Perfect 10

He’s an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­knowl­edged mas­ter of the acous­tic gui­tar, but how will he han­dle the 10 ques­tions we ask ev­ery­one?

Guitarist - - Contents -


What was your first gui­tar and when did you get it? “My first gui­tar was badged up as a Martin Co­letti. It was an f-hole arch­top, To­bacco Sun­burst and com­pletely acous­tic. I have owned a pre-war Co­letti in the past and they were su­perbly made hand­crafted in­stru­ments, but this 1960 ver­sion was all lam­i­nate and not in the same league as the early ones. Later on I bought a pickup for it and I plugged it into the back of the fam­ily ra­dio­gram. I pestered my folks to buy me a Watkins West­min­ster amp, polka dot red, and then fi­nally a Su­per­sound tremolo arm so I could try and sound like Hank!”


Sup­pose the build­ing’s burn­ing down; what one gui­tar from your col­lec­tion would you save? “A cus­tom-built Fylde that Roger Buck­nall built to re­place a gui­tar he made in the late 80s. I fool­ishly had a new top put on it by an­other maker when it had been dam­aged. For­tu­nately, I still had the old top and Roger was able see in de­tail how it had been con­structed. The re­place­ment is a rose­wood and cedar model with a cut­away and is my main record­ing gui­tar. It sounds di­vine and records beau­ti­fully.”


What’s the old­est gui­tar you own? “A small-bod­ied Span­ish gui­tar al­most iden­ti­cal to the one that Ju­lian Bream played as a boy. It was a gift from my wife, Hi­lary, and her late mother, El­iz­a­beth. It hangs on my mu­sic room wall and it must be well over 100 years old. The la­bel in­side reads ‘Hi­jos de Ra­mon Re­duedo, Va­len­cia’.”


When did you last prac­tise and what did you play? “I don’t prac­tise as such, but try to play each day. I play for long pe­ri­ods when com­pos­ing, but that has been shelved for a while, while try­ing to get to grips with the mu­sic I wrote for my The Last Of Eng­land al­bum, and although I com­posed all the mu­sic, I still find the pieces very chal­leng­ing to play, and, more to the point, re­mem­ber!”


What are you do­ing five min­utes be­fore you go on stage and five min­utes af­ter? “Five min­utes be­fore I’m still prac­tis­ing the first piece I’m go­ing to per­form. I have never al­lowed my­self the time to re­lax be­fore a per­for­mance, although re­cently I’ve been get­ting to grips with med­i­ta­tion, which I think has as­sisted my per­for­mance and made my play­ing a bit more mean­ing­ful. Af­ter the per­for­mance, I’m think­ing about go­ing out front to say hi to friends and to any­one who wants to chat with me or get me to sign the odd al­bum.”


What’s the worst thing that has hap­pened to you on stage? “I was very priv­i­leged to have my own evening at the Sym­phony Hall in Birm­ing­ham a few years ago. All was go­ing well un­til Ray [Bur­ley] and I per­formed my piece Tears Of Joy and I com­pletely for­got a whole sec­tion and had to aban­don it. I just wanted the ground to open.”


What’s the clos­est you’ve come to quit­ting mu­sic? “That small voice in­side has never al­lowed me to quit. When times were tough in the early 70s and gigs were thin on the ground, I did con­sider get­ting a job to pay the bills, but even then it was pretty fleeting. I signed on for about six weeks, which I found hu­mil­i­at­ing, bear­ing in mind that I had al­ready had al­bums re­leased and had built up a fol­low­ing. I do con­sider my­self very priv­i­leged to have been able to make a liv­ing for so long do­ing what I love.”


What as­pect of play­ing gui­tar would you like to be bet­ter at? “My plec­trum tech­nique is pretty weak, and I’d love to able to im­pro­vise like John Etheridge or Tommy Em­manuel, but I’m happy to still be able to do what I can do. I still want to be able to play with the same de­gree of en­ergy that I had as a young man.”


What ad­vice would you give your younger self about the gui­tar if you had the chance? “Slow down and be more thought­ful and dis­ci­plined about what I played in­stead of try­ing to impress with a mil­lion notes a sec­ond. I was very opin­ion­ated, believ­ing that acous­tic play­ing was far su­pe­rior to elec­tric play­ing. How ut­terly wrong I was!”


Is there a myth about you or your play­ing that you’d like to set the record straight on? “The main myth is that my right-hand tech­nique con­sists of pick and fingers; in fact, it’s pick and just lit­tle fin­ger! Also, folk as­sume that Heart­song was per­formed on a 12-string gui­tar, which is un­der­stand­able, but it was a nor­mal gui­tar tracked with a high-strung gui­tar, thus cre­at­ing the al­most perfect 12-string sound.” [DM]

“Re­cently, I’ve been get­ting to grips with med­i­ta­tion, which I think has as­sisted my per­for­mance and made my play­ing a bit more mean­ing­ful”

Gordon’s lat­est al­bum, The Last Of Eng­land, is avail­able now on Psy­chotron Records www.gil­

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