Volume 93, Issue 49

Thursday, November 25, 1999


Chown still kicking around on his old Stompin' Grounds

Hefner wages war on life, love and music

Tractor runs just like a Deere

Chown still kicking around on his old Stompin' Grounds

Photo by Off Broadway Photography
COMING UP ON FOX... "WHEN PIMPS AND TRACTORS COLLIDE." London blues prodigy Chris Chown is still riding the wave of success of his debut album, Stompin' Grounds.

By Luke Rundle
Gazette Staff

When most teenage guys decide to pick up a guitar in high school, they do so with the intention of imitating their favourite metal/rock artists, or maybe to pick up women at parties. For Londoner Chris Chown, however, the choice of blues music for his teenage guitar experience was all too easy.

Chown's prodigious technical start came when he picked up the guitar at age 11, but the blues have been in his blood from his youth. "It all started when I found my mom's record collection with B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, all those old guys," he recalls.

His education progressed to drop-in gigs in local clubs such as Old Chicago's when he was 15 and still a student at Oakridge Secondary School. "I used to play a lot of nights and then have to get up for school the next day, so that was kind of rough," Chown laughs. "But I was just so happy to be playing that I really enjoyed it, even if it meant getting to school on a couple hours sleep most of the time."

His first full-length indie effort, 1997's Stompin' Grounds, came when Chown was 17 and helped him gain a place among the top five independent albums in Canada as chosen by Real Blue magazine. In addition, it helped garner Chown an endorsement deal from Fender guitars and earned him the distinction of being chosen as instrumentalist of the year by Toronto-based TV station Youth Television. Composed of a few original efforts mixed in among covers by the likes of blues legends Robert Johnson and Otis Rush, Stompin' Grounds was a definite educational experience for Chown.

"I've learned a lot more, like just the soul of blues. As well, my guitar playing's improved, my voice has improved, my writing has improved, basically all around," Chown states. As plans for a future album are currently in the works, one wonders as to how Chown is going to apply this new found expertise to his next effort.

"Well, it's definitely gonna be similar, but I'd have to say that it might be a little more commercial," he reveals. "A little bit more uptempo, cause I kinda do some funky stuff now that a lot of people can dance to. I'd say in the next month or so, we'll be in the studio recording it. I've pretty much got all the originals I want to use on it together and there are a couple more that we've got to work on live a little bit."

Looking to the future, Chown and his bandmates Ryan Spong (bass) and Steve McNabb (drums) are electing to keep things close to home. "Right now, we're in and around Ontario a lot, we're playing at Boomerz every Wednesday night and I'm up to Windsor for the weekend," he says. Prospects for other regular London gigs are being kicked around, including one at Chown's alma mater, Old Chicago's.

The spoils of being so young in show business have not been lost on Chown, however. There should be no worry that he's taken the business side of the music too seriously. When asked how crazy the fans – particularly those of the female persuasion – react to his performances, Chown can only chuckle.

"That [crazy stuff] happens pretty much every weekend," he laughs. "I always have women coming up and tryin' to peel off my shirt while I'm playin.' I don't mind if they do it a couple times, but when they do it 10 times a set when I'm tryin' to play, sometimes I get a little mad at them. Last time I played in town here, I had another one coming up with a wet towel, wiping off my face in the middle of my set when I was singing. It was pretty ridiculous."

Must be hard work being so damned good.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999