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Music Events (more headlines) 07-12-2012

Kicking Axe NYS Blues Fest

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Website: http://www.markcloutierguitar.com/syracuse-new-times-cover/
Martial arts exercise helps the musical mind-set of Double Barrel guitarist Mark Cloutier

Mark Cloutier is a jack-of-alltrades. By morning he’s a teacher, father and husband, but by nightfall, he just may kick your ass—especially if he hasn’t gotten in his daily practice with his beloved Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster.

Cloutier, a co-owner of Blues Lion Records and a guitarist for local rock machine Double Barrel Blues Band, will play at the New York State Blues Festival in Clinton Square on Sunday, July 15, 4:45 p.m. In the local scene, he’s well known thanks to his long-running stint playing at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que with his former band, Dirty Pool. Nowadays, the Air Force veteran, who turns 47 next month, hasn’t slowed down; he’s just getting started.

“No matter what you learn {musically}, there’s always more to be done,” he said while gripping his Stratocaster inside the de facto studio he has in his East Syracuse home.

As a student at East Syracuse- Minoa High School, Cloutier began taking guitar lessons in 1983 from Dana Klipp, half of the countrybluegrass duo Northwater. He grew up on a heavy dose of Elvis Presley, one of his parents’ favorite musicians, but once he got into the celebrated licks of Eddie Van Halen, Cloutier was inspired to master the guitar. Cloutier was later reinspired by another legendary axe-man when he brought a copy of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s album Texas Flood (Epic Records, 1983) to a session with Klipp. The pupil-teacher relationship eventually blossomed into a friendship that in 1990 also spawned the short-lived band known as Rude Mood.

Klipp still notes his tremendous respect for Cloutier today. “I can show {students} what to do with the guitar, but from there the work is in their hands,” Klipp said from his Baldwinsville home, where he gives lessons on a variety of string instruments. “It’s up to them to take that knowledge and take off from there. Mark had, and still has, that drive, that tenacity to keep pushing.”

After earning his high school sheepskin in 1983, Cloutier toiled at Onondaga Community College for a year before deciding on a military stint. His official title was “Flight 24 Control Specialist,” and he served active duty during his hitch at Utah’s Hill Air Force Base from 1986 to 1990. While there, he became interested in martial arts, while also continuing his musical education through endless practice.

It takes a lot of energy to continue to improve as a guitarist, according to Cloutier. He doesn’t want to play the same lick twice, and certainly doesn’t want to copy anyone who came before him. To gather the necessary momentum, Cloutier, who does morning maintenance and assists in the mailroom at WSYR- Channel 9, keeps himself in top physical shape by running, lifting weights and performing martial arts. In fact, Cloutier says he does 700 kicks of different varieties each day.

“There’s a direct correlation for me between martial arts and playing guitar,” he says. “I transfer energy from my mind to body, much like I do in martial arts. I can channel aggression through music. If you take Bruce Lee’s philosophy about martial arts to use what does work and discard what doesn’t, then I can use my body’s energy when I’m playing.”

Just like the top-notch fighters he follows, Cloutier maintains a similar regimen of patience mixed with practice into his guitar playing. When he gets home from Channel 9 at 10:15 a.m., he spends 75 minutes each day plucking one of his guitars, in addition to reading emails, promoting his band and engaging in a vigorous workout. He then heads back to work at 12:30 p.m. for the last four hours of the day.

But the day doesn’t end there. He cooks dinner, cleans up and practices some more, letting his drive fuel his fire. And like any good family man, Cloutier enjoys the time spent with his wife and biggest supporter, Dawn, whom he met at the Dinosaur in the late 1980s. Regarding his 11-year-old daughter Jolie, Cloutier believes the young lady has the talent and aspiration to be a big-time performer, whether it will be music or other forms of entertainment.

“It’s all about passion,” he said. “I love my family, I love my music and I love my life. You make time for the things you love.”

Cloutier has also ventured into sharing his teachings on the internet via YouTube (youtube.com/user/ markcloutier), which he claims has

expanded his music to an international audience. Through his teachings and relentless social media marketing (Cloutier says he incessantly posts on Facebook), he has made friends with many people from Europe and Asia, which has resulted in offers to play guitar on other musicians’ albums. Some have sent him music and asked that he add some of his guitar style; others send him direct instructions as to what they want.

Bill Mackechnie, of Greene, provides one example of this form of relationship-building through digital media. Mackechnie, who sells guitars online, told Cloutier that he was going to send him some material to work on. A week later, Cloutier went to his front door and saw a big box sitting outside.

“I didn’t order a guitar,” Cloutier said.

“Turns out Bill sent me a custom Raven West guitar. ‘Wow!’ is really all I could say. He sent it because of the active pickups. Now, when I do instructional videos, I use that guitar as a thank you for what he did for me.”

While he hasn’t collaborated with Mackechnie yet, he said the two have been planning some work together. Cloutier has performed on the 2009 JC Carrol album New English Blues (Smash the System); Carrol was a member of the British punk band The Members.

Double Barrel Blues Band is a fourpiece group consisting of Cloutier on guitar and vocals, John Hart on slide guitar and vocals, Bill Satterly on bass and drummer Garnet Grimm Sr. Satterly and Grimm both played with Cloutier’s Dirty Pool unit.

“John’s a better singer than me, but I look at us on the guitar as a onetwo punch,” Cloutier said. “He’s a true rock’n’roller. Bill’s our master of sound and keeps a great rhythm. Garnet, aside from being a great drummer, is very active in booking our gigs, and together we form a pretty decent core.”

Cloutier, a Blues Fest veteran, played the 2000 edition with Dirty Pool and in 2009 with his current outfit. “Blues Fest is a great thing around here, especially because each of us musicians learns and feeds off each other,” Cloutier says. “We all give credit to where the blues came from while adding in our own unique touches to the music. There’s no shortage of energy there.”


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