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HOWARD BURKE

Mixing it up for your snake neckin' pleasure...

You can email Howard at: howard@littlefeat.net

How did you come to be in the music business?

By default. I met more musicians than artists while attending North Texas State. I was in the fine arts department but the university is most famous as a music school.
I hooked up with a guy named Richard Bowden who played in a band with Don Henley and they talked me into being the roadie. I was 17. I toured around Texas with that band (known as Felicity) and met other musicians on the curcuit like Jimmy Vaughn and his thirteen year old brother, Stevie Ray.

Viet Nam interrupted the party and four years later I found myself in California looking for work and after a few months of nothing hooked back up with all the same guys who were by then, Linda Ronstadt’s band. They said "put yer shit in the truck" and I was back on the road...

Do you play?

Yes. I started out as a drummer in school band but while in the military taught myself to play guitar. While working as tour manager for Jackson Browne I co-wrote a tune for the Running on Empty album and that led me to join a band for a few years. We were called Blue Steel and we recorded two albums, one on MCA and another on Electra/Asylum. Both are out of print.

You’ve been with Little Feat for 4 years now, what keeps drawing you back to their tours?

Money. Seriously I enjoy this music on some level more than any band I have ever heard. Jackson had introduced me to Lowell many, many years ago and I still remember seeing the band for the first time at Santa Monica Civic doing All That You Dream with giant dancing cactus in the background, and I like hanging around with guys that are older than me.

The crew that supports a touring band makes or breaks the tour.

What is it about the Little Feat crew that makes the team special?

Me. I make everything special. Seriously the trick is to maintain a family relationship within the crew and the band. We have to live together and work together and this makes humor and respect the two most important qualities. Not to mention being really good at what you do.

Who were your musical influences when you were coming up?

The first records I ever owned were a collection of New Orleans blues artists, the Ventures and Mahalia Jackson. I preferred Jerry Lee over Elvis and I still think of guitar music as defined by the Kings, Albert and BB. I think the Eric Clapton recording with John Mayall was the one 'white' record that really turned my head. I hear that record everywhere in the music of Robben Ford and many others, including our own Paul Barrere.

Who do you listen to now?

I listen to all kinds of things. My kids introduce me to stuff i couldn’t imagine and just the accidental meeting of songs on the radio and television are sometimes happy events although I must admit that when I want the real thing I still pull out the classic artists and records of years past. Hendrix is still Hendrix. Bobby Bland and Aretha still out sing everyone, and then there are all those Clapton albums ya know.

Your ”instrument“ is the sound system that delivers the tunes to the crowd. Every gig presents you with a different instrument. How can you deal with that and maintain your sanity?

I don't. I am crazy as hell, ask anyone. Seriously it is the challange of taking different pieces of equipment and putting them in different acoustic environments and attempting to 'tame the beast' in a pleasing manner that makes the thing exciting.

We have finally gotten a monitor system for the band (and Roger) that gives them some consistency and that really does help me in many ways not to mention the fact that Roger is a first rate sound engineer and musician as well so he knows what I need from him and isn't afraid to ask me for whatever he needs. Between us we can create a pretty decent asthetic envelope almost anywhere.

Your favorite Feat venue and why.

I don't really have one. There are a few that I always enjoy and some that just surprise the hell out of me. The Keswick, the Mystic, the Boulder Theater and almost all of the House of Blues gigs have always been fun.

Outdoor gigs that don’t have weird roof structures are usually fun too. There are new ones each year and some of those will eventually make the list as well, like the Triple Door in Seattle.

But there are others (names omitted) that always suck and oddly enough those difficult ones sometimes are the ones the band says they really liked. Strange.

What’s the most recent Nightmare gig and why?

Spotsylvania. Jeez. You saw the pictures…

What does a Scotsman wear beneath his kilt?

Nothin’

What advise do you have for some kid out there that wants to get into the FOH business?

If you are not a musician become one. Take lessons, join a band and learn the ropes from the inside. It is much easier to relate to the players and what they are doing if you do this. Mixing is a lot of what not to do. Learning the technical part can be done on the job, as an assistant, or from a school but if you want to mix music you should understand it personally.

You’re getting ready to take the band across the pond. What kind of obstacles does Europe present for you in your job?

Having toured Europe extensively with Weather Report and others from Black Uhuru to Robben Ford, I find that from the sound standpoint they are actually, on average, better prepared than comparible venues in the U.S. If there is a difficulty it would be mostly with transport. Having to fly with excess baggage (backline stuff) is always a pain and sometimes expensive as well as risky. Having your gear lost or damaged really throws a spanner in the works.

In your opinion, how has the support of the Little Feat fans, the Grassroots and the Point of Contact programs affected the touring life of the band?

Before the Feat I had never really experienced these kinds of support programs and it took some getting used to. The tapers were a new thing to me as well. It is nice to have family everywhere and that is what it is most like.

What’s different for you for the 2004 tourcompared to the 2003 tour?

The big difference this year is due to my old friend John Deboard who has provided us with his Compact Monitor System with an offer we couldn’t refuse. The band now has a consistency of sound on stage they could never achieve with 'monitors du jour'.
What’s on the horizon?

Which horizon, the one in front or the one in back?

I try to not look too far ahead of myself or I miss what’s going on around me. Life’s littlesurprises can make the future a real roller coaster. As to the one in back, well, as the great Satchel Paige once said 'Never look back, they might be gaining on you'.

When at home, Howard loves to listen to Songs In Round (KOWS 107.3 FM).