An Interview with Ten Years After Guitarist Joe
after the dawn of the new Millennium, Ten Years After
drummer, Ric Lee, had a vision while preparing classic
Ten Years After albums for re-release; put the band
back together and do some touring in support of the
re-releases. This wouldnít be the first time this
idea had been suggested. There had been other attempts
at reunion after the initial break up of Ten Years
After, including a short stint in 1989 that saw the
release of ďAbout Time,Ē the first Ten Years After
studio release of new material since 1974ís
ďPositive Vibrations.Ē But all of these reunions
proved to be short-lived. Unfortunately, this one
would not even make it off the ground as Ten Years
After front man and poster child, Alvin Lee, declined
the invitation, saying he was sort of retired.
short time later, Ric Lee was contacted by an old
promoter friend who was looking for a backing band to
support an American guitarist on a 15-date tour. Ric
then contacted the remaining Ten Years After original
members, Chick Churchill and Leo Lyons and the gig was
on. The tour went well and for the first time in Ten
Years After history, the previously unasked question
finally surfaced. Could there be life for Ten Years
After without Alvin?
three remaining members set off on a quest to find
out. After not being completely satisfied with the
first two guitarists that auditioned, the trio decided
to give Joe Gooch a shot. Gooch was a relatively
unknown player except for on the local UK circuit.
Perhaps even more surprising than Goochís lack
of notoriety outside of his hometown, however, was the
small detail that he was also approximately 30-years
younger than the Ten Years After trio he was about to
may have been short on experience when it came to
playing on the international big stage but he was long
on musical chops and vocal ability and had little
trouble taking full command of center stage, and Ten
Years After was soon back in full swing. They have
since toured extensively and released two albums. ďNow,Ē
the first Ten Years After studio album ever to be
recorded without Alvin debuted in 2004, followed by
2005ís live album ďRoadworks.Ē
recently chatted with CRR about his newfound life with
Ten Years After, the differences between the local
circuit and the international stage and the pressures
associated with replacing the legendary Alvin Lee.
Hereís what Joe had to say.
Tell me a little bit about how playing with Ten Years
After has changed your life?
Itís a whole new experience. Well, I say itís a
new experience but Iíve been doing it four years now.
Obviously, before I was just working the UK, you know,
semi-pro bands, just playing weddings and bar mitzvahs
for the most part (laughing) Ö you know I was just
doing club gigs and stuff. So it was a big transition,
which is something I really wanted to happen. So it
was great to get out and play all around the world,
which is what a musician aspires to do, rather
youíre a rock singer or any other kind of musician.
Were you a Ten Years After fan before joining the
I wasnít a diehard fan, no. That would have been too
good to be true. I was aware of the band. Obviously,
Iíd seen the Woodstock movie. So I knew of them. But
I didnít have any of their albums or anything like
that. On the Woodstock film, I always tended to pay
more attention to Hendrix, and people like that. But
they were still a band I respected. And it was quite
an experience to get to work with them. But I wasnít
a diehard fan, no.
When I think about bands like Ten Years After, I
immediately think of Woodstock and the historical
impact those bands have associated with them for
taking part in it. But that happened before you were
even born. How does it feel as a young man to be
playing with a band that has that kind of historical
It was a big thing. But I try not to make it too much
of a big thing because I think if I had blown it up in
my mind, it would have become something I couldnít
do. So I try to keep some perspective on it. I
appreciate how Woodstock was so significant. And they
were a big part of that whole thing. But for me, I was
always influenced by bands of that generation, you
know, the Ď70ís bands like Zeppelin, Hendrix, all
those kind of bands. So I was aware of the musical
historical significance of the whole thing but I
didnít see it as some gargantuan, overwhelming task.
It was a band I kind of liked, and I met the guys and
we got along well and it kind of worked and we jelled
so we just got on with it. So thatís the way I
looked at it. Donít get me wrong. Iíve got a great
deal of respect for the band, obviously. But I was
never kind of totally in awe of the whole situation. I
tried to keep it realistic. I think thatís the only
way to really do it. Otherwise, I probably would have
never been able to do it. I would have been too
freaked out by it.
Speaking of blowing things up in your mind, was it
intimidating at all to replace someone with the
notoriety of Alvin Lee?
That element is potentially there all the time. But,
again, I try to keep it real and think this is a band
Iíve jammed with and rehearsed with and they want me
to play with them. I just kind of went out and
did as best I could and just thought about having a
good time and do it for real and not really get caught
up in the whole history of who Iím replacing. I just
tried to think about it from a personal point of view
and what I could do personally in this band. And I
think thatís the way itís kind of gone. Obviously,
people are always going to ask about Alvin. But for
me- and I think for everyone- Alvin did what he did.
He was a founding member of the band. And heís a
very innovative guitar player and no one is ever going
to take that away. And Iíll never come close to that.
But this is a band that wants to keep working, and
keep doing things. And I was just someone who enabled
them to do that. But I never really focused too much
on the Ďreplacing someone like Alviní thing
because I think that could be a difficult thing to
take on. So I just kind of tried to look at it like
playing with any other band, if you can believe that.
Did you feel any pressure to duplicate Alvinís style
or do you feel more like you were able to bring your
own style to the band?
Initially, it all came about quick. I heard they were
looking for someone from a friend of mine. My friend
said you should send a demo. Itís worth taking a
shot. I had listened to ďGoiní HomeĒ and I
banged down a version of it. It wasnít note for note.
It was kind of my interpretation of it. And I stuck
down another blues number, ďRed House,Ē I think it
was. And I sent it off to Ric, the drummer, and it
went from there. And they liked that. So I went down
to Oxford and rehearsed with them. So it went so
quickly, I didnít really have time to try and
emulate Alvin because he never had been a player that
I really studied. They could have gotten some kind of
Alvin clone. There are a lot of guys Iíve seen that
emulate Alvinís style personally down to a tee. They
could have gotten someone like that. But I think
thatís kind of what they didnít want. Maybe it
worked because I came to rehearsal not knowing the
songs. I kind of winged it. And out of that winging it
came something spontaneous. And maybe thatís what
the band was about originally, spontaneity and that
kind of movement. And I think maybe thatís why it
worked for them. Iíve never learned everything note
for note. What Iíve done is, Iíve kind of
interrupted on key songs like ĎGoiní Home.Ē I
take some of what Alvinís done and I mix it
up with things I do and other stuff Iím influenced
by. But Iíve never sat down and tried to emulate
Alvin. I think that would be pointless. And like I
said, thereíd be better guys than me to do that
anyway. Thereís a great Italian Ten Years After
tribute band that Iíve met a couple of times. And
Leo was in Italy recently and saw them. He said it was
amazing. The guy played just like Alvin. Leo got up
and jammed with them and he said the guy had every
lick down. So there are guys like that who would have
done a better job than me.
Is there a particular memory that stands out in your
mind from the first time you took the stage with the
Yeah. I was pretty scared at that one. I just went to
the gig naively thinking Ďitís just a gig. It will
be okay.í But then it kind of dawned on me at that
point that there were a lot of people around paying
attention and asking Ďwhoís this guitarist?í I
never set out to say I was anything special. I
didnít feel like I was anything special- I still
donít. I just do my thing. But obviously with that,
suddenly you think thereís an expectation. And that
was initially quite daunting. And initially, that was
kind of detrimental to my playing because I became
very self-conscience about my playing. But I soon got
over that because I realized thatís no way to go. So
I got out of that mindset. I quit thinking about
peopleís expectations and the replacement thing. I
got that out of my head and since then Iíve become a
much better, more confident player. I feel like Iíve
freed myself to do what I want to do musically. But,
yeah, that first gig was pretty much fear.
How big of a gig was it? Do you know roughly how many
people were there?
It wasnít too big because they wanted to try it out
low key. I donít know exactly how many people but
the first one was a small festival in Germany. And the
next one was a club gig. There were a few hundred
people. It wasnít anything massive. They obviously
wanted to try it out and test the water a bit. They
didnít want to get on some massive festival stage
and fall on their faces and have me run off the stage
screaming. Or get pelted with eggs or something. But
it worked. It went down really well. That first gig,
the audience reaction was amazing. And thatís when I
think they realized, and I think it took me a little
while longer to realize, but the guys obviously
realized it was working. And itís really gained
strength over the last few years. There are a lot of
the original fans and a lot of new fans. The support
is great. Itís been a great, great experience.
Now that youíve been doing this for about four years,
what would you say your favorite Ten Years After
memory to date is?
Someone just asked me that the other day. I canít
think. I should have that one down but I canít think.
There have been a lot of good things. Every time we do
a gig thereís something great for me. We still
improvise a lot. So every night you get on the vibe
and some good stuff comes out. Thatís the big kick
for me, just the spontaneity of it. We donít just go
though the motions, we kind of change things, which I
like. But when it comes to my best gig ever or best
experience ever, I canít really think off the top of
Was Ten Years After your first experience touring in
America? If so, what was your impression of the US?
Yes it was. It was great. Again, I was a little
apprehensive about the States, just because they had a
lot of fans over there. So I was a little apprehensive.
But the people were really great, just really positive
audiences. So Iím really looking forward to coming
How would you compare American audiences to European
I think the Americans are a little more enthusiastic.
They really go for it. Theyíre very vocal. But
having said that, theyíre similar to certain
European audiences, like Italy and France. Theyíre
really vocal, and really into the music. And the
Americans are also like that. Theyíre a very great,
lively audience, Iíve got to say.
Letís talk about ďNow.Ē Itís one of the
few CDs I slide in the player and never hit the skip
button. Every song on that disc is great. Tell me a
little about its making.
Well, it was pretty quick. I think we were only in the
studio a couple of weeks. We had written most of the
stuff, give or take a couple of tunes, in the previous
months. I worked with Leo. And I worked with Ric. And
we worked together as a band and weíd come up with
various stuff. Then we went to search for a studio.
First we tried a studio up north somewhere, I think it
was Sheffield, but that didnít work out. Then
we went to the studio where we finally recorded at,
which was, oh God, I canít even remember what it was
called now but itís near Norfolk somewhere. It was a
pretty daunting experience for me, initially. Again I
was a little apprehensive because I had never gone to
the studio with a band like that to do an album.
Iíve done projects before but never to do an album
so obviously there was a lot of expectations and
pressure. But the guys were great to work with and
they were really supportive. But still, I felt the
pressure. But it was good. I learned a lot about
working in the studio and Iím looking forward to the
next studio album.
How would you compare your other studio experiences to
your studio experience with Ten Years After?
Like I said, it was always kind of semi-pro. There
were no record companies involved or anything. It was
always project type stuff. I remember one band I was
in, we won a battle of the bands and won some studio
time. I spent a lot of time in project studios doing
demos and starting to find myself musically. But I
never went in and did an entire album and spend
several weeks in a studio before.
I tried to pick one or two songs from ďNowĒ that
were my ďfavoritesĒ to discuss in greater detail
but I just couldnít decide. I really do like them
all about equally. Do you have a favorite?
I listened to a couple of tracks from the album the
other day. And I hadnít listened to it in a long
time and I thought Ďyeah, this is good. Itís got
some moments.í But ďA Hundred Miles HighĒ
I like. I think itís because it appeals to my more
progressive side. I like the different kinds of groove
in there. And itís kind of spacey sounding and it
sort of appeals to my musical personality. So for me,
thatís probably the top song on the album.
Anything planned for the studio in the near future?
Yeah. Iíve been doing a lot of writing and working
with Ric. We will be doing another studio album. Iím
not sure exactly when. The next thing that is
happening is a live DVD which weíll be shooting in
Europe in the next couple of months. But we will be
doing another studio album. Weíve got quite a lot of
songs written for that already. So weíre looking
forward to getting that happening. And I think it will
be a good, good record.
Any firm dates yet?
I wish I could say. I donít know when weíre going
into the studio yet. But weíre going to make sure
weíve got a good body so we can just go in there and
bang it out. But unfortunately, I canít say when.
But itíll be this year. I can tell you that much.
Iím going to make you use your imagination for this
last question. Where do you think youíd be today if
you hadnít joined Ten Years After?
Thatís very hard to say, isnít it? Iíd
definitely be playing the guitar, thatís for sure.
As to where, you know, who can say. But it [Ten Years
After] was definitely a lucky break. Thatís for sure.
It was being in the right place in the right time. I
think there are a lot of guys that could have done it.
So I was lucky in that respect. And there isnít a
day goes by that I donít appreciate that fact. But
Iíd be playing the guitar, probably doing something
with my own band. You know, you just canít say. I
might have won the lottery.