I was recently called up by Mick Taylor – Editor of Guitarist for their ‘Perfect 10’ interview for the back page of their magazine. It’s fairly straightforward – they ring up famous musicians and ask ten questions related to guitars. Last month it was Slash and the month before that it was Tommy Shannon – Stevie Ray Vaughn’s bassist. I suppose they’ll publish my responses in a few months’ time, but here’s what I recorded on my Dictaphone for you early viewers.
1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?
A Fender Catalina – a big black boxy steel-string acoustic. I think I bought it in 1986. Me and my Dad went up near Denmark Street in London to get it – I remember the store – Rock Stop in Charing Cross Road – they had an acoustic section in the basement – now closed. I bought it because it was black and I was enamored with the six-on-a-side headstock.
2. What’s your first guitar playing memory?
I have shades of memories going back very far – to when I was 8 or 9 years old. My uncle used to play classical guitar and he took lessons from some virtuoso as well as taught lessons to beginners. We used to visit his house and he’d play it. He also had various guitars in differing stages of construction all around his living room. I’m sure I strummed his guitars at least once. My first distinct solid memory is being at school in our Sixth Form building and trying to play Warhead’s Les Paul copy with this girl’s violin bow as this chick I fancied looked on. That was around 1985.
3. When was the last time you changed your own strings?
Last week on my nylon-string classical. I also changed the strings on three guitars for two friends of mine the week before that – I’m a regular tech!
4. The building’s burning down – what’s the one guitar that you save?
Dunno. I love them all equally and they get rotated frequently in and out of their cases so that each gets fair playtime. None of them hold real sentimental value (I don’t do anything gay like give them names) but in a burning building scenario I’d be practical and either go with the one with the most resale value or an acoustic such as my Martin HD-28 which I’d be able to sit near the site of the fire and play sad lamenting ‘my house burned down’ blues songs without the requirement for amplification.
5. What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you on stage?
There’s nothing worse than not being musically prepared in my opinion and fluffing your lines, or screwing up an improvisation because you didn’t work hard enough on a particular part of a song. I’ve never caught fire or been attacked or anything like that thankfully. Also, being on stage with un-professional (note- not ‘amateur’) musicians isn’t wonderful either.
6. If you could have any vintage guitar to own – not to sell on – what would it be?
Tough one that – I’d have to go with one of Jimmy Page’s – perhaps his Number 1 Les Paul, or his double neck. Why? Are you offering?
7. What was the most expensive guitar you’ve ever bought?
That would be my James Tyler Studio Elite HD – cost me a shade over $7000 SGD (around USD $5000). Pretty sure the guy who got it for me made a pretty penny, but I’m happy with it; it has *all* the trimmings. Not in the Slash vintage Les Paul range – modest in comparison, but expensive for a new guitar I suppose.
8. Name a song that changed your life. And why?
Walking on the Moon by The Police. This was years before I decided I wanted to play guitar, but that song turned me on to listening to music actively. I thought the lyric ‘I hope my legs don’t break’ was hilarious and sought out all the Police albums from my buddy, Bear. I guess that moment of really noticing that there was good music out there that spoke to me was a turning point in my life.
9. You get to have dinner with any musician alive or dead – who would it be?
I’d probably choose one of those classical giants such as Bach, Mozart or Beethoven and find out what made them tick and get their advice on how to get my son to take an interest in music. I’d probably have to learn how to speak German first though… LOL
10. Is there any myth about you that you’d like to set everyone straight on?
This bloody Devil worship rumour. I’d just like to confirm that I *did* sell my soul and stop all that damn speculation. You play our first LP backwards and it says ‘Satan, O Sweet Satan, I kiss thine cloven hoof’ at the end of side 1. So what? I’m out of the closet so to speak.
*ok – if you must split hairs it was entirely imaginary… pedant.