Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Chris Malone on behalf of the Center for the Arts of Homer.
This Saturday, we proudly welcome back Johannes Linstead to our beautiful facility that is Center for the Arts of Homer at 72 St. Main St. in Homer. The acclaimed guitarist from Canada and his band will take the stage this Saturday, Oct. 7, for an 8 p.m. show. Tickets are still available online and at the box office for $28 for adults, $25 for seniors and $23 for students. Currently military, veterans and children under 18 are free, plus member discounts are available.
Linstead, whose repertoire is as distinct as his head of hair, is celebrating his latest and tenth album Azul, which was released Friday, Sept. 29. The world- and nature-inspired composer, as it is seen on the cover of the album, pulls from the culture and waters of the Dominican Republic, where he lives part of the year.
To get to know a little bit more about the musician, who played in Homer four or five years ago we were able to speak to Linstead about music and other things, so you, our patrons, can gain some insight leading up to the show.
Congratulations on your new album Azul. What inspired the music for this album?
I’m very excited about that. As the title depticts, azul means blue in Spanish. I live part-time in the Dominican Republic, which is one of the main influences of this album. When you’re in the tropics, you see the beautiful sky, the reflections in the ocean. The colors seem so much more vibrant there.
I’m based just outside of Toronto, but go down about five for six times a year.
Not a bad lifestyle.
No, it’s not bad. Somebody’s got to do it. (Laughs.)
What got you into music? What got you involved?
My family is somewhat musical. When I was a kid my dad studied opera singing. My mom played guitar and taught Latin dance. My sister got a guitar, but she didn’t take to it. On my eight birthday, she actually gave me her guitar. That’s basically how it started. And I haven’t put it down since.
I was lucky. As I was maturing as a human being and as a guitar player, I was exposed to many, many different styles. At the beginning I was learning folk guitar. At that time it’s basic and not really anything. When I got more proficient, I got into classical guitar. I was raised with that music. At this point in my career, I’ve written more classical music than anything else.
I started to get into rock when I was in my teens – Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Randy Rhodes and Yngwie Malmsteen. In high school, I also played in the school jazz band.
All of this experience can be heard in your music, especially in your most recent efforts.
Yeah, when people listen to the new album, they’re going to hear many different styles. It’s mostly Latin guitar, but the influences come from Spain, reggae, blues and pop. I like to say Azul is a mix between The Gypsy Kings and Carlos Santana.
How has your writing process developed or matured through the years? Do you take different approaches?
I try to let the music flow. Whatever is coming out is the byproduct of all my experiences.
Do you have a creative space or write on the fly?
Anytime I pick up a guitar I start writing. When I’m in the Dominican, I tend to have a little bit more time, so writing is done in the Caribbean.
What do you do to break writers block
To be honest I don’t really experience writers block.
Oh, good. You can keep bragging about that.
(Laughs.) I guess I’m pretty lucky.
With consideration to your repertoire and your styles, do you ever worry about replicating the same riffs or song structures?
I do worry about that. I have 10 studio albums, plus a few side projects. That’s a lot of music. I’m always worried I might be repeating something, so I try to approach and change each album quite a bit. If you listen to one album, you can hear the differences on the next. It’s one way I try not to plagiarize myself.
Will you be playing solo or are you bringing your band along?
I’ll have my full band. I’ll be on Spanish and electric guitars. I have a second guitarist, accordion player, a drummer and a bassist.
The show is definitely high energy. The guys in the band are very charismatic – they’re rock stars. We like to have a lot of fun and get the audience participating, whether they’re clapping their hands, shouting out Ole! or coming up on stage and dancing. We also like to inject humor into the show. Some songs I interject with stories. I try not to bore anybody.
What else inspires you? Do you consider yourself spiritual?
I’m very much into spirituality. I’m a certified kundalini yoga instructor, a Reiki master and a few other things. The concept of spirituality that we’re something beyond this body gets my mind going and expanding. Nature inspires me a lot, too.
In this day and age, spirituality is really important … to get out of the material world, where you’re not worried about paying bills and jobs and things like that. It’s important to go inside (yourself) to reflect, to help heal the wounds that we’re accumulating everyday, wounds that come from what people say to us or what we see on the news.
If music wasn’t interesting to you, what would have you have pursued?
When I was a kid, I was interested in art. I did a lot of drawing and sketching – just pencil and paper. At the time, as a kid, I was interested in it as a career. But I really enjoy teaching yoga and conduct retreats a few times a year as well. My schedule is so busy, so I only have time to do that part-time.
You have a magnificent head of hair. What’s the secret?
(Laughs.) You know what? I haven’t had a professional haircut since I was a teenager. I do my own trimming here and there, because it’s curly you can’t tell if I make a mistake. Having such long, curly hair – it’s really hard to manage. In the shower I’ll try to separate it … use a shampoo and conditioner that’s hydrating. Sometimes I’ll put in coconut or almond oil.