Get ready to learn more about a musician who lives, breathes and thrives for the guitar.   James Evans is a Canadian artist who writes his own music and even works with other local acts in Canada.   His new group instrumental album ‘ZepOcean’ has some excellent guitar riffs and solos you just have to hear for yourself.   Evans also has another record out titled ‘Transform’ that is a solo effort and just like ‘ZepOcean’ Rock is at the core of it all.   When James is in the zone he feels like he’s “totally connected to the Universe”.   Tune in as James Evans and his trusty guitar set the entire tone for all you Skope readers out there.  

Jimmy Rae: I know that guitar is your thing because you’ve been playing since you’re five years old.   But my question is what sparked your interest to pick up a guitar at such a young age?   Going off of that, what has kept the passion, fire & drive alive after all these years?

James Evans: I wonder the same thing Jimmy, well when I was 4 going on 5, I saw my Uncle strumming a guitar and I remember walking right over to him while he was playing and just tuned in to the tone of the strings being played off the neck, the bridge and his pick. It was amazing. I think he was playing Gibson ES335 acoustically. I picked up on all those colors of tones and felt the pressure of sound being eluded from the guitar. I had to touch the strings to see what that felt like on my fingers and how that tone could absorb into me. Later that year my Uncle would let me strum chords on his Gibson. Ever since I keep chasing that moment, electric or acoustic from almost any type of guitar. Another thing, being involved in different genres has helped to also keep me fueled for different sounds and textures of tones from guitars.        

Jimmy Rae:   With the major success of video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, what is your take on these titles?   Does it hurt the image of a real guitarist at all or does it help its cause?   I guess I should I ask if you are a fan yourself and if so are you pretty good?

James Evans: To be honest, I don’t like these types of games, so no not a fan as it only builds interest around the mighty corporate profit margins. If someone came out with instructional (uncharted promotions, indie) type of games that could be incorporated into Live Broadcast (TV or Internet) for an artistic presence, I think it would help develop skilled, unique and versatile artists today. Mind you it is entertainment and the audience has a right to enjoy at their leisure.        

Jimmy Rae:   I saw that you are from Canada and I have to say that there has been a lot of talent coming from there recently especially with the Independent music scene.   What is it about Canada that seems to be emerging as an Indie circuit mecca?

James Evans: LOL, I think it’s because we are so spread apart up here (41% of the total land mass of North America) population-wise that we need better ways of communicating, so we use music to get people’s attention and connect spiritually. Well, let me try to remember what Rich Chycki pointed out one day while mixing, the per capita balance in Canada for the music industry sector, including artists, is about 10 to 1 against the USA. This, of course, leads to a saturation in the music industry here in Canada and creates very competitive grounds. Venues are very small and few, not like Europe where an Indie band can play clubs or venues that support over 3k. Only a couple of Agencies control the major venues here so if you don’t have a big label or management behind you, you’re fighting to play clubs for free, lol, or pay the venue.   Canada has a talent pool that runs deep. We just can’t keep eating Muskrats and Kraft Dinner, so yeah we end up in Tennessee or California selling our soul for a real meal.   Yeah, I think Indie Canadian artists have been emerging for the last few years now and will still be strong I think over the next decade building more Indie talent and labels, Eh.

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Jimmy Rae:   I recently reviewed your album ‘ZepOcean’ and I wondered then if the title had anything to do with the iconic rockers Led Zeppelin and their song “Ocean” off of their monumental record ‘Houses Of The Holy’.   So…is it true James; I’m dyin’ to know as I’m sure all the Skope readers are as well?

James Evans:   Actually the title track “ZepOcean” was unnamed even at the time of pre-production. The CD was even nameless. The original demo I think was called “Shades of Blue”. A solo acoustic piece, and at the time, I definitely was tuned into Jimmy with a vibe and tone I was getting from my old detuned $100 guitar. The acoustic track was later recorded with my Larrivee 03R, mic’d at the 12th fret. When pre-production was winding up for that track, Mark Fortuna, one of the engineers that worked on the majority of pre-production with me on 6 tracks, asked, “what is the name of this track?” hmmm I thought, yeah better come up with something fast because the files were going to be moved around from the pre-production studio into my pro-tools studio so I could do some pre-mix edits and so on. I came up with the idea partly thinking of a Zeppelin, not the band but the flying device, just the picture of it hit me, and then placing a statement that Robert Plant made when asked in an interview, “what does the song ‘Ocean’ represent”. Of course he replied “Our Fans, the Audience”. Putting all that together then “ZepOcean” is born. The definition was spun off from the first Video for the CD, “944” based on the treatment I wrote during the final CD design phase. Ha, that’s another dimension.

Jimmy Rae: I noticed that ‘ZepOcean’ is a group instrumental album while you also have a solo instrumental currently out titled ‘Transform’.   I love instrumentals myself especially when they revolve around the almighty guitar but curious to know if you’ve ever thought of incorporating vocals?   Have you ever done this and do you see yourself maybe adding some singing into the mix looking ahead to future projects?

James Evans: Jimmy you’re not the first to hammer that one at me. I heard it from almost everyone moving forward with the project from demo to pre-pro to final tracking. Originally it was all carved out to only be an instrumental from day one. When I was confronted with possible funding issues without having vocals I tailored the idea and had asked some well noted vocalists to contribute. The artists that I had asked to cameo just happened to be engaged in their own projects and could not commit at the time or felt their skills would not bring enough to the project. I have tracks that did not make the CD because they turned out to be more suited for vocals. I do have demo tracks with vocals that I have done, but sadly, I’m not a vocalist. I was also entertaining the idea of producing or co-producing tracks I have written for female vocalists in the Toronto area I’ve scouted but I currently had many pots burning and shelved the project. I’m always open to work with new ideas and to mold into what can become more of what has been or will be.

Jimmy Rae:   What are some names of guitarists that you maybe idolize yourself or at least respect and look up to?   Can you name some artists or bands that you’re heavily into that may come as a surprise to some readers and rockers everywhere?  

James Evans: Damn, there is a huge list but the players I truly respect for the talent they spew from their fingertips have to be ~ Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Roads, Joe Walsh, Chet Atkins, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Carlos Santana, David Gilmour, Brian MacLeod,   Alex Lifeson, Michael Schenker, Ted Nugent, George Lynch, Frank Marino, Ronnie Montrose, Steve Howe, Uli Roth, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.

Bands and artists that I enjoyed while growing up were: Montrose, Foghat, Boston, Foreigner, Super Tramp, Tom Cochrane and Red Rider, Krokus, Fist, Yes, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Aerosmith, BTO, Black Sabbath, Head Pins, Toronto, Nazareth, AC/DC, Scorpions, Judas Priest, ELO and Triumphand Chilliwack.

And yes the talented, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, BB King, The Police, Devo, The Tea Party, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Caldera, A Perfect Circle, Rush, Saga, Sound Garden, Three Days Grace, Ian Thornley, Van Halen, Tom Waits and Peter Gabriel.

Jimmy Rae: I couldn’t help but notice on ‘ZepOcean’ that there were so many elements hitting me from every direction but I could always tell that rock was at the core of it all.   Is this true always with your music and would you say this is the type of artist who you’ve become?

James Evans: I believe Rock has always been in my blood from the time I felt the tone of the guitar hit my ears and into my soul.   It’s that tone, “Tone Chasing” as Eddie would say, it’s so big those acoustic, electric tones just seem to push me into that Rock element.   It’s raw energy that I try to capture, tone from my fingers on the fret board to the way the pick attack sizzles, with a spinal-tapped-edge being muffed by the palm of my hand at the bridge with just the slightest pressure. My music roots are Rock and I will continue to forge with that presence inside of me.  

Jimmy Rae:   I know for a fact that you have a very diverse music background playing in hard rock, rock, metal, pop/rock, country/pop and even Motown R&B bands.   I can only imagine what your CD/music collection looks like at home; care to give us a small tour?

James Evans: haha, I’m all over the place. I will have Alan Parsons, Enya, Chapper & Co. on my iPhone, then I will be listening to Thornley, Three Days Grace, Rush, Saga on my Notebook and then listening to Classical and Sinatra in the SUV, all in the same day. I really enjoy listening to detail and simplicity. For instance, ancient Egyptian music pulled from hieroglyphs, instruments are double reed flute and Ancient Harps used mainly as percussion.  

Jimmy Rae:   Besides being a well-trained guitarist and songwriter, we also find out that you are a seasoned vet in the studio as well.   You’ve written, produced, arranged and engineered your own music but it’s interesting to note that you’ve also done so for many local acts in Canada.   How long have you been doing this and do you enjoy working with other bands just as much you enjoy creating your own music?   How do they compare and differ?  

James Evans: I’m mainly self-taught when it comes to engineering. I started when I was 13 using 2 cassette tape recorders and bouncing ideas until it became mush lol. Being in the studio with other engineers and asking a lot of questions really helped too. Actually I really started putting together ideas and helping other bands about 20 years ago when I operated a band rehearsal space which had about 12 rooms and they were occupied constantly. I heard some great talent so I decided to offer promotional recordings and help put together shows. It came down to only a few bands that I worked with and promoted on local and college radio. One of them ended up getting a record deal and toured. I really enjoyed being part of the creation process with them but probably I would lean more toward compositions of my own. When we come back to your question of Rock and being the core of most of what I do, it is sometimes hard to pull away from that and be tuned into a guitarist or drummer who has a different approach and style so my interpretation would sometimes differ. Then when actually tracking the process it would be similar to how I would go about building the elements of my own material. When working with bands I would also let the artists place the position of style and emphasize their comfort zone to track, somewhat the same as when I work with artists on my own works and productions.

Jimmy Rae:   When you’re playing your guitar and you know that you’re in a zone what is that feeling like?

James Evans: Most of the time I have to be in the zone when I play. That is a must, and it feels like I’m totally connected to the Universe. I feel the vibrations come from the string on the fret on the fret board through the neck and the tonal experience from the pressure on the neck and pick hand. I sometimes prefer not to use a pick just because the tonal experience is even more euphoric and almost presents an out of body experience with, intertwined amongst the vibe and colored energy from what the guitar is producing. In ways I would say the experience maybe close to what Jeff Beck feels. I’m not sure if he has the same emotional sensations in his zone but I know if I’m having an off day and my psyche has me clouded it’s real hard to find the zone. I feed from the energy of the sound, experience and atmosphere in a room to get to that zone. My playing ability may be hindered within my psyche but would sound normal to others, but not me.

Jimmy Rae: The Skope Universe would love to know more about the real James Evans when you’ve got down time and not playing tunes.   What types of other activities are you into?

James Evans: I’m always doing something with technology in some capacity, building networks, managing Global domain attributes, internet domain WEB IIS configuration and rollout, security, DNS, etc.. (yeah somewhat of a geek). I’m also into photography. Currently putting together a portfolio which should allow me to start a showing with a well known gallery in Toronto sometime this year. Always loved the outdoors, fishing, camp fires, hiking, cross country skiing, and canoeing.

Jimmy Rae:   Any skeletons in your closet you’d care to unleash to the Skope audience?   If not I completely understand but then feel free to tell us about an interesting story or two of your past.   This could be something funny as hell that happened to you or something that was a monumental moment in your life or something so crazy nobody but us would believe it!   You can be very creative here and attention to details is always a plus!  

James Evans: Skeletons, those guys are dead and the dead bury the dead in that closet. I tend to move on from the past. Well I have a lot of interesting stories but I think I will share one of my monumental signatures from my past. In my youth I grew up with the Cree Indians in Northern Saskatchewan in a small isolated community, population 500. I lived in the North for nearly 10 years. The only way to get there was to fly in. My father was a teacher and my step mother was the Registered Health Care provider for the community. I was about 15 at the time and always enjoyed long hikes in the woods. Sometimes I would walk for hours just taking in all the wildlife and fresh air. One day I was walking along a cut line,   on a nice sunny, hot summer day, when I came to a small hill. I was about 10 miles from town now.   At the edge of this hill I felt a warm golden ray of light start beaming this energy onto me. As I looked up towards the beam from the sun I instantly felt as if I was being lifted off the ground and that golden light engulfed me as this euphoric tunnel glued me in position. I felt this emotional barrier of happiness, unconditional love and totally engaged to who I was. Then suddenly images and memories seemed to be downloaded into my head of my life as it was, is and what was to happen. All of a sudden it was like all was within its own realm of being, I became enlightened. I don’t know how long I was like that, all I could remember there were tears running down my face and this huge emotional euphoric glow of happiness and love that just kept surrounding me. It was as if someone lifted a fuzzy shield away from an anticipation of your self-being. I constantly have Déjà vu and attribute that from the download of information. It was just so much information that it was hard to conceive that it happened in such a short amount of time. Can I tell my future? No not really, but when Déjà vu hits I usually know parts of the future event that would unfold. Sometimes it’s scattered or hard to interpret.

Jimmy Rae:   For people living in the U.S. that know little to nothing about Canada, can you tell us once and for all just how the free health care system really is?   Please be honest here so that we can all come away with an informative opinion finally.

James Evans: A subject that has many views here in Canada. Here’s my personal view from my personal experiences. I’ve never needed any serious operations nor have I been operated on for any health issues so I cannot give my personal experience on that. What I do know is that there are huge shortages of doctors here. I would think that about 20% of the medical graduates end up in the USA. Just in the region of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge there are over 30,000 families without a family doctor. Just to see a specialist here can take up to 6 months. I personally have experienced that from needing to see a Neurologist for an Ulnar nerve in my left arm which had stopped working. Not so good when you’re a guitar player, you can’t play. That was about 4 years ago. I had just started to plan and record ZepOcean when it became non-functional. I could not play for more than 2 years and now I’m just fully getting back to maybe 60% functionality of my hand. So yes, 6 months to hear a doctor say, time will heal. There was the option of an operation but I decided by giving a big NO Thanks. Emergency waiting times can be 12 to 16 hours long. Urgent Care clinics are also about 3 to 8 hour waits. Yes this is also from personal experiences and many of us Canadians really wish this free healthcare system would start paying more attention to the frontline technicians and nurses. Our system is just not working. I think the USA healthcare reform has its pros and cons but when you look at it long term I’m sure the American people will come to appreciate it, just look at us..

Jimmy Rae: I feel that it’s crucially important that everyone help out to make this world a better place especially now.   What are your recommendations or take it a step further perhaps and tell us how you contribute toward making a difference?

James Evans: We can all really help out that’s for sure. I’m putting together a program to help promote delivering usable water to countries that are underdeveloped and are in need of the first required substance to sustain life, Water. The program will be incorporating a direct deposit from sales of merch and CDs to help provide water to Global programs. World Water Day is March 22nd and it is to remind us to act now to make a difference.


Jimmy Rae:   What’s next for James Evans (news, updates, tour info, etc…)?   How is 2011 stacking up so far?

James Evans: There are some shows coming up this year and band members are being recruited for rehearsals starting next month. On a note, I have also just been selected as semi-finalist for the International Songwriters Competition for 2010,   for my track “After Burner” from the CD ‘ZepOcean’.

There is also a new CD is in the works this year and guess what, you might hear a vocal track or two. There is no release date yet. I’m also hoping to work on some new projects in town with fellow artists. New promotional material will also be coming up by mid April. I’d say all is going well and moving forward at a good pace right now.   I like having everything fall into place and not rushed.

For more info on this versatile artist, SKOPE out http://www.reverbnation.com/jimevans.

By Jimmy Rae   (jrae@skopemag.com)

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