These articles with interviews done with people that died long before their time takes on even more importance today. These articles, some videos and the music is what remains. There will be no more of either. I hope you appreciate this one, and that you, like me, feel what an absolute tragedy it is that Kossoff and all those other people that did go to soon, never got the chance to share their talents with us for a longer time.
Koss – birth of a new concept
feature by Billy Walker
First out of the Free ruck is that diminutive demon of electric guitar Paul Kossoff with a new album, “Back Street Crawler”, and an overwhelming urge to get himself back on stage and playing to the people. But, as is always the case, finding the right set of musicians to work with is causing a little more problematical than the release of any album.
“Crawler” is a step towards the concept that Koss has been working on for some time now, but by no means expresses his ideas fully. It`s not an entirely “new” album either, in as much as some of the tracks have been around for about a year and therefore can`t possibly be the total expression of the concept:
“It`s like a set of things picked out from various time periods and put together,” Koss mused relaxing in a swivel chair in SOUNDS` office. “But I think it`s a bit like a skeleton, it`s touching on things to come. People seem to like it, which makes me feel really good.”
The once closely shorn Kossoff mane was back to full, flowing regence and that almost evil twinkle flashes through his eyes as before, Koss is looking better than he has for a long time and if “Crawler” is a success and the band manages to come together without too many hassles it could mean that we`ll hear him back at his best before long.
Nine years spent studying classical guitar has held Koss in good stead from many aspects but his first exposure to anything outside those confines came when he visited a club that had Mayall`s Bluesbreakers topping the bill:
“I`d stopped playing classical guitar for a while and wasn`t doing anything but then I saw Clapton.
“I couldn`t understand that sound, it was very new to me as it was to everyone else, and that`s what started me off playing again. But being a bit lazy I never sat down and copied note for note anything anyone ever did.”
But Koss has never denied the indelible impression Clapton`s playing had upon him and also that of Hendrix. In fact Hendrix more than anyone played a big part in Paul`s life, both musically and emotionally: “I went through a really weird stage, drugs and shit, and Hendrix was so in my mind all of the time and I played nothing but his records.
“I felt that I understood him and what he was doing so totally. Some of his things were very, very wild and wound up and people thought it was just freak-outs and a big noise, whereas I found out there was a meaning and idea and concept behind what he was doing.
“His songs were very emotional, very wide open and spacey, and at the same time being vulnerable and without protection he would die, and he did.” But had any of Jimi`s style or feel rubbed off on Koss? “Yeah, the depth maybe of human emotion and feelings that can be expressed in one form or another.
“It inspired me as well as took away any pre-ego about whether I was a good guitarist in what I did and made me want to better myself.” But apart from being emotionally effected by Hendrix guitar playing Koss was also forming his own forms and expressions at this time.
“The concept I have is one of an arc of sound, to try and pull out of people emotions and out of myself, aggressive, tender, soft. All the emotions are very human, they`re there and a lot of the time they`re very inhibited, especially with an audience and a lot of times in the playing, depending on the state of the player, his state of mind.
“But there`s nothing I want more than to be on the road with a good package to put over these thoughts, to get a good reaction…”
“Time Away” from the new album in part expresses this new idea that Koss is concerned with and loves to work, in the studio or out of it, with musicians that fit tightly. “Something like that (“Time Away”) just came together, I just visited John Martyn at a session and we did it. The way I was playing on that track is the way I like to express myself, I think it`s a good example, it`s a very bluesy track and just drifts.
“I very much like the movement of musicians when there is an understanding – jam is a very overused word. When you get something that is being played off the cuff, maybe something very fast, really it`s moving in slow waves of communication, rising and falling, getting into different moods, I like that very much. I also like gigging songwriting – the actual vocal expression of it, the way to present it.”
But the opposite can also be true, working with people that Koss can`t relate to can be a real disaster. “I love to record with the right people, I hate to record with the wrong people, it`s a nightmare I have to go out and leave it. But my best playing I suppose has been on things that have been very loose, but I love to play on stage, it`s really what I want to do above all.”
And with Koss ready again to express himself on stage the question once again comes back to forming a band, and the chance of having to compare these musicians with those in Free. And what of the pressures of keeping a working unit together on the road?
“I`m older and wiser and I`ve learnt a lot about people, music and other musicians. Whereas when I was with Free I knew nothing about other musicians and the way they worked. As far as finding a singer, to me there`s no one that can sing like Paul Rodgers, and I`m so used to playing with him and around him and interchanging and all that.
“Obviously I`d have to get used to a new singer but I can`t think of anyone that is emotionally of such depth and technically good. I think there are people with great voices that I would love to play with but it would be a whole new thing for me which I realise and understand, willing to accept that they do not have that depth of thought behind the intonation.”
And that`s exactly what “Back Street Crawler” has in great depth – feeling. It runs through a great assortment of emotions and Kossoff`s playing varies from the quite tightness of “Crawler” to the more loose and floating dreaminess of “Time Away”, changes in style and emotions but who does Koss really admire, in the guitar field that`s working today?
Nobody except Townshend, I love Townshend from about every angle, his playing and the great variety of mood he gets. I admire his togetherness to hold a band like the Who together, which I think he does, his performance overall, visually and musically, at the same time being perfect.”
I`ve said it many times before, and after hearing “Back Street Crawler” I see no reason to change my mind, that Koss had, and still has, the magic and musicianship to be a really outstanding British guitarist. You can`t compare one musician with another like branded beers but Koss hasn`t really been given the benefit of a good listen to by the general public.
Sure, Free fans and a few on the perifery know about him and what he can do on top form but they also remember the off nights. But lurking within Koss` tiny frame is a great flood of emotionally charged music that when the full concept is realised Paul could be mentioned in the same breath as Clapton, Page and Beck, and of course he is by some of us already.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Nils Lofgren, John Lennon, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Lane, Alice Cooper, Carlos Santana, Average White Band, Dale ‘Buffin’ Griffin, Magna Carta.
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