He’s one of the UK’s foremost blues players, but how will Aynsley Lister handle the 10 questions we ask everyone?
1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?
“My first guitar was a three-quartersized, nylon-strung classical. It was my eighth birthday. The first kind of stuff I tried to play was Hideaway or The Stumble, because all the records my dad was playing was that kind of 60s electric blues stuff. At the time, I had no idea that - obviously - you can’t really bend nylon strings, but I had a good crack at it anyway! It wasn’t until just after my 10th birthday that I got my first electric, an S-type, and I suddenly realised it’s a lot easier.”
2. The building is burning down; which guitar from your collection would you save?
“It would have to be my 335-style guitar that I’ve had for 18 years. Apparently, it was made by some guy around 1978 at the Newark College Of Violin Making and I picked it up for £180 - it’s the best 335 I’ve ever played. I’ve played some old vintage ones, but it’s kind of unique, because it’s the only one of its kind. I still don’t know who made it… but it would have to be that one, because I couldn’t get another one.”
3. What’s the oldest guitar that you currently own?
“The oldest guitar I own is probably the one I play slide on - and, again, I don’t know what make it is. It’s like an acoustic guitar with f-holes; I had a pickup added to it, but I still don’t know what make it is! However, I’ve been told it might be an Egmond from the 60s, but it’s the oldest one I’ve got.”
4. What plectrums do you use?
“Purple Tortex Dunlop ones. I think they’re 1.14mm or something. I’ve always used the Tortex ones, I just like the texture of them. I started off on the orange ones, then I went to yellow, then to green. It’s a bit like going up in gauges of strings; I started on 0.008s and I’ve ended up on 0.011s. Maybe as the string gauges went up, I went up in gauge of pick!”
5. When was the last time you practised and what did you play?
“About 10 minutes ago! I was trying to work out an alternative version of one of my new songs. All the songs on the latest album are written for a band setup, but I’ve been trying to work out a version where I can play the rhythm, melody and the chords all at the same time.”
6. When was the last time you changed your own strings?
“Last Tuesday. To be honest, I’d run out of strings and I had a load arrive last Tuesday morning, so all the guitars got their old rusty strings taken off, a bit of a clean and new strings. I use 11, 14, 18 plain 30, 42, 54, so it’s a sort of hybrid set. I suppose it’s like a set of 0.012s on the bottom - I tune down half a step, so it just thickens it up.”
7. What are you doing five minutes before going on stage and five minutes afterwards?
“Five minutes before I go on stage I’m normally just warming up my voice. I don’t tend to warm up on the guitar, although the older I get I suppose everything’s not quite as loose and flexible as it used to be, so I probably should! Five minutes after a gig, I tend to go straight out to the merchandise table and sign CDs and say hello to people.”
8. What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you on stage?
“A couple of years ago I ended up with my leg in plaster and I was on crutches. So I had to crutch onto the stage and crutch off, but the worst point was when I got one of the crutches stuck in the leads and I went flying. Really quite embarrassing. There’s no way to recover from that in a cool way, so I just had to kind of hop off.”
9. What song would you play on an acoustic guitar around a camp fire?
“I would try and pick something that everybody would know. I’ve done this a few times and there are always songs that you can play that other people don’t know and it doesn’t always go down too well. I’d probably just play Summer Of ’69 or something like that. Something that will get everyone singing along, then they can drown me out.”
10. What guitar advice would you give your younger self if you had the chance?
“To work on my rhythm playing more. I went straight into lead playing, because the first thing that caught my ear was the guitar solos on all my dad’s records. It wasn’t until later that I started to work on my rhythm playing, and what I found is that as you start to improve your rhythm playing, it translates automatically to your lead playing without you realising. So, although you think you’re only working on rhythm, you’re still improving your lead playing. Yeah, I’d say probably work on rhythm at an earlier point and not leave it so late.”
Aynsley’s latest album, Eyes Wide Open, is available now via Straight Talkin’ Records.