After the experience I had playing live last night, I’m not sure I ever want to do it again in any capacity unless (a) I’m the headlining act and therefore have some control over how things sound onstage or (b) it’s at Taloola or in someone’s living room where there’s no PA system or amplification to speak of.
I can’t keep doing this live sideman thing much longer. I feel like a lobotomized caged animal. And the absurd volume everyone seems to think everything has to be in a live setting makes me want to kill things. Giving everyone hearing loss serves no purpose when you can’t even hear a note you’re playing onstage. Maybe I’m alone here, but I actually like my ears. I like being able to hear things.
There’s a lot more to it than that, but I don’t feel much like getting into the specifics. The bottom line is this recent break from avoiding live performance has served to remind me of some of the things that made me decide to stop playing live in the first place. I’m not saying I’ll never play live again…maybe just once every year or three. There’s way too much bullshit involved in doing it on a regular basis, especially when you’re not the person calling the shots.
On a happier note, the next album is coming along now that I finally have some time and energy to devote to it. So far it’s very synth-heavy, but it doesn’t really feel like any of the synth-based things I’ve done in the past. I’m having an interesting time trying to force myself to break away from the vocal multi-tracking I’ve grown accustomed to, and realizing it just feels right to overdub myself on top of myself a lot of the time. I guess we’ll see what it turns into as it gets closer to the finish line. I’m not sure why whenever I play guitar on a synth-heavy song I tend to gravitate toward funk-influenced licks, but it’s fun to play that sort of stuff — especially when it’s on a funky guitar like a Kay Thin Twin.
Here’s a picture of Jimmy Reed playing one.
I thought about trying to recreate that picture with me in Jimmy’s place. I’ve got the dressy clothes and harmonica holder to pull it off. But in the end I decided not to traumatize you with my wholesome smile.
The Thin Twin is an interesting guitar, not quite like any other axe I’ve played. About the only real fun I was able to have last night came out of that thing as it drove my tiny Paul tube amp into overdriven heaven. It has what look like lipstick pickups on the surface, but they’re actually specially designed “blade” pickups that are much hotter and more feedback-resistant. They’ve got some push to them, and there’s some nice variety in tone between the two pickups, but I’m kind of partial to the neck pup. It’s got this round, bluesy tone that makes me think a bit of a much beefier, darker Telecaster. I like it. Both pickups together make for a very different sound — thin but not twangy, and not the least bit like any other guitar/pickup configuration I’ve ever heard. It should be an interesting sound to play around with.
Here’s T Bone Burnett playing one.