Interviewed by Phil Chelmsford – August 2011
Jeff Green… Who you may ask? Well here we plan to find out more about the guitarist who was born in California, moved to England in the 80’s, experienced personal tragedy, wrote and recorded a superb album about it and now lives in Ireland.
Jeff’s first solo release, Jessica, (DPRP review) was self-financed and self-released, and took a substantial amount of emotional energy to write and record… lets find out why as well some of what Jeff is all about.
Phil: Jeff thanks for taking the time to talk to DPRP. Firstly may I ask about you being an American now living in Ireland via England. How did that come about?
Jeff: Well, my Mother is English and after she and my Father divorced she moved back to England. In November of 1986, I took an extended holiday to England to visit my Mother and Brother. I brought my guitar with me, got into a few bands and decided to stay. In 2005 I moved to Ireland to be with my now wife, Laura and her two boys, Dermot and Darragh.
Phil: Do you think your influences have changed much over the years and through living in the US, UK and Ireland?
Jeff: Very good question! Much like picking up an accent I think it’s inevitable that influences and tastes will change. Before moving to England, I was concentrating more on the technical side of my playing and after moving to England, I tended to concentrate more on song writing and developing textures and soundscapes. I was also able to become much more immersed in my first love, Progressive Rock!
Phil: I see that in the past you have been involved in a few musical projects such as North Point Park (who I must claim I have not heard of) who seemed like they started to make some small waves on the music scene of the time, and then a rock cover band No Idea. Of course more recently your involvement is with the fairly well known tribute band The Illegal Eagles. Can you tell us about North Point Park through to how you then ended up in an Eagles tribute?
Jeff: My first “serious” band in the UK was North Point Park. The music was very original and some have said that it was ahead of its time. We, supported a host of name bands of the day including: Gary Moore, Faith No More, The Fixx, Echo and the Bunnymen, Del Amitri, to name a few. We had a development deal with a major label and recorded an EP at Jimmy Page’s old studio, The Mill in Cookham, Berkshire. Alas, it wasn’t to be and I decided to carve out a career in music, teaching and playing in cover bands, doing session work etc… In January of 1997, I got a call from The Illegal Eagles saying that they were looking for a singer/guitarist and that has been my main live output, all the while I was still writing my own material.
Phil: So you are a full time professional musician?
Jeff: Yes, for my sins!
Phil: Other than guitar do you play any other instruments? Also is there an instrument you cannot play that you like to try to learn?
Jeff: I started of playing the clarinet, which I got pretty good at, before I stopped to play guitar. I play mandolin, a bit of keyboards. I’d like to think that I’d be proficient enough on the bass to play in a working band. I suppose I’m a bit of a frustrated drummer as I’m constantly air drumming! (Laughs)
Phil: Moving onto your album Jessica, which is based on events surrounding a sad part in your life, can you elaborate on the story behind your first solo release?
Jeff: Back in 1996 my wife and I had a stillborn child, Jessica. Originally, I was just going to write one song as a tribute to her, but the music just kept pouring out of me so I decided to write an entire album based on the experience. It tells the story of our desire to have a child, her conception, the pregnancy and ultimately the loss. I tried to encapsulate all the emotions associated with it such as excitement, pride, love, loss, anger and eventual, acceptance and gratitude. The music was written and played directly from the heart.
Phil: Without even hearing a note of music, a potential listener may be forgiven in thinking that the album is going to be about sombre moods and of a melancholy nature but it TRULY isn’t, in fact quite the opposite for which you must be highly commended. Do you get much feedback on the music content versus the emotional subject?
Jeff: Thank You! Naturally, the first thing that hits people is the story behind it. Most of the people I’ve spoken to start taking in musical content after a few listens. Which is very understandable. To be honest, I never wanted either aspect to outshine the other, so I’m very pleased with those reactions!
Phil: This album took you 11 years to write… that’s a long time. Did you ever feel you didn’t want to complete it or couldn’t?
Jeff: Yes, there were times of self-doubt, wondering if the music was actually any good, would people understand it etc… and then there were the financial struggles in getting the whole thing recorded and produced. I’m very grateful to Laura, my family and friends who kept encouraging me to finish it.
Phil: From what I can tell you have recorded your album almost entirely at home in your own studio. Does having your own environment and recording facilities take away some burden, not just financially, but mentally? Or in other words do you feel your creativeness is enhanced as a result?
Jeff: It’s actually a bit of a double-edged sword. While It’s great to have the freedom and convenience of having a home studio, it’s also good to have that “clock” ticking inasmuch that one is kept on their toes in terms of the work ethic. Sometimes having too much time and freedom can be counter productive. Having said that, I wouldn’t have recorded Jessica any other way.
Phil: I understand that all profits from Jessica are being given to a charitable cause. Please tell us more.
Jeff: The profits are going to the upkeep and maintenance of the bereavement room at Southend General Hospital in England. There wasn’t one there at the time when I went through my experience and it was suggested to me by one of the nurses there that it would be a very good cause to have one built. During the 11 years it took to make this album one has been built, so now the idea is to use the money to keep it going provide facilities etc… and spread the word about this all-too-common tragedy.
Phil: There are a number of instrumental tracks on this album was that how you originally intended or just how it panned out?
Jeff: I was very inspired by some of Steve Vai’s work at the time in which he would combine instrumentals with lyrical compositions. I wanted to write enough lyrics to get the message across without banging anybody over the head with it. So I decided to let the instrumentals speak for themselves.
Phil: You have a number of guests who feature on Jessica who are reasonably well known in Prog and rock music circles. – including Mike Stobbie (ex Pallas) on keys, Phil Hilborne (who is quite a renowned guitarist and played with the likes of Steve Vai amongst others I have discovered) and Pete Riley (who has performed with john Wetton and Keith Emerson) on drums – It’s quite an impressive guest list for your first venture into Prog, how do you know these guys?.
Jeff: Phil Hilborne was my teacher for about a year when I first moved to England. He lived just down the road from my Mother and I met him through mutual friends. Pete and Mike I got to know through playing in various cover and tribute bands over the years. I like to think that Jessica’s spirit guided us so that our paths would cross.
Phil: How did working with the various guests on your album change how you originally envisaged the music to be?
Jeff: Yes in a way. Mike brought a great deal of retro and neo-prog ideas to the table and made the project much more “grand”. Pete added a lot of groove and counter-rhythms. Both guys definitely affected my guitar playing on the album!
Phil: Do you think you would have started writing a Prog album of any kind had this tragedy not happened? And how come it has taken you so long to actually move into the world of Prog?
Jeff: I think I would have eventually, but not quite on this scale. Prog has always been in my heart and my first love. However, circumstances did not allow me to pursue that influence until then as I was playing in bands that had different musical directions.
Phil: I personally always finding it fascinating how musicians go through the process of writing songs & music. Is there a set process you go through when it comes to song writing?
Jeff: Not really. I keep a notepad for lyrics and musical ideas, and then when I’m at my computer I’ll record the ideas. When the time feels right I’ll elaborate on them, program some drums, add some bass guitar and build it from there. Then I pass it on to the other musicians to add their parts which will, in turn affect the way the rest of some comes out.
Phil: What artists do you currently admire in the world of music not just Prog?
Jeff: I love Steve Vai, Joe Walsh, Steely Dan, Pete Townshend, to name a few but most of them are in the realms of Prog. Old school: Yes, Rush, Genesis, Pink Floyd etc.. Modern: Porcupine Tree, Spocks Beard, Dream Theater, Transatlantic…
Phil: If you could choose 3 musicians that you could collaborate with on any album who do you think you would choose? (They still have to be alive of course)
Jeff: That’s a tough one… I’d have to say, Rick Wakeman, Steven Wilson and Alan Parsons
Phil: Moving briefly away from music, what else takes up your time? What interests do you have other than music?
Jeff: I love cooking. I find it to be a very creative process, much like song writing. Reading, I devour books of all kinds and find so much inspiration from literature. I’m a bit of an aviation geek, I have flight simulators and would love to get a pilots licence one day. I’m very much into sports. Mainly football, American football and baseball. I love watching films I have quite a large DVD collection and would very much like to do a film-score at some point.
Phil: Very interesting… so following on from that question what is your culinary signature dish? (laugh!)
Jeff: Without a doubt, Mexican cuisine! Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc…
Phil: So what is next for you Jeff? Do you plan to do a solo tour? Make more music?
Jeff: My immediate objective is to complete my current album, Elder Creek. The writing process is finished, the drums and bass are recorded so the next step is the keyboards, guitars and vocals then of course the mixing and mastering. The album will be released next year at which point I plan on performing the material live.
Phil: If people are interested in seeing you play with the Illegal Eagles where can they see you gig?
Jeff: Please check out the gigs section on the Illegal Eagles website
Phil: Finally, I would like to say thanks for taking the time to talk to me and I think we need to tell the people how and where they can purchase Jessica and keep in touch with what you’re up to?
Jeff: It’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much for the interview. Jessica can be purchased via my website – http://web.mac.com/jeffrgreen/Jeff_Green/Jessica.html on CD, via Paypal or can be downloaded via iTunes (ed: since this interview the album has become widely available through Amazon, HMV and all other major online stores)
Official website: http://web.mac.com/jeffrgreen/Jeff_Green/Jessica.html
Official Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jeff-Green-Official/181935641858756
Jessica album sampler: http://soundcloud.com/jeff-green/sets/jessica/