Coming Down To Earth
an interview with
by Robert Silverstein
If you wanna play guitar for Paul McCartney, you better be better
than good. You better be fab. Because, its a long, long, long
line of guitar players that Macca started with back in the late 50sbeginning
with John Lennon and George Harrison, moving on over to guys like
Henry McCullough, Jimmy McCullough, Laurence Juber and in the late
90s Jeff Lynne, Mick Green and David Gilmour. Now in September
2005 Maccas proclivity for unveiling top guitar talent continues
with the first solo album from L.A. based Rusty Anderson, who joined
Pauls group in 2001 for Driving Rain and continues to
fill the lead guitar slot, trading licks in Pauls group with
guitarist / bassist Brian Ray. A modern pop savant in his own right,
Anderson comes alive on Undressing Underwaterhis new
CD release on Gary Hoeys Surfdog Records. Anderson is
the perfect candidate to carry on the spirit of Beatles style pop
and fittingly, Undressing Underwater is filled with Andersons
impressive composing, vocals and guitar work. All told, the second
half of 2005 promises to be a great year for McCartney fans. In addition
to Rusty Andersons CD, McCartney is set to bring his band back
on tour in the U.S. and is readying the release of his 2005 solo album
Chaos And Creation In The Back Yard. To top it off McCartney
group member, Brian Ray is also set to release his new solo CD. Speaking
to Robert Silverstein of mwe3000 and TCG on July 16 2005, Rusty waxed
on record about guitars, his new CD and something of what its
like working with one of the Fab Four.
RA: Good morning how are you?
RS: Out here in N.Y. its about 2:30.
RA: Youre in New York?
RS: Yeah, Im in Queens outside the city here.
RA: Oh great.
RS: I want to congratulate you on the release of Undressing Underwater.
RA: Oh, thank you. The deal is this is my first real solo record.
What happens is you have a body of work to select from so I recorded
different things at different times. Its all actually been recorded
within the last two or three years at different points. Maybe a track
or two was redone.
RS: How did you come up with the cool title?
RA: I sort of liked it. I thought, oh, I can relate to that,
its like something that seems completely useless but something
thats very hard to do. Sometimes life feels like that, like
its a lot of work. And I like the water analogy because water
appears in a lot of dreams and represents like life energy and sexual
energy. And, I dont know, it just seemed to sort of fit.
RS: In the bio some writer described the album as the ultimate guitar
album for non-guitarists! Thats a weird thing to say.
RA: I didnt focus that much on the guitar playing actually.
I focused a lot more on the writing, the lyrics and the melodies.
That kind of thing. And most guitar player records, thats the
last thing they think about. So maybe thats what that was referring
RS: Your guitar playing on the album really rocks.
RA: Oh, thank you.
RS: Its really good. Who did you make the album with? First
I heard you played everything.
RA: Well, I dont play drums very well. (laughter)
RS: You dont...? okay.
RA: I can play drums a little but I would never try and take on that
task for real recording. I play most of the instruments but then I
had some cool people, like Paul McCartney plays bass and sings some
background vocals on Hurt Myself. And Stewart Copeland
plays drums on Catbox Beach.
RS: Hurt Myself features Pauls entire current live
RA: Exactly, Abe plays drums. It was really a fun process to do that.
It was sort of last minute because I asked Paul if he wanted to play
on a track and he said Yeah, and I thought, oh shit,
I gotta like collect everybody together, so David Kahne said,
yeah, yeah, Ill produce it, and everybody said,
yeah, Ill play on it. So I got the studio and recorded
it. Maybe two or three days later we were off to Mexico City.
RS: So Hurt Myself was recorded in 2003?
RS: How did Surfdog get involved? Thats Gary Hoeys label.
Hes pretty hot guitar player too.
RA: Actually a friend of mine in the biz sort of hooked me up with
Surfdog and it just sort of happened. It was just a good mutual click.
Back to your question about the record, I produced a lot of it myself.
David Kahne produced Hurt Myself and a friend of mine,
Parthenon Huxley co-produced a few songs and another guy, Mudrock,
whos another friend of mine, co-produced a song. And I did the
rest myself. But it was an interesting process. I got to wear a lot
of hats, and all the things that go along with completion. Thats
a hard job yknow? It takes a while, yeah.
RS: I guess theres no escaping the Beatles connection, its
something to be proud of.
RA: Oh sure. Im tickled to be playing with Paul, believe me.
Thats awesome. I mean its just all good to me. Im
happy to be able to make music and do that for a living. And create.
The whole thing. I love it all. I love writing and singing, playing
guitar and producing. And playing with Paul. Ive done a lot
of playing on peoples records, and thats fine. Its
a good way to make a living for sure.
RS: On Pauls Driving Rain album you play so many different
guitars. Which guitars are on Undressing Underwater?
RA: I play the 335 a lot. It seems to kind of be my main expression
instrument. I mean, Ive gone through a lot of guitars. I went
through a Strat phrase, and SGs. I like em all. A good
guitar is a good guitar especially if its a classically time
proven instrument. I like old guitars a lot. I dont know...
They just have a sweeter high end and stuff like that but I have some
new guitars that I like a lot. But the 335...I have a blond 59
that Ive been playing with Paul a lot. Its sort of overall,
my main ax.
RS: Do you ever mix the the 335 with the Les Paul on record?
RA: I cant remember. (laughter) I think the main two categories
of six string electrics are single coil and humbuckings. And Ive
had a tendency to gravitate more towards humbucking guitars in the
last two years. I have a Silvertone, a Silvertone sounds really great.
Its nice cause its sort of a cross between a Tele
and a Gibson. I find that for most things, I kind of get off on the
humbucking thing. I mean, P-90s are nice too. Im sort
of rediscovering those a little bit but I would get annoyed by hum
but sometimes you dont even want to think about it.
RS: How about the Chet Atkins guitar?
RA: The nylon? The Gibson Chet Atkins is a thin body nylon. When were
touring I played that. On Shes Leaving Home theres
a harp part that is predominant in the song. Transcribed it for two
nylons and played the right hand bit and Brian played the left hand
bit. Cause theres a piano. So that was a lot of fun. The
Chet Atkins is great for live because it really translates well to
a live room. The nylon string, you know? I have a Country Gentlemen.
I have a few Gretschs that I like too. Theyre used live
and in the studio. You know, whatever works, really.
RS: How about that Gretsch Corvette guitar you have?
RA: That I used on a few tours. I believe its a fake, what are
those things called...6120s? I bought it with one pickup in
it, no...originally it had one pickup in it and then somebody put
the treble pickup in it. And then I took it a little farther and put
another knob in. But I had it all done well and its a 50s
guitar. It sounds great. Its got the Armonds in it and...its
RS: What kind of amps do you use in the studio?
RA: Well, I use Divided By Thirteen amps a lot. I use them exclusively
live. And in the studio I use those and I also use old Gibson amps,
Laneys, old Laneys...stuff like that.
RS: Pauls a great guitar player too. Do you guys play the jam
on the End from Abbey Road.
RA: Oh, yeah. We always do that. Weve been doing anyway, the
three way lead thing. Thats a gas. Thats a lot of fun.
RS: I could never tell who was playing what!
RA: I think that you can kinda tell. Lennon definitely had that real
super distorted, super fuzzy, two note thing. And Pauls leads
are very sort of...theyve got this real stylized sort of blues
thing and then Harrison sounds pretty much like Clapton. So you can
RS: Whats it like playing with McCartney? When I heard the first
McCartney solo album, I never knew one musician could do all
RA: Right. Well, thats the thing. Paul is so musical that God
sort of drew about nine thousand peoples talents into him. Hes
just so good at so many things and I think he approaches the guitar
kind of differently. Hes a lefty for one thing. He whistles
a lot and when he talks its a very melodic way of speaking.
His melody and phrasing and stuff is always built into everything
he does. So when he plays guitar its coming from an almost non-guitarist
kind of place, where hes just thinking about the effect, the
melody, the arrangement...the end result, as opposed to the technique.
RS: Theres some great Beatles inspired moments on Undressing
Underwater. The song Electric Trains is one of my
favorites. I cant remember if it was that one or Coming
Down To Earth that had the backwards guitar solo.
RA: Coming Down To Earth has the backwards guitar solo.
RS: Is there a story on Electric Trains? Its a real
memorable kind of song.
RA: Behind the song itself? Well, the song, actually I wrote it a
while ago and then, while rewriting it, was thinking, I gotta
figure out what this songs about. You know? Cause
I knew I had a really distinctive feeling about the song, but I couldnt
get it in to my brain. Out of my heart, in to my brain kind of thing.
And then it hit me all of a sudden, like a kind of brick, that it
was about my brother, who passed away when I was five and he was 19.
He was the oldest and I was the youngest. And then it all sort of
clicked in to become much easier to finish, and that was that. As
far as the music for it goes, for some reason on that song, I always
had sort of a clear vision of the kind of colors that I wanted to
put in to it. Cause its sort of about childhood and just
ethereal feelings and maybe emotions that cant always be put
into words and Id rather put them into melodies and sonics.
RS: First the song made me think about electric trains in a foreign
country and then I was thinking about the Lionel trains I had when
I was a kid.
RA: Yeah Neil Young is a big fan...I think he owns Lionel trains or
RS: Also Damaged Goods is another cool song.
RA: Yeah, thats one I actually co-wrote with my friend Paul
Plagens, who I was in a band with for a brief amount of time. I started
off writing that on vibes and sort of came up with the chorus bit.
I just wanted it to be a real sort of ethereal, moody, melodic, dreamy
kind of song. Sort of melancholy.
RS: Ol Sparky is another cool song. Whats
that line about kissing your ass?
RA: Yeah, kiss your own ass if no one else will. I wrote that line
when I was touring with Edna Swap. And that band broke up at the end
of the 90s.
RS: I remember that group. That was on Island. That was cool. I think
I reviewed the CD.
RA: Yeah. Oh, yeah? It was a fun band. It was a lot of type A personalities
so I think the band sort of self-destructed or evaporated or something
at a certain point. But while we were traveling around in a little
van, around the country, touring, opening up for different acts and
playing gigs at little clubs and huge arenas and stuff, there was
a lot of tension in the band, people arguing and stuff. And there
was a point at which I think that line (laughter) sort of applied
to that situation. When you dont have your comfort zone around
you, you have to kind of remember to love yourself (laughter) I guess.
RS: Type A, are you a fire sign or something?
RA: Well, no...I dont know what I am. I guess I just meant that
everybody had ideas and and everybody wanted to lead instead of follow.
That makes it tough within a band. I think a lot of bands like that,
sometimes theyre great bands, but they dont last.
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