Lance Lopez carrying the torch for blues guitar rock

Blues rock guitarist Lance Lopez has been a professional musician since the age of 14 when he began playing local clubs in and around New Orleans. And since the age of 17, as a guitarist, Lopez has toured in groups led by the likes of soul legend Johnnie Taylor and blues icon Lucky Peterson. In August of 1999 Lopez won the Southeastern Regional JIMI HENDRIX Electric Guitar competition in New Orleans sponsored by EXPERIENCE HENDRIX. Lance Lopez’ latest album is “Salvation From Sundown,” released in 2010.

Interview conducted by Pat Prince.

What was it like touring with greats like Johnnie Taylor and Lucky Peterson at such a young age?
Lance Lopez:
It was the best music school I could have ever gone to. With J.T. (Johnnie Taylor) it was the legendary “Chitlin’ Circuit” which was the same circuit Jimi Hendrix had been a side man on 30 years before me with the Isley Brothers, Solomon Burke, Jackie Wilson, and Little Richard. I met alot of the same people. like Gorgeous George, who were still there from when Jimi was there…that’s how I found out he had been a sideman before he went to England, I never knew that before. With Lucky Peterson it was amazing musically, he is an amazing musician and performer. His was the first band I ever went to Europe with and started travelling around the world, and playing giant Jazz and Blues Festivals. I learned quite a bit from Lucky and by the time I left his band I was the Musical Director (Band Leader). I took a brief hiatus from Lucky’s band to go and play with the Buddy Miles Express, but I came back from a brief stint with Buddy. I had to grow up really fast out there…not only in real life, but also musically.

Did you expect to win something like the Southeastern Regional JIMI HENDRIX Electric Guitar competition? Other guitarists of note in the competition? Did you have to sound like Hendrix?
LL:
Well when I entered that thing back in 1999 I only wanted to find other guitar players that loved Jimi as much as I did. I won the semi-finals in New Orleans and then went out to L.A. and jammed with everybody, some other kids won out there. But I was already talking to Billy Cox about working with he and Mitch Mitchell before this competition thing even took place. I had made contact with Billy while I was working with Buddy Miles. So when I got out to L.A. everyone saw, including the judges, that me and Billy Cox knew each other already so I think they gave it to the other kids so it didn’t look rigged (laughs) not that the others were’nt great, but you could just tell every one started thinking it was rigged because I showed up and was sitting at the table with Velvert Turner, Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell…who I all knew from working with Buddy Miles. It was great though, we had fun. Some of the other guitars are still in touch with me on Facebook.

Of all the touring, what artist made you feel most welcome?
LL:
B.B. King…period. B.B. was the nicest, most loving, supportive and inspiring person I ever worked with. I sat with him on the Bus for a very long time and just talked about everything. I was playing Stratocasters back then and that was the only negative exchange we had. B.B. said “all the young guys got beat up Stratocasters now, you need to be playing Gibsons” (laughs). And also Billy Gibbons and everyone else in the ZZ Top camp. I’ve known Billy since I was 16 but we finally got to work together a couple of years ago. Billy also told me…”it’s time for you to get a Les Paul…it worked for me.” (laughs) Both of them were so supportive and gave me the most advice.

Do you like the term Blues-Rock?
LL:
Yes I do. It pretty much sums it up. Someone in Arkansas actually told me one time I was Blues-Metal (laughs) but whatever (laughs). I am heavily influenced by those two genres of music the most. And now I think it is it’s own genre. Sort of like “Young Country” has. But as far as what has happened to Country music the past few years — becoming more mainstream and pop-like — I hope that doesn’t happen to Blues. I mean, I hope Blues gets as mainstream but not pop-like. With Country music, they mixed it with pop music — and with Blues it’s being mixed with Rock and Classic Hard Rock to create new sounds. It sure has come long way since Stevie Ray Vaughan helped resurrect it in the 1980s.

How does this new album differ from past material?
LL:
Well, for one thing, it’s produced by Jim Gaines who really helped me pull it together and make everything solidified and polished. I mean Jim did alot of classic records like “Fly Like an Eagle” by Steve Miller, “In Step” by Stevie Ray Vaughan and “Supernatural” by Santana, and tons of other great Blues records. I had alot of the songs written for many years, but I had never got a chance to record them. The previous label I recorded for were more into Hendrix-y sounding material and never gave me the chance to to record ballads or use keyboards or just play some great Blues songs. So this was really great to finally record some of the ballads and just get back to my roots and record what I had been playing in bars, roadhouses and clubs in Texas and Louisiana and everywhere else around there for years. I think the follow up will be even better.

What is the meaning behind the title, “SALVATION FROM SUNDOWN” ?
LL:
Well there was a dark period in my life and light was always there I just had to find my way back to it, and I did that before it was to late so to speak. The actual title track “Salvation from Sundown” is about a love affair with Drug and Alcohol addiction and how it started off like a good affair but ended badly and I had to save myself from the consequences.

Who’d you most like to record with? Tour with?
LL:
I would have to say one of three people Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, or Jeff Beck. They have all been a major influence on my music. It would be great to work with one of them. And also it would be great to work with Billy and ZZ Top again as well.

What musical genre now inspires you most?
LL:
I’ve been really into Classic Hard Rock lately… but I always end up back with the old Blues records.

Do you collect vinyl? Old records?
LL:
I used to have a lot of real cool vinyl. But I am getting back into it and trying to find a really good turntable at the moment. I still have the original copy of “Are You Experienced” that I first heard when I was 10 years old

What was the first album that you ever bought?
LL:
My mother took me to Hastings Records and Tapes in St. Vincent’s Mall in Shreveport, Louisiana when I was about 3 years old and bought me the 45 vinyl single of “Flash Gordon” by Queen for the Soundtrack of the movie Flash Gordon (laughs). He was my childhood hero. But Brian May’s guitar harmonies were what I really loved.

Could you ever imagine yourself in another career? Did you ever?
LL:
Yes, I would be a chef…I love food (laughs) and yeah I’ve done tons of other jobs. One of the coolest jobs I had was running a shop in Dallas called CD Source which was a buy, sell and trade used CD store…it was great!!!

What’s next for Lance Lopez?
LL:
I’m going in after the first of 2011 and begin recording the follow-up to “Salvation to Sundown” and just try and stay on the road as much as I can and play as much as possible all over the world.

Lance Lopez started a Spring Tour from his home state of Texas on March 4. For more information go to www.myspace.com/lancelopez

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