How do you approach solos?
The first guy that I met—my idol in England—was Mick Green, who used to play with Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. He was the first big notebender, particularly on the G string. And you’d freak over Jimmy Burton, and you’d freak over Mickey Green, and you’d wonder how they got that sound. So I got to see Mickey play, and I went backstage to see him, and I asked if I could play his guitar. He said, “Sure, man.” I picked it up, and he has strings like bloody piano strings—they’re huge! And the G string isn’t plain—it’s wound, and he used to stretch it practically to the A string and beyond. Big hands, and he would pull it down and tuck it under, as well. That’s what really buzzed me out—using the heavy strings—because a lot of younger guitarists tend to get light strings, and they quickly get into bending riffs, and all those Jeff Beck trips. But it’s like the string, the fretboard, and the pickup are doing the work, and you’re just piddling about. When Freddie King—who is my man at the moment—does a bend, he’s pulling it a good inch to get that sound, and he works for it. If you’re going to hit a note, you’ve got to work for it.
As for solos, I was happiest listening to Jimi Hendrix—that was like heaven. For me, it was probably a good thing he died, because it made me realize that I wasn’t going to be at any more Jimi Hendrix concerts, and that I was going to have to try and do it for myself again. I wish I could play like that. I mean, I enjoy being white and stiff, but there are moments when I would really like to just fly like Hendrix or Charlie Parker. To transcend the instrument, and transcend the audience, until the music itself becomes a hymn.
How are your ears?
Not too good. Rock stars are going to start going deaf a lot sooner than they think.
What about your musical objectives?
I think the biggest, really, is to hit on a solid, celestial music buzz. Heavenly music. Music I would imagine you’d hear in heaven.
Your tie-in to the celestial really amazes me, as rock appears to be a more physical means of enlightenment.
Right. Rock and roll is so much more physical, and that’s what is so great about it. I don’t like to see rock and roll abused. I don’t like to see it used as a pawn in some political argument, or as some freak’s weapon. It does what it does, because it is what it is. Rock and roll is about going to a hall, seeing a group you dig, and, for maybe a good half hour, forgetting about life, forgetting about your hangups, and even forgetting the fact you’ve paid to see some superstars. Suddenly, you even forget that you’re there— you’re just hearing some music. That’s a spiritual thing, and rock and roll is spiritual in a different way. It makes people come together and be equal. It makes people become selfless. It makes them forget themselves.