A minute’s all it takes to dis­cover what makes a great gui­tarist tick. Be­fore he jumped into his limo for the air­port we grabbed a quick chat with Can­vey Is­land’s king of punky R&B gui­tar, the great

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS - Wilko Johnson.

This month we meet Can­vey’s rock and roll punk icon, the one and only Wilko Johnson.

GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can’t live without?

WJ: I have never used a pick.

GT: If you had to give up all your ped­als but three, what would they be?

WJ: I have never used ped­als.

GT: Do you play an­other in­stru­ment well enough to be in a band? (If so what, - and have you ever done it?)

WJ: I have never learnt to play any­thing but the elec­tric gui­tar.

GT: If a mu­sic chart were put in front of you, could you read it?

WJ: No! I’m a rock gui­tarist for fuck’s sake!

GT: Do gui­tar ca­bles re­ally make a dif­fer­ence? What make are yours?

WJ: I al­ways use a red curly lead on stage. This is to save me from trip­ping over and also be­cause it makes me look like I’m on a spring. Th­ese leads are of course ter­ri­bly noisy and quite un­suit­able for use in a stu­dio. I trip over a lot in stu­dios.

GT: Is there any­one’s play­ing (past or present) that you’re slightly jeal­ous of? (And why?)

WJ: I love to lis­ten to great gui­tarists who can play stuff way be­yond my ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Jeal­ous? No, just very happy that such peo­ple ex­ist. I could make a long, long list from Jimi Hen­drix to Hu­bert Sum­lin to Django Reinhardt and on and on. We are lucky that they did what they did.

GT: Your house/stu­dio is burn­ing down: which gui­tar do you sal­vage? (And why?)

WJ: I have my first Tele­caster that I bought in 1966. It holds many mem­o­ries for me, but in the end it’s just a plank of wood with mi­cro­phones on it. I’d rather burn my hands sav­ing groovy stuff.

GT: What’s your favourite amp and how do you set it?

WJ: I use a Cor­nell ‘Wilko’ combo. Denny Cor­nell builds su­perb am­pli­fiers, and my sin­gle-speaker Cor­nell is far and away the best amp I’ve ever had. I par­tic­u­larly like the fact that it has noth­ing but vol­ume, bass and tre­ble con­trols and an on-off switch. Just set all the con­trols to half-way and go.

GT: What kind of ac­tion do you have on your guitars? (Any par­tic­u­lar quirks etc?)

WJ: I use the fac­tory set­tings. As long as there are no strings buzzing etc, the ac­tion shouldn’t need ad­just­ment

GT: What strings do you use gauges, etc?

WJ: It’s best to use the heav­i­est gauges suit­able to your style. The heav­ier the gauge, the louder and truer the note. You’ve got to strum and you’ve got to bend strings. I use some­thing like .011, .013, .017, .030, .042, .052.

GT: Who was your first in­flu­ence to play the gui­tar?

WJ: Mick Green’s play­ing with Johnny Kidd and The Pi­rates re­ally showed me the way.

GT: What was the first gui­tar you re­ally lusted af­ter?

WJ: My first Tele­caster in 1966. It was in a mu­sic shop win­dow in Southend and I used to stand there and stare at it. It cost a for­tune unattain­able to me (£90 for a brand-new 1962 Tele!).

GT: What was the sin­gle best gig you ever did…?

WJ: I don’t think you can grade one good gig against an­other - great gigs can hap­pen in big venues or tiny back rooms. They’ve all got their own flavour.

GT: …and your worst play­ing night­mare?

WJ: In 1972 the very in­ex­pe­ri­enced Dr Feel­good got to play at Wem­b­ley sta­dium. We were back­ing ’60s one-hit won­der Heinz on a big rock and roll show. So there I am on stage be­fore a huge au­di­ence - never played any­where big­ger than a pub back room - I start to get into it, feel­ing pretty cool, when Heinz threw an in­ept Elvis-style karate kick in my di­rec­tion. His foot hit the ma­chine­heads of my gui­tar and knocked EV­ERY string right out of tune. Think about it - did I feel cool then?

GT: What’s the most im­por­tant mu­si­cal les­son you ever learnt?

WJ: If you play a bum note, keep a de­ter­mined ex­pres­sion on your face and glare at the key­board player.

GT: Do you still prac­tice?

WJ: Nah.

GT: Do you have a pre-gig warm-up rou­tine?

WJ: I pace round the dress­ing room in anti-clock­wise cir­cles.

GT: If you could put to­gether a fan­tasy band with you in it, who would the other play­ers be (dead or alive)?

WJ: An un­ful­filled dream for me is to play with Bob Dy­lan. Who could be in the rest of the band? Couldn’t have any good gui­tarists be­cause they would show me up and Bob wouldn’t be im­pressed. To tell you the truth, I’d pick my band - Nor­man Watt-Roy and Dy­lan Howe. We three and the Zim? That would be a dream.

GT: Present com­pany ac­cepted (and not­with­stand­ing the stu­pid­ity of the ques­tion!), who do you think is the great­est gui­tarist that’s ever lived?

WJ: Al­bert Anony­mous from Small­town USA.

GT: Is there a solo by some­one else that you re­ally wish you had played?

WJ: The gui­tar work on Bob Dy­lan’s New Pony is just how I wish I could have done it. Also the gui­tar on Ge­orge McCrae’s Rock Your Baby. Also also also…..

GT: What’s the solo/song of your own of which you’re most proud?

WJ: I’m not re­ally proud of any of them. I think Back In The Night has prob­a­bly made the most peo­ple happy over the years, so, yeah, I am a lit­tle bit proud of that one… and some of the oth­ers. Ah shucks, they may be in­fan­tile, three-chord rub­bish, but they’re my in­fan­tile three-chord rub­bish and I love them all the same, even the crappy ones.

GT: What would you most like to be re­mem­bered for?

WJ: Writ­ing a novel greater than Moby Dick.

GT: What are you up to at the moment - any gigs, tours, projects, al­bums)?

WJ: We’ve just done six gigs in the UK and now we’ve got to start on a new al­bum. Oh, dear. Wilko Johnson Band (with Nor­man Watt-Roy on bass and Ja­son Howe on drums) play their 30th An­niver­sary concert at the Royal Al­bert Hall on Tues­day 26 Septem­ber 2017. Book tick­ets from the 24 HR Box Of­fice: 0844 478 0898 or www.thegig­car­ Wilko cel­e­brates his 70th birth­day on Wed­nes­day 12th July 2017.


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