Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Richard Gjems interview

December 11, 2021 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 51
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Richard Gjems interview
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Richard Gjems joins me on episode 51.
Richard hails from Norway, with its many blues clubs demonstrating how popular the music is there. 
Richard is a real student of the blues, and the place of the harmonica within it, and he is involved in archiving music at the National Library in Norway.
Richard has incorporated pre-war styles into his contemporary approach to playing the harmonica, where he covers multiple genres, including Nordic folk music.
A big exponent of different tunings, Richard likes to pick the tuning that works best for a particular recording.
He has released three acoustic albums with a pianist, two electric blues albums and will soon be releasing some of his ‘field recordings’ from his extensive YouTube channel.

Richard's website: http://richardgjems.wix.com/richardgjems


YouTube Channel:

You Don’t Have To Go (rack playing):

Strange Love (vocals):

Harmonica Didgeridoo:

Natural Minor Blues:

Podcast website:



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This podcast is sponsored by SEYDEL harmonicas - visit the oldest harmonica factory in the world at www.seydel1847.com  or on Facebook or Instagram at SEYDEL HARMONICAS

Based in Norway, Richard got into the harmonica by hearing recordings played by his school teacher
Blues is popular in Norway, with over 80 Blues clubs
The harmonica players who inspired Richard when he started out
Richard is a cultural historian of the Blues and has contemplated it’s universal appeal
Believes music is an interconnected combination of lots of different parts
Music archiving carried out at the National Library in Norway
Differences in the use of harmonica in Scandinavian music
Material available from the library service (quite limited harmonica recordings)
Piano was Richard’s first instrument and advantages this brings to playing the harmonica
Also plays guitar and blues mandolin
Found it easier to develop own voice on harmonica
Drawing from different instruments to improve harmonica playing
Studying Chicago Blues guitarists to improve harmonica playing and playing it as an ensemble
Is an accomplished rack player, with some great Jimmy Reed songs on YouTube
Richard also been developing his singing
Rack playing helps you focus on the bare essentials on playing on a song
Good rack playing by Canadian Ray Bonneville
Poetic human voice element to the harmonica is one of its big appeals
Nordic folk music on harmonica, which is rooted in accordion playing
2009 album with pianist Tor Einar Bekken
Used to play more chromatic harmonica but prefers diatonic now
Album includes a jazz song, but doesn’t play much jazz
Looked into what makes Little Walter such an iconic harmonica player and pre-war harmonica
2013 Slaveriet album
Played with an electric band, Blatt Rom (Blue Room) which is amplified blues
Visited Chicago some years back to experience the Chicago blues scene in person
Richard has a YouTube channel with 100 videos, with a mixture of different material
Recordings from YouTube channel are being turned into an album
Has played with many notable Norwegian musicians
Has played with lots of well known harmonica players as they performed at a blues club in Oslo
Made extensive use of the harp-l mailing list in the early 1990s
Has done lots of session work, including films in Norway
TV appearances in Norway
10 minute question
How Richard chooses the correct tuning for a given song
The great French harmonica JJ Milteau uses the Dorian 2nd position tuned harmonica
Words of encouragement to people reluctant to try new tunings
Brendan Power’s new Modular Reed harmonicas, where individual reeds can be changed
Richard is cautious that harmonica modifications shouldn’t take away the essence of what makes a harmonica sound good
Is a Seydel endorser and what the company offers the customer
Likes to play low tuned harmonicas
Likes the quality of the tuning of the Hohner harmonicas and using different brands of harmonicas for a different sound
Amps and mics
Set-up for recording
Effects pedals
Future plans