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Musikmesse Presents: Thomas Blug

Door: Ramon

The German award winning guitarist Thomas Blug will be one of the main performers at the 2019 edition of Muskimesse Festival. He will be starring an array of special guests in the Thomas Blug All Star Band. He will be one of the stars of the Les Paul Night, he will be part of The World Of Vintage at Musikmesse 2019 and he will be one of the guest speakers. Besides all this, he runs his own brand in guitars and guitar equipment, in which he puts all of his knowledge of tone and vintage. And still he has love for the brands that have proven themselves over the last decades. So we had a short call with this friendly guy, who truly has passion for the instrument as the starting point of everything he does.

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Hi Thomas and welcome. We have Musikmesse 2019 coming up, are you looking forward to that?
Thank you, yes I do. I had a great time at NAMM, this year. So much in fact I just stayed a little longer than I planned. I met a lot of great guys, among which Joe Bonamassa and there were just a lot of good things happening there. Now, for Messe we have all these great people lined up and I expect it to be great. When Thomas Weilbier, who is a friend of mine, when he asked me to be part of this, I just knew it could be really great. We have Gibson USA supporting one of the events. It is a great time for me as a musician, the weekend before Messe I will be playing with Jennifer Batten, so yes, exciting times.

Tell me something about what you will be doing.
There are two parts, actually. There is the Les Paul Night. The funny thing is, I am much more of a Stratocaster type guy. I do not consider myself a collector, who has to have every special edition, all I care about is if the tone speaks to me. And Les Pauls somehow never really did, until I found the right one. I found this Les Paul Gold Top and it finally talked to me. I will be playing the full Les Paul event concert on it. The other part is The World Of Vintage, on the night of April 5.. There will be all kinds of interesting guests, Matthias Jabs of the Scorpions being one of them. Bernie Madsen is there, Peter Weihe, Drew Berlin, it is going to be great, especially for guitarists.

Will you be focusing on a specific style a lot
I do not care a lot about styles and genres. I know so many people who focus on a style and just look at that. That is such a shame. I am mainly focused on blues, but I can be really enthusiastic about some stuff in metal, jazz, even techno if it is done right. If the song speaks to you, that is all that matters. In any genre you can discover elements that touch you.

My personal introduction to jazz was Focus, of which singer Thijs van Leer is also part of your band, right?
Yes, we performed a lot together, but he will not be with me in Frankfurt, unfortunately. We are good friends, I stay at his place often and he stays at mine. Besides one of his friends, I am also one of his biggest fans. He has SUCH a deep understanding of music, so much knowledge. It is great.

Oh great, nice to see that there is at least one guitar player he can get along with.
Hahaha, I am not going into that, all I can say is that every single guitarist that has ever played in Focus has been Killer. Every one of them. I actually auditioned for Focus, but in the end, they had some really great candidates and I had a busy schedule and I did not want that that to get in the way, so I told them to pick one of the others. If it was to help my friend out, I would have done it, but they had plenty to pick from. Their original drummer Pierre has played with us too, by the way.

One thing, off the record, I really like the food you can buy in Holland. The “hagelslag” you put on your bread, it is great. You cannot buy it in any other country, but in Holland, you have so much different ones to pick from. And you have great chicken restaurants, I think.

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You founded Blu Guitar a couple of years back, could you tell us how that came to be?
Yes, after 27 years as a freelance musician and working freelance for companies like Hughes & Kettner and Steinberger, I started for myself in 2014. I have been involved mainly in sound design and amp designs, but I was looking at multiple aspects of the guitar world. But I always have to compromise to the ideas of the companies that hired me. Which is fine, but I wanted something in which I did not have to compromise at all.

So if someone calls you now for a job like that, you would not be doing it?
Well, I suppose that depends. It has to be REALLY interesting. If not, I will have to say no. I do however have this collaboration with a Chinese brand, XVIE. I help them on stuff and they use my name and promote me too.

Cool. Back to the element of vintage. What is your definition of vintage?
That is a difficult one. Tone comes first! Vintage instruments offer outstanding tone. When I was seventeen, I found my 1961 Strat. I tried so many after that, but none of them had that twangy sound and this deep tone. None ever. You connect with an instrument or you do not. And besides tone, there is also looks, feeling and even the smell of a guitar. I have a lot of guitars you never see me play, most of which are vintage guitars, most pre 1970s. I do have some modern guitars, 80s guitars, ESP and guitars like that. But my personal preference is vintage tone.

You will also be a speaker, how do you inspire people there?
Yes, Peter Weihe will also be speaking. Besides the Gibson event, there is also opportunity for me to talk about my Fender and give demonstrations. If you are not into them, you do not know how big the difference can be, so I look forward to demonstrating that a lot.

Should Fender not be consulting you for the development of their guitars, with all your knowledge of details on their classics?
That would be fun. But, let us just say, it is an old company, with a lot of people working there and all have their idea of what it should be. And in all honesty, it seems mostly money driven these days. But this vintage event at Messe, there is no other motives than the passion for the great history of the brand. And I will be talking about that too. For sure. Also an element I will talk about is taste. If 100 people say what is best, that does not mean it is best for you. That personal layer is so important when you want to play, especially if you want to play intuitively.

Do you remember when you first started to play by intuition and did not have to think anymore?
I connected with the instrument really quickly. I still practice, but I play at the same time, to discover the guitar. For me, those are the same. The moment I started playing it felt right. And it still feels like magic sometimes. Especially if the band comes together after some weeks and you are not fully programmed. I also feel that when I have to learn other people their music. Peter Weihe, who is a professor in Hamburg, go check out his song Blueprint, with the Rainbirds. He is such an inspiring guy. I had to play his guitar parts in his band, and now I am doing a seminar with him about Gibson. So yes, I have Messe marked on my calendar really prominently. The most exciting part will be playing live. Thanks for your time, I hope to see you there.

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