What was the first guitar solo or song that you mastered?
Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever mastered anything. My friends seemed to get very excited when I would play Hendrix or Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath or The Doors or Stones or The Beatles, the kind of stuff we were doing in my high school bands. I think I was famous for almost being unsatisfied. Every time we would win a Battle Of The Bands I would be totally depressed thinking, “Man, we suck. How could we possibly have won?” Because I would always see somebody else who I thought was remarkably better on the show. Although it’s good to be introspective and I suppose to recognize your talents and pat yourselves on the back now and then, I don’t see any good comes of it in the long run. It seems to me, you’re better off liking the way other people play and not so much yourself. It kind of moves you forward. It’s better to stay hungry and a little upset than to think, “I’m all that.” I don’t see where that leads to anything creative. Most of my biggest songs are ones that were written about difficult subjects that took forever to properly distill the emotion out of and when they were over I thought, “Whoa, that’s one cathartic process I don’t want to go through again,” only to find out that people like it and then you go, “Oh, great. Why can’t I become popular for writing songs about butterflies and things that are easy?” But instead it’s the other way around.
What gear are you using these days?
My main tool hasn’t really changed, which is the Ibanez JS2400. Since we started working on the development of the 24-fret JS guitar that’s been my main axe. It seems to be the thing that I can play almost anything from my catalog on. And it feels the most familiar. When I go back to it, it always feels very welcoming. I should say that in the last 7 weeks, I got sidelined by the H1N1 virus, so I was at home hanging out, doing nothing, and playing guitars. I would go through the vintage guitars, the old Teles, Les Pauls, 335s, old acoustics, just having fun, and I’d go back into my studio and I’d say, “I better see if I can still play my own music again” every couple of days. And I’d run through the set. And every time I pick up the 2400 guitar and I plug it into my Marshall JVM410, I’d just give a sigh of relief because suddenly I could do all of this stuff. I think that’s really important to find a system that provides the least amount of resistance so you start to forget about it.
You know, going back to my first Telecaster, there is a guitar that constantly reminds you that it’s in charge. Any time any good comes out of it, it’s because it let you do it. And that’s the beauty and the cruelty of that 1950, 1949 design. But I couldn’t play hardly anything from my catalog on a guitar like that. It would go out of tune in a second and it just doesn’t provide the flexibility tone wise and technique wise that a modern guitar would and certainly not that the JS guitar would. I go back to the JS and sometimes I skip all the pedals and go straight into the Marshall. To me that’s great. I was doing that yesterday. Same progression I was telling you. I started in the morning playing a couple of ‘50s and late ’40s Martins and started playing a couple of Les Pauls and then moved onto a Strat, then came downstairs and there was another one of my other old Parlor guitars sitting in the living room and eventually I make my way down to the studio and I pick up my orange JS2410 MCO—the muscle car orange guitar—and plug it into the Marshall, and turn it up, and play again some backing tracks of “Satch Boogie” and stuff like that. Big smile across my face, you know, because all of a sudden it’s like, “Oh wow, I’m back home. I can do anything.” So I’m really enjoying that.