maven and founder of Englands Pipeline magazine, Alan Taylor
hipped his readers to the 2011 CD from guitarist Philip Pell.
The 12 track release of Hopeless is actually as far
from the implied title as you can get! Perhaps Pell is a hopeless
guitar romantic, here at times channeling the sonic influences of
guitar giants such as Duane Eddy and Hank Marvin. In addition to the
classic sounds, Pell occasionally throws in some unique post 60s
etchings, including what sounds like mellotron keyboards, notably
on track 3 Drifting South and the cool, canned horns on
track 9, Breaking Wind, which sounds like instrumental
John Fogerty jamming with The Shadows. The CD adds in a couple of
vocal tracks, including a spoof on the early 1960s hit The
Monster Mash called The Monster Crash about PC computer
crashes. Either way, Pell adds in a cool guitar solo at the end of
the track. Amid the mostly instrumental originals are Pell covers
composed by one time Shadows guitarist John Farrar and the song writing
team of Duane Eddy and Lee Hazelwood. The album is clearly a labor
of love, say compared to a strategically implemented commercial release,
yet the CD is filled with uniquely English sounding, jazzy instrumental
rock, with a couple vocals in places. Overall, Philip Pell will appeal
to surf-rockers and jazz-based, soundtrack music fans who enjoy discovering
varied, eclectic guitarists with tasteful fretboard ideas. email:
an interview with
mwe3: Where did you grow up and when did music in general, as well
as the guitar enter your life? Can you reflect on your big musical
influences and favorite albums while growing up and what current recording
guitarists that you follow in 2011?
PELL: I grew up in Baker Street in Central London, England, opposite
the house that Sherlock Holmes reputedly lived in.
I believe that we all keep in our hearts the first music that touched
our souls. For me it was a used 45 picked up at a jumble saleRebel
Rouser by Duane Eddy. I could not believe the excitement and
atmosphere contained in those grooves and the emotions it stirred.
This was closely followed by Eddie Cochrans Somethin
The next light bulb moment was getting Chet Atkins Workshop
album. I just had to learn Whispering! This record influenced
me in another way too. On the cover was a picture of Chet in his home
studio and I could not imagine anything cooler than having one. Over
the years, I have been refining my home studio which is now the full
blown Pro Tools set up that I recorded Hopeless with.
Every guitar player I hear weaves a different color in the rich tapestry
of my musical life. Nowadays I listen to all sorts of stuff. I love
to hear Brad Paisley going for it and the CD in my player at the moment
is Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassas Dont Explain. I
describe Beth Hart as a Janis Joplin with a steering wheel,
and have a number of her albums. And to complete the circle, Duanes
new Road Trip album is as powerful as his firstwow!
mwe3: How did the Hopeless CD take shape and come together?
PP: Over the years I have been messing around with ideas in my studio
and eventually a friend said he would like to have an album of some
of the stuff. My philosophy in life is not to take yourself too seriouslyas
is apparent if you listen to the CDbut I thought it would be
fun to clean up a few tracks and make an album. I deliberately left
some things loose, like Rasta Pasta because I liked the
feel. I few weeks ago my hard drive containing all the tracks got
wiped so the world is safe from dance mixes or any extended versions!
What guitars are you using on the Hopeless CD and can you say
something about the way the album was recorded? What about favorite
guitars and other gear you use? Also do you perform live?
PP: The first guitar I grab is usually a 1958 Gretsch 6120. I bought
this in San Jose in 1979 and I gig with it. You will also hear my
American Telecaster with a maple neck and Fender Lace pick ups. The
acoustics I used were a Gibson J200 and a 1930 Martin OM28. The lead
on Breaking Wind was a 59 Gibson 355 to get that
dumb tone that I wanted. The main amp is a Rivera 150w
with a single 15 JBL but I used my Fender Vibro King for the
tone on Let It Be Me. I stomped on a Rat for Brain
Sugeonas one should do!
In 1978, The Duane Eddy Circle (www.duaneeddycircle.com)
held their first convention and I formed a band for the occasion
with the help of Stuart Colman. The band became The Twang Gang and
every year since we have played the convention. At 33 years old, it
makes the band one of the longest running instrumental outfits around.
mwe3: I saw in the liner notes you mentioned Duane Eddy. Can you
say something about the track by Duane you chose to cover here, The
Walker? What place does Duane occupy in your musical upbringing
and hierarchy of musical influences?
PP: Duane Eddy is one of the nicest people I know and a great human
being. Like his playing, he does not use ten words when two will doand
those words speak the truth. My thank you to him on Hopeless
was for his inspiration, friendship and advice. The evening I gave
him a copy of my CD he gave me a copy of Road Trip in which
he thanks me. That was pretty cool.
Duane and Chet are my biggest musical influences. However, The
Walker is about the least typical Duane Eddy track but it has
this hypnotic riff that I wanted to get a different take on and give
a thumb picking feel to.
mwe3: I also see there are two other instrumental cuts here of songs
that are sort of associated with The Shadows. Hopelessly Devoted
To You was composed by one time Shadows bass player John Farrar
while you also chose to instrumental-ize Let It Be Me,
which was actually done as a vocal on 1965s Sounds Of The
Shadows. What do those songs mean to you?
I have a great deal of respect for The Shadows but I do not feel that
influenced by them. I love the song Hopelessly Devoted
and thought it would be a great number for Duane to do but he said
Naaryou do it so I did it in the way I wanted him
to do it. I still think he should have done it!
Let It Be Me will always be associated with the Everly
Brothers but actually was not written by them. The tune was going
through my mind one morning and I sat down in the studio and started
it with a solo acoustic guitar verse that sounded quite pretty. When
I had finished the whole track, the acoustic verse at the front did
not really fitso it went.
mwe3: Very impressive is your own track, Breaking Wind.
Aside from the humorous title connotations, I noticed a definite kind
of Hank Marvin influence, circa his famous first solo album from 1969.
What about that track?
PP: I was out sailing in the Mediterranean when we suddenly became
becalmed out of sight of land. We sat there for a long time with only
a tin of beans to eat. An hour after we had eaten it we noticed the
first stirrings of a breeze. Inspiration comes from the strangest
places but I am not too sure what influence I was under!
I noticed a couple vocal tracks on the Hopeless CD. What place
do the vocals take on the CD and can you say something about your
vocal tracks on the CD?
PP: I take my vocals even less seriously that my guitar playing. Monster
Crash and Brain Sugeon are just fun ideas that had
to be vocals. The Wobble Song is pretty personal and I
was not going to include it on the album but I was persuaded otherwise.
mwe3: How about your life outside music? How do you occupy your time
and what other special interests do you pursue, professionally and
PP: Music, cars and guitarspretty much the same as when I was
16 except I am married now and family life is fun. I have some property
interests and own an upmarket kosher Chinese restaurant (www.kaifeng.co.uk)
but my greatest luxury is that every day is different. One day I could
be doing a gig and the next having Tony Blair come to the restaurant.
I am blessed with an extraordinarily interesting life.
mwe3: Whats coming regarding future plans musically for you?
Will there be a follow up CD to Hopeless in the not so distant
future? Thank you for the interview Philip.
PP: The motto I have for my family is blunder on. Come
to think of it, that is a good title for an instrumental. Must dash
and put something down!
Good to talk to you Robert and thank you for mwe3.