5 minutes alone: Chris Stein
“I was probably 11 or 12, and I was wandering around in Brooklyn in about 1961 and I heard electric guitar notes coming out of a gas station. I still remember the moment. It was very haunting – it sort of struck me, you know?
After that, I got my first guitar – a Harmony single-pickup, double-cutaway kind of thing that my parents bought for me.”
Up on Easy Plateau...
“I was never a very technical guitar player, I was always a very emotional guitar player, like BB King or something, as opposed to Yngwie!
Improvement was an ongoing process. I would go for a few years and then I would sort of plateau, then it would lift up again. I’m impressed nowadays how quickly I can learn something and have it stay in my head with muscle memory, but I’ve been playing for 50 years, so I guess it just becomes what it is.”
Off the rails on a crazy train...
“[I started out] before the days of guitar worship – that’s only been going on for the last 20 or 30 years at the most – so I think it’s fucking insane paying $100,000 for a guitar!
"Some of that shit is nuts. We were in the Fender factory,watching one of the guys make a replica of the Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar, and he’s breaking his neck making this thing and copying all of the cigarette burns, then the fucking guy [who buys it] is just going to put it in a case!”
Just a castaway, an island lost at sea...
“My desert island guitarwould be the one I have now because I play a carbon fibre XOX Audio Tool, and it’s completely impervious to temperature and humidity, so certainly on a desert island that would be the weapon of choice!
I really love the thing, and it weighs four pounds. I was very attracted to how it looks, and it sounds and feels like a normal guitar. It has a lot to do with the weight: I’m getting old, I don’t want to stand there with a 10lb Les Paul in my hand!”
When Jimi took over...
“By the time the Electric Ladyland album came out, Jimi Hendrix was fully implanted [as a guitar hero], and I listened to that over and over again – in all kinds of mental states.
"I saw him play at Woodstock. Nobody gets that he played right at the end, and he played after Sha Na Na – and everybody hated Sha Na Na – so everybody left and, by the time he went on, there were not a lot of people there!”
Learning from the man...
“I opened up for The Velvet Underground in 1967, when I was 17. I had a friend who was working for Andy [Warhol] and he just arrived in Brooklyn and said, ‘The opening act didn’t show up – will you guys do it?'
We had a little blues-rock band, so we went and played with them. That show was in a big echo-y building called The Gymnasium, and we were completely daunted by the echo. Then when The Velvets came on, they used the echo as part of their sound. They used the reverb of the room, and that was a big learning curve moment for me.”
One way or another...
"My main advice is that enthusiasm is not enough. There’s a lot of work involved with what we do. You can’t just go on pure excitement and energy.
You need it, it’s one of the components, but you have to be able to work. Repetition is another thing that’s hard for people, too. [On Parallel Lines, producer Mike] Chapman would have us repeat things over and over again, and repeating things 30 or 40 times and still keeping it fresh is difficult. That is a learned skill.”