Sixty 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 top British blues guitarist,
GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can’t live without?
IS: I use the Gibson big triangle heavy gauge picks because I hit the guitar pretty hard and any thinner and I snap them. I’ve tried using the smaller ones but I just drop them.
GT: You have to give up all your pedals but three, what will they be?
IS: My most important pedal is my Boss tuner; because I hit the guitar pretty hard and bend strings a lot I have to watch my tuning. The Thorpy Peace Keeper drive pedal is great because the knobs are protected so I don’t kick them. Lastly, my Moollon tremolo pedal.
GT: Do you play another instrument well enough to be in a band?
IS: I play mandolin and have played it live and on several tracks on various albums. I also love bass.
GT: If a music chart were put in front of you, could you read it?
IS: No, I wish I could but I’m completely self-taught. I can get by reading chord charts okay but the dots are a mystery to me.
GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?
IS: I guess the more expensive ones will probably make a difference. I don’t know what make mine are; I’m more interested in them being reliable as there is nothing worse than plugging in for a line check at a festival and getting no sound, so you have to check every cable, which can be a blind panic moment.
GT: Is there anyone’s playing (past or present) that you’re jealous of?
IS: Django Reinhardt was the master; Jimi, Roy Buchanan, Freddie King, Peter Green, Rory Gallagher, the list is endless.
GT: Your house/studio is burning down: which guitar do you salvage?
IS: My ’61 ES-335 because she’s so comfortable and sounds so sweet.
GT: What’s your favourite amp and how do you set it?
IS: I use a Fender Supersonic 22-watt combo on the vintage channel; volume, treble and bass all at 12 o’clock, and I control volume on the guitar. I panic if I’m given an amp with more than three knobs!
GT: What kind of action do you have on your guitars?
IS: I like a medium action and big frets, but not too low as I like to bend strings up under the others. For slide I’m using an MPL custom guitar with a very high action.
GT: What strings do you use?
IS: Ernie Ball because I seem to break fewer. I use 9-46 on Fender type guitars, 10-46 on the Gibson and 12-54 for slide.
GT: Who was your first influence to play the guitar?
IS: I heard BB King when I was about 12, which changed my life.
GT: What was the first guitar you really lusted after?
IS: A white Strat. I remember drawing pictures of white Strats on my school books and fantasising about playing one, which explains why I did so badly at school.
GT: The best gig you ever did?
IS: The shows with Sari Schorr & The Engine Room have been so inspiring. We played the Leadbelly Festival at the Carnegie Hall a few months ago, which was fun.
GT: And what about your worst playing nightmare?
IS: When I played in Robert Plant’s
I LIKE A MEDIUM ACTION AND BIG FRETS, BUT NOT TOO LOW AS I LIKE TO BEND STRINGS UNDER THE OTHERS
band we played the Hollywood Rocks festival in Rio at this big stadium and MTV filmed the show. I had food poisoning and darted to the side of the stage to throw up, only to see when I looked up that I had just missed barfing over Steven Tyler and Joe Perry’s shoes.
GT: What’s the most important musical lesson you ever learnt?
IS: Be true to yourself, play from the heart and remember that 99% of the audience aren’t interested in gymnastics; they want to hear guitar that complements the song.
GT: If you could put together a fantasy band with you in it, who would the other players be?
IS: Donny Hathaway on piano and vocals, Willie Weeks on bass, BB King on guitar and vocals, Roger Hawkins from the Muscle Shoals band on drums, with Cornel Dupree and myself on guitar.
GT: Who’s the greatest guitarist that’s ever lived?
IS: Probably Django Reinhardt, imagine him on a Strat? I have some later recordings of him playing bebop on electric guitar, which are so exciting. He was one of a kind.
GT: Is there a solo you really wish you had played?
IS: The solo on Goodbye To Love by the Carpenters, also the solo in Easy, by The Commodores; every note is an integral part of the song. All of David Gilmour’s solos on Dark Side Of The Moon, too.
GT: What’s the solo/song of your own that you’re most proud of?
IS: I’m pretty proud of our version of Black Betty on the new Sari Schorr album, the solo was the second take using a 335 into a dimed AC30. Mind you having Mike Vernon producing you helps quite a lot!
Innes Sibun: currently on the road with Sari Schorr