Doug Perkins Q&A

By Shaun Machia


He is the best flatpicking guitarist I’ve ever seen play.

Perhaps his respect for sound has something to do with his comfort in silence. Until now, other than his singing, a few words concerning time signatures and playing in alternate keys were all I’ve heard him utter._DSC2484

Q- What kind of musician are you?

A- I would say a constantly evolving one, One that tries to focus on the skills, mind-set and techniques that really matter.  I imagine the question relates to genre of musician, and the sound byte answer might be, “A Jazz head on a bluegrass body with a rock-and roll heart.”

Q- When did you start playing gigs? How have you grown as an artist?

A-  1978 with a jazz funk band at St.Lawrence U. Music I still dig. That was also the year I heard the David Grisman Quintet album which began my fascination with acoustic music. I roomed with a banjo player, Ted Wells, who went on to win the banjo contest at Craftsbury, VT, and then the one in Telluride, CO. I purchased a cheap acoustic and desperately tried to follow Ted as he improved his playing with remarkable speed.  So that time period saw me playing classical guitar, finger-picked blues guitar, funk and rock and roll on an electric guitar; and I was starting bluegrass guitar.   I also first heard Charlie Parker then and began trying to figure that out .

Q- How did you get so skilled as a flat-picker?

A- When I got to Vermont, I lived in a cabin without electricity for about eight years, so I dropped the electric guitar. I began playing with Jamie Masefield and Matt Rand in the Mandolinquents, so there was pressure to learn cool material.  I would listen to Mark O’Conner’s guitar album, of course Tony Rice, Dan Crary, and Doc Watson.  Gradually I figured some of their stuff out and developed my own ways of getting around at high tempos. I never had any lessons for bluegrass, but I would take a lesson here and there for jazz.

Q- What are you listening to now?

A- I mostly listen to WDEV and Robert Resniks program on VPR.  I listen for what works and what is good.

Q- How does the Hot Flannel project differ from others?

A- One of the things I like best about Hot Flannel is the sound reproduction. We play without plugging in our acoustic instruments.  It feels like we’re playing in our living room with a really nice crowd.  Plugging an acoustic guitar in and relying on an electronically produced sound translates little of the tone and attack of the real guitar. This is the sound I work with. I’m used to it.  It’s such a pleasure to be able to perform with this sound!

Q- How did playing with Jon Fishman come about?

A- Jon would play with Jamie Masefield on some Jazz Mandolin Project tours.  When a Corporate construction project threatened a long time, locally owned grocery store in Hinesburg, Lantmann’s, we all took the opportunity to try and save it. The unneeded and destructive project was, at the hands of people in power, being railroaded into a community of busy, harried people that couldn’t pay attention to every detail going on.  The show was a fundraising success as well as a musical one.  Jon was great to play with, fun, really concerned with groove and making the music the best it could be; and we got a standing O!

Q- Are there any other artists in particular that you would like to collaborate with? If so, what stands out about them?

A- I like collaborating with artists who are excited about what they are doing, learning, and who are mellow.

Q-  Where could someone find your music?

A-  BuchSpieler in Montpelier, Pure Pop in Burlington, and

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    “It’s not just the technical expertise or the mastery of an amazing variety of styles that puts Vermont fiddler Patrick Ross several steps above and beyond practically all other players; Ross’s eclectic taste and raw energy make sparks and create musical magic every time his bow hits the strings.”- Robert Resnik – VPR –