60 seconds with...
A minute’s all it takes to find out what makes a great guitarist tick. Before he jumped into his limo for the airport we grabbed a quick chat with brilliant US blues master, Joe Louis Walker
GT: Do you have a favourite type of pick that you can’t live without?
JLW: Yes, medium gauge Tortex picks, so the pick doesn’t slip out of my fingers – they get slippy sometimes on stage from wiping sweat off my face.
GT: If you had to give up all your pedals except three...
JLW: I use delay for a bit of slap, auto-wah for wah-wah sounds, tremolo for a swampy vibe and groove. All three together would also boost the gain.
GT: Do you play another instrument well enough to perform in a band?
JLW: I play harmonica, keys and bass. I’ve played harmonica with bands, and I’ve played bass guitar and keyboards. But why’d anyone would want to get an okay player of those instruments when they could have a pretty good guitar player?
GT: If a music chart were put in front of you, could you read it?
JLW: I could read a music chart. If it’s a classical score it would take a while to get in that groove though.
GT: Do guitar cables make any difference? What make are yours?
JLW: They make a difference if the cord is a very cheap one because it won’t last any wear and tear. I use Dunlop cords.
GT: Is there a guitarist, past or present, that you’re slightly jealous of?
JLW: Otis Rush makes me a bit envious because of his vibrato. I call it the right hand of God.
GT: Your place is burning down – which one guitar do you salvage?
JLW: My 1969 Les Paul Custom. I’d take it because of the great tone that’s always true; plus the guitar is so heavy it’d work as a battering ram to escape the burning building.
GT: What’s your favourite amp and how do you set it?
JLW: I’ve several favourite amps. But right now it’s a Paul Markwalter special order amp. It a small, powerful amp, tube driven, no reverb, with three knobs.
GT: What kind of action do you like?
JLW: I’ve got what you’d call a kind of high action, which I like because it helps with my vibrato.
GT: What strings do you use?
JLW: I use Dunlop strings. Gauges 10-42, my special gauge set-up – they have good durability.
GT: Who inspired you play guitar?
JLW: My father turned me on to so much music – blues in particular, and guitar players especially.
GT: What was the first guitar you really lusted after?
JLW: Sears and Roebuck Silvertone was what I wanted. I bugged my mother to get one for me. When she put enough money aside she got it.
GT: What’s the most important musical lesson you ever learnt?
JLW: Dynamics is the most important musical lesson I’ve learned. You can do just as much with silence as you can with volume. Sometimes you can do more.
GT: Do you still practise?
JLW: Yes I still practise, mostly when I’m inspired in today’s internet crazy world – sometimes you gotta break away from the computer (like now!).
GT: Do you have a particular warm-up routine?
JLW: No I don’t have a particular warm-up. Should I have one? Is there one that makes me play like Django Reinhardt?
GT: If you had to put together a fantasy band with you in it, who would the other players be?
JLW: BB King, Albert King, Freddie King, George Harrison, Les Paul, Jimi Hendrix, Elmore James, Mike Bloomfield, Son House... I think you get the idea that it’s a guitar band only!
GT: Who’s the greatest guitarist ever?
JLW: There’s no greatest anything, let alone guitar players. But you can grab one from my previous answer!
GT: Is there a song or solo by another guitarist that you wish you’d played?
JLW: I still think Manic Depression by Jimi Hendrix is untouchable. Someone might be able to play it note for note, but they didn’t think of it. Only he could.
GT: And a favourite song or solo of your own?
JLW: Messed My Mind Up off the New Direction CD. It’s a kinda crazy and fun solo in a serious tune.
GT And what are you up to at the moment – gigs, albums etc?
JLW: My new album, Everybody Wants A Piece is out now on Provogue Records. I’m also proud of the work we’re doing with Blues For Peace, promoting peace through music and raising money for refugees around the world.
i’ve got what you’d call a Kind of high action, which i liKe Because it helps with My viBrato