Interview: Jeff Healey

Blind Man's Bluff?

Mark Liddell finds Jeff Healy in outspoken mode as the highly respected guitarist trashes the myth makers.

Last year saw the release of the third album Feel This, a more commercially honed collection of contemporary blues songs with a strong ZZ Top flavour. I wondered whether because of Canada's close proximity to the States he felt that Canadian music was sometimes overlooked. Healey takes a very rational view.

"Well, let's take logistics and say that the US is ten times the population, so, logically speaking, you're going to have for every Canadian band that's good, ten American acts."

Straight onto the LP then. You've had time to reflect on it. Any thoughts?

"The scary thing is that I still like the record. I mean, with the other albums that we did, they were certainly enjoyable, but by the time we were finished making them I would rather never hear from them again," Healey states somewhat surprisingly.

I then broach upon the touchy subject of his physical handicap, which certainly hasn't impeded his musical prowess. Does he think that it has, in fact, been crucial in developing his own distinctive style?

"No; the advantage comes from the imagination, and if you haven't got it up here, it's not going to translate out here," he says, pointing to his hands.

A lot of mythologizing surrounds the blues. Something Healey doesn't subscribe to.

"I think a lot of people outside are under a lot of romanticised misconceptions. It's like saying that everybody who's blind is naturally a great musician or can hear better."

Still, he does concede that being blind has led him to improvise on his chosen instrument. And I would have thought improvisation is integral to their music.

"The spontaneity aspect within the band is very important," agrees Healey. "And it's been one of the keys to what's kept us together, not only as a band, but as a company."

Company? Well, y'see, the band manage their own affairs. A band with cool, sober heads, no less. Rock n' roll gypsies living on the edge they most certainly aren't. Another myth bites the dust.

And just to wrap things up, let's shatter another myth. Cue Jeff…

"We've never really been a blues band. We've been a band, sort of drawing on a lot of things which encompass rock n' roll."

Mark Liddell
Riff Raff
June, 1993
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