Rockin’ and Rollin’ with Jesse Damon and Electric Caravan
The almighty Electric Caravan made their way out to the wilds of Hermosa Beach, providing direct support to legendary ccollective The Babys at Saint Rocke! Electric Caravan features Jesse Damon of Silent Rage fame on vocals and lead guitar, as well as seasoned musicians Chris Tanori (bass) and Kurt Markham (drums). Electric Caravan is a superb power trio ready to rock your world like no other, providing an adventure in sound that will have you singing along in no time at all. At the conclusion their remarkable performance at Saint Rocke, we caught up with Jesse Damon, Chris Tanori, and Kurt Markham backstage to find out a whole lot more about the magic and intrigue that is Electric Caravan. Read on…
Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in Electric Caravan.
Jesse: I am Jesse Damon, I am the lead vocalist, lead guitarist.
Chris: Chris Tanori, bassist.
Kurt: I am Kurt Anthony Markham, drums.
So how did Electric Caravan come about?
Jesse: Well, it came from starting to jam on the blues and it was roughly 10 years ago. I was playing with another guitarist and some of the material, the blues-rock, we were having fun with. I had so much fun I said ‘I think we need to put a band together.’ So, I called first of all Kurt and asked Kurt what he was up to and how he’s been. He is always up to other musical endeavors. Always playing the drums. But, he said ‘All right! FINALLY! Let’s hook up and do something’. So, we did! We had our first formation, as far as members, for Electric Caravan early on for probably the first year and a half or so and then we found Chris again. Both Chris, Kurt and I are longtime friends. Lifetime friends. We’ve always gone and appreciated each other’s projects and things and supported each other. Finally, Kurt got a hold of Chris and asked him ‘are you available? Would you like to jam in our new band?’ He was going ‘Absolutely! This is great!’ So, all the sudden we have the nucleus of 3 strong friends with over 30 or close to 40 years maybe of strong rock and roll. I’ll let some of the other guys talk.
Kurt: I must say we had other bass players before Chris and they were very good bass players. But, I mentioned Chris might be available to Jesse. I asked Chris ‘do you want to play?’ 5 seconds into it we went ‘YEAHHSSS, YES!’ 5 seconds and I went YES!
We know that Jesse was in some band called Silent Rage. Let’s meet the other members of Electric Caravan. What is your background? Starting with you.
Kurt: I have been playing since I was 10 years old. I have 54 years into it now. I’ve played every genre you can possibly imagine. The name credits that I have played with would be Iron Butterfly. I’ve played with Black Flag, I turned down the permanent gig though with touring. I was offered one with the Circle Jerks. I got to play with a wonderful country band called the Freight Shakers. They won a lot of awards, they are very good. From them, I got to play with Johnny Cash’s long-time pianist, Earl Poole Ball. It was great fun. I played with the guy that plays fiddle for Dwight Yoakam.
And back in the day good old Gilby Clarke from Guns N’ Roses before he was Gilby Clarke in Guns N’ Roses. How can I forget the one band Overkill? Not to be confused with the speed metal band. We were on SST Records, which was Black Flag’s label. We are in a documentary called “The Pioneers of L.A. Hard Rock and Heavy Metal.” They said, if you guys would have stuck around for another year it would have been you. Because we were basically a punk rock band with a lead guitar player and it worked. it was fun. it was a lot of fun but internal friction and the thing split up in 83′. The first show we ever played at, Metallica was there. Nobody knew what was going on, they were like ‘what the hell is this? Is this some kind of punk rock Van Halen or something?’
There are 4 guys in the back of the room just ‘YEAH. You go. You go. You go. You go.’ and they introduced themselves later. ‘Oh, you guys are great. we are kind of doing what you guys are. We are playing here next Thursday.’ I go ‘what is your band called?’ Metallica. ‘I’m Lars. I’m James. I’m Dave. I’m Kurt.’ Why they were there, we opened the show for Trauma. Their bassist was Cliff Burton who they were trying to recruit. Yeah, we were a little bit ahead of our time but it was out of no great genius design. it was just, let’s play metal and play it really fast because it’s fun. so anyway, that kind of sums it up for me. that and a lot of nightclub bands. the moose lodge circuit, country stuff. My goal is to be able to play drums. Whatever calls for it, do it.
Now we’re moving over to Chris. What is your background?
Chris: Yes. My background is just a musician that just loves to play music. I really don’t have much of a background. I was quite surprised these guys wanted me in their band actually. It just ended up being a real treat. I am just one of the fortunate guys, I’m telling you, and it’s been wonderful. It’s been a great ride, you might say. My background is pretty much a rock musician. I love jazz but I’m trying to blend that with what we’re doing here with Caravan. I did Christian Rock for a while and then I moved out of that. Then Marcus Jones, I jammed with him. He was an excellent director and was a wonderful musician and man. Then it got to a point though, things kind of fell a part for a bit and then things were kind of dying out for me and I was getting ready to sell my gear until I saw Kurt walking down the street. Then he asked me to come a long and – ever since then its been magic. It’s been magic since we’ve been together and it’s been really a wonderful experience.
Kurt: And the band is just starting to roll now. Either you’re in the van or you’re out of the game.
Jesse, how does Electric Caravan compare to Silent Rage and your solo projects?
Jesse: It is a bit different. Each of us has a background with rich history and we all are pretty much rock and roll survivors of 70s classic rock and the 80s and everything else that’s come since. For me, Silent Rage was dedicated to melodic hard rock whereas my solo career was at times, a little poppier and a little lighter than Silent Rage – but then I caught up with that genre of metal or glam metal or whatever and did some on my own. But as far as Electric Caravan, we really looked at wanting to get to the basic backbone of how rock was – how it started with bands like Bad Company and Deep Purple and of course Zeppelin. All that roots stuff, and it’s so blues based it came naturally to us. We’ve all been big Zeppelin fans. We kind of under our breath say those are our cousins from England, [laughs].
Electric Caravan started out as heavy blues based. And we’ve experimented with it, and what’s happened in writing songs for it, it’s become a mesh of rock and roll and blues and my last solo album even being a little Southern. We even have a little southern touch. It’s from my roots, but it’s also touching both on those guys and what they’ve done in the past too. I know Chris loves Jazz and R&B also, so some of the songs lend for him to be able to come up with some of that groove. Which is cool. It’s taken us a left turn down another pathway. We’re really exploring with this band. There’s no barriers. It’s about trying to have good songs and fun times. That’s what this band is about.
Tonight you’re opening for The Babys. I believe in the past you’ve opened for Albert Lee.
Jesse: We did, right here.
What was that like?
Jesse: That was a fun time, let me tell you how gracious Albert was. He listened to our set and we saw him in the corner. He’d go from this side to that side, then back into the bathroom. Come back out, listen to us. I’m not as in tuned to that, I saw him a few times, but Kurt sitting up behind the throne there – he’s watching. He told me a lot and said, that guy watched our whole set. At the end of it, he went up to each one of us and said “I really like you guys.” So it was a real big shot of adrenaline. I got to talk to him a bit and found out some of where he was going from this show. He was gonna go go play NAMM after, because it was a January show. Then after I saw him at NAMM and he told me, hey Jesse! I go, man you remembered my name, what a guy. And he says, yeah gosh I gotta get out of here soon because I’m going back to England. I asked, what are you doing over there? He goes, “I’m going to play Robert Plant’s birthday party.” This guy. And then the summer before that he had told me he just did Crossroads, the last one with Eric Clapton. Albert Lee is a well beloved guitarist in the community of rock and roll and a lot of different genres. We really appreciated it.
If Electric Caravan could open for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Jesse: It would definitely be Zeppelin. Absolutely. What they did and what they loved to do is kind of what we love to do. We stretch our boundaries, and we might rehearse a song, and I might write a song a certain way but once it gets on stage it becomes a little animal that likes to go crawl around a little further and do things. We like to stretch and have that improvisation, and that’s what’s made it a lot of fun. That’s what you can do as a trio. The more people you get involved it becomes orchestrative, but it doesn’t have as much as the freedom when you’re naked when you’re a trio. It makes us work harder. It also makes a focal point, everybody gets to check out everybody’s virtuosity.
The Silent Rage debut album, Shattered Hearts, was released 30 years ago. In retrospect, what do you think of that album? Does it really feel like 30 years?
Jesse: Well, I don’t think any length – 30 or 40 years is hard to really determine because we feel so good now. I would have to say the same thing and they probably agree with me. It’s kind of a blur. You don’t really think about the span. We have done a lot in those 30/40 years but it really doesn’t seem like that long. I can remember my memory of when we recorded that first album and in fact, I have a promoter wanting us to come over the Europe and do that album. That whole album because of its anniversary, so I’m not sure on how to answer that except that I still feel good and young. Those songs are still kind of timeless to me. I would still do them. We still do some in the Silent Rage set, when we’re out.
Southern Highway – your current solo album, I want to touch on that. What is the theme behind that album?
Jesse: Well Southern Highway – I had become a big country music lover and the way Country music – you’ve got Chris Stapleton, who is a great guitarist and a great songwriter. You’ve got Zac Brown, Toby Keith, Keith Urban. Brad Paisley who is such a great honky-tonk guitar player. So all of these guys are influences of me, watching them and liking what they do. They’re all kind of rebels, so I have that in common where they don’t look at the boundaries, they just go for it. So I am kind of in that generation of liking that style. I like a lot of the older country music also, but I decided from doing blues it touched me to do a little bit of country along with it. So, some of our own Electric Caravan has some southern influence, some kind of Americana Southern influence. That’s what I wanted to do, I started coming up with a lot of riffy songs and said, wow, in fact some of them were Electric Caravan songs and I just recorded them and turned them into Jesse Damon songs.
“You’ve got me rockin” – for example?
Jesse: Yeah, absolutely. That was an Electric Caravan song. I heavied it up a little bit for the Jesse album, but as you can hear, we did that song and actually “Let it Slide,” we did too off that album tonight. The guys are very open to the material and we talk about it. Everybody has a voice, everybody wants to interject and it’s helpful to me. I’m the one that comes in with the ideas and we all mold it. Chris will take an idea I might have and then he goes, let me live with it a little bit. Then he comes back in and says, I’ve got something. I go, this is great. That’s what it’s all about, playing with seasoned musicians.
What’s up next for you and Electric Caravan?
Jesse: Well we’re gonna get out and play more in 2018. I would like to land a festival. The blues community. We just did a battle of the bands in Long Beach which was a fun thing to do. It was a new thing for us. We came in 2nd, [laughs]. They never said who came in second, so I’m taking that slot. [laughs] Wouldn’t be the first time I came in second. No, we want to get out and play. If there’s a chance for us to get out of state, maybe Vegas bound or regionally, we might do that. I would like to take us, even over to Europe too. I’ve been over there and these guys would love it. That crowd over there eats any kind of genre up, especially blues. They love anything over there. It’s a little different. A lot of good people over here…
(Interview and Band Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)
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