Anylouder Editor-in-Chief Ashiqur Rohman caught up with Guitar Legend Mr Greg Howe on Skype to discuss about music , his life and many other things. Here is the interview with excerpts from the Skype videos as well .
AR : Hi Greg Welcome to Anylouder ? Greg how did it all happen ? What was your reaction when you got signed to SHRAPNEL records ?
GH : Thank you very much . Its great to be with you you .
I was surprised and i was thrilled cause up until that point i had my own rock band with my brother right out of high school and we have been writing and playing and getting a good reputation in our local area sort of based around Pennsylvannia , New Jersey and we were trying to get a record deal and were always submitting demos to record labels and writing songs . Mike Varney had a column in Guitar player magazine called Spotlight and i just send a demo to him really not expecting much and i was really less concerned being recognized as a guitarist and more concerned to being signed as he had a record label. At that time it was cassette tapes and he requested all the demos to be sent to the PO box that he had and i thought to myself that it would be probably hundreds a day if not more and he won’t see mine so what i did was though i send one to the PO box i also sent one through Federal Express knowing that someone had to actually physically sign for it and that plan worked because i sent it directly to the guitar player magazine and someone did hand it to Mike Varney and i got a phone call from Mike saying that he would not only like to feature me in The Spotlight but also sign a record deal with me which was very exciting .
AR : Growing up listening to Jimmy page , Jimi Hendrix , Van Halen and all those guys and then having your own style coming up , how did you dedicate your time learning the basics and the routine that you followed and what advice would you give to budding guitarists that are coming up ?
GH :Great Questions . At first your guide should be to simulate someone and thats what i did and once i was able to play Jimmy Page i thought wow i must be getting great at it and then Van Halen came out and there was another level to it and yes its right you are trying to validate yourself by being able to do what you consider as someone great is doing . But there comes a point when you have to entertain the idea that you can bring something new to the table and it takes courage to do that i think its a compliment when you can do that and so for me it was Jimmy Page and then Van Halen and all the guys that were a part of the L.A scene like George Lynch , Warren DeMartini but even at a young age i became very intrigued by guys from the jazz world like Pat Metheny , John Scofield and really being intrigued by the harmony of it. All these influences got thrown into a bucket and then stirred up and all these influences came into my guitar playing as i don’t like to separate things .
When asked about teaching and how one should approach –
GH: I have never been a teacher who recommends a curriculum. The best curriculum according to me is to follow your highest desires. Lot of students come up to me and ask me as to where to start to which i always say ” You tell me cause you need to tell me what your goals are ” .There is no correct way to do music. You just need a vision . Everyone is not great at everything and so it depends on finding the right thing to start off with. As far as my advice to young musicians , it might sound corny but you got to love your music , be passionate about it and always have the hunger for learning more. You should have fun in doing it. It is not necessary that you learn all what is written , it is not necessary for you to be fast . Creativity has no rules and so the emphasis on an academic level should be on creativity. Follow your passion and let your inspiration guide you.
On asked about his famous “HAMMER ONS FROM NOWHERE” Technique –
GH : (Laughs ) It is funny actually . I have been teaching my whole life and i still teach today . Back in Pennsylvania i was doing a lot of private lessons and i really didn’t pay close attention to notation or tablature and used to make up my own notation. Hammer ons from nowhere is just a note hammered onto a string without being picked and it seemed like a convenient terminology . I didn’t expect it to catch on and no its like a real thing. I just had to make a distinction from the regular hammer on techniques.
On being asked about “MARAGOLD” and working with different mainstream musicians –
GH : Maragold is no longer working but it was a fun thing. I was really excited about Maragold but i will be be blunt and honest that we never got along with each other. You know there are situations and many bands face it when you have a band where everyone is amazing but there is no chemistry and then you have a band where the guys might not be amazing but you gel well and the music is actually better. We didnt gel well when we were in Maragold and that was about it.
AR : You have been a big fan of Eddie Van Halen as you have told . Have you had the chance of sharing stage with him ?
GH :We did a benefit concert for Jason Becker in the 90s and Eddie was playing with Steve Lukather , Billy Sheehan and Pat Torpey and they had a band that headlined and i was one of the acts that opened up and i got to hang out with him later on and he has this quality about him that he is not exactly sure what the big deal about him is.
You have worked with people like Michael Jackson , Christina Aguilera and Lady Antebellum amongst others.How did you adapt to all the different genres.
GH : That is a great question. Well that is the mindset of a studio musician. Essentially i was acting as a live studio musician and you have to understand that your role is to accomodate to the artist’s vision. You are no longer Greg Howe on the stage ( laughs ).
You have toured many places and seen many things. How important do you think is touring for a musician ?
GH: Touring is important . It adds to your artistry and you can learn so much from it. Any new information, experience , thought can only be an inspiration , a new guide . Specially with me hen i am in a certain part of the world and there is a certain kind of music playing it gets into you. I won’t be judgemental but there are people who are just like i like metal , i listen to metal and thats it and in a way thats all right but for me its more than that . There is a lot more to explore and learn to.
Have you listened to any Indian musicians?
GH: Ya there are a lot of radio stations that play Indian music there and i really love the sound and melody of it and how the musicians do it. It is really very beautiful.
Most underrated guitarists according to you .
GH : Brett Garsed is really underrated .He is very underrated . He has brought a lot to the guitar world and there is Chris Caine . He is pretty amazing but there is something special about him.
Tell us about the gears that you use –
GH : Firstly we had the Maragold amp and that amp was premature and never really what i wanted to be honest. Its an okay amp for the price range and it does an ok job but it didn’t have that vintage power section , Class A kind of thing. For most of the albums in the 90s it was the Fender Dual Showman . On the Parallex album i got the best effect of its sound. My stuff changes through times and right at this point we have a new signature Kiesel guitar thats out and its pretty self explanatory and basically a 24 fret version of their classic Bolt. There is something about the Strat that has this amazing quality. It blossoms. Then we have this fantastic amp coming out that i must say is what i always wanted . It certainly nails it . Its the DV Mark amp and it has really blown my mind. Its what i wanted all along . It is an amp that if you like the FrIiedman stuff or the really great modified Marshalls and some of the JTM 50s. I use a lot of different amps but this is the real thing . The truth of the matter is that i want my Rig to be as small a possible , not small in size but i don’t like a lot of stuff. I have an extensive pedal board.. I like the Buddy Guy Dunlop pedal. i still have a Tube Screamer 808 I have the Greg Howe Lick Box by Carl Martin.. It has the Boost , Crunch and High Gain which you can have at the same time or differently.but the foundation comes from the Plexitone distortion which is really great.
About his future projects –
.I am working on a new instrumental album which will be released by the end of this year or beginning of next year. It’s pretty exciting since I haven’t released an instrumental album since 2008. Also, I am headlining the Guitar Fest in both Argentina and Chile as well as going on tour with Stu Hamm in Europe this Oct/Nov.
Message for Indian fans –
GH: It is an enormously great feeling to know that i have touched you with my music and i really aprreciate the fact that you enjoy what i do and i will do it to the best of my ability and hopefully see you all as soon as i possibly can and Thank you so much !!!