Despite a protracted absence from the glow of the live stage's limelight, Turning Colors always was, and always will be. And though guitarist Bob Olson slings guitar all over the Rochester musical-genre map in numerous outfits like Anonymous Willpower and the John Payton Project, Turning Colors will always be his home. That's not to say those other bands don't give him a wide berth, but if Olson played the way he's supposed to play --- the way he plays with Turning Colors --- he would steamroll the whole affair. Olson is a guitar monster with a soul.
Turning Colors sprang from the loins of the late 80's guitar-centric group Blue Axis, in which Olson played bass. Turning Colors originally lasted from 1993 to 1995. When Olson found himself having to commit to increasing gig demand with yet another group, the Mysterious Blues Band, Turning Colors went dark. But only kind of sort of.
"Marc DeSalvo [drummer] and I were still getting together and songwriting straight through," Olson says. "We just weren't actively gigging."
For the past 15 plus years, that's how it's been. Olson would play with any number of Rochester bands --- including a stint in the Buddhahood --- while still writing and jamming with DeSalvo. And though his current dance card is full, it started to feel like Turning Colors needed to be heard again. The boys in the band --- Olson, DeSalvo, and bassist Dan Brewer -- were poised to play.
"So we said, 'Lets do it,'" says Olson. "'Lets make this a unit that plays some gigs.' We had such a backlog of material."
Though Olson is an appropriate and driving force in Anonymous Willpower, what with the band's stratospherically sensational, stinging soul, and also a solid contributor to The John Payton Project's polyrhythmic locomotion and groove, you've got to hear the man out front.
"I'm kind of a chameleon," Olson says. And whether you see him in Turning Colors or as a "hired gun with lots of freedom," as he puts it, Olson rates with classic guitar heroes like Pat Travers, Johnny Winter, Mahogany Rush, or Little Charlie Baty. They're all raw, rocking musicians who do it best live.
That may cause concern when Olson drops hints of more production going into and onto the band's impending EP (the July 20 show is a release party for the project). But don't forget that this is a band that rages righteously live on stage; it's in your face. Olson assures that that spirit will remain despite a little studio polish.
"The new one is going to be a little more produced with overdubs and stuff, throw some little guitar things, atmospheric, ambient things, in there," Olson says. "We just got a digital recorder so we can get stuff down a little faster. We want to be more self-sufficient."
And though the music may be different in bands like Anonymous Willpower, Olson finds plenty of room to move and groove.
"I don't feel like I'm ever constrained," he says. "Especially playing with Anonymous Willpower, which is completely different from anything else I've done. We're doing a Dee Dee Warwick Tune or something from Chaka Khan and they end up being my favorite ones to play. When I hear that stuff it affects the way I approach my songs. It's like, 'Wow, those changes...I wanna use that.'"