The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world











Hi Claude thank you for taking the time to talk to The Rockpit! You play a few dates over in WA (Western Australia) soon and whilst you are here get to support Joe Bonamassa, how did that come about?



Claude: Well he called me up……Just kidding, We are both on the same Australian distribution label, Only Blues Music, and they gave me the support last year for the Melbourne show and it went really well. Joe's a really nice guy.




The UK tour seems to be blending into the Australian tour. How did things go over there?


Claude: I'm actually typing this in my London hotel room at the moment and doing my last show here tonight, The UK has been a blast, I've been zipping all over this place, I'll definitely come back here next year. Just before the UK I did a short run in Poland and loved it, that's one place I will go every year now, they just went off. There seems to be a real growing market for the blues, more so in Poland, the promoter was telling me there is over 40 blues fests a year.



You started off as very much a one man band, combining some great songs with some wonderful slide guitar but also adding sitar, bass and drums to create a really organic sound, that whilst sounding thoroughly modern, managed to invoke a real feel for blues tradition: how do you feel you have grown since you started out? Does the problem-solving process fuel your creativity or just make it more fun?



Claude: Bit of both really, to me they go hand in hand. I guess I've gone a little more in the rock direction, also building a bunch of slightly different instruments trying to find a different sound. Sound does influence me hugely.




As the  ultimate DIY musician – creating a live sound on back of looping technology how has your ‘home-made’ approach served you over the years? Have you had any technology failures up on stage? And what have you learnt from your audiences?



Claude: I've generally been pretty lucky with the technology side of things, but once there was a power surge and all my power supplies blew up so the show was cancelled, but you live and learn so there's always back up. A couple of times rain has gotten its way into the gear, footswitches have broken, things have shortened out, but I keep a soldering iron in the van along with spare parts. It's only when I fly I get a bit nervous. For instance I'm doing a gig today in the UK and last night my cymbal footswitch broke so out came the scissors and gaff tape. Hope I'll get through it.



Claude: Technology does have its limitations for instance with looping the way I do it you kind of get stuck with writing songs that stay in one chordal progression so that can be limiting but at the same time it teaches you to be more creative with less options. I always like a challenge. That has then led me to develop a guitar with bass strings on it as well so I can make chord progression changes. Good things come out of most situations. Generally audiences want to be entertained and be a part of something. I have learnt this just much as been a performer as well as a punter.



We love the ‘build it yourself’ approach you take to your music: how does the creation process in building your own instruments help define your sound? 



Claude: Making instruments is a huge influence. For instance my latest creation is Stella, she is $7 baking tray from a department store, fashioned in a style of a cigar box guitar. She sounds like a cross between a resonator and a banjo but with guitar and bass strings. She's a real beauty.





Stella - the baking tray beauty - above




We love the videos of the pimped out van you are travelling around in! The videos are wonderfully eye-opening; does that tell us more about Claude Hay the musician or Claude Hay the man? 



Claude: One’s my drummer and one's my bass player - can't you tell the difference? I'm not gettin' any younger. Those days of cramming in the back of a car are long gone, I wanted something that I can call home.



You seem to be constantly on tour is that a life you love or a necessary evil? Or maybe a bit of both?



Claude: A bit of both but I do absolutely love it. A holiday for me now is time out at home, me, my cat, my lounge and pizza with a DVD is a rare occurrence nowadays and one I treasure.



Where is the most interesting place you have been on your travels?



Claude: I just finished a tour in Poland and absolutely loved it. The food is great, the people are lovely and every PA and light system seemed like they borrowed it from Jon Bon Jovi. They don't do things in halves. I loved Paris, it’s really is a beautiful city and also Alaska. Man they have the most beautiful wilderness in the world.



The new album ‘I Love Hate You’ is a concept album – tell us about the concept and if it changed from your original vision?



Claude: Well it started off being a rant album, in the beginning there were so many things bugging me, but after a while I got sick of being negative, good started to come out and so I had these two opposites. Ideas just kept flowing; I had so many things to talk about and ‘I Love Hate You’ as the title fitted perfectly.



Claude: The lead track is specifically about my van which I have a Love-Hate relationship with. Last year it broke down so many times it almost sent me bankrupt, my credit card went into recession. But now literally everything mechanical has been changed at least once. And the love side of things is that she is just the coolest home inside, she’s all pimped out, black walls, flashing lights, built in bar, shower, kitchen, toilet, and a huge pa system. In fact I miss her dearly, I'm literally typing this from a hotel in London and have been touring here for a couple of weeks so I guess you can say I've been cheating on her and staying in hotel rooms all across the UK and Poland , I have to say it's not the same. I'll take the van any day over a hotel room; she really feels like home......I just shed a tear.....



On the new album you are also collaborating with other musicians, why the shift now from the one man band? What instigated the change?



Claude: Guess I wanted to have something a little different from my usual thing, plus I had the opportunity to have the boys from Chase The Sun lay some fine playing down. When you get a chance to play with the good guys you take it and boy was it a lot of fun. I can see it happening again in the future.



We love the thought of The Dark Lord of the Sith overseeing your work in your studio - the ‘Deathstar’ and love the hard rock influences that seem to be seeping in - has the increased focus on riffs changed the way you think about your music? And is it a natural progression you saw coming?



Claude: It's definitely natural, I have always had that rock inside me from the early days and because the album is about love and hate, especially about the hate side of things it's easier to rock out on. At the end of the day 90% of my songs are written from a vocal melody that has popped in my head generally whilst driving. Most of the music I have listened to since a kid has been riff based stuff. I grew up to Deep Purple and Van Halen. Man those guys are the kings of riffs. 




Your last CD 2010’s ‘Deep Fried Satisfied’, gave you the momentum to drive overseas. Did the US experience and the reaction over there change the way you approached the follow-up?



Claude: Not really, it definitely inspired me a lot in terms of lyrics.  but in terms of what comes out musically, it’s something I have no control over. Whatever comes out just seems to come out.







Let’s look at some of the new album tracks… tell us where we’re wrong!



The title track ‘I Love Hate You’ the track has that blues stomp to it and a killer groove but the vocal has a hint of Robert Plant?



Claude: Sweet, I do have a Chris Cornell influence and I know he has a massive influence of Robert Plant. What can I say, Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest rock bands that ever lived and I was very fortunate to play with John Paul Jones recently at the Metro Theatre, Sydney (Seasick Steve). He just blew my mind away. His bass playing and guitar playing was just phenomenal. At the end of the show he gave me all his guitar leads. My friends have been hassling me never to use them again and frame them. But I'm not sentimental like that, they are just guitar leads. In fact I cut a couple up to make them shorter.



‘Good Times’ is hard rock with a killer Motown beat?



Claude: Hit the nail on the head. Who doesn't love Motown?



We love the groove you have going on in “Where Have you Gone” - sometimes the simplest constructions have the most impact?



Claude: Totally agree, many of my favourite songs based on basic rock riffs. Anything that makes me want to feel the groove makes me going. ACDC certainly knew how to do that!



Closing track “Don’t Bring Me Down” is one of the more elemental tracks on the album, a footnote or a signpost?



Claude: If you are talking about the song "Don't Bring Me Down" - it's definitely the most rock one on the album. Bringing out the dirty amplifier again was so much fun. If you are talking about "Turn it Up" which is the closing track that was a quick jam so I could involve the other players. It has rock edge but has a huge funk influence. I love players like Bootsy Collins, anything from the P-funk days really gets the groove going. Love what Ryan laid down (bass) for that.



Claude: In terms of the future, I never really know. It depends on the mood I am in when I'm writing. Generally the end result never really turns out like it originated in my head. I like to write a lot as I record. Spontaneity keeps it fresh and that’s important to me.



We read in your bio that you have a love of eighties rock and you can see that creeping in on the new release via some killer riffs. Who were you listening to back in the day?



Claude: Van Halen and Motley Crue. Man those guys had killer riffs and my hair was about the same size.  I kept the hair product industry alive when I was a kid. In fact I was just listening to Van Halen the other day when I was in Poland. These kids were crankin’ it. Go the young generation!



Who do you listen to these days?



Claude: I just got the Raconteurs album (one of Jack White's side projects) and it's literally one of the best things I have heard in the past 10 years. Not only does it have killer riffs, most importantly the songs are just brilliant. More hooks than a fisherman’s toolbox. Love it.



Is the blues thriving in 2012?



Claude: I don't really know, in fact I don't really consider myself a blues artist. I just have elements of blues that I love. I have elements of rock and funk that I love to. It think it's most important to write a good song regardless of the genre. Cos good songs stand out in any genre of music.



If you could have been involved in the recording of any piece of music at any point in time what would it be any why?



Claude: Recording wise, nothing comes to mind, because live performance is where it's at for me.  In terms of live performance I would have killed to have played Woodstock to have shared a stage with Hendrix and Creedance Clearwater Revival would have been absolutely awesome. Plus so exciting as it would have been completely new and fascinating during those days.



And our final question that everyone gets to answer - What is the meaning of life?



Claude: Is there a meaning? To me, it's just to have as much fun as possible. Keep that smile smilin. It could be having 100 good shows a year or finding the perfect coffee shop, whatever gets your rocks off. Happy wrinkles are good wrinkles. No one likes a cat’s bum face!







Claude spoke to The Rockpit September 2012

By Mark Diggins