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more... ArtistsGuitaristsJazzProgJanuary 2012Oz Noy

Oz Noy: Wizard of Weird

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Oz Noy: Wizard of Weird

Noy tracking Twisted Blues, Vol.1 in Eric Johnson’s studio with Wynans, Beck, and Layton.

How do you compose your tunes?
I come up with a riff or a concept that starts from a drum groove. I might take a twochord vamp or a line and record it with a very basic groove and bass line at my apartment in Pro Tools. If that works, then I write over it. For example, I wanted to write a rhumba, and that became “Oh Really?” I wanted “Twisted Blues” to be funky, and “Whole Tone Blues” was going to be a shuffle.

I wrote the title track over one of my favorite tunes of all time—“Twisted Blues” by Wes Montgomery. I’ve wanted to write something over that form for a long time. I changed some of the chords and the melody, but the form is similar. I also did that on my other records. On Fuzzy, there is a song called “EpistroFunk” that’s based on Monk’s “Epistrophy.” There are a lot of tunes where I take the form of another song and write something over it.

When you record live with a rhythm section, do you record the solos live, too?
Everything is live—like the classic jazz records. We go in and try to play together as well as we play in clubs. Before we record, we play the music live for at least a year.

What’s on your pedalboard these days?
On the right side we have an old Vox wah-wah going into a Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Octavia. Then I have the Xotic AC Booster—I left it on for a lot of the record. The Ibanez Tube Screamer is for the twangier stuff, like “Whole Tone Blues” or “Trinkle Tinkle”—the real Texas-flavored stuff. Then I have an E.W.S. Fuzzy Drive, which is great. It’s a mix between a fuzz and an overdrive. I used it for slide parts and on “Two Centers.” You can get a lot of sounds by adjusting your guitar volume—it cleans up nicely. Then I have a DLS RotoSIM, an old MXR Phase 90, a Monster Effects Swamp- Thang tremolo, then a Fulltone Mini DejáVibe. On my second pedalboard, I always have a slap delay going on one of my three Boss DD-7s, a reverse delay on another, and a longer delay with a single repeat on the third. When I solo, I have the slap delay and the longer one with a single repeat on. When I play the softer stuff or ballads, I add the Electro-Harmonix Memory Man.

I also have a Line 6 M9, mostly for looping, but also for reverse delays where I need to tap in the tempo. I need it, too, for the Sweep Echo effect that only Line 6 delays have—I use that effect all the time for psychedelic sounds. I use two expression pedals to control the volume of the delay or loop. I also have a switch to put the tuner into the chain.

You used to use the Hughes &; Kettner Rotosphere for rotary-speaker sounds, right?
On the recording, I used the Hughes & Kettner but I use a DLS RotoSIM on my pedalboard.

Which amps are you using?
I have a 1967 Fender Bandmaster that has been modified by Ziv Nagari. He put in the right capacitors and some other stuff that brought it back to life. He also added a high-end switch so that when I play loud, the high end doesn’t go away like it does on stock Bandmasters. I also use a 1973 50-watt Marshall that Ziv just cleaned up. For the Marshall, I use a Bad Cat 4x12 cabinet with Celestion Greenbacks, and for the Bandmaster I have a Bad Cat 2x12 with Celestion Vintage 30s.

Do you use the amps together?
Live, I usually use either/or— the Bandmaster works better with the blues band. On record, I use both together. I was never satisfied with just one. I run two lines from the M9’s stereo outputs. In Austin, I used a ’60s Fender Super Reverb that I borrowed from a friend, and one of Eric Johnson’s Marshall 1969 50-watt plexis with one of his cabinets.

What did you mic them with?
I had a Shure SM57 and a Royer 121 ribbon mic on each cabinet, and I used Neumann U 87s or AKG C 414s for room mics.

Were you able to separate your amp sound from the band while playing live in the studio?
Both studios had places to separate the amp. To get my sound, I need to move air and be near the amp, so I usually leave the door to the amp room open, stand near it, and play really loud—which causes leakage into the drum mics. There is no way around it: If I don’t move air, I can’t get any sustain because I don’t use a lot of distortion.

Does that make it hard to do fixes and overdubs?
We don’t do fixes, we just do five or six takes of each song to a click track, then I take it home and edit the best sections of each take together. Everything you hear was played live together, but the B part might be from a different take.

How did Allen Toussaint end up on the record?
I originally meant to have a piano on “Oh Really?” and it was sounding a little weak without it. Allen had come to some of my shows—he’s a friend of Will Lee’s.

Noy’s amps are isolated to minimize mic leakage as he tracks live with the band, but he stands by the cracked-open iso-room door to facilitate volume-driven sustain.

Did he overdub his parts?
Yes. He came so prepared— believe it or not, he had transcribed my whole guitar solo!

“Light Blue” introduces slide playing to your repertoire. Did you set the guitar up differently for that?
No. I played it on the red Custom Shop Stratocaster that I used for most of the record. The action was a little low, but I managed.

Is it in standard tuning?
Yes, but a half-step down. I usually use .011s with a .012 high E, but when I tune down I use .012 sets and a .013 high E.

How did the double-time part on “Steroids” evolve?
On the Live record, it was really fast but as we continued to play it live, it became more medium tempo. The B section wasn’t sounding right, so we sped it up to double-time.

Why did you decide to re-record “Cissy Strut” [which was also on Noy’s 2006 album Oz Live]?
The Live record was done with just one stereo mic. I wanted to get a better recording, and it fits with the blues record.

Is it in an odd time signature?
It is in 4/4. I moved some of the lines and shifted some of the melody parts over, but if you listen to the drums they are in four. That’s the twisted factor [laughs].

Is that a ring modulator or octave fuzz over the beginning loop?
It’s an octave fuzz.

Is there going to be a Twisted Blues, Vol. 2?
Absolutely!

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