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 Interview with Scott Henderson
 28th February 2005 - Rome, Big Mama
 by Alex Milella
transcription by Chrissie Oppedisano


Fai click qui per leggere la versione in italiano

A.M.: How did you start studying guitar and who influenced you?
S.H.: When I was little I listened to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple on the radio… Jimmy Page, Richie Blackmore… then later I listened to Hendrix and Jeff Beck, so those four guys are probably my ‘teachers'. I listened to records for years then I decided to go to college, but I had played in mini-bands first. I played in these bands after high school and I got more guitar education ‘on the road' then at school, but after being on the road I decided I should come home and go to school and learn more things. That's when I started listening to jazz because a lot of my friends were listening to jazz. The weird thing, is that even though I started out playing blues and rock, my first records were jazz because by the time I got a record deal, TRIBAL TECH was already a band, so it was just strange that I was rock/blues musician whose first record was jazz!

A.M.: You listened to Richie Blackmore, Jeff Beck, ecc. After that, when you studied more jazz did you listen to more guitarists and other musicians?
S.H.: Yeah, but the first jazz I heard wasn't guitar jazz, it was fusion jazz like Weather Report, Chick Corea and there was some guitar in Mahavishnu Orchestra and they had some guitar and those were my two favorite fusion bands, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report. They influenced me in jazz more than anybody else. After that, people told me that jazz had started much earlier, so I started going back in time and listening to the musicians that inspired Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report, like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker. So, my education went backwards in time. When I first heard Weather Report, I didn't know that a lot of jazz came before that!

A.M.: Do you manage to study guitar constantly? How much time do you devote to studying everyday?
S.H.: Well, it depends on what I'm doing… While I'm on the road I have no time to practice. When I'm home, my main priority is trying to write music so that I can do more records. So, my priorities changed a lot from when I was a student. I don't have time to practice as much as I used to because now I have to write songs and that takes a lot of time for me. I practice, mainly just to practice on my own songs. I can't spend time practicing Giant Steps like I did when I was a student. I wish I had more time to practice. If I'm lucky, I can practice for 1-2 hours a day, but never more than that… Too much to do… plus, I have a baby now …

A.M.: Oh, you have a baby? Only one?
S.H.: Yeah! Just one baby, one year old, and three dogs, so it's crazy at my house, so, practicing is really impossible! (Laughing)

A.M.: Your musical phrasing has gradually changed. In the middle of the 90's your approach was more jazzy, now it's more bluesy. Does moving from jazz to blues mean changing or growing?
S.H.: Mmm, well, it's actually returning back to blues, instead of changing cause that's what I started out playing at the beginning. I was a bit sad that my blues playing didn't come out on the Tribal Tech records very much, especially the first ones because we were really studying jazz and so I lost touch with my roots a little bit but then I started to realize that my favorite music was still blues… so, I just started going back to playing like I did when I was younger… Now, I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't really know how to answer the question 'does it mean growing or changing'…because it's both. I think when you're a student you play differently than when you are an adult. My first records of Tribal Tech, I really consider myself a student of jazz. Now, I'm more interested in playing music where I don't have to think so much… I love the harmony of jazz but now I'm not really a student of jazz anymore. I can play jazz and it's not such a big deal like when I was 20 or 25 year old. I don't consider myself a jazz master but I feel very comfortable playing jazz and now I feel like I can phrase without having to think so much and now more of my blues phrasing comes out and it's me… less intellectual, more feeling.

A.M.: When you compose music, where do you start from and what kind of equipment do you use?
S.H.: Well, the first thing I do is choose the ‘groove' and tempo, rhythm…so I just get a simple drum machine, like a Yamaha QI-20, I think, and I program a nice drum groove of the kind of song I want to write. Then I put it on a cassette tape and I listen to it in my car. I create rhythmic ideas in my head and then I go home  and I 'jam'… later on I cut and paste little ideas from that… I think it's a good idea to write in 'real time' since you listen to it in real time…I find it difficult to invent chords and harmony in real time, but I can usually do that later… I can create melody ideas, or at least contours, in real time and then later go back and create the harmony in slow time. A lot piano players can write melodies and harmonies in 'real time', but I can't do that. Then I use digital performer software to get my ideas into the computer.

A.M.: Do you have a notebook?
S.H.: I have a G5 tower (ndr Apple) that I use to write. The guitar goes in audio (I use a pod to write) and then I use an oxygen8 keyboard to enter the drum notes and bass notes if I want to add drums and bass. It's a real simple writing set-up.

A.M.: Do you use MOTU to put in your guitar?
S.H.: Yeah, the 2408.

A.M.: Where is fusion going nowadays? More towards rock, or more towards jazz?
S.H.: I don't really know! It's probably different in each country. I know that in the U.S.A. there are a lot of bands that are more 'progressive rock' that are fairly popular like Dream Theatre and bands like that, Fish, Tool… they are rock bands, but they're more progressive rock… Jazz musicians, it's hard to say because there are still a lot of older guys like me playing fusion just the way we did back then. There seems to be a lot of young kids playing straight ahead jazz nowadays as well! It's a hard question to answer. It's different with everybody. There doesn't seem to be as many 'trends' in fusion and jazz as there are in rock and pop music. For example, in pop and rock, first there was 'shredding' and that was popular for about 5-6 years, then there was 'grunge' and that was popular for about 5-6 years…and they're fads, trends… In jazz, it doesn't really change a lot… It's not popular music anyway, it never was… it's hard to say where it's going, but it's just going all over the place, like it always did… There don't seem to be any patterns like there are in rock where you can say in this era there was a certain style and in this era another style… Jazz is harder to categorize.

A.M.: But, you don't think fusion is dead? I mean fusion from the 80's and 90's ?
S.H.: No… I don't know… I know what you mean, but it's hard to say...

A.M.: The new generation goes more to rock…
S.H.: Yeah, maybe. I'm trying to think of some young musicians playing more fusion towards jazz. Kurt Rosenwinkel … He's playing more fusion towards jazz… Steve Cardenas.. Wayne Krantz... So… it's a hard question.

A.M.: What was your excact set up about sound of "Elvis at the hop" (ndr. Tribal Tech, 1991) and your current set-up and why. I would like to know the exact set up of "Elvis at the hop" album...
S.H.: Well, you know, that was 15 years ago!

A.M.: (laughing...) Well, you must remember! ???
S.H.: Yeah, back then everyone was using racks so it was a Boogie Studio pre-amp and a Boogie 295 or 290 power amp.

A.M.: What kind of cabinet and speaker? Celestion, Electrovoice...?
S.H.: Mmm, I can't remember.. I have it written down… it's on my web site.

A.M.: Yes, I saw it.
S.H.: Did it say what kind of speakers I was using?

A.M.: For that album… ?
S.H.: I really don't remember.

A.M.: I really love that sound...
S.H.: Yeah, that's probably EV speakers, I'm pretty sure because I don't think I started using CELESTIONS again until the "Tribal Tech" album. So, I think everything was EV's up to that point. EV's are very mid-range speakers so I could get the same sound using CELESTIONS, but I just EQ'd the amp much differently. With EV's you usually have to have your mid-range turned way down whereas with CELESTIONS you can turn the mid-range up. So, the speaker thing isn't usually as important as how you EQ the head because you can EQ any speaker to sound good, but it's a pretty radical different EQ for EV's or CELESTIONS. That's pretty much it and I wasn't using any kind of pedals… just the head because in TRIBAL TECH I hardly ever played rhythm pick-up. It was mostly treble pick-up all the time.

A.M.: And when you play solos you use the neck?
S.H.: Sometimes, yeah. But I had a weird set up back then. Amp distortion isn't so good for the rhythm pick up and I always had problems back then because I had to set my amp really high treble for the rhythm pick up and when I used the treble pick up, it was too much… so usually when I was recording I would have a different EQ for the treble pick up than for the rhythm pick up. Amp distortion isn't usually the best for rhythm pick-ups… it gets kind of vrrruuu…

A.M.: More vintage, like the 70's
S.H.: So I like to use pedals now more than before because with pedals you can easily switch pick ups and have more of the same sound…. Nowadays I don't use pre-amps and power amps. I use heads and pedals because I get a good sound with the treble pick up and I can switch to the rhythm pick up back and forth and still have a good sound on both pick ups. Sometimes when I'm recording if I know I'm only going to play the treble pick up I use amp distortion because that's still the fattest sound, but live it's mainly pedals. The SD-9 is my favorite one. It's a Maxon SD-9 so that's my main distortion pedal. It's a really good one.

A.M.: Will it be possible that you still compose pieces like Peru, Formula One or has your style definitely changed?
S.H.: Well, only that I'm writing more for trio now so those kinds of compositions have so many chords and since I'm not playing with a keyboard player right now and I'm doing a trio, I probably won't write so many chords.

A.M.: With TRIBAL TECH maybe?
S.H.: Yeah, with TRIBAL TECH, sure… But TRIBAL TECH kind of changed. We went into a direction where we're not really writing… we're more jamming. I love composing, it's really great and all, but what I discovered after the TRIBAL TECH album Illicit that's the first time where we actually started going on the road. All these other albums we did, Spears, Dr. Hee, Nomad, and Tribal Tech we never had a touring band because we were in Los Angeles…we were trying to find an agent… We weren't a touring band then..

A.M.: Illicit was the first touring debut, right?
S.H.: Right. Illicit was the very first time we could tour. And what we discovered on the road is that the more music you compose, the less enjoyable it is to play from night to night because the compositions are exactly the same… so it's almost like playing TOP 40… you know, every night it's the same, same, same. And we discovered that the less you compose, the freer you are for the music to change from night to night. So, we started thinking that maybe we shouldn't compose so much music and the compositions started getting looser… Finally, on Thick and Rocket Science, we decided to go in the studio and just 'jam' and compose on top of that which was really fun! It's kind of like overdubbing and composing at the same time. I really enjoyed that, so that's why I haven't been writing those heavily composed pieces. Jazz musicians don't like to play all those notes! that's more for classical musicians! But, I guess I could write more stuff like that, but after I went out on the road, I'd be sorry I did!!

A.M.: Which of these 3 projects, Tribal Tech, Vital tech Tones and Blues Band, you prefer? Which was the most difficult and which had the most success?
S.H.: Let's see… well, as far as success, definitely the Blues Band because I make a lot more money because it's a trio, more people like blues, and there is more of a mixed audience with the blues. Tribal Tech, instead, is all musicians! The Blues Band, even women come to see the blues band. Everybody likes blues… We're not playing only blues, but it's a more accessible band because there are vocals, ecc. So, I would have to say that's more successful. But it's also more fun for me because I get to play a lot more in a trio. In Tribal Tech, sometimes I'm the horn player! I never get to play chords… I'm always playing single lines…that gets boring!

A.M.: But that was your first project as leader, right?
S.H.: Yes. I have to say that I like the trio from the perspective that I get to play more, I have more responsibility, I have to create more sounds and it's more focused on the guitar, which I feel I owe myself because ever since I started playing, I've always played with keyboard players, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, there's a keyboard player in Jean Luc Ponty's band with TRIBAL TECH and I never got to have the full experience of being a guitar player like other guitarists did, like Jimi Hendrix has done, like rock, or jazz guitarists like Scofield playing in a trio. I always wanted to play in a trio just so that I could express myself as a guitarist. That's my favorite thing to do. With Tribal Tech, the thing that became really fun is the 'jamming', the experience of playing off other people and having a musical conversation which is the one thing I don't get to do when I play in a trio. I have to create all the ideas and Kirk (ndr Covington) and I do some amount of playing off each other but not to the extent that Scott Kinsey and I did on Tribal Tech, being two harmony and melody instruments. We played quite a bit off each other and I miss that… I miss playing with Scott, but we still play together in L.A. every Wednesday night with other bass players and drummers. With Vital Tech Tones we never played live. All we did was go into the studio and we had no music when we went in. It wasn't one of the most fun experiences, but it was one of the most challenging because, there wasn't much time to have fun! There was a lot of pressure. We had 9 days to compose, play and mix an album! Serious pressure and it's not my best composing.

A.M.: For the first or the second album?
S.H.: Both.

A.M.: Only 9 days?
S.H.: yeah, 9 days.

A.M.: Why, was it a contract?
S.H.: Yeah. Nine days to do a record and I only had one tune for the first album which was a new version of DR. HEE. Steve (ndr. Smith) would create the drum grooves and Victor (ndr. Wooten) would create a groove and then I would have to figure out some chords and little melodies! It was difficult!! Really difficult! And I listen back to it and I think, that's not really my best writing… but, I was under such pressure to create stuff and they were too! But I think for the amount of time we had, we did a pretty good job and Steve and Victor are GREAT musicians! In that way it was really fun…

A.M.: Recently you recorded a live album with the BLUES BAND. Why don't you record a live album with TRIBAL TECH?
S.H.: We never had the opportunity to do that because Gary Willis, the bass player, lives in Spain now and before that he lived in Colorado and New Mexico. He doesn't like L.A. So, it's very hard to put together a live album on the road. Difficult to do it town and Willis was never in town enough to put it together. We thought about it, but another thing is that it's very expensive to have a real mobile truck. It was out of our budget… And Bob Bradshaw, the guy that recorded the new trio record, wasn't around back then. And we couldn't have done it without him. He was reasonably priced and has great recording gear and he's the one that made this record happen and made it sound so good. I think back in the TRIBAL TECH days he hadn't started his recording thing yet. A mobile truck is unbelievebly expensive...usually only 'pop' bands can afford these mobile trucks.

A.M.: What does it mean to play blues today? Do you think musicians should look to the past or to the future?
S.H.: Well, blues has never been popular in America, especially played by its original artists. In the 40's and the 50's blues musicians were starving in America and it wasn't until white musicians from England like, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin starting copying black blues musicians… and they brought the music to America and all of a sudden it became popular. But nobody knew who Muddy Waters and guys like that were… They were obscure and it's still the same. Blues is just like jazz… it's not popular, it's not played on the radio much… So blues and jazz musicians from the States make their living over here in Europe where blues and jazz is appreciated more. I think for a blues musician playing in the States, he is thinking, "how the hell can I get out of here and get to Europe and make some money?". For example, I know quite a few, Kirk Fletcher, for example. He plays with the Fabulous Thunderbirds… Well, it was Jimmy Ray Vaughan's band (Stevie Ray Vaughan's brother) and now Jimmy left and Kirk Fletcher is the guy who plays in the band. They're touring a lot over here in Europe. America is very hard. Blues was born there, just like jazz, but it's not appreciated there. It's appreciated just about everywhere else in the world BUT there. America is country, pop, rock music. Pop and country are the two big genres in the States. Blues and jazz are way down there on the list. America is really screwed up in a lot of ways!

A.M.: Like in Italy, Neapolitan music isn't liked here, but they love it in America
S.H.: Well, America's culture is really screwed up! It's a new country… Violent, very violent… You can't even see breasts on TV but it's okay to see someone get shot! America has got some big cultural problems!

A.M.: Well, I think all over the world, now… MAH! What is the international music market more interested to your music? Is it changed during these years?
S.H.: It hasn't changed much…

A.M.: Japan?
S.H.: Japan has actually become more difficult, to TRIBAL there because their economy isn't as good as it used to be. But we are still able to go. We're going in October. We manage to do Europe, South America and Japan every year. Australia is difficult. We haven't been there in 4 years because their economy is hard too. But, we're trying to play everywhere we can. We've never played in China, but we've played in Indonesia. We've never been to Africa yet. We're hoping to do a festival in South Africa next year. I hope!!

A.M.: And Greece?
S.H.: Yeah! We just played in Greece before coming here. We've been to Athens quite a few times. We were able to play 3 nights in the same club. Athens is really fun.

A.M.: Apart from Giant Steps, which Coltrane piece would you like to play?
S.H.: I honestly can't answer that because I've played so many of his songs because every day I'm playing with my students out of the REAL BOOK… so we play a lot of Coltrane tunes, just not as good as him! Haha.. It's hard to play as good as John Coltrane!

A.M.: What about your experience with Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul. Did they have a different approach with you?
S.H.: Oh yeah, much different. Chick Corea is kind of like a NAZI band leader. He tells you what to do and you do it! There is no negotiation… Joe is much more relaxed. He lets you play, the music is looser, a lot of jamming and a lot of spontaneous creativity. Of course, there are some melodies and harmonies that need to be played, but if you play different voices each night for the same tune, he loves that. He loves things to change from night to night. He a lot more fun to work with.

A.M.: Did you leave Chick for this reason?
S.H.: Well, actually, I got fired from Chick's band because I wasn't cooperating with what they wanted me to do. I just didn't like what they were doing, so, I didn't necessarily want to leave the band...it was good money, good exposure, but sometimes you have to make decisions on whether you like this enough to go on…you weight the good and bad and when the bad rules, you don't care anymore. I had mixed feelings. On one hand it was really great being the guitar player for the Chick Corea Electric Band, because we played in big places, getting seen by a lot of people, listening to him play was really fun because he is a great improviser… But, at the same time, always being told what to do, never getting to play chords, ecc, ecc… I began to feel like a little robot in a band and I didn't really like the music very much… it was his commercial writing and it was like 'happy' jazz.

A.M.: Commercial fusion?
S.H.: Yeah… I didn't like it too much… it was good and bad at the same time. But every gig is like that. Joe's gig had bad things too! Sometimes the music was too loose or the songs went on too long. You always have negative things on any gig you do… but if I compare the Chick gig with the Joe gig, the Joe gig was much more fun!!

A.M.: Are there any new musicians that you appreciate?
S.H.: Yeah… I don't know if he's a new musician, but Kurt Rosenwinkle is really awesome. I really like him. Steve Cardenas and Philip Degruy from New Orleans… Unbelieveable!

A.M.: With whom would you like to make a record?
S.H.: Oh, I don't know…

A.M.: With a saxophonist?
S.H.: No, not with anybody. I like to do the records I'm already doing…

A.M.: Do you teach guitar?
S.H.: Yeah, I teach at G.I.T. I'm there every Monday and Tuesday!

A.M.: Is there something you'd like to do that you haven't done yet?
S.H.: I can't think of anything right now…

A.M.: And what about your baby?
yeah, there's a baby girl. I don't know if she's going to play guitar or piano because my wife plays classical piano… so, I don't know… I'm going to try and make her become a guitar player! My wife probably wants her to play keyboards! We'll probably have a fight about that! Haha… Okay, thanks guys!

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Inserited on 26/5/2008 at 12.17.50 by "guitartwins02"
Hola!!Quisiera agradecer a cada una de las personas que llevaron a cabo esta entrevita y de sacar mas a la luz,la extraordinaria vida de este genio de las cuerdas Scott Henderson,quisiera ademas saber si algun dia considera hacer algunas de sus giras por Dinamarca?

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Publishing Date: 26/06/2005

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