Patsy, Loretta, and Pedal Steel

Snarky Puppy's Bob Lanzetti goes Country for his Solo Album
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As part of the pool of players making records for bassist Michael League’s GroundUP Music label, Bob Lanzetti works in League’s funk/fusion band Snarky Puppy, plays African-inspired grooves with Bokanté, and performs unclassifiable “world music” with Banda Magda. Yet, despite being part of Ground-UP’s “house band,” Lanzetti decided to self-release his country-inflected solo record, Whose Feet are These That are Walking? (note the sly Ernest Tubb reference). Although Lanzetti is a diverse and accomplished stylistic, it’s still a bit of a surprise that a consummate funkmeister ended up embracing classic country covers for his own album.

So how did this country-flavored album come about?

Many of these tunes started about five years ago, when I was listening to early country stuff that has a lot of pedal-steel on it. I got a gig where I had to fill two hours, and I only had an hour of tunes, so I decided to add some instrumental country covers with pedal steel. After that, I began to hear that sound when writing music, and I tried to incorporate it into the tunes I had already written, as well. On some tunes, it was hard to hear pedal steel because of its unique sound, so I used players who were able to provide textural effects, and even funky parts, here and there.

Where did you get the idea of having wordless vocals on some tunes?

That came from listening to Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. I noticed the background vocals on their tunes, and I thought that approach would add a really interesting effect.

What led you to cover the Beach Boys’ “Caroline, No”?

I’ve always loved that song, and it fit the vibe of the record. It’s also an A-AB-A form, which is common in jazz. The feeling was that it would be cool to do it instrumentally, and then solo over it. I wanted to do the [wordless] vocal thing on that song, as well.

Did you do your solos with the band, or record them later?

Many of the solos were tracked live with the band, because I didn’t want to have to improvise my solos during an overdub session.

What rig did you bring to the sessions?

I used different amps and guitars for different parts. All the single-coil guitar stuff is my ’82 Tokai with Fralin Blues Special pickups and a Callaham bridge. The studio lent me a Les Paul for some things, and there was a Gibson ES-335 and a steel-string acoustic used for some parts—such as for the arpeggios in the intro of “Anonymous.” I’ve been using a Fodera guitar live that they built to the same specs as my Tokai. About half the time it’s the Fodera, and the rest of the time it’s the Tokai. My strings are a .010 set of D’Addarios, and my picks are Dunlop 1.4mm.

At home, I have a Victoria amp that’s easy to cart around New York, and I’ve been using Supros a lot, because I play most of my gigs at Rockwood Music Hall, and they have a Supro Rhythm Master and a Supro Saturn Reverb there. The Supro I usually use with Snarky Puppy is the Coronado, which has two 10" speakers, and puts out a good volume for what we are doing.

Does the pedalboard you use live for your own music differ from what you might use with Snarky Puppy?

It is basically identical. There’s a small board I use when we’re not doing a long bus tour with a Source Audio Nemesis Delay, Boss DD-6 Digital Delay, Goodrich volume pedal, Electro-Harmonix POG 2, Z. Vex Fuzz Factory and Box of Rock, Maxon OD808, and a J. Rockett Archer. I also have a larger board, but the only extra things are a DigiTech Whammy and an Empress Tremolo.

How do you use the two delays?

Lately, I’ve been using the Nemesis as the main delay. I usually keep it on a medium delay-time setting with a little modulation. The DD-6 is more for weird things—such as really, really long delays to make loops. I’ll also use them together to make rhythmic delay patterns.

Is the Nemesis on a specific delay setting?

Usually, it’s the Analog one, but I also use the Noise Tape setting. Lately, I’ve been using an Option Knob on the Nemesis’ Delay Time control, so that I can do crazy stuff with my foot to get super-weird abstract sounds. Often, I am doing something that I will feed into the DD-6 to craft live loops of the weird stuff from the Nemesis.

What are some of the effects on the spacey section at the end of “Ivory”?

I overdubbed a ton of different sounds. The chimey, melodic guitar part is false harmonics with a good amount of delay from the DD-6, and maybe an Electro-Harmonix Memory Man. There was a static chord that was created using an Electro-Harmonix Freeze, and I also manipulated the pitch of the Memory Man after the Freeze. The pedal steel part is all from the live take. He was playing pretty chords delayed with some tremolo, as well. I also overdubbed an EBow playing one note at a time to get a whole chord. When we had all those tracks, we started to build the form after the fact.

“Ivory” has an African feel. Was that a nod to King Sunny Ade’s use of pedal steel?

Not intentionally. The very first line you hear on the acoustic guitars had an Ali Farka Touré type sound to me. I think of Afrobeat as blues and a little bit of American funk. That was one of the songs where the pedal steel does mostly ambient, textural stuff with delay. Some things you might think are guitar are actually the pedal steel.

The solo on that tune sounds particularly fat.

That was the OD808 running into the Box of Rock. I do that a lot for those kinds of sounds. I usually keep the gain of the Box of Rock pretty low, and the OD808 settings change. For “Ivory,” the Drive knob on the OD808 was set at around 12 o’clock, and the Drive control on the Box of Rock was at 10 o’clock or so.

How do you juggle all of your various projects for GroundUP?

I try to deal with one at a time. Snarky Puppy was busy for ten weeks, and the guitarists are always coming in and out, so I only did about four weeks of the tour. It’s a little bit of first come/first serve, and a little bit of juggling whatever makes sense for everybody.