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Is Gregory Vaine insane or just eccentric?
By Spider Webb

Gregory 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.


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 play.

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 effects?
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 strings?
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 it too.