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Posts Tagged ‘guitar’

Wherein I attempt to mod a guitar and give it a steampunk vibe.

 

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Mrs. Muffin hipped me to this.

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Allan Irvine: Guitarist, mentalist, madman. No, seriously. Who wears this outfit in Northern Ireland for fun?

Allan has been a good friend to me over the years, is another guitar.com find,  and was nice enough to include me on a project a year ago. Video after the interview. Ladies and gentlemen, Allan Irvine!


How did you first get into guitar? 

AI: I blame my Uncle. He was a total rocker/metal-head when I was still in primary school (7-8 years old) and I was the only kid in my class with a cut-off denim jacket that had a huge Led Zep painting on the back. It rocked! I sat every weekend listening to AC/DC, Saxon, Led Zep, KISS, WASP, Scorpions,Iron Maiden….. y’know…….late 70’s and early 80’s rock and metal. Getting into the guitar as an instrument and not just a bringer of wonderful noise was a logical conclusion almost. It was years after that when it happened though.

How old were you?

AI: I was 18. I’d just started college after getting 7 G.C.S.E’s at 16 and then a Higher National Diploma at 17. When I went on to A-level study at 18 I had my first proper job and the guitar was my first purchase with my 2nd wage packet. My girlfriend at the time wasn’t happy about it, but I didn’t give a shit. It was my ambition from school, my money, and my hard work that made that money. She soon became an ex, and my guitar was my mistress!

Was it your first instrument?

AI: No, I started off in primary school with a little recorder, then a Tenor Horn in secondary School. I hated them, I always wanted to play the guitar, and my music teacher wouldn’t let me near the Strat that the school music room had because he was a first class prick. I could have asked my folks, but I had too much pride and dignity and knew they couldn’t afford one. I had a great upbringing, but financially a tough one. My parents worked hard and what we had was minimal, but I seriously can’t fault it. I could never have asked them for anything as expensive as a guitar when I was a kid and I knew I’d buy my own some day. And I did…….now I have serious G.A.S!!! (editor’s note : Gear Acquisition Syndrome)

How did you first learn, who taught you?

AI: Guitar tablature was my teacher, addiction and entertainment for a few years when I first started out. I loved learning new songs and it never took much time to get to grips with them as I learn at an extraordinary rate. Within a year of first plugging in my very first guitar I was playing things like “Midnight” by the mighty Joe Satriani almost note perfect.

“I can be happy in knowing that I’m still enjoying the challenge.”


Kids now don’t realize how easy it is for them with the Internet and Youtube etc. I think some of these kids are amazing. But they have access to a world that we didn’t have when I was growing up. Jeez, even the tablature we got was awful sometimes, nowhere near the bloody song you were trying to learn! After a while though I was able to pick up most things by ear and transfer them to the neck as I learned and progressed. I can pick up styles and licks that others use and adapt them to my own way of playing. Anyone who says this is just copying is a dick. Sure, if I met a bunch of Beatles fans on Twitter and set up a cover band called “The Tweetles” or some equally as shitty pun, playing all their songs and dressing like them, then I’d agree! Fucking right I would. Those guys are assholes. But say if a classically trained pianist had studied some Chopin pieces then totally arranged, composed and played his OWN work including little Chopin-esque elements, does that make him any less of a musician? Does it fuck! In a world with 6 and a half billion people alive, and as many or more dead, it is hard not to be compared to anyone no matter what you do. It’s just how it works. And if you can learn from your heroes and infuse or include it it into your own style and playing then do it. Every guitar player you have ever heard has done it. I recently heard Guthrie Govan playing a piece made up in the style of his heroes, and he uses their sound and techniques but plays it the way Mr. Govan can play it, his own way. It was amazing. Not only is he better than nearly every one of the musicians he referenced, but you knew who they were instantly without seeing anything to tell you. Does this make Guthrie Govan a copycat/plagiarist? Seriously? Fuck no. If he is then Steve Vai was wrong in calling him “The best guitarist on the planet.” Personally, I happen to agree that he is too.

What was your first guitar?

AI: A cream Squire Strat. It was an average guitar, but it was MY average guitar and I worked damn hard to buy it. As I said, I wasn’t a spoiled little rich kid with too much gear and little or no talent. I had my crappy little Squire and a second hand Vox 15 watt amp and I played the shit out of them until I could move on to better things.

Tell me a little about your gear and your sound.

AI: At present I’ve got a Schecter Damien Elite 8-string tuned E,B,E,A,D,G,B,E I think!? I love that thing. You start off with a catchy little progression then “Berrrrrrrrrrr…….RAWK!!!” I totally skipped the whole 7-string phase and leapt from 6 to 8. It was a new challenge and I’m loving it so far. I also own an Ibanez JS, a few home-built Strats, an old Crafter Bass for recording (redundant now I have the Schecter, it has all the bass included!) and a battered old acoustic for practice. On the DAW front I have a Line 6 UX-1 running through Abelton. It will soon be replaced by a Line 6 HD500. I also run a Boss ME-25 now and again for different tones and effects. I don’t have a dedicated sound or tone and I change it constantly to fit whatever I have in my head when I’m recording. I’m still useless at Abelton though so although musically I can get by, as far as recording and production etc is concerned I suck. I’ll leave that to the pedantic knob twiddlers out there. Let’s face it, in the studio it’s just you and the instrument, the engineers do the magic on the other side so why get all arsey (anal) about it now? For now I’ll be happy with crappy quality recordings with some decent playing.

Listen to “**** You Rocksmith” http://www.icompositions.com/music/song.php?sid=184436

How do you approach song writing? What’s the process?

AI: I don’t write. Never have. I know nothing of theory, scales, modes…..nothing. I record or ‘obtain’ drums then I plug in and what comes out is what I feel when I hear the beat set down previously. It has worked for me so far! I think if I sat and constructed pieces and worked everything out methodically it would kill my enjoyment. People are too obsessed with theory dude! Look below any Youtube video of a guitarist and/or rock musician. It’s fucking pathetic the arguments they get into. I think if it rocks then it rocks, and I don’t care if he used a Phrygian, Mixolydian, Triceratops, or Condominium. That’s the downside of the Internet as a musician’s tool, it turns musicians into tools. A wise man, and a great blues guitarist once said to me “Just shut up and play your damned guitar! That is your voice and you can sure as hell use it, so do it!” He passed away a few months after giving me one hell of a great piece of advice. Man, I miss him.

I think if it rocks then it rocks, and I don’t care if he used a Phrygian, Mixolydian, Triceratops, or Condominium.

What is your opinion of “tone chasers”and do you consider yourself one?

AI: Like Eric Johnson? I’ve nothing against them to be honest. If that floats their boat then sure, go for it! I can’t settle for just one sound or tone, I have to be tweaking and finding new things. Lots of different and strange sounds that work into whatever I’m doing at the time.

Who are your idols?

AI: I have way too many to list but I’ll drop in a few names if it helps! Mattias ‘IA’ Eklundh, Shawn Lane, Guthrie Govan, Vai, Satriani, Ron Jarzombek, Rory Gallagher, Hendrix, Beck,

Page, Django Rheinhardt, Newton Faulkner, Eva Cassidy, Jason Becker, Jeff Loomis, Tosin Abasi, Eric Johnson, Danny Gatton……..the list goes on! I can’t play like 99% of these people, but they all in some way or another inspire me, and that inspiration pushes me to learn more, and I think that it is important to draw that inspiration from artists you admire.

What do you get out of playing guitar?

AI: Therapy. I have arthritis in my hands, hips and knees. Playing helps me with the hands part of it to some degree but there are days were they are too sore to even pick the instrument up.I still love it, even though I can’t play the way I used to many years ago. I just adapted my playing to suit what I can do now, as opposed to what I could do then. Not that I’m ever happy with everything I do. I hate some of my recordings with a passion, but I can always find little bits that I think really pop out and make them listenable again. I don’t think I’ll ever reach the level of playing I’d love to reach, or even the level I was at before things took a turn, but I can be happy in knowing that I’m still enjoying the challenge.

How do you keep yourself interested and learning?

AI: Listening to new bands mostly. I hear licks in things that I can relate to, or just enjoy the hell out of and it keeps me wanting to learn new ways of approaching my own playing. For instance, at the moment I’m picking up some really neat riffs with some wide spaced intervals and while it is a struggle to get to grips with considering my handicap, I’m still enthusiastic about it and it keeps me wanting more. I also get a kick out of online collaboration. Hearing how others approach their music and making my own style fit into their stuff really makes me happy. To me that’s what playing is all about, learning from others and on your own, adapting, trying new styles or genres and having fun! Yeah, mostly the fun bit.


And now the collab Allan and I did. I programmed the drums and bass and Allan let it rip on the gitfiddle.

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Last night I got to see Ion Storm‘s inaugural show! They were amazing from the first song to the last. For those unaware I interviewed  them here. Go get acquainted with them and then come right back. It’s OK. I’ll wait.

Everything I’ve heard from them so far has impressed me, but those were only recordings. One really must see them live to get the full impact. First, amazing guitar tone and a pretty tight outfit. I know these guys practice up to 12 hours at a go and it shows. Their current bass player is a recent addition and it showed a bit, but overall he brought the low end. Drummer Tim was solid, fast, and interesting. I thought there was a moment when he was losing the beat, but it was just a part of a tempo change that was written into the song. Grady and Chris had some great harmonized riffage going on that seemed to focus around 4ths and it sounded great. My main complaint was the vocal levels. This show was at the Red Room and their vocals always seem low, but Grady represented growl well.

Oh, did I mention they have a Minotaur? His name is Drew. Look at him.

Do you have a Minotaur? No, you do not. I played bullfighter with Drew for a bit. It was good times.

This band has a lot to offer and brought the heat, which leads me to the title of this post. Look up there ↑ and read it again. At most there were three people up off their butts rocking out, including me and Drew. I wish that this was the exception rather than the rule. I know people want to blame smart phones etc, but it’s not that. In my estimation it’s our self reflective, self conscious society. To put it another way: we are afraid of having fun and looking like fools(Well, not me clearly. I played bullfighter with a Minotaur). It needs to stop now. Do it for yourself. Get up!! Dance! Bang your head!! Visibly enjoy yourself!!!

But also do it for that band up there on the stage or the one on the floor where the pool tables had to be moved to make room. They don’t spend 12 hours at a go writing and rehearsing so you can sit there drinking your PBR and golf clapping after every song. And I can guarantee you they didn’t do it for the money, because bands rarely get paid much if anything just starting out. This is a two way street. They are there for you and you need to be there for them.

Some pics from the show:

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Travis Mataya: musician, artist, writer, introvert, and frakking brilliant. As long as I have known him I have always respected Travis’s ability to analyze a situation, a song, a fellow musician, or ideas at a higher level. Let’s see what this cool cat is all about!


You and I met because of guitar.com though not actually on it if memory serves. I met your wife there and then you via her. Give us a little bit on your musical background. How you started and what instruments you play.

TM: The first thing I ever played was a Smurfs drum set my parents got me when I was two-years old. Today, however, I prefer to just program them. As a grade-schooler, I had music class every day, I played clarinet, and I sang in both the church and school choir. In middle school up to high school, I was a trumpet player, but I ended up quitting when marching band became mandatory. I really hated the dorky uniforms and didn’t need to give my bullies any more ammunition, however, I did wind up being forced into performing in a parade at some point. I started playing guitar in my late teens. And unlike most guitarists, I’m honest about this: I initially just did it for the chicks. I was a socially awkward geek and needed all the help I could get … it definitely worked!

I’ve had a few garage bands and have done everything from performing on stage to playing on sidewalks, and doing session work in state-of-the-art studios. And I’m technically a music school drop out; it was due to financial limitations. But I’ve been lucky to have taken lessons and learned from amazing guitarists like Jake Willson and Nicholas Scott. The story of my life has been meeting players better than me and becoming inspired to reach higher levels. And I can’t stress how important that has been in my musical development.

And aside from the aforementioned instruments, I also play piano, bass guitar, and occasionally attempt musicalesque sounds with my vocal chords.

One of the things that strikes me most about your music is the variety of genres in which you write. Why do you write as varied as you do, what inspires you, and what is your song writing process is like?

TM: I don’t have any commitment to specific sounds and don’t like to be creatively limited; I have more the mentality of a video game or film composer than a typical musician. I will often start with a cinematic idea and then transfer it into music. And my writing process, like my style, varies. Sometimes it’s just instantaneous from my brain to my fingers. But most of the time, I’ll have a vague idea and play with different rhythms, scales, modes, chords and arpeggios until I get the feel I’m looking for. From there on out, I’m just a session musician for my subconscious.

What, for you, makes a great song?

TM: Balls. I know that sounds a bit weird. But from Mozart to Michael Jackson, I think greatness comes from having the cojones to attempt something bigger than yourself.

What traits do you respect in a fellow musician?

I respect a personality and that extends beyond music. I really can’t stand people who only want to talk about music or their specific instrument. And I really respect musical knowledge both in theory and history. But ultimately, self awareness is probably the most respectable trait. There are far too many people running around thinking they’re being artistic, complex, or creative by sounding exactly like their favorite commercially successful band.

What have been consistently good bands for you to listen to and what are you really into right now? 

TM: I don’t really listen to anything consistently; I’m all over the place. In terms of bands, it’s easy to list off the classic big names, but for some reason The Hooters have followed me throughout my life. Also, I love Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, Steve Vai, and often I will geek out to Rhapsody or get my polyrythmical fix from Meshuggah or Tool.

For the last few years I’ve been into Jazz and absolutely love Gregory Porter. He reaches me on a visceral level. It’s real magic if you ask me. He transports the listener into his world, and it’s a great place to visit.

Hiromi is another artist who is just something really special. I’ve gotten to see her perform live, and I’ve never recovered from the musical insanity I witnessed.

What’s the story behind Happy UFO Land?

TM: Happy UFO Land is a place in my mind. I wanted to recapture how it feels to be a kid with a wild imagination. It’s really musical surrealism: Imagine the perfect suburb with everything being absolutely cliche except for those classic 50’s style UFOs parked in the sky. The song is the soundtrack to an afternoon stroll down that street.

Also, I chose a theremin for the lead because it’s one of my favorite instruments of all time; it’s really underused in music. For me, it’s the best at evoking a sense of wonder, weirdness, and imagination. I also created a UFO hovering sound and applied audio filters to give it a realistic Doppler effect as it’s heard passing over the listener’s head.

What’s your home studio like?

TM: It’s a large room with wall mounted monitors, a giant desk, a server DAW, Lambda interface, a Boss drum machine, Pod 2.0, and a bunch of amps, guitars, and mikes. I also have guitar posters hanging up on the walls, a vintage Wurlitzer 200A (The same model Ray Charles used to play), and a steel guitar in there.

How did you get involved in the Lewis Martin Pederson project and what did you do on it?

Well, he hadn’t recorded an album since the days back when he was signed to a label, touring, and performing on TV. And he asked me to help him. Initially he just wanted demo, but it snowballed into a full album; he just had so many songs! I did all the engineering and was responsible for all the drums and lead guitar; I also played mandolin and bass on a couple of songs.

What did you learn from that experience?

TM: I learned that I have what it takes to sit down and record a full album by myself: Something I’ve never felt comfortable with before.

Any links where people can buy your music?

TM: Nope, anything I put on the Internet is purely for sharing with anyone who wants to read, listen, or look at it.

You also do art and writing in addition to your music. You even shared a tutorial on how to draw a dragon on your blog “Dragons Are Delicious.” Anything you would like to share on that front?

TM: I’ve always been an artist as far back as I can remember. As a kid I’ve won some big awards, been published, and had my work on display. My father was an artist, and I really just wanted to be like him; he was also a musician! But it’s something that comes very naturally to me, and I don’t need to think about it — which is really good because I’m often a very lazy painter.

Did your father have any impact on your style of art?

TM: Somewhat, he was responsible for me getting into comic books, but our styles are completely different; he’s much better with ink than I am.

I was also privileged to read an excerpt from your science fiction novel. I have to say the bit I read got me really intrigued. What would you like people to know about it and what are your plans for it?

TM: My ambitions with it go right to the moon. I remember hearing Alan Moore speak about how writing was literally magic: Meticulously arranged symbols that when read can have a real and very powerful effect on someone. And that’s really what I want to do. But it’s tough to talk about a WIP as I’m way too paranoid about people stealing my ideas, unintentionally even. But that’s currently my biggest project, and writing is really the way I would like to leave an impact on the world.

What are books you would recommend that exhibit that magic?

Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. I think it really can affect the reader without them even knowing it. It’s not until after you’ve read Vonnegut do you get this sense that you’ve grown a bit as a person and gained some brilliant, new perspective.

Moby Dick is another one. It can be a really tough read with all the out of date Whaling information, but it’s a story that matures its readers and follows them throughout their entire life.

David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is another great example. It’s like a maze for the intellect. And if you can navigate your way to the end, you will be rewarded. It puts you into a complex, surrealistic world and gets you to believe it’s normal, even routine. Ultimately, it imparts real character depth to anyone willing to put the work in.

At your funeral your friends are only allowed to drink one beverage. What beverage is it?

TM: Hi-C’s Ecto Cooler.

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This week we are joined by Scott Woeckel. He is prolific and varied in his pursuits and talents. His answers are incredibly thoughtful and I really enjoy his perspective on one of his goals for his band Everyday Ghost. There is a lot to experience here so let’s jump in.


First, thank you so much for doing this. You have quite a lot going on it seems. I want to ask you about most if not all of it, but first let’s discuss Everyday Ghost. Can you tell me how EDG got started?

SW: My pleasure. and thank you for having me! EDG got started after I got back from Seattle in February 2011. My good friend and long time musical associate Wood Fowler had passed away suddenly up there and I just got to thinking about where I was going with my music life and everything else you think about when a death hits so close. So, what had originally started out as a recording project turned into a full blown live band when Charlie Peterson found me on Craigslist looking for a pedal steel man. As fortune would have it he’s one of about two of the truly great pedal steel players in the great city of Los Angeles. He’s a complete source of inspiration, and the first day we met, we played EDG’s first gig on a Saturday night at T-Boyles in Pasadena entertaining a rugby team as a duo. Add in a couple of extremely talented guys on drums and bass, and we started booking shows around some of my old haunts.
How long have you been together?
SW: About a year and a half now.
What’s the reception been like?
SW: It’s been mostly really good. There’s always gonna be bad gigs, and clams, and with a new band it’s a rocky road sometimes to go through those growing pains to get to the really good stuff. But I don’t think we’ve played a show yet where someone hasn’t come up to us and said they really liked this or that tune. I think the biggest compliment has just been people coming back to hear us play again!
What’s your song writing process?
SW: It’s eclectic. Whenever I write a song though I hear a soundbite of Thelonius Monk running through my head which says, “Keep it simple as possible, so people will dig it.” Aside from trying to keep things simple, I’ve got songs that have started from all elements of music…a melody, a chord voicing or progression, a rhythm, a lyric. I could start writing a song from the ending just about as well as the beginning, or the middle, so long as I keep it simple and the song I wind up with at the end holds together as a whole and conveys to me what I want it to convey. The best ones are always fast, they come together in a day or two at most…the ones that tend to be unsalvagable train wrecks are usually the ones I toiled over for a week or more. So these days I just try to capture the inspiration when it’s there and capture as much information as possible while it’s there.
Any plans to record?
SW: Yes! Lot’s of plans to record. I still have a record to finish, and I’ve written a lot of new material I’d like to be on it, so I’m hoping to get back into the studio in the coming months and start tracking!
What is your goal with EDG?

SW: A difficult one to articulate, but I think the main goal driving EDG is to foremost and primarily acknowledge that we are upright, and sucking air. Therefore, as musicians, we must play…regardless of any particular material goal, such as to be rich and famous. I think a lot of the music we’re doing has the power to touch hurting souls, and maybe even lift them up and let them know they aren’t alone. And if we can achieve that through this music, I would consider that a goal worth pursuing.

Let’s switch gears a little. Tell me about the work you’ve been doing with Brandon Schott. 
SW: I’ve had a great time working with Brandon in support of his awesome new record “13 Satellites”. Brandon is an inspiring and unique talent, and I’ve been honored to work on a few videos with him and just be a part of it. Brandon has a way getting things in motion and done, and just seeing how hard he’s worked for so many years and through so many challenges, I hope any small part I’ve played will help him toward the recognition for his art, which he deserves.
What have you learned from that?
SW: I think I’ve learned it really takes an army working behind you these days if you expect to make any kind of major impact or dent in today’s musical landscape. There’s just so much stuff you have to do to simply keep from being forgotten about from one day to the next. It takes care, marketing, and a lot of financial planning, and the help of a lot of good friends to put a solid record into contention out there on your own.
What is the Moonflower work you’ve been doing?
SW: Moonflower is a really cool studio project that has spawned into all kinds of things. That band is the brainchild of James & Martine Dryden, they wrote all the material and have been kind enough to let me play a little double bass and guitar on a few tracks, as well as a little tenor sax. James is one of the best audio mixologists out there, and the record “Hey Daddy’O” is done, it’s in the can, and hopefully will be released very soon.
One of my favorite songs you wrote is “Small Town Love.” How did that song come about?
SW: Thanks! That’s a really personal tune, I wrote it after what amounted to a realization that I was no longer the small town boy I used to be and recognizing I had become alienated from that whole world. I come from a place where very few people have had the opportunity to truly pursue their dreams, and I tried to reconcile all those conflicting feelings in that song.

Small Town Love

You play guitar and sing, but you also play saxophone. How did you first get started playing sax?
SW: Well, my guitar playing is highly inspired by horn players, as opposed to guitar players. So I was always on the look out for a sax to try, and I did pick up the clarinet in college which gave me a little taste of the world of winds, and even studied and played with Harold Land for a few years, but I was poor, so I didn’t really get an opportunity to try a sax even. So a few years ago I picked up a sax, and started teaching myself to play, and the rest has just been expensive. Saxophone is an expensive habit. And it’s extremely addictive, and challenging, and worth every moment. I will say I’ve always held saxophonists in high esteem, but having walked in their shoes, I have an immense new respect for the instrument and even more awe when it comes to the great masters.

“I think a lot of the music we’re doing has the power to touch hurting souls”

What attracts you to jazz?
SW: Freedom. It’s one of the few genres of music that demands a certain sense of spontaneity, sophistication, rhythm, and musicality…and if you can put all that together in collective or individual fashion you can travel to some really amazing places. And not just musically, there is a space in jazz thats akin to “the zone” you feel in any great athletic sport, but it’s bottomless, and boundless. There are moments in jazz when you are playing from that space where you couldn’t play a wrong note, in the wrong spot, at the wrong time, if you tried. Having experienced that space, and knowing it’s there is a very spiritual connection, and I feel it most strongly expressed through the jazz idiom. That being said though, I think the space is the same for all music. In other words, I believe you can still be playing “jazz” in that spiritual-spacial-zone, even while reading down a Beethoven sonata for instance. And I think it’s that knowledge that allows me to move fairly freely through various genres of music, and instruments without ever feeling stuck, or committed to playing, say, one style of music.
Check out Scott’s sax skills: Stella By Starlight
Are you able to tell me anything about the new Plasticsoul record?
 
SW: All I can say is a few of the tracks that will be on that have been stuck in my ear since the first time I heard them live. Plasticsoul is my favorite LA band, and if you’ve heard “Peacock Swagger”, I imagine the new Plasticsoul record will be similar, but I believe it goes to 11. That’s one more.
What are your hopes/plans for the future as far as your involvement with music?
SW: For the most part to just keep doing it. I’m never bored, and music could easily occupy all of my time. I think the most important thing for me is to keep learning, searching, growing and expanding my abilities and keeping the music as fun as possible. Although I’ve been involved in the music industry for over three decades now, I still feel like a beginner. There’s always something new to learn, and it’s amazing the places music can take you. You just never know!
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream and why?
SW: Strawberry, and I have no idea!

Thanks again to Scott. Remember to follow Everyday Ghost at https://www.facebook.com/EverydayGhostBand

Also check out The Tremors, one of Scott’s previous bands. Country, rootsy, folky, bluegrassy, alt-rock about guns, drivin’, drinkin’, & heartache: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/tremors

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So I was very lucky to see Eric Johnson last night thanks to my good friend, Ted (he’s also my step-father-in-law. What? that’s a thing.) I’ve only seen him live in concert once before. Eric Johnson, not Ted. I’ve seen Ted live lots before, though not in concert… I was 16 ( again referring to Eric Johnson not Ted), it was in San Diego at Symphony Hall, and an as yet unknown, at least to me, Sarah Mclaughlin opened for him. This time around it was at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Or. First let me say it is a great venue. Everyone I talked to said a version of “not a bad seat in the whole place” and they are right.

It was a great show. Eric was backed by Chris Maresh on bass and Wayne Salzmann II on drums. Maresh and Salzman are amazing!  Really interesting thing, they seemed to be their own opening band. They played a 45 min set and then took a break and then came back for a full set. I almost wish I had written down their set, but honestly I was too engaged in just enjoying the show and letting it wash over me.

Eric Johnson was one of my early guitar heroes. He has it all. Amazing tone, great technique, dedication to writing songs that fit his perspective of what is great, and he also has one of the two right hands in guitardom that I would want, the other being James Hetfield’s. Seriously, EJ can pick like nobody’s business and finger pick, and do a combination of both.

Check out the Fenders and Marshall and EJ’s pedals!

The Show 

The opening 45 minute set was tight and rocking great energy with some crowd favorites. After the break EJ was solo on the stage with an acoustic and played a few songs that blew me away. His technique is insane. For those of you who do not play let me tell you it is easier to shred on an electric than an acoustic and EJ played flawlessly on his acoustic and did shred, but in a tasteful way. Yes, yes he did.
Maresh and Salzman came back out and the band got to rocking again. Then, about halfway through the second set they played “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” and this was the first wrong note for me. Now, let me be clear-I. Love. That. Song. But, it came after an incredible version of a Coltrane song that highlighted everyone’s talents. Side note: Salzman owned those drums and Maresh made me consider giving up the bass.

Chris Maresh’s pedal board

Back to my point. It may have been that “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” came after such an amazing performance, but EJ also seemed to be a little off his game at this point. His phrasing was a little stuttery. THAT may have been due to the fact that they just got back from Europe and had been awake since 6 a.m. But I think there is more to it than that. When they played some other songs off of “Ah Via Musicom” I noticed the same thing, but when they played newer songs or covers EJ seemed to be more on. To clarify, not bagging on him, it was still better than 95% of guitarists out there when EJ was off. So no “Eff you dude” and no “Yeah he sucks.”

There was one encore and it was great! They closed with “Wind Cries Mary.” And then it was over and I didn’t want it to be over. But I scrambled up front to get some pictures, which was difficult because there was still a grip of people at the front milling about.

Drums and bass rig

Final Thoughts

Eric Johnson is stil the man at 57. The newer material is stronger than one might expect and my observations on the “Ah Via Musicom” aside he is still vital. I look forward to seeing him the next time he comes around. Also, I still need this jacket ↓

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