Hot Tuna | Jorma Kaukonen | Interview
Hot Tuna is back with ‘Steady As She Goes’, their first all-new studio album in 20 years! Founding members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady masterfully blend Americana rock with blues and acoustic folk on a record that hits their full spectrum of styles from electric and acoustic Hot Tuna to their days in Jefferson Airplane.
“I can’t deny psychedelia in my roots today.”
Your music has inspired many generations. How are you?
Jorma Kaukonen: First of all Klemen… I’m great, as I hope you are. As for my music genealogy, I started out playing bluegrass, old timey as well as rockabilly and the like. I got seduced into rock and roll and we morphed into what we now know as ‘psychedelia.’ I’m back to basics now… but I can’t deny psychedelia in my roots today.
You are preparing a new tour. ‘Steady as She Goes’ is the first Hot Tuna studio album since 1990. How did you decide to make another album together?
This is a good question… for better or worse, the answer is simple. The time just wasn’t right until now. The right record company, Red House Records, came along. We had the right band for the project… that would be, Jack, myself, Barry Mitterhoff, Skoota Warner, and of course Larry Campbell and his wife Theresa Williams. I had some songs ready and we co-wrote the rest at the studio. In a sense, it was indeed the ‘perfect storm’ of recording artistry.
You recorded at Levon Helm Studios. How do you like the current lineup of musicians?
As mentioned in the previous answer, we all love this lineup. Well… I’ve loved all our line ups but so far, this one takes the cake. Working at Levon’s studio was the best. I did my last solo project, ‘River Of Time’ there as well. I love it… can’t wait for the next one.
Are you satisfied how the album turned out?
We expected good things from this project, but I have to say that the finished project exceeded our wildest expectations. We are indeed blessed!
You must had a lot of fun recording the album.
You know, Klemen, at the risk of shameless self promotion, each song had session moments that will always stand alone in my memory. You may have noticed that each song has a different beat underlying the enduring qualities that make Hot Tune well… Hot Tuna! We did the whole project in eleven days and loved every moment of it!
What inspired you to write ‘Mourning Interrupted’ or ‘Things That Might Have Been’?
I started ‘Mourning Interrupted’ after listening to some Memphis Beat tunes. The lyrics came in a funny way. I just started writing and wound up with that song. When my wife, Vanessa, first read the lyrics she said, “Are you OK? Are you depressed?” I had to laugh and I told her, “It’s a song. I followed the rabbit down the hole, and that’s where he wound up. I love the song… and no, I’m not depressed.”
‘Things That Might Have Been’ is about family relationships and, well… things that might have been. I was proud when I finished writing that one.
I really love the ending of the album with ‘Vicksburg Stomp’, originally written by Papa Charlie McCoy. Can you pick a few less known blues artists that influenced you?
Well, as you know, I’m a big blues fan as well. There are so many unsung heroes of blues. Let’s see:
1. Funny Papa Smith
2. Spark Plug Smith
3. Washington Phillips
4. Brownie McGhee (solo)
5. Ian Buchanan (my mentor)
And many more of course!
At the end of the year you are also coming to Europe.
Since this questionnaire was sent we have done an electric run with Larry Campbell and Theresa Williams in the band. We played ALL the songs on the new CD. Next week, we’re going out again electric and there are more dates coming this summer. We are going to be in Italy with the Electric Tuna July 17 through July 25. The dates are still in flux… you know how things are in Italy… but we’ll be there. I love touring Italy! I would love to come to Slovenia some day. Thoughts on this?
Barry Mitterhoff and I will be in Finland and Sweden this Fall. Perhaps Tuna will get there again someday too.
“I’m always thinking about the next project”
What are some future plans?
I tour all the time… that is the life I have chosen and I still love it. Vanessa and I also have the Fur Peace Ranch in Southeast Ohio where we live and I teach there… well, not all the time, but frequently. Last night we had a show with the great country singer Suzy Bogguss… it was stellar and I got to play with them. Check out my website and blog. You’ll know more about me than anyone could possibly want to know.
I’m always thinking about the next project, but for now, I just going to enjoy playing the songs we have.
Thank you for taking your time. Last word is yours.
Klemen, my friend… it has been my pleasure to answer your questions. I would love to come to your country… perhaps this will happen someday. Feel free to stay in touch with Vanessa and myself and perhaps we will see you in Italy in July.
Your American Friend,
Jorma Kaukonen Official Website