Judging by the reception you've been getting from audiences in Europe and
North America, did you think that this was something you should have done
earlier - and not waited 13 years to do?
No. I myself was comfortable that we had a good thing in 1983, but that
it was over. I've been extremely busy doing my own thing, and the same is
true for Paco and John. I thought we made some great music back then, but
we all moved on. I think what we're doing now is good too - we are making
some great music. But as far as regrets, no, I don't have any.
What were the events that brought you back together?
Well, I guess it was Phonogram, the record company that has the three of
us signed. They kind of spearheaded the reunion of the three of us, and it
started actually with John calling me, and asking me to play on his solo
album - the trio piece with Paco.
Was there any arm twisting that had to go on, or was everybody pretty much
There's no arm twisting for any of us, we all wanted to do it. There were
just a lot of differences of opinion on so many different issues, mostly
from a managerial side, and some musical things, too. We have now, after
touring this past summer, found our equilibrium. This summer it was really
hard to find that place of comfort again - for all of us. So there was a lot
of tension, but here we are. We've made it through a recording, too.
This record seems more composed - less improvisational than the other two.
It's probably more improvisational than Passion, Grace & Fire and a lot
less than Friday Night In San Francisco. Friday Night In San Francisco was
at the end of a two-month tour, and it's just quite natural that after
touring that long you would have very extended solos, you know, and short
compositional heads. But I'm not really interested in that kind of thing,
personally. I mean, for a live album, okay. But for a studio album, I need
to have a lot of composition to keep my attention. The improvisation is
there, but I can't listen to a whole record of just blowing. Just bores the
hell out of me. This record is more composed - but also more improvisational.
Passion, Grace & Fire is really kind of like half a record; it was 15
minutes long, the whole record.
I didn't realize it was that short.
That's because of all the notes we play [laughs]. It was a mistake to put
it out that way, but that's what happened. In those days, I guess you could
get away with it - it was vinyl. Fifteen minutes on a CD, you're going to
hell. We have four times that amount on this new record.
There's a gorgeous duet between you and John, the bossa nova jazz standard
"Manha de Carnaval" [also known as "Black Orpheus"]. Whose idea was it to
do that, yours?
It was actually, believe it or not, John. It goes back to when we first
got together in the early '80s and I was totally into doing it, so I said,
"Yeah, cool, great" - that kind of reaction. It made it even more intriguing
for me to do, because when you think of John, you think of five billion
notes per second - not to say that I don't have a reputation for playing in
that dimension. But it intrigued me because the nature of the piece is not
what you think of when you think of John - it was kind of opposite of what
people might expect.
There's some stunning work in that song, and your tone in particular is
Thanks. It's the same live. When we do the song live, people just melt
with this tone.
What guitar are you playing on that cut?
John and I are both on nylon. I'm playing a Conde Hermanos, and John's
playing an Abe Wechter.
Hermanos is the guitar Paco plays too, isn't it?
Yes, we play similar-sounding guitars. These instruments just have
tremendous beauty and sustain to them. I tell you, I have to get the
insurance upped on it. It's really amazing - even Paco was amazed at it, and
I had a cutaway put into it as well.
Didn't that change the sound?
No, though I took a big chance. The instrument's going on 20 years old,
so I think in time it's aged, and the sound has gotten even better. It's
What have you done to your Ovation over the years, or how has that evolved?
It's pretty much off the factory line. There is a trick to getting a
great sound on an Ovation in the studio, but it's a lot easier, mind you,
than getting a good acoustic sound live, because you have the ambiance of
the hall magnifying the largeness of the sound. In the studio, it's a
combination of microphones, and you really need to use the right
Are you also taking a direct signal in the studio?
Not on the nylon, but on the Ovation, absolutely.
What is the mix of mic to pickup, what percentage?
I would say microphone about 60 percent, and direct about 40. The direct
gives you a littie bit more bottom.
An interesting development is to see both you and John on synths for your
solo segments in the concert.
John's using the Axon system, and I was using the Roland GR series, but
now I'm using the Roland VG-8, which of course is not a synth. I've just
started using it now, and I'm going to be Roland's first endorser. The
first one they've ever had in history.
Yeah, I finally am able to capture what I want and I'm really happy about
it, because I love Roland products and I've been using their synth for so
long. And now they're coming out with something that I'm not even allowed
to talk about. It's brand new, and I was at the factory and I was playing
on their only prototype, so I'm going to be introducing some new product
This product that you can't talk about - what is it - modeling, synthesis?
Well, the VG-8 doesn't use any samples, let's just leave it at that. But
I love working with samples, orchestrating parts and working with
percussion, both live and sampled. We recorded the Trio album at Peter
Gabriel's studio, and he had a lot of hand percussion instruments around. I
played these on the record, and it got me thinking more about that. I'll
probably get around to working that aspect into my own work, because I'm
really into all that stuff. There's a lot of different areas I'll be
exploring in the future.