Hurl: Good Morning Captain…….Good morning to you sir!…..Hey Jorma, Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions regarding the fantastic new Hot Tuna release, “Steady As She Goes”. I know you’ll be taking off on the bus soon, so let’s get started. FIRST OFF……Big congratulations on the new record……You know I’ve been a fan of yours and Hot Tuna’s music since I was in high-school and some how all these years later you are still able to create such a wonderful work of art and a masterpiece that hangs nicely with all of the other great Hot Tuna records in the group’s 40 year span. How have you been able to sustain your inspiration for Hot Tuna for so long??????
JK: Simple… It’s not only what I do… It’s what I love to do! I have been blessed to have a career that is inspired by the music. Hot Tuna’s been an active band since 1970. Jack and I are each others oldest friends………..I cannot think of another person on this planet that I have been able to explore my songs with. Jack lets me be me.
HURL: I really love the format of the new record as I like the mix of acoustic and electric …..ballads and blues…you have a nice variety of musical styling’s on “Steady As She Goes”. In some ways it reminds me of my favorites…..”Burgers”…..and “Phosphorescent Rat”. Is it a challenge for you and the band to mix things up in this regard as compared to an all acoustic project or the powerhouse electric records you made in the late 70′s.??????
JK: Nope… once again, this was simple for us. The songs themselves told us how they wanted to be treated. I’m not really sure why that is…..because there were a lot of years that I personally struggled to write. I don’t question it………..
Hurl: “Second Chances” is one of the best songs you’ve ever written Jorma and I know it is a recent composition. What can you tell us about this song….. the creative process of “Songwriting” …. and how you were motivated and inspired to write some of the new songs on “Steady As She Goes”????
JK: For me, songwriting is seeing that rabbit in the field, following him and when he goes down a hole, I’m right behind him. Second Chances was one of those songs that was already a part of me…my life. I just followed it until it revealed itself to me. Barry helped me out with the music one night when I was staying at his house. So I guess you could say that it revealed itself to him too. We are lucky to have second chances in this life.
Hurl: Were there a lot of songs in your head when you went into the studio to record or did you go into the studio with all the material pretty much all worked out?
JK: Some of the songs were in a finished state, and some sprouted as the project advanced. For instance, Jack had been living with the music to Smokerise Journey for a very long time apparently. He came to me with the music at Levon’s and said, I need lyrics. The next morning, those lyrics rose from the smoke of a memory I had. Larry forged the chords and my lyrics into a chart for a great song. It turns out that it was exactly what Jack was feeling. That doesn’t happen often…..it was meant to be written I guess:
Hurl: “Smokerise Journey” is a sweet song and it marks the first time that Jack and You have collaborated in the art of songwriting……very nice….. I love the way “Easy Now Revisited” turned out….One of your great songs from back in the day gets a fresh visit with some new lyrics to boot…..Why did you choose to revisit “Easy Now”?
JK: Easy Now was a song back ‘in the day’ about a motorcycle trip I wanted to take but never did. Easy Now Revisited is about a motorcycle trip I did take last year.
Hurl: The addition of a female vocalist is a real nice touch and Teresa Williams does a fine job in that roll…..However, it is different for Hot Tuna……How was it having Teresa singing with you and how did that come about?
JK: Over the last couple of years I’ve been blessed by being able to do lots of projects with Larry and Teresa. If Teresa weren’t so busy, I’d love to have her with me everywhere I go. She always makes me sound good.
Hurl: Larry Campbell has been making quite a name for himself as a producer and he does a great job as the producer on “Steady As She Goes”…..What do you feel makes a great producer and how was it working with Larry???
JK: Larry’s musical sensibilities are impeccable. His talent to understand his artists and to totally become a member of the team makes him invaluable as a producer. The fact that he is one of the greatest musicians I know…..didn’t hurt.
Hurl: As a producer did Larry get Jack and you to do some things that you might have not thought to do….say if you were producing this project by yourself????
JK: I would never want to produce one of my own projects. How boring. Larry shines the light, we notice it and follow. At this point I cannot imagine using anyone else to produce our music. I was lucky enough to have Larry produce River of Time and I really believe that River of Time and the spirit that went in to that project inspired all of us to make Steady As She Goes…Larry included.
Hurl: Barry and Skoota are such fine musicians and they sure add a potent contribution to the recording…..What say you about working with these two newer members of the Hot Tuna family?
JK: A perfect fit no matter how you look at it. Barry and Skoota were definitely ordained to be part of our group. Good stuff!
Hurl: Everyone I’ve talked to about the new record has been pretty stoked and elated with the fact that first off there is a NEW record and secondly that it sounds so great! I’ve had more then a few folks say that there are a number of songs on the new record that go back even further then CLASSIC HOT TUNA……they hear a Jefferson Airplane sound and feel…….Did you feel that as well?
JK: Absolutely. Working on this project opened many doors and freed me in a profound way!
Hurl: Having an instrumental tune on a Hot Tuna record has become a welcomed expectation and on “Steady As She Goes” this is once again the case with the CD closer, “Vicksburg Stomp”. Would you comment on that and tell us about how that recording came together???
JK: Barry brought this great tune into my life and I encouraged him to let us record it for Steady As She Goes. Vicksburg Stomp is very much like a lot of the instrumentals I have done and written over the years…..it was a fit that I just couldn’t let go away.
Hurl: I really dig your guitar sound on “Children of Zion”……how did you achieve that sound and how long have you been familiar with this Rev. Gary Davis composition????
JK: Well, you know how much I love the Rev. I’ve known about Children of Zion for a long time. I just finally got the insights to make it happen. The guitar sound is a Gibson SST Chet Atkins through a Oahu steel guitar amp from the thirties.
Hurl: Jorma……..You’ve had a long and blessed career……What is similar and what is remarkably different in the recording process from back then and now????
JK: The creative process is no longer a haphazard mystery. There is always room for magic to happen, but I am now able to at least give it a little direction.
Hurl: Well, I could keep on going……but I know you’ve got to go……What can you say in closing as to how satisfied you are with the sound you achieved on “Steady As She Goes” and the joy of a new studio recording for Hot Tuna????
JK: I couldn’t be happier with this project. Now I’m starting to think about the next, but first… our show at the Avalon in Eastern MD with Larry and Teresa! Oh…..wait….you forgot to ask about “A Little Faster”. I have to thank you and Vanessa for that song. As a manager bringing a song to a band is always a delicate task. But Vanessa brought me a real winner. And You, John…..wrote that beauty. It gives me such joy to be able to do one of your songs. Jack and Skoota really play off of each other in the middle of A Little Faster. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was an old Tuna classic! Thanks!
Hurl: Thanks Jorma, it is truly quite an honor to have one of my own songs recorded by one of my heros. Thanks for your time have a great tour. Bless Up! and rock steady!