1. Talk about your first significant musical or guitar experience.
I guess I 1st became interested in playing an instrument as a schoolboy,
aged 13 or so. Several friends had guitars, and were busy learning James
Taylor chords or Ritchie Blackmore riffs. I wasn't interested in doing that,
and couldn't manage it anyway, as I am Left handed. I'd always felt that
Bass was the place anyway, being more impressed with Jack Bruce than
Eric Clapton for instance. So during informal jam sessions, I would borrow
a right handed guitar, turn it round, and pick out the bassline on the lower
strings, playing upside down and back to front to everybody else. I still
play this way today - I believe this is the logical, natural way to play, and
everybody else has got it wrong. If I want to play lower notes I go down
across the neck, to play higher I go up. Right handed players, (and left
handed players who play left handed guitars) have to go up to go down,
and vice versa. Where's the sense in that?
So I became reasonably proficient at playing MY way, but nobody could
teach me chords or anything very easily, cos it was 'arse about face' to
2. Talk about the first guitar/instruments you took a focused interest in.
1st Bass I bought was a 2nd hand Hofner Violin bass. Lovely to play, and
very light, which meant I could leap about easily. It wasn't in the best of
condition when I got it, and I didn't really look after it properly, so the
neck soon came to resemble a bannana, and only 1 pickup worked. As I
was now in a band and gigging, (aged about 16), I bought myself a Gibson
EB3 copy, which was reliable and in tune, but a bit heavy, and the non
symmetrical shape made it hang awkwardly.
By this time I had also bought a Framus acoustic guitar, and had
discovered open tuning, which meant I could play chords at last. I became quite good at slide guitar, and was in demand at jam sessions, cos nobody wanted to play bass, or re tune their guitars.
3. Formal training? - Lessons? - Significant- tutor-mentor experience?
4. Have you taught?
5. Initial recording-experience memories?
Carved them onto a tree once.
6. What gear/stuff do you play in a performing context?
Currently use an Epiphone violin bass. Bought it in memory of the
Hofner, and a Columbus Series 3 semi acoustic guitar.
7. How, if at all, does the performance paradigm differ from the zeitgeist during the documentation/recording process?
Recording is a bit of a chore usually. If it's in a studio, with a band, half
the morning is spent setting the drums up, Then the bass and drum tracks
go down quickly, and the rest of the day is endless guitar and vocal
overdubs. So I much prefer Home recording.
Performance is what I enjoy most. I don't aim to 'entertain', I'm trying to
make people's jaws drop, and when that happens, it's really rewarding for
me. I hate ambivalent audiences. I'd rather be booed off than have them
thinking it's 'alright'.
8. Five favorite recorded songs/compositions (by others).
Son's Blues - Son House
Pop That Thang - Isley Bros
Now I Wanna Be A Good Boy - Ramones
Law Years - Ornette Coleman
Steal Softly Thru Snow - Captain Beefheart
9. If you could edit your ten favorite recorded/experienced sonic moments together into a seamless loop, what would they be?
1. Something from the 1st track of Fred Friths 'Live In Japan' over...
2. .... The drum break from 'Suzy Is A Headbanger' by the Ramones. followed by..
3. Rockette Morton's convoluted bass chords in the middle of 'Bellerin' Plain'. Then..
4. Johnny Ramone doing the intro to 'Go Mental'. Overdub...
5. Zoot Horn Rollo's slide on 'Click Clack'. Interject...
6. A blast from the echoey trumpet intro to 'Bitches Brew'. Cut to..
7. One of Napalm Death's slower grindcore E chord monster riffs. Punch in...
8. Captain Beefheart's 'scat singing' from 'I'm Gonna Booglarise Ya, Baby'. Drop out to..
9. Son House's rattley slide up to the 3rd fret on 'Shetland Pony Blues'...SPOOKY.
10. All underpinned by Jah Wobble's 'Trench Warfare' bassline.
10. What are your feelings about improvisation?
Free improvisation? With others? Great fun. If you can get players who
listen to what's going on, rather than just throwing in their own thing
obliviously, real Magic can be achieved. I love Ornette's 'harmolodic
improvisation' approach. In my bands, I've always tried to have a couple
of numbers with free improv structured in, if that's not a contradiction.
Quiet, slow improv is hardest. It's relatively easy to make a frantic racket.
Solo free improvising is fun too. Just turn your 'structuring' mind off, (or
at least right down), and let the instrument 'play' you. Some great stuff will
happen sooner or later. Often this is a good way to get ideas that can be
turned into songs later.
My 'Uncharted' album is totally improvised, no 'forethought' at all. On
some of my other albums I have utilised a semi - improvisational approach
on a few tracks - i.e. I have freely improvised on 1 instrument, then 'fitted'
other instrumental parts to it.
11. What strategies have proven effective to you in terms of successful group interactivity?
Don't rush it
Turn it down
Less is more
and (of course), Follow
12. Are you friendly with any resources, publications, or collaboratives which might be of utility or interest to our readers?
Beefheart fans Should join the Fireparty mailing list, where some members
are embarked on the Firepiano prioject, the aim of which is to collaborate
musically with other Beefheart fans. More details at
13. On what project(s) are you currently involved?
My current band is The Fourfathers, but we only perform occasionally.
We live hundreds of miles apart, so organising rehearsals and gigs is a
major headache. We are planning to play some gigs in the south of
England later this year. We are a (semi) Beefheart tribute band, in that we
play about 50% our own material, 50% Beefheart covers.
I have been rehearsing with a couple of guitarists local to me. We are
looking for a drummer to play some local gigs as a blues band. I'm not
really THAT enthused about it, but it keeps my hand in. Might call
ourselves 'The Famous Surnames', as they are Burnett, Johnson and
Apart from that I have contributed a track to the 'Delicate Furies ' project,
due out soon.
14. How can interested readers learn more about your work?
I have some mp3s and music info on my website . There are details of
CD-r's of some of the bands I've been in, and my 6 'solo albums' (recorded
on a porta studio).
email address: email@example.com