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August Issue
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Interview: Eric Gales & Doug Pinnick - Gospel Grooves & Abnormal Blues

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Interview: Eric Gales & Doug Pinnick - Gospel Grooves & Abnormal Blues

Did you write any of the songs together?
Gales:
Some of them were written together. We would go in and put grooves together and write lyrics over them.
Pinnick: I brought seven or eight songs in that I had previously written to see if the guys would like any of them. We took five of those. We collaborated on two, Eric brought a song in, and Mike Varney wrote two songs and brought them in.
Gales: Me, Doug, Thomas, and Mike all worked together. We went in and didn’t waste any time. The whole project didn’t take more than two weeks to do—two weeks. The core tracks were done live. I like to predominantly work that way. Once you know the direction you’re going in, it should be a continuous driving force, and the people you’re working with will help you refine it. I don’t think it should take six months or a year to do a project. You can lose the freshness.

What inspired the cover of “Sunshine of Your Love” ? Are you guys just big fans of it?
Pinnick:
I guess I am a fan. I don’t know … I never really tried to learn it before. I think there’s just a vibe about it that’s cool and soulful, like a “You Really Got Me” kind of thing. I think that was my idea. We tuned down really low on that one. I figured it would be really intense, because I know what Thomas can do—especially when he’s got a lot of space to do it in. And Eric can do leads for three hours straight without repeating himself.

Eric, in your solo, you imply parts of the original Clapton solo.
Gales:
Exactly—you’re a smart dude [laughs].

Did you learn the whole solo at some point in the past?
Gales:
I did. Me and my brothers used to play that song, and I played the solo note-for-note. For this recording, I was like, “Well, why do it exactly like the original?” That’s why we dropped the key to D♭.

Did the strings get floppy when you detuned that low?
Gales:
It’s not the whole guitar, just the bottom string. I usually like to play tuned down to E♭, so I just transposed the bottom string. It’s a little bit looser and it’s lighter on the vocals. It’s not confusing—it’s grown to be very easy for me to do.
We’re in a few different keys on this record. Doug likes to do tunings like low C and low B♭. Some of the songs are in standard tuning, which I rarely ever do.
Pinnick: I always play in dropped-C. When I play with other people, if they don’t want to tune down that low, I’ll tune up to them. Or maybe I’ll stay in my tuning anyway and make something up around it. I’ll transpose if I need to. Whatever fits. Every now and then, there are certain songs where you just have to use the open string, so I’ll tune to whatever the guitar player’s tuned to. It doesn’t matter to me really.

Tell us about “Me and You.” That one has some interesting chords.
Gales:
I like that one because it incorporates a lot of clean stuff. It gave me a chance to throw in a lot of the Eric Johnson-y stuff that I like to do.

How did you come up with those chords—by ear or from a theoretical approach?
Gales:
Whatever comes to my head, man. I say, “Put the track on and let me do something.” The chords were already there, but the clean stuff takes me back to my days of listening to things like “Little Wing.”


Bassist Doug Pinnick uses a rare Seymour Duncan “domino” pickup with three switches, powered by 9V batteries.

Who were some of your early influences?
Gales:
My older brother would put on Robin Trower, Frank Marino, Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray, Beck, or Clapton. I was five or six years old and I was digging all this stuff. The early days of listening to Albert King is where that influence of the wide bends I do comes from.

Doug, in your various projects, do different guitarists ask for different things from you? For example, you’re also involved in a project with George Lynch, who has a totally different playing style than Eric.
Pinnick:
Actually, I’ve been trying to change my bass playing, period. I’ve always been one to play really simple and stay in the groove, but lately I’ve been trying to get into this John Entwistle thing every now and then, and start overplaying. It’s fun. The thing with Eric and George—or any guitar player I’m playing with nowadays—is that I’ve decided to never follow them, or to follow them as little as I can, and make up my own bass lines. Sort of like the approach of James Jamerson, or even the old Stax records with Donald “Duck” Dunn playing. The bass lines were the things that you would remember. I’ve been trying to go back to that sensibility. It’s been interesting for me, because guitar players play more now than they used to because we’ve forgotten about the bass. The challenge for me is to see if I can come up with something that complements the guitar part, and sometimes those guitar parts can be pretty busy. It’s been a challenge but it’s been fun. The only feedback I get is that it’s really, really good. Hardly anybody has ever said that they didn’t like it. I know that there are people out there that don’t, but I do so much stuff that if one album sucks, the next one will be good [laughs].

“Since the beginning, I’ve been told that I play abnormally. Who’s to say that everybody else isn’t wrong and I’m right?” —Eric Gales

Eric, “For Jasmine” is a solo guitar tour de force inspired by “Für Elise.” Was it Mike Varney’s idea to include that?
Gales:
I often play that live, and Mike was, like, “I think you should make that an interlude track.” That one’s for my daughter.

Are you hybrid-picking the wide triad shapes you play on that cut?
Gales:
Yes, exactly. I do a lot of that. I can’t particularly label what all of it is. It would take somebody like you to say, “He’s using this technique or that technique.” I do whatever feels comfortable to me. Since the beginning, I’ve been told that I play abnormally. Who’s to say that everybody else isn’t wrong and I’m right? [Laughs.]

Speaking of “abnormal,” you also play your guitar upside down but strung normally.
Gales:
Yeah, I don’t re-string it or anything like that. I just take a right-handed guitar and flip it over. I don’t reverse the strings. Doug does. He plays left-handed but he plays an actual left-handed bass. When I first put it like this [gestures holding the guitar upside down], that’s what felt comfortable to me. Before I knew it, I was off to the races. I write with my right hand but play guitar left-handed, upside down, so my little string is up top. When I bend it, I pull down.

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