All about expression

Interview: Norman Darwen

Small Blues Trap is the name of a Greek four-piece comprising Paul Karapiperis on vocals, harmonica, steel guitar, Panagiotis Daras on guitar, and a rhythm section of Lefteris Besios on bass guitar and drummer Stathis Evageliou. The name is beginning to spread outside of their native country and Norman Darwen finds out what the band is all about:

Who are your influences, and when did you first hear the blues?

P.Karapiperis: S.B.T is a band with multiple influences: classic rock, jazz and of course the blues. Artists such as Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Albert King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson (1&2), Jimmy Reed, T-Bone Walker, Elmore James, Tampa Red, Son House, Robert Johnson, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, Freddie King, John Campbell, Paul Butterfield, Peter Green, Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart, Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher, Led Zeppelin, The Doors…and many more! We were exposed to Rock music as youngsters like everybody else that eventually led us to discover the roots of Rock music which is undoubtedly the blues.

When and how did Small Blues Trap get together, and what is the significance of the name?

P.Karapiperis: We formed the band in August 2004 after having felt the need to musically express our emotions. Now, concerning the name, Small Blues Trap it came out of a combination of worded emotions. The blues is our base, our lodge where we allow our souls to be freely expressed. Trap is the “trapping emotion” we feel while playing the blues. The blues itself is a musical “trap”. Once you get exposed to it, you can never escape from its sweetness and the variety of emotions that go along with it.

S.Evageliou: I’ve been a member of the band since January 2007. Since then, I must confess that I enjoy unique moments of pleasure and friendship with the rest of the guys.

Can you tell me a little bit about the Greek Blues scene?

P.Karapiperis: Few know that Nick Gravenites, Johnny Otis and  Alexis Korner have Greek origins. The first Greek band that made a pure blues album was the Blues Gang (now Blues Wire) in the beginning of the ‘80s.  Since then, many good blues bands have been formed. We usually play in small bars in Athens and other cities. Occasionally we participate in big music events. In Greece, the people who listen to the blues music, truly adore this genre of music  and never miss blues events. The popularity of the blues music here should also be attributed to the many great artists that have come and played here in Greece such as Buddy Guy, Albert King, Albert Collins , Otis Rush, Louisiana Red, John Hammond, Carey and Lurrie Bell, John Mayall, U.P.Wilson, Koko Taylor, Guitar Shorty, Katie Webster, Magic Slim, Big Time Sarah, Hubert Sumlin, Johnny Winter etc. It should also be mentioned that John Hammond and  Big Time Sarah recorded live albums here in Greece in 1983. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the chance to play outside Greece so far. We intend to do that in the future, however. Of course the economic situation off my country has had an impact on the blues scene here…people don’t have the money to see an event…we try…

How do you define your style?

P.Daras: It’s a mixture of old blues sounds with some progressive elements combined uniquely with heavy dosages of improvisation.

P.Karapiperis:  The band’s sound consists of  our passion for the blues music but it  has flavors from other musical genres as well. We love to experiment with the music we play.

S.Evageliou: The basis is the blues. The rest follows.

What does the blues mean to you?

P.Daras:  The blues is just like the bicycle routine we learn in the first years of our childhood. Once you learn to keep a balance, you can never forget it. The blues music filters all the other musical genres that one may have been exposed to. I would go as far as to say that modern music has evolved and continues to evolve from the blues. Our band wants to explore the “dark side of the blues” and deal with all of its myths and obsessions.

Which blues artists do you most enjoy listening to, and why?

P.Daras: Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Freddy King, Albert Collins, John Mayall, Peter Green, Jimi Hendrix… I believe these musicians constitute the base for everyone who wants to play that kind of music.

P.Karapiperis: I like the acoustic blues played by Skip James, Son House and Blind Willie McTell, the masterpieces of Willie Dixon and T-Bone Walker. I also like the British version of the Blues expressed by Alexis Corner, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac etc. Being a harp player, I must confess that I am still the student of Sonny Boy Williamson(1&2), Little Walter, Big Walter Horton, Sonny Terry, Paul Butterfield.

L.Besios: Full house and Ace of Spades.  Son House, B.B King, Freddy King, Arbert King and Willie Dixon.

What recordings has SBT made?

P.Karapiperis: After having recorded a CD that was based on popular blues songs that we all in the band loved (“Small Blues Trap”, 2004), we decided to work on original material so, two more albums followed: “Our Trap” (2005) and “Crossroad Ritual’ (2006). In 2008, we participated in a compilation album called “Magic Buss Sessions” and recorded three songs by Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter. In the beginning of 2009, my personal album was released with the title: “Fifteen Raindrops In An Ocean Of Blues Tales”. Well, it isn’t that easy to describe that album because it can be perceived in many ways. It is basically a musical, soul searching journey based on the assumption that time is not linear but cyclical so the 15th song leads to the first one and so on. I don’t know how successful this experiment was, but quite a lot of people seem to have enjoyed it. Our new CD was released this year and is titled: “Red Snakes & Cave Bats”. It contains 12 new original songs and a song that was originally composed by Elias Zaikos, the frontman of  Blues Wire.

You have the track ‘Roy B’ on the new album – what do you feel made Roy Buchanan so special?

P.Karapiperis: I believe that Roy Buchanan was one of the few musicians that expanded the borders of  the blues guitar playing while mixing it with other genres such as country and rock. He invented new playing techniques and new styles of playing the guitar. It is a pity that he didn’t receive the recognition he deserved. It is even sadder that he had such a tragic death. We owe a lot to Roy Buchanan.

How do you feel about today’s blues scene?

P.Daras: The current musical blues scene in the US continues to be enriched by good musicians and blues artists in general. The UK has been left behind despite the very rich British blues tradition.

P.Karapiperis: Although there are significant blues musicians around, the media continue to do what they have always done. Underestimate the value and the importance of musical quality. Radios play crap music through playlists while the t.v continues to feed the people with garbage and tasteless inhumane shows. Thank God, there are still magazines like yours that promote quality and keep the torch of human decency burning.

How do you see your music evolving in the future?

P.Daras: One thing is for sure. We will never abandon our blues roots no matter how much we flirt with other kinds of music. So, the music we play is strongly connected with the blues.  If the blues wants to have a future, it should be embodied in the society and regain its revolutionary traits. All kinds of music should come closer to people and become the tools of expressing their worries, their anger, their concerns, their moments of despair, the emotional pain. Unfortunately, people are trapped into a ruthless capitalist system that continues to exterminate every effort for a more humane world.

L.Besios: As long as there are people, good companies of friends and some wine, the blues will be around. The same goes for every true and humane kind of music.

P.Karapiperis: The blues will always be around. It influences and it is being influenced. It’s an international musical expression that knows no borders. It is the “lingua franca” of music.

S.Evageliou: The blues will continue to be an oasis in the desert of individualism and ruthlessness.

What are your aims for Small Blues Trap, and how would you know if you achieve them?

P.Daras: To obtain what a musician who respects himself wants : money, women and drugs…….Just Joking. Our ultimate aim is to have a good time and continue to satisfy our fans. To be productive and creative. A record deal wouldn’t be a great deal to us. The music industry as we once knew it, has died. Today people have all the means to make their music at low cost and all that thanks to technology. The “revenge of the deprived” is coming.

P.Karapiperis: Our goal is to have a good time playing the music we like and expressing our worries about the future of mankind through what we do. It is very important to keep the blues alive in a society that it is progressively losing its morals as well as its moral. Society needs musical genres like the blues because it needs the existence of pure, straightforward  emotions  that remind humanity of its true disposition. Our only ambition is to continue to contribute to the world of music as much as we can with our own very personal touch.

L.Besios: … To move the blues a bit further.

S.Evageliou: … To continue to enjoy unique moments.