Interview by Kimie Kim 2006 [The 25 questions below are a bit different than usual – and refreshing.]
1. Can you say hi to all of your fans in Korea and all the readers of GuitarLab?
2. Can you tell us what you been doing these days?
I’ve been living in the UK for a number of years now, and am finding it more and more to be a great place to be creative. I always entertain myself with several projects (simultaneously), and each is quite different. I still do studio work for other artists, I produce records, and I try to stay involved in the musical education process for young people.
3. Can you tell us about your Solo CD “still reelin'” how to compose songs, players and recording process etc?
Still Reelin’ was a very interesting project, which took quite a long time to complete. The ‘flagship’ song of the EP CD is my new version of Reelin’ In The Years – this took the longest amount of time to complete. I did a lot of traveling to record the various musicians – Texas to record Chuck Rainey, New York to record Bernard Purdie and Mark Quinones; Ireland to record some of the Celtic instruments, and London for much of the remaining personnel. I had always envisioned Reelin’ with major Celtic overtones – the first time Donald and Walter played it for me, I heard Irish instruments in the instrumental ‘jig’ sections – and in this instance, I was able to pursue that vision. I also covered another well-established song – Bill Withers’ seminal classic Lovely Day. I stayed really true to the original groove – having tried numerous other treatments, I was convinced that nothing worked as well as the original. The major differences between the original and this one are a) a fresh young voice offering a very soulful rendition of the vocal, and I had a great time treating many of the sections with ‘old school’ synthesis – one of my passions!
As for the other two songs, they are pieces that I’d worked on over along period of time, and each has, in my opinion, very different moods to the aforementioned songs. Manhattan Attitude is very New York in its intensity – very hard, yet in some ways reflecting the classical visions of George Gershwin (one of my all-time heroes). Window goes to the opposite direction – it’s mellow, relaxing, and offers both major and minor sequences, so the mood is constantly changing subtly. The EP is an endeavor I’m very proud of.
4. How you get into music and guitar? Can you tell us about your hometown and childhood?
My hometown is New York City. The musical influences and incredible musicality of that place will exist in my soul forever, no matter where I live.
I picked up guitar when I was 9 years old, and loved it from the start. I was extremely fortunate, in that my parents sent me to some wonderful guitar teachers. I studied with Billy Suyker from 9 through 11, the Roy Smeck (Wizard of the Strings) from 11 thorough 15, and finally with Sal Salvador from 16 through 18. The incredible dedication of these men is something that has set an example for me – I now feel that it is my duty to ‘pass it on’.
5. Have you been to Korea?
Not yet, but I’d love to in the near future. Just send me an email invitation with an interesting musical adventure attached!
6. How do you record your guitar sound normally? Can you share the ideas of your recording technique? Both of session work and your own recordings
You name it, I’ve tried it! There are so many ways to record the guitar – and as long as the recorded sound makes you (and the artist and the producer) feel happy, then it’s been a successful process. In this modern digital era, there are many software plug-ins, and honestly, if you tweak around a little bit, you’re sure to find pleasing settings. That said, I still prefer to use a real guitar amplifier. For microphones, it’s hard to beat the standard – a Shure SM 57, slightly off-center to the cone of the speaker. I have a very interesting article on my website, called HOW TO MIKE A MARSHALL IN THE STUDIO.
But again, there’s no one way to record a guitar and amp properly – use your imagination – try different mics, try spacing them in different intervals. Each microphone has its own sound characteristics, and can be used to point to (or away from) certain frequencies. It’s largely a matter of personal taste. And appropriateness for the track you are playing to !!!
7. Can you explain about your equipment? About Guitar, effects and amplifier. Are you still using 1963 Stratocaster?
I am most certainly using the very same 1963 Fender Stratocaster that I’ve been using since 1965. While I have a closet full of electric guitars, this is the one I rely on most of the time. There are instances where a client will request a certain kind of sound (e.g. a Fender Jazzmaster, or my Paul Reed Smith) – so naturally I oblige. My favorite acoustic guitar is my early ‘70s Martin D-28. It’s a wonderful sounding instrument – with heavy strings it can sound almost as rich as a piano (with obvious range limitations by comparison).
8. Among your solo albums, Which is your favorite recording?
The very first LP I recorded (co-produced by myself and Eddie Kramer) is still my favorite. It has become somewhat of a ‘cult’ record. Genre-wise, it’s all over the place, which is what we wanted to achieve. There are also other past recordings which have not been released yet, but part of my present work is restoring some vintage tapes, and I will hopefully be able to soon release some of this material.
9. Can you tell us about the working with Steely Dan?
What an interesting experience this was! Becker and Fagen and myself all used to play in the backing band for a famous American singing group called Jay & The Americans. Of course, Becker and Fagen longed for their own recording deal, and I made many demos with them, before they actually became ‘Steely Dan’. Nobody in New York seemed interested in what they were trying to do. Then, Gary Katz, who was working in the same studio we were making the demos in, brought the tapes out to Los Angeles, and ABC Dunhill signed the band. I was asked to join Steely Dan then, but declined. This turned out to be a very good decision, as after a few years, Donald and Walter got rid of the entire band. I came in and ‘guested’ after this – on Katy Lied, and most notably The Royal Scam.
10. Where are you staying now? Are you still in N.Y.? Can you tell us about America’s music scene now?
London is now home, and I’m afraid the music scene in New York, and most everywhere else, is suffering greatly. Immensely talented artists are being passed over, because the brief of record company A&R people is to ‘bring in the next artist who is just like the hottest artist today’ – rather than boldly searching for artists who are truly original. And there are plenty of great original artists out there. MySpace is one of the many places where one can stumble upon vast amounts of wonderful, original, unsigned talent. I always tell young artists to not despair, because the Internet (when used wisely and creatively) can be a fantastic contact point for artists in search of fans – and potential fans in search of new artists to become excited about. It is also a way to support artists by buying their product. Great unsigned artists have to pay the rent too.
11. Can you tell us about your musical background and musical training?
Aside from the three guitar teachers I mentioned earlier, I was a student at New York’s High School of Music and Art. In some ways it was really good – as there was a lot of focus on music and the related arts… but it was also rather high-brow, and without the support of my school teachers to go out and play gigs at night, I decided to quit high school and go on the road with bands – to train further for my desired profession. Many years later I returned to school to receive the qualifications needed to attend New York University, where I studied architecture and creative writing – both being extremely helpful in the creation of new music.
12. Can you tell us about your favorite music and guitar players?
I honestly have no favorite music – there are so many great musical styles to be learned – and each contributes to another. Learning to play Salsa, for example, has been incredibly helpful in my playing of Rock – Salsa’s off-timings, syncopations etc. lend heavily to the Rock style that I play. Having spent many years as a studio musician, I found it necessary to be able to quickly adapt to the various styles I was being asked to play. The more you know, the better the job you can do. Simple.
As far as guitar heroes, I have so many! From my earliest days I was influenced by Duane Eddy, The Ventures, Tommy Tedesco, Howard Roberts Segovia, Manitas de Plata, James Burton, Scotty Moore… Then on to Moby Grape, Jimi, Curis Mayfield, Cornell Dupree, Ry Cooder, Arsenio Rodriguez… Bt I also hasten to point out that many of my musical influences are not guitarists. These include Jimmy Smith (organ), George Gershwin (composer), King Curtis (sax) and a mountain of others.
13. You are busy guitarist in NY’s Studio session work. There are many guitar kids want to know about studio session Guitarist.
Can you explain us how to get into the industry and how studio session works process. etc. if there is anything helpful for guitar kids.
Sorry to say that the session industry is virtually a thing of the past. This saddens me greatly, but sometimes the truth hurts. When I was playing the session scene in New York (and L.A., Chicago, London, etc.) there was so much opportunity, it was silly! In New York alone, we must have had 25 guitarists who worked virtually every day, all day, and there was still plenty of room for newcomers. With the loss of most of the major studios in the world, since people can now produce records in home studios with an incredibly smaller price-tag, the studio scene that I once knew has dried up. But this only means that a new studio scene is emerging, but it’s much more localized. You need to know, or get to know people who are recording, and get them to try you out. If they like what you do, they will probably call you back. You need to hustle, network, and actively search out opportunities. It may be tougher now, but nothing is impossible if you have the mind and the will to succeed. Patience and a sense of humor are both required.
14. You did work with many great musicians, is there any other musicians you really want to play together?
Elvis would have been fun to play with; Gershwin to play for. King Curtis (although I spent years playing with his sidemen), Jimmy Smith…
15. How do you compose your songs? Can you explain your way from simple melody to final mix? How do you develop the ideas?
The process varies from one composition to another. Sometimes I get a melody in my head, other times it’s a rhythm and chord pattern. Then there are times when lyricists approach me with completed lyrics, or in-progress ones, and I apply the music I feel best fits the mood of the words. As a producer, reaching the final mix stage is perhaps one of the most exciting challenges. I come up with loads of ideas – some work, and others don’t. But you never know until you’ve tried!
16. Do you have some special practice routine for the melodic phrasing and improvising?
I have a very standard practice regimen – I begin with scales and picking variations, then I move onto really tough orchestral guitar chording routines. I don’t practice every day any more – when I know I’ve got some really important work coming up, I put aside a few hours a day to build my chops back up. Melodic phrasing and improvising are simply performed with more confidence having come from getting ‘into good physical form’, much the same as an athlete.
17. Because you did work in Pop Sessions, Jazz sessions and Rock Sessions as well as other kind of music sessions, Can you tell us the differences between each music situations?
Each session is unique – this is a guarantee. The secret to success (making the client happy) depends on how well you read the needs of the client, and how cheerfully you can deliver. Sometimes, I come up with an idea that was not in the producer’s head before the session started. These, for me, are the best kinds of sessions – ones where you can be truly creative, where this is what the producer wants in the first place. It’s a very fulfilling feeling.
18. When you feel down, how do you make yourself feel better? Do you have any hobby besides guitar and music?
Photography. The terms used in both the aural and visual arts are strikingly common: in both an image and a series of sounds, you have: rhythm, harmony, color, texture, foreground, background (dimension), and so much more. In terms of physics, the differences between audio and vision is their respective frequency ranges – music is generally between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz, where light and color are measured in Megahertz (much higher frequency oscillation) – fascinating stuff!
19. Do you teach privately or in schools?
These days, I do very little private teaching – I prefer to do a small series of ‘consultations’ with guitarists – to find out what they need to become better and more fluent in the areas of music they are interested in.
20. What do you think about Internet and music industry of future?
The Internet is not just the future – it is the present. The music industry is in a wild scramble to try to figure out how to utilize the ‘net successfully, while blaming the ‘net on its diminishing sales. The independent artist now stands a much better chance at gaining fans (and sales) from having their point of introduction and point of sale on the same ‘virtual street’ as Universal, Sony-BMG, Warner, and EMI/Capitol (how about that? – only four majors left!)
21. You was into MIDI, new technology back in 1980s, How about hard disk recording and sampling stuff? Are You still get into new technologies as well?
I am a geek. I love and embrace new technology, while having utmost respect for the older analog technology that I grew up with. There is an appropriate time and place for everything. Having been on early MIDI consultative committees, I feel a bit like one of the discoverers of atomic energy, with all the good and bad things that go with it. MIDI and sampling help a young composer to hear their music without having to hire an orchestra to be able hear it. How many young composers can afford to do this? On the other hand, it is most upsetting when the same MIDI and sampling take jobs away from musicians. Again, the word ‘appropriateness’ comes into play.
22. Who is your childhood hero?
My childhood hero was always the guy I imagined I’d grow up to be. Of course, there were movie characters, book characters etc. who I wanted to be – or be like, but I always seemed to have this unshakable desire to become the guitar character that I’ve been able to (thankfully) turn into.
23. If you were not became musician, did you ever think what you going to be?
I toyed with the ideas of becoming a writer, a photographer, and a psychologist, but music always took precedence (so the others are hobbies).
24. Can you give some advice for the Korean guitar kids?
Have fun with it. Don’t give up, no matter what you think the odds are. Music is about enjoyment, communication and sharing. Oh, and did I say ‘have fun with it’?
25. Do you have something to say for the Korean fans? There are a lot of people in Korea remember your solos.
It is always wonderful to be appreciated, and I am always thankful when someone likes my work enough to buy one of my products, come to my shows, sends me an email…
Thank you from Guitarlab magazine..