Davy Knowles is a predominantly blues guitarist from the Isle Of Man
#1 – At what age did you start playing guitar and was there a particular artist that sparked your interest in the instrument?
I was 11 when I first started, it was after my Dad had played me ‘Sultans Of Swing’ by Dire Straits in the car. I was hooked from then on.
#2 – You clearly have a lot of love for Rory Gallagher and you’ve paid homage to his legacy with tribute shows and more over the years. How do you wrap your mind around emulating such a unique and legendary player so effectively?
Well, with those shows the idea is more to pay tribute to, rather than copy religiously. He was such a force of nature, and such a unique player, you can’t really expect to do his stuff note-for-note. He was such a huge influence on me, and so it’s more about showing that influence rather than copying it exactly. Technically, he had a lot of Celtic inflections in his playing, and being a Celt myself, I definitely relate to that side of it. He was one in a million.
#3 – There’s an expectation with blues that artists operate with respect to the roots of the genre. Your music is a fine example of traditional blues with a modern edge, how do you stay creative and original? Does mixing in elements of rock and Celtic influences keep things fresh?
Thanks for the kind words! I’ve always been a big fan of songwriters outside of the blues genre too, and I think that influence helps. I’m a big record collector, and so I am constantly listening to music – all sorts of stuff. I think that being a music fan first and foremost is the most important thing, and that definitely plays a big part in staying creative and productive
#5 – While your choice in guitars changes from time to time or song to song, you choice in amps has remained roughly the same, what has kept you so loyal to VOX and when did your love for the amp begin?
I’ve used all sorts of stuff over the years, but an AC30 just has a sparkle and an aggression that I absolutely love. It really throws the sound out. I think it really stems from Rory Gallagher’s influence, he used one a lot in the early part of his career. The only other amp I truly love is made by Brandon Montgomery, his Bludotone amps are magic. That man is a genius.
#6 – Take us through your rig with detail if you don’t mind. What speakers are in the VOX? What mics you prefer and anything else notable about your set up for both stage and studio?
Sure thing! The amp is a 1976 Vox AC30. It had original speakers when I bought it, but those ended up getting knackered and being replaced with Celestion Blues. I do the Rory/Brian May thing of plugging into the Normal channel, and putting a treble booster before it. The one I’ve really settled on is the Flynn Amps Hawk booster. It really hits the amp hard. I use a Crowther Audio Hotcake pedal if I need a little more overdrive, but more often than not, I just use the volume on the guitar for all that. Occasionally I use a FoxRox Octron pedal for some beefy octaves, and I leave an MXR carbon copy delay on all the time, set to a very short repeat just for a little ambiance. There’s no FX loop in old AC30’s, so it’s all through the front of the amp. Guitar wise, my 1966 Telecaster has been a mainstay for a long time, but I also have a soft spot for PRS guitars, which some may think is the opposite end of the guitar world from a Telecaster, but if you can close your eyes and remove the fancy craftsmanship, flame maple tops etc, they really are very similar. Just well-built, solid, simple, great sounding guitars.
#7 – At only 31, you have an impressive discography both as a solo artist and with your former band Back Door Slam. What’s coming up next?
Hopefully, more new music soon! We’re working on a new album, and I’m looking forward to getting some of these songs out there. We’re always on the road, so plenty of shows coming up too.
#8 – A lot of your skill is self taught and you have spoken about learning things by ear. Conquering plateaus as a player can be difficult without a teacher, how do you tackle obstacles in your evolution as a guitarist?
I’ve always thought that ‘self-taught’ is a misleading phrase. While I didn’t really have any formal training, I feel like a lot of folks took me under their wing and really guided me and my playing, so I’ve had a lot of teachers. The exciting thing about this instrument is the never-ending quest of mastering it, and the love of stumbling over something new. Looking at it from that angle, rather than a frustrated one, and with an open mind, is perhaps the best path forward.
#9 – On the spot, no more than 10 seconds to think, in your opinion, what stands out as the best blues guitar tone ever recorded?
It’s got to be Eric Clapton’s Bluesbreaker tone for me! Legendary.
#10 – Your style is diverse, what other styles of playing are you interested in that maybe don’t come out in your music?
It’s hard to beat a well-written pop song! I’ve been a huge Billy Joel fan most of my life. Something you can hum, something easy on the ears, but emotional too. Doesn’t always have to be guitar pyrotechnics.
#11 – The feel in your playing is fantastic and onstage your love for playing is very evident. Some people struggle to let go on stage or in the studio. Any advice on how to let go of nerves and just feel the music?
Thank you! Oh man, just enjoy what you’re doing. If you’re not enjoying it, and having a great time, how on earth do you expect your audience to? Don’t take yourself too seriously, and bloody enjoy yourself. Playing music is a privilege.
Davy’s skill, soul, experience and charisma are all evident within only moments of hearing his music for the first time. Any song, any riff, any break or chorus, his heart and soul are written all over every note. It was awesome to talk to such a well-rounded and show-stopping player. Check out everything Davy has to offer on his website, social media and more.