"In a world of guitars, I decided to leave six strings behind and to attempt to play my punk, blues on a piano. It wasn't that easy," says Harry Stafford. So began an experiment and journey into the soul of the bar room piano player. Stafford, the singer/guitarist of '80s post punk/garage/blues outfit Inca Babies decided to explore his love of piano blues by abandoning everything he held dear to make some new music with a piano and a head full of ideas.
The port of departure was 2015 with a quest to play every bar, pub and hotel in Manchester so as to learn the mysteries and sometimes impenetrable skills of the instrument along the way. These early gigs were perhaps more important for the possibilities they encouraged than any musical dexterity. But slowly, as is the nature of a project steered by passion, a sense of direction and aptitude began to manifest itself in the chiming blues of his piano and a heartfelt lament. With influences from Tom Waits, Diamanda Galas, Hoagy Carmichael, Jerry lee Lewis and Nick Cave, it was a case of assimilating the spirit of his heroes to find his own voice. By 2016 he had gathered together a collection of songs that told stories which covered all his areas of fervor and interest. There were bar room ballads, funeral blues, end of the world piano dub, bebop mash-ups and punk jazz tales of melodrama and murder.
They're all gathered on Stafford's new album Guitar Shaped Hammers. Along the way he had gathered together a bunch of musicians who shared his sense of drama and musical schizophrenia. Inca Babies and Membranes drummer, Rob Haynes, Andrew Mills of Acid Haystack and the Shattered Villain, blues virtuoso Vincent O' Brien and trumpet maestro Kevin Davy (Osibisa, Lamb, Cymande), all made time to be part of this exciting project. With their input, and a wall of technology, other sounds and effects found a place in the mix as well. Tape loops and space echo appeared to allow the songs an inclination for dub and a platform to sometimes create a reverb storm.