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Magnificent Seven: The Sideman Roundtable, Part 1

Magnificent Seven: The Sideman Roundtable, Part 1

That’s a gift in itself to hear something once, pick it up quickly, and play it back.

Brian Ray: That’s a big part of it.

Lyle Workman: When I was talking about reading, that’s supplemental to having good ears and being able to retain musical information.

Eric Schermerhorn: Musicianship is the main thing.

But musicianship is different than having amazing short term memory.

Lyle Workman: They’re tied together.

Lyle Workman and Jon Button

A lot of musicians could play something excellently if they had a little time, but if someone is shouting out a long chord progression...

Lyle Workman: You have to have good ears. All these guys here have really fast, really good ears. They can retain something quick or we wouldn’t be in this room and in the position that we’re in. Stuff is shifting all the time. The people that we work with are flying brand new songs all the time.

Brian Ray: Or arrangements!

Lyle Workman: They’ll try out a different arrangement at sound check and you gotta remember it. And drummers... There’s a lot of muscle memory involved.

Eric Schermerhorn: They’ll want to change keys right before you do it.

Peter Thorn: “Let’s do it a half step down.”

Jon Button: Or the singer forgets what fret to put the capo on.

Steve Stevens: When we were on this last tour we had Slash out with us. It was my job to do the sound check and he was going to do “LA Woman” with us. I had to run through the song with him and he actually thought we were doing “Road House Blues.” He hadn’t even prepared the song. I ran through it with him one time and he had it. I realized that’s why he’s Slash. That’s part of it. The guy really has great memory skills and I didn’t expect him to. I mean he’s Slash!

Peter Thorn: I did a gig with him about two months ago. It was a benefit with him and Beth Hart. I went to his house and rehearsed two tunes. I played acoustic, he played electric, and she played keys. He really wanted to run over things three and four times and work on details. When we went in for the sound check for the gig the next day, he was very conscientious. I was amazed. I remember going through the songs and we made a couple of mistakes here and there, then we did it again and got it right, and he said, “Let’s not get too confident. Let’s play it one more time.”

Steve Stevens: The guy works really hard and he still cares.

Frank Simes: Details. That’s part of it. I read an interesting quote walking down the street the other day. “Details aren’t just the details. Details are the product.” I think everyone in this room has a profound appreciation for details.

Jon Button: That makes a big impression on auditions. If you come in and you play something with every detail and you really put the time in and you know every little thing that happened on the song that they’re auditioning you on, that says a lot.

Peter Thorn: Whoever you’re going to audition for has probably just made an album. They’re probably getting ready to do a tour cycle and they’ve put a year and half work into this thing and they know it inside and out. They know it from the time the songs were written to mastering. If you go in there and you got all the little things and dynamics and the tones they go, “Wow, he really cares about my music. He really paid attention.” It’s like an ego thing for them in a positive way or an ego stroke, and it also bodes well for you. It shows you have a good work ethic.

Jon Button: Another good thing for touring is if you’re a good background singer. It makes a lot of difference.

Steve Stevens: I’m out.

[All laughing]

Jon Button: Yeah, it’s really hindered your career.

Steve Stevens: I don’t even have the mic up there. I can’t even say thank you.

[All laughing]

Lyle Workman: You should get a talk box. [Singing with talk box sound] I really want to thank youuuuu.

[All laughing]

Peter Thorn: One thing about auditions that’s good for people to know is that no two are the same. We’ve said all these things but some of the weirder ones I’ve ever done was when I went in and basically did a session. He had his new record up, he muted the main guitar track, I had my amp out isolated in a room. I was sitting there in front of a console with an engineer and I basically played like I was doing a recording session.

He muted the guitars, I played along, I never met the artist, I went home, and three weeks later I got a call. “You got the gig. You’re in the band.” Then that was the first time he got the whole band together in a room. Then we all played. So that was odd. With Nine Inch Nails I had my lap top with a bunch of their tracks on it and there was Trent Reznor and the rest of the band calling out, “Play “March of the Pigs!”

Frank Simes: That’s pretty harsh.

Eric Schermerhorn: The best ones are when you can just go to the lead singer’s house with your acoustic guitar.

Lyle Workman: That’s what I do with Frank Black. I play guitar in his bedroom. “Want to start recording?” “Ok.”
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