JAMIE BONK
Necessity
(Bonk Productions)

 

In the hands of musicians like Pete Townshend or Jimi Hendrix the guitar can be a weapon, ready to cut you down at every turn or, in the hands of Mark Knopfler or Hank Marvin, the guitar can be a surgical instrument of sublime relaxation. The latter comparison may be more appropriate in the case of Necessity, the 2012 CD from Toronto, Canada guitar hero Jamie Bonk. Necessity is Bonk’s seventh album and on the 12 track CD the focus is on his electric guitar work. The all instrumental album kind of echoes some of Knopfler’s soundtrack and more Shadows-esque type rockers. When I say rock, I mean it in the most relaxing way possible. The album will literally transport you to a kinder, gentler world. Is there a term called New Age Rock? Well if so, put Jamie Bonk’s Necessity right into the bin. Jamie cites Metheny and Frisell among his guitar big influences but there’s hardly any overt jazz stylings on hand and you can cross off the term daredevil pyrotechnics too. Bonk’s band is first rate throughout. You won’t find a more peaceful, toe-tapping instrumental guitar album then Necessity, even if you try. www.JamieBonk.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with

JAMIE BONK



mwe3: Your new album Necessity is a masterpiece. I read that you returned back to the electric guitar for this all instrumental album. Is there a story behind your returning to the electric guitar for the making of this new album? Did you have some special musical / sonic parameters that you set out to achieve on Necessity?

JAMIE BONK: Thank you so much for the terrific compliment on Necessity!

Yes, I absolutely had an overall idea for the album. I've been listening to a huge amount of ‘70s music over the last few years. Sonya, my wife (and keyboardist for Necessity) is an enormous ‘70s music fan and we listen to a lot of ‘70s music here at home. There have a been quite a few nights we put on her 700-plus-song, ‘70s-music-playlist, have a few drinks and dance the night away!

I have to say I was more of an ‘80s music fan in the past - lots of The Police, Yaz, The English Beat, etc. But listening to so much Jackson Browne, Seals and Crofts, 10cc and Fleetwood Mac has definitely expanded my tastes.

So for Necessity I was looking for more of a 70's style production - drier drums, less layering of instruments, few or no loops, and a more organic sounding mix. I also wanted to back off on compression/limiting for this record and make the album a little more dynamic and open sounding.

The move to the electric guitar for this record was a combination of a lot of things. One of my favorite artists is Miles Davis and I've always admired how he continually pushed himself. I've tried to, in my own way, follow his example. So that was part of the reason for the shift to the electric. The other part of the reason was that way I recorded for the last 15 years or so was, for lack of a better term, threatened. I live in downtown Toronto right in the middle of biggest building boom that the city has ever seen. Across the street from me I have three 30 to 50 story condos being built - six days a week of noise. So basically I can’t record acoustic leads here in the day. That was a huge, and very practical, reason for me moving to the electric for this record.

mwe3: Can you give a brief story about the other musicians that worked with you on Necessity and can you compare Necessity to some of your earlier albums? Why do you call it Necessity and what was the chemistry between you and the other players on the Necessity CD?

JAMIE BONK: First off – the reason the album is called Necessity relates to your first question – it was an absolute necessity for me to use the electric guitar to get the album recorded! And also, more nebulous music is just necessary in my life.

So besides myself, the players on Necessity were: Sonya Mitlewski (keyboards), Dave Patel (drums) and Henrik Bridger (bass). Sonya and I are married (we've been together for 28 years) so I like to think the chemistry between us is good! That said, Sonya played on some of my earlier records (A Perfect Tomorrow and My World) and then said she had had enough. Enough of my overly picky production style that is. I like to think I've learned how to be a better producer and I think she had a far easier time recording Necessity. To be fair, my studio also has some better keyboard gear making it a little easier for a classically trained pianist, like Sonya, to record.

I'm trying to think of how long Dave and I have known one another. It must be approaching 10 years. We've done lots and lots of gigs together and he's played on two of my records – Necessity and St. Joseph Street. Dave and I also founded (along with singer/keyboardist Wendy Irvine) Sixteen Different Minds, a folk inspired band. SDM put out a record in 2011 called Dancing Castles and we're working on a new one right now. And I'm not the only one who think Dave is a kickin' drummer – he's played on over 60 albums!

What to say about renaissance man Henrik? He's an absolutely first rate bass player and composer and he has his own project Barbara Jones & Henrik Bridger. I was fortunate enough to get to play on their debut album, This Side Up. He's also a bass builder and (if that wasn't enough) the project manager for Antares Auto-Tine for Guitar. I owe a big thanks to Boston-based, solo guitarist Peter Janson for introducing me to Henrik.

mwe3: I was very happy to hear a kind of influence from guitar legends such as Hank Marvin and Mark Knopfler on Necessity. As far as the guitar goes, who are some of your biggest influences, both from a playing perspective and a composing perspective, both then and now? Also can you remember your first exposure to the guitar and what was it that made you want to pursue music as a recording artist?

JAMIE BONK: I'm so happy you brought up those two players, and in particular, Mark Knopfler! There is so much I like about Knopfler's playing and his records. Dire Straits is obviously amazing (who doesn't like “Sultans Of Swing”?), but I also love the record he did with Emmylou Harris, All The Roadrunning. Such a great vibe!

Growing up I liked all kinds of music and players. Everyone from Jeff Beck to Pat Metheny to John Scofield to Michael Hedges to Andy Summers to John Williams to George Benson to The Edge. Really the list could go on for a very long time. I suppose the one thing that really defines whether or not a guitarist connects with me is: Do they have their own thing? Can you only find that sound in one place, with that one artist? Right now Bill Frisell is a huge influence. I like pretty much everything he does and I really can't get enough of his playing.

I actually do remember my first exposure to the guitar. In the late ‘60s, early ‘70s Johnny Cash had a TV show. I thought he was the absolutely coolest guy – maybe it was the guitar, maybe it was just his look. But either way I asked my parents for a guitar and they got me a Framus nylon string with strings about a mile off the fretboard. So at six I made the shift from piano (which I started at 4) to the much cooler guitar!

mwe3: You mentioned your return to playing the electric guitar on Necessity. What guitars are you featuring on the new CD and can you speak about some of the other favorite guitars in your guitar collection? Also what amps and effects are you featuring on the Necessity CD and what strings and picks do you prefer for your different guitars?

JAMIE BONK: I only used two guitars on Necessity. All of the acoustic parts were done with my Seagull Artist Studio CW and the electrics (leads and rhythm) were done with a Godin Freeway SA. All of the electric parts were recorded through a Line 6 HD300 straight into an Apogee Duet and then finally into Logic. I absolutely love the tones I can get with the combination of the Freeway and the HD300.

I've been on a pick quest for most of my life, but since I found Blue Chip picks I've really stopped looking for the next best pick. I use the TD-40 on electric and acoustic guitars and the TP-1R 40 and the CT-55 on mandolin.

For strings, on the electric I use Elixir Nanoweb Light (.010 - .046), on the acoustic I use Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze Custom Light (.011 - .052), on the mandolin I'm currently using Elixir Nanoweb Light (.010 - .034) and on my nylon string guitars I use D'Addario Pro-Arté EJ45 (Normal Tension).

mwe3: Can you say something about where and when Necessity was recorded and something about the way Necessity was recorded? Do you prefer recording live in the studio with other musicians? The reason I ask is that so many recording artists and producers send files half way around the world and things are so sophisticated you can hardly detect the differences. How has all this new recording technology influenced your approach to writing and recording? Seems like a mixed blessing to have all this technical stuff impacting something like guitar music which is a pretty timeless thing.

JAMIE BONK: All of this new technology really is a mixed blessing. On the one hand I don't think I could have recorded Necessity any other way than I did with everyone doing their parts in different studios. Sonya and I recorded here in my studio starting in late 2011/early 2012; then Dave recorded his drums in his own studio (DaWG Studios), and Henrik recorded his bass parts in his studio (Château Juliet) later in 2012. My preference would definitely to have had everyone all together in one studio at the same time, but that just wasn't possible due to scheduling, location (Henrik lives in California) and cost. On the other hand, the ability to record in different studios and share files via the net allowed me to work with the players I wanted to, keep within the budget, and to make what I feel is one of my strongest albums so far.

Certainly modern technology has affected the way I record, but it's more difficult for me to say what impact it's had on my writing. For a while I was writing everything directly into the computer, but over the last few years I've gone back to writing my first ideas on paper. It just seems to work better for me when I'm in a creative state and concentrating on melodies, harmonies and rhythms. I don't know if this helps me write better music or not, but it does feel more natural to me.

mwe3: Where do you get the inspiration for writing and composing music? Can you say something about where you live and how that influences your music? Also do you find time for any other activities outside of the music world and how do you relax when you’re not busy with music? How about other causes or things you promote outside of music?

JAMIE BONK: For me, inspiration can come from just about anywhere. The origin of "Mind Your Step”, for example, came from the time when I was stuck in Amsterdam's Schiphol airport for a number of hours – the main melody and title come directly from the moving sidewalks they had there (go and check it out!!).

Overall, I try to stay as open as I can to musical ideas and not approach writing with any specific agenda. That said, being open to ideas is great, but being able to actually act on those ideas is really the tough thing. So I try to write something just about every day and try to keep my writing chops as finely tuned as possible.

As an indie artist, I'm pretty much going all of the time. If I'm not doing my own music, I'm teaching or running my label. I never, ever, ever seem to be able to catch up on all of the business stuff I have to do. To relax, Sonya and I generally watch films or go out to some nice restaurants with friends. I'm not an overtly political person, but I do support and have played benefit events both as a solo artist and with SDM for charities like The Sunshine Foundation, Epilepsy Toronto, Canadian Cancer Society (Relay For Life) and Make Music Matter.

mwe3: What plans do you have for Necessity moving forward and how about plans for your next music, writing and recording and performing? Things worked out so well with this electric guitar based album, I hope you’ll keep it on your next album too.

JAMIE BONK: I'm definitely sticking with the electric (as I'm not planning to move any time soon!). I'm working on a whole bunch of new music right now including a Christmas album. I've wanted to do a Christmas album for years, but never seemed to find the time. Not sure if the album will come out this year or in 2014, but I'm happy the project is underway. I'm also hoping to do a video for one of the tracks on Necessity, with my brother Randy directing, this spring. It's going to be a busy next few months!


Thanks to Jamie Bonk @ www.JamieBonk.com



 

 
   
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