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Interview: The Return of Pat Travers

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Interview: The Return of Pat Travers
There was an unforgettable stretch of time in the late 1970s when teenagers like myself sat in high school classrooms and impatiently watched the clock. It was torture. Time moved slowly back then, but nothing could keep us from our mission. We were determined to get out of class, get home, whip out the guitar, and figure out what Pat Travers was doing on Live! Go For What You Know. It was a killer album that combined rock, blues, funk-rock, and the fury of his live shows.

Learning that stuff was a right of passage. Pat Travers was the man, and you gained respect for knowing his songs. Back then, it was hard to get much better than Pat Travers and Pat Thrall on guitar, Peter "Mars" Cowling on bass, and the powerful double bass drumming of Tommy Aldridge. “Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)” was all over the radio, and “Makin’ Magic” and “Hooked On Music” were the tunes that the hardcore players pillaged for guitar licks. “Snortin’ Whiskey” was released on the Crash and Burn album and became a Top 20 hit.

Since then, Pat Travers has continued to tour, play mean guitar, and make music. His current release is titled FIDELIS, and he’s touring all over the place in support of it. It’s a fresh sounding, ballsy record with great guitar tones and excellent musicianship. Travers continues his legacy of passionate vocals and bitchin' blues-rock guitar playing without copying his past. The band is tight, the songs are very happening, and Travers is inspired. I was lucky enough to catch up with him just before he was off to do a sound check.

How have you been, and what have you been up to?

Really good. I have a CD that’s already been released digitally as a download. I think it’s really good. We got some really killer guitar tones on there. I’m real happy with the songs. I don’t think I’ve been this pleased with something I’ve recorded in a long, long, time.

How did FIDELIS come about?

Desperation. [Laughing] Hail Mary! Actually, I found myself in a position that someone who has had a career like mine hopes for. It’s easy when you first start out and you’re releasing records in your twenties and you’re successful, and you’re moving around, and doing this and that. Then the career tends to wind down a little bit. It happens to everybody. There are just not that many opportunities. So, I met an individual up in Canada who wanted to start his own record label. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get the attention he felt I deserved.

So, I was able to take the time to work on this record. I’d been thinking about this for a long, long time. I was in a position to make a really good album again without unreasonable deadlines and production limits. I had a great producer, Steve Thompson. The came together: the location in the woods in Northern Ontario and a little bit of desperation. I knew I had this one-time opportunity, and I wanted to give the best effort that I could, not just in the performance but in the writing of the songs. I feel I wrote a lot of catchy tunes. I’m pretty stoked over it.

Where does the inspiration come from?

The inspiration for the lyrics and the performances came when I was a long way from home for a long time. Although we were in a very beautiful place, there was a lot of longing, and it shows up in the songs, especially in the vocal performances. When I needed to draw some emotion into something, I just thought about how badly I wanted to get home. Everything fell together in an organic fashion. If there was something interesting, I didn’t stop.

Do you compose songs by noodling on the guitar, or do you hear melodies in your head first?

Sometimes the riffs come completely packaged out of nowhere. The opening song, “Ask Me Baby,” came about several years ago when I was auditioning bass players. They would come in expecting to play one of my old songs. It’s pretty easy for somebody to learn somebody else’s bass part and ape it back for me. It’s more important for me to see what people are like in a creative situation. I would just come up with some riff totally unexpectedly. The riff for “Ask Me Baby” was one of those. It just came screaming out completely formed.
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