© Lutz Müller-Bohlen/dpa/Corbis
From the GT archives - A minute with a great guitarist is enough to discover what really makes them tick.
Who was your first influence to play the guitar?
My older brother got a few lessons and I wanted to learn, too, after seeing The Beatles play live on the Ed Sullivan show.
What was the first guitar you really lusted after?
A Fender Jaguar. I ended up with a single-pickup guitar that they made, called a Musicmaster. It sounded really pretty bad, but played very nicely. I never got that Jaguar, but eventually modified a Tele and a Strat into my Frankenstein guitar that became the starting point of my signature Music Man.
What was the best gig you ever did?
A couple of years ago, my son and I played together with my trio, performing the piece that we wrote together. Nothing can beat seeing your boy playing with fire and grace under the pressure of a live concert.
And your worst playing nightmare?
It's one that still happens, actually... forgetting a part of a difficult piece. Usually, the chances of it happening are directly proportional to how quiet and attentive the audience is.
For instance, at my senior recital, playing a difficult piece that I wrote for classical guitar, I spontaneously had to improvise a section that I suddenly couldn't remember.
What's the most important musical lesson you ever learnt?
Play what you love, since that way you can use the universal language of music to convey that to the audience. People can spot a fake... eventually. Of course, that doesn't explain the existence of politicians.
Do you still practise?
Every single day that I'm well enough to walk. Yes. Many of the parts I play are difficult enough to absolutely require it.
Do you have a pre-gig warm-up routine?
Sure. Preferably, at the hotel, do a little work with scales and a metronome at varying tempos, to establish accuracy. At the show, I usually do a three-notes-per-string pattern, somewhat mindlessly, since there are distractions, and lots of noise. So, at the gig, the warm-up is strictly mechanical - all the serious practice is in a quieter setting.
If you could put together a fantasy band with you in it, who would the other players be (dead or alive)?
I could go on for days on this. The first one that comes to mind? Jan Hammer on keyboards, Brad Delp on vocals, Paul McCartney on bass and Steve Gadd on drums. In reality, I get to play with guys that would be on that same list, but I didn't list them since it would be too obvious.
Present company excepted, who's the greatest guitarist that's ever lived?
Impossible question... I believe everyone has their unique thing that they excel in. Who's the greatest writer? Or teacher? The most famous one, or the one that did the most publicised work? There are guitarists in almost every city that could easily be in the league of all the greats.
To me the greatest guitarist is the one that does the most to help others without seeking reward or acknowledgement. Help me find who that is!
Is there a solo you really wish you had played?
Yes, anything from Beckola, Truth, Led Zeppelin, Cream, or The Beatles. Those were some serious building blocks. The first shred solo I ever heard was Alvin Lee playing Going Home at Woodstock, on the live recording.
What's the solo/song of your own that you're most proud of?
Luckily, I haven't had to consider commercial appeal on much of my solo work, so I'm happy with most of it. But, to give an answer, I'd say Day 444, or Ghostwind.
Finally, as a musician and writer, what would you most like to be remembered for?
For influencing young players to be dedicated, honest players with a realistic set of expectations that will guide them through their lives.