Articles on this Page
- 10/24/14--07:16: _Extreme Harmonics L...
- 10/24/14--07:38: _Foo Fighters Premie...
- 10/24/14--07:51: _Tab Book: Learn to ...
- 10/24/14--07:54: _Jim Dunlop Effect P...
- 10/24/14--08:35: _Stevie Ray Vaughan ...
- 10/24/14--10:09: _TWA Releases Little...
- 10/24/14--11:49: _‘Rock & Roll Baby’:...
- 10/24/14--12:23: _DEC3: Guitarist Jon...
- 10/24/14--12:28: _Guitar World DVD: L...
- 10/24/14--12:33: _Review: Lace Pickup...
- 10/24/14--13:45: _Led Zeppelin, "Babe...
- 10/25/14--09:53: _Cream Bassist Jack ...
- 10/26/14--02:56: _Strange Brew: Jack ...
- 10/26/14--06:03: _Sunday Strum, Episo...
- 10/27/14--09:21: _Exodus Premiere "Bl...
- 10/27/14--09:55: _David Gilmour Discu...
- 10/27/14--10:55: _Soundgarden Premier...
- 10/27/14--11:06: _The New Basement Ta...
- 10/27/14--12:09: _Take the Led Zeppel...
- 10/27/14--14:32: _'Lost in the Dream'...
- 10/24/14--07:38: Foo Fighters Premiere New Song, "The Feast and The Famine"— Listen
- 10/24/14--07:51: Tab Book: Learn to Play Andy McKee's 'Art of Motion' Album
- 10/24/14--10:09: TWA Releases Little Dipper Mk II Envelope-Controlled Formant Filter
- 10/24/14--12:33: Review: Lace Pickups USA Ultra Slim Acoustic Sensor Pickup — Video
- 10/25/14--09:53: Cream Bassist Jack Bruce Dead at 71
- 10/26/14--06:03: Sunday Strum, Episode 16: Swinging Eighth Notes –– Lesson
- 10/27/14--09:21: Exodus Premiere "Blood In, Blood Out" Music Video
- 10/27/14--10:55: Soundgarden Premiere New Song, "Storm"— Listen
Since we guitarists tend to enjoy sick sounds, we thought we'd share this lesson video by Swedish guitar whiz Mattias Eklundh.
In the clip, which is titled "Harmonics #5," Eklundh lays down some basics about how harmonics work.
Then, starting around 1:31, 2:15 and (especially) 2:45, things start getting freaky, courtesy of some extreme—even dissonant—harmonics.
As always, check out the video and try to incorporate Eklundh's methods into your own playing. (I mean, if you're into that sort of thing, of course.)
If you'd like to hear more of Eklundh's playing, be sure to watch this demo video of Caparison Guitars' eight-string AH8 model, which we posted in June.
For more about Eklundh, visit the appropriately named freakguitar.com.
Foo Fighters have premiered a new song, "The Feast and the Famine," and you can hear it below.
The track is from the band's new album, Sonic Highways, which will be released November 10.
The eight-part Sonic Highways TV series, which documents the making of the album, premiered October 17 on HBO.
Dave Grohl interviewed several artists for the series, including Slash, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, LL Cool J, Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Pharrell Williams, Joan Jett, Rick Nielsen, Paul Stanley, Joe Walsh, Billy Gibbons, Macklemore, Buddy Guy and President Barack Obama.
"The Feast and the Famine" follows "Something from Nothing," another track from the new album, which we premiered last week.
The tab book — Andy McKee: Art of Motion — is available now at the Guitar World Online Store.
The book features a dozen tracks from the 2005 album by this acclaimed folk fingerstyle guitarist in standard notation and tab, including:
• Art of Motion
• For My Father
• Heather's Song
• Into the Ocean
• Keys to the Hovercar
... and more!
This 112-page book is available now at the Guitar World Online Store for $22.99.
It's time to compare the mettle of Jim Dunlop pedals!
In GuitarWorld.com's latest readers poll — the first annual Jim Dunlop Effect Pedal Throwdown — we're pitting Dunlop, MXR and Way Huge pedals against each other in a no-holds-barred shootout.
Yes, we're pulling out all the stomps! Thirty-two stompboxes will go head to head — or toe to toe, if you prefer — culminating with the crowning of the king of Dunlop pedals.
You can check out the beginning bracket — with all 32 competing pedals — in the Scribd.com window below (Be sure to click on the "full screen" button in the lower-right-hand corner to expand the bracket).
The bracket will be updated after every matchup, and matchups will take place pretty much every day. Each competing pedal will accompanied by a demo video created by the Jim Dunlop company, and you'll always find a photo gallery of the competing pedals at the bottom of each matchup.
In today's matchup, the MXR M104 Distortion+ goes foot to foot against the MXR M116 Fullbore Metal pedal. Start voting below!
YESTERDAY'S RESULTS: Yesterday, the M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay (71.22 percent) destroyed the MXR M117R Flanger (28.78 percent) and advanced to the next round! To see all the matchups that have taken place so far, head HERE. Thanks for voting!
Meet the Combatants
This little yellow box is responsible for those great distortion sounds heard on so many classic recordings. Set the Distortion control low and crank the Output knob to drive the front end of your amp for cool blues tones, or max out the Distortion knob for classic early ’80s hard rock tone. There still isn't any distortion unit on the market that sounds like the Distortion+.
"When I was 15, I first arrived at my potential sound with an MXR Distortion+, a Memphis LP copy and a Fender Princeton amp."— Slash
Ultimate riff power is yours with the Fullbore Metal Distortion pedal from MXR. This compact but powerful device is all you need to unleash the most devastating contemporary metal guitar tones ever heard. The Fullbore Metal turbo-charges your guitar signal with lethal amounts of ultra high gain. This is combined with a built-in Noise Gate to knock out the noise associated with extreme gain levels while also adding definition and tightness to syncopated metal riffs.
Twenty-five years ago this week, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Beck kicked off their one and only tour together.
The trek, dubbed "The Fire Meets the Fury," kicked off October 25, 1989, in Minneapolis and wrapped up December 3 in Oakland.
I was lucky enough to catch one particularly awesome show during that tour — November 11, 1989, at New York City's Madison Square Garden. I'll never forget it for three three reasons:
01. The drunk guy behind me threw up about an inch behind my left ear. My brother saw happen it but didn't tell me. Probably a good move!
02. It was the last time I ever saw Vaughan in concert. He was gone by the following August.
03. It was the only time I'd seen Vaughan play "Going Down," a catchy Moloch/Don Nix tune made famous-ish by Freddie King and recorded by Beck for his 1972 Jeff Beck Group album.
Below, you can check out a performance of "Going Down" from this tour — October 28 at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. We like it for several reasons (Come on, it's Vaughan and Beck on stage together!); mainly, however, we love that Beck turns it into a legit shootout, as he often did in the Eighties, never wanting to be outdone, even for laughs.
So, to put it plainly, Vaughan's kick-ass guitar solo is followed by Beck's kick-ass guitar solo.
Godlyke has announced the release of the TWA LD-02 Little Dipper Mk II.
From the company:
The Little Dipper is an envelope-controlled vocal formant filter based on a classic Seventies circuit. Its dual filters react to playing dynamics, creating peaks and notches that simulate the vowel sounds of human speech.
The Little Dipper can emulate talk boxes, wah-wahs, filters and phase shifters, all with strikingly realistic vocal qualities. A built-in fuzz circuit emphasizes harmonics for a more dramatic effect while dry blend and noise gate controls provide a full-frequency response with low-noise operation.
The Little Dipper Mk II features the following:
• Ascension control adjusts strength of filtering effect
• Diffraction control adjust strength of fuzz effect
• 5-way Inclination slider selects vocal formant effect
• 7-way Occultation rotary switch offers several EQ and filter timing variations
• Low Boost switch for increased low frequency response
• Internal Dry Blend trim pot
• Internal Noise Gate trim pot
• Internal Output Level trim pot
• Expression pedal input for outboard control of Ascension pot
• External 9 VDC power required (no battery option)
• Proprietary S3 “Shortest Send Switching” relay-based True Bypass switching
• “Ursa Minor” status LED array
• 3-year warranty
• Made in USA
• Street Price $299
For more info on Totally Wycked Audio products, visit godlyke.com.
There’s a seductive passion and feel in Malina Moye’s guitar playing, as evidenced by her insanely good new EP, Rock & Roll Baby, which was released October 14.
From the infectious, funk-inspired single "K-yotic" (which features Bootsy Collins) to her take on the Jimi Hendrix classic “Foxey Lady,"Rock & Roll Baby is a high-octane experience of blues power.
In addition to being an in demand performer on her own, Moye also has taken part in the Experience Hendrix Tour alongside guitar greats Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. She also had the distinct privilege of honoring the Queen of England’s 60-year reign by performing her own rendition of "God Save the Queen."
I recently spoke with Moye about her new album, her gear and more.
GUITAR WORLD: How would you describe Rock & Roll Baby?
It’s an in-your-face combination of Led Zeppelin meets Sly and the Family Stone, with a little bit of Hendrix thrown in. I love real music and the feeling it gives you. As a guitar player, I love the freedom of being able to express who I am in my solos. This is me, and this album is what I’m about.
What’s your songwriting process like?
It varies. Sometimes I’ll be on an acoustic and be messing around with riffs. Other times I’ll hear melody in my head and sing it into my phone so I can go back to it later. Then I’ll pick up my guitar and start putting the pieces together. Music can literally speak to you. It will tell you what it has to say. You just have to be open to it.
Let’s talk about a few tracks off the album, beginning with “K-yotic." What was is like working with Boosty Collins?
Bootsy is incredible. What I love the most about him is how he’s able to spontaneously come up with ideas. I was messing around on the track, jamming, when the idea of having him on it came to me. I remember I sent the track over to him and said, “Hey, tell me what you think of this.” A short while later, he sends me a new track back with a note that said, “This is what I think of it!” [laughs]. It was hot!
I’m a huge fan of that song. Out of all of Hendix’s amazing works, that’s the one that really speaks to me the most. We started experimenting with different tone and amp combinations on it. I really wanted to incorporate some of that classic rock feeling. Keeping the blueprint of the record but still making it my own.
That’s another one of my favorites. It’s a song I wrote when I was going through a really bad time in my life. Nothing seemed to be working and I literally remember writing that song in five minutes. It was therapeutic. There was no real intention when I wrote it. It was just something that I had to get out.
Did you always know music would be your calling?
I grew up surrounded by music. My dad played with Bernard Allison and my mom was a background singer who did a lot of work with Tina Turner. It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do.
Can you tell me a little about how music played a big role in your growing up?
Music was everything in our household. I remember always telling my cousins that we had to practice so my mom and dad would hire us and let us perform on their shows, but all they wanted to watch cartoons [laughs]. But I was determined to get a head start on this and was pretty obsessed, even at a very young age. Though I was only 10 years old, my parents made me believe and realize it was all attainable and a part of life. We were in major recording studios all the time, and I was a sponge soaking it all up.
Who were some of your influences coming up?
I always connected to the tone, phrasing, and feel of artists like Prince, Eric Clapton, Hendrix and Robert Cray. They all made me feel emotions.
What can you tell me about your setup?
My setup is pretty simple. The amp I use is a Fender Hot Rod DeVille 212, and my pedals include a Dunlop Cry Baby Wah and Boss Blues Driver and Delay. My Strat is all custom with DiMarzio pickups. It’s a left-handed body with right-handed headstock. I also use different gauges with the strings, depending on the song.
What do you want people to take away from Rock & Roll Baby?
I’m excited for people to hear and appreciate the unique sound we’ve created and know that it's in its purest form. I can’t wait to get back on tour and meet everyone and just play. That's really what it's about! The music, the notes and the magic!
For more info, visit malinamoye.com.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.
It might've been a long time coming, but guitarist Jon Haber has finally managed to achieve a goal he’s had since he was 6.
Haber spent much of the early Eighties in a regionally successful band before switching gears to start the successful Alto Music chain.
Haber, who never lost his knack for songwriting, finally got back on the other side of the counter as musician, songwriter and producer to release his first album, DEC3 (pronounced "deck three").
With influences that include the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Foreigner, DEC3’s debut is an inspired blend of tasty playing, catchy melodies and memorable choruses. Joining Haber for DEC3 are longtime collaborators Chris Saulpaugh (vocals) and Mike Kalajian (drummer).
I recently caught up with Haber to ask him about DEC3 and what satisfies him the most about making his musical dream come true.
GUITAR WORLD: What sparked the DEC3 album project?
I think it’s a crime if you’re able to do something you love and then not do it. No matter what it is. Things might get in the way when you pursue your passion, but you only get one chance in this life. So about a year ago, I decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do, and that was to write and record a real record.
Tell me a little about your Eighties band. How close were you to making it to the next level of success?
At that time we had management representing us and were playing some really big clubs in the city. Unfortunately, we were more into partying and having a good time then honing our craft. We definitely had interest, but that’s where it really stopped.
What made you decide to switch gears and start your own business?
I had always worked in music stores, and after six years of gigging and the band becoming stagnant I thought it was time for a change. So I started focusing every possible ounce of energy (and still do) into growing the business into what it is today.
Where did you get your ideas for the songs on DEC3?
Whenever I get an idea for a title or a snippet of a song, I’ll plug it into my iPhone. What usually gets me going first is a good melody and chord change. Lyrics are also very important. I think when you have good music and the lyrics are just as good, it gives the song more longevity past that first listen. It makes the whole thing better.
Let’s talk a little about the songs on the album. What can you tell me about “Put Some South in Your Mouth”?
That was the last song we recorded. I remember I was out jogging in the city one day and ran up a side street. I saw this huge sign on a barbecue place where the slogan read, “Put some south in yo’ mouth!” I thought, “Man, what a great title!” I went right back home and wrote the song.
What inspired you to write “Red Line”?
I was following what was going on in the news about Syria and how the leader of the country [Bashar al-Assad] was gassing his own people. It was such an outrageous act and something that should have stopped after World War I. Then I watched our government and the British government threatening to do something about it. Telling Assad that if he ever used chemical weapons on his own people again, that would be crossing a "red line" and we would take action. Of course, we didn’t take any action. So I put myself in the shoes of someone living there whose last hope is for the world to come and help them — and then it doesn’t happen.
What first got you involved in music?
When I was growing up I used to play Wiffle Ball with a kid who lived down the block. One day, he started talking to me about the Beatles. So I went back to my mom and asked if she had any of their albums. She had three, but the one I played the most was Meet the Beatles. I played that record non-stop and immediately started taking guitar lessons.
What’s the most rewarding thing about your job at Alto Music?
The most rewarding thing is being around music. I get to be surrounded by Les Pauls, Martins and PRS Guitars all day long. I also get to see a lot of talent come into my store. When Gavin DeGraw was 11, he would come in to my keyboard room every Saturday and sing Billy Joel songs. To see stuff like that is very rewarding.
What satisfies you the most about the DEC3 album?
This is a really strong collection of songs that appeals to a lot of different styles of music. I’m hoping this record provides the motivation to keep moving forward. Life is what you make of it. I put out a record that I’m very proud of and hope it will be a catalyst that will inspire others to do the things they’re capable of.
For more information, visit dec3band.com.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.
Want to expand and diversify your guitar skills and repertoire?
Guitar World's new 50 Expert Guitar Licks DVD helps you do it with great guitar phrases written and presented by some of the biggest virtuosos in rock, metal, shred, prog, fusion and other styles, including Joe Satriani, Marty Friedman, Alex Skolnick, Gus G and Guitar World's own resident expert, senior music editor Jimmy Brown.
Each lick includes tab, a written explanation to guide you through the lick and — best of all — video from the artist who created it.
50 Expert Guitar Licks is the most comprehensive instructional course of its kind.
• Michael Angelo Batio
• Jimmy Brown
• Zane Carney (John Mayer)
• Mike Errico
• Marty Friedman
• Gus G (Ozzy Osbourne)
• Joel Hoekstra (Night Ranger)
• Joel Kosche (Collective Soul)
• Jeff Loomis (Nevermore)
• Rob Math (Leatherwolf)
• Gary Potter
• Glenn Proudfoot
• Dave Reffett
• Joe Satriani
• Alex Skolnick (Testament)
• Andy Timmons
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the December 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store.
For those of us who dabble on resonator guitars, finding a way to amplify the distinctive sound of these wood- or metal-bodied instruments can be a challenge.
Resonator guitars have traditionally been built without electronics because they are designed to be loud enough for acoustic duties, thanks to their intricate metal-cone soundboards that project the instrument’s uniquely complex tone. But if you’re trying to compete with amplified instruments, you’ll invariably want to add a pickup to your resonator.
Unfortunately, many aftermarket resonator pickups require professional installation, but thankfully, Lace Music makes the process easy with its USA Ultra Slim Acoustic Sensor pickup. Anyone can mount the pickup within seconds on most resonator guitars and enjoy amplified tone that is round and clear, with absolutely no noise.
In this video from the vast Guitar World archives, Andy Aledort shows you how to play "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," a track from Led Zeppelin's debut 1969 album.
An acoustic masterpiece, this song features a bittersweet circular chord progression presented as ringing, fingerpicked arpeggios. Particularly noteworthy is the way Jimmy Page spins numerous subtle melodic variations on the theme throughout the song (check out the one at 3:40 in the original recording), sweetening the aural pot with dramatic dynamic contrasts.
This might be one of the most perfectly recorded and mixed acoustic guitar tracks ever. Notice how, in the song’s intro, the “dry” (up-front and un-effected) acoustic guitar is in the left channel while the right channel is mostly “wet,” saturated in cavernous reverb.
Jack Bruce, best known as the bassist in Sixties supergroup Cream, has died. He was 71.
The news came via Bruce's Facebook page earlier today:
"It is with great sadness that we, Jack’s family, announce the passing of our beloved Jack: husband, father, granddad, and all round legend. The world of music will be a poorer place without him, but he lives on in his music and forever in our hearts," the Bruce family wrote. Bruce's publicist later added, "He died today at his home in Suffolk surrounded by his family."
While no other details have been revealed, the Press Association reports Bruce suffered from liver disease.
Although guitarist Eric Clapton was Cream's biggest star, Bruce sang most of the band's classic tracks, including "White Room,""SWLABR,""Tales of Brave Ulysses,""Spoonful,""N.S.U." and "Sunshine of Your Love," which Bruce co-wrote — and sang, as a duet — with Clapton. Drummer Ginger Baker made up the final third of Cream.
"I am very sad to learn of the loss of a fine man, Jack Bruce," wrote Baker on the Ginger Baker Official Fan Page on Facebook. "My thoughts and wishes are with his family at this difficult time."
Cream released four studio albums between 1966 and 1969 — Fresh Cream (1966), Disraeli Gears (1967), Wheels of Fire (1968) and Goodbye (1969). The band disbanded after their farewell show at London's Royal Albert Hall on November 26, 1968.
Cream reunited in 1993 for their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and in 2005 for a series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and New York City's Madison Square Garden. In 2006, the band received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
After Cream's initial breakup in 1968, Bruce kicked off a solo career with 1969's Songs of a Tailor, which featured contributions from the Beatles' George Harrison, who also co-wrote "Badge," a track on Cream's final album. Bruce released more than a dozen solo albums over the next 45 years, including 2014's Silver Rails.
"I quite like to just enjoy my life," Bruce told Rolling Stone in April. "I'm thrilled to make this album. I put my heart and soul into it, and I'm very pleased with the way it came out."
Bruce was born May 14, 1943, in Bishopbriggs, Lanarkshire, U.K. In 1962, he joined the London-based Blues Incorporated, in which he played upright bass. In 1963, the group broke up and Bruce formed the Graham Bond Quartet with Bond, Baker and guitarist John McLaughlin.
After he left the band in 1965, he released a solo single, "I'm Gettin Tired," and briefly joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, which featured Clapton. After his stint with the Bluesbreakers, Bruce tasted commercial success as a member of Manfred Mann; their song "Pretty Flamingo" reached Number 1 in the U.K. singles chart in 1966.
While he was with Manfred Mann, Bruce collaborated with Clapton as a member of the Powerhouse, which recorded a version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" upon which Cream's famous live version was based. Bruce formed Cream with Clapton and Bruce in 1966.
After Cream and during his solo years, Bruce joined several short-lived bands, including another supergroup, BBM (Bruce-Baker-Moore). The band, which released one Cream-inspired studio album in 1994, featured Bruce, Baker and guitarist Gary Moore.
Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker gave birth to the power trio, redefined rock improvisation and sold millions of albums. For all their success, nothing could stop the Cream from curdling.
The year was 1968, and guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker were sitting on top of the world.
Or so it seemed. In three short years, their band, Cream, had recorded a slew of brilliant hit singles, sold an astonishing 15 million records and redefined the role of the instrumentalist in rock.
Their concerts, which usually sold out immediately, had become legendary for the trio’s ferocious virtuosity and wild, blues-based improvisations that exploded with a jazzy sense of adventure.
But all was not well in Cream. The problem, it was whispered, was ego. And as the individual musicians’ reputations grew and heads swelled, their amp rigs ballooned accordingly.
“Cream’s last year was extremely painful for me,” recalls Baker. “When we started in 1966, Eric and Jack had one Marshall each. Then it became a stack, then a double stack and finally a triple stack. By 1968, I was just the poor bastard stuck in the middle of these incredible noise-making things. It was ridiculous.
“I used to get back to the hotel and my ears were roaring. That final year damaged my hearing. The incredible volume was one of the things that destroyed the band. Playing loud had nothing to do with music. There was, in fact, one gig where Eric and I stopped playing for two choruses. Jack didn’t even know. Standing in front of his triple stack of Marshalls, he was making so much noise he couldn’t tell.”
But while the band came to a crashing halt after three volatile years, it’s nearly impossible to exaggerate the importance of Cream. They were rock’s first power trio: they gave birth to the notion of the “rock virtuoso,” laid the foundation for heavy metal, and inspired several generations of bands, from Black Sabbath to Van Halen to Smashing Pumpkins. And while they are best remembered for their sophisticated instrumental work, Cream also recorded some remarkable pop singles, including “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room” and “Badge.”
Cream came together in mid 1966 when Baker left the respected British rhythm-and-blues ensemble Graham Bond Organization, Bruce (formerly of Graham Bond) left Manfred Mann, and Eric Clapton, already a legend in Britain, left John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.
The group’s formation was set in motion by Baker, who reached out to Clapton and won him over with his grand vision of “becoming the biggest pop group in the world.”
“I had always liked Ginger,” explained Clapton. “Ginger had come to see me play with John Mayall. After the gig, he drove me back to London in his Rover. I was very impressed with his car and his driving. He was telling me that he wanted to start a band, and I had been thinking about it too. It was a sort of coincidence— synchronicity, really. We were thinking the same thing at the same time.”
Clapton agreed to join Baker’s new group, but he unwittingly threw a wrench into the drummer’s plans. Clapton made a special request that Jack Bruce be recruited as the group’s bassist. Clapton had briefly played with Bruce at the tail end of his tenure with John Mayall and came away impressed by the bassist’s skill. Unbeknownst to Clapton, Baker and Bruce were like oil and water. The relationship had proven to be so turbulent that Bruce, uncomfortable with Baker, had left the Graham Bond Organization even as their fortunes were rising.
So eager was Baker to form a partnership with Clapton that, despite his misgivings, he agreed to have Bruce come aboard. Clapton, still unaware of the tension between his new bandmates, witnessed its volatile nature at the new group’s first get–together.
“We had our first talk-through rehearsal at Ginger’s house in Neesden,” remembered Clapton. “Those two had an argument right away. Jack had done an interview and let the cat out of the bag about the band. Ginger was upset about that, and the [argument] went along the lines of, ‘There you go, you’ve done it again!’
“I thought, Wait, there’s something going back here that I’m not aware of. The ‘you’ve done it again’ implied that this was sort of a pattern that existed before I knew either of them.”
Dubbed the Cream by Eric Clapton, with a nod to their much-heralded reputations as soloists, the group accepted an invitation to perform at the July 1966 Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival. Barely a month old and with precious few original songs to their credit, Cream performed spirited blues reworkings that thrilled the large crowd and earned them a warm reception.
The group expanded its budding European following on the strength of the singles “Wrapping Paper” and “I Feel Free,” and Fresh Cream, its impressive 1966 debut album.
In America, Cream took longer to take hold. Despite the enduring popularity of songs such as “White Room” and “Crossroads,” the group was hardly an overnight sensation. It arrived with little fanfare, and Fresh Cream struggled to find an audience. There was no Ed Sullivan Show, no Monterey Pop Festival—just hard work and a grinding tour itinerary filled with small club and college dates.
With the release of 1967’s Disraeli Gears, however, the group’s popularity exploded. Aided initially by “underground” FM radio airplay, Cream received an enormous boost when AM Top 40 radio, which had shunned the group as too hard and psychedelic, jumped on the bandwagon. That acceptance and exposure helped make “Sunshine of Your Love,” the group’s signature song, the largest selling single in the history of Atlantic Records up to that time.
Cream’s adventurous music directly reflected the incredible confidence each member had in his own abilities. The group successfully blended a variety of influences spanning Delta blues, avant-garde poetry and psychedelic pop while forging a unique sound and style. Heartened by their success, Cream followed Disraeli Gears in grand fashion with the lavish, 1968 double album Wheels of Fire. While Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention had previously established the viability of double records for rock artists, Cream’s ambitious marriage of freewheeling studio recordings and raw live performances shot to the top of the charts.
On the surface, Cream was one hot and happy band. Unfortunately, despite their staggering success, they routinely teetered on the edge of destruction. The clashes between Baker and Bruce worsened and soon ensnared Clapton. By the time Goodbye, their fourth album, was issued in 1969, the group had, in November 1968, already celebrated its farewell via a filmed finale at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Cream were finished, and neither Baker, Bruce nor Clapton could summon the energy to resolve their differences.
As Clapton told Guitar World in 1994, “It was very intense; it actually seems like we were together for four or five years, but in fact it was very short. My overall feeling about it now is that it was a glorious mistake. I had a completely different idea of what it would be before I started it, and it ended up being a wonderful thing, but nothing like it was meant to be.
“It was meant to be a blues trio. I just didn’t have the assertiveness to take control. Jack and Ginger were the powerful, dominant personalities in the band; they sort of ran the show and I just played. In the end, I just went with the flow and I enjoyed it greatly, but it wasn’t anything like I expected at all.”
In 1997, around the time of the Complete Cream four-CD box set release, Guitar World caught up with Bruce and Baker, who had apparently resolved their longstanding differences to the point where they could discuss Cream and their friend Eric Clapton. Joining them were Cream lyricist Pete Brown and producer/engineer Tom Dowd.
GUITAR WORLD: Whose idea was it to form Cream?
JACK BRUCE Forming Cream was absolutely Ginger’s idea. He asked Eric to join, and then Eric suggested that they get me to sing and play bass. I had only sung one or two numbers with Graham Bond, but Eric could see that there was some potential there. Ginger then had to come and ask me—which I thoroughly enjoyed!
Ginger, when did you become convinced of Cream’s potential?
GINGER BAKER I knew we had something special from the very first time we played together. We got together at my little maisonette on Braymore Avenue, in back of which was a park where all the local kids used to play. It was summer and, as we played anyway, the kids congregated on this little hill behind my place were boogying. They really enjoyed the music. It was total magic immediately. We were three people made to play with each other.
What happened next?
BRUCE There was a kind of plan in place when we started. We did some rehearsals in a church hall, learning how to play with each other. We were trying out songs and preparing for a couple of shows, including an unannounced gig at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester.
BAKER Cream went straight onto the same club circuit that Graham Bond had been doing. I went to Graham’s booking agent, Robert Masters, and said, “Look, you’ve got to charge more money.” Masters said that no one would pay it, but I insisted that we be paid 45 pounds a gig instead of the 40 pounds that Graham was getting, and everybody paid it!
I had to keep prompting them to ask for more money, and every time they did, people would pay it. The band’s reputation was huge before it was formed, really.
When did the group begin to stand on its own?
BAKER When Cream started to get going, our manager, Robert Stigwood, was paying a lot of attention to the Bee Gees. He would be taking out huge ads in [the British music magazine] Melody Maker for them, while the Cream would get a two-line mention. Stigwood was convinced that the Bee Gees were going to be the biggest hit of the Sixties. I don’t think he really started to get behind Cream until Fresh Cream was released in the U.S. by Atco. When the first album went into the charts in America—albeit at something like No. 198 or whatever— Stigwood was flabbergasted. Eric, Jack and I were convinced. We knew what we had. But I don’t think Stigwood came around until he saw that we might actually make some money.
It was pretty obvious that Cream was something special. I had been playing the circuit for three years with the Graham Bond Organization, and we would draw an average of 800 people for a big pub gig. When we went out with Cream to the same places, there was suddenly 1,500 people. The places were packed solid and there was often as many people outside gigs as there were inside. The venues just weren’t big enough to let all the people in.
What was the first original Cream song developed by the group?
BRUCE When Cream got started, I began to think about writing singles. I was very enamored of the Beatles, like everybody else at the time. I was impressed by what they were doing with their two-and- a-half-minute singles. However, what I came up with instead was “N.S.U.,” which was pretty freewheeling. It was unusual because of the length between the verses, but I was quite pleased with it.
Besides writing original material, you were also busy reinterpreting a series of blues masterworks, which became a major component of Cream’s repertoire.
BRUCE Because of the interaction between the three of us, our version of the blues just naturally took on a different structure. “I’m So Glad,” written by Skip James, was one of the first examples, and certainly Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” was something that we made our own.
At that time, bands like John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Fleetwood Mac were trying to recreate the sounds of Chicago blues. Doing that was completely valid, but it was just something I didn’t want to do. Those original blues records had been done so well, which meant you could only ever be second best. But, if you treated those songs with a great deal of love and respect, you could remake them into your own. When we later got to meet people like Muddy Waters in Chicago, they were knocked out by our approach and how highly we regarded their music.
How did lyricist Pete Brown, who was responsible for the words of songs like “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” become part of the creative team?
BAKER We needed someone to help us with songwriting, and Pete Brown immediately came to mind because I had played some gigs that fused jazz and poetry. As the jazz players sat onstage, the poets would come up and read their work in front of the audience. Pete Brown was one of the poets I really liked.
BRUCE Yeah, I was sort of given Pete Brown by Ginger. Ginger and Pete were at my flat, trying to work on a song, but it wasn’t happening. My wife Janet then got with Ginger, and they wrote “Sweet Wine” while I started working with Pete.
PETE BROWN I received a call from Ginger, who said that his group had completed a song but needed to have words. I didn’t really like rock and roll at that time. I didn’t even like the Beatles—I just couldn’t understand it. I was an avid jazz and blues fan. I had loved the Graham Bond Organization because it was made up of all these elements that I enjoyed.
Based on my admiration for the Organization, I went to see Cream, not knowing what I was about to get into. I knew something about song form, not very much, but I had listened to a great deal of music and developed good ears. Jack played me his song, and I understood the shape and rhythmic organization. I proceeded to unload every cinematic image that I had ever stored into this song. For some reason, he actually accepted it and the song became “Wrapping Paper,” the band’s first single.
So “Wrapping Paper” was the first successful Bruce/Brown composition?
BRUCE Yeah. But I’m not sure that we actually “succeeded” with “Wrapping Paper.” What I was trying to do musically was play with people’s expectations of us as a blues band. It is a blues song, but it doesn’t have very obvious blues changes.
BAKER In retrospect, “Wrapping Paper” was pretty pathetic. [laughs] Especially when the credit came out as Bruce/Brown. We had all been involved in that. It was an attempt to do something really pop-styled. The whole object of Cream was to become a huge pop band.
How did you feel about your next single, “I Feel Free”?
BRUCE I was quite pleased with the way that “I Feel Free” turned out. Even though I hadn’t had much experience in recording studios prior to Cream, I had very definite musical ideas about the songs I had written. I wrote all of “I Feel Free” out on paper, because that was the way I was still working in those days. Because of my classical background, it was easier for me to write things down and then try to realize them in the studio. I know that Ginger thought the song could have been recorded better, and we recut it, but after a little—shall we say—"discussion,” it was agreed that we might end up losing what we liked by trying it again.
What was it like recording Fresh Cream?
BAKER We recorded the first album very quickly. It took something like 10 days. We were in complete control of our destiny. Robert Stigwood [credited as the album’s producer] was rarely there at the start of the sessions. He turned up when the album was nearly finished.
The first album was something I was completely pleased with, to be quite frank. A lot of that album was made up of blues things that Eric brought to the table, like “Cat’s Squirrel” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” We played those numbers live from the outset, and they always got the public going.
What do you remember about Cream’s first American tour?
BAKER We were playing mostly at colleges for what seemed like extremely small money—only about three thousand bucks a gig. The first place we ever played was Murray the K’s “Music in the Fifth Dimension” show in New York, and it was a fiasco. Murray was an influential New York DJ who put together these huge package shows that would feature dozens of bands. They wanted us to play three numbers and thought it would only take three minutes!
There were supposed to be four shows a night, and on the first night there was only time for three. The Who were also on the bill, and the show ran over by something like 80 minutes. Murray the K was freaking out. After the second show, he came to our dressing room to try to get us to cut down our set. I was lying under the table, having consumed a bottle of Baccardi. Murray saw me and said, “How’s he gonna play?” I told him not to worry about me.
BRUCE It was very bizarre. The complete show by all the artists was only supposed to last two hours. We had been given three songs and were buried at the bottom of the bill. After the first show, we were cut back to “I’m So Glad.” Then they wanted us to cut the length of that! Meanwhile, the spot for the Jackie the K Dancers, led by Murray’s wife, seemed to get longer and longer. It was so wild that Murray the K had security guards to keep us in the building. That was our introduction to New York and the United States.
What do you recall about engineering Cream’s second album, Disraeli Gears?
TOM DOWD I got a call from [Atlantic Records label chief] Ahmet Ertegun late one afternoon, asking me to record a group that Robert Stigwood had sent over from England. Ahmet told me to get whatever I could out of them before their visas expired. When I arrived at the studio the next morning, the roadies were loading in these double stacks of Marshall cabinets and double-bass drums, and I thought, What the hell is this? I hadn’t known anything about them except the fact that they were a three-piece and that two of the three could sing lead.
In addition to Tom, Felix Pappalardi, the late bassist and songwriter, made significant contributions to the group’s sound. How did Felix get involved?
BAKER That came about during Disraeli Gears. We had no real game plan for making the album. The first thing we cut was the traditional blues “Hey Lawdy Mama,” and Felix was at the session as a guest of Ahmet Ertegun. At the end of the session, he asked if he could take a copy of the tape away to write some words for it. He came back the next day with “Strange Brew.” Felix got Eric to sing the lead because he had done so for “Hey Lawdy Mama.” All of this didn’t go down so well with Jack, because he considered himself to be the lead vocalist.
Anyway, Eric and I were both very impressed with Felix. We had some discussions with Ahmet and Tom Dowd and afterward got Felix to come in and produce the album. He got very involved musically. Ahmet was also at the studio almost every day. I was also extremely impressed with Tom Dowd, who was an absolutely amazing engineer. Actually, he wasn’t just an engineer—it was like having another musician around.
DOWD Felix usually sat out in the studio while I was recording in the control room—especially during playbacks. He would point out certain things to each band member where he felt improvements could be made. There was a lot of dialog between Felix and the three of them. Some of it was specific to the session, but it also included exposing them to the styles of different artists and sounds.
How did “Sunshine of Your Love” develop?
BRUCE Pete Brown and I had been working all night, trying to write stuff, and we hadn’t got anywhere. I picked up my double bass and played the riff. Pete looked out the window, saw that the sun was coming up, and wrote, “It’s getting near dawn/And lights closed their tired eyes…”
BROWN Eric added the hook. Funny enough, I never liked it, although it makes a lot of sense, musically. I didn’t like the title, “Sunshine of Your Love.” I suppose, though, that it hit the mark with so many people because it was such a broad idea. In the long run, thank you, Eric! But in the short term, I must admit I was pretty miserable about it.
BRUCE I knew “Sunshine of Your Love” was going to go over well because both Booker T. Jones [keyboard player of Booker T. & the MGs] and Otis Redding heard it and told me it was going to be a smash. Their opinions really meant a lot to me.
Where did Cream’s tradition of long, extended individual solos first take root?
BRUCE When we started out, a typical rock band set lasted only 45 minutes. When we got to the Fillmore West, in San Francisco, the audience wanted us to stretch out. I remember them shouting, “Just play!” That’s exactly when we started to play longer. It became a kind of trademark for us, which, in a way, was a mixed blessing. It was very difficult to do every time we played, and it took its toll. I used to think of it like the Who smashing their instruments: it’s expensive to have to do that night after night. For us to have to do very long improvisations every night was expensive on our brains!
The Wheels of Fire sessions in June 1968 were really productive and yielded a number of classic Cream songs. How did “White Room” evolve?
BRUCE I had written words to the song—almost scat words— which started off about cycling through France. I had a definite idea about the feeling I wanted the song to have, and Pete came up with a set of lyrics. Together, we rewrote and rewrote until we had something we were both very happy with.
BROWN My draft of “White Room” started its life as an eight-page poem. Because I had had some spurious journalistic training at college, I was able to pare my eight-page poem to a single page of lyrics.
BRUCE Musically, “White Room” was inspired by Jimi Hendrix. Jimi had a way of using chord changes and taking traditional ideas and modernizing them. He was a big fan of the band, and we certainly loved his music.
The acoustic “As You Said,” from Wheels of Fire, was an interesting departure for the band.
BRUCE I wanted Eric to play guitar on that track, but he encouraged me to do it. I was always embarrassed about my acoustic guitar playing—especially having Eric Clapton in the band. But [folk singer] Richie Havens showed me this great opening tuning, and I wanted that guitar sound on the track. When I had the music completed, I went to Pete. He had these words already written which fit right on top of what we had done. It was perfect.
“Politician” is another memorable track from those sessions.
BRUCE We were scheduled to perform on the BBC and needed a song. Pete had given me the words, which had a great blues feel to them. Eric and I were jamming and trying to come up with a lick. There was no big writing session or anything like that. It came together quickly, and we performed it for the first time on that radio program.
By the time Wheels of Fire was being recorded, the Bruce/Brown team had begun to outpace both Eric and Ginger as songwriters. Did that affect the band negatively?
BRUCE The sessions for Wheels were very productive, but I think problems were beginning to emerge, because Eric and Ginger weren’t coming up with as much original material. I wasn’t even particularly happy that a lot of the songs were coming from Pete and me. Eric and Ginger were beginning to write some great stuff, but just not as fast. I would have preferred that management let us have a few months to work on new material, because that would have kept us moving forward.
BROWN My poetry background had me prepared for writing on demand. I had also stopped drinking and taking drugs, which helped a great deal. Jack was bubbling over, full of new ideas. Once he and I had established a way of working, there was a wellspring of material that came quite quickly. I tried to write with Eric and Ginger, but it didn’t seem to work out. Possibly it was due to chemistry, as Ginger was able to collaborate with Mike Taylor on a number of things, but we were never able to really connect.
As engineer for most Cream sessions, Tom, did you notice tension in the band during the Wheels sessions?
DOWD With Disraeli Gears, once Ahmet felt that the group was comfortable, he left the details to Felix and me. Apart from my tape operator and a roadie or two, there was nobody else around. When the group came back to record Wheels of Fire, there was a whole different set of circumstances. I knew that there had been some animosity among the three players, but when we would listen to playbacks in the control room, there were times when I thought they were going to kill each other.
BROWN I know there was some resentment from Eric and Ginger, but songs were needed and Jack and I were there with the songs— good songs, which have stood the test of time.
BAKER The problem wasn’t that Jack and Pete were writing songs; the bone of contention was whether they should get all the credit for them. It still rankles me that I got no credit whatsoever for contributing heavily to the arrangement of two of Cream’s most popular tunes. The whole way “Sunshine” turned out was totally my input, and I’ve never even received a thank you for it. Also, the whole introduction to “White Room”—the 5/4 “Bolero” thing—was my input to the tune. When both songs came out, I wasn’t even mentioned. This happens to many drummers.
With the group’s tremendous success, couldn’t anything be done to mend the personal disputes?
BAKER Not really. The problems started very early on. Actually, the only thing that held the band together was its success.
BRUCE In addition to the band’s creative tensions, there really was a lack of foresight or belief on behalf of the management. We worked much too hard. Three guys on the road, away from their friends and families for three long tours—that can be pretty destructive to a band. We certainly weren’t the first band that wasn’t helped by those circumstances.
Was Clapton’s discovery of the Band’s Music from Big Pink a factor in the group’s breakup?
BRUCE Like a lot of people, Eric was deeply influenced by that album. We fell in love with the economy of that record and began to think that what we were doing was okay, but maybe kind of florid. I think the idea of us getting back to the roots indicated to me that we had lost a bit of our confidence in what we’d been doing.
Clapton has often spoken of Rolling Stone magazine’s condemnation of the band as another factor behind his decision to leave. [In the May 11, 1968, issue, writer Jon Landau delivered a lengthy critique of Cream in concert, citing “one-dimensional” improvisations that “made no use of dynamics, structure, or any of the other elements of rock besides drum licks and guitar riffs.” In July that year, the magazine printed editor Jann Wenner’s remarkable assertion that “Cream is good at a number of things, unfortunately songwriting and recording are not among them.”] Was this really an issue?
BAKER The article had a very detrimental effect on Eric because he thought Rolling Stone had a lot of credibility. He was a very sensitive fellow, and I’m convinced the article did him a great deal of harm. It was his favorite magazine, and to read something like that in it hurt him.
BRUCE I remember that article very well. That certainly contributed to the end of Cream, but it was really quite silly. It tried to say that Eric Clapton couldn’t play the guitar. That was the kind of thing one would expect from the English music press, not Rolling Stone. It certainly hurt me, because they questioned our integrity. We were always sincere about music, right up until the end.
BAKER On the last U.S. tour, after a gig in Texas in 1968, Eric came to me and said, “I’ve had enough.” And I said, “So have I.” And that was it. We decided, for different reasons, that it was all over. When Cream died, it died. Short of murder, we couldn’t solve a problem between us.
While Cream decided to disband, you agreed to record Goodbye, a farewell album, and perform a November 1968 farewell concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Why?
BAKER We wanted to go out on an up note. That’s why we did the album and the show at the Albert Hall. In fact, when we performed that last show, we were just blown away by the emotion from the audience. It went so well that we all wondered—just for a moment—if we had made the right decision, to split up.
In today’s episode, I go over how to swing eighth notes.
Swung (as opposed to straight) eighth note pairs contain one long and one short eighth note.
This literally translates to the first and third hits of an eighth note triplet figure.
The strumming pattern I play in the examples can be applied to different types of music and can create different distinct feels depending on how you approach it.
Check out the video for two ways to incorporate the same rhythmic figure using swung eighth notes.
Justin Horenstein is a guitar instructor and musician in the Washington, DC metro area who graduated (cum laude) from the Berklee College of Music in 2006. He plays in Black Clouds, a 3-piece atmospheric/experimental band. Their debut album was recorded by J Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines). Justin’s 18 years of musical experience also includes touring the U.S., a record deal under Sony, starting his own teaching business, recording several albums, and playing club shows with national acts including Circa Survive, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Biffy Clyro, United Nations, Caspian, and more.
Exodus recently released their new album, Blood In, Blood Out, which features the return of vocalist "Zetro" Souza and a guest guitar solo by Metallica's Kirk Hammett.
Today, the band premiered the new music video for the album's title track.
Check it out below and let us know what you think in the comments or on Facebook!
The Endless River, Pink Floyd's new (and final) album, will be released November 10.
To advance and promote its release, the two-man band has been posting brief videos that shed light on its recording and writing process.
The first clip, which was posted earlier this month, focused on drummer Nick Mason, who talked about working on the last recorded works by keyboardist Richard Wright, who died in 2008 (and who appears in both videos).
"I think this record is rather a good way of recognizing a lot of what he does," Mason says. "The most significant element was really actually hearing what Rick did, because having lost Rick, it really brought home what a special player he was."
This new clip focuses on David Gilmour, and even shows him at work in the studio.
"There was a period of time when we were endeavoring to be purist about it and to keep what we had and not add to it," he says. "But, you know, we thought, 'Well, if we were continuing with these pieces 20 years ago, we would have added to them' ... So we changed our tack a little bit and thought, 'Let's just make them sound great.'"
You can check out both videos below.
Soundgarden quietly dropped a new single—"Storm"—last night, and you can check it out below.
It's their first new song since 2012's King Animal.
We should note that we're not sure if "Storm" will appear on a new Soundgarden album yet. Only time will tell. Yes, only time will tell ...
The New Basement Tapes - Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) - today released "Liberty Street," a track from their forthcoming album, Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes.
Written by Bob Dylan and Taylor Goldsmith and sung by Goldsmith, the track is accompanied by a new lyric video featuring Dylan's original handwritten lyrics that served as the basis for the song.
The New Basement Tapes' T Bone Burnett-produced album, Lost On the River: The New Basement Tapes, was founded on a treasure trove of recently discovered lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967 during the period that generated the recording of his original Basement Tapes.
The artists and Burnett convened in March 2014 at Capitol Studios in Hollywood to write and create music together for the long-lost lyrics, resulting in dozens of new songs and recordings. The artists swapped instrumental and vocal roles on the tracks throughout the marathon sessions.
Lost On the River: The New Basement Tapes, will be released by Electromagnetic Recordings/Harvest Records on November 10.
Goldsmith says of writing and recording "Liberty Street,""Liberty Street" was one of the last songs I put together for the record. We didn't see the lyrics for this song until we got into the studio. Bob Dylan has a way of saying lines like 'Six months in Kansas City down on Liberty Street' and it having an immediate, yet sometimes ineffable, power. When I started putting these words to music, the structure of the words dictated the way the chords rolled out so it came together really fast. And the recording of it was our first take."
Additionally, the original documentary Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued will premiere on SHOWTIME on Friday, November 21st at 9 P.M. ET/PT. The documentary, which is directed by Jones, will present an exclusive and intimate look at the making of Lost On The River.
A rare look inside the creative process of recording an album and the discovery of long-lost Dylan lyrics, Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued captures this unprecedented musical collaboration between these musicians and their producer, the 13-time Grammy winner T Bone Burnett, as they record these newly completed compositions.
Find out more at http://www.thenewbasementtapes.com/
Led Zeppelin's debut album, Led Zeppelin, has been a source of inspiration — and challenge — for guitarists since it was originally released in early 1969.
Now it's time to challenge you!
Guitar World and Supro Amps have gotten together to present the Led Zeppelin Guitar Solo Video Challenge. The winner will receive a new Supro 1624T Dual-Tone guitar amp (MSRP $1,459)!
The winner also will receive a Fender Classic Series '60s Telecaster, a copy of Guitar World Editor-in-Chief Brad Tolinski's latest book, Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page (signed by Tolinski), and the Guitar World instructional DVD, How to Play the Best of Led Zeppelin!
You can check out photos of all the prizes in the photo gallery below.
NOTE: This contest is open only to residents of the United States. You must submit your video to Guitar World by December 10, 2014.
Here's what's involved:
Film yourself playing your own version of Jimmy Page's iconic "Good Times Bad Times" guitar solo! Use the studio version of the solo as your guide (You can hear it below), but feel free to put your own spin on the solo. You might get special consideration for originality! You can hear both original solos via the YouTube players below.
Next, upload your video to YouTube and send the link — along with your FULL NAME and COMPLETE U.S. ADDRESS— to Guitar World at email@example.com. Note that you will not be considered an entrant unless you include your name and U.S. address with your video.
The videos will be viewed by members of the Guitar World staff, plus celebrity judges who will be named later. We'll pick a winner by December 25, 2014!
Over the course of three albums and almost 10 years, Philadelphia’s War on Drugs have been mining a unique and entrancing brand of hazy, psychedelia-laced Americana.
In their earliest days, the band was centered around guitarists, singers and songwriters Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile. Following the release of their 2008 full-length debut, Wagonwheel Blues, Vile left to pursue a solo career, and the War on Drugs has since served primarily as a vehicle for Granduciel’s sprawling, atmospheric songs and emotive guitar excursions.
The band’s most recent effort, Lost in the Dream, which Granduciel tinkered with for close to two years before releasing, has emerged as one of the most celebrated rock records of 2014, receiving almost unanimous praise from critics and debuting in the Top 30 on the Billboard 200.
Following a performance in Boulder, Colorado, the 35-year-old Granduciel checked in with Guitar World to discuss his music, his gear and the War on Drugs’ incredible year.
GUITAR WORLD: You’ve been on the road for a while in support of Lost in the Dream. How does the live performance experience compare to the studio for you?
For me they’re two entirely different things, but I love both. You have to have the head space for both. I love playing guitar every night, and to be at this point where it’s like, the songs are done and I’m happy with the way they are on record, and I get to hear them be reinterpreted by the live band? That’s kind of the icing on the cake. It’s the best.
Then, when it’s time to go in and make a record I get really into that process, too. I don’t try to bang it out in two weeks. I try to really get inside of it and make something that’s really special. I also have to think about how to use the live band in a studio setting, which is a tricky thing for me. Because you record the songs and then you go on tour for a year, and after that the natural thing to do is to be like, “Oh, let’s all go into the studio together.” But that can end up not necessarily being like how you think it would be. So I really like both things. I like working on the records the way I want to work on them, and then having the band breathe new life into the songs on the road.
Many of the songs on the album—“An Ocean in Between the Waves,” “Under the Pressure”—have extended instrumental sections built into the studio arrangements. But in concert you stretch them out even further. Do you tend to improvise those moments onstage?
Yes, but a lot of that, it takes months to get there. The record has these little guitar hooks here and there that are built-in, and I’ll stick to some of that stuff. But having played the songs 150 to 200 times now, I’m starting to get into territory that’s not on the record, and that I’m kind of happy isn’t on the record.
When we started touring, a song like “Under the Pressure” didn’t sound as big as it does now. It took some time to figure out. Because everyone’s kind of meandering inside those chords. It took a while to gel. “Ocean,” too. When a record first comes out you try to stay pretty close to what’s there. Onstage I was trying to figure out what the solo was. Because I didn’t write it. I just kind of played it in the moment, and a lot of that stuff is improvised. And then you listen to it and it’s like, Oh, man, what’s that little lick? What’d I do? So you spend a few weeks trying to nail and then you realize, “Oh, let me just do what I’m feeling tonight…” And sometimes I hit a bum note, but I don’t mind. I kind of like hitting some bum notes here and there. Because you’re just kind of going for it.
Who were some of the guys that influenced your lead style?
When I was a kid I was definitely into Neil Young. I knew of him through my brother, who would play, like, Harvest Moon and Unplugged, and I really liked it. But I think I got turned onto his other side through Pearl Jam. Because it was the early 90s and for kids my age Pearl Jam was everywhere. I would see them playing together and it was like, “Oh, I didn’t know that guy also did this!”
Also Jimi Hendrix. I mean, I don’t sound like Hendrix, but when you’re 13 and getting into guitar, having your mind blown by Hendrix definitely helps a lot. Then as I got older I started getting into Mike Bloomfield. I loved his playing on the Dylan records. And then I got into Sonic Youth, which was just so wild and different.
People tend to reference classic rock guys like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty when they talk or write about your music. Do you hear those sounds as much as others claim to hear them?
Maybe not as much as people talk about it. But they definitely are touchstones for me. With Springsteen it’s tricky—I’m a fan for sure, but it’s a different kind of fandom. I’m interested in what his record do to me, and the energy that’s on display in those records. I also sometimes use them as touchstones for their production. The Petty thing, I don’t hear it as much. I love Tom Petty the way a lot of people love him. He’s got so many amazing songs, and you know them by heart. They’re classics. So I guess they’ve just always been a part of my life. But I don’t know, maybe it’s a vocal thing with him as far as the comparisons.
In general, though, those classic-rock touchstones people talk about I think show up in my general approach to making music, and what it means to me to be a songwriter. That’s mostly what I get from those guys.
To me, at least, one of the hallmarks of your writing style is that, while the instrumentation can be dense, there’s also a lot of space in the arrangements. Is this by design?
I like for things to have a lot of space. And while there’s a lot going on, I also don’t want them to be shrouded in 50 guitars and tons of reverb. I like that kind of classic-type sound. A lot of my favorite albums were tracked live, with a four-piece band. I love the way those albums sound, but I want to make records that sound like that in the way I like to make stuff. So I like open space. I things to be dense, but without feeling overwhelming. I like there to be some dynamics, which I think is something I’m trying to get better at with each album.
That said, the way your music is produced, the instruments can often tend to blend together. Keyboards, guitars, even the vocals, due to the way they sit lower in the mix, become a wash of sound.
I think a lot of that also has to do with spending a good amount of time with the songs in my head, and working on them for a long time. So certain little melodies from the guitar end up becoming a little bit of a vocal melody or a keyboard part. Or you have a little bit of a vocal melody that winds up being mirrored on guitar. These things start intertwining over the course of an album. And I kind of like how at the end of the day it all ends up blending.
The writing and recording processes are, for you, generally solitary endeavors.
What about that way of working appeals to you?
For me, I’m not the kind of guy who comes up with stuff by sitting down with an acoustic guitar and working on a song. It just kind of comes. It comes in those times when I set my stuff up late at night, or I hop on a Rhodes [piano] or something. I just start building a song up. I start thinking less about the chords in the song and more about the mood of the song. So it’s easier for me to build a song up from almost nothing and then watch it expand.
Like, “Under the Pressure” is basically just two chords, but it wasn’t written by just playing those two chords over and over and singing on top of it. It started small, and then over the course of months and months it became a bigger song. At first it was just a cool drum-machine beat I had, and then I was playing these two chords on the electric guitar one night and it sounded nice, the way I had it coming through two amps. And I just kept laying things down from there. You start hearing some melodies, you put some real drums on it, some pianos. Then some hooks, and then it starts becoming a lot bigger.
So that’s the way I’ve worked in the past. Now, I’m working on stuff here and there, and we’ll jam a few things at soundcheck to try and get some ideas flowing. Then when we’re off the road I’ll probably retreat for a while and do the same thing I’ve done before. I might involve the full band a little earlier in the process than I have in the past, but with the same idea in mind that you can keep adding and changing things. Because it’s usually less about sound and more about feel. And, nowadays, if you have a drum machine or a click in there you can always keep swapping things in and out, which is nice.
Because of this process that you’re describing, the line tends to blur for people as to whether the War on Drugs is a band or whether the War on Drugs is just you. Do you feel that line is blurry?
Yeah, I do. I like to think it’s a band, because live it wouldn’t sound like it sounds without the guys I play with. But over the years in the studio I’ve used different people on songs because it’s always been kind of loose as to what the band is. I have a lot of friends who are great drummers so I’d be like, “You’d be perfect for this song.”
Or I would do a lot of the keyboards and piano on the records just because I came up with the part. But I think part of what makes the War on Drugs a band is that everyone is very open to that process. Everyone gets it, and no one feels threatened by it. I think that’s what makes it special. So it is kind of my thing, and the records maybe sound like they do because of that. But when I think of who plays on these songs I definitely think of it as a band. And with each album I think we’re becoming more of a band. Hopefully with the next record it will be even more of a full band approach as far as the performance of it.
Can you talk a bit about the gear you’re using?
Absolutely! On the road right now I have a white Strat—a ‘56 American reissue. And, actually, just yesterday we were in Asheville I found an exact color match in a 1982 Japanese 12-string Strat. It’s so sick, and it plays so sweet. I went into this guitar store in town to pick up some strings for a friend and I saw this white 12-string. I was like, “You gotta be shitting me!” I had to get it. So I have the Strat, and then I also have a ‘62 Jazzmaster reissue that Fender sent me. I wasn’t in love with it at first but then I put a Mastery bridge on it and I really enjoy playing it. It’s really clean and bright. I also have my ‘81 Les Paul Deluxe, which I love a lot.
You don’t see too many people playing those Deluxe models.
Yeah. I don’t know why more people don’t play them. They’re fairly light, especially for Les Pauls. And the mini-humbuckers are so clean. Real open-sounding. I love that guitar. It’s kind of its own thing. I also have a [Gretsch] White Falcon with Filter’Tron pickups, which is awesome. And a ’65 non-reverse Firebird. I love that guitar so much, but I don’t play it that much in the set because it’s such a different beast. The neck is longer so it feels like I’m playing a baseball bat. But I use it all the time in the studio. That and the Deluxe were the main guitars on the record. I also still my first guitar—a ‘63 Harmony Bobkat that my dad bought for me for, like, $90 in 1992. I used that a lot on the record as well. It’s such a sweet guitar.
How about amps?
Onstage behind the drum riser I have two Hiwatts—a ‘72 Hiwatt 100 going through a 2x15 cabinet, and then next to it a custom 50-watt going through a Matchless 2x12 open-back cab. And those are running in stereo. I used to have them behind me but it got too loud. I ended up not hearing the rest of the band as well. So now right behind me I have a Vox AC30 that I kind of monitor through. Just so I feel something. I also have a [Fender] Princeton on the drum riser, powering a Vibratone [Leslie speaker].
How about pedals?
I have a bunch of stuff, and I swap things in and out. I have one of those Custom Audio Electronic Bradshaw boards, and right now, I have two main fuzz pedals on it. One is a JHS Bun Runner, which is awesome. It has a fuzz on the left side and a Tonebender on the right, and you can kind of cascade in between the two. The other is a Wren and Cuff Tall Font Russian. I also have a couple distortion pedals on there, including a Mountainking Electronics and a Blackstone overdrive. Then there’s an Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man, a Moog Minifooger tremolo, an MXR Flanger. This thing called the [Auralux] King Trem, which like a Uni-Vibe. I also have a clean boost that was built into the board by Bradshaw. A lot of fun stuff.
You’ve been on tour consistently since the release of Lost in the Dream, and you still have a lot of road work ahead of you. The album’s popularity only seems to be growing. Are you surprised at how well it’s been received?
I’m totally surprised, and I’m grateful. I’m also exhausted. But I’m definitely excited to keep touring and playing and seeing it grow. I’m fascinated by the crowds and also how the crowds are changing. You see your fan base develop and it’s like, “Oh, wow, our fans are nice people!” [laughs] People are attentive and they’re into the songs and they’re singing along. That’s really satisfying.
Also, the opportunity to play to more people each night helps the band just get better and better. We have the ability to keep changing how we approach playing together onstage. If we’re playing bigger rooms we can kind of spread out, we can have more gear with us. That helps us reach those higher levels and get a little more musical.
Any opportunity to have more gear onstage is always a good thing.
Tell me about it. [laughs] Totally.