ON PLAYING LOUD & STAYING HUNGRY
TIPS & TECHNIQUES!POP VAMPIRE WEEKENDMETAL MY RUINROCK JOHN FRUSCIANTEFUNK NILE RODGERSACOUSTIC ANDY McKEE
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A N E W B AY M E D I A P U B L I C AT I O N
AL DI MEOLA ON MOVING
NEW RY COODER
ROBERT CRAY & TAB BENOITON HITTING WRONG NOTES
G U I TA R P L AY E R A P R I L 2 0 0 9 8 1
AT A GUITAR MAGAZINE, YOU GET A LOT OF PARENTS PUSHING
a lot of would-be guitar star kids in your facechildren not
even in their teens who can play a Satriani tune or a Stevie Ray
Vaughan solo note-for-note (they always say that). Despite
the fact that some of these kids actually can play, its very rare
for any of them to rise above the level of a trained monkey. They
know the notes, but they get very little of whats behind the
notes: the sound, the personality, the soul. And most of them
never do, because if they did, we would know about them.
One promising young kid who somehowmanaged to run the gauntlet of the music bizwhile getting his chops, tone, and tunes togetheris on our cover this month. Joe Bonamassa wasone of those youngsters who could blazethrough an SRV tune when he was 11. He pos-sessed technique and knowledge that so beliedhis youth that it was only natural that if peo-ple didnt curse him with the dreaded label ofThe Next Stevie Ray, they would at least burden him with the child prodigy tag thatdragged down so many of his contemporaries.
When the discussion turns to the idea thathe was some sort of wnderkind, Bonamassa
gets thoughtful. As far as me being a prodigy,he says, I listen back now to myself when Iwas a kid, and I think I was on the line betweenbeing a prodigy and just being good for my age.There were times when I was really good andI excelled and there were times when I waspretty bad.
If he was ever pretty bad, B.B. King didntsee it. King talked about Bonamassa being thekind of one-in-a-million talent that would belegendary before hes 25. Another guy whomanaged to catch some of Bonamassas gooddays was Danny Gatton, who saw such a uniqueartist that he took a 12-year old kid under his
Joe Bonamassa Tells How LoudAmps, Heavy Strings, and Hard
Work Created His Best Record EverBY M AT T B L AC K E T T
P H O T O G R A P H B Y R I C K G O U L D
wing and out on the road, providing lessonsand advice. The guidance Bonamassa gotfrom these two kingpins, along with jam sessions with a whos-who of blues gods,spurred him on to practice his ass off, studyhis music history, get his sound together,and make a go of it.
Bonamassa is more right than he knowswhen he says hes good for his age. That wastrue when he was 11 and its even truer now.Even though hes just in his 30s, hes beengigging for 20 years and he has the depthand power in his playing of someone with alot more miles on him. Hes an old soul, andthat comes through in his bends, vibrato,singing voice, and note choices, whichwitheach passing yearget more restrained andrefined.
Bonamassa is also good for his age in thesense that hes good for his era. He embod-ies a refreshing work ethic and outlook onlife that says no matter how fortunate you are,how many breaks youre given, or how muchgod-given talent you possess, it doesnt meanyou dont have to work at it. He knows thereis no free lunch (despite the fact that B.B.King once gave him half of his sandwich).Hes a dude who is willing to work for a liv-ing. Hes not chasing fame or glitz or glam.
He wants to get a good sound, take a goodsolo, and hopefully make people happy alongthe way.
His formula is paying off. He has workedwith celebrated producers Tom Dowd(Coltrane, Cream, Clapton, Allmans, etc)and Kevin Shirley (Black Crowes, Aerosmith,Led Zeppelin). His last two albums havedebuted at number one on the Billboard blueschart. He has won GPs Readers Poll awardfor Best Blues Guitarist two years running,famously tying none other than Buddy Guyone of those years. His tours have gottenstronger every year, although he still prefersthe B.B. King-approved theater circuit tostadiums. It makes perfect sense that Bona-massas new record would be called The Balladof John Henry [J&R Adventures], because Bona-massa is a modern-day working-class hero.Conducting this interview from the very bedroom in upstate New York where helearned how to play guitar at the age of four,Bonamassa obviously has not forgottenwhere he came from. Hes good for his age.Hes good for this age.
Lots of guys can play good blues in a bar, but veryfew can make a studio blues record that has 1/10thof that energy or vibe. How do you pull it off?
It is very difficult to capture that energyin a studio. The studio tends to be a verysterile environment by design. Every trackis separated. You get perfect separation ofthe toms, the kick and the snare, perfect sep-aration between the guitar and the bass, andobviously the vocal. And thats not reallywhat blues music sounds like. There are peo-ple out there who believe that what I play isnot blues, but think about blues-based music,like Jeff Becks Truth, Tons of Sobs by Free, LedZeppelin I, The Hard Road by John MayallsBluesbreakers with Peter Green, the Beanoalbum. These are my favorite albums of alltime in the blues-rock genre and they allhave this one common trait: Everything meltstogether. The drums melt into the bass, thebass and drums melt into the guitar, the vocalis panned to one side with the reverb returnon the other. To Kevin Shirleys credit, heallows for all that. Kevin deserves most ofthe credit on these albums. Hes the guy whospearheads the vision, takes me out of mycomfort zone, and forces me to play differ-ent stuff. He also engineers the whole thingso that it has the sound of a live band in aroom, but is separated enough that it doesntsound lo-fi. So, thats my secret: I hire a guynamed Kevin Shirley.
8 2 A P R I L 2 0 0 9 G U I TA R P L AY E R
COVER STORY Joe Bonamassa
P H OTO S : R I C K G O U L D
1958 Gibson ES-140T
1950 Gibson ES-5 1961 Guild X-375 Early-60s Airline 1953 HoyerRegent
G U I TA R P L AY E R A P R I L 2 0 0 9 8 3
Joe Bonamassa COVER STORY
8 4 A P R I L 2 0 0 9 G U I TA R P L AY E R P H OTO : R I C K G O U L D
COVER STORY Joe Bonamassa
AX Gibson Inspired by Joe Bona-massa Les Paul.
RACK (top to bottom) MonsterPower conditioner, Solid StateLogic XLogic Alpha Channel (foracoustic), Peterson VS-R StroboRack tuner, Electro-Voice wirelessunit, drawer with Keeley-moddedBoss DD-3 delay, Boss RV-5reverb, T.C. Electronic chorus, DiazVibramaster.
AMPS (left side) Van WeeldenTwinkle Land, Carol Ann JB-100,(right side) Category 5 JB Custom,Marshall Silver Jubilee. CabsMojo Musical Supply 4x12sperched atop Auralex Great Grammas.
PEDALBOARD (top row, left toright)Voodoo Lab Pedal Power(2), Whirlwind Selector, Fulltonetremolo; (bottom row, left to right)Boss DD-3 delay, Ibanez TS808Tube Screamer, Gaspedals Carb,Custom Dunlop Fuzz Face (origi-nally made for Eric Johnson), Lehle1@3 A/B/C box, Vox wah.
Moog Theremin with Boss delay and Ernie Ball volume pedal.
JKBONAMASSAS LIVE RIG
The Ballad of John Henry has a real depth toit, not just in the playing but in the singing too.What do you attribute that to?
I went through some personal problemsthis year at home, and this record is moreautobiographical than my past work, whichI think is a good thing. Ive always been shyabout exposing too much of my own life onalbums. This time, I just threw that out thewindow and wrote about true events. I usedto get really indignant as a kid when peoplewould say that I was too young to play theblues. Id say, No Im not! My hearts beenbroken too! But now, at 31, after havinggone through some more years of living, Iknow that theres a sound that comes fromexperience, from being in the world a littlebit. Hopefully Ill sound even deeper whenIm 51. Well see.
How did you create the tone that opens therecord on the title track?
That was my live rig: a Marshall SilverJubilee, a Category 5 Super Lead-type of amp,a Two-Rock, and a Carol Ann JB-100, whichis basically a big clean amp. We set up a cou-ple of room mics, four mics on the amps, and
I just hit a big dropped-D D chord with a wahpedal and a Fulltone tremolo. The mainrhythm tone is an Ernie Ball John Petruccibaritone. Its a strange choice for my style ofplaying, but these are fantastic guitars. I thinkpeople tune them down to B with lighterstrings, but we tune them to C and put heavystrings on them and they sound fantastic. Itsalmost like a Danelectro tone.
When the Dobro comes in at 0:45, theres aspooky little part that sounds like harmonics.
Thats rhythm guitar underneath theDobro. Kevin grabs bits and pieces from dif-ferent takes and he does a lot of this stuffwithout telling me. He puts these little tex-tures in the songs. He might take somethingfrom the end of the song and put it in theverse. Its not necessarily something I playedright in that spot. We talk about this a lot.We make records for people who buy songsoff of iTunes, but we also make records forthe audiophiles, who buy them on vinyl andspin them on really expensive systems with$2,000 headphones. We make sure