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Paul Gillies: More Rhythm than Stephen Hawking

By Published: December 4, 2008

PG: I play blues harmonica—mostly Hohner Cross Harps or Special 20's, or occasionally, Lee Oskars. I usually keep a spare harp of the same key in my top pocket should Mr. MS make me throw the harp I'm playing across the room. Also, if I make a shocker of a mistake I try to repeat it, but add a bluesy end to it to make people think it was intentional! On the rare occasions that I drop my mic or get completely lost, I just have to grin, grit my teeth, put my hands up to the guys and carry on. After all, I've got MS! I can't lose, can I?

AAJ: While you certainly deserve a world of credit for being an inspiration to others, who inspires you musically? Why?

PG: I grew up listening to Muddy Waters, and in particular one of his harp players Jerry Portnoy. He still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! Presently, I'm a big fan of Billy Gibson and I have great respect for Adam Gussow (Kudzrunner) who regularly puts his harp tuitions onto YouTube.

My good friend Tim Aves, front-man of the now sadly disbanded Rockin' Armadillos and Automatic Slim, has been a great influence on my harp playing and is a generous, genuine guy who would do anything to help out local musicians. Tim has been through some difficult times health-wise, but has bounced back and is still playing the blues, helping others musically and presenting blues on his local radio show.

AAJ:You and your mates are working toward a goal. Can you tell us what this is, and how your efforts are going?

PG: We all agreed that primarily the band needed to be fun, with no egos or bullshit. We plan to do a few fundraising gigs in November to raise some money towards the 10,000 I need to buy my replacement wheelchair.

We have recorded four songs and built our webpage. At present, we are rehearsing weekly to tighten up the 24 or so numbers that make up our two sets for November's gigs. There are the usual problems relating to getting five people together to practice—things like work, family commitments, holidays, et cetera, but we are getting there slowly.

I'm unsure what effect November's three gigs will have on my MS, so we are waiting until after the gigs before committing to any more. But I'm hoping that the adrenaline and the "feel-good factor" will see me through.

AAJ:You have set a goal for yourself. Once you have attained this goal, you plan on helping others who also have MS. Tell us about this.

PG: I expect to have raised the 10,000 needed for my wheelchair by mid 2009. The band will then find a local individual who, like myself, has been let down by the system and needs a helping hand to improve their quality of life. It doesn't necessarily have to be MS-related.

AAJ:You and your mates will shortly release a CD. Will the monies made from the sales of this CD go towards helping with either goal?

PG: We would hope to have completed the current fundraiser before the release date of our CD, so the monies raised from this could go towards helping out someone else.

Photo Credits
Courtesy of Paul Gillies

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