Aerosmith's Brad Whitford on Two-Guitar Bands

January 10, 2014

“TWO-GUITAR BANDS ARE TOUGH,” says Brad Whitford. “It takes a certain level of communication, and, when it’s good, you know it when you hear it. I watched Eric Gales and Eric Johnson play together on the Experience Hendrix tour, and they had people in tears. They were communicating on a whole different level. You hear something like that, and you realize what is possible. It doesn’t happen on a speaking level. It’s about vibing with somebody in a strong way, and it requires an amazing amount of commitment to the music.”


“Part of it is a tonal thing. There’s nothing worse than watching two guys play Les Pauls, and you can’t tell who is playing what—or you can’t hear what one guy is doing—because it all smears together. On Aeromsith’s ‘Last Child,’ my tone is a heavy, dirty humbucker tone, and Joe plays a clean, single-coil sound. We’re always conscious of how we’re going to marry the two guitar sounds so that something cool is happening. We may not get it instantly, but that’s what we’re looking for.”


“Then, you’ve got to consider the parts themselves. We want it to be like a grandfather clock, where you can hear all the different parts interlocking. Ultimately, you’re trying to make one sound out of all those elements, and you don’t want to have two parts that are the same. That’s just dumb. On ‘Last Child,’ I’m playing the straight-ahead lick on the low strings, except when I’m soloing. Joe does all the spice work, throwing in those open-string stabs and everything. I believe he played a Stratocaster in the studio, and he really worked hard on coming up with those parts and laying them in there. It’s just brilliant, the way it works with my line.”


“When it comes to the groove, we both like the same thing, but I’d say he’s on the north side of the beat, and I’m on the south side. That’s part of what makes it sound the way it does. We both have good rhythm, and once you have that, all the little subtleties can come into play, which keeps things interesting.”


“Why a lot of this works with Joe and me is because it’s pretty organic. It has always been fun to try and find a way to complement the cool licks he comes up with. One of the things on my checklist is to ask, ‘What would Joe do?’ We try to think alike, but because we approach it from different angles, it doesn’t come out the same. That’s what you want: two interesting parts. You can definitely raise a little dust that way. I think we do a pretty good job of it.”

If Aerosmith isn’t the greatest two-guitar rock band in history, they’re in the top two. Brad Whitford and Joe Perry’s talent for finding parts, grooves, and tones that go together like precision gears is in fine, high-definition form on Aerosmith’s latest DVD, Rock for the Rising Sun [Eagle Rock], a spectacular concert film shot in Japan.

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