With Damn Right, at the moment I’m playing a Steinberger Spirit bass. It has no headstock – the machine heads are on the body, behind the bridge. I like it because it is much lighter than a regular bass. It has a neat, precise feel. My other favourite is a Warwick Fortress, a sturdy German instrument that sounds great and has taken a lot of bashing.
With ClogIron I dithered for a long time. I started playing a Fender Jazz, but it just doesn’t look right on stage with a folk band. I have a beautiful eighteenth-century double-bass that has appeared in several films. I have used it for recording with ClogIron. But it is very hard to get a big noise out of a string bass – which is why you see six or eight of them in a classical orchestra, all playing exactly the same thing.
When I was in Russia I saw a street trio with a bass balalaika. It was just like a regular balalaika, with three strings and a back like the underside of a rowing-boat – but huge. What impressed me was how loud it sounded. When I got home I went on the ’Net and found a UK company that imports them from Romania. I bought one, and that’s what I now play with ClogIron. I tune it E, A, D just like the lower three strings of a bass. It sounds terrific and looks good on stage, too.
I play regular guitars too, of course, though not on stage. I have two Martins, a Guild, and a bashed-up black Fender Stratocaster. My latest acquisition is a Blueridge, a very pretty Martin-style guitar that is a pleasure to play.
I have several of the short harmonicas that we call blues harps. I can play Bob-Dylan style, but I have tried and failed to learn to play real blues harp, bending and double-bending the notes in the ‘wrong’ key. I also fool around on the piano, and I have a reconditioned 1925 Steinway that sounded wonderful when played by my late father.
With Damn Right members Ant Harwood, Floella Benjamin and Emanuele Follett. The Steinberger has a red ribbon around the neck as it was a gift from Emanuele.
Download Hoochie Coochie Man as an MP3 file (160 kbps, 8.3 MB), made available for download by kind permission of Don’t Quit Your Day Job Records. The Stranger than Fiction double CD is available from both DQYDJ and Amazon.com.
Hoochie Coochie Man. 6:35 minutes. Willie Dixon/Hoochie Coochie Music/BMI – additional lyrics by Ken Follett. Damn Right I Got the Blues – Ken Follett (lead vocal, bass, acoustic guitar, additional lyrics); Graham Coster (harmonica); Richard Gillinson (Yamaha clavinova); Antony Harwood (slide guitar); Cefyn Jones (drums); background vocals by Graham Coster, Marie-Claire Follett, Richard Gillinson and Cefyn Jones.