With just a few scant weeks left to go before we usher in 2020, let us look back at some of the more notable interviews we’ve had in the past year. We’ve sat down with musicians from all areas of the industry and collected their thoughts on their music, personal experiences and the evolution of their craft. This is the second instalment of our three-part roundup series for 2019.
Terry Reid reflects on a career spanning 50 years
Back in September, we sat down with British music icon Terry Reid as he looked back on several turning points in his life, such as his first time touring with The Rolling Stones at age 15 and being asked by Jimmy Page to join Led Zeppelin in 1968.
“Jimmy and I were talking about my joining them, but at the time, I was already committed to going on tour with the Stones,” he said. “I was chuffed to death when Led Zeppelin got that big. It was a great opportunity for Robert [Plant] and John [Bonham] and I’m proud of putting the band together.”
Kiefer Sutherland waxes poetic over his guitar collection
Not everyone understands the mindset of a collector, especially when you’ve amassed a collection as large as Kiefer Sutherland. Our interview with the actor-cum-musician in May uncovered the humble origin of his hobby: a Yamaha acoustic guitar. “It was a terrible Yamaha acoustic, it was a piece of crap and the fucking action was so high, but by the time I could start playing barre chords, my hands were quite strong ’cause of that guitar,” Sutherland said.
“I remember I used to pawn Christmas gifts, and I would take whatever money I had made and I would get to the guitar store and I would put a downpayment on very funny guitars,” Sutherland continued. “I just remember that, as a kid, I was always trying to get a guitar, or work my way up to getting a good one. I can’t remember a time really where I wasn’t either chasing a guitar or playing.”
King Calaway’s Caleb Miller on success at 19 years old
King Calaway’s explosion on to the country music scene is rivalled only by its members; lead guitarist Caleb Miller is only 19 years old. His accomplishments don’t stop there: Miller started doing session work at age 13, and was already touring with his first band at 15.
Since then, the country sextet have performed on numerous shows, yet Miller remains grounded in reality: “I’m really proud to be in this situation that I am with King Calaway and being a PRS artist. It’s always been a dream of mine, so it’s really cool to check those things off my bucket list,” he said in an interview last month. “But, I hope to keep creating music, and influencing people to pick up the guitar.”
Remembering Mick Ronson
Mick Ronson was undeniably the best guitarist to grace David Bowie’s ensemble, with his contributions being featured on iconic albums such as Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. Ronson passed away in 1993 due to liver cancer, but his legacy lives on through Bowie’s works and the words of his producer Ken Scott.
In praise of the Les Paul-toting Yorkshireman, Scott recalled how Ronson was “one of the nicest guys” and how it “came through in the playing”. “David or I would start talking about what was required and Mick would immediately say: ‘I know,’ and nail it instantly,” Scott recalled in an interview with us back in April. “Mick was up there with all of them; The Beatles would spend a lot of time getting everything right. Mick got everything right, but he did it a lot quicker.”
How Isaiah Sharkey came into his own
At 14 years old, Isaiah Sharkey was already making his rounds along the famous blues and jazz clubs of Chicago. Of course, the now-29-year-old was not content to just remain as a club player (though an impressive one at that) in the Windy City, as evidenced by an interview earlier on in July. Since stepping out on his own, Sharkey has worked with some notable industry heavyweights while blending different genres into an eclectic mix he can call his own.
Sharkey has also picked up a Grammy Award for his work on D’Angelo’s 2016 album Black Messiah, released his debut solo album in 2017 and played as John Mayer’s guitarist in his recent world tour. Sharkey’s recent sophomore effort, Love Is The Key (The Cancerian Theme) circles back to the wide array of musical genres he was exposed to as a child.
Slash talks about Guns N’ Roses’ reunion and Gibson’s rebirth
We caught up with Slash back in April, when the timing could not be better. The axeman was riding high off the success of the European leg of his tour with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators while also basking in the glow of the much-anticipated Guns N’ Roses reunion. “Guns N’ Roses is just this big epic thing,” the 53-year-old explains. “The Conspirators is on a lower scale, which keeps you grounded for sure!”
Slash also talked about his experience through Gibson’s restructuring and his views on the current incarnation the Nashville company. “I’ve been very close to the company for the last 10 years, but very close to the people who work there… So when all of this [Gibson’s 2018 bankruptcy announcement] started coming down, I was very aware that it was happening, and as soon as it was done, I met with the new CEO and we sat down for a couple of hours to talk about what’s going on,” he explains.
On the subject of current Chief Merchant Office Cesar Guelikan, Slash commented on how instrumental he is to Gibson’s future. “He’s got great ideas, and he’s a guitar nerd, but he’s also a very smart businessman,” he said. “He has a good vision for the company that’s more in line with what myself and other Gibson loyalists will appreciate.”
Tim Shaw adds his mojo to Fender’s American Performer Yosemite pickups
From Gibson’s ‘Shawbucker’ humbucker to Fender’s own trademarked version, Tim Shaw’s name is regarded as one of the greats in guitar pickup engineering. With the Yosemite pickups found in Fender’s American Performer series of electric guitars, Shaw drew on his previous work with the American Professional series to create the foundation of his efforts.
In an interview in February, Shaw talked about how about he collaborated with fellow engineer Dave Cobb to arrive at the prototype design of the Yosemite pickup. “I made Dave a Tele bridge pickup with alnico IV magnets and a unique winding spec. He liked the way it sounded and… and formed the basis for the American Performer pickups,” he said. Shaw also talked about the patent-pending DoubleTap humbucker and how Fender would be “exploring this technology further on other new models”.
Gina Gleason talks about how Baroness overcame adversity
From tour bus crashes to a revolving door of personnel changes, Baroness has taken more than its fair share of licks. Yet, the Philadelphia-based band always comes up swinging. Guitarist Gina Gleason is the band’s latest member and brings with her an impressive resume that includes sharing stages with Santana and Cirque du Soleil.
We spoke to Gleason back in July about how she met Baroness frontman John Dyer Baizley and the release of Gold & Grey two years hence. While the album was Gleason’s first full-length feature, she credits the distraction-free nature of producer Dave Fridmann’s studio, calling the entire experience “really special”.
Ceriatone: the Southeast Asia superstars of the amp world
Boutique amps are hardly anything new, but to hear one coming out of workshop based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is certainly not the norm. Nik Azam’s success with Ceriatone goes against the generalisation of all Southeast Asian-built products being inferior to their Western counterparts. When we spoke to Azam in June, he talked about Ceriatone went from selling DIY amp kits to full builds, and how he’s dealt with detractors over the years.
“There were a lot of boutique-amp companies that started at around the same time as us and lots of them were doing the exact same thing as we do. Some of them are even still around. They might call their amps other names, but the circuit remains about the same, or with some minor tweaks, which we also have in all of our amps,” he said. “If this were the phone market, people who want a fancy smartphone would know where to go. If they need a rotary dial phone, they know they can come to me. The difference is, we also offer fancy smartphones as well.”
James Burton talks about how he invented chicken picking
In this archive interview with none other than James Burton, he recounts how he founded the guitar playing technique most heavily associated with country music: chicken picking. It may surprise some to learn that despite Burton never having a guitar lesson, his talent was prodigious enough for him to be invited to join the famous Louisiana Hayride house band at age 14.
“It was wonderful,” remembers James. “It was held at the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport… there’s so much history in that building, it’s incredible. I played behind George Jones, Billy Walker and Johnny Horton but I never played it at the same time as Elvis. When Elvis played the Hayride I was always on tour with a country singer called Bob Luman.”
Burton also talked about how he experimented with banjo strings before finally arriving at his signature chicken picking style of playing. “It’s just my way of playing. The strings in those days were very stiff and I wanted to bend them, so I experimented with the banjo strings and it worked out perfectly,” he said.