PHILIP PELL
Hopeless
(Ridiculous Records)

 

Guitar maven and founder of England’s 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 1960’s 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: pellmet@hotmail.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
PHILIP PELL



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?

PHILIP 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 sale—“Rebel 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 Cochran’s “Somethin’ Else”.

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 Bonamassa’s Don’t 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, Duane’s new Road Trip album is as powerful as his first—wow!

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 seriously—as is apparent if you listen to the CD—but 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!

mwe3: 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 Sugeon”—as 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 do—and 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 1965’s Sounds Of The Shadows. What do those songs mean to you?

PP: 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 ‘Naar—you 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 fit—so 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!

mwe3: 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. Sorry everybody.

mwe3: How about your life outside music? How do you occupy your time and what other special interests do you pursue, professionally and personally?

PP: Music, cars and guitars—pretty 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: What’s 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.

 

 
   
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