He’s just released his 20th album, but how will the numbers stack up when Gary Hoey faces the 10 questions we ask everyone?
1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?
“My very first guitar was a Norma, a very cheap little electric guitar. I was 14 at the time. How I acquired it was interesting. My sister was dating someone who played guitar and I asked him to teach me. He said, ‘You have to get a guitar first.’ My mom and dad were divorced and I went to visit my dad one weekend. In his closet there was the Norma guitar and I said to him, ‘Whose is that?’ and he said, ‘You can have it.’ My future was born!”
2. Suppose the building’s burning down; what one guitar from your collection would you save?
“I would save my 1974 Gibson Les Paul that I bought with my paper-route money for $450 at a music store. I bought that guitar because I wanted the same guitar Jeff Beck was holding on the back of his Blow By Blow album cover. It was a black Les Paul Standard and I still have it to this day.”
3. What’s the oldest guitar that you own?
“I have a 1960 Gibson acoustic parlour guitar that I bought when my sister was getting married. She asked me to play a song on guitar at her wedding, so I borrowed it from a local music store. I fell in love with it and had to buy it - I still have it, too. That guitar was made the same year I was born.”
4. What plectrums do you use?
“I’ve tried all kinds of plectrums over the years and I keep going heavier and heavier. Now I use extra heavy picks; they are white Fender style, standard size. I like them extra heavy, I think it sounds fatter for blues, rock and shred. It’s good for speed - you don’t want your plectrum flapping in the wind. I used to disintegrate plectrums by the end of a fast surf song. I like white so if I drop them on stage I can find them.”
5. When was the last time you practised and what did you play?
“I practised this morning, actually, and I try to practise every day. I grab a guitar in the morning with my coffee, watching the news. Even if I don’t have time, I just play for 15 minutes until my hands feel tired. That keeps my chops up. I try to practise a little bit of blues, maybe some scale exercises, but I’ll always have a chord progression in the background so it doesn’t sound like random scales. I had a girlfriend when I was younger who said, ‘You always sound like you’re practising. Do you even know a whole song?’ I also practise standing up with my guitar strap on, because if you sit down too much you get bedroom syndrome. You have to practise rocking out.”
6. When was the last time you changed your own strings?
“Today. I change them every other show. I actually like to change my own guitar strings; GHS is what I use. Even though I have a guitar tech, I have a strange thing about knowing that I was the one who changed my strings. I like to break them in myself before the show. I’ve used various string gauges: 0.009 to 0.042 in the early days; 0.010 to 0.046; and now I use 0.010 to 0.052. and I tune down a half step to Eb.”
7. If you could change one thing about a recording you’ve been on, what would it be and why?
“There was a time when I put a song on a Christmas album for charity. When the album came out the cover art had girls dressed in red and green bikinis. It wasn’t very classy or tasteful, so I regret that. I got coal in my stocking that year!”
8. What are you doing five minutes before you go on stage and five minutes after?
“Five minutes before I go on stage, I am warming up my voice and playing guitar. I am also trying to get focused on who I want to thank: friends, radio stations and what city I’m in. Just getting ready to put on a great show. Five minutes after the show, I’m looking for a cold beer, because I like beer after the show. I never drink alcohol before I perform, but I am Irish so I have to have a beer after.”
9. What’s the worst thing that has happened to you on stage?
“Luckily, there haven’t been too many bad things on stage, but I have had a few. One time I split my pants in the crotch in the early days when my pants were too tight. All these girls in the front started laughing. I didn’t find out until later.”
10. What song would you play on acoustic around a campfire?
“I love to play acoustic and I love a campfire as long as there’s marshmallows. I like old Neil Young Down By The River, Beatles’ Drive My Car, Day Tripper, Zeppelin’s Babe I’m Gonna Leave You… Too many songs and too many marshmallows!”
Gary Hoey’s latest album, Dust & Bones is out now on the Provogue label.