“I never differentiated between writing and
playing the guitar or being a musician.”
bassist Rene Camacho. “Smitty brought Rene Camacho to my atten-
tion,” remembers Eubanks, “because we were looking for a new bass
player—one that had maybe a little different touch. We’d never tried an
Afro-Cuban-type thing in the rhythm section, and Smitty said the cat
really loves playing jazz and different types of music. When we first got
together, I said to Rene, ‘Do what you do in the Latin Side All-Stars,
just bring something new to it.’”
Even Eubanks had to adjust to the new rhythm section. “I got lost for
a long time because I’ve never played in a Latin group like that. But it all
came together.” Rounding out the quintet is keyboardist Gerry Etkins,
another musician brought over from The Tonight Show band.
When Eubanks announced his departure, Leno asked him what he’d do
first after leaving. Eubanks replied, “I just want to go somewhere where I
can finish a song.” Not only does his latest album prove that Eubanks can
do more than provide bumper music for commercials, it also shows the
depth of his musicianship and influences.
One of the more laid-back tracks on the album is “Adoration.”
With its rolling, gentle acoustic intro, it wouldn’t sound out of place
on a late-’70s James Taylor album. On the opposite end of the sonic
spectrum, the burning feel of “Los Angeles” will make you think you’ve
walked into a jam session on the Lower East Side of New York City.
Recently, we caught up with Eubanks and talked about life after The
Tonight Show, his preference for acoustic guitar, and how Terry Kath
rocked his world.
Where did you record Zen Food ?
I recorded it at Spirit Studios, a facility I built a few years ago. This is the
first real project we’ve put out, so this is like our first run, though we’ve
been recording stuff here for a while. The only thing is, I don’t like saying
it’s my studio. People always think it’s subpar because it’s not Capitol or
one of the others. It took over a year to build this place. We have a nice
Neve console, and I like to think we did a good job.
Did you record this when you were still on The Tonight Show?
Yeah, it was recorded a while back. I’d been on the road with my group, the
group that recorded this record, all along. I wasn’t just doing The Tonight
Show. I was still going out and doing gigs, just not as much because I was
too busy. This is just what we were bringing. This wasn’t made for a company or for anyone in particular. This is just music we were playing on gigs.
Did you record it yourself, or did you bring in an engineer?
I brought in an engineer. Robert Byles recorded this album, but I like to be
very much a part of the mixing session. We mixed the record together. My
ears are really good, but I don’t have the technical expertise for the recording part. In the mixing, I’m really good at feeling where the energy in the
mix comes together.
The tone. He is very selective in his wood and he likes to build a nice, fat
neck, which is what I like. His overall approach is about the sound of the
guitar before you plug it in. Actually, my favorite instrument is the acoustic