best in the future.
Anthony Gomes: Ah yeah man thank you! It was a pleasure.