An interview with Art Slaber
DK: How long have you been playing guitar?
AS: I started at about age 7 so at 57 I’ve been at it for about 50 years give or take.
DK: How long has the band been around?
AS: There really isn’t a band per se. I’m more of an independent sort of person. Have guitar will travel. For some of the bands I play with, I’m really a gun for hire, but with others, more of an integral part, and at that point tends to perform more of my originals.
DK: Where were you born, and when did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in music?
AS: I was born in Hinsdale, Il, but consider my home town Lombard, Il. I always enjoyed music and had a great time with it and I suppose I was in high school when I decided that music was something I wanted to pursue. My first real paying professional gig was at 17, when I played with a wedding band. That was back in 1977, before DJ’s became so popular. Band got paid pretty well and I made about $120 bucks for about 3 hrs work, all the food and drinks were free and there were a lot of pretty girls around. My thought was, this is for me!
DK: Have you had any lessons?
AS: I started Guitar lessons at about 7. A couple of years after that, clarinet, which I didn’t particularly like, but it got me playing in an organized band/orchestra. As time went by I taught myself Bass guitar, String Bass and a bit of Sax. We had always had a piano or organ around the house, so I picked that up a bit too. I attended Elmhurst college to study Music ED and was exposed to and formally instructed in many different instruments.
DK: What have been some venues you’ve played at?
AS: This is a tough one. As a person who enjoys jam sessions, I’ve been to most of the blues and rock places, some as just player, some as part of a house band. I spent time at places like the Point East, Biddy Mulligans, The Pastimes, Sherlock’s Home and back in the Andersonville days Kerigan’s Too. Most recently I’ve been hitting the stage with Da Menace Party (Dennis Meltzer) at Fullers Pub and at Smilin Jim’s. I occasionally get to the Bolt on Inn in McHenry with Tom Bonick. Tom has cool outdoor jam and I have played with him as part of the 4 Ever Changing band.
DK: Do you have any full album releases?
AS: Not as of yet. I’m working on some re-do work and hoping to get to that this year. I had been trying to get this done earlier but sometimes life throws the occasional curve. One of those was that I lost my song-writing partner, Tony Bukauskas to heart attack. He was two weeks younger than me and it was a shock, but it put some of my health issues in perspective.
DK: I am so sorry to hear that Art; so sorry for your loss. I am sure it definitely would cause anyone to re-evaluate anyone’s health regime. Where have you recorded your music at?
AS: I have recorded at some local studios, most of which are no longer around. I prefer instead to work creative magic in my home PC based studio.
DK: What are some of your favorite songs, why? And what are some of your favorite songs that you wrote and why?
AS: This is a tough question for me because I like so many different types of music. Badfinger – Baby Blue is one of my biggest favorites. Probably because it was a Badfinger tune that I first played live at a talent contest in 5th grade with my brother. Pretty much anything by Eric Clapton lately, Mainline Florida and anything off the Derek and the Dominos era. Tab Benoit is a newer favorite and Webb Wilder gets me too. Some of the new country Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney and such. My favorite of my songs is “Why Didn’t you take the Sheets” or “One Way Love”, but it depends a bit on my mood.
DK: What is your purpose/mission/goal in your career?
AS: My goal is to get as much of my music out there as possible. I’m looking at options like Spotify and others that can allow me the opportunity to reach more people. My mission is to expose as many people to the music that I am and have been a part of. Whether it be Blues, Rock, Country that I’ve played or wrote in the form of. I like to see people be able to enjoy some of these little and lesser known Club bands. There are some really great musicians out there that don’t get the exposure they deserve and just pass by in the night.
DK: Who are some musicians you’ve worked with and learned from?
AS: I think I’ve picked up a good deal from everyone I’ve played with, whether it was a one-nighter or a more extensive band run. I’ve learned how and how not to do things, how to adjust sound for room or to blend my sound with a band, how to step up and when to sit back. How to approach an audience. I had the good fortune to jam one night with Son Seals at Blues etc. I’d been out of the business for a few years and went down to see him play with a co-worker. I struck up a conversation with Son and Johnny Walker just talkin’ blues and guitars and at the end of the conversation Son asks me if I’d like to play few with him. Even after being out of it for a bit I jumped at the chance. The man did nothing but encourage me to let it out the whole time we were up there tradin’ licks. For me, a guy like that saying “good job, keep it up man” set me back on a path, got me back into where I needed to be. My attitude has been, I’ll play with anyone, anytime, any place, anywhere. The opportunity to have the experience is what it’s about. I’m the guy who gets up there and plays with the guitarist or group of musicians that everyone else is afraid to play with or intimated by. It’s a chance to go to the next level, to experience something maybe as never before.
DK: Would you say the Illinois music scene is healthy? Is it easy to find gigs and are bands you’ve seen cooperative or competitive?
I had this conversation with a couple of people this week. Back before the days of the DJ, things were much better. There seemed to be more gigs available, more clubs like the Thirsty Wale, The Point East Edgewater and Rock-it North. Not so much today. What clubs there are, don’t pay like they used to and the majority of them seem to be small, hole in the wall kinda joints where even if you pack-em in, you still don’t get paid. The few bigger ones that I’ve looked at almost seem like a pay to play, most of them out in the burbs. I have heard repeatedly from the gaggle of musicians that I know that there are a couple of decent agents out there that will get the gigs, but at a cost. I remember back in the late 80’s and early 90’s we had wives and friends that used to take our tapes or CD’s to clubs up and down places like Clark street and get things to owners, man we had all kinds of gigs to play. I don’t think that back then it was so competitive. Most of the people in the bands I played with and still do play in other bands. I mean, you might have the same drummer and bass player play in 2 different bands together and the guitarists would be playing with several other bands. I myself had a period where I played with Eddies House of Boogie, Itsy and the Love Handles, The Rox Band, and did side work for another act besides. I would say it’s both cooperative and competitive.
DK: What are your plans for the rest of 2018?
AS: I’m currently doing some rework on my home studio, trying to improve the quality and flexibility. My performance plans are to just keep play as much and as often as the fingers will let me. I’m working on trying to get more involved in doing gigs for charitable organizations. The goal is to try and do some good with my abilities and have fun.
DK: Thank you very much for your time Art, I really appreciate it and the best of luck to you in your career!
Biography: O.K. So I was born on Fat’s Blue Monday in the afternoon. Might explain why I’m not a good riser. Started playin’ at an early age, mostly for fun. Got the bug playing my first professional gig at 16 (wedding) babes an brews got my attention. Actually it’s never really been about either the money or the pick-ups, else I’d of stopped long ago. Played lots of different places in and around Chicago with lots of different bands for the last 30 years.Both as a backing musician and Band Leader. They say better late than never so figured it was about time I got out a bit more.