Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Sunday Conversation with Poobah

Long known around the underground, Poobah, or more directly, Jim Gustafson, has been pumping out psychedelic acid blues rock since the early seventies. While he's never quite bubbled up to the mainstream, in his long career he's opened shows for everyone from ZZ Top to Judas Priest and played in more shows at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame than any other recording artist. He's the ultimate musicians musician, appearing in Guitar World Magazine, well known and respected by the industry as a whole. Still pumping out the crazy heavy psych, we pulled up a couch with the grand Poobah and asked him some Sunday morning questions.

Seem like you've been going it for years. When did Poobah first get together?

1972 was the year we formed and somehow, someway, put out that first Poobah record. We still play 4 of the songs from that album live. "Mr.Destroyer," "Bowleen," "Live to work," and "Enjoy.")

I love those songs.

And after all those years, you've still got the fire. I hear you're back in the studio, recording a new album. What is that, your 11th?

The 12th. And that Poobah CD is again full of wild and crazy guitar work. The working title is Salad. My songwriting, I believe is getting better all the time. The songs feature some complex guitar parts, yet still appeal to those who love guitar rock music. There is some wild vocal stuff on this new work, too. More guitar fueled blues rock, also. I have been a big blues fan since my teens, and own many cool recordings in that genre.

Your last disc was Underground. Is there a special meaning behind that name?

Yes, the title Underground was relating to the fact that Poobah, though widely known in guitar rock circles, is still below the radar, compared to major label artists (regardless of talent) who have the radio to support them. That still is the big companies grip on the music industry, the radio waves. The internet has helped many unknown artists gain popularity, but to sell millions of plastic discs, you usually need radio play. That's the monopoly in the music world.

I first released the Underground CD in late 2005, or early 2006 (I forget). It has sold well on our site and at shows. I really love this CD, and think it is gonna be remembered as a classic (at least to me, ha ha). It is some of the best rock guitar and vocals I think, ever recorded. I think any fans of Zep, Sabbath, Purple, etc., are going to love this slab of powerful guitar noise.

What keeps you motivated? What inspires you?

I am always listening to new and old music, of many genres, and I am sure lots of it invades my brain, and influences my songwriting. I have always loved rock guitar best, and have tried really hard to improve my playing, tone, and make the best audio experience for fans of this type of guitar rock. I practice a lot, and many times that's where I come up with more songs. I have recorded about 300 songs in pro studios. I have a basement studio, too, but I prefer to drive to a pro studio with great engineers, and expensive equipment, for Poobah releases.

Your music is a guitar effect lover's dream. You must own every effect pedal on this planet. For the budding guitar techie, what are your favorites?

I love guitar effects, pedals, rackmounts, etc. Some people say they only play right into an amp, but I say versatility and changing tones on a recording makes for more interesting listening. I don't want all my songs to sound the same. Experimenting with pedals, is really fun for me, and has sparked some song ideas. I am an endorser for Morley pedals in Chicago. They have sent me 5 Wah, and Volume pedals, and I love 'em! I also use a Dunlop tremolo, a Boss Octaver, a Line 6 echo DL-4, a Tech 21 Compressor/distortion, a Digitech Flanger, a Rat distortion rack and many more. I have a nice collection.

You have a few great straight up, but guitar-frenzied, blues numbers on Underground.

I have been a blues fan since I played in Biggy Rat , right before Poobah was formed. My old female singer in that band had all these old blues albums, and we used to play songs from them. Now, I record blues songs (usually originals) and play several in Poobah shows. I dig the feel and groove of this blues vibe, and add the power of rock to the sound.

When it's all said and done, how would you like Poobah to be remembered?

I would love for Poobah to be remembered as a good band that made cool songs, with hot guitar playing. I don't expect everyone to like Poobah, as I hear some people say they don't like Hendrix or Cream, or (insert name here). I never expect people who only like one kind of music or one artist, to want to listen to me. Some folks are narrow minded, so, since you can't please everyone, might as well please yourself !

Hey, I see that Poobah has their own music video. How'd that come about?

The video of "Underground" came about through a television station that wanted to use the song "Underground" in a commercial. Lucky for me, the song was used, and in a trade, they made me the video. It was a very cool deal, and I thank producer Jon Defibaugh for that opportunity. The commercial was for a TV show on NBC that ran on Saturday nights, after Saturday Night Live.

If you had to choose one, what's the prototypical Poobah song?

The prototypical Poobah song... Hmmm, maybe "Bowleen." I try hard to make many different types of songs, and I hope I have achieved this. It bores me to have songs sound too much alike. I have never enjoyed an album where one song sounds just like the rest. I love it when an artist gives you some variety in their work. I feel that gives the music a longer life, with repeat listens.

On the CD Underground, there are several songs that stand out to me. They would be "Underground," "Better," "Mushroom Man," "Souls,"and "Secret." I must admit, though, I feel there are no weak songs on the disc.

I couldn't agree more. Thanks for joining us, Jim, it was great talking with you. Best of success always.

Thanks for your questions, Racer. I am going back in the studio this week for more new Poobah. I will have a new CD for you soon! And it is blazing hot!

Check out Poobah at:


Anonymous said...

Great story and very interesting stuff about a great band.
Poobah is an American music icon in rock.

Anonymous said...

Poobah is one of the greats. I love the albums, and will get the rest. A fine job you did on Let Me In. We want more Poobah!

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