Pat Cook helms Tulsa outfit the Electric Rag Band and is passionate about good old rock and roll — with an intricate twist here or there.
Q: First off, tell me a bit about the philosophy of the Electric Rag Band. Specifically, there are lots of roots music acts around these parts, but not many of them elicit the same feedback as you all. What are you doing differently that’s causing people to listen a little harder?
Pat Cook: When we started this band 20 years ago, the idea was to play music from the ’20s and ’30s in a three-piece rock and roll band, stuff that not many people had heard or at least ever heard played that way. We like to arrange quite a bit, solos that go around through the drums and bass as well as the guitar. We like syncopation. We rely heavily on intensity and love tempo. I try to write lyrics that are descriptive and situational, stuff every listener can interpret or relate to differently. I really try to avoid being cliche. Sometimes, I use humor like the hokum guys in the ’30s did.
Q: I imagine your musical education had a hard focus on classic techniques, which is a bit different from a lot of musicians’ starts these days. Would you say that’s true?
Cook: Yes, I would say that is true. We spent a lot of time learning to play stuff like Blind Blake, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Roy Smeck, etc., and adapting that to a rock band format. Those guys back then were incredible players. Having a really strong understanding of old country blues is really important to us. Chicago blues and good old rock and roll have had a lot of influence as well. I think it’s important to listen to as much different stuff as you can.
Q: How and when did you learn to play guitar?
Cook: I got a really cheap guitar when I was 11. It was from the toy section of the Montgomery Ward catalog. It had plastic frets. In two days, the frets were gone. I found a broken guitar in the shed and glued the fret board from it onto the toy guitar. It was the wrong scale, so the intonation was terrible, but I started learning chords. My older brother showed me some stuff early on that got me started, and I started playing in bands in high school. I’ve never had a formal lesson. I played along with a lot of records and tried to figure out what they were doing, and I always wanted to play differently than everybody else.
Q: As someone who seems to wear your influences on your sleeve, how do you listen to music?
Cook: I think I’m searching for things that are unfamiliar. After 40 years of listening to everything I could get my hands on, it’s getting harder for me to find stuff that excites me. It’s a curse. A lot of the stuff I hear these days sounds good, but it’s just too derivative for me. I’ve been digging through my old vinyl quite a bit lately. I listened to the first Police album last night — incredible record.
Q: ERB’s last record was released last year. Is there anything new in the works?
Cook: I’ve been writing a lot, and the band is playing some of the new stuff. I’ve also been working on some solo acoustic recordings with just guitar and vocal. All my old country blues heroes made records like that, so I figured I should be able to do that too. That may be the next thing released. We’ll see.
— Becky Carman,
for The Oklahoman
Pat Cook (solo)
•When: 9:30 p.m. Friday.
•Where: White Flag, 116 S Elgin, Tulsa.