Your backing band on The Naked Flame, Capsula, is especially hot. How did this collaboration come about?
Capsula is this Argentinean band based in Spain. I mixed their album Rising Mountains at my studio, and they kept prompting me to make a new record. Finally I gave in and sent them demos of some new songs for them to play around with. They rerecorded the songs and gave them this urgent treatment that let me know they really got me and we were on the same page. I had to do the record after that.
Julian and Capsula bassist Coni Duchess (playing a Gibson Grabber) at a 2009 gig in Spain. Photo by Berlén
Did you write out their parts or did they learn them by ear?
Generally, I don’t write out music unless I’m working with string or horn players, so it was all by ear. I’m sure it was a pain in the ass for everyone to learn—the music is much more complex than it sounds—but they nailed it. The band was on fire.
Let’s talk gear. Which guitars do you prefer?
Julian with his 1962 Strat (which has an epoxied-on 1973 neck) at Europa Club in New York City in 2007.
Photo by Jackie Roman
I’ve also been enjoying these new electric guitars made by Hanson. I’ve got a solidbody one called the Cigno, which has P-90-style pickups and sounds great. As for acoustic, around ’92 or ’93 I visited Gibson’s acoustic factory in Bozeman, Montana, and smelled the wood and glue of a new Hummingbird, played it, and lost my mind. I decided to buy it on the spot no matter how much it cost, and it’s been my main acoustic ever since.
Are you picky about strings?
I use D’Addarios—.010s at home but .011s or .012s on the road if I’m feeling like a real man. I find that I get a bigger and better sound with heavy strings higher off the fretboard. Something else I do, which I picked up from Nile Rodgers, is put acoustic strings on an electric guitar. The magnets don’t pull on the metal as much as they do with electric strings, so you get a much woodier sound—a cool thing for chords and rhythm stuff. Currently, I have acoustic strings on the 12-string Tele. I wouldn’t recommend that readers put acoustic strings on all their electric guitars, but try it on at least one sometime—you’ll be pleased with the sonic results.