tête-à-tête: dusty redmon

About a year ago I got a really nice Facebook message from this guy I’d never met before. It was really complimentary and encouraging. It came at just right right time too. I was kind of bummed out and wondering if  anybody cared about what I do. Anyways. The guy that sent the message was Dusty Redmon. We kept in touch and now we are bro’s and talk all the time! He’s a great guy and a killer guitar player. He can play the heck out of some slide guitar. (that’s southern for “he’s quite an accomplished guitar player”). One of the best parts of what I do for a living is meeting people like Dusty.

I caught up with Dusty while he was out of tour with his band The Almost in support of their new Album “Fear Inside Our Bones”.

enjoy.
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Hi Dusty.
Oh. Hey James.

What are you doing?
Right now I am heading towards Spokane. It’s a day off. We stayed in Redding last night. No big deal.

Are you kind of famous?
I had quite the number of MySpace friends at one time.

I think you are kind of famous. Maybe.
You and my grandma think alike. In that case, you must LOVE the show “Touched By An Angel.” I think you’re pretty famous, James. And fabulous. I don’t think I’m very famous though. I think if we had a “Fame-Off,” you’d win pretty easily.

What’s a “Fame-Off”? Nevermind. You have a little boy! How do you like being a dad?
I love it. I’ve never felt more worth than I do in being a father. On the flip side, it makes touring SO much tougher. We’ve kinda spoken about it a little. I’d do anything for Dillinger, even if it meant never touring again. I think you’ve got such a cool gig now with your online consultations. For an influential player like you, it’s a dream for some people to be able to talk to you one-on-one. I don’t think I could do much with that, but I think it’s very cool that you’re doing it.

Tell me a little about how you got started in music. What’s the story?
I was inundated with a lot music throughout my young life.

Inundated. Good word! Sorry… go on.
Little DR jammed on stuff like Black Sabbath all the way to George Jones. In high school, some friends and I started a hardcore band called Beloved and after graduation, started touring and eventually signed a record deal. I toured ten months a year for a while, playing a lot of rad clubs, basements, theaters, churches, and dingy bars. Beloved broke up in 2005 and I started playing with a band called Dead Poetic after that for a couple of years.

And then you joined The Almost? How did that come about?  
Dead Poetic was about to release the only record I wrote for and recorded on, “Vices,” when my buddy Aaron (who I knew from touring with his band UnderOath for years when I was in Beloved) asked me if I would join his new solo project. I had to tell him no, and two weeks later Dead Poetic broke up. That sucked. By February, his guitarist quit and he called again. Talk about The Lord providing.

One thing I really like about you is that you are a really nice guy and you don’t seem to be jaded about the music industry, even though you’ve been around the block and I’m sure have seen a lot. I know people that haven’t done nearly as much as you that have the worst attitudes. What keeps you positive?
Man, that’s really nice. I act pretty grumpy sometimes, but I honestly feel lucky to have the smallest shred of success, albeit minimal. I’ve seen a lot of places with some of my best friends, gotten to take my wife with me sometimes, and been able to meet the most encouraging people.

Who are some of your influences?
You know I’m a Mike Campbell junkie. I think he’s really made me want to keep my playing simple. I love players who write parts that serve the song, not their shredability. Yeah, I literally just made that up. Pretty cool. Lead parts should always be about melody, and I think that’s why I reached out to you in the first place. Your work on “Economy” reminded me so much of Campbell that I felt compelled to let you know personally. I know you’re a big MC fan, but who else pushes you?

Yes, I love Mike Campbell. His style is so simplistic, but so perfect. He knows exactly what to play.  I love Joe Perry. I feel like Joe writes the absolute best guitar solos of all time. I just heard Angel on the radio this morning. That solo is so amazing. And clean! Such a good clean tone on that solo. I tell people all the time to learn a couple Joe Perry solos. It’s like going to music school.
I feel scared to like Joe Perry. I mean, don’t get me wrong- I loved Aerosmith growing up. They write incredible rock songs. Maybe it was just “Livin’ on the Edge” that got me scared of what my friends would think if they heard me jamming Aerosmith. “Love In An Elevator” is totally riff city though. I love all those ballads too, I guess.  Ok. Ok. My name is Dusty and I’m a Joe Perry fan.

Now that we are being honest, If you weren’t a guitar player what would you be doing?
I think being a barber would be awesome. Like a man’s barber. Spinning Motown records in a barber shop all day, drinking Cheerwine, shooting the breeze… I don’t think I could imagine you doing anything else…maybe being a tattoo artist.

I don’t have the attention span to be a tattoo artist. I’d ruin people’s skin. I’d probably try to be a writer. Or a Doctor. Doctors make pretty good money so that would be a good career for me. Because I think being rich would probably be pretty cool. Have you seen rich people’s houses? Their cars? Wow! What’s the hardest thing about being a musician?
Balancing the love of playing and performing with the reality of being a father and a husband who needs to provide financially for a family. Records don’t sell anymore, so touring is how I make my money. And I hate money, but I’ve got cute mouths to feed. It’s a really tough balance that I literally pray about daily.

What kind of gear are you playing these days?
I’ve got a couple of awesome handmade tele clones from James LeClair (leclairguitars.wordpress.com) out of Tampa. He cuts his own bodies and necks, and also winds his own pickups. They rule so hard. I’ve also started jumping on strats too. I’ve actually got two out with me now.  I run those through a bunch of pedals into a 1962 Fender Tremolux and a Bad Cat Classic Deluxe 20r. I’m pretty set on that blackface-style amp. Headroom makes all the difference in the world to me, and I think it’s hard to beat that outside of that blackface circuit.

Bad Cat makes some great stuff! If you could only play one guitar for the rest of the week… no, the rest of your life, What would it be?
I think a real 52 Telecaster could just about do anything I would ever need. If you asked me this ten years ago, I probably would’ve said something like a PRS or something. What would you shred on?

I don’t know… maybe a 60’s Strat. 1961. Black. Rosewood neck. Probably. But maybe a 1959 Les Paul. Because I could always sell it for $400,000.00 if I quit music.

If you were starting a supergroup who would you call first?
Um… Is this a cry for attention? You, of course. My old tour manager is FOH for Kevin Bacon, so maybe him.

No, it wasn’t a cry for attention. Kevin Bacon is in a band with his brother. The Bacon Brothers. That’s a real thing. The Bacon Brothers.

So the new record is out! Are you guys gonna be busy this year?
Yeah it’s already kinda gotten started. “Fear Inside Our Bones” came out on June 11, and we are in the middle of a short headlining run now. We just shot a video for our first single with our now-mutual friend Vitor Belfort. I get to spend five days at home before leaving on a Relient K tour in July.  Maybe an Almost All the Bright Lights tour soon? That could be our super group’s name.

Now we are talking. What are you doing later today?
I think we are going to see some movie. I dunno. Mind your own business.

Okay, Okay! Bye Dusty. Thanks.
Goodbye dear James. Thank you. Let’s get Pinky’s soon.

 

 

 

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check in

hey y’all.

hope you guys have been enjoying the conversations. i’ve got some more coming!

i was in the studio again this week with matt redman. it’s been a really cool experience watching him write and arrange his songs. and it’s always fun making music with jon and jacob.

the guitar consulting has been going really great. i’m really encouraged with the results. i’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback. it’s been great watching people grow and improve.

i’ve got a lot of cool stuff that’s happening that i’ll be sharing in the future.

talk soon.

tête-à-tête: chris quilala

I have enjoyed getting to know the Jesus Culture guys. They are all cool and funny and nice. Which are the three most important things in the world. Anyways, I officially met Chris Quilala a few months ago at that big new years Passion thing where he and the band dominated every square inch of the Georgia Dome. He has such an awesome voice, His songs rule, he can dominate on the drums… his hair is super curly… By the way, I know being funny and cool aren’t the most important things in the world. Being nice is probably one of the most important things in the world… anyways… So, I checked in with Mr. Quilala a couple weeks ago. Here’s how it went… ENJOY.

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Chris?
James!!!

What’s new, man? 
Just had another baby girl… well, my wife did most the work. I now have 2 beautiful girls… and a pitbull. Apart from that, we are getting ready to go on tour for a couple weeks. I think we might be in your neck of the woods even.

You are. I’ll see you there. Congrats on that baby girl!  Hey, what’s your favorite song?
Don’t know if I have one. I’ve been lovin’ Be Still from the last Killers album. Shadowlands still gets me… What’s yours?
I think my favorite song is Ultra Violet (light my way). But I am a U2 fan. So…

Your last name is really fun to say. Where is Quilala from?
Quilala… it is Filipino… wait, how do I spell check on this? Anyhow, the pronunciation is like… Key-Lala. Or at least thats how I’ve always said it… hehe

How did you get started with Jesus Culture?
I’ve been involved with Jesus Culture since the beginning. We started out as a youth group band that wanted to make a cd with songs that were ministering to us on Wednesday nights. The goal was to have something that our youth group could take home and worship God with in their bedrooms/cars/etc. It kinda took off from there, but the heart is still the same… we just want people to encounter God and, in turn, share Him with others.

I really like your voice. Have you always been a good singer? Did you ever take vocal lessons or anything?
My voice?
Yes. YOUR VOICE.
Aww, thanks man… thats super encouraging. I never really took formal lessons. I guess I learned by singing to albums that I loved. I sang in a few church musicals when I was a kid. My mom still says I couldn’t carry a tune when I was young. Recently I’ve been trying my best to warm up using one of those fancy speech-level-singing-training cds.

What is your favorite song you’ve written? Where did you write it?
I’d have to say, “I want to know You” It was a prayer of mine for a couple years. I started singing the bridge hook spontaneously when the band and I were playing in Australia. I guess a lot of my songs have a similar theme but that one sticks out to me.

What’s some advice you can give to songwriters?
I’m somewhat new to songwriting but something I’ve learned is to never ignore an idea. If I get something, whether it be a melody or a lyric I will always try and write it down or do a quick voice memo of it. For myself, the inspiration for a song usually comes when I least expect it. If I don’t write it down or record it… its gone. Chalk it up to short term memory loss or something.

Who are your favorite songwriters?
Love Dylan, James Taylor… Ryan Adams.. Brandon Flowers… the latter being my current favorite.

I like your curly hair.
(blushing…)

My hair is kind of curly too.
Yeah, I noticed that… is it natural or do you use curlers?
Yes!

I really like your new album, Live from New York. What was it like getting to make a record with Martin Smith? Were you so stoked!?! I would have died, probably. From happiness.
It was a dream come true. When I was 14-ish someone asked me, “If you had the chance to play with anyone who would it be?” I said Delirious. At the time I was playing drums so I never even thought I would actually be leading worship alongside one of my heroes. I’ve always looked up to him as a sort of father in modern worship… however, I believe he would prefer to be called uncle.

Who decides the setlist for your shows?
Kim and I.

I saw Jesus Culture play at the last Passion event in Atlanta. I was pretty blown away at what was going on when you guys were playing. I know it was a crazy experience being on that enormous stage surrounded by 60,000 people, but were you guys aware of just how powerful it was?
Man, it was crazy playing in front of that many people. I felt super humbled that Louie and the passion guys would share the stage with us. I still can’t believe how many people were there… makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it. Needless to say I was nervous but I know God touched people during our set and that makes me happy.

You and Kim sing and flow really well together. Do you two talk about what you are going to do, or do you just walk on stage and rule everyone?
Haha, you make-a-me laugh. We don’t usually talk about it. We’ve been leading together for a long time… 11-12 years? I love singing with her. I’d say we’ve gotten used to each other and usually have a sense of where is we are heading during a set. That being said, Kim always keeps me on my toes. She is great at breaking through the “norm” to get somewhere we haven’t been. That make any sense?

That makes sense, Chris. You are doing great, man. You are also a drummer. Does that influence the way you write songs? Are you picky about the drums on your songs when it’s not you playing them?
I am a drummer… always will be. When it comes to writing I am always thinking of what the drums might look like on the song when it is finished. I can also be very picky with drum parts but Josh is an amazing drummer. I’ll throw ideas back and forth with him a lot of times… I can’t help it. If I ever do a solo studio album… I might have to get behind kit for a least a couple songs. Whatcha think?

What do I think? I think you probably should. Who’s your favorite drummer?
The killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. I also love Glenn Kotche from Wilco. I’m too indecisive to have a favorite.

I’ve noticed that. Ever thought of leading worship from the drums like Don Henley or something?
Don is the man… Someone told me once that I reminded them of Don. Perhaps I should give it a try. Seems tough, ya know? Seems like a multitasking nightmare, and my wife is always telling me that multitasking is not strongest attribute.

You drink coffee, right?
Love coffee… You? Are you coffee connoisseur?

I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur. Other people would, but I wouldn’t. It sounds too braggy. What’s next for you? What’s coming up for Jesus Culture?
Next for me? Well, Jesus Culture is starting a church.. Crazy! I’ve lived in Redding my whole life… gone to the same church my whole life. The thought of moving and starting something new is scary for me but I’m excited to be stretched and get outside my comfort zone. What else… I’m gonna start writing for a solo album. You write? wanna help? haha.

Yeah I’ll help! Bye, Chris Quilala. 
Lets hang soon. Talk to you later Mr. Duke.

tête-à-tête: jack parker

I’ve got a new conversation for you guys. Mr. Jack Parker.

 I met Jack when I was playing with John Mark McMillan on the David Crowder Band farewell tour. It was cool getting to know Jack and the guys. They are all very kind people. It was also really fun getting to watch them play every night. Jack is an amazing musician. Also funny.

I caught up with Jack a couple weeks ago. We discussed everything from his daily routine to Yngwie Malmsteen and got an update on his new band The Digital Age. And BWack.

Enjoy.

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Hi Jack.
Hey former tour buddy!

What are you doing?
Sitting at our studio trying to put out some fires.  The email variety – not the literal state, process, or instance of combustion in which fuel or other material is ignited and combined with oxygen, giving off light, heat, and flame.

Oh. Ok. This is going to be interesting… Do you drink coffee?
Not very often.  I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to caffeine. So only in emergency situations is my final answer.  I seem to recall you and Jon consuming it by the gallon on tour?

Yeah… Dukes love coffee. What’s happening with your band The Digital Age?
Tons!  We are currently working on finishing up our first full-length record entitled “Evening:Morning” which is scheduled to release on August 6.  It is quasi-conceptual, with each song corresponding to its respective hour of the night/day.  We were wanting to do an indie release like we did with “Rehearsals” which would have put the album out sooner, but our good friends at Fair Trade Services convinced us to partner with them and we happily obliged!  On top of all that, we are still touring around playing shows and producing projects for other bands here at our studio Asterisk Sound.

I kept up with you guys via twitter and instagram while you were building your studio. Did you guys build most of it yourselves?
Yes.  Our drummer, “bwack” or “the bwack” or “whacker” or anything else you want to call him pertaining to bushwhacking — his dad is a contractor/carpenter and would take him on jobs. So he had a knowledge of construction/design and basically we designed our dream studio and constructed it with bwack’s knowledge and skills.  It definitely gave me an appreciation for what construction workers do.  We would all show up at about 8am, do hard manual labor until about 5pm, come home, eat dinner and then just crash out.  Are you familiar with what they call the “manual labor?”

I worked hanging wallpaper in an industrial park for 2 days. So…

You’ve been playing with the guys in the band for years now. With that kind of history is it easier or more difficult to write new music together?
I would definitely say easier.  There is a kind of comfort level we have with each other just based on how much time we’ve spent together and I think writing thrives better in a more relaxed, unforced, familiar environment.

One thing I learned about you when we were on tour is that you can really shred on guitar! How did you learn to do that and who are some of your influences?
Ha!  Well, I wanted to be able to walk into my local Guitar Center and battle with other players Dragonforce style!  Not really though, but maybe a little.  I started playing guitar in high school and at that time I was listening to a lot Metallica.  So I would come home, put in the “Master of Puppets” cassette tape and basically learned by ear how to mimic what I was hearing.  I had a year and a half of piano before that so I had a rudimentary knowledge of theory and that kind of thing.  But mostly it was just a punk teenage kid in his room shredding along with his favorite hair metal bands.  It’s weird though because my influences aren’t really shredders but players who approach the instrument in unorthodox ways – guys like, Michael Hedges, Jonny Greenwood, Tom Morello, Nick Zinner, etc…  have you heard of Hedges?  That stuff will blow your mind.
I have heard of him, but I haven’t ever listened. I’ll check him out. In your opinion, what makes a great guitar player?
I would say it’s knowing when not to play.  I admire a guy like Gordon Kennedy who doesn’t play a lot of notes, but when he does, he makes it count.  And it’s just so dang tasteful! So quality over quantity I guess.  I know you’re way into C.C. Deville and Yngwie Malmsteen.

I actually really like C.C. Deville’s guitar playing. I think his soloing was way more melodic and hooky (hooky?) than most of the other guitar players in his genre. I went to an Yngwie show once. It was crazy. I had just heard some (probably not true) story about him getting in a fist fight with a fan after a show.  My friend had also heard that, so for the first, oh i’d say, 45 minutes of the show he stood about 5 feet from Yngwie screaming “YOU SUCK, YOU ***** ***** ******* *** ***** *** ***” and using various offensive hand gestures that would possibly be sort of offensive to most people on earth. I guess he was trying to incite some sort of fisticuffs from Rising Force himself. So Yng’ is up there, pirate shirt unbuttoned all the way down to his belly button… gold necklaces and rings sparkling in the lights. He was playing the fastest guitar I’ve ever heard with one hand and high fiving fans and doing the rock fist with the other. He had to see my friend. Had to.  It was actually kind of funny at first. At first. but then the next 44 minutes and 59 seconds just got sort of scary and weird. All these, um, fans started getting mad (of course) and then I could tell they were about to kill him. So we left and laughed. Yngwie can play so fast though. And his name is fun to type and say. YNGWIE.

Yeah, I don’t see you as “likes to fight guy”, so probably a good move to get out of there.  Yngwie, Yngwie, Yngwie,…

Remember on tour when your speaker cabinet caught on fire?
That was amazing!  The funny thing about it is I had no idea until about a minute after the fact.  My signal had died and I was busy trying to figure out which pedal on my board was the culprit.  I happened to turn around at one point and the road manager, stage manager, and 3 other confused bystanders were freaking out and throwing water on my amp.  Not a pleasant sight, but we rallied and got a backup amp set up before the song finished and I was able to complete the aforementioned shredding.

What does a normal day look like for Jack Parker?
Well, it depends if I’m home or on the road and home is more eventful, so let’s go with that.
1.  Rise
2.  Perform personal sanitary measures i.e. shower, brush teeth, deodorize, etc…
3.  Cook breakfast for my 2 daughters, get them ready for school
4.  Drive to studio
5.  Work on music, emails, general internet browsing, interact with my bandmates, etc…
6.  Drive home
7.  Help with dinner
8.  Bathe daughters
9.  Read them books
10.  Put them in bed
11.  Put them back in bed after whatever flurry of excuses they have for “not being tired”
12.  Play boggle with my spouse
13.  Watch a show with my spouse
14.  Sleep and repeat

Where is BWACK?
He is in his mad scientist’s dungeon working on a clone of himself.

How did you get started doing music?
That’s always been such a strange question for me because I never really set out to be in music.  I was at college studying to be an accountant and guitar was just a hobby.  Before I knew it,  I was playing guitar at a bible study headed up by Louie Giglio of the Passion movement and from there it just turned into playing guitar for a bunch of Texas worship leaders and being gone all the time.  How about you?  Did you pursue a career in the musical arts?

I did. Sort of. I did in the way I never really had a backup plan. But I never really tried to make anything happen. So no. But I never pictured myself doing anything else. So yes.

What’s the best thing about touring?
Touring is such a funny thing because it puts you in this weird reality where you live on a bus, wake up in a different city every day, play the show, and repeat.  Everyone sees the performance part of the show and has a concept of that, but there are 23 other hours in the day!  And typically your responsibilities for those other 23 hours are minimal at best.  So you have Crowder band and John Mark guys (me and you) talking about Ryan Adams at like 3:00 a.m. outside a bus in folding chairs backstage in the middle of metropolitan downtown areas.  Does that seem normal?

Nailed it, Jack. It really is a strange life. Getting adjusted back to some kind of normal life when you get home is always fun as well.

When we toured with you guys we got to play some really great venues. I think my favorites were Irving Plaza in NYC and The Moore Theater in Seattle. What’s the favorite place you’ve played?
Radio City Music Hall or anywhere in Scotland.  Scottish people are intense and a blast to be around!

What was the first album you bought? What format was it on?
Tears for Fears. Songs from the Big Chair – format was a compact case containing a length of magnetic tape that runs between two small reels: used for recording or playback in a tape recorder or cassette deck.

My first cassette tape I bought was Phil Collins “But Seriously”.
Nice!  My Mom would rock out to “No Jacket Required” on the way to school so there was a point in time when my brain virus song was “Sussudio.”

My first cassette single was Gerardo “Rico Suave”.
I have no words right now…

What was the first song that really made you want to be a guitar player?
There was an A&E documentary on the life of Jimi Hendrix that looked like it was filmed in the 70’s with a version of him playing “Red House” live.  I remember just staring at the tv mesmerized.  One of the rare moments in my life when I “felt” rather than just listened to a song.

How many guitars do you own? What’s your favorite?
Hmm…  I want to say 10 or so.  Favorite is probably my 1970 Martin D-35 acoustic because it was a gift from my dad when I graduated high school and it inspired me to learn as much as I could about the instrument.  You’re up to about 30 or 40 now, correct?

Correct. Have you gotten any new gear that you are excited about?
I just got my Line-6 M9 modded by Jack Vaughn at jhv3.com.  So I’m super excited about that!  I’m not really a huge gear guy.  Mitch Watkins who is part of the Austin music scene and a good friend of the family who I’ve always admired for his guitar prowess said something that really stuck with me – “tone is all in the hands”.

What’s coming up for you? What should we be on the lookout for?
We are putting the finishing touches on our first radio single called “Captured” and working on a press release about the new band that will include a video we shot for another song on the album called “Believe”, the album release on August 6.  And amps that catch on fire.

Thanks Jack. Bye Jack.
Welcome James. Bye James

tête-à-tête: jon duke

I have a new conversation for you guys. My brother, Jon Duke. Jon plays with a bunch of wonderful artists as well as our band we have together, All The Bright Lights. If you’ve heard Jon play, you know that he’s a very unique bass player with an amazing ability to make a song sound huge. He’s really good and has a lot of wisdom in regards to music. He also has a great heart. Enjoy.

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Hi Jon.
Hi.

What are you doing?
I am home, unwinding. Quiet apartment all to myself. It’s nice… what about you?

Just hanging out, man. You just played at a Passion event with 60,000 people. Was that weird?
I don’t think it was weird… it’s the 3rd year in a row that I have played the conference. It’s always a highlight and a great way to start my year. You were there… did you like it?

Yes I liked it. A lot. But I didn’t mean weird being there. I meant weird playing in front of 60,000 people.
I understand.

I’ve heard people say that anyone can play bass. Is that true?
I think anyone can play a bass… some do a good job… then there are some who can PLAY the bass.

I remember when we were kids and you would set up that junky black drum set in the garage and play drums and sing at the top of your lungs. You wrote your first songs in that garage with those drums, I believe. Do you ever think about those days?
For some reason when people ask me if I play any other instruments, while I’m sorting my thoughts for the answer, it seems like the screen-saver in my brain is that black drum set on the left hand (stage right) side of the garage in that Neptune Beach house. Is crazy to think back to those days and all the hobbies we had… surfing, skating, biking, music… but music always felt a little more sacred than the other things, didn’t it…

Do you sing and play bass, or play bass and sing? Is there a difference?
I play bass… and sing. Yeah, there’s a difference.

When you listen to music, what do you want to hear?
From a technical standpoint; I want to hear good melodies… I have always been drawn to melodies. Also, I love good singers. But the kind of music that changes me and inspires me has nothing to do with talent or clever writing, though it may contain that. There’s a sound in the sound that I’m always looking for… it’s that sound that sometimes is uncomfortable and pressuring. It’s also impossible to explain… which is pretty cool. Do you know how to explain it?
I know what you mean. We call that the fire, man. It’s the only thing I look for. I think it’s the union of spirits. There’s nothing like that. When you connect with a song, or connect with the people you are playing with on that level, it’s a pretty intense feeling. It’s the only feeling. It’s what I look for every time I pick up a guitar.
Come on…

When you write music, what do you want to hear?
I guess my answer is pretty similar for this too… when I’m creating I’m sort of fishing around ’till I feel like I’ve tapped into something… a sound or a feeling that moves me. Once you get to that point the song almost writes itself. You know, like on the new All The Bright Lights album… we would play around with ideas until we felt… the “fire”.

Do you practice?
Define “practice”…

Yeah… me neither. Are there any bass players that make you want to “practice” and get better? Who are your influences?
Pino Palladino inspires me like no other. He plays like a gentleman. He’s mastered the art of playing simple groove bass but doing little subtle nuances that most don’t notice but the ones that do get their minds blown. He can also play busy and blow minds… I don’t know. He’s better than everyone.
I like Adam Clayton. He has inspired me a lot, James. I like unorthodox players…

He plays like a gentleman. That’s true, and a compliment I’m sure Pino would love. What makes a great drummer?
I think timing and feel. There’s a whole world to explore in both of those things. I think a lot of drummers think all there is to timing is staying on the click… but that’s not true. It’s the same with all instruments but your timing is a huge part of your “feel”. You could line up 10 drummers and give them a simple groove to play and they will all feel completely different. One or two of them will probably make you want to jump out of your skin and dance… it’s all in the approach. I always say, you can tell a lot about the drummer by how he dances. If you are auditioning a drummer just go to a dance club. Which brings me to my next point, “musical personality”. Just kidding… well, I’m not kidding.

I agree. While in a lot of scenarios a click is pretty necessary, I think it can hurt feel. I used to turn the click up so loud in my ears because I was scared I was going to play out of time with it that I think it actually made me play worse. Last year I turned it down to where it was barely audible when the band was playing and I think it helped me a lot. That way when I’m starting a song by myself I can hear it great and when the band comes in I can focus on playing with the band as opposed to a click track. Besides, I sort of like to play around the beat. I don’t like it to be perfect.  Actually, some of the worst decisions I’ve made in the studio was to play to the click instead of what I was feeling.
Same here… years ago, Jacob Arnold (drummer) and I had to share mixes a lot and we sort of learned together how to treat the click track…

What makes a good rhythm section?
You tell me, you’ve played with more rhythm sections than I have.

When I think about the kind of music I like to listen to there is always an ebb and flow to the rhythm section. U2 is a good example. You have Larry Mullen Jr who is a very solid, right on top of the beat drummer. It’s like a drum machine. Adam Clayton comes in and, while he’s playing solid with the drums, he’s playing around what Larry is playing. It’s a great sound. You and Jacob Arnold play that way sort of. Jacob plays very precise. Very solid. Which allows you to come in and play with and around the beat. I also notice the way you tap your foot when you are playing is different. I don’t know if you have ever noticed, but when you stomp your heel down with the music you sort of move in and out of time. like you are subconsciously allowing yourself to flow around what the drummer is playing. That’s what I think makes a good rhythm section. Two people playing with each other but not necessarily together. What?
Yeah… that’s another thing Jacob and I learned together… the balance of “locking in”. We used to talk about kick patterns and stuff but then we sort of found a medium and it actually makes what’s going on in the rhythm section sound and feel more vast..

Can you explain that a little?
well, I guess the best way to explain it is to look at the definition of “vast”;

[vast; immense – huge – extensive – enormous – wide – spacious]

It’s learning a tasteful way to use space and counter rhythms. I don’t approach it from a technical mind… it’s all feel to me, which there are pros and cons to that. The pro- I never play a song the same way twice. The con- I never play a song the same way twice.

You are one of the only bass players I know that gets constant compliments on your bass sound. Do you think about tone? What is your secret?
I never spend a lot time on tone. If it feels wrong then I try to fix it but mainly I just try to have a full round tone with some edge on it so it will cut in the mix. A big part of tone, to me, is your touch… when to play soft when to play aggressive… when to use a pick, when not to… when to use the side of your thumb… I guess?

What does your rig look like right now?
As far as amps go I have a ’67 Ampeg  B25 head that sounds real nice. Also an Ashdown Evo II 500 4×10 combo from back when they still made them in England. I rarely use my amps though. Most the time there is back-line provided and I ask for Ampeg SVT Classic and an 8×10… ya know, the standard. I don’t really use a lot of pedals… I have a Boss TU-2 tuner and an Ashdown bass drive (thanks for that, by the way). Right now for my DI/pre I’m using an Aguilar Tone Hammer. I’m sorta of missing my GrooveTube “Brick” that Delta destroyed. My main bass is a Geddy Lee signature Jazz Bass. It sounds great. I have a 70’s univox (pre lawsuit) p bass. I love it. I also have a Hofner violin bass. I’m itchin’ for something new. I have a couple other little ones not worth mentioning.

If you had to choose, and I’m making you, what is your favorite album of all time?
U2 The Joshua Tree. That album taught me how to listen to music.

Tell me how you got started playing music. What happened? What was the moment where everything clicked?
Well, as you know, there were always instruments in our house, so it’s hard to remember how I got started. I think after messing around with guitar and drums I felt like I was most natural at bass. Plus you had latched on to guitar, so you would have probably (tried to) beat me up for copying you. I remember being 15 and our friend/ home school tutor Mark Shubert got me to play at a youth service where he was leading… that was the first time I ever played in a band. It went as expected, but Mark was so encouraging and had me play every week after that.

I think everything “clicked” after years of practicing, playing out and studying music. There was a time when I settled into my own style and sound. That should be the goal. No great player ever got his respect because he could play exactly like someone else and could afford all the same gear. Everyone has different personalities, different lives, different upbringing, etc. That should show in their sound.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Less is more.

Bye Jon.
James, bye.

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you can follow jon on twitter @thejonduke

tête-à-tête: andy othling

I’d like you to meet my friend Andy Othling.
I met Andy a few years ago on tour in Albuquerque, New Mexico. i remember he had a really fancy pedalboard. He was the first person that I saw with Strymon pedals. Anyway… We met again through the internet and have stayed in touch for the last couple years. He has an ambient project he calls Lowercase Noises. His album Passage is one of my favorite records. He’s really smart and funny and a really hard worker. He’s also a great musician. Read our conversation then check his music out.
enjoy.
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Hi Andy.
Hi James.

What are you doing?
I just ate some cold pizza!

Gross. Happy New Year?
Ha. Yes. Happy New Year.

Why is that funny?
I always chuckle at your addition or omission of ironic punctuation.

How many songs do you write in a day?
Like a hundred. But most all of them are terrible.

You played guitar with Future of Forestry on their last couple of tours. How was that?
It was awesome. The first tour was just on the west coast, which was awesome but I’d been to lots of those places before. This time we went way east, so I got to see lots of the country that I’d never seen before. Plus I totally love all the guys we toured with. It was so much fun.

You played few different instruments on that tour. What all were you playing? Did anything go terribly wrong during a show?
Yeah. I played guitar (duh), keyboard, vibes, bells, harmonium and some cymbals. And I did some vocals. Oh and a stand up kick drum.I think the worst thing that happened for me was in one of the songs I have to start the click on my computer a little ways into it. But this time I completely forgot. Eric (the singer) finished his part and other guy was holding out a harmonium note and they were just staring at me and I couldn’t figure out why. I just stood there like an idiot waiting for them. Eventually I started the click and the song went on. Luckily, from the crowds perspective, it probably looked like Eric’s fault.
I’m sure he appreciated that. Speaking of spacing out, One time I was in Brazil (humble brag) and I had an allergy attack on the way to the church we were about to play, so my friend gave me some allergy medicine. I took 2. immediately after that he said, “yeah take one and put one in your pocket for tomorrow”. I said “I took them both”, to which he replied: “YOU TOOK BOTH?!?!?!”. The next thing I remember is hearing “earth to James”. I snap out of it and look around and I am standing on stage, with my guitar in the middle of worship. I looked over at my friend and he whispered “start the song”. I remember nothing before that. Nothing. I had to ask him what song he wanted me to start. Cool pills.

That’s even better than my story.

It’s not a competition, Andy.

Too bad it didn’t look like someone else’s fault though. I also jumped off a kick drum (humble brag) and twisted my knee and fell over and knocked Eric over. But that ruled.

Tell me about your Ambient Songs series.
It all really started for me with YouTube videos. I started doing the Ambient Songs series because I was frustrated with songwriting. They helped me simplify and get some good ideas down. Those started to kind of take off, and people started asking me lots of questions.

Which lead to you blogging.
Yeah. The blog is really there to try to answer people’s questions on a larger scale. Lately I’ve really turned the focus of the blog to songwriting tips and advice on self promotion, because those are the biggest questions I get.

What’s the funniest comment you’ve gotten on youtube.
I made a video announcing that I was doing the Future of Forestry tours, and I had one guy say something like “how could you do that to your family??” as if the video was also my announcement to my wife that I was leaving and that we hadn’t already been discussing it for months. That gave me a good laugh.

I never watch YouTube. Ever. I mean, I have watched a couple of your videos, but that’s about it. A lot of people watch your ambient songs. Have you found that posting your videos to YouTube help your album sales?
Yeah, it definitely does. I sort of “started out” on YouTube, so that’s still where my biggest fanbase is. And a large majority of people who sign up for my blog tell me that they discovered me through YouTube.

Actually I did just watch a YouTube video last week where these two kids are speaking german or something and then they walk over to a table, rip the tablecloth off, one boy falls back and hits an entertainment center and it falls over on top of him. I laughed.
I know the one of which you speak. I laughed too.

I think it was fake.
See, I thought that too. But then that seemed like too much destruction to be fake? Maybe you just watched it too many times in a row.

I think you should make more videos. This one made me laugh. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQAoXKjdgJc

We just talked about YouTube for a long time. Wow. Should we talk about gear?
Probably. Here’s a picture of the pedalboard I used on the Future of Forestry tour. http://instagram.com/p/TEpQZrh4ju/. I also used a Boomerang III looper that you can’t see. For amps I run stereo into a Matchless Chieftain and Clubman. I put the cab for the Clubman on the other side of the stage, so it sounded huge in stereo. My main guitar is a parts Telecaster with Antiquity pickups in it. I’ve got a Gretsch Country Classic Jr and a ‘78 Tele Deluxe that both rule too.

Are you still loving your new Badcat? It looks so awesome. And it’s named after your daughter.

It’s a cool amp! about 5 hours ago I put some new tubes in it. I put a Dario Miniwatt rectifier tube in it. Also a Phillips EF86 and some old Yugoslavian 12AX7’s in. All NOS. Blah Blah Blah. But I will plug in it tomorrow and see how it sounds. I never get to play guitar at home. Stetson hates loud noises.
That rules. On the fall tour with Future of Forestry I came across this massive bin of NOS tubes stashed in this random church office. I guess the worship pastor had a friend who was an old radio guy and he just gave him all these tubes. I bought four 12AX7s off him. But I haven’t even tried them yet. Maybe they’re awesome.

Luckily my kids are cool with me being loud. They even sleep through it right next door.

You just quit your job.
Yeah.

Tell me about it.

Well, the goal was always to quit my job and do music full time. So my wife and I were preparing for that. But when I told my manager about the second Future of Forestry tour, they basically told me that I had to choose between keeping my job and doing the tour. So I quit and did the tour. It happened earlier than we were planning, but I think it’s gonna work.

I know we talked about that several times over the last couple years. I remember telling you not to quit your job. But I am proud of you.
Yeah, I remember that. I wanted to quit for a long time. But it wasn’t the right time. THANKS JAMES. If I could put the crying emoji in here I would.

Tell me about your new record.
It’s called Passage. It’s five songs. I wrote and recorded it all in the four weeks between finding out that I had to quit my job and leaving for tour. I tried to capture both my excitement and sheer terror of my new situation. It’s lots of swirly, verby guitars, but I used lots of banjo and other things this time around.

It’s really pretty.
Thanks. So is the new ATBL. Am I allowed to tell people that I’ve heard it? And when is it even coming out?

You may tell people you’ve heard it. At least people will actually believe we have a new album. It’s coming out… soon.
Good. It’s good.

Thank you. Do you find it hard to keep a consistent song quality when releasing a lot of music? How do you keep yourself accountable.
Yes and no. I feel like the more I do it the better I get at it. So that helps. But there’s also a little more pressure each time to try to do better than before. I try to be honest enough with myself about the good and the bad in my songs so that they’ll always come out better next time.

What do you have coming up? What will we see you doing this year?
Well, my wife and I have our third baby due at the end of February. And I’ve written music for each of my other kids, so I’ve kind of set the precedent and will be doing that for this little guy as well. I’m also going to be doing a lot of work on my blog trying to help people learn how to write, record and promote their music all on their own. And hopefully I can release another full length album by the end of the year. That would be swell.

What about Lowercase Noises shows? Are you going to play live this year?
Oh man, I’ve done that a few times and it was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. I don’t know. I do most all the instruments myself, so I’d either have to get a few guys together and coordinate all that or figure out a way to cover a bunch of stuff myself without making it boring. I’m open to the idea but I haven’t thought up a good way to do it without going crazy. Probably not this year. But maybe. I don’t know.

Do you play at church?
I do. I haven’t played a whole lot the past 6 months or so because of touring and lots of other stuff, but yes.

Do you like playing at church?
I like it in the sense that I get to serve others by playing my guitar. I like when people tell me that my playing helped them worship. But I really struggle with a lot of the cultures and mindsets within worship music. I feel like there’s a lot of settling for mediocrity that goes on, and I don’t like that. I guess in a nutshell I’m glad to play occasionally, but I’m glad that my “career” isn’t based on playing at church or being part of the larger worship music scene.

Who are some of your musical influences?
When I was in high school I was all about Van Halen and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I wanted to shred so hard. But eventually I got sick of that kind of playing. When I started college a friend gave me a copy of El Cielo by dredg, and I freaking loved it. It’s still my favorite album of all time. Their guitarist Mark has this absolutely massive sound that I fell in love with. From there I discovered post rock and ambient music, my biggest influences there being Hammock (especially the Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow album) and Riceboy Sleeps by Jonsi and Alex.But the first song that I ever fell in love with was Changes by Bowie.

How much do you love his new single?

I love his new single! I love Bowie. His music feels so important, if that makes sense. When I listen to Bowie I feel like I’m being allowed into a different world. Or whatever. Yes. I love him.
I agree. I’m glad we get to hear some more.

If you could write a song with anyone, who would it be with?
If I got put in a room with Josh Scogin and Skrillex I think we could come up with something pretty cool. (I’m not even kidding)
But for real, I would love to get together with you and Frodo. I don’t know what it would sound like, but I think whatever we made would rule.

What is Post Rock? Are you Post Rock?
Post rock is Explosions in the Sky. Everyone knows them, right? To me I feel like it always has full percussion and lots of big dynamic crescendos. I wouldn’t say I’m post rock. But I dunno. People can call it whatever they want. I just want to make music that they can feel.

Are you Post Rock?

No. I don’t know. No.

I made up a genre name one time. “Motivational Rock”.
That sounds great. But maybe too happy. I’d go for the “Demotivational Rock” where you are crippled by a debilitating sadness.
K.

Bye Andy.
Bye James.

tête-à-tête: taylor johnson

i’ve got some great convo’s coming this year. first up is Taylor Johnson. If you don’t know who taylor is, you are missing out. he plays with phil wickham and among others. he is an outstanding guitar player. he’s also a really nice guy. i met him a couple years ago in los angeles on the david crowder tour. i recently got in touch with him to ask him some advice on some things. not only did he take the time to talk to me, he had a lot of insight and really encouraged me.  so i asked him if he’d be up to chat on my blog. he said yes, obviously. taylor has some really good stuff to say and great advice to share. enjoy.
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Hey Taylor.
Howdy James.

Where are you?
I’m in LA working on some music and living in great weather.

What have you been up to lately?
I’ve been on the road and tracking/writing for the most part of the last year.
Did some touring this fall with Phil Wickham, Robert Schwartzman, and Kate Earl.
Now I’m concentrating on pulling this loose tooth in the form of an original project with some friends of mine that I’ve had for awhile.  Very excited about some stuff on the bubble. Writing a bit too.

What’s this original project you speak of?
It’s called Dallas. My friends Tyler and Josh and I have been writing a lot the last few years together.  We tracked a bunch of stuff last year with some good folks in LA, Manny Marroquin and a producer named Malay, but have decided to run with it ourselves now seeing that we are geographically challenged (our singer lives in Texas).  We are all excited.

What’s the best guitar?
Trini Lopez

On a scale of 1-10 how much do you love U2?
I love certain songs of theirs. You know I didn’t get into them until the All That You Can’t Leave Behind era?

A little late to the game, but that’s a good record to acquaint yourself with.
I like that record because it introduced me to Daniel Lanois when I was 16.  My favorites off that record were “Kite”. Sheesh, what a song! And “When I Look At The World” (currently teaching my fiance how to play the solo on that tune.  She likes the idea of playing one note and rocking the whammy!)
It was not cool to like U2 growing up.  As a young guitar player the Edge was average at best amongst my friends.  Guitar at that age was more of an athletic competition than musical.
Those songs still make the hair on the back of my neck stand up at the production and parts and tones and energy.  Not the biggest Bono fan but he can sing.

Yeah. Kite is my favorite song of that record as well.  The first time I heard that guitar solo I didn’t know what to do with myself. So good. The solo for When I Look at the World is also one of my favorites. I’ve definitely ripped off that delay sound a few times. And I love Daniel Lanois with all my heart.

Who are your favorite guitar players?
David Grissom and Andy Summers.
David Grissom is responsible for my interest in country guitar.  If it weren’t for him I would have never started hybrid picking which there’s no going back on now.  Listen to the Joe Ely record “Live at Liberty Lunch”.
Andy Summers, from the Police, shaped my playing and ear a ton.  He would be responsible for a lot of my tendencies from note choice, chord voicings, phrasing, use of effects.

Both of these legends are great examples of how to be a standout player behind a great singer with good songs.  Vocals, Guitar, Bass, and Drums…
go! They nail it.

Speaking of being a standout guitar player, What are some important aspects you feel get overlooked by a lot of guitar players right now?
My dad is a songwriter.  Before I ever got into how a guitar sounded I was asked to play parts. This was very early on as a player.  I’d play with my dad who’s a pianist and he’d go “Taylor, why don’t you start this song?”, putting me in the hot seat at a young age.  So, I had to come up with something hooky and melodic in a matter of seconds because he thought guitar would sound good at the beginning.  (At this point I had a strat and a marshall valvestate so it better be a good part ‘cause I had no clue how to use effects!) It stretched me a lot without even being too aware of how much he was asking of me as a musician.
He also used to train my ear before I played guitar.  We’d be in the car when I was 12 and he’d go “what chord is that?” and I’d have to pick out the 1, 4, 5, minor 6 chord by ear.  That helps and it was fun.

Fast forward to doing this as a job and I’ve found that it’s now ingrained in me.  Thanks, Dad.
Legendary songs have legendary parts, something signature.  It gets people going. Beatles songs have a lot of them (day tripper, paperback writer, please please me)

One of the first ones I wanted to learn was the figure at the beginning of the Billy Joel song, “big shot”.  So cool!
That’s not to say every song needs a guitar riff or hook, but something signature is great. It can be a tone, a drum beat (nirvana’s “scentless apprentice is a rad example), the bass, whatever!

The first professional band I was in was with Robbie Seay.  I was 19 and had no gear.  A strat and a VHT pitbull with a tubescreamer and a wah pedal. I had no clue what tap tempo delay was or what a Twin Reverb even sounded like.  Within my first 4 months of playing with him I had to play on a live record in front of thousands of people.  Live in the sense of no overdubs later, at all. I wanted to make sure I had a signature part for every song.  It gives the band another voice.  

How old were you when you started playing guitar. Do you play any other instruments?
I was almost 15 when I started.  Before that I was borrowing a drumset from a friend whose family was in between houses and fell in love with Weezer.  I learned the drum parts for every song on the Blue record.  When they found a house about 4 months later I had to give it back.  My dad plays piano but had an acoustic guitar so he put me in group guitar lessons.  I went all in and tried to learn the theme song from the movie “That Thing You Do” cause I thought those guitars and that song were amazing. Piano a bit as a kid and in music college. Anyone can play bass, right?

Right. What was your favorite record of 2012?
Synthetica by Metric.
Really like Jake Bugg’s EP too.  He’s got this Paul Weller thing happening.

Mine was Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
That was released in 1973. Come on, James.

My answer stands. What’s your favorite era of music?
Undoubtedly the time when the Beach Boys and Beatles were neck and neck as to who was writing the best songs in pop history.
The Who are incredible.  1969 might be the best year in music

I watched you play at Big Church Day Out with Phil Wickham. Why are you so good?
Jet Lag

How did you get started doing what you are doing now?
My family.  They encouraged me to go out and play when all I wanted to do was stay at home and listen to Pinkerton.

Ok, so what does your guitar rig look like right now?
I use my Gretsch a lot. It’s a small guy, country classic junior.  I have a handful of others laying around and actually pick up my strat more often than ever.
Pedals I look at a little differently.  I am not into geeky hour long conversations about this overdrive or that delay.  Fulltone overdrive, Boss verb/vibrato/delay, Strymon delay, and that Diamond tremolo are what’s on my board.
I run my amp hot.  For example, if you were using a deluxe reverb or fender type amp like that I tend to keep it on 8.  AC30 or 15 I run at about 2 o’clock, and so on…
I learned this from David Grissom.  The theory is you use all the amp you can and if you have a good enough guitar its going to clean up nicely with your volume knob/pedal.  The cleans sound better when the amp is being run hot.  It’s also an “oh crap” technique that I learned from playing festivals with little to no soundcheck.  When your board goes down you better have a fat sound coming from the amp! When you run your amp hot, a good tube amp, then this or that overdrive doesn’t really make too much of a difference. Feels way better.

I don’t run my amp all that hot. Mostly because If it starts breaking up all my stuff doesn’t sound right. And I’m too shy. But, I do love the way a cranked amp sounds on other people.
Yeah, there’s nothing like squashing an old AC30 to 10 with a rad guitar.  I just don’t get off on pedals like some people do.  I have a semi packed effects board but it’s cause I play with a variety of people.  I don’t want to have to remember overdrive settings and all that on pedals.
I have a few things I do when I’m plugging into an amp that’s new to me (rental amps, etc…) to get it where I want.  It doesn’t take long.  It’s gotta feel right and have some attitude.  You can always clean it up with your volume knob or pedal.  At that point your clean sound is still hitting those EL84s or 6V6s you spent an arm and a leg to use! When your amp is run low I feel like you aren’t getting all you can out of it.  

Do you love Frodo, or what?
You know it.  I think he’s one of the kindest, most hard working dudes I know.  He’s got a lot of drive for such little legs.  

What advice can you give to aspiring musicians who want to be doing what you do for a living.
Create and work hard.  Play often.  Love God and love people and you’re good to go!

Bye Taylor…