Robben Ford is one of the most revered and finest guitarists in music industry. Lucas Biela (LB) interviewed him for ISKC Radio Group.
1/ LB: It’s a true honour for me to interview a guitar heavyweight like you. You were noted very early for your skills. Could you tell us more about your first steps in music industry and how things became «serious» for you?
I had my first professional gig with Charlie Musselwhite at age 19. Shortly after that, I joined Jimmy Witherspoon for two years. During that time i was seen by members of the LA Express and was invited to tour with Joni Mitchell, which led to George Harrison. Things were serious pretty quickly.
2/ LB: You are noted for your versatility (jazz, rock, blues, country, folk). Could you let us know where your eclecticism come from?
The 1960’s was an incredible period for the evolution of American music. (With some Indian Raga thrown in there as well) I loved the British invasion, loved Miles Davis and John Coltrane, BB King, etc. It was an eclectic time
3/ LB: Could you tell us more about your collaboration with Joni Mitchell? Is this how you met Tom Scott and joined the L.A. Express?
Yes, as mentioned before. I always say that I learned more during that period of time than any other in my life. That’s when I started listening to Indian music as well as Classical. Tom Scott and Roger Kellaway were real mentors.
4/ LB: You were one of the lucky guitarists to play with Miles Davis. Could you tell us more about this collaboration?
The greatest possible feather in ones cap..a great privilege. He was actually a lot of fun if you didn’t mind being a little terrified all the time. We had a good connection and he was very complimentary to my playing.
5/ LB: Similarly to Michael Landau, Larry Carlton and Steve Lukather, you were able to play with the heavyweights of « westcoast » music, such as Steely Dan, Michael McDonald or DeBarge during its golden age (late 70’s/early 80’s). Was being settled in California and an in-demand guitarist a trigger for these sessions. Were you approached by these artists/bands or was it your own decision to play with them?
I had a reputation firstly due to my association with Tom Scott and the LA Express. They were all top session players and refered me to others.
6/ LB: In recent years, you formed a jazz-fusion project with Jimmy Haslip and Vinnie Colaiuta named Jinx. You used to play with Jimmy Haslip in The Yellowjackets: was this project born out of your nostalgia for The Yellowjackets years or a desire to give a modern approach to jazz-fusion with a few friends?
The band was called Jing Chi [Note from LB: mistake between Jinx, the frontwoman of Coven and Jing Chi]. It was Jimmy who was approached by the record label to put together a band and he called Vinnie and me. It was just a great opportunity to record some music with great musical friends and get paid for it. Some of my favorite recorded work there with those two.
7/ LB: While being a guitarist involved in many sessions and various projects, you are remarkably steady in recording music as a solo artist (around 30 albums under your name since your debut solo album in 1976). How do you manage to find time and ideas for your solo albums?
I was never really a studio guitarist and have spent the greatest part of my career writing, recording and touring my own band and music. The little bit of session work I did in LA happened over a few short years.
8/ LB: I learned about your new album, ‘Pure’, thanks to my good friend guitarists and composer Philippe Luttun. I was immediately hooked by the music, and knew it will be in my top 10 albums of the year. This album, while being constant, is a good example of your vesatility as we can hear your guitar in bluesy, jazzy, western or even rocky overtones. Besides, it showcases your ability to suggest various feelings (anxiety («Pure»), humour («If You Want Me»), happiness («Go»)…). It’s versatile on all levels! Could you tell us more about the writing process of this album, and how it was received by press and the audience?
Pure was a product of Covid Times. I had been writing instrumental music for a couple of projects I was producing that were shut down by the virus. So, I focused on writing and recording my own record. My instrumental music chop was up and i challenged myself to do things I’d never done : like the title track « Pure », which is an Indian raga. We also really stretched our use of the studio for ambiance, distortion, etc. Proud of that record.
9/ LB: Let’s stay on your new album. It was recorded during Covid pandemic. How did recording sessions happen: was it possible for all of you to play in the same studio or did each of you record their part remotely?
The record was primarily done by me and my co-producer Casey Wasner. We built tracks from a click track – up. There are three songs, I think, that were recorded with a live band. I really wanted to keep control of every aspect of the music and I think it worked out very well.
10/ LB: Given how prolific and creative you are, could you please let us know about any future projects, solo or collaborations.
11/ LB: Please let us know if you have anything else you would like to share with us.
Thank you !
‘Pure’ on Youtube: