AN INTERVIEW WITH REEVES GABRELS
Conducted on 07.07.09
by Jason Davis, REEVZ.NET
Jason Davis: One of the last major updates from you on Reevz.net was when you were about to leave California and move to Nashville. How’s “Nashvegas” treating you?
Reeves Gabrels: Nashville is a cool place to live as long as i remember. No place is the right place all the time.
JD: From a musician’s perspective, how does the scene in Nashville differ from being in LA?
RG: It is a waaay more musician friendly town than LA. It's a town built on the industry of music and so musicians are not seen as a societal negative but, in fact, a plus. But, it's also more close minded. Nashville is more of a craft town, not really an art town. not a town that values innovation. That's why the industry system in nashville is 10 to 20 years behind the reality of the times. They have their own reality: cookie cutter songwriters writing material for manufactured label puppets. It's about music as a means to fame and money, not honesty or the need to make art. And that makes it not so different from hollywood.
JD: Your current band includes Jeff Brown (drums) and Kevin Hornback (bass). What do you think they contribute to your music as opposed to those you have played with in the past?
RG: I wouldn't use the word opposed. I have been really lucky over time to play with musicians who understand what the music I've written is about. One of the things I look for in fellow players for my music is personality, style, and intelligence. Jeffie and Kelvis have it in spades. This is the most "band like" collection of characters ... the Imaginary Friends.
JD: Live…Late…Loud… included a second guitarist, but most of your band’s performances are a power trio (guitar, bass, drums). Do you have a preference?
RG: In live situations the trio is lighter on it's feet and much more flexible, but it also requires that the listener fill in some blanks and be willing to let go of preconceptions that the studio versions of the songs may have put in their heads. On LLL Greg McMullen played mostly baritone, slide or pedal steel. It was an experiment in color that worked out pretty well. Not long after that album was recorded, Gerry Duran replaced the 2nd guitar role with keyboards (mostly b3). Gerry is also an amazing singer and, if I were the master of space and time, he would always be in my band. Basically, if I can't have Reverend Gerry Duran in the band, I'll go as a trio.
JD: Many of your shows in Nashville have been at the Family Wash? It seems as though it has become somewhat of a “playground” for you guys.
RG: Yeah. there are all sorts of variations that happen at the wash. Plus , i play with The Magnificent Others" almost every Tuesday there. It's a band built around Jamie Rubin who i was in the band Modern Farmer with. That band had an album out on Victory/Polygram. I did that between Tin Machine, touring with Paul Rodgers and recording the Bowie "Outside" album.
JD: Let’s talk about the upcoming tour. Dates announced so far are along the East Coast. What can people expect at each performance, and what are you looking forward to?
RG: Up the east coast and down thru Western PA and Ohio. I expect it will be different every night. and I'm looking to bringing it to the peoples. with another run of dates in the fall. I'm also doing live shows in August and September with CLUB d'ELF, with the brooklyn based band JEEBUS and with Jed Davis. and, as always, I'm simply looking forward to playing.
JD: I would think that putting on a tour of your own as an independent artist (if I can call you that) would be much different than touring with, let’s say, Bowie or Paul Rodgers.
RG: It's closer to my Mr. Rodgers experience but even more to the bone. Bars and small clubs. Loud music. It's 3 guys in a van, no pretense, no facade... just t shirts and cargo pants. The only way to roll in the '09.
JD: So, why now? What are you hoping to get out of touring at this point?
RG: why? 'cause I finally found a booking agent who gets what we do. And because, as comfy as it is, we need to get the fuck out of Nashville.
JD: Since Rockonica’s release in 2005, you’ve done a number of collaborations with Stefan “Big Swede” Svensson including the Protecto, Razor Ball, and X-World/5 releases. How did the two of you meet?
RG: We met thru Rod Jackson (ex-Slash's Snakepit singer) at the beginning of the Razor Ball album.
JD: Protecto, Razor Ball, and X-World/5 are all quite different from each other. I think that really shows both your and Swede’s versatility as musicians.
RG: Razor Ball was a funky blues rock-kinda thing which had other personalities involved and so, other opinions and differing expectations. I came late to that project . X-World/5 had the manifesto of "Swedish metal" so there were specific parameters we tried to stay within musically, and, even though Swede and I co-wrote all the material and Swede assembled all the tracks, half of the album was mixed by Andy from King Diamond. With both of those albums, Swede and I just tried to stick to the manifesto that we all agreed to at the start of each project (even when other parties involved didn't). Every style is defined by what you don't do... so I always have a genre based list of "no" when I do things like that. That keeps me between the ditches. I think Protecto is the best example of what Swede and I get up to on our own without anyone looking over our shoulders... we'll be getting around to Protecto 2 before long.
JD: “Coyote” from the Protecto release is probably one of my favorite tracks on Sonicnauts. Was that one take?
RG: yes. I had recorded an ambient loop track at the end of a session at Big Swede's one night for no particular reason. About a week later, I stopped by Stefan's studio to show him a cheap Epiphone Studio Dot semi-hollow electric I had just bought. I plugged it into a Peavey 5150 head that was in the control room (which was wired up to a 4x12 in the live room). He said I should listen to the ambient loop track from the previous week 'cause he thought it was cool. He started to play it over the studio monitors. I just started playing against it. Seven minutes later I said to Swede "Maybe we can do something with that". He said, "You just did". Later, I added some elctric piano to give it some additional harmonic shape. It was done during a sad and dark time for me. I think that comes through. Looking back, I think it's is one of the best things I've done.
JD: So what happened to the Engine Room project? Will it ever see the light of day?
RG: The Engine Room project stalled out in 2004 after shooting a 10-song live DVD. The audio was mixed by Tim Palmer, and the film is complete and edited except for the end titles. The stumbling block seems to be one of the other band members (who is in possession of the masters) refuses to give it up for release. I don't know why. I think it may be time to post the studio demos we did (and I just recovered) as a free download.
JD: Are there any other recording projects in the works, and (the big question) is there a solo RG album coming in the near future?
RG: What do you think?
JD: HA! With so much music being downloaded and CD sales dwindling (at least on the major label side), are you looking to make it follow your initial concept for Ulysses (Della Notte) and make it a download-only release or will you be doing a CD release as well? Are CDs still viable?
RG: I think availability in all forms is the only smart approach, especially 8-track and cassette.
JD: Absolutely! So then what’s wrong with the music industry these days?
RG: Greed and Closed mindedness. Same as it ever was.
JD: Which do you prefer: to reside as a musician in the independent realm or swim with the sharks as a major label artist?
RG: An independent who swims with sharks.
JD: That works! If you recall, I had the chance to catch your show on June 19, 2008, at the Family Wash. I noticed that you were using a lot of different equipment. I know you change things up a lot, but what (or who) have you been working with recently?
RG: Source Audio Multiwave Distortion, Ernie Ball wah, Hughes & Kettner Tube Factor, Digitch Time Bender, MXR Phase 90, Line 6 DD4, and an ancient Digitech Space Station (the last 3 effects were modified by Joel Turza at Rockblock Guitars in Nashville). For amps, Koch Twintone, Boogie Recto 2x12, Peavey Classic 30, and a modded Bogner Uberschall depending on the gig.
JD: I’ve heard rumors of a Reeves Gabrels Signature Model. Any truth in that?
RG: There was a Fernandes RG signature model in 2002. I am now working with Reverend Guitar on a signature model which will be announced at the Summer NAMM Show.
JD: I know one of the reasons why you used Parker Guitars in the past is that they had “no sonic history” which made the creation of new concepts much easier instead of going for sounds that have been associated with other guitars in the past. How has that changed with your new guitars of choice?
RG: I just follow my ears for sound and my eye for shape. I think I made the point a long time ago that I'm not interested in copying what other people have done.
JD: How has your playing or concept of improvisation evolved over time?
RG: There used to be a joke that when rock musicians get together they talk about gear and when jazz musicians get together they talk about harmony. It seems I have definitely switched camps.
JD: Adrian Belew has said on a number of occasions that new technology is what typically inspires him to create new songs and ways of playing. Is that how you work as well, or would you say the inclusion of new technology is usually added after the fact?
RG: I never know. Songs show up when they show up in whatever manner they show up. I just hope I'm ready to recieve when they get transmitted. When they get here they usually tell me what they would like to wear. And I have a closet full of new outfits they can try on. So it is an organic process even if it is random.
JD: Still living in Reeves Standard Time?
RG: i don't know. i don't wear a watch.
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