The Fabulous Thunderbirds
The Fabulous Thunderbirds

The Fabulous Thunderbirds chat

The Fabulous Thunderbirds have been at it since 1974 and with one sole original member, Kim Wilson at the helm they're heading to Bluesfest.

Here's our chat with Kim:

You're the only member left while everyone else has gone off to do their own thing - what makes you stick with the T-Birds name and not start something fresh under your own name?
I got in the habit over the years. Plus, name recognition. The one thing you can't live without is the singer. If I was another player in the band I would change, but it's just for the recognition really.

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You don't think people would recognise Kim Wilson?
No I don't actually. I think there's a certain amount of expectation that comes from the name The Fabulous Thunderbirds. People have associated with that name for thirty years so you have a better shot at getting people to your gigs.

You're renowned for keeping the band fresh with younger talent - how does that impact the over-all sound?
It's more for my benefit. You have more energy with a younger bunch of players. There's not a lot of old guys trying to be comfortable and these guys are so well versed in so many things. They play a lot of different things with a lot talent- not just blues and rock and roll, jazz.

Do you consider yourself a blues purist?
When it comes to blues I'm a purest. I am to the extent that I just don't want any cookie cutter guitar solos. You have to have your own voice. Everything I do has to be improvised.

You've said at one point you were doing around 320 shows a year - how do you manages such a hectic schedule and was it worth it?
Well I was a young person myself. I didn't live anywhere. I had a couple of places where I kept my stuff. I was pretty self medicated at that time also. The trauma at being on the road was numbed. That's a stupid thing to do but we didn't know any better.

You were playing with some big names very early on in your career (Eddy Taylor, John Lee Hooker) - as your career has gone on who do you consider the pinnacle of the genre?
It's hard to pick out someone from the genre because I win by default. Those who play blues now they mix rock with blues. There are very few people playing it. I'm not going to sit here and say it's me but I will say there isn't anyone who is really playing the blues.

So can you define the blues?
You know what that's a difficult question. There's just a right and a wrong way to do it. As long as you move people it doesn't matter what you play. T

here are a lot of people who are influenced by rock. It's difficult to put a finger on. That's why so many people have bastardised it. It's an improvised... it's hard to put my finger on it.

Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry were influenced by blues, but it's one of those things there's just a right and a wrong way. Otis Reading and Bo Diddly were blues. It all has the same juice to it.

I know there's no point asking what you'll play because you don't do set lists - but how do you decide where you're going to take it? And does the audience effect that decision?
It depends on the band and which direction they want to take it. If I think the audience are enjoying something I'll go with that - what ever seems to get them going.

That's the thing with the blues - the feeling of freedom to do what we want. The blues is not a world for deep thinkers; it's a world of spontaneity. You can't get to my age and still be playing if you don't have that.