“...I started playing guitar. The first day was ten hours, the next day was eight hours, then my fingers hurt, so I only played four hours the third day.”

You were in high school, in a band, and you got paid?

Not only that, I was playing with great older musicians, and that was the critical part for me. I’ve always played with players who were older than me, and much more seasoned. Just through osmosis, when you’re working with players like that – who are just really good – you absorb a lot. You really had to try to not get better in that environment.

So the more experienced players kept you challenged.

You know, just the great evolution resulting from being able to play with those guys. But I ended up wanting to move out of a small town; I thought I needed to go to a music center. I had a friend in San Francisco who convinced me to come out. He called me and said, “Hey, you should move to out here. Let’s put a band together.” So I graduated, loaded up the car that night, and the day after graduation, I left and moved to San Francisco.

Greg V Were your parents supportive, or did they want you to go to college or something more secure?

Since day one my parents were incredibly supportive. I think they were relieved, to be honest, that I found something that I was completely consumed by, and also because they knew where I was. I wasn’t out in the street, I wasn’t gone. I was in the back bedroom, with the stereo playing. My dad always used to know when I turned my amps up at home, because the pictures would be crooked in the living room. He’d come home from work and the walls were shaking. [laughs] I just used to blast my Peavey half-stack. I couldn’t afford Marshalls at the time, and Skynyrd was a big influence.

And they used Peaveys.

Yeah, well I used to have a Peavey Mace, just like those guys had on the live album.

Those were brutally loud!

Exactly! [laughs] My parents were incredible. They always said if I wanted to go to college, they would support it. Of course, they were for that, but honestly, I was almost willing to drop out of school. I wanted to play guitar so bad, to be in school felt like a hindrance. But they laid down the law, and said, “Look, you have to finish high school.” So, as soon as I got the diploma, and satisfied their needs, I was out the door.

What was it like for you in the Bay Area?

I ended up doing the same thing I had done at home; slugging it out in that scene, just trying to get my foot in the door – like meeting people in music stores. I eventually got a job at a local music store in San Rafael, called Bananas at Large.

“Hey, here’s my guitar playing. If you happen to know anybody who would need this type of coleslaw, please tell them I make this kind of coleslaw.”

Right across the Golden Gate from San Francisco, right? That’s a great little store.

Yeah, it was a great store because all of thelocal musicians would come in. Remember, San Francisco was very fertile ground in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and I moved there in ‘81, so all of these local guys – Carlos Santana, the guys from Huey Lewis’ band, Neal Schon – would come in. I had a cassette of some songs I had done for another project, and I would hand it out like candy to musicians who came in. And when I handed it out, I would tell them, “Hey, here’s my guitar playing. If you happen to know anybody who would need this type of coleslaw, please tell them I make this kind of coleslaw.”

Greg V Did anybody bite?

What happened was this guy named Cory Lerios, who was the keyboard player in Pablo Cruise, called me, literally a few hours after I handed him my tape, and said, “Hey, I really like your guitar playing. Do you want to come out and play on some songs I’m writing?” And I said, “Yeah, absolutely! When do you want to do it, sometime next week?” And he was like, “No, how about tonight?”

I went out to his house later that night, around ten o’clock. Cory was very successful with Pablo Cruise back in the ‘70s, so it was a great opportunity for me to work with a really talented player who was not only a great songwriter, but also a great producer and knew the ropes of the music industry inside and out. So, I ended up playing on a lot of demos for him, and not long after that, he got a TV show called Max Headroom.

Yeah, I remember that.

Cory pulled me in on that. He was like, “Hey, I’m going to have you play guitar on this,” because it was kind of a dark, futuristic show, and at that time using guitar sound effects, like dive-bombs, harmonics and low, groan-y notes where you would hold the whammy bar down and do these weird sounds, really worked for this type of soundtrack. And that completely hooked me into wanting to do more session work.

Also, it made me realize, when you’re working with film or TV in particular, that you might only do a ten second cue; you’re not always writing three or four minute songs. I saw that there are a lot of song ideas that you might have that don’t necessarily fit a normal pop-song format, but that could be utilized in other contexts, such as supportive music in cinematic environments.