Is Gregory Vaine
insane or just eccentric?
By Spider Webb
regory Vaine has been lurking
around the scene for years, making music which people
who get to hear it love, but never quite making it to
the big time. With his new release, The Many Sides
of Gregory Vaine, he's set to break out and fulfill
the promise of his early career. The album contains
several of his trademark face melting guitar solos,
along with a new side of his playing never unleashed
on the public before. This consists of nylon string
guitar playing, delicately picked struming, simple fingerpicking,
and sweetly toned single note lead runs. Now that the
record is out it's time to wonder if the public is ready
for this mix of the energetic rock with the mellow earth
tones of the gut string.
We sat down with Vaine in Los Angeles to talk about
gear, practicing, songwriting, and recording. His usual
goofy persona poked it's head through quite often, but
luckily we were able to get some rare face time with
his producer Lucky Player who was able to clear up some
of the details. Between the two of them, we got a pretty
good idea of what went into making Vaine's fourth album.
| WHAT THE PRODUCER KNOWS.
Gregory Vaine loves to make stuff
up about the mysteries of creation,
so thank goodness procuder Lucky Player
is a tad more honest. Here are a few
tiny revelations about what goes on
inside a Gregory Vaine session.
This record was recorded on a Fostex
DMT-8VL digital 8-track hard disk
recorder. The thing is practically
an antique now, about 6 years old,
with no on board effects and only
rudimentary cut and paste capabilities.
But it is un-compressed audio and
sounds good. We used it for Vaine's
last record, The Ballad of Bobby Mcstone,
so we decided to go with what we knew.
We also used an Art tube MP preamp
and a small Beringer mixer as a pre-amp.
I have an Octava diaphragm mic that
sounds pretty good, and for guitar
we used a 57. Also for drums we used
a pair of pzm mics in the room, panned
hard left and right. They really pick
up the cymbals and the room sound.
For the Taylor nylon string, we mixed
the pickup signal with the Octava
mic about a foot out and were able
to come up with a real full sound.
Are you still using your Tele?
There are two teles on this record: Whitey, my white
Mexican made Nashiville three pickup model, and the
guitar of love, my sunburst American Standard Tele.
I modified the American standard by putting in an ashtray
bridge, which is the kind I learn to play on and which
I incorporate into my technique. All my guitars have
a treble bleed capacitor put in them. I find this very
important if you're going to really use your volume
knob. For bass I used a 60's Fender Mustang Bass which
belongs to a friend of mine. It's got that great funky
vintage sound, and the short scale makes it easy to
And what about for acoustic guitar?
Before my son was born, a week before, I bought a Taylor
NS32-CE nylon string. It is my first really nice acoustic
guitar, and I love it. I played it every day for my
son, before he got big enough to attack it, and that's
where a lot of the ideas on this album came from.
What about amps and
I have a Fender Dual Showman 70's 100 watt model which
is incredibly awesome, through a 2x12 closed cabinet.
I use a tube screamer most of the time, and sometimes
an old Ibanez Fat Cat Distortion pedal for lead boost.
I have a digital delay that I use on stage, but I don't
think it's on the record.And I think there is a little
bit of the Mini Marshall amp on the solo at the end
of Race Day in the Garden.
Any preference for
I used standard .10's.
Did you start the sessions for
The Many Sides of with any specific goals?
I really wanted to make a tight album, something with
no filler. I actually recorded 16 songs for it, finished
15, and there's only 12 on the record. If you know me,
you know that that's a big step, leaving something out.
I usually put it all in there. So I wanted the album
to hold together, and I sort of had a theme but I didn't
want it to be a strict concept album. A lot of the songs
are about looking back at life, inspired I think by
the milestone and turning point of becoming a father.
But then there are a few in there from left field, like
G and T. I based the sound of the album on Harvest
by Neil Young, with the mix of soft acoustic numbers
and more rocking fare. The thematic approach I based
on Village Green Preservation Society by The
Kinks. It is alsom an album about remembrance, but not
all of the songs fit the theme. Like Phenomenal Cat,
on of my favourites!
Do you care about crafting tones at all,
or do you just follow your instincts?
Well, I knew the gut string guitar sound was going to
be important, so I listened to a lot of Willie Nelson
and Melanie to get a handle on what it could sound like.
Then we sprinkled some mojo juice on the microphones
and it came out sounding real good. As far as the rockers,
I like a real live sound. We just threw up a bunch of
mics and went for it. Luckily Steve Coulter is an amazing
drummer and we've played together since high school,
so we have many of the same instincts. He'd hear real
rough demos, but the first time he played those songs
was the day we recorded them. For the electric guitar,
it's pretty straightforward, either clean or tube screamer
or tube screamer plus fat cat for solos. The one idea
I used this time is to keep the low end down on the
guitar signals, let them be trebly. It leaves room for
the bass and makes everything less muddy.
Guitar-wise, what is the thing you're most
proud of on The Many Sides of?
Um, most of the last song, Dreams Chasing You, is a
solo. It was a challange to build a three minute solo,
to not peak too quickly. I'm real happy with how it
came out, and people that know my stuff have commented
on that. This album also contains two finger picked
songs, something I've never tried before. They're real
simple, but I'm glad I was able to pull them off without
cutting and pasting anything. I'm real happy with the
acoustic sound in general.
Since this was largely a solo effort, how
do you get perspective on it?
Yes, that's a big challange. Since I knew what I wanted
going in to it, I just worked on things until they got
there and I thought I couldn't improve them. But it's
hard, you're so close to it. That's also why I didn't
care to be there when it was mastered. I figured a fresh
set of ears for it was the best I could do. Like all
records, now that it's too late I can think of things
I'd like to go back and change. Little things that most
people wouldn't notice. But I think that letting go
and calling something done is an important part of the
artistic process. Playing live you don' t have that
problem, becuase the moment is there and gone, but I've
seen people get trapped when recording. In making paintings
there is a similar struggle.
You're obviously a very pure creator, but
you're also signed to a indie label and are expected
to sell albums. How does that commercial pressure affect
your approach to music making?
Well, I do want people to like my music, I'm not out
to be avant garde or anything. But that said, I do write
very personal songs, which I sometimes wonder if people
will be put off by. But I figure that I like that kind
of writing, so there must be others out there who like