With his favorite vintage Marshall cranked up, rock/fusion legend Scott Henderson plays a single note on his signature-model Suhr solidbody, kicks on a Meris Ottobit Jr. and twists the knobs until the pedal is in a state of near sonic meltdown. This results in a pulsating, self-generating loop of mangled guitar timbres that is so hypnotic it could be used as the intro to a song.
In fact, this is exactly how Henderson created the intro to “Syringe,” off his new album, People Mover.
“That’s the beauty of these types of pedals,” says Henderson, who then switches over to a Z.Vex Fuzz Factory stompbox. “You can use them for a crazy sound on one album and then re-tweak them and use them for a solo on your next record.”
Miraculously, with the Fuzz Factory set just shy of uncontrollable feedback, Henderson is able to make notes jump one or two octaves with a mere twist of his guitar’s volume control.
Presented by Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs, these are just a couple of the nearly two hours’ worth of revelatory moments Henderson shares on the latest episode of No Guitar Is Safe podcast, hosted by yours truly. Streamable everywhere that audio podcasts are hosted, this episode finds Henderson offering soloing secrets, tone and gear tips, playing demonstrations, and stories of his adventures touring and recording with Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul and his own solo bands.
It’s hard to name a truer, more legit fusion guitarist than Scott Henderson. His playing taps into the majestic rock tones of Ritchie Blackmore and Jeff Beck, yet offers the melodic and harmonic complexity of John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter. Henderson is one of the only guitarists who can handle, with authority, both a big-box jazz guitar through a clean amp and single-coil Strat pickups through a blazing Marshall.
“People think if you change the music you’re into, you need to change your sound,” says Henderson. “But when I started branching out from rock to jazz, it never once occurred to me, ‘Oh, now I’d better switch over to a traditional jazz guitar sound.’ I loved learning jazz lines and sticking them where they don’t belong in rock songs. Rock guitar is actually very saxophone-like - it’s a midrange instrument that can sustain a note.”
Henderson says if a solo is not going well for him, one problem may be that he is playing too many notes.
“I’d rather see Jeff Beck or Wayne Shorter play two notes than watch most other players play 100 notes,” he says. “They know how to play notes that stick. My goal with solos is always, ‘Did I really say something? Did I really tell a good story from the first note to very end?’ If not, that’s what haunts me later.”
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