In­dian Sum­mer

John’s mind-blow­ing ad­ven­tures with Hin­dus­tani slide gui­tar

Total Guitar - - JOHN BUTLER -

In 2016 John But­ler did some­thing very few es­tab­lished artists would con­sider; he took a break from his in­tense tour­ing sched­ule and trav­elled to Kolkata (for­merly Cal­cutta), In­dia in a quest to be­gin learn­ing a dis­ci­pline of gui­tar only a hand­ful of play­ers master in their life­time. And his teacher was one of the great­est play­ers in the world, De­bashish Bhat­tacharya…

“I went over there and it was sum­mer­time,” John ex­plains, pick­ing up the story of his trav­els. “No one goes there in the sum­mer be­cause it’s too hot. So in­stead of be­ing at his school I was just up­stairs at his house. He lives in this flat and in the top flat there’s no one. There was a mat­tress in there and an empty room that I prac­tised in. I’d go down to his place and his fam­ily would feed me ev­ery day and I’d prac­tise in his room and he’d give me heaps of tech­nique. I’d go back up­stairs and prac­tise for six to eight hours a day. It was awe­some.”

You’re an ac­com­plished slide player your­self, what was es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing about the Hin­dus­tani ap­proach?

“It’s ex­tremely rig­or­ous. you watch De­bashish play and you re­alise what 10 hours of prac­tise a day for 10 years looks like. It’s like watch­ing Michael Jor­dan… it’s su­per­hu­man, like an alien. See­ing that tech­nique. I started from scratch and he’s the rea­son why I use fin­ger­picks right now for Wade In­the­wa­ter.”

“It takes a lot of work and I’m not at all ac­com­plished at it yet. There’s so much mus­cle mem­ory go­ing on and it takes hours and hours and hours. I’ve barely scratched the sur­face of the ice­berg. I’m find­ing my own stride with it but it takes so much prac­tise that I made this tool [in­set pic above] so I could prac­tise Hin­dus­tani slide pick­ing tech­nique. The play­ing is so pre­cise, to re­ally play it prop­erly I need 45 min­utes of prac­tis­ing be­fore my hands are tuned in. It takes so much time and I just don’t have that much. But I do, how­ever, have a lot of dead time trav­el­ling so I just sit on planes. I look like a weirdo if you’re sit­ting next to me!

“But De­bashish said some­thing re­ally in­ter­est­ing and that was, ‘Through dis­ci­pline comes free­dom’ and it’s so true. When I prac­tise and I stay dis­ci­plined I’m able to be­come free with my hands. Then I can do what I want.”

In­dian slide gui­tar master De­bashish Bhat­tacharya

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