SIXTY SECONDS With...
A minute is all it takes to find out what makes a great guitarist tick.
Before he jumped into his limo for the airport, we grabbed a quick chat with
blues-rock phenomenon and top guitar buff, Joe Bonamassa.
GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can’t live without?
JB: Dunlop Hero Gold Jazz 3. I’d rather not play than carry on without them. I’m not Joking.
GT: If you had to give up all your effects pedals but three, what would they be?
JB: Haaa! You ask the most hated man in Pedalandia that? What rock have been hiding under? I use just three: Crybaby Wah, Way Huge Overrated Special and Blue Hippo.
GT: Do you play another musical instrument well enough to do so in a band scenario? And if so, have you ever done it?
JB: I can fool you for 45 seconds into thinking I am a world class mandolin player. Then the façade crumbles and you figure out that I am shit at all things other than guitar.
GT: If a music chart were put in front of you, could you read it?
JB: Yes...I can read the phone number of the person to call who can read it for me.
GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?
JB: Yes, to a certain point. I absolutely love Klotz cables, The most transparent, reliable cable for the money bar none, However, I do not subscribe to the electronic momentum specificity that certain cable companies have figured out how to charge people £1,000 per meter for.
GT: Is there anyone’s playing (either past or present) of which you’re slightly jealous?
JB: Eric Johnson, Eric Clapton and most recently Daniel Donato from Nashville TN. That guy can flat out pick better than I have heard in 20 years on a Fender Stratocaster. Staggering timing and phrasing.
GT: Your house or studio is burning down, which guitar do you do an emergency dash for?
JB: I have a drill that I practice. And I’m not joking. I can haul eight guitars outta Nerdville on my own in a hurry. The list is: The Black Burst, the two 1958 Flying V’s, Principal Skinner and The Howard Reed Strat. The three that fall out of my hands I will go back for. Why? Cause they are seriously worth risking my life for. Duh!
GT: What’s your favorite amp and how do you set it?
JB: High powered tweed Fender Twin Amp. Settings: Bright Vol 10, Treble 9, Mid 8, Bass 2, Pres 7, Basically set for stun and destroy.
GT: What kind of action do you have on your guitars?
JB: Medium To High.
GT: What Strings Do you use?
JB: Ernie Ball strings...Fender guitars 10s aka Slinkys; and 11-52 custom set for Gibson Guitars.
GT: Who was your influence to play the guitar?
JB: My Dad...Then he introduced me to the music of Eric Clapton. The rest is history.
GT: What is the first guitar you ever really lusted after?
JB: The early 50s Fender Esquire at the House of Guitars in Rochester New York, circa 1983. I recently bought the guitar after 35 years of tyre kicking. Thanks Bruce!
GT: What do you think was the best gig you ever did?
JB: Tie...Royal Albert Hall, May 4th2009; and Red Rocks in Morrison Colorado August 2014.
GT: And what would you describe as your worst playing nightmare?
JB: People leaving my show before it’s over.
GT: Do you still practice?
JB: Yes, but I’m encouraged and discouraged by the internet era of stunt guitar playing. On one hand I see these people playing amazing guitar on Instagram and the internet and I think, I can not nor should even try anymore, it’s so good and technically amazing. ‘On the other hand, I never see that kind of playing pulled off in anger with a band on stage. So, it’s discouraging that there aren’t places to play and more that provide a “farm” system to nurture young acts.
GT: Do you have a nightly pre-gig warm-up routine?
JB: If I’m not distracted by stuff, I need to play about 10mons to warm up. If distracted I can do it in five, but it won’t be musical.
GT: If you could put together a fantasy band with you in it, who would the other players be (either dead or alive)?
JB: I play every night with the best musicians in the world. I am blessed in that department for sure.
GT: Present company excepted, who’s the greatest guitarist that’s ever lived?
JB: That really is a bullshit question. There isn’t a best ever. Never will be. There are too many styles and variations of technique to crown a champion.
GT: Is there a solo you really wish you had played?
JB: No, but there are many songs I wished I Wrote.
GT: What’s the solo or song of your own of which you’re most proud?
JB: On the studio record solo, No Good Place For the Lonely; live show song, Self Inflicted Wounds.
GT: What would you most like to be remembered for?
JB: Figuring out how to make an average guitarist with a big chin and questionable singing voice from Utica New York a big deal enough deal to be interviewed in your magazine.
GT: And what are you to at the moment (tours, albums etc.)?
JB: At the time of asking I’m in France playing a private gig with Beth Hart. But we’re playing Glasgow Armadillo, April 22; and London’s Royal Albert Hall, April 24-26. You can get tickets from www.jbonamassa.com/tour-dates. And there’s my Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea, Mediterranean Blues Cruise, featuring Peter Frampton and many more, It departs Barcelona on August 16th and runs until August 21. Tickets: www.bluesaliveatseaeurope.com