The Kris Barras Band
Kris Barras has no fear of facing gig audiences. Why should he? Until a few years ago, the Devon-born blues-rock hotshot spent large chunks of his life in metal cages kicking the hell out of people who were trying to do the same to him.
“I was a professional Mixed Martial Artist,” he says today. “I fought all over the world – Las Vegas, Thailand. I fought one of the biggest MMA shows in the world in Singapore – 8000 people.”
Today, the impressively tattooed Barras has swapped gloves and mouthguards for amps and fretboards. Across the Kris Barras Band’s two albums – 2015’s self-titled debut and last year’s stellar ‘Lucky 13’ –the singer and guitarist has thrust himself to the front of the British blues-rock pack. His appearance on the Ramblin’ Man Fair’s Rising Stage only confirms this.
He started young – ridiculously so. His musician dad bought Kris his first guitar when he was just six (the first song Barras Jr learned to play was that instrument shop staple ‘Smoke On The Water’). He played his very first gig on Christmas Eve, 1994. He was nine years old.
“It was in a pub in front of about 400 people,” he remembers with a laugh. “I got up and did ‘Smoke On The Water’ with my dad’s band, and we did a segue into ‘Black Night’. I did all the riffs and played rhythm.”
Despite his early introduction to the wonders of Ritchie Blackmore, Barras’ biggest formative influence was Gary Moore, then deep into his reinvention as a sharp-suited bluesman. You can hear the late Irishman on Barras’s own forceful but mellifluous playing.
“He was my dad’s favourite, so we had all his records. He was my introduction to the blues. I started listening to (Moore’s 1987 celtic rock album) ‘Wild Frontier’. but then I got into the more bluesy stuff, the stuff he did with BB King.”
Barras kicked off his career as a professional musician at the age of 17, but his dreams of stardom were thwarted by the music industry and he became, in his own words, “disenchanted with it all.” That’s when he turned to martial arts. He’d done everything from karate to Thai Boxing as a kid, and figured he’d give the then-underground MMA scene a try – successfully, as it turns out.
After giving up the fighting game, he returned to music with renewed vigour. “I’ve come out the other side,” he says. “The music’s fun for me and I’ve had more success than I’ve ever had treating it like that than I did when I threw everything at becoming famous. And it’s weird, because my music paid for my fighting career – I played in bands at the weekend. Now I’ve finished fighting, I’ve bought a gym – which pays for my music career. It’s come full circle.”
So what can the Ramblin’ Man audience expect from the Kris Barras Band and their no-bullshit frontman?
“Balls to the wall, face-melting guitar solos and tunes you can sing along to,” comes the reply.
Who’s going to argue with him?
‘Rock ’N’ Roll Running Through My Veins’