What first inspired you to pick up a guitar?
Well, I was the youngest of three kids, and everybody in my family played instruments. My brother and sister both played piano and folk guitar. So when I was 13, I started fooling around with a folk guitar and learned chords. And then my friend had an electric guitar. I turned the amp up to 10 and hit an E chord and… that was it. The beginning of the end!
What was your first guitar?
Oh, it was some Japanese piece of crap. I think it was a Kent.
What was the first song you learned?
I think it was a folk song. The first electric guitar song? I don't know. Probably “Gloria” or something like that. You know, like a three-chord, E-B-A or something.
What do you recall about your first time playing live?
It was at a church camp. I was nervous. But after a while, I got used to it. My brother was in a band with two other guys and I must’ve been about 14, maybe. Back then, it was covers. It took a while for me to start coming up with my own stuff.
Ever had an embarrassing onstage moment or disaster show?
There’s probably been several of them, but I’ve blocked them out of my mind. What really frustrates me is when I’m doing my smoking guitar solo and my smoking guitar doesn’t work. Yeah, it drives me crazy. Years ago, when I was using smoke bombs, I always had a safety—I had a fuse sticking out of the back and I could always light it with a cigarette lighter if the battery pack didn’t work. But the last several years, I’ve been using a smoking guitar with a fog machine built into it. When that doesn’t work, it’s embarrassing because everybody wants to see the guitar smoke.
What’s your proudest moment as a player on your most recent album, Space Invader?
Oh, I’m really thrilled with the way the title track came out. Up until the last two weeks of practicing, that was still an instrumental track. And then I was in my hotel room mixing a different track, trying to figure out what I’m going to do with that song. Then I wrote the verses, and a bridge, and then I waited an evening and I said, “Let’s track these verses and the bridge and see what happens with the chorus.” Once I got the verses down, and I was real happy with the way it turned out, I just started singing that chorus. It just came to me. It happened real quick, real fast, and it’s the biggest surprise on the record for me.
What’s your favorite guitar or piece of gear?
I guess my AFS models and a couple of Les Paul Standards that I have. I have three or four old Standards. I don’t take them on the road, usually. But I use them in the studio a lot.
Do you have any advice for younger players?
Practice, practice and more practice. One thing that’s really important for young players is, if you’re serious about being a professional musician—everybody’s going to tell you forget about it. They all told me I was crazy. If I had listened to them, I don’t know where I would’ve ended up. You gotta follow your dream. If you have talent and perseverance, you’re gonna get somewhere.
Photo: Jimmy Hubbard