List Interview 5
April 2000 EJ Interview Part 1
Park: Let's talk about Alien Love Child. No, let's start off on the studio album and where that is right now. Everybody's interested. One of the questions was is it going to be focused or is it going to be a variety of tunes.
EJ: A variety.
Park: Yeah. A variety of tunes. You've already got a Tribute to Jerry Reed cut with Adrian Legg and...
EJ: And a jazz piece; it's like a straight end jazz piece called Hesitant. And a bunch of rock stuff, pop stuff. I've got eight songs totally finished and mixed. They've been that way for half a year (chuckles).
Park: So you want to put, what?, four more songs on?
EJ: Yeah. I'd love to put six more on and I have the tunes, but I don't want to take forever finishing it and plus, you know other people have been advising me to just do twelve, but I'll see what happens. I guess if we put the Alien thing out and if it is doing well, I might not want to put the studio album out immediately. Immediately meaning within months. So maybe I would have the luxury of doing six more tunes. But, I hope that even if the Alien thing does well that it will be cool to put the studio album out fairly quickly after it. And they're so different. Some people are going to like one better than the other, you know, so I don't think it will be a problem.
Park: I don't really think that your getting albums out too soon would be considered a real problem by most people.
EJ: You know it could send them to the hospital with heart problems (laugh).
Park: May be. ;-) So, what about touring with Alien?
EJ: There are no plans right now, but I guess I'm not opposed to anything. I guess I'm pretty much open minded about anything. I enjoy playing with those guys. I think I'll just see what happens if it's a record that's well received and then there's a lot of response where people want to see us, I don't think it would be out of the question. I think it would be fine.
Park: When do you expect, other than the four dates in Texas, the Vortexian tour, when do you plan on going out and touring?
EJ: I'd really like to just really get these records done and just get them done. Then I'll go out and play as much as anybody would want me to. You know, I'll be ready to go. I want to try and really finish them. See, that's why these eight songs have been sitting ever since last year is because there's just been all sorts of neat stuff to do, but it's just kind of been non-stop and I just haven't had a chance. And then, the Alien thing came up, which I'm real glad it did. You know, the whole idea of doing a live record Yeah, hopefully as soon as I finish these records and get out, I will.
Park: You know, the most demand, I think, on our list is a live record. The second most demand is for live video.
EJ: We shot the gigs and what I'm hoping is that after we release the record, is release a DVD of the record and the video. We didn't shoot all three nights, we only shot two nights. So there's no reason why when we use the first night, we could just go to farther away shots or something cause you know it's basically the same songs you know, as long as it's not right on the fret board for that moment. If it's the first night, I think it would work. What would be really great is if the DVD would totally correspond to the CD. People could have their choice...
Park: That's going to be impossible because you've got songs on there not from Antone's, right?
EJ: (Pause) Um, yeah, that's right. You're right. (EJ and Park both laugh) Yeah, well that's true.
Park: Well, we'll just a do a photomontage of flowers, trees. (giggling)
EJ: We'll have them go into that melty thing and everybody's like backstage with the weird light.
Park: Yeah, absolutely.
EJ: Yeah. I'm in good shape. I didn't think about that. You know it's amazing how little there is that's not from Antone's. Most of the stuff we're using is all from Antone's.
Park: We've got a lot of people on the list that are out from other countries, places that you've never toured, and may never tour. And, they're the ones that are so desperate for live videos because really all they've got is the instructional videos. A lot of them don't even have access to Austin City Limits. And that's another one of the questions about, aren't they every going to release Austin City Limits tapes?
EJ: They're putting those all out so that you can buy them. That's what I heard.
Park: So, you're going to have a combined, or is it going to be just you, or is it going to be great guitarists?
EJ: No, I've heard that they're doing Austin City Limits shows and they're available for retail, and then I didn't hear another thing about it. So, I don't know if they're just picking the very highlights over the twenty years or if they're doing any and all of them.
EJ: You could probably ask Joe.
Park: We'll talk to Joe about it. OK, let's see, how is it playing with Alien Love Child versus doing your own thing? Is it less stress, more stress?
EJ: Well, there are so many other factors involved that it's hard to say. (pauses) I've just been kind of experimenting ever since, when I had a band for ten years. It was the same band and I've been playing with some wonderful players like Roscoe (Beck), Tom Breckline, Brandon Temple, Steve Barber, and a host of other people. It's been a lot of fun. Yes, in a way, I guess there's less stress doing the Alien thing because it's so much improvisation. There's nothing really, per se, worked out at being a blues rock idiom, it has a very sparse skeleton to it and then you just kind of do your thing over it. So that's kind of fun cause you can kind of do what you want. Plus, that's kind of somewhat of a retro musical style although I don't think it's been tapped as much as it could to reinvent it for the picture. But it's kind of the roots of what I grew up on so that's fun, too.
Park: Yeah. And what you loved was Hendrix and Cream and now you're doing it!
EJ: Yeah. It's a lot of fun. I guess the reason I said there were so many other factors involved you know, when you go do anything, it depends on how well you're focused for it or prepared. So if I'm in a prepared place, not necessarily meaning worked out the music, but if you're just prepared in the sense of being an artist where you can actualize what you do, then the fun factor correspondingly relates to what you do. So, yes, sometimes one thing will be tons of fun and more than something else, but it just depends on how you made yourself available and your effect.
Park: How did the Marotta/Trey Gunn deal come up?
EJ: I think the way that it started is me trying to just be a little bit more open to try different permutations and listening to other people's suggestions about what they think might be a neat idea to do, because sometimes you can figure everything out yourself and everything seems like it's going to be just right. But sometimes, it's good to get somebody else's reflection because they can see a bigger picture. I think a lot of it was just try experimenting with some people that are just coming from a different place; that have had experience on a lot of records and stuff. So it's kind of an experiment that I'm really looking forward to. I've always enjoyed Jerry Marotta's drumming, he's just a monster, and I've always enjoyed what he did with Peter Gabriel and a host of other people. It's just kind of an experiment to see what happens.
Park: Have you listened to much of Trey Gunn?
EJ: I listened to his solo record and I've heard some stuff with King Crimson. He's great. I've never played with him or never even met him except over the phone so it's kind of... I mean everyone says he's wonderful and then when I talked to Jerry Marotta and we talked about doing this and he says we were originally talking about Tony Levin doing it, but I think he's busy with Seal right now, and the California guitar trio. And, so Jerry was saying that Trey is just wonderful. He's heavy, you need to try. And these guys are into trying some different kind of arrangements with the music, too, so we might rearrange some stuff.
Park: Sounds great.
EJ: It's kind of weird though that I'm getting together with Jerry and Trey, you think I should do an experimental thing about improvisation. I'm getting together with Jerry and Trey and then we're doing all songs off the record (chuckles) but that's because I haven't done any songs off the records for a long time now and people have been asking me to do some of those songs again in concert, so that's why.
Park: I'm voting for Freedom Jazz Dance or Boogie Woogie Waltz. But you know that's my old Magnets bias coming in. OK, so let's go for some of the questions off the list.
EJ: I'm working up Cliffs of Dover again, going "Oh, this is an OK tune I'm glad I'm relearning how to play all these things I haven't played in a while. Now this is great, but I haven't played them in so long.
Park: (laughs) I was suggesting Larks Tongues and Aspic? One of the questions that I thought was interesting was when did you decide that you were going to be a musician? And if you hadn't been a musician, what would you have done?
EJ: I think I decided to be a musician because I saw how much joy music gave my father; it was it for him. He would put on records and he would just be transported into this wonderful place. And I was really impressed with the power of music and what it did for him. Plus, I just gravitated towards it and I remember when I was a kid, they used to have these portable record players before CD players. And I just thought they were the coolest looking piece of machinery I ever saw. So when I was five years old, my dad gave me this little plastic record player and I just thought it was the coolest thing. You know, hearing Elvis Presley and that stuff - it had that kinetic energy and it was something out of the ordinary in life as far as kind of sparking people. So I liked the energy and I fell in love with all types of guitar music and stuff. I always wanted to be an architect. Originally I wanted to be a doctor because my dad was a doctor, but then I think when I got in my early teens, I was a young boy and I (laughs) I don't know, something about architecture really interests me. I still love looking at books on architecture and beautiful houses. If I had some money I'd definitely be hiring somebody to design some outrageous house cause I love that. I think it's just a cool art form what you can do with space. I was interested in astronomy for a while, but that just seemed kind of very mathematical and very lonely. You know, got out somewhere under the stars and try and do trigonometry and I don't know... But the theme of astronomy, I love looking through telescopes. There's something about that I really love, but it does seem like that's 20 percent and 80 percent of it is all the math and sitting out there waiting for a star to move. (chuckles)
Park: That segues really well into, people are asking about the theme, you know like Venus Isle and Saucer Sound and all of the UFO, and astronomy oriented things around you. It seems that would be from your love of astronomy, because I don't really see you out camped at whatever it is, Point 59 in Nevada, or anything.
EJ: But I've been to the MacDonald Observatory a couple of times and what's really neat I think anybody, if you look through one of those telescopes, even the smaller ones, but not to mention the big ones. But if you look through a telescope and all of a sudden you see Saturn and it's the size of a basketball and you can see all of the rings around it. It's just (pause) it's hard to describe in words. It's hard to find anything on Earth that will shatter your little glass world easier than that. I mean, it's like "Oh my God, you know what I mean?" You see that and it really puts in perspective, we kind of have to sleep through life. We just get used to what we think is what is normal, what's reality and it's just amazing! Yeah, I guess that stuff kind of works into the lyrics.
Park: People are curious about the studio. It's really more a private studio than anything.
EJ: But, I've had a couple of artists come in and use it. I've had people want to come do records there, which could happen in the future. But basically, I've offered it for friends, it's not a business thing, but if it was ever to be a business thing, you have to restructure it for zoning and tax reasons. So it's basically illegal to go out and make money off a private office thing.
Park: Oh, OK. So we wouldn't expect the Stones to be cutting their new record there or anything like that. Now Carla Olson might be
EJ: Right. But if I had it rezoned in the future, and I had a place to go practice when I'm not recording But right now, it's just a private venture.
Park: There was a something in a story in Goldmine, that you've written a lot of poetry and that you had shoeboxes full of poetry. And there's a number of questions about would you ever be interested in putting out a book of poems?
EJ: I was just talking to Joe about that last week, I was thinking about doing that, putting them all together and put out a book. I suggested to Joe that I talk to the publisher that I have for my music book and he said no, that wouldn't be right for poems. So yeah, if I knew a publisher, I would probably find somebody out there, I should probably compile it anyhow. It wouldn't be a very big book, but you know
Park: And one person asks, who are poets that you enjoy?
EJ: I liked e.e. cummings, I guess you wouldn't really consider Shakespeare poetry, but it's poetic type writing. I liked Robert Frost. I mean, he's very traditional, but I like some of his stuff. Uh, (long pause), I can't think of any others
Park: Well, a lot of the musicians that you listen to are basically poets, too.
EJ: Yeah, Hendrix was a great lyricist. Very, very good. Yeah, Bob Dylan gees, I mean, Bob Dylan was just ridiculous. Next part to follow soon.
Eric Johnson Interview Part 2
Park: Here's some more questions from the list. Did, during the early years, did you have a daytime job, or anything. You've always supported yourself through your music with help from...
EJ: I've had three jobs in my whole life. One I was a janitor for my dad's doctor's office when I was 11 and 12.
Park: (laughs) Ah, child labor!
EJ: Well, I didn't want to go, he made me. Just kidding. I didn't have anything else to do because the chain was only six feet long, so I had to (chuckles). I'd go for about 30 minutes after school and I got paid $40 bucks a month to go by and empty wastebaskets, sweep the floor, you know I wanted to do it. I offered to. Basically I could make some cash and then I was a man about town with that 40 bucks. (laughs)
Park: It was a lot back then.
EJ: Yeah, that's probably like 20 or 30 thousand dollars now! (both laugh) Just to say how old I am, but ... And then, I worked in a music store in the 70's.
Park: What music store?
EJ: Lloyd's store.
Park: Oh yeah. I remember. I bought my Washburn from him.
EJ: Right. After about three months I started giving guitar lessons there and working behind the counter. It was tough trying to sell somebody a guitar that didn't tune up. (Park laughs hard) And the owner of the store said, "Man, you can't tell them all this stuff, about the guitar you know they'd never get it, and I'd say yeah, but it's hard to play when it doesn't tune up right. It was hard for me to say " Yeah, it's great" and the strings would actually be an inch off the neck. (Park continues laughing) And I'd go "Yeah, nothing wrong with it."
Park: Well, we think it's good for slide.
EJ: Yeah, and actually before that I lasted two days as a carpenter. Actually a day and a half. (Park laughs again) And that was tough I was like banging nails in the rafters and stuff and it was just too much, it trashed my hands.
Park: And I bet you were incredibly precise and slow.
EJ: I wasn't very good. It's hard. It's like you carry tons, pounds of wood and then your back. I mean, that is hard work, man. I respect anybody that does any of that laborious carpenter work, day in and day out. That's hard work. It's embarrassing I only lasted a day and a half. I tried it but it was ... So at that point I've got to figure out a way to make my own living in music so I played in a Top 40 band for awhile, but I narrowed it down to I got to make my living in music and I've got to do somewhat of an original thing cause that's the only way, so I just did it. You know, sometimes if you put a goal in front of yourself and say "I've just got to figure out the way to get to what I have envisioned and you just really stick by and work at it, a lot of times you can make those things happen. They might not be grandiose like you're envisioning, but you can still make some facsimile of it happen. You know, a lot of people, when we put something before us, well I'd love to do, but because of this and this and this and this, I can't do it. That's a general tendency, we all do it. But this is what I want to do, I've crystallized it, this is the goal, what do I have to do to make that happen? You've crystallized what it is you want to do, then you figure out whatever it is you have to do to make it happen. I think that way you can actualize stuff like that more. And that's when the Electromagnets came along and I thought somehow, we'd just...
Park: We'll make a fortune at this (laughs) ...
EJ: Well, we scraped by.
Park: Well, we had some of the great years of our lives.
EJ: It was a lot of fun. It was simple times, there was no ...
Park: Austin had the lowest cost of living in the United States.
EJ: Yeah, so we scraped by ... Yeah. And if you look back on that, it was a real blessing, because gee, we got to do what we wanted, play original music, have fun, playing music, traveling, and support ourselves. Yeah, so that was a blessing.
Park: And, speaking personally, the four of you were the nicest people that anybody could want to manage. OK, here's another question. How many years was it until you really felt like you started developing your own style?
EJ: I don't think I really developed my style (long pause). When Hendrix first came out ... it's hard to put in perspective now although people still listen to him now and say, "ah, he's great". It's really hard to put it in perspective when Jimi Hendrix came out in 1967 it was like from another planet. So I was very, very inspired by Hendrix. But, it was over my head. I could not sit down and it's not so much the notes. It's the whole vibe and the whole approach and the way that he did it. There was nobody that could cop that effect. I mean, people could kind of mimic it, but I would say that it was easier to assimilate Eric Clapton only because, not that Clapton wasn't doing something equally as magnificent, but it was coming from the genre of music that had already been kind of expounded upon, the blues. Hendrix was blues-based but he was coming from somewhere, it wasn't even in the solar system. So when Hendrix came out, although it inspired me, it didn't really, initially it didn't ... I'm talking about 1967, '68, which is when I started changing as a guitar player. It was Clapton I was able to sit down a work through with the blues style and I was able to listen to Albert King and B.B. King and Freddie King and listen to listen to Clapton and blues records and Fresh Cream and Jeff Beck in the Yardbirds. That's when I started changing as a guitar player cause I started copying those guys note for note. So I was like an Eric Clapton juke box for a couple of years. That's all I did. I mean I didn't have any identify. But it's interesting that the road to getting identity sometimes is prefaced by having no identity but really taking on that integrity. So yeah, I started changing when I got hip to him. And, that was the prelude to beginning to get an identity because even though it was somebody else's library books, I was learning it to where I could start being, having some integrity as a player. And it wasn't until years later that I was able to sit down and really learn Hendrix stuff note for note and start understanding where he was coming from.
Park: So when did you really feel like you started getting your own style? I mean, the Magnets must have been really interesting...
EJ: I would say the Magnets were the beginning of my own style, maybe right before the Magnets I started, but it was definitely elaborated on, expounded on in the Magnets. Because I had come from basically a blues rock thing and when I jumped in and played with Bill and Kyle and Steve, they're going to music school and they're learning all this classical stuff, and jazz stuff, I had to like take a crash course in learning a different style of music. So that affected it.
Park: OK, how long do you play nowadays? How long when you were learning? When you're learning you played like...
EJ: When I was first learning, it would be after school. I played a few hours a day. And then when I finished school, I didn't do anything, but play, because I had nothing else to do. Maybe hang out with my girlfriend whenever she was off work, or go play. There was no question of any kind of responsibilities in life.
Park: So you were playing like eight hours a day?
EJ: Yeah, and then there would be days I'd ... I think realistically, if I went back and looked at those days, there would be days I was a lot freer, there would be days I wouldn't do anything. I would just kind of hang out, probably easier on yourself then, just kick around and not feel weird if you spent two days just sitting out at the lake.
Park: And now, it varies really. It seems to vary by what you're doing. What you're involved in.
EJ: Well, I'm practicing more now than I have in awhile. There was a period a few years ago where I didn't practice very much for a variety of reasons. I think, when I hurt my ears and I quit using all the amps I like to use, I started going to all these other amps to keep the volume down. Although I'm playing louder now I still don't play as loud as I used to. I drastically changed and it just sounded really, really ... I didn't like the way they sounded, my ears were bothering me, I kind of lost interest in playing for several years. You know, my ears are better now, still very cognizant of not playing too loud, but I've turned it up a little bit more now where I can basically get my sound and I can get reinvested in that passion of playing again.
Park: So, are you happy with the sound you're getting out of the smaller amps now?
EJ: Well, I mean, now I've got them to where they're 98 percent. Yeah, I'm pretty happy with it.
Park: Did you visualize the sound, have you always been going for the same, for the sound that you envision or has that sound evolved over the years?
EJ: The sound, there's a, if you were to build an amp that had enough tone control, you would have a certain flat EQ sound that you would deem that's the sound of an electric guitar. And you could take it anywhere you wanted. But to me, the flat EQ of the guitar is what I like to get such as a nice old violin has a certain flat EQ to it. I mean, you could run the violin through an equalizer and make it anything you want. But, what interests me more is a very pure, beautiful version of the flat tone and that's just me
Park: Strawberry, chocolate ...
EJ: Exactly. If I was, I wouldn't, to me that's true with like a saxophone, or with any instrument ... just that pure essence sound of it is what I like. So, over the years, the tone hasn't so much changed is what I hear in my head as it's trying to purify to make it this brilliant and pure as possible, which is kind of a challenge when you're talking about rock guitar, electric rock guitar because it inherently is kind of a trashy sound.
Park: OK, there's a number of questions about what you think about the Web and MP3s, the Internet and delivery of web-based media, like MP3s, about Internet radio and all kinds of things like that. How do you think it will affect things and how do you think it will affect you personally?
EJ: Well I think that it will be wonderful because it will pretty much allow all the artists and musicians and filmmakers and any kind of creative arts to, basically upon their integrity, it will be visible and available to the world and it won't be so much potentially smokescreened or manipulated by other factions of the entertainment procedure. It will just put a little larger percentage, it will weigh the balance a little more in favor of just, if you have something that has merit that people are enjoying, it will be easily and readily available to the world. And, I think that's a real, it's a very interesting service that will happen to artists because there will be people all over the world in their living rooms and it will just do great stuff.
Park: I think it will free them from the normal distribution ...
Park: Of just a few big companies controling everything. Here's a question, do you have the same sensitivity to bass, guitar, and drums and the other instruments as you do to your guitar?
EJ: Yeah. I love them. Do you mean...?
Park: Well, I think they're talking about sensitivity meaning, do you work as hard? Are you as perfectionist about getting the right sound out of the bass, drums, and things like that issue...?
EJ: Well, no, not as much as my guitar cause there is an element in that which is somebody else's business; they're playing it. I think I go through periods where I get real explicit about what I want on bass and drums and sometimes that's compositionally necessary and sometimes that's a fine line because you want to allow somebody to get their own sound and get their own parts, too. You just don't want to hold somebody else's paintbrush all the time.
Park: Allright. Here's something I really like ... what's your favorite vegetable?
EJ: Wow, um, God.
Park: (laughs hard) This is it. Now for something entirely different.
EJ: I know that cauliflower is one of my least favorite.
Park: OK. We'll go with that. Favorite fruits?
EJ: I like all vegetables really. Cauliflower I'll eat it, but I'm not crazy about it.
Park: Any favorite fruits?
EJ: I like peaches.
Park: You've been convicted, it's the last meal. OK, they're taking you to the chair. (laughs devilishly) A scenario I doubt you think a lot of.
EJ: Is it first or second chair?
Park: Ha, ha. There you go. Any favorite authors and did you know that Jonathan and Fay Kellerman mentioned you in their novels?
EJ: Oh, is it that mystery novel in Texas?
Park: I guess.
EJ: Yeah, I heard about it.
Park: Did you find out what it was? I'm curious.
EJ: Something about some guitar player with my name and a song about somebody that was listening to the record or something.
Park: Huh. This is interesting, weirdest fan related experience? Got anything that just comes to the top of your head?
EJ: You know I just think that ... if an artist stays in his element, he's trying to produce good music, or good whatever, and does the best he can, regardless of whether he succeeds or fails, because if he does the best he can, he's best to stay in his element so that he can give something to the people that they will enjoy. If that element gets, if the content of that element gets changed, it doesn't do anybody as good a benefit. The listener doesn't get quite the really essential impact that the music can get cause the artist is not quite as focused. Then the artist doesn't do as good a job because he's not quite as focused. And that all comes about that whatever you put first. I mean, if a painter paints a great, you know, painting, and he hangs it up in a museum but he's standing in front of the painting so every time somebody comes by to view his work, they're having to look through a guy that's kind of schmoozing and looking good in his clothes and smiling. I mean it's going to affect the painting. It doesn't take anything away from the artist; it just puts the things in perspective. If he does what he does, and that's the risk. Well, you run that in any kind of field, but I think it's magnified and played upon in the pop business, in the pop idiom. And then everybody gets the whole thing confused. And then everyone gets so confused that they don't know what they're doing because all of a sudden they are concentrating on themselves instead of what they do. So, you know, the fan, the word comes from the word fanatic, which is interesting. But in the nice sense of the word fan, it's somebody that gives you the opportunity to listen to what you might have created. And that's a wonderful gift. So the best gift you can do is just do the best that you can and people can just enjoy what you're trying to do and from that alone.
Park: OK. We're going to try to hit a few of the tech questions that everybody always wants to have. Number one, did you see any guitars or amps that you really liked that were new and weren't 30 years old? You like the Gibson?
EJ: Well, I think the new Gibson is great. I think it's a great amp. It's a very, very simple amp. It's got a volume and a tone control and it's got a really nice tone. It's got reverb.
Park: Great. Do they still send you a lot of amps? I mean, are all these people with, a member asked about Two-Rock, Guytron, Top Hat, Matchless and Dr Z . I mean, do they still send you these things?
EJ: If I was out there trying, I think I'm getting a reputation that's not really...
Park: (laughs) Interested?
EJ: Yeah. I think everybody's kind of, you know, ...
Park: OK. So they're kind of not sending you stuff?
EJ: Not as much as they used to.
Park: OK. Have phenomenologists such as Heidiger influenced you(?) (laughs).
Park: No, I didn't think so.
EJ: I have been influenced by Shirley Temple, Oh, I'm sorry, Shirley Booth.
EJ: She played Hazel on T.V.
Park: Right, exactly. I know that what I'm waiting for is your album of T.V. themes.
EJ: That would be great.
Park: Because I know that you play a number of T.V. themes. Of course, the big hit would be the one from Andy Griffith and the Beverly Hillbillies.
EJ: Right, right. Yes.
Park: Allright. I think that you ought to do that and do that soon.
EJ: I've heard of Heidiger(?) but I don't know anything about him.
Park: OK are you interested in doing anything like Phrygian and Dorian modes and expanding into different times. You know, I think what they're asking is, are you interested in going out.
EJ: I'm interested in learning more about jazz guitar playing. But my interest is more coming from, you know, Coltrane or Wes Montgomery effect, Herbie Hancock or something. I personally, that's just me, I'm not that interested in conjugating music into uh, into...
Park: ...the technical?
EJ: A very technical type conjugation to where you, for that to be a large focus. I mean, it's very, it's mind-blowing what some people sometimes do to that and I just don't, to me, I'd rather study fluidity and learn more about scales and lyricism of guitar playing. That's just personal. You know, the Pat Metheny route, and you know that can incorporate different time signatures or scales, but ...
Park: I think he certainly kept his heart.
EJ: Yeah, yeah. I just, that's just kind of what I gravitate towards.
Park: OK. Does your tube driver have a bias control and do you use a standard EI12AX72?
EJ: Yeah, it doesn't have a bias.
Park: And your impedance, you weren't wiring your Marshall cabs to 4 Ohms?
EJ: No, I don't. They are stock 16 Ohms, but I actually prefer 8 ohms.
Park: 8 ohms. Do you use a standard tube in a Chandler tube driver?
EJ: Yeah, I try a handful and whichever one works the best.
Park: OK. You were using those Yugoslav tubes that Marcus likes so much, and you...
EJ: You can't get them anymore.
Park: You can't get them anymore?
EJ: Anybody out there have any Yugo tubes? .... Yugoslavian?
Park: (laughs) This is the group to ask for them. Do you ever play any Telecasters or Esquires?
EJ: Mmm. I have a Tele.
Park: OK. And mostly you use that for country stuff like chicken pickin' stuff?
Park: Did you ever play through Vox AC 30's for your clean tones?
EJ: Mmm. ..
Park: ...or Hi Watts in place of the Marshalls for the power distortion sounds?
EJ: Yeah. I'd like to try Hi Watt. I thought about that before.
Park: OK. What's your favorite brand of acoustic guitar strings?
EJ: I used the Hi Watt in the Electromagnets. Acoustic I use the D'Addario J16s.
Park: OK. When you set the EQ for an amp, you're trying to have a trap (?), no exaggerated peaks or ____ syncratic(? Phone ringing in background). Is there a frequency range on guitar you dislike or prefer not to hear an inordinate amount?
EJ: Well, it's real easy to get 3 to 5K too much on a guitar where it's just really peaky and kind of clacky sounding. I like to work with the stuff to where it's a little, where a lot of the treble is a sweeter, higher treble rather than that lower edgy treble. You can have a little bit of that edgy treble, but if you have too much, it's too peaky sounding.
Park: Do you ever have problems with the George L cables not wanting to cooperate?
EJ: You know, it's funny, people say they'd short out all the time. I just have wonderful luck with them. They just don't short out on me. You know, every once in awhile, sure they'll short out, but I'm just real glad they make that cable because it's the only cable I like (laughs). It's just pure sounding to me and I hope they don't quit making it.
Park: If forced to use just one amp, what would it be?
EJ: (long pause)
Park: A Marshall?
EJ: You know, I'd almost have to say, (long pause again), yeah, or an old, old, old Twin.
Park: OK. Aside from changing tubes, what tweaks are done to your hundred watt Plexi? ... To get your main lead tone? Changing negative feedback tones, circuits mods, you're not doing anything, are you?
EJ: Well, once you leave the 1969 era of Marshalls, they're a different animal. 1970 on, you know he's talking about the feedback, that's all different on the 70's. It's not the same amp. So, yeah, but I don't use those amps, I mean it's, they're a different sound and they probably work great for hard rock or power chording and the alternative stuff, you know. But the tone I like to get is really in the 60's amps, but no, I don't really do anything to them. I just buy some and put good tubes in them
Park: And everybody wants to know when you're going to bring out a book on your sound and everything/electronics.
EJ: You know, I'd like to do that. I just, you know, to be ... this is just my opinion but it's based by audible fact that I've also substantiated with other people in the room, I don't think that people are prepared to hear what I would say make such a big difference in your sound. I think it would be my own, this sounds pompous, but I think, I basically feel that in years from now, people will accept what they laugh at now, as far an nuances of polarity and chord directions and just all sorts of little things that are like ... it's like everything in the universe is alive. Maybe there are different levels of aliveness. Obviously animals and people are much more living. But, if you microscopically look at a table, the atoms are jumping around like crazy. There is, like Depak Chopra 's talking about, there's more space between the particle than there is the actual particle. So you're looking at stuff that is suspended in air and it has all this vibrancy. In certain conceptual ways, it's alive. It's true with everything. Everything is alive. So everything is going to have a yen or yang to it. I'd love to come out with a book, in fact I've already thought about that. I just think to get into the stuff that I think makes a little bit, that could really make a difference S I probably will do it, I just think it will have a preface in it that says, you know, you're welcome to throw this book in the trash if it sounds crazy. But, its stuff that really can make a difference, I think, is astounding. Consequently, I think it would be, everybody would think it's just nuts, you know.
Park: Well I think personally, that people are lazy and they just don't want to try something. I think that, I personally think that people should just go try it for themselves and listen to what sounds better.
EJ: You know it's the thing about the battery. You know there was so much talk about that it's so silly. But now they have batteries that come out that are made for the tone of guitar. And plus, I mean I guarantee you, we can get people in a room and I will switch out different types of battery and they will hear the difference.
Park: I've heard the difference.
EJ: It's nothing with me.
Park: I was right in front of your amp when you had the George L. cable go out at Stubbs when you were playing with Double Trouble. They brought you out a replacement cable that wasn't like a George L. and you plugged I in, and I thought, man, that sounds really kind of tinny or something. And you unplugged it and reversed it, and it sounded great.
EJ: Mmm Hmm.
Park: And you smiled when you did it. And I was like right in front of your amp and it was an obvious difference.
EJ: Yeah. Well it's interesting because it's like people, because it's almost like you think, I'll go get this amp and it will sound better than this amp. But actually, it's not really what kind, whether it has 12s or 10s, or whether it's a Peavey or a Fender, that stuff is, this is the part that is kind of amazing to me is that it's not so much what you use, but how well it's adjusted. I could get a sound more like my Twin reverb out of a Peavey if it was adjusted correctly that I could, having a Twin reverb that's the same, that wasn't adjusted correctly, meaning all the parts, summation of the parts. Sometimes it's the little pictures that additively add up than it is the big picture. But, I think it would be neat to put a book out on tone because that I hope that whenever I quit fooling with this stuff, which hopefully will be soon, so I'll just play instead of fooling with it ...(Park laughs) ...and then somebody else can carry the torch.
Park: All acoustic, all acoustic.
EJ: I think it's interesting. It's frustrating but it's also interesting.
Park: Are you excited about Steve's record coming out?
EJ: Oh yeah, it's great.
Park: Same time next year, or ..
EJ: I think it's a cool record, yeah, it's great.
Park: OK, we're going to bring this to a close pretty quick. You said that you would refret your guitars with jumbo frets. Is there a certain type of fret that you use?
EJ: I like the softer metal rather than the harder metal. It will last as long as these other ..
Park: And is there a brand of that, or ..
EJ: Not necessarily, no.
Park: OK. Let's see, a lot of these have been covered. OK, where do you find your opening bands on tour? Where can I send a demo to be considered for that tour?
EJ: Well, Joe usually hires people for that.
Park: Yeah. And anyway, you're not touring for awhile so you're not going to.. have you ever considered an unplugged deal, like you know, you, Adrian, who knows, Tony Rice, or doing a trio?
EJ: That would be neat.
Park: Do you like Holdsworth and his music?
EJ: He's a great player. He's pioneering new music.
Park: They asked you to replace him, didn't he? In Brand-X, was that Holdsworth?
EJ: Oh no, that was a long time ago. What was that band?
EJ: It was before Holdworth went solo.
Park: UK, that's right. Do you have a dream venue?
EJ: I like playing theatres.
Park: Like 3000 seaters, 4000 seaters ...
EJ: Vox Theatre, Majestic Theatre, yeah, I'd love to just play those all the time where you could do a great production and have all this stuff up there, but it's unrealistic, and say I just want to play Woodstock festivals only (Eric laughs).
Park: How was it playing with Clint Black?
EJ: It was great. He's a wonderful guy and he's a great musician. The band's great.
Park: So you enjoyed it?
EJ: Yeah, I did.
Park: I was really surprised that they put both of the songs that you did on the ...
EJ: Did you tape it by chance? Can I borrow it?
Park: I did. Yeah, sure.
EJ: I'd love to see it. I haven't seen it. You know, Clint mixed that whole show. He mixed that thing. Yeah, he's a good engineer.
Park: He's quite multi-talented.
EJ: Oh yeah. He plays drums, harmonica, guitar, he also plays some lead electric guitar, but he doesn't do it in his set. He sings well, he writes, he records and mixes.
Park: He's got a beautiful, talented wife. Probably a nice dog, and I'm sure a good house.
EJ: Yeah, you should hear him play Hendrix.
Park: Oh really?
EJ: I'm just kidding.
Park: Someone asked because Ah Via Musicom and Venus Isle both have intro tracks that are kind of spacey leading off...
EJ: No, I don't have one of this one ...
Park: Not for this one, this one's just going to lead off.
EJ: Right. Probably.
Park: OK. I think that's pretty much it. I think that will do it.
*** Special thanks to Nancy Kampe for transcribing the interview tapes. ***