FEATURE > BILL FRISELL
have five different things that I know I have
to deal with when I get to wherever I’m
going. It’s more about just remembering all I
have to bring with me.
Jazz musicians tend to be pretty conservative and true innovation is often met with
resistance. How did you find the courage
to pursue your own voice in what could
sometimes be a hostile climate?
I’ve been real stubborn about trying to do
my own thing, but at the same time I realize
it’s kind of a fragile thing. We’re all trying
to find our own way. Every once in a while
I guess I’d come up against some resistance
or something, but I think I’ve been super
lucky. Right at a crucial moment there’s
always someone there who encourages
me rather than discourages me. I’ve been
discouraged a few times, but more often
somebody will say, “Yeah man, you sound
great.” Playing with somebody like Paul
Motian was a huge thing for me as far as the
confidence in doing my own thing. Really,
it started with my parents, who were cool
about me wanting to play music, or thinking back to when I was playing with Mike
Stern all the time. If these people hadn’t
come along right at a particular moment,
the story could be completely different.
Stern, Pat Metheny, and John Scofield
also attended Berklee College of Music,
and all four of you later became instrumental in moving jazz guitar forward.
Were you all there at the same time?
Mike Stern wasn’t even really in school
anymore, but he was around town when he
wasn’t out with Blood, Sweat and Tears. Pat
was no longer teaching at Berklee when I
got there in the spring of ’ 75, but he was still
living in Cambridge and playing with Gary
Burton along with Mick Goodrick. He did
gigs at little places like Zircon and Poo’s Pub
with Bob Moses and Jaco Pastorius. Scofield
had already left town just before I got there.
I actually didn’t meet him until I moved to
New York in ’ 79 or ’ 80 but everybody was
talking about him. There’s a quartet record
with him and Terumasa Hino, Tony Williams,
and Ron Carter that’s just incredible.
Another way that you’ve carved your own
path is with your equipment. While the
hollowbody is still the de facto jazz guitar, you’ve used an SG and even headless
guitars at one point. Speaking of which,
are you still using the Klein guitar?
100 PREMIER GUITAR JUNE 2012
Guitars: Fender Telecasters,
Fender Stratocasters, Fender
Jaguar, Fender Jazzmaster, J. W.
Black T-style and S-style guitars,
Yanuziello, Rick Kelly T-style
guitar, Collings I35-LC, Nash T-
style, Gibson ES- 125, Collings D1,
Gibson LG- 2, Andersen Concert
Model flattop, Andersen Custom
17 archtop, Andersen Little Archie
Amps: Fender blackface Princ-
eton, Gibson Explorer 1x10, Carr
Sportsman, Jack Anderson
Effects: Line 6 DL4, TC Elec-
tronic Hall of Fame, Ibanez Tube
Screamer, Pro Co Rat, Electro-
Harmonix Freeze, WrightSounds
Fuzz-Stang, Voodoo Lab Pedal
Strings, Picks, and
Accessories: D’Addario .011s
(sometimes .010s), Dunlop me-
dium (green), George L’s cables
No, I haven’t used that for a long time. I sent
it back to get repaired years ago and it went
away from me for quite a long time, so during that time I started getting back to mostly
Fender stuff. I’ve been playing Telecasters
a lot—different versions of it—and most
recently I’ve also been playing Stratocasters.
Mexican- or American-made Fenders?
A bunch of them. I had a Mexican-made
Thinline Tele. I changed all the parts on it
What swaps did you make?
Oh man, I’ve definitely gone off the deep
end. Getting into Telecasters you start
thinking, “What does this pickup sound
like and what does that pickup sound
like?” I have Lollar, Don Mare, Lindy
Fralin, and Seymour Duncan pickups—the
Antiquity model. I also use a Tom [TV]
Jones Filter’Tron pickup in the neck posi-
tion of a Nash Tele-style guitar. What’s
kind of seductive is that it’s all still this
basic Telecaster and I can get comfortable
with the scale, size, and shape of the guitar
to where it feels at home, but from one to
another—putting certain pickups in certain
guitars—there are amazing differences.
Any other guitars?
I also have a few Tele-style guitars that are
put together or modified by J. W. Black.
He also recently made me a Strat-style
guitar that is very similar to my original
’ 63 Strat, which I played a lot, along with
a Yanuziello guitar, on All We Are Saying. I
also have a Rick Kelly Tele-style made out
of pine from a piece of wood taken from
Jim Jarmusch’s old loft on the Bowery. It’s
got Lollar Charlie Christian pickups, and
I used that one on a lot of things—Sign
of Life, The Windmills of Your Mind. I Just
got a Collings I35-LC, which is an incredible guitar.
Your use of effects also opened the floodgates for many jazz-based guitarists. First
off, let’s talk dirt pedals. Are you still
using the Pro Co Rat?
Sometimes I’ll use the Rat. Mostly though,
it’s an Ibanez Tube Screamer, and I also use a
Fuzz-Stang pedal, which is made in Portland.
What are you using now for that characteristic shimmery sound?
I use the Line 6 DL4 a lot. I also have a TC
Electronic Hall of Fame reverb.
Does the Hall of Fame replace your
Lexicon MPX 100 rackmount?
Yeah, it started making noise and stuff.
This little thing is kind of amazing. I’m just
carrying all my stuff around—I don’t have
roadies—so it’s good if it’s small.
Do you still have that Electro-Harmonix
I wish. That’s one of the most amazing pedals. I actually have two of them, but they
Have you tried the reissue that came out
a few years ago?
It’s totally not the same thing. A couple of
months ago I was in a store in New York
City and they had an original one in perfect
condition. I started messing with it again—
I hadn’t used one for a long time—and it
brought back memories like, “Oh man.”
Did you buy it?
No, I just got scared. It was $1,300. So, I
actually have to board the plane now.