guitar bar
B L U E S I N T E R V I E W
with Eric Sardinas
by Amber Young

Eric Sardinas at the Railhead, Las Vegas The Devil's Train recently rolled into the Railhead at Boulder Station, Las Vegas on August 16, 2001. But it was not the devil driving the engine. It was Eric Sadinas with his dobro driven brand of blues rock. Devil's Train just happens to be the title of his latest CD on Evidence Records. Present on that night were friends, Phil and Amber, from NothinButDaBlues.com. Amber, like many woman in the audience, was captivated by Eric. She had a chance to sit down and have a lenghty conversation with the man whom some call "blues newest bad-boy."



Eric Sardinas quietly appeared on stage exotically dressed in all black, with his hat pulled down over his eyes, then violently blasted two smokiní sets of hardcore blues/rock, setting the entire audience off with a fiery style they had never experienced! Even the club regulars, like Carol, who is known for not caring for blues/rock and vocally yearns for the traditional Piedmont-style, found herself gushing, "Heís awesome, just great!" Eric departed the stage and took to walking the audience floor, catering to many with close-up demonstrations of his accomplished technical guitar skills and commanding presence. Even those poor souls that donít even normally pat their feet to the beat found themselves bobbing their heads. Most everyone jumped up to give a standing ovation after Ericís final set in which he played slide with a bottle of Bud then repeatedly christened himself in a high-flying shower of stagelight-saturated beer foam.

After 3+ hours of performing wildly, Eric joins us at our table all dried-off and cleaned up from the Budweiser shower. Offering beverages, he was surprisingly soft-spoken and mild-mannered, totally opposite his possessed-by-something-unnatural stage persona!

A well-preserved 50-somethiní blonde beauty approached, raving about Ericís jaw-dropping performance. She asked, "Whatís your nationality, your ethnic heritage?" Eric answered politely, "Italian & Cuban." The blonde, now addressing me, blurts out; "Heís a cutie and a hottie, a real hottie!" I nod in agreement as she was echoing similar comments made by other females I spoke with that night.

The laidback interview was more of a friendly chat with Eric speaking and laughing freely -- displaying a fantastic personality and natural warmth. No airs here!

NBDB: Devil's Train truly exemplifies the category of Blues/Rock. Weíve read that some of your blues influences are Delta bluesmen like Charlie Patton, Bukka White, Big Bill Broonzy, Elmore James, Muddy Waters and many others. Who are your rock influences?

ERIC: You know I think it's pretty much like the voice of Rock & Roll and the people that really had a grasp of enfolding blues and moving blues into their own sound like Chuck Berry . . . the earlier stuff, in to the 60's Rock & Roll, like Cream. Page. Clapton. Even Hendrix did his own thing with the blues, his own style of a Rock & Roll aspect to it.

Iím influenced as long as I can feel a real honest and significant blues groove and tie-in, with a good solid Rock & Roll feeling. As I was exposed to Rock & Roll, I was influenced if it had a feeling and a backbone to it, and it was saying something.

I think that anyone who is blues and Rock & Roll, if they had something going with the music and doing something with it and taking it somewhere, and making a statement with the roots of blues, I really gravitated to it.

NBDB: Why did you title the CD after the Devil's Train cut?

ERIC: I think Devilís Train was kind of talking about, coming from somewhere and going somewhere . . . not really knowing where you're going and having your own mind about where you're going. I've always kind of felt I cut my own road and I go wherever that goes, so I felt it was kind of fitting. Plus, the music on the record kind of takes you on a little ride too. So I felt it kind of tied in and held it.

NBDB: Your performance had everyone going; Impressive! Many were curious about your fullback tattoo.

ERIC: Respect tradition . . . That's about keeping my music going and keeping it coming from the traditional aspect of the blues.

NBDB: Itís refreshing to see someone your age [31] with respect for tradition.

ERIC: I was exposed to Rock & Roll and Motown and early Ray Charles and that aspect of soul, like even the Commodores when I was real young. By the time I was around ten and twelve I started discovering a lot more about Rock & Roll, and the blues. Then I got my first job and in doing chores I saved up my money to go to the used record store and buy vintage blues records by Delta bluesmen.

As I discovered blues music I was like, "Well what was before that, and what was before that?" I think that's when I found the traditional straight-ahead first-generation stuff like Delta blues. Elmore James, Charlie Patton, Bukka White, Son House, and all of the real straight traditional stuff like Country Blues, Texas Blues, like Blind Lemon & Lightning Hopkins, and all of the traditional Chicago stuff.

NBDB: Hmm, seems there's more to it than just exposure to music at an early age -- like, maybe something or someone inspired you, to make you want to dig back and find traditional things. What about your family, were they any inspiration in this regard?

ERIC: Well, my folks bought my first guitar. They started me on guitar.

NBDB: Were your parents musically inclined?

ERIC: Yes. My mother's father was a vaudevillian and a bandleader.

NBDB: Wow, vaudeville?

ERIC: Yes, he played several different instruments. He led a band and was kind of a song and dance man. Plus, my mom has a lot of natural rhythm. She doesn't play anything musical. But it was her music I experienced early on.

It was them that started me on the guitar and exposed me to the music, like Rock & Roll, and the stuff that I heard when I was young. And they took me to concerts. They took me to my first concert . . . it was Elvis, when I was six. (Laughing) It doesn't get any bigger than that I don't think, unless it were someone like Muddy Waters (laughing again). Elvis was this huge entity and energy, bigger than life, and I think he had so much soul. Then again, thatís just another aspect of those early things and influences. Who knows what really lit the fire.

NBDB: Devilís Train should appeal to a lot of people because of the varied styles -- exploring Delta Blues, with a touch of Chicago R&B, Motor City boogie and smoking southern rock. You don't see many artists writing that variety of music.

ERIC: That's one thing about me, I'm really honest with myself. I make sure that I find myself as true as I can be in that aspect. And I feel that I explain my blues by the way that I play them. You have to be yourself because it's such of an honest music. If you're not being yourself it shows, it comes right through.

NBDB: That honesty certainly came through in your performance tonight!

ERIC: Thank you.

You have to be true to yourself. I think that I enjoy pushing the envelope a little bit, and bringing up all of those sides of my influences.

NBDB: Your first CD paid homage to Elmore James. What was it like working with Hubert Sumlin and Johnny Winter on the new CD?

ERIC: Yes, Hubert Sumlin and Johnny Winter.

Hubert and Johnny, they're both great guys! Johnny and I did some touring together. Hubert and I did a bunch of Shows too, and were billed together, and even since then.

Hubert's responsible for contributing that great Chicago sound; he just contributed indefinitely to that.

Johnny Winter is another that contributed a lifetime of music for blues and rock and country rock, some amazing stuff, so Itís a real pleasure.

And with Honeyboy . . . you see he's just one of those last guys from that generation of the Delta. You know, the early generation connection.

NBDB: You must have been awfully honored to be able to make these connections, cause once these guys are gone, if there's not someone left still bringing it out, it's just gone.

ERIC: You know I've had the pleasure!

I've played with so many people where just weeks later, or months later, they're gone. I mean, they've been around 60 years and 70 years and then they're gone. Iím honored and so fortunate to have had the chance to make that connection with them.

NBDB: In looking at your schedule, whew! You're working continually! I see you just returned from Europe. How would you compare European audiences with American audiences? Do you think they appreciate the blues more than we do, or. . .

ERIC: No. You know, I don't think it's about the appreciation. I think the appreciation is there. I think that there's a European excitement.

There's an excitement in other countries, kind of a hunger, so to speak, for American music. Whether it be jazz or roots music or rock & roll, or blues. I think they've always had that real excitement about it.

But one thing that I think is the same, and that's that this music seems to cross all of the barriers. I've never had a problem crossing over to a different culture with the music. It always seems to speak the same language. Music makes everyone's lives go around, no matter where you live. A lot of these places they don't get to visually enjoy it, or very often get to see their musicians or their people that they enjoy seeing. I mean obviously there are other countries that get to see concerts as often as we can, but there's some where they can't. I think that it's held in a different category. I think it's more of a passion there sometimes.

NBDB: Ah yes, passion.

ERIC: Like Italians, they hunger for things, lust for things. ItĎs passion and lust. I think everyone has them, it just comes out different in different cultures.

NBDB: Such as, Walter Trout being a big star in Europe and not here in America for so many years.

ERIC: Yeah, I know what you mean. We're actually neighbors.

NBDB: Really? Where?

ERIC: I stay outside Huntington [Beach] now.

NBDB: Ah. Phil's nearby, he's from Garden Grove [NothinButDaBlues Main Office in CA] and frequently goes to Huntington. I'm from here [NothinButDaBlues Las Vegas office]. So, which venue do you prefer, Perqs [Huntington Beach blues club] or here at the Railhead [Las Vegas blues club]. (Laughter by all because it's not a fair question -- like comparing apples & oranges)

ERIC: I think over here [the Railhead].

NBDB: Perqís is tiny, quite narrow.

ERIC: I loved it, like when we first moved out there, I used to perform every Wednesday there for like a year.

NBDB: You used to play on street corners in LA when you first moved out here. . . what parts?

ERIC: Not actually so much in LA but like Venice and Santa Monica. Up the beach to Laguna, Long Beach, then up to the Bay Area, San Francisco, and on to Chicago. Just wherever I lived.

NBDB: You produced Devil's Train. 11 of 13 cuts are your own originals. What's it like doing your own thing, undertaking a task such as Devil's Train; Exciting? Or, is it difficult?

ERIC: No, no, I'm writing all the time. Itís not difficult, but it's challenging to capture the energy and the way that you hear it in your mind . . . the focus.

NBDB: Do the lyrics come first and then the melody?

ERIC: Sometimes both, sometimes one or the other, sometimes it's a whole musical idea - or just some words and an idea. It all just depends. I don't have a set way. Some times two or three songs make one song, kind of stacking them up.

NBDB: This goes on in your head all the time?

ERIC: Yeah, I keep the channels open. I can't just sit down one day and decide to write. [Eric displays with animation] (We all laugh). I have to go -- What do I have? Focus. Think, what do I have and look at sheets and sheets of things, of what I have.

NBDB: Not having an ounce of talent myself, though Iím an excellent audience, I'm always in such awe of performers. Both sets tonight were definitely full-speed high-energy! How do you keep going so long?

ERIC: The energy, it kind of circulates.

NBDB: It takes over the audience too.

ERIC: I get as much as I'm giving.

End of interview. I couldnít help but take in a great big hug from this gentle, warm and kind individual. Quite a refreshing, surprising and different take on the "Eric Sardinas, blues newest bad-boy" image we were expecting.

Thank you Eric!!

Our thanks to NothinButDaBlues.com for allowing Las Vegas Blues to reproduce this interview.

bluesInteractiveô go to Eric Sardinas Caught Live! 5/30/02 | Eric at Boulder Station, 1/3/02