Back Door Slam – Volcanic Guitars & Tender Blues

Probably a good nine out of ten articles written about Back Door Slam perplex about how such a young band from the tiny Isle of Man began drawing countless comparisons to Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Howlin’ Wolf around the tender age of sixteen (although they are all now in their early twenties).

Perhaps more perplexing though is how these youngsters knew to name the band after such an advanced sex move at such an early age – the Backdoor Slam. Perhaps they really do take after Howlin’ Wolf? Or perhaps Wilt Chamberlain is more apropos for a little double meaning?

Bad jokes aside, Back Door Slam truly is mature beyond their years (and the name is really a Robert Cray nod). Behind frontman Davy Knowles’ volcanic guitar chops, growling vocals, and distinctive blues-rock songwriting, Back Door Slam is living up to all the lofty comparisons. Along with Ross Doyle (drums) and Adam Jones (bass), the three piece blues band released their debut album  Roll Away in July of 2007.  Glide jumped at the opportunity to chat with Davy K about the band, the hype, and livin’ the life.

You joked in the past about how when you first started playing as a band, everybody was afraid to sing. What was the turning point where you decided you were ready to be a blues singer?

When no-one else would!! I guess I was about 16, I had just started Back Door Slam, and wanted to be part of a serious musical outfit – and I knew I couldn’t do that without any vocals.

With your heavy road (and air) schedule this year, what is your practice regimen these days? Are there any areas you are working to improve upon as a band?

The gigs themselves are great opportunities for practicing -especially with the style of music we play. Sometimes on a good night the adrenalin that the crowd gives you pushes you to do new things, then you have to try and remember them afterwards….

How was your night meeting and opening for Buddy Guy at JazzFest in New Orleans? Did he provide you with any sage-like wisdom?

It was a complete dream come true to support Buddy Guy in New Orleans, unfortunately I believe he was sick that night, and had a  load of his family with him, so I didn’t get any opportunity to speak to him. I had a great encounter with him when we played his club in Chicago though – I had a jam with the house band after our show, and after I played, Buddy got up and sang. I stood at the stage with my mouth open. He was just amazing!!! Anyways – I think he had heard me play with the house band – he walked off stage, shook my hand and said "nice playing boy!" Best compliment I have ever had!

Particularly here in the States, there is a history of fickle hype for the “Next Stevie” and the “Second Coming of Jimi,” yet a number of those blues prodigies tend to fizzle out in terms of a wider appeal. Have you and the band thought about how to distance yourself from the “Hey look, it’s a young kid who plays fast” propaganda?

Absolutely, I really want to concentrate on the songs. There is no point in putting all your effort into a great guitar solo and forgetting about the song.

Do you dabble in any other genres where a guitar virtuoso can let loose: progressive, funk, jambands, bluegrass, jazz, etc.?

Not really, although it would really expand my playing. I just love strumming an acoustic guitar, playing John Hiatt songs. There’s something really satisfying about the simple, yet effective way of playing.

What have you been listening to lately outside of the blues? Anyone pique your interest at Bonnaroo or Wakarusa?

We didn’t really get to hang around at Bonnaroo or Wakarusa – would have loved to have seen Robert Plant and Alison Krauss though!  I love Joni Mitchell, James Taylor – the whole 60’s/70’s acoustic movement.  I’m really into Ben Harper. I just love that vintage sound.

Are you working on any new material for a follow-up to Roll Away?

Yes and we’re starting to test a few of the new songs out on the road. I’m really proud of Roll Away, but I guess it’s natural to be looking forward to the next one.

If you could visit any venue in any city in any year, who would you go see play and do you have have a favorite city and venue to currently play?

Wow! I’d love to have seen Rory Gallagher, in any venue, in any city. He’s my absolute hero!  I would love to have seen Albert King in the Filmore though!   I love playing in Atlanta or Philadelphia. The World Cafe in Philly has been great to us. I just love touring in the U.S.

Finally, did you follow the Euro Cup? What on earth happened to the bigger Isle?

(Laughs) I don’t really follow football (or soccer!). And I’m not sure the Isle of Man has a national team that are Euro Cup standard – but I believe the England team has had a mishap or two!

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