Samick Motherlode

December 2014
more... ArtistsGuitaristsBluesFusionApril 2013Joe Bonamassa

Interview: Joe Bonamassa - Restless Pick Syndrome

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Interview: Joe Bonamassa - Restless Pick Syndrome

What’s the current status of Black Country Communion?
As far as I’m concerned, my involvement is pretty much done, and I’ll tell you why: Originally, I did it for the same reasons I did the stuff with Beth Hart and Rock Candy Funk Party—it was an excuse to play a different kind of music that I don’t get to play normally.

The first two records were a blast—the band is fantastic when the Ritalin kicks in, the ADD goes away, and everyone’s focused. It’s a devastatingly good rock band of the early-1970s type, and Glenn is a fantastic singer—just one of the best ever. So I did it and did a nine-week tour in 2011 that really, by the end of it, wasn’t fun for me. It wasn’t because I didn’t like the cats in the band, but it was just too much—too much involved in getting people from place to place and getting the band onstage. Everybody seemed to be very tense, and it made my crew very tense, and it’s not the way I like to tour. I run a family—I have 21 people who go on the road with me all the time, and if you asked them who was the cause of the least of their problems, they would say me. Unless there was no Diet Coke—then it’s a huge [expletive] problem, and either I’m going to the supermarket or somebody else is [laughs].

But it just wasn’t fun for me anymore. All the stuff that Glenn says in the media, essentially pinning it on me—that I was the reason for the band’s lack of touring and the band’s lack of future. It became rapidly not fun at all. It would be dishonest of me to get onstage and pretend like I’m having fun to please the band. I’m just not the guitar player for that band, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any out-of-work guitar players in L.A. that they can get. There are so many guys that can fill that role and I would be the first guy to queue up and buy a ticket. So that’s my story with it. I’m happily not involved anymore, but I’m happy with the legacy that I left with that band and happy with the records we made. It was a great three years for me.

Turning to happier events, you have four March shows scheduled and another stand at the Royal Albert Hall, which you’re filming for release.
The guys who promoted all my shows over there for the last seven or eight years came to me when we were doing two nights at the Hammersmith Apollo and said, “We’ve been doing this for seven years and started at a 150-seat club called the Borderline, and now you’ve done three sell-outs at the Hammersmith Apollo, which holds 5,500 people, one sell-out at the Albert Hall, which holds 5,000, and three sell-outs at Sheppard’s Bush Empire—wouldn’t it be great if we did them all in one week?” So we’re going to do four different nights, four different sets, with four different bands. One night we’re going to have horns, one night will be a four- or five-piece, and one night is going to be the acoustic band. At the Borderline—for all the cats who remember me from seven or eight years ago, when I was doing the power-trio thing and think I’ve sold out and got too slick—we’re going to revisit those big, long jams with the Strat and do the three-piece band. We’re going to DVD it—all the nights—and I’m very excited.

That sounds pretty daunting.
It’s going to be the most challenging set of dates we will ever do. There’s lots of rehearsal, lots of preparation, and lots of music in our heads. If we pull it off, it’s going to be fantastic—a great career retrospective and a great way to punctuate everything we’ve done over the last decade.

Gear

Acoustic Guitars
1932 Martin O-17, 1974 Martin D-41, 1970 Martin D-41, 2012 Gibson J-45 Presentation, 2012 Gibson Advanced Jumbo, 1960 Martin D-28, Martin J-40, 2012 Gibson SJ-200, 1978 Gallagher Doc Watson model, 1969 Grammer Johnny Cash model, Guild F-512 12-string, National Dobro, two 2012 Alvarez-Yairi WY1TSs, 2012 Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Studio EC

Electric Guitars
1963 Gibson Firebird I, Gibson Bonabird prototype, 2012 Gibson Les Paul CC03 #001 with Bigsby, goldtop Gibson Les Paul Bigsby Proto/Historic Makeover, 1957 Gibson ES-350TN, 1964 Gibson ES-335, 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard (aka “Principal Skinner”), 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard (aka “Spot”), 1957 goldtop Gibson Les Paul, 1962 Gibson SG Special, 2012 Ernie Ball/Music Man Dark Morse, Gibson Les Paul Historic Makeover, lemonburst Gibson Les Paul Historic Makeover, korina 1981 Gibson Flying V

Amps
1967 100-watt Marshall Super P.A., 1972 50-watt Marshall Super P.A., 1969 50-watt Marshall, 2012 Friedman Dirty Shirley 100-watt prototype, two Marshall JCM2000 DSL100s, Victoria Golden Melody, Fender Eric Clapton Twinolux, four 1968 Marshall 4x12 cabinets with basketweave grilles and original Celestion Greenbacks

Effects
Dunlop Joe Bonamassa signature wah, Fulltone Supa-Trem, Dunlop Joe Bonamassa Fuzz Face (only used with Marshall Super P.A.), Way Huge Pork Loin, Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer, MXR FET Driver prototype, MXR Micro Flanger, Boss DD-3 Digital Delay, Hughes & Kettner Rotosphere, Diaz Vibramaster 1 vibrato/reverb

Strings, Picks, and Accessories
Ernie Ball .011–.052 string sets, gold Dunlop Joe Bonamassa signature Jazz III picks, Big Bends Nut Sauce

How would you say your playing has evolved over the years?
When I look at my playing now and my playing five years ago, I don’t recognize it. Hopefully, in 10 years it will be even better or more seasoned. It’s hard for me to describe it, because I hear it differently—I can hear the mistakes just glaring.

Some people say your music is a throwback to an earlier time and compare you to players like Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher, and Jimmy Page. How do you feel about that?
It’s fine. I mean, it’s very accurate. A lot of this stuff—Rock Candy Funk Party, Black Country Communion, Beth Hart, my solo records—are throwback records. It’s all a throwback to a bygone era that hasn’t been updated in many years. I may have been born too late. With Beth, that was the Tina Turner playbook, and Black Country Communion was the Deep Purple playbook. My solo records are basically updated British blues, but it all starts with a concept—it all starts with an era. The cool thing about it is, when you have your own record company, there are no rules and you can do whatever you want. If I was on a major label, there is no way I could be coming out with this kind of stuff.

These days, artists or bands generally produce one album every two or three years, but you’ve done eight studio albums and three live packages since 2010. What is it that makes your model work, and do you think that’s the direction the record industry should go?
I don’t think that model is for everybody. What makes my model work is that we don’t gratuitously record just for the sake of product and release. Our thing is that, if it’s not good, then I’m not interested. Everything that we do has to be different and of a certain quality—hence, it’s a lot of work! It’s a great team that we have, and it’s small and mighty. Nobody takes notice of J&R Adventures and nobody takes notice of Joe Bonamassa, but there’s this ever-growing underground scene happening. For all intents and purposes, we’re still an undiscovered act—even though it seems, for lack of a better term, that we’ve arrived. But we really haven’t in the grand scheme of things.

What is it that drives you to record and tour as much as you do?
I’m a professional musician and that’s what professional musicians do. Nobody is going to knock on your door, throw you a million dollars, and take care of everything for you. That’s a fallacy. You gotta go out there and work for it, and that’s the drive. Any musician who says they don’t want as many people to hear their music is either so deluded in their own bullshit or lying. The real challenge is how to get the music out to as many young kids and new fans as possible, and that’s what keeps us going.

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