LIST MEMBER INTERVIEW 6 - EricJohnson.com

Nav view search

Navigation

Search

List Interview 6

 

June 2002 List Interview

Interview and transcription by Paula Beard, ericjohnson.com e-mail list member and graphic designer for ericjohnson.com.

Val Serrie: Does Eric feel he has made sacrifices in life in order to achieve his level of excellence? Is he glad he made these choices? Would he do it any differently if done over?

EJ: As far as lifestyle, and personal life? Yeah, definitely sacrifices up to this point. I don't have kids. That's a sacrifice. I mean, I don't know if it's worth it, not that I think you can do it all. I guess with me, I was just so diligent about practicing and working on music that life can just pass you by, and all of a sudden you realize it's gone. Also, sacrifices as far as having time to go on a lot of vacations. I'm lucky. I have a lot of friends. Under ideal circumstances it would be best if I would cultivate more time to spend with them, take time to do all that stuff, because we're only here for a short time. So the best thing you can do is remember all those things that really are a lot more important than what you do. Sometimes I might fall into that trap of getting hung up in what I do just to try to get it done, or pursue that passion as an artist, and it can engulf your time and your whole life. It does require a lot of discipline and a lot of time. But I think there's a balance there, and hopefully in the last half of my life I'll work on that balance, because it's becoming more important to me.

Val Serrie: Are your extraordinary abilities just raw talent or do they represent a deeper, stronger, longer commitment to practice and skill development than we typically see by others.

EJ: I think that everybody's probably got a certain talent. They find out what it is, hone it and work on cultivating it. I don't know why with some people it seems like their talent is more natural, and other people have to work at it...but I think more often than not, everybody has to work at it. I remember going to see Alison Krauss, and she's one of my favorite singers in the whole world. She's such an incredible singer! And it seemed like it was just falling out of her mouth, no problem. I was backstage talking to her, and I said, "What's the deal? Your vocals are just so awesome." And she said, "I have to work really hard at it". So there's a case in point. Somebody who you might think was just born with that talent, but she works hard at it. Also, something that I'm trying to learn is that it's not just a question of working hard, it's a question of working hard in the appropriate way. I think that a lot of times I might be working hard, but it's not in a smart and appropriate way so you don't reap as much harvest from it. You have to learn to do it in a focused way, so that you reap that harvest. I think that all people that are talented have to work at it for it to harvest, but some people intrinsically know how to focus the appropriate way to go about getting that, and other people have to fumble and stumble around to find that. I have to work at it! I mean, just naturally I think I'm talented, but if I don't work at it, it's amazing the threshold of how it could be good or really mediocre. I mean, I'm not dis'ing myself, I'm just being real honest. It's amazing! I do stuff in the studio, and if I'm not focused or something, when I listen to the playback I think "God, it's unbelievable! It doesn't even sound like what I would attribute to what I'm supposed to be, it sounds like some guy who's trying to copy me who just started playing guitar last week! Really! It's funny in a way, but I think if you come to terms with that, and you look that in the face and you realize that situation, that's 51percent of trying to travel somewhere where you can make some changes, so it's part of the equation. If you live in a glass house and you're never honest with yourself, you're cutting yourself off from growth. So part of the thing is to not get bummed or dis' yourself, but just realize, "look at this, let's be real here".

Q: Many have asked if you would be interested in working with a producer. Any you would like to work with? Nile Rogers, Daniel Lanois or Jack Joseph Puig? Considered having someone like Tom Lord-Alge do the final mix?

EJ: Jack Joseph Puig? I almost worked with him once. If I knew any of these people, and they called or I had contact with them, and they said "Hey let's try this or that" I would be totally open to it. Yeah, definitely. I don't
get a lot of calls from producers saying, "Hey, do you want to do a song together?" Richard does a lot of co-production with me, so he's involved and responsible for all that stuff, but yeah, I would love to work with other people on different things, and try to raise that level of integrity to where I could afford to be as organic as possible because the integrity is so high. I think there's a delicate balance there. If you've worked out in a gym, and you go to move your feet gymnastically, your level of integrity is automatically and organically higher because you've done the necessary prerequisite homework, so that's my responsibility, but working with people who have a high level of integrity would be great.
I think that a lot of times, what I run into (which is a problem sometimes with producers), is that they might not speak the alphabet of guitar playing and guitar tone in the dimension that I do. In other words, they can run
circles around me as far as producing a record or making a better product and maybe nabbing it in the first two takes, but they'd be the first to say, "Well, that's good enough. That guitar part sounds fine." and I'm sitting there freaking because I'm thinking, "it's out of tune, or the tone's not right, or the performance is not up to the level that I want it", so it would be especially nice to have someone who would congruently bring integrity to what I do on so many levels to make it better, but they would also understand the vocabulary of integrity of where I want to be with the guitar and not think it's crazy. I've come to terms with myself, and am very
comfortable with myself knowing that it's absolutely good and essential for me to have a level of integrity in my guitar playing. I think that some people would hear what I'm saying now and say, "Oh, the heck with that! Just roll the tape and throw it off", and I'll agree insomuch that you roll the tape and throw it off providing that you get that integrity. I have no interest in just becoming so stoutly devoted to "I'm only going to do one take and that's it", and then just have it sound like just a ratty electric guitar. That does nothing for me. I want it to approach the classical violin...whatever...that level of musicality.

But, having said that, I would love to do that in the first or second take, so I want to work on my playing to raise the bar where I can get that in the first few takes. You get the best of both worlds. You get that organic-ness
but you also get that level of integrity. There are plenty of musicians who do that. I can name many records where the people do that, but anyway...it would be nice to work with a producer or co-producer that you could dovetail that kind of copacetic thing with, because a lot of them will just say, "Yeah, the guitar's fine. Let's move on."

It's a delicate balance. I'm trying to find that balance. That's what I'm trying on this new record, trying to get a little more spontaneity. I'm performing it more, and it's really showing up. It has much more life force and spontaneity than Venus Isle had, and that's something I needed and wanted to work on, because in retrospect when I listen to that record, my biggest complaint about it is that it sounds like the life force has been clamped a
little bit, and if you really want to go for the ultimate, there are so many different apertures you want to try to maintain, and one of them is keeping that life force, keeping that organic energy. Sometimes when you work with producers that are really great that have the right combination, they can chain that organicness but they also push that integrity level, so it's the best of both worlds.

PB: I really love Venus Isle.

EJ: You know, it's weird. I think that record...Richard was telling me last night that in a way he thinks it's my best record musically, but there is a tinge of...the energy is a little offset in it, and I think it's largely because I beat it to death for 3 years. I think that if I'd recorded the exact same record, and I'd done in 6 months, 8 months or whatever, it would by and large have retained a little bit lighter, more spontaneous energy. Maybe not a single note would have changed on the record, but it could have had a different kind of aura about it to where it still would have been the same record it was, but it would've had that other quality that would have made it have a little bit more life force. If I was to cite one place where I maybe missed the mark on that record, I
don't think it's the songs or the music. It's that I didn't pay enough attention to protecting that life force/energy and I was just so adamant about trying to get the music just right that I forgot about a couple of other issues. It's how you learn.

Q: Have you made any changes to your touring rig?

EJ: No. Totally the same. Sometimes I use a little higher wattage amps than I have for the past few years, just because my health is better and I want to go flirt with danger again [laughs]. That's probably what I'm doing but since I'm doing a little better, I figure...well, you know...break out all the 100 watt amps again!

PB: Ooh! Watch your ears.

EJ: Yeah, really. If I'm not careful that could put me back where I was. The only change, I would say, is that I do personally prefer to use 100 watt amps instead of 50 watts because, to be really honest, I have never been totally satisfied with the way those 50 watt amps sound. They've always bugged me. I've been using them for the past 5 years and I've felt like I've had to make a compromise in my signature sound a little bit, so I would rather use the other amps, but that's the only change.

Stephen Soisson: I am very curious about the current delay setup. Specifically, for his main lead sound does he exclusively use the Echoplex that is placed prior to the amp input, or does he also use delay that is applied after the speaker cab has been mic'd?

EJ: Yeah, it's delayed after the speaker cab has been mic'd.

Stephen Soisson: Some of the pedal steel type bending work in Elevator Sky Movie strikes me as Steve Winwood style keyboard work, both in terms of chord voicings and phrasing. Any chance that Winwood was a source of inspiration for that section of music?

EJ: Yeah, I like Steve Winwood a lot. I liked the Traffic records, I liked the Blind Faith record a lot. He's a great, great player. He's an awesome, awesome Hammond player! God, can he play! The guy can play B-3 really great.

Tom Cook: I am a fan of the late Randy Rhoads, who was a guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne until his death almost 20 years ago. I was wondering if Eric has ever heard his music and what he thought of him.

EJ: You know, I'm just not familiar with him at all, to be real honest. I've heard the Black Sabbath records when I was a kid, and I've inadvertently heard Randy Rhoads' stuff. He was really good. It seemed like he pioneered a
whole metal guitar thing, that he really started it all and he's a good player. I'm just not real familiar with his style.

PB: I like the Osbourne's TV show. Have you seen that one?

EJ: I'm more familiar with Mrs. Miller from the 60s. She had "Millerfest" just like Ozzy has "Ozzfest" [grins]. You had to have a hell of a vibrato to get in to Millerfest.

PB: There are always requests for live videos, live DVDs, etc. Everyone wants that. By the way, the House of Blues [Internet] video is now their number 3 most watched.

EJ: The House of Blues video? Really? I knew it was number 5. I never even watched the whole thing. We mixed it and worked on it. Yeah, I'd love to do one. They're just expensive. You know, it's a weird time right now. I've
played out the live Alien Love Child record so I've got to put a new product out, so until I put a new product out, we're not touring. We're playing these little clubs and stuff, so once I get a record out and we start touring and generating more money there'll be a question of doing a video. I would do a video immediately, but they're just very expensive to do. A live one would be the perfect one to do where you just spend a day or two. I would love to do one.

PB: We'd love to have it, and we are just thrilled about the archival stuff being released!

EJ: Yeah, we only have 3 things left to mix and it's going be about 15 songs on it. It's a real quirky and weird kind of interim thing, but it's weird, I listened to it and even with all its warts and stuff, I thought, "there's something kind of neat about this". I think it'll be cool.

PB: So it's almost done?

EJ: Oh yeah. Actually, I'm having to do a couple of recordings, for instance there were 3 songs that were not even finished, so I had to finish them off, which is kind of weird because they were from 15 years ago, but there was one place that was missing a lead so I recorded a new lead for it (or part of a new lead), and another one was missing sections where there was no percussion or drums, so I did that. But other than that it's 100 percent like it was from the past, although Richard's remixing it. But yeah, it'll be done very soon, then we're just going to compile it and have it mastered. I'm going to just put it on the Internet, and hopefully it'll sell.

PB: Everyone on the mailing list will buy one.

EJ: That will be nice.

TJM007: Has any of the approach of a quickly produced album, and the great
response from the audience affected Eric's approach to recording the new
album? Does he think about recording differently?

EJ: Oh definitely, yeah. I mean, to be real honest, this record that I'm
working on right now, I've been recording it over a period of years, but the
way I'm doing it, I'll work on it a few days, then I won't work on it for a
week. It's like we're either touring with the Alien thing or something, and
it's been very sporadic so the actual recording time with this record is
significantly less than the last 2 records. I think there are things about it
that will definitely show that. Basically, when I work on it I try to perform
parts on it, instead of paint-by-numbers.

Hyre: Do you recall any impressions you might have had when you first heard
Eddie Van Halen's playing (late 70s, early 80's)?

EJ: I never saw him playing live with Van Halen until the very end of Van
Halen with Sammy Hagar, so I never saw the original but I heard the records,
and he was just awesome, he was great. I hope his health is doing better, I
don't know what's going on with that, but he rewrote the book, kind of like
Hendrix and Clapton. He was the next guy to actually totally turn it all
around. I remember once I met him before I even knew who he was, and he was a
real nice guy. It was when he was playing his first gig in Austin, he played
the Municipal Auditorium and he came by the Sheraton Crest that night. He was
staying at the Sheraton Crest, I think, and I was sitting in with Geneva and
the Gentlemen and afterward he came by and said, "Yeah, we just played this
gig at the Municipal Auditorium. The group's Van Halen." This was in the 70s
when they just had their first record out. So when I met him I thought, "I
wonder who that guy is?" and a year later of course, they were famous, so
that was kind of funny.

Q: If you have time to play the guitar solely for enjoyment and as a pastime,
what are examples of pieces you play?

EJ: I still play all sorts of different stuff. Lately at home, if I'm not
playing acoustic (I'm trying to get ready to go on another acoustic tour at
the end of the year, so I'm trying to slowly get back into that) but lately
on the electric I've been trying to learn more jazz guitar stuff.

PB: That's good news about the acoustic tour. I haven't seen you play
acoustic before.

EJ: Yeah, we did that about 2 or 3 years ago. In fact, as soon as I finish
this new record, in the interim of it coming out, there'll be 3 or 4 months
actually between the time I finish it (which will be in another couple of
months) and the time it comes out, during that time I'm going to do an
acoustic tour, I think.

Knut-Erik Teigen: I wondered if he could say something about his use of
arpeggios in solos? It's a very important part of his lead style, and I hope
he can explain what arpeggios he uses over different chords and that sort of
thing.

EJ: The arpeggios are just going through the sequence of certain notes that
are in the scale, like if you're doing a major scale; 1, 3, 5, 1, 3, 5...or a
minor scale...1 minor third 5, that kind of thing. Yeah, I guess I do that a
lot, probably just from listening to pianists and violin players.

Ericjohnsonfan03: Would you have ever considered putting an album together
with these guitarists?

David Gilmour
John McLaughlin
Al Di Meola
Mike Stern
John Petrucci
Pat Metheny
Steve Morse
Allan Holdsworth
Fareed Hague
Charlie Christian
Eric Gales

EJ: Mike Stern and I have talked about maybe doing something together, Steve
Morse and I have, and probably will again. That's probably it. Charlie
Christian? That'd be really hard to play with him since he's not around
anymore. Oh, would you have "ever" considered putting an album together with
these guitarists? Sure! Yeah, that'd be fine. Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin,
Mike Stern, I love those guys. Mike Stern and Pat Metheny are about my
favorite players...favorite modern players.

Ericjohnsonfan03: Do you ever take the time to listen to your own music for
enjoyment?

EJ: Not really, no. I'll listen to it just to get a reality check on where I
am. Well, maybe sometimes, I'd say there are exceptions to the rule. Like in
putting this closet tape together, I've gone back and listened to stuff I
haven't listened to for many years and actually really enjoyed it. That's
been kind of interesting for me. I don't know if it's just more personal, or
what, that remains to be seen, but I've actually enjoyed listening to that
stuff. It brings back memories and there's a certain "off-the-cuff"-ness or
innocence about those tapes, because they were never intended to be anything,
so they're just a kind of an "oh, let's just do it", and so there's not a
lot of mental activity going on. Sometimes you step on your own feet because
you build something up so much, and you'll say "OK, this has got to be this
record or that", and sometimes you just get in the way of yourself.

Ericjohnsonfan03: What are your favorite songs you've ever written and why do
you feel this way?

EJ: "Yesterday", "Paperback Writer", "Purple Haze". I think that was when
I was at my best. [laughs]. Oh God, I don't know, I like that song "Battle
We Have Won". I was proud of that composition. There are a couple of songs on
the new record that I'm pretty excited about, that I think worked out.

PB: Have we heard them yet?

EJ: No. Most of the stuff people haven't heard, but there are some,
like "Your Sweet Eyes" is on it and "Tribute to Jerry Reed" with Adrian Legg.

PB: Oh yeah, he's coming to town.

EJ: Is he? Great!! Have you ever seen him live?

PB: No.

EJ: He's great, not only great musically, but...

PB: I'll bet he's funny.

EJ: He is funny! He'll sit there and talk for maybe 10 minutes and you'll
find yourself thinking, "you don't even need to play, just keep talking".
Tom Waits is the same way. Oh man! Tom Waits is...what do you call it when
somebody is a great talker? He's great.

Ericjohnsonfan03: What is your favorite album [of yours] and why do you say
it's your favorite?

EJ: I don't know, really. There are things I like and don't like about each
one of them, so I'd be a terrible judge of that.

PB: It's hard to pick one.

EJ: Yeah, probably "Are You Experienced" [grins].

Ericjohnsonfan03: Do you see your self ever making a strictly jazz, country
or acoustic album?

EJ: Yeah, as far as the jazz thing goes, I'll going to have to wait awhile
because I'm still trying to study how to play that. There is one jazz cut on
this new record and I'm starting to learn more about it, but in the future
I'd love to do that once I feel like I've got that vocabulary to do it
justice. I've talked to a producer about doing a country record, actually.
We're talking about doing that relatively soon, and then an acoustic record,
yeah, I need to do that. I've had a lot of requests for an acoustic record,
and I've got the songs to do it. I've just got to sit down and do it.
Actually the acoustic record and the country record are a couple of things
I'd like to do after I finish this record.

PB: You've got a lot of stuff to do!

EJ: Yeah, I'm really pretty prolific. I have tons of music, and I would say
that even if I edited 50 percent away, I'd still have tons! I have so
much...a wealth of stuff, and yet I'm just so slow in trying to ever get
around to it. It's kind of a bummer in a way. It would be good to have a
producer to just come in, crack the whip, try to get stuff going.

PB: Sometimes all you need is a deadline.

EJ: Yeah, but it's like in "Cool Hand Luke", you gotta have your mind right
[grins]. You've got to get what you're trying to get out of it.

Ericjohnsonfan03: How do you feel about making another live album?

EJ: I'd love to.

Ericjohnsonfan03: With all the other musicians you've worked with over the
years, who are some of the people you've had great chemistry with?

EJ: I like it when Malford [Milligan] comes out and sings. That's fun, he's
so great! He has so much passion! In fact, sometimes, I don't feel that I
play up to my best when he's singing but that's kind of because I get lost in
listening to him sing. I feel like that if I could find that sweet spot where
I really do as good a job as I should do with him on stage, it would be
perfect, because he's so great! But sometimes I just get carried away
listening to him and I start not doing as well on my own [smiles].

PB: He pumps everybody up. No matter how good they already are he makes them
even better.

EJ: Yeah, I love it! There was one gig we did, can't remember where it was,
and it was ridiculous! He came out on stage and everybody was just screaming
because he just demands it from everybody, and then after the gig I was
talking to him, hugging him, saying how great it was, and I said, "You know,
you're a great singer, Malford, but you're really letting us all down because
you just don't have any stage presence! You just get up there...you keep your
back to the audience, and your energy is so low-key. It's like you're just
asleep up there!" Just kidding him [laughs] because he knows how to bring
that to a crowd and that's really important. I wish some of that would rub
off on me.

PB: But then you wouldn't be you.

EJ: Well, I think you can do it. You just have to get un-hungup about
yourself. You have to not be self-centered. Also, sometimes it's hard because
I'm so busy trying to do pedals and so much trying to concentrate that it's
hard to do the other thing too. But I think it's essential to try to do that,
because I think it's important to have a good time, and I do have a good time
on stage, but I think sometimes people aren't aware that I am having a good
time. You've got to let people know that you're having a good time, and the
best way to do that is just to look up and smile sometimes.

Ericjohnsonfan03:
How did it feel to play with Satch, Vai and Petrucci with
G3 came to Texas?

EJ: Here in Austin? It was great! Yeah. It was intensely loud up there, I
mean, it was SO loud. I don't play soft, but the volume up there was
like...phew! I really enjoyed going out there, it was a lot of fun, but I
told the monitor guy, "OK, I'm going to go play these 3 songs, and whatever
you do, just turn the monitors off on my side of the stage" and he turned
them off, and everybody was looking over wondering "Who turned off the
monitors?" [laughs] Other than that it was great, it was fun.

Ericjohnsonfan03: Do you listen to other virtuosi/prog rockers or even own a
few of their albums?

EJ: No, not really, to be honest with you. I think that those guys can play
circles around me, and I think I have a lot to learn. I think I shred too
much on stage. I get up stage, and I solo my brains out. I try not to do that
too much on my records. I try to be a little bit more consolidated on the
records, and I think that I could stand to do a lot of adjustments on my live
shows where I don't solo so long. You can solo with the same ferocity, and
you can solo a lot but you can pull it in a little bit. I don't think I do
that live, but having said that, the irony is that if I talk in my heart of
hearts, I like to listen to songs. I like to listen to people who write
songs. I have a certain narrow window of preference as far as people who do a
lot of extended soloing goes, and it's completely just a personal preference.
There's something about the extended soloing that Clapton did in Cream; to me
it verged on being about as close as I've ever heard rock get to extended
soloing maybe by Parker or Coltrane. Not so much notationally because people
will argue, "that's jazz and that's rock", but as far as the feel...the
feel. Because it kind of bordered on that, it captured my heart and captured
my interest. It's strictly just a personal preference. It's not a comment
about music, it's just saying what I like. I think that ultimately what I'd
like is to see myself not solo quite as much live. Sometimes less is more.

When I listen to live tapes of myself, sometimes it just goes on forever, and
it would be just as good, perhaps better, if it was just pulled in a little
bit. It boils down to making more music and within that framework you can
excel on your instrument if you do it with taste, so I'm trying to learn how
to that live, well, studio too, but especially live without going overboard.
I think you lose people. I can see them in the audience. To be honest, I can
see people...their eyes get real big and they're really into it, and we've
got this thing happening and it's really cool. They're giving us energy and
we're giving it to them and it's wonderful. I feel fortunate to be part of
that. I can watch me lose them when I can go a little bit too long, and I
shift gears and go into this whole other thing where it goes on for another 5
minutes. You can see the energy change in the audience. They got taken to a
place where they want to reside, and then it's almost like at that moment you
say, "OK, let's pack the car up, we're going somewhere else" when they're
saying, "We just spent 6 hours getting to the top of the mountain. Let's stay
and look at the view". I think it's important to learn how to negotiate that
climate. I'm trying to learn to do that more.

PB: There's a short attention span.

EJ: One of my favorite groups in the world is Pat Metheny Group. I go and
hear them and I just think they're awesome! But even them, as great as they
are, if they do a two-and-a-half hour show, it's just that with my limited
attention span, it's hard to hang in there. I'm just being honest here about
an issue that I need to work on myself. I go and hear these great musicians
that I don't hold a candle to in my own book, and after listening to them for
two-and-a-half hours, I'm exhausted. Yet, it's kind of presumptuous of me to
think, "Now I'm going to play for two-and-a-half hours!" You have to learn
to negotiate that climate.

Haruko: What do you think about Dann Huff?

[Neither person present was familiar with Dann Huff.]

EJ: [laughing] I don't know, but Dan Blocker, he was a hell of a guy! I'll
tell you, when that map burned up and they came riding through that burning
map...that was something else!!

Shiozawa: Fuzz Face/Tube Driver: which do you use more frequently for solo
parts?

EJ: It's about fifty-fifty.

Shiozawa: Is it the Fuzz Face you used in the first solo in Manhattan, and
the Tube Driver in the second?

EJ: Yeah, actually I think the first solo is the Tube Screamer, but can't
remember.

Shiozawa: I've heard your Fuzz Face is brand new and the transistor has been
changed to germanium (from silicon). Is it true?

EJ: No, it's an old one.

Shiozawa: Regarding your old Stratocaster; what is the purpose of changing
the bridge of the thinnest string to the one of latest spec?

EJ: Because it has a little piece of plastic embedded in the bridge so that
the E-first is not quite as thin and twangy. It kind of balances it out with
the B a little more.

Shiozawa: Regarding the SG you brought to Japan, was it you who replaced the
input jack?

EJ: No, I think the input jack was there when I bought it.

Shiozawa: Do you know any Japanese musicians? If yes, whom would you like to
play with?

EJ: I don't know any, but I like Midori. She's a great violin player. Yo-Yo
Ma, those are the first 2 that come to mind.

Yumiko: During your stay in Japan, apart from the gigs, the most
impressive/interesting thing you saw or experienced, and the worst thing you
experienced?

EJ: The most impressive thing was how wonderful the people were, and how
appreciative. I'd like to there when I could really do it justice. The worst
thing was the jet lag. I had it so bad that I don't think I did justice to my
shows. I'd like to go over there and really do a good job.

Jeannie: Since EJ is classically trained, who are his favorite classical
guitarists, and does he still hope to put out a classical CD? "Song For
Life" is such a masterpiece. Don't forget us in Boston!

EJ: Christopher Parkening is really good. David Brandon who plays with
Christopher Parkening, the two of them together are wonderful. I got to see
Segovia live. He was awesome. Manuel Barrueco's a good player. I like
flamenco, too. One of my favorite flamenco players was Sabicas. I got to see
him live as well before he passed away, and he was just an awesome, awesome
player! That's what I mean, for somebody to say the someone's "the greatest
guitar player in the world", it's just like if you went to a nice furniture
store and looked at a dining room table, and your eyes are looking at the top
of the table, and you say, "That's the prettiest dining room table I've ever
seen!" Well, maybe so, but there are 5,000 furniture stores all over the
world. You can't really qualify a statement like that. I mean, when you talk
about Sabicas, the guy's just on another level! He's an example of somebody
on that level with the bar of integrity so high, that when Sabicas would make
a record he could walk in a studio play it once or twice and it was killer!
That's how great he was! Not to diminish anybody who has a talent because
everybody's valuable and everybody's worthwhile. It's all great. There are so
many great players.

Q: When are you coming to the UK again, and is it a coincidence that he
tours UK/Europe as frequently as he puts out a new CD?

EJ: We'd like to do a European tour, I guess it's just logistically working
it out. It's trying to get our records out over there so we have the
possibility to sell records, so that we can have a fan base, so that we can
go over there. Right now I guess we have a little bit of a fan base, but we
need somehow get it to where we at least break even when we go over to Europe.

Frank: What does he recommend doing/practicing for improvisations for solos,
etc.? How did he approach it when learning?

EJ: Practice coming up with melodies and stretch yourself to make the
melodies as interesting as possible, make them different, turn them around,
skip strings, play them slow to get a better pocket, play them fast to get a
better technique, just different permutations. That's kind of what I try to
do.

Q: Eric performed with Clink Black on Austin City Limits. I'd like to know
what Eric thinks about modern country music? Does he like it, and Nashville
(in the sense of the music industry environment, not the town itself)?

EJ: I like Bluegrass, I like Alison Krauss, I really like Nickel Creek. I
like those guys a lot, it just doesn't get any better than that. They're just
awesome.

PB: Oh yeah, the mandolin player, Chris Thile!

EJ: Oh man! What is he, about 22 years old? He's great. The new Dolly Parton
record is great, it has Nickel Creek on it. She sings the heck out of that
true Bluegrass stuff.

Brent: How about some history on the Casio synth guitar? Was it ever used on
an album? Why is there a 13-pin rather than a midi-type jack installed on the
instrument?

EJ: Because it needs to run into a midi-converter. I did use the Casio on
some stuff on Venus Isle.

Brent: How was it run live; in conjunction with EJ's clean rig or straight
into the synth module/keyboard by itself?

EJ: No, I ran it in conjunction with my whole rig.

Brent: Was it used with the Roland guitar synth that you used to endorse?

EJ: No, that was a different setup.

Q: Do you feel obligated to play certain fan favorites, such as "Cliffs",
or "Desert Rose", etc. because you don't want anyone to walk away
disappointed, or do you still play those songs because you want to play them?

EJ: Sometimes I really enjoy playing them, sometimes I play them because I
need to play them. Also you've got to build a show to try to get that impact
or interest from the crowd, and you have to think about what you have that
might do that with an audience. Short of coming up with a bunch of new tunes
that are just the mind-blowing best I've ever recorded, and have ten of them,
I've got to rely on a certain cross-section of stuff.

Q: How do you go about working up a set list? Do you ever want to pull out
some older songs, new cover tunes, etc. just to make things more interesting?

EJ: Actually Bill Maddox does a lot of the set lists. We try to get a cross-
section of older stuff/new stuff. Yeah.

Q: Do you ever listen to horn players like Coltrane or Miles Davis? Do you
have any favorite Coltrane/Davis (or other) albums, songs, solos that you
really like or influenced your music in some way?

EJ: I like the song "Naima", "Central Park", "Lush Life" is a cool record,
of course "Kind of Blue", everybody agrees is a great Miles record because
of the vibe. The magic of the vibe is so thick and heavy. It may not be the
record that he blew his brains out on, but it's just got a vibe.

Q: Who would he most like to play or appear with (not necessarily a
guitarist)?

EJ: I'd probably enjoy playing with anybody that I'm a fan of, but with some
of the ones that I like the most, it wouldn't necessarily mean that I would
contribute anything to what they do because they're just fine the way they
are. I guess it would be someone that I enjoy who I could also contribute to.

EJ: That sounded like a politician answered that question. I don't think I
answered that question at all. [smiles] Really circled the bush on that one.

Jeff Shirke: I have noticed how he effortlessly mixes (and alternates) 4
note, 5 note and 6 note runs together in his solos with impeccable timing.
How did he develop this great sense of timing and phrasing if he didn't use a
metronome? Does he think it came naturally?

EJ: Actually I do use a metronome. I started using it more in the last few years because I've had a real tendency to rush, to play up on the beat too much. Sometimes it's good to play up on the beat, it's actually better. But to blanketly, no matter what music, always play up on the beat on everything and rush is not a good thing, so I started using the metronome trying to improve that little quirk about myself. It's good to practice with a metronome.

Q: Why does EJ seem to prefer (for guitarists) odd keys such as Ab, Eb, and Bb? Do these keys sound better to him in some ways, make his music more interesting or distinctive?

EJ: I think every key has a different vibe to it, and sometimes if you just play in G and E, it's that same vibe that the guitar's been doing so much, and if you go to E-sharp it also has a little bit different effect to it.

PB: Can you tell us how you were involved in the development of the new Fulton-Webb amp?

EJ: There's a combo amp called the DR-45, the one that Bill Webb and I designed together. He basically designed it but we worked together to flesh it out and get it to sound right. It's the first new amp since the Dumble days that I'm actually excited about. I've been using it on gigs and I love it. It's great. It's a new amp and it's great. That's kind of a first for me since the Dumble amps of the mid-eighties. It's also nice because it's 45 watts and it's in a little combo, so I can cart it around. It's cool. We have another amp that we're designing. The DR-45 is basically a dirty rhythm type amp, especially made to handle the effect pedals in front of it so you can have the actual tone of the amp plus the effect pedal. A lot of amps will sound good but are not effect-friendly, so when you put stuff in front of them, they can sound kind of trashy. This amp was specifically designed to sound good as it is, and also to be very friendly to effects you put before it. We're working on a second model that's going to be more of a high-gain violin type amp, it's going to be called "The Viola". It's going to be a 50 watt combo amp made for lead tone. It should be available in the next couple of months.

Val: Which guitars does Eric have at the moment?

EJ: I don't have millions of guitars, but I have a small collection of guitars. Basically, I use a couple of maple neck Strats from the 50s, and I have a couple of Gibsons I use, mostly. The Strats are a '58 and a '57, and 1987 blue Strat that I got from Bill Maddox. That's a great-sounding guitar. I have a '64 SG and a '64 335 that I use. I've got an old Les Paul that I like, but that's pretty much it.

PB: Have you named the "Country Tune" yet?

EJ: No, I haven't.

PB: Do you play everyday or take time off?

EJ: I try to play everyday, either piano or guitar.

PB: And before a tour, rehearse everyday? Play on the bus?

EJ: Yeah, and in the hotel room some.

Rob Beard: Do you get out in Austin to see other acts much, or are there any you'd like to see?

EJ: Yeah, the one that I want to get out and see that I haven't seen yet, is Redd Volkaert.