By Rosine Alleva & José Oliveira – Rock At Night EU Editors
Philippe Sayce is one of the most famous artists who performed at Woodstock Guitares Live. Rock At Night already interviewed him in 2017 before his sold out concert and in 2020 for the release of “SPIRIT RISING”. His catchy rock with bluesy and funky style makes him one of the most gifted guitarists of his generation. As a youth growing up in Canada, Philip has always had a huge fascination for the musical universe of Mark KNOPFLER, Jimi HENDRIX and Stevie RAY VAUGHAN, after his family had moved out from Wales. Critically hailed as one of the most innovative guitarists and singer songwriter on the nowadays blues rock scene, everyone was impatient to see him again at WSG with his last opus “SPIRIT RISING”! His show was once again sublime and you feel in him like a renewed energy to unroll his flighty bursts of guitar.
Before the concert, Philip received us at the first floor of the WG temple , next to the new Gibson Guitars Collection.
RAN – It’s been nine years since you released “INFLUENCE” in 2014. Now you make a triumphant return with your last work “SPIRIT RISING”, out in 2020. What can you say about this album? Did the pandemic time affect you ?
Philippe Sayce– Thank you for asking about this. Yes, it really did affect. The album came out during the pandemic which made it very difficult to do any touring, there was very little or no promotion for the album. I feel very proud it’s mainstream now, I’m an independent artist. So I’m thankful to people who’ve been listening. The album is dedicated to my dad. My dad passed away while I was making it. So I think of him very much when I think of the music. A very difficult time, it still is, it’s weird.
RAN – Listening to these Spirit Rising songs, we feel that you are back with a certain vengeance and ready to put the world on notice. The fuzzy instrumental “WARNING SHOT” is there just to prove it!!!
PHS– Yeah, we’re like starting engines. Well if you feel that, then that feels wonderful to know that it’s resonating in that way. Making music is a real privilege, I feel very thankful to the opportunity to make music in my lifetime. So I wanna put my best foot forward every time. I wanna be better today than I was yesterday and tomorrow be better than today. Always learn how to be better.
RAN – Some songs like “OH MY” show a bit new direction in your musical landscape. Complemented with female backing vocals. Do you agree?
PHS– A little bit…more focusing on the song writing. I wrote that with a friend of mine named Brad Hooks in L.A. We had fun writing and recording it and also Bernie Barlow, a great singer, she’s amazing .She used to sing with the Moody Blues and many people. That’s her voice on the song. Yeah it was fun, just trying different things sometimes.
RAN – In your last work you’ve included 3 cover songs and “ONE FOOT ON THE GRAVEL” is a great Tribute to your mentor JEFF HEALEY. In retrospect, what are the best memories you have of this collaboration with Jeff?
PHS– OMG! I think every moment with Jeff, I was the biggest fan in the room. So, I just was so happy being near him and every time he touched any musical instrument, something magical happened. He was touched by God, you know. It was just so beautiful to be there when he sang, he played. There was so much joy that came out of him through the music. He sort of showed me the level, like how high you can go. It was no ego, he just was real. Everything that I heard him play and sing is an inspiration for my entire life.
I just wanna get better and I’m thinking of him everyday. It’s indescribable how great he was, just like a beautiful bird who’s flying in the sun…so natural. It’s beautiful to see that you know!
RAN– “ONCE” is a beautiful tribute song that you wrote to your father. I suppose. Tell me something about the feeling of that song.
PHS– It’s still a bit hard to talk about it. It’s just a way to reach him. His influence on me is very strong. My mum and dad grew up in the 60’s in London. All that great music coming out then, my parents really introduced me to Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Healey, Ry Cooder, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins. I learned all the music because of my parents. My dad is very supportive of music. I miss him a lot, I think of him every time I play that song.
RAN– You played with so many blues musicians…You also met BB KING!
PHS– Yeah, we played some of the same festivals, I didn’t play with him on stage but we played like the same night like when we did Montreux Jazz in Switzerland with Jeff, Robert Cray, Ronnie Earl…We used to see many shows with my dad, Robert Cray and a lot of people.
RAN– Of course you play blues rock but I sometimes also notice there is a funky side in your work.
PHS– Yeah, I love funk music, I love groove. I think a lot of blues artists that I really love like Albert Collins…it doesn’t get any funkier than him. Really he’s the funkiest guy I’ve ever seen! When I saw your picture with James Brown, how cool is this! But Funk is very connected to blues music as well. So I love blues with some funk, for sure.
RAN– Blues rock seems pretty healthy at the moment – there are lots of good guitar players coming through. Do your preferences go in this area?
PHS– I really like King Fish, he’s amazing! Jared James Nichols is great ….there are so many great players! Every time you go on line you find more, there are very many that I’m inspired by. I appreciate the level the people are playing at, the care, the love that they’re pouring into it.
RAN– How do you explain that some new American bands have more difficulties to come to Europe?
PHS– I don’t know if I can speak to each individually but based on my own experience, I think it’s the cost, especially after the Pandemic, that’s crazy! Just the flights are extremely expensive! I think the overall expense is more difficult than even 5 years ago. That’s why I feel so thankful for the opportunity to be here now. And the scene is changing a lot in the US. L.A has some of the best venues in the world but Nashville becomes a real music center. A lot of people are moving to Nashville as it’s a lot less expensive to live there.
RAN– What’s the big hope for Philip SAYCE? Is there already a new album in preparation?
PHS– The new album is done and the first single is coming in a few weeks.
RAN– Will you play some of the new titles tonight?
PHS– We’ve been playing some of the new songs but it depends on the night but I feel really excited about it. It’s an extension of SPIRIT RISING but I think it’s a new beginning. No title for the album yet but I have to make up my mind and decide soon! A lot of it I wrote during the Pandemic. There is a song I started to write a long time ago. I finished it to put on the album cause there was more time!
RAN– What’s your line-up for this Tour and tonight?
PHS– Sam Bolle on bass, he’s an amazing bass player. We‘ve been playing together for a handful of years now. He played with a lot of people from Agent Orange to Dick Dale. He‘s from Ventura in California. And on drums it’s Bryan Head, an incredible drummer. He played with a lot of people and also with Dick Dale. Sam and Bryan were Dick Dale rhythm section, they’re strong!
RAN – In your biography, you declared to be very much influenced by Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler. But meeting the HENDRIX’s musical universe was much more complex. Wasn’t it?
PHS– Well I think it’s different for everyone. Mark Knopfler‘s playing is very complex. His play is perfect poetry! Hendrix is the King, always but when I hear Mark Knopfler I have an emotional reaction to it, it’s perfect. And he can play really fast but also really slow. And he’s a great writer. So, I love them both individually for who they are.
RAN– It’s the second time you are going to play here at Woodstock Guitars, what do you think about this Guitars temple?
PHS– It‘s so cool. This is maybe one of the coolest stores in the world! Beautiful Guitars, great shirts, even hats and then you go to the concert hall, it’s awesome! Great sound, very friendly people, it‘s A+!
RAN– Thank you very much for this interview, it was an honor meeting you. Looking forward to seeing the concert!
PHS– It was an honor for me too!
Photo courtesy : Philippe HAUMESSER