The First Time I Met The Blues: Jon Harvey

You wouldn’t call Monster Truck a straight blues band, but the genre is ingrained in their hard-as-hell brand of rock. For vocalist/bassist Jon Harvey, the blues was an integral part of his upbringing in Hamilton, Ontario – and remains a firm love today. We caught up with him prior to the release of the Truck’s new album Sittin’ Heavy to talk breakfast blues, Muddy Waters and their surprise T-shirt boom.

How did you get into the blues?
My old man always listened to blues. He’s a player too, and when I was growing up he’d sit around on a Sunday morning playing blues on an acoustic guitar. So we’ve always been listening to Muddy Waters, all the classic Delta stuff, the Chicago stuff…

What was your first blues record?
The first record that got to me was Savoy Brown’s Getting To The Point. I was 16 and I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been listening to it every day, or once a week at least, for the past 20 years.

Can you remember the first blues track you learned to play?
Mannish Boy by Muddy Waters. My dad taught it to me while we were listening to Hard Again, I was pretty young. Well, the first song he taught me to play on guitar was Day Tripper by The Beatles, or Paperback Writer. But Hard Again’s another one of those records I probably put on for breakfast, once a week at least.

Which blues shows had a major impact on you?
I’ve seen BB King multiple times and he was incredible. That was my favourite part of the year; he’d always play a show in Toronto at an outdoor venue, on a hot July night. You’d go and have a couple of beers and listen to BB King. And every time he came he had this different hotshot guitar player with him. He had a great presence about him.

So who’s the best King: Freddie, BB or Albert?
I love Freddie and Albert too! My dad’s really into Albert; Born Under A Bad Sign has long been played at my parents’ house. Y’know, I’m gonna have to go with Albert because of one thing: he played this session in Hamilton, our hometown, at our TV station with Stevie Ray Vaughan. That’s down the street from my grandma’s house! I loved the energy in that; it was just ridiculously well put together and they both sounded like they were having a really good time. That’s exactly what you want in a blues recording.

How do you feel when people say blues is an old man’s game?
Blues isn’t going to go away. Someone’s always going to do it amazingly, and the kind of passion and soul that’s in blues music – and in old R&B and soul music – you can’t squeeze that out. So is the blues an old man’s game? Well, yeah, I guess it kind of is! You don’t have blues when you’re young! You’re in a punk band, and then when you get to about my age you start playing the blues.

The blues grammar is just so much fun, it’s a bit raunchy

What singers, alive or dead, do you most admire?
I love Wilson Pickett. And I also really love Paul Rodgers; he’s probably one of my favourite vocalists ever. He’s got this incredible soulfulness that you wouldn’t expect from a guy from a small town in England.

You’ve supported Deep Purple, Clutch and ZZ Top among others – hard rockers with blues hearts, like you guys…
That’s what we like to do. Those three bands are some of our favourites we’ve ever played with. Deep Purple was ridiculous, that was a trip. It’s what we’ve always been into. Blues is such a big part of rock’n’roll. Like Muddy said, the blues had a baby and called it rock’n’roll. It’s so ingrained. Rock’n’roll is pretty much just sped-up blues.

Do Monster Truck do much bluesy jamming?
Sometimes. There’ll be more with our next record. We’ve started demoing again; it’s a lot more bluesy. I’ve been listening to a lot of old Delta blues. It’s got a chain gang vibe, in-unison vocals and that kind of thing. So it’s more rootsy but still maintaining the heavy edge. The blues grammar is just so much fun; things like ‘ain’t’ and ‘gonna’, getting a bit raunchy with it…

If you could jam with any blues artist, who would it be?
Eric Clapton. There’s something about Clapton. It would be just awesome. He’s well-versed in the blues! I’d love to talk to that guy one day.

What blues song would you most like to cover with Monster Truck?
We’re already talking about doing I Just Want To Make Love To You by Muddy Waters. I love that.

Your tagline ‘Don’t Fuck With The Truck’ sounds a bit aggressive. Are you as badass in real life?
[Laughs] I don’t think so! We’re all normal guys. We’re not wrestlers or anything. We did that as a joke on one shirt a long time ago. We printed 50 of them and they sold so well we printed 50 more, then 100 more, and they kept selling!

Sittin’ Heavy is out on Feb 19 via Mascot

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.