so I would remember to use that effect again.
It was just something I stumbled upon by accident—the way most inventions happen.
We also used a 7-string, a guitar in
Nashville tuning and several 6- and 12-
right hand, which helped with not only my
rhythm technique but my leads, too. I remem-
ber also—though I haven’t thought it about in
years—I used to hang out with this crazy black
dude when I was a kid. I was about 15 and he
was 22 or so. We used to play in the veterans
hospital on Kingsbridge Avenue in the Bronx.
He loved the Stones, and I would go over
there with him and a drummer, and he made
me play the same song over and over for like
half an hour! He’d dance and sing and go crazy
to the point where my hand was falling off. We
weren’t getting paid. We were just trying to
make these guys happy. Since I was the only
guitar player, I couldn’t play a lot of lead, so by
the end of the set my hands hurt. But I have to
thank him for that, because he pushed me and
it just made me a stronger, better guitar player.
I got that idea of layering acoustic guitars from
Pete Townshend. If you listen to early Who
records, even the electric songs sometimes
have acoustics tucked underneath. That’s why
I started experimenting, not only with Teles
and Strats along with my Les Paul, but also
with acoustics. Sometimes you can put one in
a rock song and not have it loud, just underneath. It adds a fullness that you don’t really
hear until you take it away. When you listen to
the song, you think it’s all electrics. Songs like
“Genghis Khan” and some of the others have
that sound layered in there.
You brought Anton Fig—who played
drums on a lot of your early solo work—
back for this album. Does playing with him
help you play better?
“Genghis” also has an alternate tuning,
Yeah, the rhythm-track tuning is just something I came up with one day. I raised the
high E up to F#. It makes a very cool chord
sound, especially in the G position. For the
intro, I just downtuned a bunch of strings and
recorded the intro separately, I don’t even
remember what I did! Maybe Alex wrote it
down when we did it. Will Pang also helped
me do another track on that song one night.
There are so many tracks!
On “It’s a Great Life,” you went in a new
direction with the solo.
I usually come up with solos that lend themselves to the type of song they’re in. This one
went off in left field because I’ve never written
anything quite like that song. The first thing that
came to mind was playing around with an octave
run, kind of like a jazz player. We also used a
small, old Fender amp with a Jensen speaker,
and that made it that much cooler sounding.
One thing I noticed working with you was
the strength of your rhythm playing. How
did you develop such a solid feel?
I was really inspired by Keith Richards, but
even more so by Pete Townshend. I was such
a huge fan when I was a kid, and I used to sit
next to the record player and figure out every
Who song. What amazed me was the way
Townshend did his multiple strums. Playing a
lot of Who music really helped develop my
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