John Squire is renowned for three things: the incredible Hendrix- and funk-laced guitar chops that propelled the Stone Roses’ finest moments; his artwork – and his habit of disappearing from the public eye for long stretches of time.
Now he’s back in the spotlight, alongside Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher for a new collaborative album Gallagher / Squire (due March 1) – and sat down for a rare interview for the new issue Guitarist.
The record – sparked by Squire’s onstage cameo at Gallagher’s gigantic Knebworth, UK show in June 2022 – is full of killer electric and acoustic guitar work, but in his Guitarist conversation, the ’Roses man recalls that a few years ago he thought his playing days might be over.
“I think you can always improve. Until arthritis gets in the way,” comments Squire, when asked if guitarists get better with age.
“A big part of what I consider a plateau that I built on was breaking a bone in my hand a few years ago. I was playing basketball with my younger son, used my right hand to break my fall and broke the bone at the base of my thumb.”
Fortunately, it was Squire’s strumming hand, rather than his fretting side, so he could still hold the chords, yet for a while, he reveals, it didn’t look great for his guitar career.
“The specialist didn’t know if I’d get full function back,” explains Squire. “So I had the cast on, my fingers were set about a centimeter apart and I got a plectrum and glued some thick rubber either side so I could hold it. I tried to play – and it was terrible. And I went spinning into thinking I might not ever play again.”
As you might expect, the situation left Squire facing something of an existential crisis, but his thoughts went beyond just playing. “I also like to paint and spread margarine on toast,” he quips. “But it was sobering...”
Fortunately, Squire has been able to work back from the injury and, as is so often the case with enforced limitations, use it as a springboard for developing his technique. Not that he rests on his laurels.
“I’m driven by failure,” observes Squire. “When I listen to my stuff, I tend to focus on the imperfections. Even with an album like this, where it’s generally very satisfying, I’ll focus in on the things that aren’t quite right. But I do that with painting as well. I do it if someone comes in and puts up new light switches…”
Nonetheless, Squire – whose playing on tracks like I Am The Resurrection is still regarded as the high point of ’90s UK indie guitar – maintains his style has matured and changed, and mostly for the better. Though, he admits, he’s not entirely beyond “that choppy thing”.
“I still do that,” says Squire. “I was in LA and this guy came running up and said, ‘I can’t believe you’re here! I modeled my whole guitar style after you! I bought a Gretsch Country Gentleman and I do that funky thing.’ [So, yeah] I’m still using that trick and probably a lot of others...”
In our book, that's no bad thing...
For Squire’s full interview in which he discusses the Fender Stratocaster that was the key to unlocking the Gallagher / Squire recordings, his chat with Jimmy Page over Les Paul signatures and getting on with Liam Gallagher, pick up issue 508 of Guitarist over at Magazines Direct.