INTERVIEW: THE BLUES PROJECT'S STEVE KATZ
by Will Shade
Let's get right to it! Will Shade recently interviewed The Blues Project's Steve Katz. Here, Katz talks about The BP's music, and his own personal musical influences.
WS: What was the Blues Project music like and what set it apart from your contemporaries?
SK:The Blues Project was different from most of its contemporaries because the emphasis was placed on live improvisation. Unlike other white blues bands of the period, we didn't want to play the blues exactly like the great black blues artists. In that sense we were the urban counterpoint to what many bands in San Francisco were also doing - stretching out, playing with sounds, form, etc. - but our context was mainly the blues. And our forum was in live performance rather than the studio. Our attempts at "Top 40" were never successful. The gigs were what mattered and we never knew what was going to happen on stage on any given night.
WS: Was British R & B an influence?
SK: Loved the Yardbirds, Mayall, Cream. Never listened to Pretty Things.
WS: Any noticeable difference between your live performances and studio recordings?
SK: The live albums never really captured what the actual performances were like, so I'd have to say that Projections was my favorite BP album. We were given practically no time to record it, so in a sense it was "live", but there are some very successful and heartfelt tracks on there.
WS: Who were the band's influences?
SK: That's a hard one. The Blues Project was Danny Kalb's band and he was the heart of it, literally. Kooper was still right out of the Brill Building and my forte was folk-rock but it was really Danny's crazy blues influenced realizations that were the core of the band and so most of his tracks like Two Trains Running take on a more special meaning for me.
WS: Who were your personal influences?
SK: Danny and I had a lot of the same influences. We were both students of Dave Van Ronk and were brought up listening to country blues, folk blues, and Chicago blues. Of course we all idolized Muddy Waters and were lucky to share a lot of the same venues together. Al Kooper idolized Otis Spann, Muddy's piano player. I was still secretly listening to Broadway musicals.
WS:Was LSD and marijuana an influence?
SK: Yes. Yes.
WS: Are you surprised at the band's legendary status?
SK: No. We had a very devoted following...mostly college kids and young intellectuals. We weren't a short term teen fad. I expected that over the years we would retain some degree of legendary status, especially for those who actually witnessed the performances. I do believe, however, that New York bands, and there were some great ones, received less notoriety than they deserved because of the rock press's emphasis on San Francisco bands.
WS: Do you still play?
SK: I play acoustically about once a year at the Towne Crier in Pawling, New York. I'm not creating any new music except for my own satisfaction.