Paul Bibbins Album Review and Interview
Artist: Paul Bibbins Album: The Last Perfect Performance Release: 2021 Band Website: https://paulbibbins.com/ If I had to name one guy that embodies the reckless abandonment of the late 60's era psychedelic power trios in today's musical landscape it is without doubt Paul Bibbins. His music is a cross of blues and Hendrix with a pretty good deal of garage rock swagger for good measure. His most recent album The Last Perfect Performance is a sonic assault painted with a fuzz face, a ton of guts and imagination. The Jimi Hendrix influence is undeniable, but also feels like there may be some influence from The Velvet Underground or Iggy Pop, not so much musically, but the commitment to the music. The record is a 28 song commitment to his vision of attitude over precision. Had he polished the tracks more it would only detract from the slinky vibe of the whole thing. As he moves through the many cuts, the one thing that is consistent is the listener is on a roller coaster in the pitch dark not having any idea where the music is going to dip, dive and turn next. To say the least it is an exciting and jarring ride. One of the tracks that is a standout for me is Angel Blue. The instrumental jam grabbed my ears from the first downbeat. Paul's level of commitment to creating a soundscape that paints such a clear vision of the darker side of psychedelia is admirable. There are lots of bands that function as jam bands and flirt with psychedelia, but this record is not "flirting" at all, but 100% committed to the sound in all its discomfort and beauty. Paul's version of the classic Voodoo Child takes the song further into the abyss than any version I have heard prior, and I have heard a bunch. It seems that this is a platform for every blues guitar hot shot to show off their ability to "play the part", but when Paul plays the song he "is the part" with an unwavering commitment to his own sound. This version is not for the faint of heart or one looking for a note for note Jimi tribute. Like the record as whole, he functions within the house that Hendrix built but he paints with his own colors within the framework. My favorite song on the album is If I Try. It has some really interesting parts that would've been right at home on the classic Robin Trower album Bridge of Sighs. This is one of the more pocketed and less bombastic cuts on the album which perhaps is why it stood out to me. Still rooted in the classic sound of the 60's power trio, but a bit of Zeppelin in it as well. This one has a couple unexpected but seamless twists that are a testament to Paul's composing abilities that would easily be lost in the rawness of the album as whole. This is a really cool record if you like hard edged psychedelia that is born from a garage. It would be easy to question the lack of polish, but if you scratch just a bit below the surface you will hear an unapologetic and authentic take on a classic sound that is done at the highest level. It is dirty, dangerous and completely unpredictable. The vocals are exactly what they should be for this sound and the guitar playing is like a strobe light. It isn't pretty like a dancing lava lamp, but incredibly effective, dizzying and powerful. I hope the listener will scratch below the surface to expose the untamed beauty of it all. I have heard very few people capture the psychedelic power trio sound as well as this!
Check out the interview with Paul Bibbins as well!
Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
Jimi Hendrix had an oversized influence on how I approach music, song writing, and guitar playing. If I had never discovered Jimi Hendrix’s music decades ago I can say without a doubt that the music that I make today would be stylistically different from what it is. I don’t know what that style difference might be though.
Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn are my #1 and #2 guitar heroes of all time…in that order. Both of those guys played guitar super aggressively, and they just let it all hang out when they played. That is how I try to approach my own guitar playing. I follow Jimi’s lead and SRV’s lead.
Walter Mosley, the writer of the Easy Rawlins series of fabulous mystery novels, is a non-musical hero for me. I self-published my first, and only, novel called ‘Rock & Roll, Sex, and Fools …The Slow Fade to Black of Mr. Joe Kool Jack’ in 2013. It is a humorous and raunchy Rock ‘n Roll novel. My writing style for the novel was heavily influenced by Walter Mosley’s writing style.
What album has had the greatest impact on your life as a musician?
The album that hit me the hardest, by far, of all the albums that I’ve listened to in my lifetime is Jimi Hendrix’s monumental Electric Ladyland album.
What's your favorite accomplishment as a musician thus far?
I released my latest album, called The Last Perfect Performance, in 2021. It is a 27-song double album that truly captures everything that I do as far as writing songs and playing guitar. It is also a total do-it-yourself project…front to back. Releasing this album in June of 2021 is my favorite musical accomplishment.
Coming in at second place for favorite musical accomplishment is when, in September of 2021 the opening track from my Last Perfect Performance album hit #1 in the Rock Top 30 Chart on Radio Guitar One. That was a total shock, and very pleasant surprise for me.
The song is called “Oh Woman, Sweet Woman”, and it is an original song that I wrote quite a few years ago. It came in at #1 in the Rock chart, above songs by guitar-playing greats such as Steve Vai, Neal Schon, Guthrie Govan, Steve Stevens, and Santana.
What's the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?
I was a really timid guitar player for a few years after I first started playing. I wound up in a rock band that was led by a very dynamic drummer named Greg Bennett. Greg noticed how timid I was at playing guitar. So one day during band rehearsal he told me that as a musician you can’t afford to be afraid to attack your instrument…and that you have to give it your all, all the time. That little tidbit of advice from Greg Bennett has stuck with me until this day.
What's new in the recording of your music?
Although recently I’ve recorded a few cover versions of classic songs such as Freddie King’s “Going Down” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, I haven’t recorded any new original songs since 2021; but that’s about to change. My plan is to release a new album of original music by the end of 2023.
How has your music changed over the years?
The music that I create hasn’t evolved much at all over the years. I’ve always played groove oriented Rock ‘n Roll; and I’ll most likely be playing that style of music until the day I depart this big blue marble called Earth.
What inspires you to write the music you write?
I can’t really say that I look for inspiration from this source or that source when I’m writing a song. What I can say is that I always aspire to write songs that have groove and swing like the way all of Jimi Hendrix’s songs did. Jimi, to me personally, is the ultimate song writer. He could not write a bad song…even if he had tried to do so.
What made you want to play the instrument you play?
Initially, way back in 1973, I had planned on becoming a bass player. I wanted to play bass like Robert “Kool” Bell of the soul/funk group Kool & the Gang. But before I could buy that first bass guitar, I got waylaid by the electric guitar playing of Ernie Isley in the Isley Brother’s hit song “Summer Breeze”; and also by the electric guitar playing of Omar Mesa of the funk/rock group Mandrill, in Mandrill’s hit song “Fencewalk”.
The fire in Ernie Isley’s guitar playing and Omar Mesa’s guitar playing made me choose to become an electric guitar player, rather than a bass player.
If you could change anything about the music industry today, what would it be?
I would get rid of all the streaming services and download services, and get back to strictly using the good old physical music listening mediums such as vinyl albums, cassette tapes, and CD’s. But we all know that that is just a pipe dream!
What do you think the best aspects of the music business are?
I’ll just say that I view the music business as somewhat of a wasteland at this time. And leave it right there…
What strengths do you have that you believe make you the musician you are?
Rhythm guitar playing has been my “thing” basically since day one in 1973. I live & breathe Rock ‘n Roll rhythm guitar. When listening to my songs you’ll definitely pick up on the fact that I’m seriously into rhythm guitar playing.
The other thing that makes me the guitar player that I am is my comfort with odd-time signatures. I've always written songs that don’t conform to standard 4/4, 3/4, etc timing. Many of my songs have multiple time signature changes within the same song. None of this was a planned thing. It just worked out that way.
Do you have any weaknesses that you're actively working to improve on?
I haven’t done much improvising over the years. So I’m working on become a better improviser on my guitar.
Do you have any anxiety about performing live?
I haven’t performed on a stage in a long time. The way it went for me, though, was that I’d have some initial stomach jitters when I got up on stage; but after doing the first song or two the jitters were gone.
If you had to choose one... live performance or studio work, which do you prefer and why? Ever since I was run out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and settled in Dallas, I’ve strictly done music from my home studio. So I’d say that studio work is my preference…for now.
Other than being a musician, what was your dream job growing up?
I didn’t really have a dream job when I was growing up. But I always knew that I wanted to work in a technical field. So I went to an electronics trade school, and eventually to a university. I currently work as a Network Engineer at one of Texas’ top universities.
Give us some advice for new musicians just starting out in the industry.
Always be true to yourself, and believe in what you’re doing even when nobody else does.
What is your favorite piece of gear and why?
The Fender Stratocaster is my favorite piece of musical gear. Jeff Beck said that you can do anything with a Fender Strat. I’m a firm believer in that. So much so, that in fifty years of playing guitar I’ve never even played, or desired to play a Les Paul, or a Telecaster, or an SG, or a Flying V, or a PRS, or…well, you get the picture.
My second favorite piece of musical gear is the Fuzz Face. I use a Fuzz Face, mainly the germanium transistor model, on everything that I play. No other fuzz or distortion unit pleases my ears.
Yes…I’m all kinds of strange. And I know it.
What do you like most about your new album?
What I like most about my Last Perfect Performance album is that it is undeniably “me”. When listening to the songs on the album it should be easy for discerning listeners to hear that I’m not pulling from a myriad of musical influences…it’s mainly just what flows from me.
I also like the fact that every song on the album is completely different from the next song, and that I was able to craft guitar solos that differ wildly from one song to the next.
What are your interests outside of music?
I enjoy book writing and designing and building electronic circuits.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
Considering that I’m a Hendrix fanatic, and I’ve fronted power trios in the past that did Hendrix covers almost exclusively…I’ve never, not even once, attempted to play guitar with my teeth.
How do you promote your music?
My website www.paulbibbins.com