It’s usually quite lean in its structure. It’s taken
me a while to get to that place myself. But
the results show up on the Black Dub record
quite nicely. A lot of the most beautiful productions I’ve been involved with were empty
landscapes. I love U2’s “With or Without You”
because the rhythm section occupies the
bottom, but there’s nothing in the midrange,
save for the vocal, because The Edge’s guitar
is in the stratosphere. When you hit on a successful but really spare blend like that, it lives
on like a beacon forever to remind you how
good lean and mean is.
Your pedal-steel playing is so lyrical and
immediate. Do you feel it offers a purer
expression of yourself—or a certain side of
yourself—than other instruments?
There are two aspects of the pedal steel
that keep me really interested in it—melody
and the fact that I get better results the
less busy I play. Those things pushed me
in a certain direction that’s very unlike the
high-speed Western swing pedal steel play-
ers. I love that sound, but I don’t do it at all.
I chose to slow the thing down and really
let it breathe—which makes it a whole new
instrument, sonically and compositionally.
Sometimes I think about steel guitar like a
string quartet—at any given time you can have
four notes interplaying. It’s still mystifying
to me. But you can’t put it down for too