10 questions for Dan Patlansky

(Image credit: Bakkes Images)

He's South Africa's hottest blues export and a monster player, but how will Dan Patlansky handle the 10 questions we ask everyone? Let's find out…

1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?

"My first guitar was a Washburn Lyon series S-type, maple fretboard and Fiesta Red. I really wanted a Strat-type guitar because I wanted that Gilmour tone. Still do, actually. I've been a Strat fan ever since. I bought that first guitar from a local vintage guitar dealer in Johannesburg, who years later sold me my main go-to Strat, which I still tour with now."

2. If the building were burning down, what one guitar from your collection would you save?

There is something special, almost mystical about pre-CBS Strats

"Without a doubt my '62 Strat. I bought it back in 2000 from a good friend and vintage guitar dealer in South Africa. I got it for a steal, paid about half price for it. Very fortunate. I've been playing that Strat ever since then and it's been through most of my musical life so far. It feels like more of a best friend than just a guitar."

3. What your oldest guitar that you own?

"My 1962 Strat! The neck is stamped April '62. Being a huge SRV fan, it was always a dream to own a pre-CBS Strat. There is something special, almost mystical about them. It's one of the lightest guitars I've played, and I think that really does something for the tone. The neck feels so natural in my hand, probably due to the fact that I've been playing it almost exclusively for the last 16 years."

4. What plectrums do you use?

"I use Fender heavies. I'm not quite sure of the gauge but I reckon they are around .96mm. I've always used the round edge of the pick; I really dig the tone and I find I don't get caught up in the strings as much as using the pointy bit. I started out by using a nail file on the picks. Eventually, I was sanding them down so much that they were almost the same as the round edges. Itmade sense to just use the round edge."

5. When was the last time you practised guitar and what did you play?

"Last week, because I'm on tour currently and don't do so much practising on the road. I don't want to burn out by over-playing while on tour. I was working on sequencing groups of five notes in pentatonics, Eric Johnson style. That's something I want to get down and feeling natural. I feel the need to play daily just to keep the juices flowing."

6. When was the last time you changed your own strings?

"I always change my own strings. I definitely wouldn't say 'no' to a full-time tech, though. But I generally change strings every second show. My sweat literally murders strings. Last time I changed the strings was last night before the show. I find the act of a string change quite therapeutic. I also change and stretch the strings in a very particular way, so I think it would take a lot of trust to hand that task over to someone else."

7. What are you doing five minutes before you go on stage and five minutes after?

"Five minutes before, I try to picture how the show will go in my head. I run through every aspect of the show in fine detail. I strongly believe in visualisation beforehand; it gets your worst enemy - the mind - in the right place. Ego and rational thought have no place in music. It just gets in the way of truly playing something real and special. Afterwards, I normally take five minutes before heading to the meet-and-greet just to breathe and get my Zen on."

I see a great solo like a great movie: there needs to be a bad guy and a good guy, dark moments and lighter moments

8. If you could change one thing about a recording you've been on, what would it be and why?

"I would completely scrap my first ever album recording, Standing At The Station. I was way too young and inexperienced to have been in a studio. That album sounds like razor blades flying out of the speakers to my ears, every time I dare listen to it. But I suppose we all have to start somewhere."

9. What aspect of playing guitar would you like to be better at?

"I would like to be way better at playing on the outside. I really love hearing players completely take it to a darker place for a while. The tension it creates can make a song sound more three dimensional. Everything needs light versus shade, happy versus sad, inside versus outside. I see a great solo like a great movie: there needs to be a bad guy and a good guy, dark moments and lighter moments."

10. What guitar advice would you give your younger self?

"I spent years concentrating on certain aspects of playing, which in a way was great because you really learn to master these things. But it took me a long time to learn to play for the song, and whatever the particular tune called for. The phrase 'the song is king' now resonates with me, but only when I got more serious about writing did the phrase make complete sense."

New album, Introvertigo, is out now.

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Dan Patlansky talks improvisation, phrasing and playing more expressive blues