DUSTIN HOFSESS
Short Stories
(DH Records)

 

Guitarist Dustin Hofsess is currently getting rave reviews for his 2013 CD entitled Short Stories. The 10 track CD features Hofsess in a group setting with production handled by percussionist Jim Brock. Dustin's band on Short Stories—including Adam Snow (drums), Lovell Bradford (keyboards) and George Porter Jr. (bass)—is also first rate. Musically, the all instrumental CD invents an innovative form of 21st century jazz-rock fusion that spans and blends a wide range of guitar styles and studio wizardry. Fans of musicians that Dustin has studied with—including Oz Noy, Jim Campilongo and Joel Harrison (all guitar veterans of the NYC jazz scene)—will find much to enjoy with Short Stories. The CD will find an immediate home among fusion fans and rock guitar enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy Dustin’s jazz-fusion instro rave up of the Led Zeppelin classic “Kashmir”. www.DustinHofsess.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
DUSTIN HOFSESS


mwe3
: Your new album hit from out the blue. Can you give some background into how long you’ve been playing guitar and recording music and overall?

DUSTIN HOFSESS: I have been playing guitar for about 30 years now. It has fascinated me since I was a third grader listening to my parents' record collection. The Beatles, The Doobie Brothers, Peter Frampton--that music seemed so exotic to me, electrified by the sound of the guitar. The day I got my first guitar I learned a Rush song by ear off the radio and I was hooked for life. I started playing professionally in college and have worked as a professional musician ever since.

I performed in a number of local and regional bands but the one gig that really honed my skills was as a studio musician for Sound Choice, the largest producer of karaoke music. My job was to learn and replicate the guitar parts on hundreds of songs in all styles. In one week I might have to recreate tunes by Frank Sinatra, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Madonna, and Ozzy Osbourne. This really sharpened my ear and taught me a lot about getting good guitar tones.

The last several years I spent writing and playing bass in the band Green Light, an instrumental band that has been described as Pink Floyd meets Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. We toured the east coast and released four CDs that I am still quite proud of.

mwe3: Where are you from originally and where do you live now and what do you like best about it?

DUSTIN HOFSESS: I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. Being a fairly large city there is a music scene there with a wide variety of styles and enough work to keep me very busy. I love all styles of music when done well. The challenge of playing many different styles with a deep roster of great musicians kept me in Charlotte for most of my life.

My wife and I recently moved to the town of Boone up in the NC mountains. Boone is a college town and it is less than two hours to Charlotte where I still teach, at Davidson College, perform and record regularly. I am just starting to get plugged into the scene up here but I am looking forward to having all sorts of new playing opportunities while keeping some of my lifelong musical connections.

mwe3: What guitars are you using of the Short Stories CD? In addition to your lap steel and bass work, there’s some great recorded sound effects that you use on the CD. What’s in your sonic bag of goodies so to speak as far as effects, pedals, and amps used on record in the studio and how about what your live concert setup is like?

DUSTIN HOFSESS: On Short Stories I used every guitar I owned. My main guitar is a “Partscaster” assembled by my luthier Craig Landau. He is a true artist and has refretted and customized every instrument that I own. The Partscaster is a 1963 Jazzmaster neck bolted to a reissue body. The neck is very well worn and feels incredibly comfortable. Landau put in electronics by Barden which are very versatile. That is usually the first guitar I grab for any situation.

I also used a 1963 Gretsch Corvette, a cool little vintage student model with a unique sound, on “And The Children Danced”. My two G&L guitars that I bought new in 1993, a Legacy used on “One Million Breaths" and an ASAT classic used on “Simple and True” were also employed.

For basses I used my 1977 Fender Jazz Bass that was my main touring instrument with Green Light. I also used a Jaco Pastorius signature jazz bass and my old 1960’s Kay upright.

All of the sound effects were recorded in the moment as opposed to added later in the mixing stage of the process. I used my typical live pedal and amplifier setup for the entire CD. The pedalboard starts with a Boss compressor and then goes into a NOC3 Pure Drive. All of the soundscape comes from a Line 6 M13 multi FX, an incredibly versatile pedal. All of the echoes, backwards guitar, loops, etc. were created on the fly with this pedal.

For amps I mainly used my live rig, two Oldfield Club Master prototypes that I have been using for several years. I did borrow a fantastic early 1970s Marshall and a 1963 Princeton but I don’t remember if I actually ended up using them on the record.

mwe3: What was it like working with producer Jim Brock on the new CD? How did you meet Jim and what did he bring to the studio setting and final release?

DUSTIN HOFSESS: I have known and looked up to Jim since I was I was about 20. My friends and I used to go see his group, The Montuno Jazz Orchestra, frequently. It was so inspiring to me to see such high caliber music at the local clubs. Jim’s incredible focus really had an impact on me. When it came time to do my first solo recording project I knew I wanted Brock to produce it and put his percussive genius all over it. He is one of the most musical people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. His sense of time is so good he can tell you if your watch is running slow.

His resume reflects the depth he has in many styles; Joe Walsh, John Hyatt, Sonny Landreth, Victor Wooten, Kathy Mattea, Mel Lewis, Branford Marsalis, Delbert McClinton, Sam Bush, Pinetop Perkins, Michael Hedges and many others.

What I like the most about working with Jim is that, like me, he straddles the line of being a "song" player and a "jazz" player. He understands the power of a well crafted song, as well as the magic that can happen in the interaction of sensitive improvising musicians. He really got what I was going for and helped me to achieve it.

mwe3: Can you tell us something about the musicians recording with you on the Short Stories CD and what was the chemistry like between the players during the sessions? So many musicians send files everywhere these days, do you like making “long distance” albums or a group under one studio roof, so to speak?

DUSTIN HOFSESS: Well besides Jim Brock I had a few other fantastic musicians to help me realize my vision for the project.

My long time collaborator Adam Snow contributed his talents on the drum kit. Adam and I played together in Green Light for ten years or so. We traveled around the country in our old band van listening to music and talking about musical concepts. Because of this closeness Adam really gets what I am going for with little or no explanation.

Keyboardist Lovell Bradford is a newer friend of mine. He is such a natural musician and great guy to be around. He contributed keyboard tracks on the two live tunes, “Shell Game” and “Short Stories”.

I am very excited that I have one of my all time favorite musicians, George Porter Jr., playing bass on my project. While I was in college the rhythms of funk really changed my musical concept. Prince, Sly & the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, their music made my musical concept shift from the cerebral to the visceral. When I heard the New Orleans band The Meters their music resonated in my bones. Anchored by George Porter Jr, the master of time and space, The Meters have been in constant listening rotation for me for all these years.

When planning the session, the experience of playing live with George was much more important than the actual recording. We were all in the same room vibing together. Luckily it was captured and those two live tracks, “Shell Game” and “Short Stories”, hold a special place in my heart.

While I do respect how technology allows people to make “long distance” records today, I like to be in the same room with everyone. The experience is an important part of the process to me. I considered getting a couple of other big names on the CD through remote recording, but in the end that just didn’t appeal to me.

The recording process was very different from tune to tune. While some songs were recorded live with all the musicians in the same room, others were crafted piece by piece, layering one instrument at a time. To keep the spontaneous jazz-like feel on those tunes I limited myself to one take on each track. I think the final result is that they feel like composed songs but still have the exciting unpredictability that comes with improvised music.

mwe3: In addition to your solo career, what other recording and musical projects, live and/or studio, are you working on, including the band Green Light, and how do you balance everything as well as your teaching career? And you’re also planning an instructional book? What will that include? What else interests you... you also had a soundtrack album too? What’s that like?

DUSTIN HOFSESS: My old band Green Light has been talking about booking some shows and coming out of hiatus. I know how much all three of us love the band but life has been getting in our way. Because we played together so much the band has a unique power, a collective consciousness that we can tap into when improvising. I’d like to see us perform and possibly record more in the next year.

As for other projects, for the last few years I have been doing a house gig every Monday night at the legendary blues club, the Double Door Inn in Charlotte. The band, which includes Jim Brock, has been doing Monday nights there for 17 years. It is a great place for me to work on new ideas with some fantastic musicians in front of a great crowd.

I would enjoy doing more soundtrack work. My experiences with that have been fun challenges. Music that creates a mood really appeals to me so I may start to pursue that avenue of expression even more in the future.

Teaching music continues to be an important focus of my life. I am working on a book, or more likely a series of books that are growing out of my teaching practice. I enjoy teaching musicians of all levels, from my advanced students at Davidson College to young beginners to adult hobbyists.

I see everything I do through the lens of music. When you do anything for most of your life you learn everything about life through that craft. Music has helped me understand big concepts such as patience, collaboration, and communication. Through music I have been able to see myself more clearly. You play music like your personality. As I improve myself as a person, my playing gets richer and deeper.

This same deepening could come from any lifelong pursuit; writing, martial arts, pottery, gardening. For me it comes from music. I have other hobbies but really music is my life and teaching music is my way of giving back to the world all that music has given to me.

mwe3: What are you hoping fans will come away with after listening to Short Stories and what other guitarists have been catching your ears and eyes this year?

DUSTIN HOFSESS: I just hope anyone who listens to it, regardless of their background, enjoys the project. I titled the CD Short Stories because to me each tune is like its own short story rather than like chapters in a book. They all have different moods and different narratives.

One of the most difficult things for me to do is to categorize my music. Categories are great for marketing but they can limit creativity. If music falls easily within one genre then it is probably not pushing boundaries... unless it created that genre!

To me categories don't matter in music. What matters is if the musician is really letting his or her personality and soul come out. The more personal the music the better. In my mind Willie Nelson, Al Green, Frank Zappa, Bob Marley and Thelonious Monk are all playing the same music.

My music lies somewhere in between. While I am influenced by the beautiful and complex harmonies of jazz, I am just as fascinated by the textural side of music. The mysterious sounds created by Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd caught my ear at a young age and that fascination continues today with artists like Bill Frisell and Medeski, Martin & Wood. Combining all of that with the rhythms of Africa, the Middle East, India, Central and South America is where my focus lies.

As far as listening goes, I have mainly been listening to my old favorite guitar players; Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny, Hendrix, David Gilmour, Wayne Krantz, Buddy Guy and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown.

My teaching practice has made me revisit some of the classic jazz guitarists; especially Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and Jim Hall

As for other music that has intrigued me recently...

Meshell Ndegeocello continues to inspire me. Her constantly twisting musical path and the deepest of grooves appeals to me deep in my soul. Playing with her would be my dream gig.

The Wood Brothers and Otis Taylor are where I think modern blues is headed, broken out of the bar-room blues mold into new song forms.

The Esbjörn Svensson Trio really bent my ear. Their modern take on the classic acoustic piano trio was refreshing. It was such a loss when Svensson was tragically killed in a diving accident.

Tony Allen, drummer for Fela Kuti has put out some fantastic music over the past few years. I love his sense of rhythm.

Stevie Wonder, Wilco, Al Green, Edie Brickell, The Police, Jimmy McGriff, John Coltrane, Kaki King, Willie Nelson and Prince are always in heavy rotation for me.

mwe3: What are your plans for Short Stories this year, marketing, concerts, show, etc... and how about new material and possible new recordings and/or DVD releases you may have planed for 2014?

DUSTIN HOFSESS: My main focus right now is getting this music out there. I am planning on more live shows and some radio appearances to promote the project.

I’m also working on a new batch of tunes for my next recording project. Jim Brock and I are just starting to plan for that project. I think it will be a duo project with just the two of us but who knows.

I did a few video projects for Short Stories including some live footage that I plan on mixing and releasing soon. I really enjoyed the challenge of working with video and I plan on doing a lot more of that with the next project and I might even have the next project be a DVD.

Thanks to Dustin Hofsess @ www.DustinHofsess.com






 

 
   
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