Jason Ricci: A Different Shade of Blue
I haven't once said in a conversation ever in my life that "my baby done left me so why would a white kid like me start to sing that? That's why I like modern players as well, because they know their history, yet feel the need to take that knowledge and turn it into something musical they can relate with their lives. I could be wrong, but wasn't that what Muddy Waters did when he plugged in? Wasn't that what Walter did when he played through an amp? Or what Sonny Boy said when he sang lyrics like "she has a cool disposition ?
I hate "dumbing down for the effect of a very contrived "soul if it's not real. The original masters would not be the original masters had they not modernized and intellectualized the voices of their predecessors. I don't "declare and I haven't "reckoned in a while. I'm a fairly well-educated middle class white kid from Maine. I'm sober six years now and I'm also gay.
Philosophically, I could care less if that's not authentic enough for some other white guy from wherever with a straw hat, cowboy boots, a King Biscuit festival shirt and a blues society membership card. I perceived somewhere along the way that honesty was a key ingredient in this music. Unfortunately for me, and the younger kids in their teens who might be attracted to blues, if it were more often treated sincerely, that guy with the hat is a huge portion of the talent/CD buyers for this music I play and call blues, and that directly affects my career pretty much daily. Why did you have to ask me that question?
AAJ: We are interested in the way our artist friends think. In as much as it is our desire to document the ideas that are forging the direction for this music, you guys are down there on the frontline on a day-to-day basis. We are interested in your experiences and we knew, from reading your website, that you were no mental lightweight..
Considering the tremendous contributions that the GLBT [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered] community has made to the arts, and more particularly the contributions to music made by George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Freddy Mercury, Elton John, among other artists possibly too long to list, with regards to the blues, does the gay community bring something different to the table? Possibly a heightened sophistication, or a deeper sensitivity? Or is this stereotypical assumption? Is this question fair at all?
JR: I'm not one to propagate stereotypes of any kind. Obviously anyone who has ever experienced life for themselves would surely agree that many stereotypes are based upon generalizations that appear frequently enough to further these outside perceptions. I'm not sure I or any other GLBTs bring anything special to the table other than fighting for equality and the urgency of expressing our needs emotions and experiences to a world that views them as less than, fictional or not, equivalent to their own.
There are certainly parables that could be drawn to a gay man or woman's life today, and the lack of rights we have to that of the black/African American what-have-you experience of past days. I'm not allowed to be married legally, can be fired at any time for being gay legally, and am discouraged frequently often with the threat/threats of violence any time I am open about who I am, either alone or with my boyfriend.
I have been boycotted by members of the Black Swamp Blues Society in Toledo, told by the Slippery Noodle in Indy to "tone it down, have received blatant and not so blatant threats and verbal abuse as often as once every three shows or more, as well as a few death threats to boot. So as a gay man and a member of a community I would answer your question ultimately by saying: "Yes, we have a lot to write about and yes, our lives are deeply sensitive and we have to have a heightened sense of sophistication, otherwise we will be shot down and persecuted even more than we have been and currently, especially with this fascist administration in office and homophobia being another aspect of patriotism these days.
AAJ: You have mentioned Derek Truck's spirituality. In listening to sound clips from the work you did with the Knucklebusters, and the cover for your CD Live At Checkers Tavern, in which a likeness of yourself sits in what is an obviously lotus position, can we draw from this that you have a spiritual side?
JR: I do. I believe this quote by the wonderful and tragically deceased underrated comedian and philosopher Bill Hicks pretty much some up my views: "All matter is really energy condensed to a slow moving vibration. We are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death. Life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves.
AAJ: Is Live At Checkers Tavern your most current CD, or have you have since released another?
JR: This is my most current and it should/better be out by the time this is published.