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, were 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, Scotts 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 Magazines Best Jazz Guitarist
Readers Poll. Scott Henderson first solo album, Dog
Party earned Guitar Players 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. Scotts
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 Scotts 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
I work long hours every day and Im very meticulous
about every little tone and phrase. I just want it to be right."
I was struck by the ease of versatility in Scotts 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 theres something about it you dont
like, wait a minute and it will change! Its 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
an outline reminiscent of Cab Calloways "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. Scotts
sound throughout this tune is huge, and glides along. Its 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
Scotts 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 Scotts
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 Dans 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
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 Scotts
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. Scotts
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 OBannons
"Alien" ripped through John Hurts stomach. We found
this to be a very haunting tune
come on, we just couldnt
Dew Wut? A tune that begins with a country riff
and morphs into a blues rock tune. The songs 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 were sure having something
to do with the song title but Im 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 Strayhorns 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.
presents an interview with
Fusion Guitar Legend
Review and interview written and produced by
Eric Paulos and Robert Silverstein for mwe3.com
Scott, hows it going man?
SH: Good, how are you doing?
MWE3: Im absolutely floored by your new album, Vibe
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 its absolutely and ridiculously over the top excellent,
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 wouldnt have taken that long but Ive
been touring, so in between family stuff and touring, its not
like I can just lock myself in my room and ignore my 11 year old daughter.
And Ive toured quite a bit, so I work on the album when I can.
MWE3: So youve given guitar lessons to strangers, is
your daughter taking guitar lessons from you?
SH: No, no, she takes piano, she plays Chopin! Shes ridiculous,
shes way more talented than me!
MWE3: Youre too humble! Ive 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
SH: Yeah, sure.
MWE3: Theres 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 thats 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 cant 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 theres some new stuff
that people havent 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 didnt actually record on the road, I
recorded here, but I just meant that I just couldnt record because
of being on the road
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, its been three years and this better be a blockbuster
or it aint going to press!
SH: Well, I mean, thats 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). Thats the intent anyway, I put
my heart and soul into it, and I work long hours every day and Im
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). Thats kind of how
I feel. And I know that I like the album now, but Im sure that
in a couple of months, Im going to listen to it after Ive
learned how to get some better tones than the ones that are on this
record and Im going start going Arghh! I screwed that
up, or I screwed this up and Im going to make it better on the
next one! So, its like a growing process, you know. Im
one of those guys that looks back at his previous works and I dont
care for it much.
MWE3: That sounds like your ethic and philosophy and Ive
heard that from Allan Holdsworth as well!
SH: (Laughter) Yeah, hes worse than me! (more laughter).
Wow, talk about being critical of myself, I mean, Im critical
of myself, but only up to a point. I think he takes it a little too
far, hes a great player and he really doesnt need to be
that critical of himself, hes a monster! (laughter)
MWE3: You and Allan Holdsworth are great friends! He speaks
very highly of you, and Im just curious why you and Allan havent
thought about recording a record together?
SH: Well, its the same thing for me and my other guitar
friends. Im really close friends with Mike Laundau, and Bruce
Forman, and all of these monster players, and sometimes youre
just so busy doing your own thing that there just isnt time.
Like, you know this project that I do with Jeff Berlin and Dennis
Chambers, HBC, I mean, we dont 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
its 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
SH: (Laughter) That is true! Im more of the crippling
self-doubt! (more laughter)
MWE3: Youd be in a minority of one, Scott!
SH: Haha, you know, theres that balance where you think
youre the greatest thing on earth and youve written the
most amazing piece of music and then think This is a total piece
of crap! (Laughter)
MWE3: Ive heard similar sentiments expressed by the likes
of John Lennon, so I think thats the nature of the beast.
Its the nature of the beast and its 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 Im going
to spend that portion of my life writing for my own band. So since
HBC, Jeff and Dennis, its been more of a touring thing and none
of us really have time to write music for it since were writing
for our own groups, we thought it would be fun to just do covers so
thats what we do in that band, and to tell you the truth, its
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 its a blast! So Im kind of glad that I do have an
outlet that I dont have to write for, that I can just show up
and play these fun tunes, sort of like a fusion top-40 band, and its
MWE3: Yeah, and thats 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, lets get him and do
a recording. You know, Tribal Tech never really officially broke up.
Its just that Willis moved to Spain and married this Spanish
girl, and I cant 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 thats what X
was about. We had a good time recording it, and who knows, maybe in
the future well 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
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: Theyre 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 youre going from a section of slow blues to swing and
shuffle, its just a tremendous record and tune.
SH: Thats just the A.D.D., not being able to pay attention
(laughter). Im afraid thats what people think when they
listen to my records, they think Oh, THIS guy has A.D.D. for
sure! He cant 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 Im one of those lucky people, I feel that Im
fortunate to find beauty in just about any type of music. Theres
good music in every style and if its good music, Im 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, its 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 arent going to listen to jazz. Its
sad because the people who are close-minded to music miss out on a
Im 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 Im 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, doesnt 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 doesnt necessarily
mean they dont appreciate also different kinds of music too,
just because they dont 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 dont think Ive 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! Hes 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, hes just brilliant! Hes 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, Im sure that theyll definitely appreciate that...
Something Ive 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, its a Tele, I wanted to play a Tele on that
one, its 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. Im 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).
Theyre just amazing! Theres Jerry Douglas
just so many good ones, Im not a big country music listener
but I know that in Nashville, theres tons of incredible, incredible
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
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! Im 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 hell loan it to me! (laughs)
MWE3: I dont 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
its a really wonderful tune as well.
SH: It is, its a beautiful tune. Theres a version
that I love by the Buddy Rich Big Band and they played the hell out
of that tune. Its on Best of Buddy Rich and its
a live recording of Buddy Rich Big Band playing "Chelsea Bridge"
and its one of the best versions Ive ever heard and Ive
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, Im 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, theyre all fantastic players
and I always draw inspiration from those guys.
So tell me, do you have any memories of West Palm Beach and when you
studied music theory under Bill Prince?
SH: Yeah, sure, thats 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 theyve never been
SH: Yeah, you know unfortunately, when I lived there, I managed
to stay working, and in fact thats 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 werent as many gigs, so I
thought If Im going to not work, Id 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
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. Ill be the first
to say that I suck at different time signatures. Im not John
McLaughlin who plays every time signature in the world. My rhythmic
vocabulary ends with Kool and the Gang (laughter).
MWE3: Thats 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 Im a big fan. I
love that band and so I would hate to have to learn that music, its
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 dont 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 Allans answer was Fuck no!
Well, you know, I mean different people have different opinions about
blues. I was brought up with the blues. Its 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, Ill 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 dont 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 its
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 Id rather here Albert King
drop his guitar than hear jazz guys run scales up and down!
SH: I can stay some pretty stupid stuff sometimes, but to tell
you the truth, there are a lot of guitar players, and Im 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 cant tell the difference between one guy and the other,
thats 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. Thats probably the period where I got more
into just straight ahead jazz because I just wasnt 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 theres 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, its like going
to the circus, I mean you go once and you go, Oh wow!
and then you go next year. I cant 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 its so individual.
SH: Well I hope so. You can definitely hear some influences
in there, Im definitely influenced by Beck and theres
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 dont 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 Coltranes playing in Michael Breckers, 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 hes so melodic and nonlinear and
its amazing how he can come up with endless melodies and it
sounds like hes never repeating himself. Hes a brilliant
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, thats an Arian SCH1 and is a very Leslie-sounding
pedal. Yeah, Im old school, man. Im definitely influenced
by Richie Blackmore, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, you know,
Im 60! (laughs), Im an old fart, so what do you want?
MWE3: We want more Scott Henderson! Although to digest this
new record, I feel like an anaconda that just swallowed its prey whole.
Theres so much good playing on the record, I mean some of the
most introspective excursions, like Festival Of Ghosts.
SH: Oh thanks! Yeah, Im pretty proud of that one from
a writing perspective because thats one of those pieces thats
thoroughly composed, it doesnt really return to a lot of its
material except for the chorus. Im 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 Im one of those guys
that doesnt always hear. Im 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". Im
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 dont
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 Ive
sort of learned through my career that its 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 writings
my job, I sit down every day and do it, and Ive written some
of my favorite stuff on days when I wasnt 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 Ive come up
with my best stuff.
SH: Yeah, theres 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 dont make
myself do it, I wont, so I make myself sit down and do it.
MWE3: Hey, lets talk about some general topics! In the
general economy, do you have any feelings about downloads versus CD
SH: I dont 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
Im driving in my car and listening to my iPhone, I cant
tell the difference because theres road noise and all thats
stuff. I listen to music mainly when Im driving and I dont
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 its
constantly going from this to that, and I never know whats 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.
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!
SH: L. Ron Hubbard did! He did okay! (more laughter) , Ill
tell you that! But to answer your question about the economy, I dont
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. Thats what I really stand against. Theres
a cartoon on my website if you go to scotthenderson.net and theres
a little thing that says Check out Scotts movie.
I made an extra normal movie about a guy who doesnt feel that
he doesnt need to buy the record, he should just download it
for free because its what everybody else is doing and this whole
mentality of music should be free. I dont know who started that,
but obviously someone who doesnt do music for a living, that
cant 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 doesnt have a right to make a living at
what he does is so absurd and ridiculous that its 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, thats out and out theft. Its
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 its a streaming
service, Spotify doesnt sell music, you just get to listen to
it on the web, you dont get to download it. I understand why
its cheap because you only get to listen as long as youre
connected to the web, thats fine, its like a preview,
like a movie trailer. Like Heres the trailer, if you really
like it, go out and buy the CD, or at least the MP3 version.
Its 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 its good advertising. If people hear the music on
Spotify, they might go buy the CD, because I think theres a
lot of people out there whod 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: Ive 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 cant deal with (laughs). When
someone sits in front of my Marshall with their iPhone and all you
can hear is the guitar and you cant hear the bass, and its
like super distorted, yeah, I dont 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. Im not like Im against Youtube, I have
my own Youtube channel where I have videos that I dont necessarily
like much bit I dont hate it. Every once in a while, someone
will come to a concert, and someone came to a concert, I cant
remember where it was, and they taped a solo that I thought was pretty
decent solo and you could hear the bass, and it wasnt 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. Its 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! Its really cool! Thats what Ive been
working on for the past two weeks, getting that together.
That could be a good revenue stream because theres 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 cant get my sound out of
them, but I wouldnt go so far as to say I dont recommend
them for other people, because it depends on what type of gigs youre
doing. If youre 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. Theyre very very versatile, but every
one of them that Ive tried, and believe me Ive had just
about every one of those devices at my house, couldnt touch
my Marshall, and my Kerry Wright cabinet and my Neve preamp. So theres
a sound, and its not just my fingers,but its quality tube
vintage gear, that they just havent yet found a way to really,
truly reproduce that sound, and Im not saying that they wont,
they just havent up to date yet.
MWE3: So you primarily use Kerry Wright cabinets?
SH: Yeah, that guys a god to me! (laughs)
MWE3: Whered you get the inspiration for the album cover,
thats the coolest retro look!
SH: Oh yeah! You know what? Theres a website called classicradiogallery.com
and Ive 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! Theyre so cool looking!
Thats 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. Theyre all cool looking, I dont know how I managed
to pick that one out of so many cool ones, but its 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 its really
not what you play when you play outside but one of the unwritten rules
is that the notes that youre 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 were so used to hearing them
and when you play them in places that they dont belong, they
still sound good because theyre 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 youve
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: Thats very interesting and many people I am sure
will find this information useful to incorporate into their playing.
SH: Yeah, I think its not what you play, its 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 its
sort of like a release. We tend to hear things in groups of four,
and again, thats an unwritten rule, its not like you have
to do that, but its 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 thats also a part of making outside playing sound good.
But like I say, its an unwritten rule, and its not like
you have to do that, its just one of the ways you could practice
MWE3: Yeah, its a great technique, you certainly have
really mastered the technique, its 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
SH: Yeah, hes great. Hes always been one of my
favorite semi-jazz guitar players. In a way, hes like me. His
roots are in the blues. He can play over changes, but can also play
a straight blues and play funk, and hes just an all-around,
really versatile guitarist. I really like him a lot.
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 Ive chosen to have
a career, and if you choose to have a career, youre 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 dont 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 dont know about the instrument, millions
of things to learn as there always will be throughout our lives. Were
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, Im going to choose writing for
my next album because thats where Im at, thats what
Ive chosen as a career, so Ive 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, thats 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, youre going to blow them
up, so youve got to have a master volume amp if youre
playing a 100 watt amp or youre just going to fry your speaker
cabinet. I dont have room to begin with for four speakers let
alone a full stack.
MWE3: Yes, and I dont think your neighbors would appreciate
SH: Probably not.
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 hasnt 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, thats just like having an open
MWE3: Yes, and the sound will pour out.
SH: Yeah, the sound goes out just like it would through an
open window, theres 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: Thats a good system.
SH: Yeah, I needed it because I need to crank up, because with
ever attenuator Ive ever heard, once you get it past the first
couple of notches, you start hearing a loss of tone, so Im old
school. Theres nothing that sounds better than just a cranked
amp really loud. (laughs)
MWE3: So you use the entire room, you dont have the amp
in a closet?
SH: Im using the entire room even though its not
a big room, its just about 13 feet by 13 feet, so unfortunately,
a room mic sounds pretty horrible. In a bigger room, Id use
a room mic to add some tone, but in this particular room I cant,
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 Im getting a pretty decent
guitar tone, in fact I get a better tone here at home than I do at
most studios where Ive 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 thats the recording room and thats the room with no
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). Theyre not all distortion
pedals but theyre all kinds of weird effects pedals and stuff,
and I love noisy pedals and just stuff, Im kind of a pedal junkie,
I collect them as a hobby. And Im always over at Truetone Music
in Santa Monica trying new ones out and Ive got some pretty
whacky ones. One that I really really like and I dont know if
you noticed but on the solo on "The Covered Head, on that
tune, theres some really warbly, weird undercurrents going on?
MWE3: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that effect.
SH: Thats a Trombetta Rotobone pedal which is a fuzz,
and it sounds really cool, its 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 dont remember that, but cool. Im into that
kind of stuff.
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. Ive been
using that for many years. Its a great one. Its a little
darker than the rest of them. And mostly on the record, Im using
an RC Booster, a Church of Tone 50 By Love pedal and I also used the
Vertex boost, and lets 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. Thats
a great pedal. Its hard to remember which pedal I used on Dew
Wut, but I have it written down because I like to log everything
I do. Im pretty anal about that. As soon Im finished recording
something, I write down the amp, the settings, the pedal I used, its
Im very anal because if I ever want to get that
sound again, I want to know how I got it, I dont 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: Thats really smart!
SH: Yeah it takes a little length of time in the recording
process but its 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
MWE3: Well, its been a really fantastic time, Scott,
thank you so much!
SH: I really appreciate this and cant thank you enough
for having me on!
to Scott Henderson @ www.ScottHenderson.net