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
My main guitar is a Frankenstein Strat—a ’62 body with a ’73 neck. When I first got the guitar, back in the ’70s, it was in disarray and I nursed it back to health. As you probably know, the body has four screws but the neck only has three. It wobbled all around, so I epoxied the whole thing together and it’s been fine ever since. Other than that, it’s mostly original— including the pickups. In the ’90s, I had an endorsement with Fender and they offered me any guitar I wanted. When I went out to visit the factory, I saw a prototype of a really unusual model—a 12-string Tele—in progress, and I had them give me that guitar once it was completed. There are only two in existence that I know of. The other belongs to Sheryl Crow. The first time I used the guitar to record was on Matthew Sweet’s “Someone to Pull the Trigger” [from his 1991 album, Girlfriend], and for that track I changed the capacitors to give the guitar more of a Rickenbacker sound—cleaner and brighter. You can also hear the guitar on “Constricted” from The Naked Flame.

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.