I recently interviewed legendary guitar player Scott Henderson, and here below is the complete interview. Scott has been touring with the Super Group HBC for quite a while now, and they released their first album in October 2012. Scott is also a longtime faculty member of the renowned Musician's Institute located in Hollywood, California. He's also busy working with his own trio, as well as with the other Super Group, Tribal Tech.
It's wicked playing on this record, wicked tones, and wicked production. I really like it. I'm actually a marathon runner myself and I listen to music when I run and for the last few weeks now I've been listening to HBC when I run.
Oh, thanks man.
I'm really excited to hear a new setting from you and also of course I know about Jeff and Dennis from other projects they've done in the past, and when you three guys come together it's really exciting for sure.
Well thanks very much. Those guys are great musicians and I feel pretty lucky to have such an amazing rhythm section to play with. We've been doing this for awhile - we've done five or six tours by now.
So how did this project come about in the first place? How did you guys meet and all that?
Jeff and his manager, Alejandro Orellana wanted to put a touring band together because Jeff hadn't been touring that much, he'd been pretty busy with his school. Jeff thought of me and Dennis, because Jeff and I have played together before and we both wanted to play with Dennis. Alejandro's not only Jeff's manager, but he's also our booking agent, so he put a tour together, which was Asia in 2008. It went really well - we all enjoyed playing and hanging out together so we kept it going and finally after four or five tours we ended up recording.
And you and Jeff, you worked together in the past as well, right?
Yeah, I was on Jeff's first solo album, "Champion," back in the 80's. It was actually my very first time playing on an album. So me and Jeff have a lot of history. We also did the "Players" album together with Steve Smith and T. Lavitz, and we played many gigs in Los Angeles when he lived here, before he moved to Florida.
I see. And Dennis, had you ever played with him before this project?
Yes, in Tom Coster's band. We're on his album "The Forbidden Zone". It was awhile back ago, maybe in the early 90's.
You know the first thought I had when I listened to the album was, how did you guys decide on which songs to play?
That was mainly my decision, because Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Jaco Pastorius, Miles Davis, those are some of my favorite composers. I learned those songs because it's more fun to cover keyboard music on guitar - it doesn't make much sense to cover guitar music. Why would I cover a McLaughlin tune - he has like ten times more chops than me! Covering songs by horn players and keyboard players gives you kind of a fresh version of the song. So I brought that repertoire in to Jeff and Dennis because we're all familiar with those tunes and don't have much time to rehearse since we all live in different cities - Jeff lives in Florida, Dennis lives in Baltimore, I live in LA. Plus both Jeff and I have enough trouble finding time to write original music for our own bands, so to spread ourselves that thin and try to write a whole repertoire of music for this project was just out of the question. I think the majority of the audience comes to see us play anyway and they don't mind that we're not playing original music - they like to hear our different versions of these famous jazz fusion tunes. For us it's kind of a breath of fresh air to play some different music - we get tired of playing our own tunes! These are some of my favorites, and I'm looking forward to learning more. I plan to learn NIght Passage by Joe Zawinul, which is probably going to be difficult, but I like a challenge. Maybe that'll be on the next HBC album, we'll see.
So did you choose all the tunes that you played, or did anyone else make suggestions or how did that work?
I think Jeff wanted to play "Stratus", and he also composed a solo bass piece - we asked him to do one because he's so good at that. The other two tunes are just blues tunes that we - well, composed would be the wrong word to use - just jammed, basically.
So Dennis didn't have too much input on tunes, necessarily?
He definitely has an input on the way they sound, but all the material was selected before our first meeting with Dennis.
He is certainly a master drummer, Chambers.
I noticed iTunes listed HBC as a Scott Henderson record, so how does that work?
It's a group effort - I don't know why they would list it that way. Probably because I'm the guitar player, and the guitar player is usually the bandleader, but there isn't a bandleader in this group.
And where did you record the album?
At Scott Kinsey’s studio.
Does he have a place he rents out to different bands?
He records his own music there, and I think he's recorded some other groups there too. It's a great little studio with nice acoustics. He got an amazing drum sound for Dennis, but of course Dennis gets such great tone anyway - still, a good engineer and gear is important. I did a lot of overdubbing at home, obviously, because I did a lot of layering on the tunes, because I wanted them to sound as big and textural as the original recordings.
Yeah, you did a good job with that.
Thanks, there's a lot of guitar tracks on some of those tunes.
And that's really exciting to listen to.
It's fun to orchestrate guitar. I haven't done it much, because I've mostly played with keyboard players throughout my career and usually play only one guitar track per song. It wasn't until I started playing with my trio - well actually it wasn't until the Well to the Bone album where I really started learning how to layer guitars, and it's so much fun that I wanted to do it again on HBC. Some tunes don't need it, and I like a mixture of layered tunes and "live in the studio" tunes where it's basically a stage performance. I want that mixture on my next solo album as well.
You must have worked a lot on the layering of the different tunes and getting the right sounds for the specific song in question, like the Herbie Hancock and the Weather Report tunes.
That's the hardest part, because there's no way I'm going to get sounds that are as fat as a synthesizer, but I can get close. I'm getting pretty good at hearing a sound and knowing which guitar, amp and pedal combination is going to come closest to that sound. I'm not trying to exactly copy the sounds, but I'm trying to get the same kind of sonic vibe that was on the original recordings, and of course it's going to sound like guitar and not keyboards. Out of respect for these artists, I listened to their music closely, so I'm not throwing in a bunch of sounds that have nothing to do with the original recordings - I'm just imitating them in my own creative way. I'm a big fan of Herbie, Wayne and Joe, and I wanted to make their music sound as good as I could.
You did a really good job with that.
Well thank you, thanks.
You didn't use any [MIDI] gear, I imagine then, right?
It's all guitar except the bridge of Sightseeing, where I used some samples, and The Orphan, where my nine year old daughter did all the vocal tracks.
So of course the next question is, of course, can you give sort of an overview of what kind of guitar gear you used, like an overall picture?
I used one main guitar for the whole record, which was my Suhr Strat - it's actually not a Strat - it's a Suhr guitar fashioned after a Strat, with V60 LP pickups. On some of the layering I used a Les Paul, an SG, and I think there might be a few of my DanElectro guitars here and there. I used three different amps, a ’71 Marshall, a modded Fender Bandmaster and an 18 watt Suhr Badger. As far as pedals, too many to name - over twenty for sure. The main distortion pedal for most of the solos was a Fulltone PlimSoul.
Twenty pedals, eh?
Following that, rough numbers, how many guitars do you have?
Oh I don't know, about fifteen or sixteen. Something like that.
How many amps do you have?
Four main amps.
What about the recording equipment?--maybe there's something that could be of interest for some readers, what kind of recording gear do you use for recording in general?
It's different for the basic tracks than for overdubbing, because obviously for the basic tracks I'm using whatever gear is in the studio. I do bring my own mic pre-amp because I have a great BAE 1073 - I bring it with me everywhere I record. Still, there are different issues with each room - they all sound different, so I'm not always able to match a tone I got in the studio to tones I get at my house. Ninety percent of the time the tones I get at my house are better than the tones I get in other people's studios, so I do a lot of recording at home. Sometimes I keep solos from the basic tracks, but if I play a solo that I like, but don't like the tone, I'll probably learn it and re-record it at home. I'm pretty meticulous about that. Basics can be difficult for guitarists - so much of the tone is about how you touch the strings, and a lot of the finesse can be lost if you end up picking really hard because the volume of the band came up and you can't hear yourself. A volume pedal can be a solution but it's another thing to degrade the tone. I always get the best tone overdubbing at home.
The solos on the HBC record, are these solos all first takes?
Most of them are, because most of the songs are first takes. We did the basics in one day. We'd do a song, and Dennis and Jeff would totally nail it, so I wasn't about to ask them to do it again because I didn't like everything I played. Even though most of my solos are first takes, they all have fixes. If you want to hear my un-fixed solos, buy my live album. When I'm in the studio, I want to put my best work out there for people to hear, so I fix stuff I don't like. I'm not after perfect solos - I often leave mistakes in, but if something is completely lame and doesn't feel right to me, I'll fix it. For me, making an album is another art form than playing live. I'm not a purist - I don't believe music created in the studio necessarily has to be an exact stage performance. That's a purist view point, and I don't subscribe to that crap. If you want to hear pure un-touched music, buy only live records. And don't watch movies - they've all been fixed. Try to get a video that someone took of the whole movie shoot so you can see all the out-takes and actors screwing up their lines.
But there's still a lot of chord comping and melody playing and that kind of stuff. That stuff all would be live, all three of you recording together, right?
Of course, it's live, and the most important thing is to keep it sounding that way, even if things are fixed. If I fix a solo, I'm very conscious of what I played on the original and keep as much of it as I can. You can't just play a new solo if people react to what you play on the basics. You have to use your first solo as a blueprint and play things that are similar, especially rhythmically, in the same places. It's not easy to do, so my first preference is to keep the original, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way. If there's just a flat groove going on, you could record a brand new solo, but if they reacted to what you played on your original solo, you can't play things that have nothing to do with what they're playing or you'll make them sound bad.
Yeah, that must be a challenge to make your new solo while mirroring what you did the first time, but better.
Well, hopefully better.
Yeah, I bet that takes some skill to be able to do that.
Well it would take more skill just to be able to play the better notes in the first place.
Yeah, but most guitar players would never do that.
Maybe they're just not as anal about it as I am. Like I said, I'm not after perfect, but sometimes when I listen back to my solos, I hear what should've happened but didn't. For the listener, whatever happened the first time might be fine - or they might have the same critical ear as I do and think, he should have fixed that.
Yeah well it depends on the listener, right?
Yeah I guess so.How much of your original guitar parts end up on the final record? Just a rough idea - I am curious because there are drum solos where you and Jeff play the groove while Dennis is funking around. Do you redo such parts too? Like simply grooves and rhythm parts?
Are there any special audio interfaces, mics, etc, that you use on a regular basis that you could mention?
I use a 57 - just one mic. I've tried mixing microphones, but I never like the result. I just use one mic into a BAE 1073 mic pre and that goes into an Apogee Rosetta 800 and directly into the computer.
And what software do you use, then?
Digital Performer. Most of the digital effects are from plug-ins, like the Lexicon reverb and Sound Toys EchoBoy.
Do you use any hardware units?
Not so much. Now the plug-ins are just as good as the hardware. I use the plug-ins because I don't have to go outside the computer with cables and stuff like that. If the plug-ins are great, there's no need for hardware.
I noticed on your message board you mentioned the Wave plugins for EQ. Do you think those are really good?
The Neve bundle is awesome - they call it the V-EQ.
That good for guitar?
Excellent. And the API one is great too.
I use Logic myself, and the built-in plugins seem to be okay, but I’ve never tried any more “pro level” plugins l like Wave plugins. Maybe I should try that next.
There's quite a big difference. There's even a big difference among the Wave plug-ins. I previously used the Renaissance plug-ins but I never liked them very much. When they came out with the V-EQ it was a huge improvement. So much better than anything they put out in the past. I can't hear much of a difference between the Neve plug-ins and a hardware Neve EQ - I've had them both here and compared them.
I usually have to EQ the guitars because their volume level in the mix affects the tone. Also different EQ helps to separate the guitar parts when layering.
Do you know if your mic pre is very similar to the GAP-73?
My BEA mic pre is a Neve 1073 clone - in my opinion the best one on the market. It doesn't have built in EQ or anything fancy, but it's stereo so I can record two amps at once if I want to. It has a selector switch for 1200 or 300 ohms - 300 sounds better with the 57.
I am kinda curious to how often do you actually look at anything Scott Henderson related on YouTube?
Well, maybe once a week. When I'm on the road, every day. When we're on tour, I see people holding up their iPhones taping the concert and I know that the next day there's going to be a bunch of terrible sounding videos posted. Luckily I'm a YouTube Content Verification member. With the Content Verification program, I simply check little boxes next to the videos, hit delete and they're gone. Believe me, I warn the audience. I don't have time to write to every single person who posts videos. So I tell the people in the audience "I see you're recording - if it's just for you, I don't have a problem with it, but if you post it on YouTube, I'm gonna remove it and you're gonna get a copyright hit. If you get three copyright hits, your account gets closed". If they go ahead and post it and get a copyright hit, it's on them.
Yeah, I remember that was at the top of your forum awhile back, there was some guy that was pissed off that you removed his stuff, but you know that's how it goes.
When there weren't so many people doing it, I used to write letters and ask them to please remove it. Sometimes people did, but a lot of times they didn't, or wouldn't even respond to my message, so I'd have to fill out a long copyright form and wait weeks to have a video removed. So I called YouTube and found out about this program which allows me to just check a box and hit delete. Takes two seconds.
And yeah, I don't see that problem going away very soon either. There are more and more people using cell phones for recording live shows, so it's a growing problem for performers.
I don't really mind people doing it for their own personal use since I used to record concerts just so I could transcribe some of the solos - I certainly don't have a problem if someone wants to learn something from the concert, but to put it up on YouTube isn't fair to us, especially if we're not happy with the performance or the sound quality of the video. Often you can't even hear the bass, so if you're playing over chord changes it just sounds like Avant-garde music. Or it's horribly distorted, and I don't want to be represented by that kind of video.
Makes me think of Prince, who is legendary for going after people who post anything about him online all the time, but it's probably difficult, if you're famous enough, I imagine, to keep up on all that stuff, because people will wanna do it regardless.
That's why I check it often, and I can remove many videos at one time. I don't know why people waste their time uploading videos which can be removed in a couple seconds.
Yeah, 'cause you tell them at the gig anyway, that if its posted you'll remove it, right?
Yes, I absolutely do.
Do you tune down to E-flat when you play with HBC?
No, on tour with HBC I use 10's tuned to E, because Jeff doesn't want to play shows with his bass tuned down to E-flat. He does a lot of pretty sophisticated stuff and he told me that if he tunes down, the strings will be too rubbery. Bass string sizes don't go up in gradual amounts like guitar strings - if he puts the next size on his bass, it'll make it too hard to play. Travis Carlton, the bass player in my trio, doesn't mind tuning down to E-flat, but when I play with other people, especially if there's a keyboard player involved, obviously I have to play in E. There's not much of a difference in tension - 10's tuned to E feel about the same as 11's tuned to Eb. But there's a big difference in sound, so we played in Eb on the record.
Regarding the HBC album. Do you have an idea of how it's been received so far, overall?
Well, the critics seem to like it, and most of the reviews are very positive, so we're happy about that. About the sales, I don't keep up with that, but I do read reviews. I find them interesting, especially from the people who don't know music from a technical standpoint. They describe how the album makes them feel when they listen to it, and seem to enjoy the energy and vibe they're getting from it, even if they can't explain it in technical terms.
Do you guys have lots of tours lined up already or are you working on a new album or what's sort of next for the HBC group?
The next tour is in October because Dennis is busy with Santana until then. They work a lot. But whenever he has a break, he lets us know and we try to book tours around that.
I was thinking about Tribal Tech as well. The Tribal Tech X is really a good album as well, and if you wouldn't mind, what do you think is next for Tribal Tech?
We have an Asia tour coming up in March and Europe in the summer.
Yeah, I didn't really think that there was going to be any touring, because the economy is pretty weird everywhere. It's not easy, even with a trio. So I thought a four piece group would be impossible, but to our amazement we've gotten some great offers and we're touring, so everybody's pretty excited about it.
That's awesome. And how long will those tours go, then?
I think Asia will be short, probably less than two weeks. Europe will probably be about three weeks, and then I'm going to Europe in the summer with my trio as well.
What about your blues albums? People are always asking about Scott Henderson should be doing more blues stuff because he's so good at it, so what's your thoughts on that?
I like the blues records I did, but I don't wanna do straight ahead blues records anymore because it's not really me. I feel like I'm holding back. At the time I did Dog Party, I felt I needed to do a straight ahead blues record because I was involved in all these intricate recordings with Tribal Tech where everything was very technical in the studio, linking up midi with tape - this was before hard disc recording. It was all so technical, and I wanted to do a fun record where we just went into the studio and recorded onto tape with little to no overdubbing. Plus there was a whole other blues aspect of my playing that I'd never documented. I started out as a blues player, but by the time I did my first session, it was fusion. Now that I've done a few blues records, I don't feel the need to do it again. I just wanna be myself, which is a combination of everything that I've been influenced by - jazz, rock, blues, funk - I'm into variety.
I'm sure there will be some blues stuff on my new album, but Alan Hertz and Travis Carlton love to play funk, so I'll probably write some tunes in that direction because I want those guys to have fun. I already have some jazzy tunes with changes, but I want the record to be more funk oriented than Well To The Bone or Tore Down House.
And when do you think that next trio album is coming out?
No idea. It's very hard to find time to write. This month I'm playing on a tune from a bass player in England, three tunes from a keyboard player in Brazil, and a tune from a guitarist in Italy, so I do some work as a studio musician. That, plus learning Tribal Tech songs for the tour, teaching, and taking care of three dogs and a nine year old - I'm a busy guy. Finding time to compose is difficult, but I'm trying my best. I hope to have enough music for a new record by the end of the year.
Will there be another project with Steve Smith and Victor Wooten? Are you still in touch with those guys? Those albums sure had some killer playing on them, by everyone in the band!
Those guys are great players, but to be honest the way those records were done isn't the way I like to work. We had no pre-written music, so we had only 10 days to write, record, and mix each of those records. It was an unbelievable "rush job", and to me that's what it sounds like, not the playing but the writing and production. The mix on the first record is beyond awful. The drums are by far the loudest thing on the album, and my tone totally sucks - not a good sounding record. The second one sounds much better because we recorded at a pro studio. The songs were at first grooves composed by Steve and Victor, and then I was given the challenge to compose the chords and melodies, in an hour or two for each tune. Not my best work, that's for sure. Still, for the amount of time that went into it, there are some great moments here and there. Both Steve and Victor were fun to work with, even under stressful conditions and they're both amazing musicians.
When you play covers, like you do with HBC, is that ever a problem in terms of the rights of the song at the place you're playing and that kind of thing?
No, the publishing royalties from the record and live performances go to the original composers. That's all set up.
So does that mean you get paid less?
Oh, way less. We don't make any publishing money from this record. Except for the two blues tunes and Jeff's original bass solo. The rest of the money goes to the original composers. That's the only problem with doing a cover record, you don't make any money from publishing.
But when you play the actual gig, don't the organizers have to pay royalties or something to the composers for those songs?
Yes, they do.
Does it affect you guys?
We have to fill out a form listing the songs we played, and the composers of those songs. If we list Herbie Hancock as one of the composers, then Herbie's gonna to make some money off that concert. I hope - that's the way it's supposed to work.
Does that mean you guys get paid less for the gig?
We don't get paid less for the actual gig, but we get paid less from any publishing royalties that came from the gig. But we're talking pennies here - it's not big money.
Are there any other projects you're involved in that you want to mention or that are coming up?
Not really. Just touring a lot in the three bands I play with. Between my own trio with Alan and Travis, HBC, and Tribal Tech - it's enough to keep me pretty busy. Plus composing and playing on other people's music - I don't advertise the fact that I do it, but somehow every month somebody sends me a tune to play on from somewhere in the world.
And you can't say no.
Well, I can't afford to say no - I've got a kid in private school.
Mango Prom is a name I've seen before here and there when it comes to Scott Henderson. Where does it come from?
Mango Prom Music is the name of my publishing company. It comes from the name of a street in Florida called Mango Promenade, a street that was very close to the house where I lived in West Palm Beach. It's a beautiful little street with actually no road in the middle, just a sidewalk that runs through - it's not even a street, it's a promenade. There's a lot of tropical kind of trees and stuff, and the houses are painted and decorated in an artsy way. I always took my dog for a walk there around sunset. I'd love to buy a house there for when I retire, but since I'll never be able to afford to retire, I won't be doing that.
Any new interest in guitar gear that you would like to mention?
Yeah, let me think. I just bought a Strymon "Ola" chorus pedal and a Lesley rotating speaker pedal. The Strymon pedals are awesome.
Yeah, I have a Lex Rotary as well. Is that the one you're talking about?
Yeah it’s great, man.
It's pretty cool, yeah. I think Mike Landau used one of those on a lot of his albums, didn't he?
Yeah, he did, and I love that company. They're really coming out with some great pedals.
Yeah, they are.
Those are the latest things I've bought. And I just bought an Electro-Harmonix Freeze pedal, and that's a lot of fun to mess around with.
Okay, what does it do?
You press a button and it holds the chord and then you can play over it - I don't know if I'll use it on anything but it's a fun toy. I also just bought the new version of the Plimsoul distortion pedal from Fulltone.
Yeah, I heard the version two is much better than the first one, is that right?
Well, it's different. I think it is better in some ways. It's smoother sounding, doesn't have quite as much bass, but yeah, I would have to agree it's better. Though there are still some things I like about the first one too, so I have them both, but I think I do prefer the newer version.
Are they quite different sounding?
It's fairly subtle. They both still sound like a Plimsoul. The main thing you'd notice is the newer one has less bass, and the mid is in a more pleasing frequency, at least to me. Actually, I use the newer version on "Stratus." The rest of the HBC album is the old Plimsoul. I used the Plimsoul a lot on HBC, and used the SD-9 more on Tribal Tech X. The SD-9 has sort of been my signature tone for years, and I wanted HBC to sound a little bit different since X had just been recently released. I still used the SD-9 on HBC, but mostly for background parts and layering, especially on the neck pickup. Both pedals are great, they're just different flavors of high gain.
I haven't tried the Plimsoul. I'm gonna have to get one of those.
They’re nice. I think you'll like it.
I will probably get one. I recently bought a 30th Anniversary Tube Screamer, and it's actually really good for the blues stuff. Really good.
Yeah. It's amazing how a pedal can change the way you play. I tried the the Plimsoul on my pedal board, but it just doesn't work for me live. I've tried probably fifty different pedals over the last five years, and I'm still using the SD-9, and I don't think I'll ever change. That pedal just does it for me live, it's my sound and I love it! It's my desert island pedal.
Yeah, it's a very individual thing for guitar players when it comes to overdrive or distortion pedals.
Yeah, it's your voice.
I noticed Jude Gold and you did this pentatonic scale thing a year ago or something and it's got a lot of views on YouTube, so there's people checking you out, man.Well that's good. It's kind of a beginner's lesson, but whatever. I mean, I'm glad - I hope it helps people.
That gets people in your direction, because they're noticing this guy is amazing. You're reaching out to the bulk of the players out there.
Yeah, that's pretty much my job at GIT. It's not like we have a lot of high-level students. If the school only let in great players they'd go bankrupt. So basically we let beginning students in these days - and not just MI, but schools like Berklee too. Still, I have some good players this year - some guys that can play over changes pretty well and play good blues and stuff, but I would say that the majority of the students are beginner to medium level. There aren't a lot of high level jazz students like there were fifteen years ago.Do you spend much time online, you know reading interviews, YouTube, forums, etc?
Not really that much. I mean, I'm on Facebook, but I go on there maybe once every two or three weeks. The forums, not really, but I did get pulled into a Gear Page discussion last year on buying vs. stealing music. Amazing how many complete idiots there are out there. I go on my message board every once in awhile to answer questions, and YouTube, to remove the latest horrible video of myself. I spend so much time staring at my screen looking at Digital Performer that the last thing I need to do is stare at my screen some more doing social stuff and forum surfing. The computer is my tape deck, so I'm always involved with music on my computer and man, it gets tiring on the eyes.
Regarding recording, is it easy to send audio tracks between band members and people that hire you?
Yeah, these days all the programs talk to each other. WAV files work in Digital Performer just like they do in Logic or Pro Tools, so when I do a project with someone, I can send any file they want - WAV, AIFF, Sound Designer II, whatever. Usually people send me a stereo mix as an mp3 and I send them my tracks as WAV files.
And how does it sync up with their recording?
The track they send me is made by bouncing their mix to one stereo track from 000 to the end of the tune, so the file I'm getting has the same exact start time as their master file. After I record my guitar track, even if the stuff I played is in the middle of the song, it's easy to merge together everything on my track from 000 to the end. What I end up with is a file with silence at the beginning until the guitar comes in. All they have to do is drop my file into their sequence and move it to the beginning and it lines up perfectly.
That's useful to know. By the way, if someone wants to hire you to play a solo on a song, how much does it cost to hire you?A thousand bucks.
It doesn't matter if the solo is short or long?
No, it doesn't matter. I mean I'll play the melody and do whatever they need. If they need rhythm guitar, some sound effects or whatever, I'll make the song sound like what they want - that's what I do. It always involves playing a solo, of course.
Yeah, for sure. That's why they contact you.
Well it would actually be fun if they said, "I want you to play on this song, and just play the melodies, but you don't have to solo." That would be great!
Yeah, or perhaps have you play some James Brown style funk guitar?
Right, that would really be nice, actually. I hope that happens someday.
So you teach 2 days a week at Musician's Institute, correct?
Yeah, Monday and Tuesday from 12 to 4, and what I do is called Open Counseling.
Do people just come and jam with you, and you give them tips and advice?
That's basically it, yeah.
Any tips for guitar players wanting to get to next level?
I tell everybody the same thing, to keep your ears open and listen to many, many different styles and types of music, and also different instrumentalists, not just guitar players. I grew up listening to Ritchie Blackmore and Jeff Beck, and the first jazz guitarist I listened to was John Scofield, so when people hear me play, I'm sure they hear some of those influences. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because we can hear influences in everyone's playing, but when I started listening to Weather Report, Miles, classical music, James Brown - I think it's helped me find my own voice. I don't listen to guitar as much as I used to because I don't wanna be influenced by it.
Are there any guitar players that you actually check out more thoroughly these days?
Well, to be honest, and maybe I should feel guilty about not supporting my fellow guitarists, but I haven't bought a guitar record in a long time. Oz Noy gave me his latest album Twisted Blues and it's very cool. Oz, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth - all those guys are monster players. Michael Landau is another great player. Kirk Fletcher, great blues guitarist. There's so many. Oh, Tommy Emmanuel, I love that guy, man. He's amazing.
Yeah, isn't he? Incredible guy. Do you often go see those guys when they come by your neck of the woods to perform?It seems like whenever anyone comes to town, I'm on the road. Bireli Lagrene came to our school and played with his quartet, and it was one of the best concerts I've seen in our school. I love his playing.
Yeah, he's wicked. He played with Jaco Pastorius, right?Yes he did - I have some of those recordings. Philip DeGruy is another incredible player, probably the best solo guitarist on the planet.
Oh, I haven't heard of him.
He's from New Orleans. And he's a monster, a freak. He's like Ted Green on acid.
It's very easy to remain humble in this world of such great musicians.
Yeah, stay healthy and be productive and have fun. That's the way to go, right?
That's the way to go. One of the guys I really look up to in that respect is Jeff Beck.
Oh yeah, I saw him last year here, in Canada. He was amazing.
He's playing better than he ever did. Not that he didn't always play well, but he's playing even better than he did back in his youth, and that's mainly because he never got into drugs or any of that stuff, unlike so many of the other guitar players of his generation. They either stopped improving, got worse, or died too young. Jeff is still kicking ass.
He's sort of like Miles Davis in a way, brings out these young talented people to sort of help to take over.
He's also like Miles Davis because he's such a great phraser - he doesn't have to play a lot of notes to make a statement and he's very non-repetitive and melodic. I saw him a couple years ago, and it seemed to me like he played the whole concert without repeating himself at all. Very big vocabulary of things to do on the guitar, which is really cool since he doesn't need to resort to using the jazz vocabulary. He's a lot of fun to listen to.
He's really cool to watch, too, because he's sort of walking around while he’s playing, and he sure knows what he's doing.
Yeah, he definitely does.
And he's got such a great tone. Did you know that he's using Fender-Pro Juniors?
I think the tone is mainly in his fingers. I've seen him play through quite a few amps, and he always get great tone. Same as Mike Landau - I've seen him play through Fenders, Marshalls, etc, and it always sounds like Mike.
I think that goes for Scott Henderson as well! I know you are very picky about your tone, but you sound like yourself through any piece of gear. Always great!
Thanks for the interview, Scott!