First Time I Met The Blues: Jack J Hutchinson

Jack J Hutchinson’s birth year of 1982 was musically dominated by shoulder-padded synth-pop, while nu-metal held malodorous sway as he came of age in post-millennial Burnley. But as the bandleader with the natty headgear tells us, he was always in the vanguard of the blues resistance, seeking out the music with emotional heft.

How did you first fall in love with the blues?

I remember getting a Led Zeppelin box set for Christmas when I was 14 and being completely blown away by Jimmy Page. He’s sloppy as hell, isn’t he? But who cares? That’s what’s so great about him. I mean, Since I’ve Been Loving You, there are live versions of that where he’s all over the place. But luckily he’s got Bonzo and John Paul Jones pulling it together. As a guitarist, I’ve learnt to have a strong rhythm section. So when I’m off my fucking face at gigs, at least they’re pulling it in [the right direction]!

What other records were big in your world?

Led Zeppelin I and II just blew my mind, and I got a battered-to-fuck copy of Physical Graffiti on vinyl for about a fiver. I remember hearing [Fleetwood Mac’s] Oh Well, spending hours trying to work it out with my band at the time, then doing it at a gig and it being absolutely shambolic. I remember getting [BB King’s] Live At The Regal, and thinking, ‘Fuck – this is it. This is real.’

How did your interest develop from there?

I’d got Led Zeppelin’s BBC Sessions, and there were a lot of medleys, so you might have them throwing in some Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters in between other tracks. So it was like, ‘Okay, who the hell are these guys?’ I started tracing the lineage, which I guess is what they did. The person that I really got into was Charley Patton. I find that music haunting. It’s so crackly and old, it feels like you’re being transported into a different time.

Where did you get those records?

There was an amazing record store called Astonishing Sounds in Burnley. The chap who ran it, he’d get hold of hard-to-find vinyl, and he’d sell it for a couple of quid. That was quite an education. I mean, stuff like Apple Music, they’ve tried to claim it as being like a digital record store – which is bullshit. It just doesn’t recreate it at all. It’s the importance of face-to-face contact. That’s how these guys in the 60s – Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jimmy Page – got their education. It wasn’t just about having it on a plate.

Did listening to blues make you popular at school?

There was a little gang of us. It was all the lads who weren’t on the football team, who’d grown their hair and were meeting up at lunchtime, playing guitar and trying to put a band together. I remember going to art college and we’d go to this dirty little café every lunchtime in Blackburn and all they played was fucking nu-metal. I just sat there thinking, ‘This is atrocious.’ It was like, ‘These guys need to go home, listen to Peter Green and get some bloody tone in their instruments.’ You don’t want to have an arrogant approach, but I definitely do have a bit of an ego, because I do think I can write better tunes than some of the shit that appears on the radio.

Did you see many blues concerts growing up?

I saw Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in about ’98. It was so loud, like fucking vikings coming over the hill. Then he got his violin bow out. The next day, I actually went out and bought a violin bow. I turned up at rehearsals and my band were like, ‘What the fucking hell are you doing?’ It didn’t have the same effect. I didn’t have a smoke machine, for a start.

I saw BB King in about 2005 – and I was about two rows from the front as well. It was just a magical gig. One thing I took away from it was the humour: he was singing these really resonant songs, but you felt uplifted. At the end of that gig, he threw some badges out into the crowd. I caught one – and I’ve since fucking lost it. I think it’s probably with an ex-girlfriend somewhere.

Have you ever had the blues?

I think a changing point for me was about six years ago when I was quite ill. I had this thing called reactive arthritis, so I ended up in hospital for about a month. I couldn’t walk for two months, and I couldn’t pick up a guitar for six months. Which was a bit of a fucking shitter. But I wouldn’t say I sit down and write songs every day about, y’know, ‘Ah, I was in hospital…’ I think it just changed my outlook. Since then, I’ve tried to live each day like it means something. Because you never know what’s around the corner.

Who’s the best hat-wearer in the blues, in your opinion?

There’s a lot of people who wear hats… but the thing is, nobody’s gonna look as cool as John Lee Hooker, are they?

Unplugged EP is out now, self-released.

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.