Inquirer: Seven Questions with Eric Johnson

GUITAR WORLD: What inspired you to start playing the guitar?

ERIC JOHNSON: It was Nokie Edwards of the Ventures. He was one of the first guys I ever heard play guitar, and I really enjoyed the sound. And when I was a kid it was something new and different to try. Then I got into guys like Clapton and Hendrix, who had these amazing sounds, which further inspired me to play.

Do you remember your first guitar?

It was a white Fender Musicmaster that my mom and dad bought for me when I was 11. There was a student model in a local music store that I had seen, so I talked my parents into getting it.

What was the first song you learned to play?

It was “Your Cheatin’ Heart” by Hank Williams. A friend taught me how to play it. From there, I moved onto listening to the Ventures’ records and trying to pick out the songs by ear, listening to them over and over until I could play them.

Do you remember your first gig?

It was at a club in Austin called the Eleventh Door. I was 13 and playing in a Top-40 band that did parties and little club gigs. We were called the Sounds of Life. Our set consisted of everything from Wilson Pickett to Steppenwolf. It was a great first gig, and I had so much fun doing it for the next couple of years. When I got to around 15, I thought, Wow, I want to do this for a living!

Ever had an embarrassing onstage moment?

Oh yeah. Once, I was playing in Corpus Christi, Texas, and there was a hole in the stage that was there for when the venue presented theatrical plays. They used to cover the hole when they didn’t need it. I was performing onstage and happened to break through the cover and into the hole. It wasn’t a really deep hole, but it was big enough for me to fall into. Luckily enough, it didn’t break my guitar, but it broke the cord off it, so we had to stop so I could crawl out of the hole and get another guitar cord.

What is your favorite piece of gear?

My Dumble amplifier, because Dumbles have a one-of-a-kind sound. There really is nothing else like them, and I have never heard any other amps do what they do.

Got any advice for young players?

It’s important to find two or three players that you like and really try to emulate their style. Doing that helps you learn all the ins and outs of what makes them play the way they do, and it gives you a guideline by which to really hone your craft. Listen to their tone, the way they pick or fret the instrument and how they go about their approach. Once you hit that point, take all the bits and pieces you’ve gleaned from those players and start creating your own thing.

Photo: Jimmy Fontaine

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Joe Matera

Joe Matera is an Australian guitarist and music journalist who has spent the past two decades interviewing a who's who of the rock and metal world and written for magazines such as Guitar World, Total Guitar, Rolling Stone, Goldmine, Sound On Sound, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and many others. He is also a recording and performing musician and solo artist who has toured Europe on a regular basis and released several well-received albums including instrumental guitar rock outings through various European based record labels. Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera has called him, "... a great guitarist, who knows what an electric guitar should sound like and plays a fluid pleasing style of rock".