SCOTT HENDERSON
Vibe Station
(Scott Henderson Music)

 

On August 26, 1954, West Palm Beach, Florida got more than they bargained for, a future genius with a guitar…and a problem with authority! Actually, we’re joking because Scott pays the highest degree of homage to all of his musical influences, past and present. A friendship and partnership would eventually emerge, with virtuosi bassist Gary Willis, keyboardist Scott Kinsey and drummer Kirk Covington. The band would be called Tribal Tech and its recordings would be revered for over a generation, Scott’s other blistering fretboard work with Chick Corea, Jean Luc Ponty, Zawinul, and Wayne Shorter would earn him the #1 Jazz Guitarist in Guitar World Magazine in 1991 and top spot in the 1992 Guitar Player Magazine’s Best Jazz Guitarist Reader’s Poll. Scott Henderson’ first solo album, Dog Party earned Guitar Player’s best blues album of 1994.

The CD, Vibe Station, released in May, 2015 is a journey that will traverse a variety of musical genres including reggae, fusion, blues, more blues, rock, jazz, even a touch of country, and we even opened a brand new category for Scott called "pastoral spike collar". Any music listener would love this album, but if you are a guitar player, then clearly, you need to own this album. Scott’s modal vocabulary is so baked in, that he never even breaks a sweat when soloing over even the most complex chord changes.

And while it would be impossible to out-Beck Jeff Beck at his amazing whammy technique, Scott is also great with the whammy bar and further fattens up his single note playing with finger style in a sound that projects sassiness and attitude. Of course, the influence of blues legends like Albert King and some of his contemporaries have lent ideas, as Scott discusses later on, and like Frank Zappa, Scott often puts humorous twists on his song titles.

Bassist, Travis Carlton and drummer, Alan Hertz also deserve a lot of praise for providing their thundering and highly demanding performances on this album. 2015's Vibe Station is Scott’s first release in three years and unlike some of the prior work, Scott had creative control over the entire album. “I put my heart and soul into it… I work long hours every day and I’m very meticulous about every little tone and phrase. I just want it to be right."

I was struck by the ease of versatility in Scott’s effortless manner of playing through several styles within a single song. You could even say that the Vibe Station album is similar to the weather in Baltimore…If there’s something about it you don’t like, wait a minute and it will change! “It’s the A.D.D.!” Scott says. The songs are complex but tight and never meandering.

“Church of Xotic Dance”- Opens like a cosmic Bob Marley tune, its background chord atmospheres at once dispelling any notion that only keyboards can make wild sound effects. The song moves
along through an outline reminiscent of Cab Calloway’s "Minny The Moocher", then by way of some extremely clever chord changes, into a blues groove. The music breaks for several uncommon but beautiful chords into a swing beat blues shuffle and finally back to the main theme. “If I started a religion, it would definitely have something to do with strippers!” says Scott.

“Sphinx” – Old school rock fans be forewarned. Scott’s sound throughout this tune is huge, and glides along. It’s a main theme of a Lydian-based melody, which instantly adds an exotic middle-eastern vibe to the song. The dominant 7th augmented 2nd ("Stone Free") chord gives us a hint of Jimi, and the elastic sounding melodies calls Jeff Beck to mind just before Scott reaches into his bag of pedals to unleash a riveting and frenzied guitar solo, the number pounding along a heavy blues-rock motif, further supercharging Scott’s wizardry. The solo gives way to a reprisal of the main theme and a chord change distantly reminiscent of the chords to “Hey Joe”, but, of course, much more complex, large and ominous sounding.

“Vibe Station” – The intro mimics the sound of someone turning a radio dial to tune in a station, and then out comes the title track, a highly charged funky fusion tune, packed full of Scott’s blistering riffage, not to mention a tight and athletic drum performance, twisting and turning like a roller coaster ride through many brilliantly executed chord progressions and some accenting material at the conclusion that is reminiscent of the earlier Tribal Tech style.

“Manic Carpet” – A tune that fires an all-out sonic assault on all senses with adrenaline-surging bass and drums as the backdrop to a fiery electric sitar performance. Scott cites his inspiration for the sitar solo as being from Steely Dan’s original guitarist, Denny Diaz “That sitar solo on Manic Carpet Ride was definitely inspired by the sitar solo in “Do It Again” though I might have taken it a little more out...” Yeah sure, Scott, just a little...

“Calhoun” – Another brilliantly shining tune, “Calhoun” is a truly elegant and sophisticated number with an organic sounding blues theme that could belong to Jimi or Steve Cropper, and showcases Scott’s virtuosity in threading great sounding, jazz chord progressions that build and peak to great beauty. This song shimmers from intro to ending, features a great guitar solo, and extracts tones that makes this song one of the great tunes played on a Stratocaster (actually a Surh SH-Classic).

“The Covered Head” – Scott gets his blues face on and digs in. This tune sounded the most like a live tune, and grooves to a familiar type of I-IV-I-VI-II-V blues progression. Scott’s remarkable solo work on this tune is replete with legato madness and wild lines. Travis and Alan are spotlighted also on several breaks during the tune.

“Festival of Ghosts” – This tune stands out to feature a beckoning melody set to a background of a three chord descending/ascending progression. As the song unfolds, its chord chemistry produces fusion in its finest form, building crescendos and reaching the highest point of musical drama, since “Rituals” and “The Necessary Blonde”. Fine fretboard work pervades throughout as Scott executes a beautifully melodic, yet bluesy solo and accentuates his solos with squeals, and feedback. In the final solo section, Scott invokes a guitar effect that sounds as though it wants to explode straight through the front of the speaker cones, not unlike the way that Dan O’Bannon’s "Alien" ripped through John Hurt’s stomach. We found this to be a very haunting tune… come on, we just couldn’t resist!

“Dew Wut?” – A tune that begins with a country riff and morphs into a blues rock tune. The song’s central theme consists of a hard driving old-school rock pattern. In the solo section, there is a Jeff Beck meets Johnny Hiland vibe, all while the drummer and bass thunder along before Scott finally breaks into a wah-wah solo. Alan Hertz tears up on this tune with excellent drumming as Travis Carlton delivers the beef on the surging bass line during the solo. The farm aninal noises are humorous, and we’re sure having something to do with the song title but I’m almost afraid to ask.

“Chelsea Bridge” – Inspired by the Buddy Rich version of the same tune, Scott ends the album with a nod to tradition on a beautiful jazz guitar version of Billy Strayhorn’s tune.

To anyone with any familiarity with Scott, he loves to play his guitar. In this September 2015 interview, Scott talks about making the new record, his approach to writing and practicing, song writing with Gary Willis, his gear and effects, and he offers a glimpse of the guys he listens to (hint, they're definitely not all guitar players). Scott also reveals how he built the soundproof room in his house that allows him to record with his 100 watt amp turned nearly all the way up. Music Web Express 3000 is thrilled to have the opportunity to feature Scott Henderson and his brilliant 2015 CD Vibe Station.


 

MWE3.com presents an interview with
Fusion Guitar Legend

Scott Henderson


Review and interview written and produced by
Eric Paulos and Robert Silverstein for mwe3.com


MWE3: Scott, how’s it going man?

SH: Good, how are you doing?

MWE3: I’m absolutely floored by your new album, Vibe Station!

SH: Oh, thank you, man!

MWE3: Sorry for putting you on a speakerphone

SH: No problem man, I hear you fine!

MWE3: I want to ask you some questions about the new record because it’s absolutely and ridiculously over the top excellent, man!

SH: I really appreciate that, thanks!

MWE3: I understand that you have been working on this album for over a year, Scott.

SH: Well, it wouldn’t have taken that long but I’ve been touring, so in between family stuff and touring, it’s not like I can just lock myself in my room and ignore my 11 year old daughter. And I’ve toured quite a bit, so I work on the album when I can.

MWE3: So you’ve given guitar lessons to strangers, is your daughter taking guitar lessons from you?

SH: No, no, she takes piano, she plays Chopin! She’s ridiculous, she’s way more talented than me!

MWE3: You’re too humble! I’ve actually met you a couple of times in the early 2000s when you played at Club La Va Lee when it was still open, you played there with your blues band a few times, including Kirk (Covington) and Scott (Kinsey), and that was outstanding.

SH: Yeah, sure.

MWE3: There’s a heavy blues influence on this album, I just want to start off by saying it is your first release in three years and guitar players are absolutely going to revel in all the guitar ear candy that’s on this record! There seem to be a lot of new techniques and what I hear as new surprises on this record.

SH: Well I appreciate that, I know I can’t reinvent myself every day, but I feel like I grow as a guitar player a little bit every year as we all do, and I hopefully there’s some new stuff that people haven’t heard before.

MWE3: Absolutely and speaking of recording while on tour, I think that Led Zeppelin did that on their Led Zeppelin II album and they recorded that while they were on tour, and we know how THAT album turned out!

SH: Yeah, well I didn’t actually record on the road, I recorded here, but I just meant that I just couldn’t record because of being on the road…

MWE3: Did you feel while you were recording the record, Scott, did you feel a certain amount of pressure because you are a worldwide regarded and respected as one of, if not the top fusion guitar player in the world! So when you recorded the album, did you think to yourself, “Hey, it’s been three years and this better be a blockbuster or it ain’t going to press!”

SH: Well, I mean, that’s my mindset every time I do a record, that I find it great, and you know, whether it is or not only history can tell (laughter). That’s the intent anyway, I put my heart and soul into it, and I work long hours every day and I’m very meticulous about every little tone and phrase. I just want it to be right, you know, and I remember what Chet Atkins said when they asked him the same question and he said “Well I just keep doing it until I get it right!” (laughter). That’s kind of how I feel. And I know that I like the album now, but I’m sure that in a couple of months, I’m going to listen to it after I’ve learned how to get some better tones than the ones that are on this record and I’m going start going “Arghh! I screwed that up, or I screwed this up and I’m going to make it better on the next one!” So, it’s like a growing process, you know. I’m one of those guys that looks back at his previous works and I don’t care for it much.

MWE3: That sounds like your ethic and philosophy and I’ve heard that from Allan Holdsworth as well!

SH: (Laughter) Yeah, he’s worse than me! (more laughter). Wow, talk about being critical of myself, I mean, I’m critical of myself, but only up to a point. I think he takes it a little too far, he’s a great player and he really doesn’t need to be that critical of himself, he’s a monster! (laughter)

MWE3: You and Allan Holdsworth are great friends! He speaks very highly of you, and I’m just curious why you and Allan haven’t thought about recording a record together?

SH: Well, it’s the same thing for me and my other guitar friends. I’m really close friends with Mike Laundau, and Bruce Forman, and all of these monster players, and sometimes you’re just so busy doing your own thing that there just isn’t time. Like, you know this project that I do with Jeff Berlin and Dennis Chambers, HBC, I mean, we don’t even have time to write music for that project! Because for me, writing music is without a doubt, the most difficult of all the things there are to be done in music. Composition is the most taxing…it’s the most narcissistic…

MWE3: You know they say that the intersection of total narcissism and crippling self-doubt is art. I see your picture right there in the middle!

SH: (Laughter) That is true! I’m more of the crippling self-doubt! (more laughter)

MWE3: You’d be in a minority of one, Scott!

SH: Haha, you know, there’s that balance where you think you’re the greatest thing on earth and you’ve written the most amazing piece of music and then think “This is a total piece of crap!” (Laughter)

MWE3: I’ve heard similar sentiments expressed by the likes of John Lennon, so I think that’s the nature of the beast.

SH: It’s the nature of the beast and it’s my least favorite and yet most rewarding thing in music is composing, and when I think about doing it, I pretty much only have one life, and I’m going to spend that portion of my life writing for my own band. So since HBC, Jeff and Dennis, it’s been more of a touring thing and none of us really have time to write music for it since we’re writing for our own groups, we thought it would be fun to just do covers so that’s what we do in that band, and to tell you the truth, it’s a fun break from playing our own tunes. So we get to play the music of our heroes like Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock, and it’s a blast! So I’m kind of glad that I do have an outlet that I don’t have to write for, that I can just show up and play these fun tunes, sort of like a fusion top-40 band, and it’s fun!

MWE3: Yeah, and that’s outstanding! How did you get on with your old members of Tribal Tech when you were recording X?

SH: Well, Willis came back from being gone for a long time in Spain without coming back, I believe he came back for a NAMM show, and we figured as long as he is in town, let’s get him and do a recording. You know, Tribal Tech never really officially broke up. It’s just that Willis moved to Spain and married this Spanish girl, and I can’t say I blame him. So we just knew that if he came back and was able to hang for a while in L.A., at some point we could do another record, so we did, and that’s what X was about. We had a good time recording it, and who knows, maybe in the future we’ll do another one, who knows? That band is unpredictable.

MWE3: What I think of when I think of Tribal Tech other than the monstrous playing, is the great writing and the synergy between you and Gary in your song writing. You guys were like the Lennon/McCartney of fusion.

SH: Oh thanks! Or I always think of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker or Wayne Shorter when I think of the greatest writing teams! Those are the people I really look up to.

MWE3: They’re definitely at the top of the mountain, listen, a little about Vibe Station – “Church of Xotic Dance” – The introspection within that tune is overwhelming! There are a number of playing styles on that track. It begins with a reggae feel and you’re going from a section of slow blues to swing and shuffle, it’s just a tremendous record and tune.

SH: That’s just the A.D.D., not being able to pay attention (laughter). I’m afraid that’s what people think when they listen to my records, they think “Oh, THIS guy has A.D.D. for sure! He can’t pay attention to one style of music to stay there for very long” but I am very influenced by many different types of music and I’m one of those lucky people, I feel that I’m fortunate to find beauty in just about any type of music. There’s good music in every style and if it’s good music, I’m a fan. I see some people in the States especially who are more clique oriented or fad oriented to them because the music is more to them than just notes, it’s lyrics and the lyrics sort of suggest a lifestyle. So some of the metal guys are unlikely to listen to Beyonce, some of the pop fans aren’t going to listen to jazz. It’s sad because the people who are close-minded to music miss out on a lot.

MWE3: Sure...

SH: I’m one of those guys that can appreciate Led Zeppelin and I love them and also Miles Davis, and the country guys like Johnny Hiland and Albert Lee, the classical music of Mozart, Bartok and since my wife is a classical pianist, I hear a lot of that music and I love it. So I’m just a lucky guy to be able to appreciate a lot of different music and not surprisingly, some of my favorite musicians like Bruce Forman, who is a total straight ahead, very purist jazz guitarist, doesn’t have a purist mentality, he loves Led Zeppelin too, and loves all different kinds of music. So just because some guys chooses to play a more pure style of music doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t appreciate also different kinds of music too, just because they don’t play it. But I kind of take it to the next step, I not only appreciate it, I want to do it! (laughs). I want to play rock and roll, I want to play jazz, I want to play funk, I want to play blues, and I do! And I can! (laughs)

MWE3: Speaking of A.D.D., I love some of your song titles like “Manic Carpet Ride” and I don’t think I’ve ever heard an electric sitar that was played like that.

SH: Yeah you have! Remember the solo on “Do It Again”?

MWE3: Oh yeah! Danny Diaz! He’s a monster!

SH: Yeah, Danny Diaz, one of my all time, favorite guitar players! He was brilliant! His solo on “Bodhisattva” and a lot of my favorite Steely Dan solos.

MWE3: I think he (Diaz) played some of the solos in the tune "Aja" as well.

SH: Yeah, he’s just brilliant! He’s always been of my favorite guitarists growing up to listen to. That sitar solo on "Manic Carpet Ride" was definitely inspired by the sitar solo in “Do It Again” though I might have taken it a little more out (laughs).

MWE3: I think so, we are going levels three dimensionally beyond the usual pentatonic runs.

SH: Yes, the noncommercial version.

MWE3: Since most of our audience is other musicians and your fans, I’m sure that they’ll definitely appreciate that... Something I’ve never heard from you that I can recall from your records, and I think at the beginning of "Dew Wut?" where it almost sounds like a country run at the beginning of the tune.

SH: Yeah, it’s a Tele, I wanted to play a Tele on that one, it’s a Suhr Tele and I did something similar on Well To the Bone on the song "Hillbilly In The Band". That was actually a Strat but same kind of mentality, just trying to emulate some of my favorite country guitarists. I’m a big Johnny Hiland and a big Albert Lee fan and a big Steve Trovato fan and always envious of these country guys that have twenty times more chops than me! (laughs). They’re just amazing! There’s Jerry Douglas…there’s just so many good ones, I’m not a big country music listener but I know that in Nashville, there’s tons of incredible, incredible guitar players.

MWE3: Absolutely. "Chelsea Bridge" seems to be as close to a straight ahead jazz tune as definitely anything from this album and from long back. Did you play that on an acoustic jazz guitar?

SH: Yes, in fact, Bruce Forman loaned me a beautiful instrument. The maker of the guitar is Sonntag, a German luthier who built that guitar especially for Bruce, and Bruce loaned it to me for the record, and what a wonderful sounding instrument... I mean that thing just sounds gorgeous!

MWE3: Yeah man, it was absolutely beautiful, the note bloom on that guitar.

SH: And easy to play too! I remember Bruce telling me when I borrowed it from him, I asked him “Well what gauge strings does it have?” and he says “.012s!” And I said, “Oh my God! I’m gonna die!” (laughter) but it was actually really easy to play and just a beautiful instrument. I just love it and I will definitely borrow it again if he’ll loan it to me! (laughs)

MWE3: I don’t blame you, I thought I was hearing Wes Montgomery with his L5…

SH: What a great sound… what a beautiful guitar!

MWE3: Yeah, the bloom is really prominent in that song and it’s a really wonderful tune as well.

SH: It is, it’s a beautiful tune. There’s a version that I love by the Buddy Rich Big Band and they played the hell out of that tune. It’s on Best of Buddy Rich and it’s a live recording of Buddy Rich Big Band playing "Chelsea Bridge" and it’s one of the best versions I’ve ever heard and I’ve always loved that version since I was a kid.

MWE3: Do you get a lot of your inspiration from saxophone players and other types of musicians?

SH: Sure, I’m always inspired and bewildered by some of these excellent players who are just amazing like all of the guys that you already know about like Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley, and Joe Henderson, all the famous ones that you know, but there are some other ones, like Chris Potter, some of the new guys like Shamus Blake, Mark Turner, Joshua Redman, they’re all fantastic players and I always draw inspiration from those guys.

MWE3: So tell me, do you have any memories of West Palm Beach and when you studied music theory under Bill Prince?

SH: Yeah, sure, that’s my stomping grounds, and in fact I was thinking of taking my family for a vacation down there this summer, just to see where I grew up, because they’ve never been down there.

MWE3: Awesome!

SH: Yeah, you know unfortunately, when I lived there, I managed to stay working, and in fact that’s how I learned to play the guitar really, from when I was sixteen, I was gigging every night down there in those bars playing top-40 or playing whatever. Toward the end of the time around 1980, disco had moved in, in the ‘70s and made it harder to work, there weren’t as many gigs, so I thought “If I’m going to not work, I’d rather not work in Los Angeles than West Palm Beach.” So I moved to L.A. to go to G.I.T. which was a great benefit for me because Pat Martino and Joe Diorio were both teaching there. Ron Eschete and a lot of great teachers, Don Mock, and I learned a lot there and it got me to L.A where I met some people who helped me get some good gigs like my first sort of known gig was with Jeff Berlin, and I played on his first album, and it was his first album as a leader, and it was my very first recording. So it was a big deal for me from there, I went to play with Jean Luc Ponty and then Chick and Zawinul, and I was lucky to get some great gigs out here.

MWE3: You played with Jean Luc Ponty on "Infinite Pursuit" from the Fables album. Some of the guitar lines were crazy that you played and almost sounded in the first violin/guitar interaction passage as though you overplayed the measure, but in a very musical way.

SH: That tune was in different time signatures and I remember practicing it for a long time because it was really difficult and that was one of the the first and only times I had to play a solo on a record with a different time signature. I’ll be the first to say that I suck at different time signatures. I’m not John McLaughlin who plays every time signature in the world. My rhythmic vocabulary ends with Kool and the Gang (laughter).

MWE3: That’s really hard to believe with the complexity of some of those Tribal Tech tunes!

SH: I listen to Meshuggah sometimes, I swear, and actually, I talked to one of those guys and he told me that all their music was in 4, but the accents are so crazy, and I’m a big fan. I love that band and so I would hate to have to learn that music, it’s too hard! (laughs)

MWE3: Now your philosophy on the blues sort of flies in the face of a lot of snobby fusion guitar players that don’t listen to the blues. I even heard an interview Allan Holdsworth video that was a combination concert and question/answer session that he did several years ago. Someone asked if he was going to play a blues song in his band, and Allan’s answer was “Fuck no!”

SH: Well, you know, I mean different people have different opinions about blues. I was brought up with the blues. It’s in my heart and soul and always will be and no matter what kind of music that I learn to enjoy or learn to play, that will always be the music that taught me how to play the guitar and will always be my roots, and I can never leave my roots and I never will. And for that reason, I’ll always be a blues guitarist and blues will always show up in my music in one way or another. Other people were just never were brought up with the blues, like when I hear Pat Metheny play, Kurt Rosenwinkel, or Allan (Holdsworth) or some of these other guys, they sound more European to me. They don’t sound like they were brought up listening to Albert King. They sound like they were more brought up listening to Wes Montgomery and guys like that, which is great too, because I love Pat Metheny, I love Kurt Rosenwinkel, I love Allan, but it’s not a bluesy type of playing, ala someone who was definitely brought up with the blues, and that would be (John) Scofield. You can hear much more blues influence in his playing.

MWE3: I really loved your quote, if memory serves, from your first REH video where you said “I’d rather here Albert King drop his guitar than hear jazz guys run scales up and down!” (laughter)

SH: I can stay some pretty stupid stuff sometimes, but to tell you the truth, there are a lot of guitar players, and I’m not going to mention any names, but there are a lot of guitar players who just make me cringe to hear. I cannot listen to a lot of the ‘80s shredders, just too many notes for me. And when it gets to the point where I can’t tell the difference between one guy and the other, that’s when I turn it off. There was a big movement in the ‘80s of shred guitar where everybody played harmonic minor scales, wide vibratos, and ending every phrase with the same place in the beat. There was just so much of this sameness that I just stopped listening to rock for a while. That’s probably the period where I got more into just straight ahead jazz because I just wasn’t digging what was going on in the rock world during the ‘80s. So then I became this old fart who when I think of rock, I just think of Led Zeppelin outside of a few bands that I really do like, like Meshuggah and some of these bands, I mean there’s definitely more current rock bands that I like, most of the shred metal stuff is not my thing. I appreciate the virtuosity of what goes into being able to play at those ridiculous speeds, and I definitely respect it, but for me, it’s like going to the circus, I mean you go once and you go, “Oh wow!” and then you go next year. I can’t do it every day. I can listen to Stevie Ray Vaughn or Jeff Beck every day and never get tired of it because that music speaks to my soul more than the other stuff.

MWE3: I think it is fair to say that you're one of the guitar players that has a signature style and someone listening can identify your style fairly quickly because it’s so individual.

SH: Well I hope so. You can definitely hear some influences in there, I’m definitely influenced by Beck and there’s some Scofield influence in there and some Holdsworth and some George Benson stuff. I listened to him a lot when I was a kid and I definitely learned a bunch of his licks. But I think if you listen to just about any guitar player, you hear his individual voice, but you also hear where some of the inspiration came from. Like when I hear Jeff Beck, and I don’t know if you ever listened to Les Paul, but you can tell that Les Paul was a big influence on Jeff Beck. And like Chet Atkins being a big influence on Tommy Emanuel. Tommy Emanuel sounds like Tommy, but you can tell that he was influenced by Chet. There are so many more, like Jimi Hendrix was hugely influenced by Albert King and so was Stevie Ray Vaughn, even though Hendrix sounds like Hendrix, and SRV sounds like SRV, you can hear Albert King very easily.

MWE3: Especially Stevie Ray Vaughn…

SH: Yeah big Albert King influence,. But he (SRV) put his own tilt on it and made it his own, and the same thing could be said of Michael Brecker who was a huge Coltrane fan and you could hear a lot of John Coltrane’s playing in Michael Brecker’s, he just added to it…immensely added to it! (laughs) He was one of the best musicians in the world, he probably had the biggest vocabulary and repeated himself less than any other horn player that I could think of. Wayne Shorter too is another one of my favorites because I listen to him play because he’s so melodic and nonlinear and it’s amazing how he can come up with endless melodies and it sounds like he’s never repeating himself. He’s a brilliant musician.

MWE3: I listen to songs like “Sphinx” and “Church of Xotic Dance”. I heard what sounded to me like Hendrix influence, with sounds of the Octavia and the Univibe.

SH: Sure, that’s an Arian SCH1 and is a very Leslie-sounding pedal. Yeah, I’m old school, man. I’m definitely influenced by Richie Blackmore, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, you know, I’m 60! (laughs), I’m an old fart, so what do you want? (laughs).

MWE3: We want more Scott Henderson! Although to digest this new record, I feel like an anaconda that just swallowed its prey whole. There’s so much good playing on the record, I mean some of the most introspective excursions, like” Festival Of Ghosts”.

SH: Oh thanks! Yeah, I’m pretty proud of that one from a writing perspective because that’s one of those pieces that’s thoroughly composed, it doesn’t really return to a lot of its material except for the chorus. I’m kind of proud of that one because I remember working a few weeks on writing that tune and throwing a lot of stuff in the garbage, because I’m one of those guys that doesn’t always hear. I’m not a gifted composer like some of these guys. Joe Zawinul was one of those guys that could sit down and improvise, and there you have "Byrdland". I’m hardly like that. I go through the process of elimination a lot and throw a lot of stuff away in the trash before I finally hit on things that I like. And it takes a lot of patience. You have to be fairly nice to yourself and not hate yourself everyday like if you don’t write your most brilliant thing. In fact, one of the most interesting questions that people always ask, they talk about inspiration and like what gives you the inspiration to come up with music and I’ve sort of learned through my career that it’s best not to think about things like inspiration because inspiration gives you an excuse not to do your job. If you sit around and wait for inspiration to hit, you might not do anything. So I sort of look at it like writing’s my job, I sit down every day and do it, and I’ve written some of my favorite stuff on days when I wasn’t inspired at all to sit down to work, I would have rather have gone and watched a movie or watched TV, or do just about anything else, and yet I make myself sit down and work and some of those times is when I’ve come up with my best stuff.

MWE3: Interesting!

SH: Yeah, there’s a famous writer that said that the hardest part about composing is the application of the ass to the chair! I kind of dig that! (laughter) I can be lazy, so if I don’t make myself do it, I won’t, so I make myself sit down and do it.

MWE3: Hey, let’s talk about some general topics! In the general economy, do you have any feelings about downloads versus CD sales?

SH: I don’t have anything against downloads, but sadly, being an audiophile guy like I am, I miss vinyl because I think that vinyl because I believe sounds better than CDs, but I understand the move to CDs for a smaller, more compact thing and I also understand the move to MP3s because you can have tons of music in a tiny little thing that fits in your pocket and the technology is amazing. When I’m driving in my car and listening to my iPhone, I can’t tell the difference because there’s road noise and all that’s stuff. I listen to music mainly when I’m driving and I don’t listen at home very much, so MP3s are fine for me.

MWE3: Who do you listen to in your car?

SH: You know what? My iPod is constantly on shuffle, so it’s constantly going from this to that, and I never know what’s going to hit me next. It could be ZZ Top, it could be Mozart, it could be James Brown. It really just plays and I just listen to it.

MWE3: Is there anything that you can do to get more young people to get hep to your music?

SH: Uh, hire strippers? (laughter)

MWE3: The Church of Xotic Dance! You could start your own religion! (more laughter)

SH: L. Ron Hubbard did! He did okay! (more laughter) , I’ll tell you that! But to answer your question about the economy, I don’t mind the download thing. What I do mind is people calling themselves fans, and then going to a Russian Bittorrent site and downloading your albums for free. That’s what I really stand against. There’s a cartoon on my website if you go to scotthenderson.net and there’s a little thing that says “Check out Scott’s movie”. I made an extra normal movie about a guy who doesn’t feel that he doesn’t need to buy the record, he should just download it for free because it’s what everybody else is doing and this whole mentality of music should be free. I don’t know who started that, but obviously someone who doesn’t do music for a living, that can’t make the connection between a musician actually working to support his family just like anybody else that works at any other job. The fact that he doesn’t have a right to make a living at what he does is so absurd and ridiculous that it’s really hard to believe that intelligent people buy into it. If I started a religion, it would definitely have something to do with strippers...

MWE3: Absolutely, that’s out and out theft. It’s hard to control unfortunately. A lot of great artists are affected and get stung in the pocketbook by that. As far as publishing your music, though, do you have any preferences between Spotify, CD Baby, Amazon or Youtube.

SH: Not really. Spotify pays very little but it’s a streaming service, Spotify doesn’t sell music, you just get to listen to it on the web, you don’t get to download it. I understand why it’s cheap because you only get to listen as long as you’re connected to the web, that’s fine, it’s like a preview, like a movie trailer. Like “Here’s the trailer, if you really like it, go out and buy the CD, or at least the MP3 version.” It’s all fine with me, in fact when I signed up for this album on CD Baby, I chose Spotify as one of the digital partners because I believe it’s good advertising. If people hear the music on Spotify, they might go buy the CD, because I think there’s a lot of people out there who’d still like to have a physical product in their hands or at least have it on their iPhone so that they can play it whenever they want.

MWE3: I’ve read some interviews regarding the poor sound quality of all these guys with their iPhones recording your gigs and uploading them to Youtube!

SH: (Laughs) Yeah, THAT I can’t deal with (laughs). When someone sits in front of my Marshall with their iPhone and all you can hear is the guitar and you can’t hear the bass, and it’s like super distorted, yeah, I don’t want that stuff on Youtube, it sounds horrible, so I do pull those videos. But if someone comes to the gig and records something, and it actually sounds decent, then I leave it up. I’m not like I’m against Youtube, I have my own Youtube channel where I have videos that I don’t necessarily like much bit I don’t hate it. Every once in a while, someone will come to a concert, and someone came to a concert, I can’t remember where it was, and they taped a solo that I thought was pretty decent solo and you could hear the bass, and it wasn’t the best recorded quality, I thought it sounded pretty good, so I left it up, but I do remove about 90% of them because they sound horrid.

MWE3: Do you own the rights to the Tribal Tech catalog?

SH: No, Shrapnel Records owns the rights to the catalog or at least some of it. Tribal Tech was on several different labels so several different labels owns the rights to that music.

MWE3: One of the things I saw on the Frank Gambale site is that he had two albums where he made for sale the minus one tracks.

SH: Yeah, I just did that on my record. It’s for sale on my website right now. You get an MP3 mixes of the bass, drums, guitar track, click track, and if there was a comping on the solo track, you get the comping as an extra file, so you just pop those into your workstation, and you can turn off whichever track you want to turn off, and jam along, and it comes with pdf charts and the whole works man! It’s really cool! That’s what I’ve been working on for the past two weeks, getting that together.

MWE3: That could be a good revenue stream because there’s a huge developing community with the modelers, the Axe-Fx and the Kemper. Do you have any thoughts on the amp modelers?

SH: Well, put it this way, I can’t get my sound out of them, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say I don’t recommend them for other people, because it depends on what type of gigs you’re doing. If you’re doing studio work, I mean one of those things could be invaluable, you can go from one sound to the next, you could be playing a Fender, then all of a sudden be playing a Marshall, or playing this or that. They’re very very versatile, but every one of them that I’ve tried, and believe me I’ve had just about every one of those devices at my house, couldn’t touch my Marshall, and my Kerry Wright cabinet and my Neve preamp. So there’s a sound, and it’s not just my fingers,but it’s quality tube vintage gear, that they just haven’t yet found a way to really, truly reproduce that sound, and I’m not saying that they won’t, they just haven’t up to date yet.

MWE3: So you primarily use Kerry Wright cabinets?

SH: Yeah, that guy’s a god to me! (laughs)

MWE3: Where’d you get the inspiration for the album cover, that’s the coolest retro look!

SH: Oh yeah! You know what? There’s a website called classicradiogallery.com and I’ve just been a fan of this website. This guy has every classic radio from every radio manufacturer known to man and I like to just go on there and look at them! They’re so cool looking! That’s where I got the inspiration to make the record and he was kind enough to let me use a photo of one of the cooler looking radios. They’re all cool looking, I don’t know how I managed to pick that one out of so many cool ones, but it’s a great site just for eye candy.

MWE3: I wanted to ask you a question about your outside playing. You mention John Scofield and he does a lot of outside playing, do you have any particular guide, do you approach this as a modal concept, how do you approach your outside playing?

SH: A lot of students ask me that question and it’s really not what you play when you play outside but one of the unwritten rules is that the notes that you’re playing when you do play outside should have some “glue” on them. They should be inside within themselves, in other words, not just a bunch of random notes from another pentatonic scale. Pentatonic scales and major triads are very strong sounds to the ear because we’re so used to hearing them and when you play them in places that they don’t belong, they still sound good because they’re such a strong sound within themselves. So a lot of players use pentatonics and triads and chromaticism within them to create the lines that they play when they play out and you’ve got to play with a level of confidence, because if you play timid, they will sound like wrong notes, but if you play with confidence, you can get away with playing just about anything. You can go up a half step, which is about as out as you can get, where just about every single note is wrong, but millions of sax players do it and it sounds great because they do with a level of confidence.

MWE3: That’s very interesting and many people I am sure will find this information useful to incorporate into their playing.

SH: Yeah, I think it’s not what you play, it’s how you play it. Another essential thing is coming back in on a strong beat of the music. In other words, if there was a 4-bar phrase, you might play in on bar 1, out on bars 2,3,4, and come back in on measure 5, which is the beginning of the next 4-bar phrase where it’s sort of like a release. We tend to hear things in groups of four, and again, that’s an unwritten rule, it’s not like you have to do that, but it’s a pleasing thing to do to resolve on a strong beat, so if you were to play in C major then go out for three measures and then come back on an E in the 5th measure, it sort of resolves and you sort of “come home” at a strong point the beat, and that’s also a part of making outside playing sound good. But like I say, it’s an unwritten rule, and it’s not like you have to do that, it’s just one of the ways you could practice it.

MWE3: Yeah, it’s a great technique, you certainly have really mastered the technique, it’s an integral part of your playing and really peppers up and spices up your lines and everyone else loves that style. You mentioned John Scofield who does a lot of that.

SH: Yeah, he’s great. He’s always been one of my favorite semi-jazz guitar players. In a way, he’s like me. His roots are in the blues. He can play over changes, but can also play a straight blues and play funk, and he’s just an all-around, really versatile guitarist. I really like him a lot.

MWE3: Have you changed your philosophy regarding practice? Do you still practice the same way now as you did before?

SH: I do! The only thing is that as I’ve chosen to have a career, and if you choose to have a career, you’re going to have let go of a lot of your practice time. A lot of time has to be spent on writing and rehearsals, being on the road, playing your music. I don’t get to just sit around at home and study guitar like I did when I was a student and I miss that because there are obviously a million things I don’t know about the instrument, millions of things to learn as there always will be throughout our lives. We’re all a work in progress! (laughs) I miss those days when I used to be able to sit down and practice for eight hours a day and discover new things on the guitar, but right now I if I have my choice of doing that or writing the next album, I’m going to choose writing for my next album because that’s where I’m at, that’s what I’ve chosen as a career, so I’ve got to use the fuel that I have, and in between, I find these little moments where I have time to transcribe and learn some new tricks here and there.

MWE3: Moving to your equipment, are you still using your signature Suhr Strat as your main guitar?

SH: Yeah, that’s my main guitar and my main amp is still the SH100 which is pretty much a Marshall clone with a master volume.

MWE3: A master volume!

SH: Yeah, 100 watt Marshalls are pretty much useless without a master volume because you really need eight speakers with them and to get them to distort, you really have to turn them up to 7 or 8, and if you try to use four speakers, you’re going to blow them up, so you’ve got to have a master volume amp if you’re playing a 100 watt amp or you’re just going to fry your speaker cabinet. I don’t have room to begin with for four speakers let alone a full stack.

MWE3: Yes, and I don’t think your neighbors would appreciate it.

SH: Probably not.

MWE3: Do you use any kind of attenuator system?

SH: My “attenuator” is I had some carpenters come over and push the windows out of the wall and wall it up. I have a room with no windows and even though the floor hasn’t been isolated from the rest of the house, the ports under the house have been covered too. And I also spent a bunch of money, like about $2,000 bucks or something like that, for one of those split air conditioners where the actual air conditioner is outside, and the air comes into a tiny hole in the wall, and then you have the vent that covers that hole and directs the air wherever it goes. Because if you have a standard air conditioner in your room, that’s just like having an open window.

MWE3: Yes, and the sound will pour out.

SH: Yeah, the sound goes out just like it would through an open window, there’s a huge hole in the wall, so I had this split air conditioner put in where the only hole in the wall is just a one inch hole and so I can crank my amp at my house until about 10:00 or 11:00 at night and no one complains.

MWE3: That’s a good system.

SH: Yeah, I needed it because I need to crank up, because with ever attenuator I’ve ever heard, once you get it past the first couple of notches, you start hearing a loss of tone, so I’m old school. There’s nothing that sounds better than just a cranked amp really loud. (laughs)

MWE3: So you use the entire room, you don’t have the amp in a closet?

SH: I’m using the entire room even though it’s not a big room, it’s just about 13 feet by 13 feet, so unfortunately, a room mic sounds pretty horrible. In a bigger room, I’d use a room mic to add some tone, but in this particular room I can’t, because if you put a room mic, it sounds kind of tanky, but I do have prime acoustic type of paneling, it covers about 30% of the room, maybe even 40% of the room and a wood floor, and it actually sounds pretty dead, and pretty nice, so I’m getting a pretty decent guitar tone, in fact I get a better tone here at home than I do at most studios where I’ve recorded in town.

MWE3: So the mic is outside the room. Is that the idea?

SH: Well, I have two rooms. The one room has my computer and all my gear and my amps and stuff and then I run a speaker cord from my head, through the wall, into the other room where I have my speaker cabinet and that’s the recording room and that’s the room with no windows.

MWE3: Okay, I think I picture the setup, so you pretty much can start moving air out of the speaker cabinet and get that sound.

SH: Yeah, without killing the neighbors.

MWE3: Now is it true that you have something like 100 pedals?

SH: Yeah, maybe even more (laughs). They’re not all distortion pedals but they’re all kinds of weird effects pedals and stuff, and I love noisy pedals and just stuff, I’m kind of a pedal junkie, I collect them as a hobby. And I’m always over at Truetone Music in Santa Monica trying new ones out and I’ve got some pretty whacky ones. One that I really really like and I don’t know if you noticed but on the solo on "The Covered Head”, on that tune, there’s some really warbly, weird undercurrents going on?

MWE3: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that effect.

SH: That’s a Trombetta Rotobone pedal which is a fuzz, and it sounds really cool, it’s a very cool sounding fuzz, if you pick light, it sounds like a regular distortion pedal, but the heavier you pick, the more of that really weird undercurrent comes out, almost like a ring modulator effect.

MWE3: I was about to ask you, I think in "Sphinx", at about 3:20 at the intro of your solo, it sounds like the modulation starts speeding up.

SH: Yeah, that must me with my hand on the speed dial. (laughter) I just took the speed knob and started turning it up.

MWE3: Yeah it reminded me of the beginning of "Pirates" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, where the chord sounds and then begins speeding up and sounds like a coin flipping on the table.

SH: I don’t remember that, but cool. I’m into that kind of stuff.

MWE3: So what were your favorite effect that you used on this album? Did you use a Roger Mayer or Dunlop Octavia?

SH: No the Octavia was a Fulltone Octafuzz. I’ve been using that for many years. It’s a great one. It’s a little darker than the rest of them. And mostly on the record, I’m using an RC Booster, a Church of Tone 50 By Love pedal and I also used the Vertex boost, and let’s see, my main distortion pedal on the record was a Klon Centaur, which was a really nice distortion pedal, and I think I also use the Plimsoul and (Maxeon) SD9 here and there.

MWE3: Yeah, the SD9 I know you go with a ways.

SH: Yeah, I always end up using that at some point. That’s a great pedal. It’s hard to remember which pedal I used on “Dew Wut”, but I have it written down because I like to log everything I do. I’m pretty anal about that. As soon I’m finished recording something, I write down the amp, the settings, the pedal I used, its settings…I’m very anal because if I ever want to get that sound again, I want to know how I got it, I don’t want to just dial it in by ear, because that would take forever.

MWE3: You need your original equipment (and settings) to duplicate your sound in the same way.

SH: Yeah, this way if I want that sound again, I can just dial it right up.

MWE3: That’s really smart!

SH: Yeah it takes a little length of time in the recording process but it’s worth it because I have gone back and said “Oh man, I wished I could get that sound” and I have no idea how I got it…that’s frustrating!

MWE3: Well, its’ been a really fantastic time, Scott, thank you so much!

SH: I really appreciate this and can’t thank you enough for having me on!

 

Thanks to Scott Henderson @ www.ScottHenderson.net





 

 
   
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