Alex Ligertwood interview

Ascot Hotel & Strecker Café, Copenhagen – 9 July 2004

By Sune Schack,

Once (in a life time) – has to be the first … Every interviewer’s nightmare = getting home with your 45 min. recorded interview – with no sound on the bloody dictaphone!!! And 0 written notes! My precious Alex Ligertwood interview … Stupid cassette shit, can you believe it …?

So, here you are – west coast improvisation. Think you’ll like it anyways, did my very best – Time (and Alex) Will Tell … ;o).

Welcome to Denmark, Alex! How are you doing?

Thanks, man! I’m great. Did arrive a little late yesterday in Copenhagen, my plane was delayed. But, good to be here again. I’ve been here many years ago at the Tivoli Gardens with Santana. Great place. Great city!

Based in LA but originally from Scotland – why not Europe as your musical base?

Well, I grew up in Glasgow, listening to US music – soul, R’n’B, and I’ve always loved American music style – so it seemed like a natural place for me. I live in Santa Monica, Southern California – it’s great! I did spend a lot of time in Europe, though… Italy, France, etc., I speak both languages ;o)… And my kids are bilingual too, I have 3 kids. I really like different styles, cultures, countries and languages.

You’ve been the lead singer with Santana for 18 years – how has this affected your musical career?

Oh, it’s been so much fun. I’ve toured the world with these guys – and I tell you, it’s been great. Obviously, very Latin roots … Santana wanted some more soul and ‘rock’n’roll’ into the music, and we did that together …

Your old percussion mate, Raul Rekow, he lives here in Denmark, did you know? I believe that he’s got a Danish wife. I saw him as guest appearance at a Michael Ruff & Friends concert @ Pumpehuset not too long ago. Raul, a great percussion player.

Yeh, thought it was Amsterdam, but I believe you’re right. He’s in Denmark. Oh my god, it’s been a while since I talked to him – maybe we can call him that would be a lot of fun. Played with him for many, many years. If he’s not touring right now with Santana, it would be a great thing seeing/playing/talking with him again.

We can call him … No probs!

[Calling the operator, asking for Raul Rekow, but no one listed (with a phone) under that name, would have surprised him with Alex calling directly from Copenhagen ;o)… We’ll ask tour manager, Niels Estrup from OWIT Music later tonight – he ought to know his whereabouts …]

LA – a great music city, that’s for sure … You’re doing a lot of club gigs at Baked Potato, La Ve Lee and Cordiale – tell us about what makes these places so special?

They’re just great places, man! Kind of ‘our base’, the LA play ground – we meet there, and just play what ever we want to. It’s like a national football team – sometimes abroad playing in different constellations, and then back ‘home’ again’ with the ‘locals’ – doing the free stuff … You don’t do these clubs for $ – it’s all about the music and a lot of fun!

Watching/listening to this particular scene, it’s like you have an LA gang – the hard core cats – the same great 40-60 people, right?

Yeh, you’re right. They’re pretty close-knitted ;o), a great unit, and a lot of outstanding musicians. People come from all over – it’s really great …

You’re doing a great performance – singing/co-writing on the David Garfield ‘Giving back’ CD. How did you team up with David, and did the co-writing with ‘Creatchy’ work out well/smooth?

Well, you can’t really avoid David in LA ;o)… hehe! No, I meet him through Steve Ferrone, and we did some stuff – he’s a great guy. Committed and a great keyboard player/composer. Yeh, usually, I write songs on my guitar – alone. However, I really like the team work, so when David was gonna do the ‘Giving back’ album, we started writing together. And it was great.

The track ‘Time Will Tell’ is a fantastic tune (among many), please tell us a little about that piece …

Thanks! Yeah, David and I wrote that one together. He had like the chops, and we did the tune/arrangement together. I wrote the lyrics, and it’s dedicated to a dear friend who died from cancer. I know his wife too, and it’s about telling that even though time/life’s tuff, time heals everything – time’s a healer. You gotta keep on. No matter what.

Alex, you were featured at the German event ‘Tribute to Jeff’ some years ago, as one of the lead singers. What’s your connection to Jeffrey Porcaro, the king of shuffle, and TOTO?

Well, they’re great guys. And David was putting together this great tribute to one of the greatest drummers of all times. I know the whole Porcaro family, they’re really the nicest people around – Steve, Mike, Joe, Jeff, all of them! Steve Lukather is a good friend, and a really nice guy! I was touring/playing with Santana for many years, 18 years. And I remember we meet TOTO sometime in Buenos Aires. Anyways, we were playing on the same evening – Santana and TOTO – kind of ‘across the street’. I remember Steve Lukather saw me, and he yelled like: “You, come up here, man!” So, I was standing on stage with TOTO singing one of their songs – that was so much fun! Can’t even remember which one we did, but it was great! You know, TOTO – they have the guy they ‘don’t talk that much about’ – Fergie Fredriksen… hehe! I think he’s a fantastic singer. I’ve worked with him, outstanding voice. Isolation – a great album.

Your work with Brian Auger’s ‘Obvilion Express’ – isn’t he like a mean funk machine?

Yeah, he’s a great Hammond player. Funky as h…. He never uses a Lesley, which is pretty uncommon – just the raw/plain B3 sound. Really great! And a great lad and good friend of mine – all the way back from England. He taught me a lot about the ‘music business’, I tell you. I learned a lot from him.

Alex, you’re a Scot. All Scots miss Scotland, right? ;o) – kind of an especially super-national Scottish thingie … Do you miss Scotland?

Hehe! Yeah, I’ve got my life, wife, kids, all that stuff in Santa Monica, California – but you’re right… I really miss the people. The Scottish people. European culture/social things. Pubs, Glasgow culture. You know, the Americans, they don’t really have a culture – like we do! They’d like to, but they don’t ;o) The Scots are really warm people – like the cultural/social soul is really fantastic.

What are you’re influences, Alex? Both singers and style and a band influence…?

I grew up with the American sound, as you know. Motown, soul, R’n’B. I think Ray Charles is one of the most important. But also the James Brown Band – what a great tight band! We all wanted to be as funky and tight as that – back then … Funky stuff, yeh! I played guitar on the old ‘Lenny White’ album ‘Big city’. A funky classic recording!

Yeh, funk is great. I live from funk ;o)… Why is it so difficult to get ordinary people, mainstreamers to listen to funk music? It’s pretty ‘easy-listning stuff’, most of it? Please do some more funk again, Alex ;o) …

Mmmm – I love funk! Think I’m gonna put some funk on my next solo release – Alex Ligertwood. Working on it as we speak, actually – a lot of great players on that album, I’ll tell you. Can’t tell you the details yet, but it’s gonna be top notch.

Alex, thanks for your time – really looking forward to seeing you play tomorrow @ Pumpehuset – “Karizma” with David Garfield, Steve Ferrone, Will Lee and Soren Reiff Jr.! It’s been a pleasure meeting you!

Thanks! Yeh, looking forward to the show. Thanks for the interview. I’ll see you there …