The songwriting on Dirty Side Down has a
real cohesiveness to it. How did the material
Everyone had some ideas and we got
together in small groups. We actually live
pretty far apart—some guys live in California,
others in Nashville, and some here in
Atlanta. We got a couple of us together at
a time, here and there. One time we had
four of us together and started putting ideas
down on a four-track. Everybody’s ideas got
put down on tape, and the next thing you
knew, we had a whole new batch of material
mixed with some older stuff that had never
been recorded on a studio album before.
How do you divide the guitar parts
between you and John Bell?
We just kind of hit it. Sometimes we are conscious
of the register that we are playing in.
If I come in with a riff and I am playing really
low, he will find something in another register
so that we aren’t playing in the same part
of the neck. He is all about letting everyone
find their own space. JB is great at finding
his own parts, you never have to go “Here,
JB, play this riff,” because he finds something
to play that is always interesting and different.
I thought his guitar sound on this record
was amazing. John Keane brought in a G&L
guitar with some weird single-coil pickups for
him to use on some tracks. On “When You’re
Coming Home,” the pretty ballad on the
record, I was playing a Nashville-strung acoustic
and JB was playing that G&L through a
Vox AC30. John is the king of getting incredible
A lot of the bands you’ve played in have
large catalogs of songs. How did you
approach learning the tunes when you
first joined Panic?
Herring controls all aspects of his monitor mix with a series
of Ernie Ball volume pedals. Each band member’s signal is
assigned to a pedal, and he mixes them in and out, depending
on the tune. The Rocktron MIDIPedal is for switching Fractal
Axe-Fx Ultra patches. Photo by Jason Shadrick
Basically, I had two weeks to try to learn
the material—which wasn’t enough. The
first week, I just listened and didn’t even
really pick up the guitar. When I have to
learn a bunch of songs in a short amount
of time, I listen to the material and make a
rough outline of the tune—like a bar chart.
I map it out first and later I go back and fill
in the chord changes. Panic has over 200
songs that could be called—and not all are
originals, but they do the covers in such a
unique way it is almost like an entirely new
tune. Most of the time, I had to go back
and listen to live shows to learn the cover
tunes instead of the original recordings.
For example, they do a couple Three Dog
Night tunes, but because they do them
their own way and they have been playing
so long, I had to learn it the way they
played it. If we learn a new cover, then you
can go back to the original version and
How did the tour with drummer Lenny
White come about?
Basically, Souvik Dutta, who runs Abstract
Logix, hooked it up. I have been a Lenny
White fan since I was 17 or 18 years old
and I heard Romantic Warrior
fusion keyboardist Chick Corea’s group
Return to Forever]. It changed my whole life.
The big three bands for me were Weather
Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return
to Forever. Those bands were basically Miles
Davis’ children. Both Lenny and I did records
with Souvik, and Lenny asked him if I could
play on his record and it started from there. I
love Lenny. He is just incredible.
How much of an influence has John
McLaughlin been for you?
I am 48 years old and I should be past the
point of being starstruck, but you can’t be
around John McLaughlin and not feel like
you’re 18 years old. He is such an inspiration.
He’s one of those artists that just
about recreates himself with every album he
makes—just like Miles. And, you know, Miles
was a tremendous influence on him. I love
so many aspects of John’s career. Obviously,
Mahavishnu was my first exposure to him.
My brother first gave me that album. After
that, I started to trace back to everything
he had done before then, and it led me to
Miles. I couldn’t believe it when Souvik called
and said, “John McLaughlin wants to play
with you [at two Abstract Logix concerts in
November].” I just didn’t know what to say.
Herring’s overdrive comes exclusively
from his Fuchs amps. His main Tripledrive
Supreme (left image)
powers the Tone Tubby
cab, while the backup head (right image) sits
atop two Hard Trucker 2x12 cabs
for his wet
signal. Photo by Jason Shadrick
Do you have plans for a second solo album?
This has been that crazy year where I have
been busy and haven’t had a real chance to
write. I have these sketches lying around that
as soon as I get some time I will finish them
and get to recording. It is something I wish I
could do every year. It will probably be January
before I get a break and so I will take that time
and work on that. At least then, I will have
enough material to make another record.
Musically speaking, what is the most
rewarding part of creating a solo album?
With this music, I just wanted a final say
about the performances. I am not the guy
to mix or engineer the record, but as far
as the performances go—especially my
own—I wanted to have the final say. This
is the first time I have been able to do
that. I probably used too much reverb in
certain spots, but people like John Keane
are real good at seeing the bigger picture.
We wrote, recorded, and mixed the record
inside of a month, and his genius is what
made that possible. We were done recording
within three weeks, and he just went
straight in and mixed it. I know a lot of
people make records faster than that, but
that is pretty good for a record like that.
If we can do the same thing with a more
fusion-oriented record like what I want to
do next, I will be thrilled to death.