Jeffrey Pike interview with
Guitar magazine May 1973
Gallagher: My interest
in the guitar started at the age of six or seven. After a couple of
ukuleles, I eventually got a guitar when I was about nine. I suppose I
was listening to early Elvis, Lonnie Donegan, that sort of thing, and
Gene Autry and Roy Rogers! A friend of a relation of mine had an
acoustic guitar. It just seemed the obvious instrument to me - the
appearance of it and the mobility of it and everything else. I had a
few skiffle tutors and I learned the chords by looking at photographs.
There was no one around to teach me, so I just taught myself. I played
in school concerts and talent shows. About the age of twelve, I got a
what was it? - Rosetti Solid 7; and I graduated through school
groups to a showband, then into Taste.
Where did the blues come into it?
Gallagher: Chuck Berry, I suppose, would
be the main link between rock and roll and blues - well, Lonnie Donegan
used to do a few Leadbelly things, "Bring a little Water Sylvie", and
things that verged on the country blues. So between that and reading
about it, and hearing, you know Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed, the very
obvious people, and then of course the Rolling Stones .. .I eventually
got down to it. I always knew it was there underneath rock and roll,
which was just a very up-beat blues thing.
You still play acoustic guitar a lot?
Gallagher: I always
try to play some acoustic numbers on my records, on radio, whenever I
get the chance. It's usually two or three acoustic numbers on stage,
and the same on record. I have to split
up a set between lead guitar, slide and acoustic. In an American club,
doing two sets, I can play maybe five acoustic numbers, and that's
enough to keep me
satisfied. But I always play acoustic at home, as well as electric.
Jeffrey Pike: Stefan Grossman maintained that finger
picking acoustic guitar is a great American tradition
Gallagher: I don't think you can be as
nationalistic as that. It was a thing that developed in the States and
the people that originally turned you on were probably
American. But I don't think you have to be American to play it. In
fact, you probably bring a bit of European influence into it.
Besides, the guitar came from Europe originally. But I think I know
what he means: the American way of life, and the railroads and the
towns. He was saying you couldn't sing about New Orleans unless you'd
been there. So what?
Jeffrey Pike: How much do you practise?
Gallagher: I don't really practise. I try to
play things I haven't done before. And writing songs helps you
practise. You see, playing more or less by ear, as I do, there are no
real sequences I can practise. But I get up in the morning, have
something to eat, and - to quote Grossman again - there's always a
guitar around the room, I just pick it up and I might do a Rambling
Jack Elliot-type thing for twenty minutes to relax, for no other
reason. Then of course somewhere along the way you'll hit
something and say, oh, I'll do that
again. And you might lead on to something, you might end up with a
Jeffrey Pike: So you always compose with a guitar?
Gallagher: Yes, fifty per cent of my songs
arise directly out of my guitar playing, the other fifty per cent come
as sort of lyrical inspiration, in a taxi or somewhere. Then later the
guitar will come out. But I'm sure that song-writing does help your
playing, it stretches the imagination. If you've got a set of words you
want to put music to, the words might have a strange metre, and you
might have to do a strange lick you mightn't have been called on to do
before. I think that most song-writers have that schizophrenia between
real guitar practise and writing songs, because the borderline is very
vague anyway. There's always that temptation, you know, to pick a nice
lick and work on it.
Jeffrey Pike: Which musicians have influenced your
Gallagher: There are always musicians on my
record player who have an effect on me spiritually, say, as opposed to
a technical thing. Oh, let see, I've such a wide collection. I
try to avoid having just one idol. That way you end up with say, a
B.B.King complex, as most blues players have. They say, Oh, not bad,
but nothing compared to B.B. I like to listen to Buddy Guy, John
Hammond's a nice guitar player. Al Wilson used to be nice with Canned
Heat. I like to listen to Bert Jansch and Martin Carthy - there are so
many good players. I listen to them all.
At one time I was very
influenced, guitar wise, by the jazz alto players, you know. Ornette
Coleman, Eric Dolphy. I always thought that, particularly Ornette
Coleman's ballad playing was ..... blues- whatever the word is. From
the heart, you know. Taste at that time was very jazz-influenced. My
liking for jazz just tapered off to a nice interest, whereas with the
other musicians it remained. Subsequently, I'd be playing a blues thing
and they'd still be experimenting with jazz rhythms, which created a
bit of a tight spot.
Jeffrey Pike: Is that why Taste broke up?
Gallagher: Taste lasted, from the beginning
for four years, with a new bass player and a new drummer in the middle,
two years each. I think two years is a good working life for a band.
Unless it's a very close, school-friend type of band, after two years -
especially working at the rate we used to work - that's enough.
Jeffrey Pike: Lets talk about guitars: you play a
Fender, don't you?
Gallagher: Yes. I got my Strat very early,
when I was about 15. I think that's a good idea. I've had two
Telecasters as well.
Jeffrey Pike: Why have you stuck so faithfully to
Gallagher: I think the Stratocaster has this
connection with the acoustic guitar somehow, not that you imitate the
sound, it's the action. I feel the Gibson is very .... insular - you
have to get in there. And the range between the pick ups is not
as distinctive as on the Fender. With the Fender you hit a note and it
hits the back wall, you know?
Whereas it doesn't have the
volume on stage. The Gibson has that beautiful lush chord and it's got
the very soft action, but I still prefer the Fender. Another thing: the
controls are very near the bridge, so you can change things easily.
Other guitar-makers could copy that idea. I don't know, I'm just used
to it. It seems a more distinct electric guitar. You can get a clear
tone and a buzzy tone, whereas with the Gibson, to get the clear tone
you have to bring the volume right down. Sometimes if I'm doing a
recording session, the Fender won't always do. I might want a sort of
Gretsch tone, so I hire one. The Tele is ideal for slide, because the
bottom pick-up is like a steel guitar pick-up, so you can get that
country-style clarity, the kind of hard tone.
Jeffrey Pike: What amps do you use?
Gallagher: I've always used an AC 30, for
twelve, fifteen years. But right now I'm using a Fender Twin, a 1955
model I got in the States: it's the one Holly and Cochran used to have,
it's really good. It means a slight change from the Vox. I might go
back to the AC30. I still have it on stage. I used to use it with a
Rangemaster treble booster, because the Vox is very bassy; and I used
to get a wild tone, very raw. Whereas the Fender is a little on the
clean side: it makes you work a little harder. It's nicer for the slide
guitar too, it's clearer. The Vox together with the Strat were very
popular in the Hank Marvin era. Then when the Beatles came in, people
thought that you couldn't get anything but that old clear, pure tone.
But of course you could. And the shape of the Strat went right out of
fashion, Then it came back in with Hendrix using it, and now everyone's
playing a Fender. I think Gretschs are going to creep back in too: they
went right out as soon as George Harrison stopped using them.
Jeffrey Pike: What's your favourite acoustic guitar?
Gallagher: I haven't had enough of them to
really have a favourite. I suppose it's got to be the Martin. But then,
I've heard a couple of real old Gibsons. The one Woody Guthrie
used to have, it must have been the J45, a pre-50s model - that was
beautiful. A much more earthy tone than the Martin: the Martin's just a
bit lush sometimes. You know, I wish they would change the brace system
on the Martin again, so that you get that hump, which definitely does
change the tone.
Getting back to electric playing, you sometimes get squealing harmonics
in your solos
Gallagher: Somebody brought it to my notice
that I was doing it. I mean, I knew I was doing it, but it was
just another thing to me. When you're doing a really hard solo, if you
give it a few harmonics, it makes it that bit harder, gives it more
guts, you know? So then it developed so that I could actually do runs
in harmonics. It's expressive, and it gives a nice freaky touch. I
mean, Django used to do harmonics, but they were a very clear, pure
thing, like in classical guitar. But what I do is a kind of abortion,
like I can bend the note at the same time. And I can get either a one
octave harmonic or a real two octave squeal, you know? It's a nice
little trick to use now and again. It's more fun if you can get it like
that than if I pressed a button on the floor.
Jeffrey Pike: Do you ever use tone splitters or
Gallagher: No, though I'm interested in those
things. Hendrix used one on Purple Haze. Saxophone players use them.
It's a reasonable thing for a guitar player to use. But it's more fun
when you start getting octaves naturally. It's more of a challenge to
walk up to an amp and plug in and - bang - you're there. From
the May 1973 issue of GUITAR
The painting was done by Evi Ivan...thanks!!
reformatted by roryfan