Texas is known for a lot of things: oil, steak and the Cowboys are often the first things that come to mind.
Another thing that Texas is famous for is great guitarists. With the likes of T-Bone Walker, Billy Gibbons, Stevie Ray Vaughan and “Dimebag” Darryl Abbott residing from the Lone Star State, it would be a pretty tall order to have your name mentioned with these greats.
However, there is another guitar-slinger who could be added to the list very soon. His name is Lance Lopez and he recently released his Live in NYC CD. He is also a member of the newly formed Supersonic Blues Machine that features bassist Fabrizio Grossi, legendary drummer Kenny Arnoff as well as Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top.
Lance spoke to NEO Music Scene to discuss his latest release and his new group.
Greg Drugan: Hi Lance, thanks for speaking with me today.
Lance Lopez: Hey, no problem.
GD: I recently listened to your Live in New York City album and I was totally blown away. The tone of your guitar is great and I think it’s fantastic.
LL: Wow, thank you so much.
GD: I really like your version of “Traveling Riverside Blues;” why did you choose that song to cover?
LL: I had been in to Robert Johnson from a very young age since I was about 12 years old. I wanted to keep the tradition that some of the earlier British blues-rock bands from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s which was to take early Robert Johnson songs and really rock them out. So I was keeping the tradition of that and “Traveling Riverside Blues” has always been one of my favorites. So I basically wrote a series of riffs and put the lyrical content of “Traveling Riverside Blues” with it. I tried to make it my own version while still paying tribute to Robert Johnson.
GD: Well you did a fantastic job. When did you start playing guitar and do you play any other instruments?
LL: I started playing guitar when I was eight years old. I play bass guitar and I play drums and keyboards. Those are the three other instruments that I play, but guitar is number one. Well, I’m also a singer so that is an instrument too. But I’ve been playing guitar for about 30 years now.
GD: I believe there is a big Stevie Ray Vaughan influence there but who were some of your musical influences growing up?
LL: Jimi Hendrix, Billy Gibbons, Jimmy Page, Clapton, Angus Young. Then all the blues guys: B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King. Those were the main guys as far as guitar players growing up.
GD: Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?
LL: Yeah! It was 1985 and it was KISS and WASP. I was a little kid, maybe 2nd or 3rd grade. The funny story is that I was into KISS with all of their makeup on. We went to see them, and they didn’t have their makeup and their usual outfits and I actually cried. I didn’t think that was really KISS because they didn’t have their makeup on. I wanted to see Space Ace and the whole thing, so that was pretty crushing!
GD: Do you also remember the first record or CD that you bought with your own money?
LL: Yeah, that was pretty funny too. The first record I bought with my own money was AC/DC Who Made Who. I first started playing guitar and I went and saw them in concert actually. I went out the next day and I had some extra birthday money left over. I remember it was a big deal because the tickets to see AC/DC were $13! It was a huge deal for me to ask my mom for thirteen dollars to see AC/DC because that was a large amount of money back then. I think I spent like seven or eight bucks on that vinyl.
GD: When did you realize that music was something that you could do for a living?
LL: When I was around 14 years old, my dad started taking me out to clubs in New Orleans. I was living there with my dad at the time and I started playing in clubs in New Orleans and I was getting paid for it. I was playing in three or four different bands at 14 years old and I started earning money and playing as my job. So I figured that I could do this forever!
GD: I read that you met up with Billy Gibbons at a fairly young age; how did you end up meeting and working with Billy ?
LL: I was moving back to Dallas after living all over the Gulf Coast. Upon arriving back to Dallas, there was this huge jam session on Monday nights at a club called the Greenville Bar and Grill. The Greenville Bar and Grill was a big hot spot in Dallas for a lot of A-listers. They had a very well known blues jam on Monday nights. It was pretty legendary; Stevie Ray Vaughan used to hang out in there and a lot of Texas luminaries would weave in and out and jump on stage and play. So I had gone there, the first time ever and played a set of Jimi Hendrix. Billy was next door at a famous Italian restaurant having dinner. He was living in Dallas at the time when ZZ Top’s Antenna album was released. I was on stage playing Jimi Hendrix and when I got off stage, the manager came over and grabbed me. He said that Billy watched my play and he dragged me to the front of the stage so I could meet him. Billy lowered his sunglasses, looked at me and said “You know that I knew Jimi Hendrix, and he gave me a guitar!” So that was the first time I met him. I was 16 years old, and he would have me over to his loft and hang out. Listen to music and tell me Jimi Hendrix stories. Then as years went on, I opened shows for ZZ Top in Europe. He really became a mentor to me.
GD: Tell me about your new group Supersonic Blues Machine; how did that come about?
LL: I was in LA and I joined up with Fabrizio Grossi and we had a mutual friend Billy. Billy called Fabrizio to work on some tracks and I had just worked on some tracks with Fabrizio. Billy contacted him right after I went back to Texas and Fabrizio told him “Hey I just had this guy from Texas up here, Lance Lopez.” Billy said “Man, I’ve known Lance since he was a kid! You guys need to form a band, and if you form a band, I want to be in the band!” So the rest is history. So we put a band together with the great Kenny Arnoff and the first song we recorded with Billy was “Running Whiskey.”
GD: That’s awesome. How did you end up working with Kenny? He’s such an iconic rock drummer.
LL: I grew up in the ‘80s with MTV and he was such a mainstay with Mellencamp. I always focused my attention on Kenny and he always stood out to me. When Fabrizio called me after he talked to Billy about forming a band, I said that’s great but we need a great drummer. Fabrizio said “Don’t worry, I have a guy.” I didn’t know he was going to get Kenny Arnoff!
Fabrizio and I had done some tracks and he took them over to Kenny and played them for him. He told him that we were thinking about joining a band with Billy Gibbons and halfway through the first song, Kenny was like “I’m in!” This would give me an opportunity for this to be “my band” not just another drummer that someone else is hiring. So Kenny is the drummer in this band, this is our band! It’s such an honor to play with him and we’ve become great friends.
GD: I see that you guys are playing some dates in Europe, are there plans for you guys to tour North America?
LL: Absolutely! We are planning a tour for 2017, which we plan to be our break-out year for North America; probably more towards the spring and summer next year. We are starting in Europe, getting the wheels turning there and then bring it back across the water. We’ve got a great list of guests and we are also booking around ZZ Top’s schedule.
GD: So Billy is going to be playing with you guys?
LL: Oh yeah! Without a doubt! ZZ is going to be on tour so we are booking around their schedule.
GD: That’s great! Hopefully you play in the Cleveland area, I would love to see you live!
LL: Absolutely! They tell me the heart of Rock n Roll is in Cleveland!
GD: You got that right! We finally won a championship with the Cavs, so this city is on fire now!
LL: That’s right! Congratulations to Cleveland! LeBron brought it home!
GD: Lance, thank you so much for your time and I wish you the best of luck with your album and your new band. I am a fan and I am going to get the word out!
LL: Thank you so much, Greg! I really appreciate it!
If you like your blues with a little more of a rock edge, I highly recommend Lance Lopez: Live in NYC. You will not be disappointed.