Ten Shots with Peter Parcek

By Georgetown Fats
February 2011

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During my tenure with the Boston Blues Society, there has been far more reward from being exposed to great new music than the risk of missing out on an artist. Unfortunately, due to only 24 hours in a day and countless strong acts to listen to, some exceptional artists manage to not register on my radar nearly as early as I would like.

Having been fortunate to listen to The Mathematics of Love shortly after its “drop date,” it was immediately apparent that the Peter Parcek 3 had managed to record something special on their debut disk. Due to a tight personal schedule, it took me far too long from that initial exposure to The Mathematics of Love to check out the Peter Parcek 3 in a live setting.

After seeing the Peter Parcek 3 live, hearing Parcek’s own personal style and sound which he calls “soul guitar,” and many more spins of The Mathematics of Love, it is clear why the Peter Parcek 3 have been nominated for the 2011 Blues Award for Best Blues Artist Debut by The Blues Foundation.

Georgetown Fats: While it’s hard not to miss the influence of Peter Green in your playing, you do not just regurgitate Peter Green’s riffs and licks. Who are some of the other guitarists that have shaped your sound?

Peter Parcek: The first two blues records I bought were The Best of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf’s Moanin' at Midnight. These two are still great musical influences, including Muddy and Jimmy Rogers on guitar and Wolf with Willie Johnson and Hubert Sumlin on guitar. Please find other guitar influences listed below (this is a sampling, as the full list would be overwhelming - no order or hierarchy is implied): Robert, Tommy and Lonnie Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins, Skip James, Fred McDowell, T-Bone Walker, B.B., Freddie, Albert and Earl King, Albert Collins, Luther Tucker, Robert Nighthawk, Tampa Red, Robert Lockwood, The Myers Brothers, Luther “Georgia Boy” Johnson, Sammy Lawhorn, Pat Hare, Ike Turner, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Pat Martino, John McLaughlin, Les Paul, Roy Nichols, Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Guitar Slim, Stochelo Rosenberg, Bireli Lagrene, Earl Hooker, John Lee Hooker, Eddie Taylor, the Vaughan brothers, Freddie Green, Eddie Lang, RL Burnside, Duane Allman, Mike Bloomfield, Little Walter, Big Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson I and II ... the list could go on infinitely.

GF: Having won the Boston Blues Society’s Blues Challenge in 2002 with your trio and then in 2004 with your duo Forty Four and a lengthy musical pedigree, does it give you a chuckle or two to be up for the 2011 Best Blues Artist Debut by The Blues Foundation?

PP: I am proud to be nominated by the Blues Foundation. As for being an “overnight sensation” at my age, it is actually strangely accurate since I feel I am playing the best and most focused in my life at this time. It took me time I guess.

GF: Ted Drozdowski, of the juke joint duo Scissormen, handled the production work for Mathematics of Love. Given that you’re both on Redstar/Vizz Tone, was this a corporate decision to put the two of you together or do you have some personal history with each other?

PP: Ted Drozdowski, along with Ducky Carlisle and the musicians involved, had a tremendous influence on the shape and sound of the record. We became friends & later decided to work together. Ted knows so much about the music's history and also is an avid experimenter. I feel lucky to have met him.

Ted Drozdowski - When we began working on The Mathematics of Love together, we developed a cohesive vision for the album as a portrait of Peter's musical strengths, interests and convictions about music, and harnessed those ideas in a way we thought would not only introduce him to the world at large but put him on musical track for a Blues Music Award nomination. And hey, it worked. Of course, the real key to all of this was working with an artist as masterful and complete as Peter.

GF: So by covering Fleetwood Mac, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Jessie Mae Hemphill and Ray Charles, I was impressed by both your diverse choice of covers and your reinvention of Charles’ “Busted.” Was the arrangement from a standard you have played over the years or was “Busted” a piece of studio-inspired inspiration?

PP: “Busted” was a bit of inspired experimentation combined with studio lunacy. Ted felt that we needed an epic piece of sonic architecture. We looked at a number of great works like Hendrix's sonic experimentations, Ronnie Earl's “Rego Park Blues” et. al. In the end, of course, you can't do any of those because they have already occurred at the highest level. So, you have to find your own way and path through the forest. We also got lucky having Al Kooper along for the journey.

GF: Having witnessed you turn a roomful of professional blues musicians into fans for a night, my readers are going to want to know if there is a secret to that Peter Parcek sound. Care to divulge something you see other professional musicians forget?

PP: There are so many great musicians here in the Boston area that I am learning all the time. Ronnie Earl, Duke Robillard, Duke Levine, Kevin Barry, Marty Ballou, Tom West - the list goes on and on.

Two important facets that might sometimes get overlooked by we guitarists are dynamics and architecture. I remember seeing Ronnie Earl a number of times with drummer Per Hanson. Per Hanson was wedded to Ronnie's every move and nuance. These guys could move literally from a delicate musical whisper to thunder. Ronnie also tells a story in his playing and there is shape, contour and meaning in what he offers.

GF: So you spent your formative musical years in England, received personal musical kudos from Buddy Guy and spent time as Pinetop Perkins’ band leader. While I would imagine all these major occurrences in your life dramatically shaped you as a musician, which taught you the most?

PP: My mother's belief in me taught me the most. Never give up on your talent or your life. Protect your gift(s) and nurture them. There may be reasons for them that you cannot grasp at the moment.

GF: What are Peter Parcek’s musical goals for 2011?

PP: My goals for 2011 include:

GF: So are The Singhs, a highly-acclaimed and eclectic five-piece funk rock group out of Boston, on hiatus while you work the Peter Parcek 3 or are you currently juggling both projects?

PP: The Singhs have a new record entitled Science Fiction produced by the legendary Tony Visconti due out in 2011.

GF: So, how does a New England guitarist wind up with a signature edition custom boutique amp from a company based out of Oklahoma City, OK? How did you wind up with Collins Amplification?

PP: Craig Collins is an extremely nice and talented builder. I had read reviews of his 5e3 deluxe style amps. We spoke, I sent him some music and he was kind enough to offer to create a variant of the 5e3 for me. It is a great amp.

GF: How did you wind up with Redstar/Vizz Tone?

PP: Redstar/Vizz Tone has a great team in place. I feel lucky to be with them.

GF: So what registers or what sign does the audience give you when you know that you’ve got them hooked?

PP: Years ago I played a bar down near the Cape. During the first set the crowd appeared pensive or perhaps disinterested. After the set I went to get “a refreshment” and asked a rather large patron if people in the club liked what we were doing. He replied without irony, “ Oh yes, we enjoyed it. If we didn't like you we would beat the sh*t out of you.” I am generally hoping for a gentle, enthusiastic response.

GF: As the debate between music snobs and society members rages on as to “what is blues,” would you care to offer up any professional insight?

PP: I am certainly no expert on what is or is not blues music but I know what it feels like and this is what I am attempting to communicate and convey. I hope I am doing my job. This may involve forms and approaches that have morphed over time and begun to admit a wide spectrum of influences. I am doing the best I know how and feel deeply what I am presenting.

GF: If you could no longer play live in New England or England, what geographic location has always worked for Peter Parcek musically and why?

PP:I wish I was in heaven sitting down....

Humble, humorous, wildly talented -- do not make the same mistake I did by not checking out the Peter Parcek 3 at a bar near you as quickly as possible. With a musical pedigree like Parcek’s and the accolades for The Mathematics of Love piling up, it is only a matter of time before Parcek and the Peter Parcek 3 are a no longer a well-kept Boston/New England hidden gem.

For more information on Peter, please check out www.peterparcekband.com


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