Interview with Guitar Player Gary Hoey – June 2016
The Entertainment Outlet: Your last album was a blues album, and this is sort of a rock and blues album. After so many years of doing surf rock, what was the inspiration to bring the blues more into your sound on these albums.
Gary Hoey: Well you know, I think it’s like an evolution. As a musician you go through all these phases of playing music, and then you sort of come back to the roots. I’ve done holiday music, christmas music, surf music, my first hit “Hocus Pocus” was kind of an instrumental metal-rock song… I’ve always had the blues as the underlying feel for my playing, and I started out playing the blues, and after I produced Lita Ford’s last album, called Living Like a Runaway, it was a really kind of intense album, you know lots of layers and tracks. After that, I said man, I just want to do a fun blues record just for fun, and I recorded Deja Blues. It just made me realize that was going to be my new path, was focusing on the blues-rock thing, because it’s really what I like to do. You know, I’m in my 50’s now, man, it’s like, it fits.
TEO: I mean the sound works, there’s a bunch of cool tracks. You mentioned Lita Ford, and she makes an appearance on “Coming Home.” Like you said, you produced her last album, it seems like you’ve done a lot with her over the last few years. How did that relationship all come about?
GH: Well you know, her and I, we kind of ran into each other a few times over the years, here and there. Then we did a Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp and ran into each other again, and she happened to just say she was looking to work with some other people, producing and writing, and I said I have a studio in New Hampshire, you should come up to my studio and check it out sometime. And she did, she came up and we just started working and we had a chemistry right away, musically we kind of had a real click, and I co-wrote some songs with her. When this album came about, she was playing with Halestorm up at the casino and I showed up with a laptop and a mic, and I said “Lita, you gotta sing this song with me!”
TEO: Now the song “Steamroller” is a tribute to Johnny Winter. Tell me about the impact that he had on you.
GH: I always loved Johnny Winter’s playing, back even when he first came out in the 70’s, because he had this sort of attack and this fire in his playing. He played really fast blues, with a lot of technique, and I didn’t really know he was using these thumb picks, and it kind of adds a little bit to what he does. I only found out later that he did that, but his slide playing was also a big influence on me. I was at a guitar show, and I bought this Dobro steel-string guitar, called a Highway 61, and it’s kind of a little smaller body, it has a cutaway, and it was a Johnny Winter kind of prototype guitar the guy had made. Then I got to play with Johnny in his band, we did some shows together, I got to meet him a few times, and became very good friends with his band. Before he passed away, we were talking backstage one day and he said “Gary… The sound, keep it alive for the next kids, the next generation.” So I started playing more open tuning slide, and I practiced a lot, you know at first it sounded like the Dobro had been drinking, but I started getting it down. So that song was my tribute to Johnny Winter because it’s a really fast tempo song, and he was like a steam roller in the way that he plays guitar. His brother Edgar Winter, who I know, I saw him after Johnny Passed, he said “Johnny Winter made it cool to be an albino,” and I was like “Wow, that’s great!” *laughs*
TEO: You mentioned the Dobro, you’ve always been so associated with Strats. How much on this album, did you use the Dobro besides that song? Did you do much besides Strats with this album?
GH: I mixed it together, you know I’m still going to always play my Strats, but the Dobro I wanted to incorporate. That’s why I opened up the album with “Boxcar Blues,” because it starts off with the real thin, kind of Dobro sound, kind of old school delta blues, and then it kicks into the band and it gets really heavy, it sounds like Led Zeppelin. I wanted to kind of forge that rock and the blues sound, and so i mixed the Dobro in a few songs throughout the album. It’s definitely a part of the sound, and I also had some Stratocasters that have hum bucking pickups, because I do like the sound of humbuckers, so a couple of my main Strats have humbuckers, which is not typical, but it’s a sound that I like, and I use a five-way switch to change the tones.
TEO: Is the Dobro going to make its way into the live show or do you think you’ll stick with Strats on stage?
GH: Well, I’ve been traveling with it, the last year I’ve been playing shows, I’ve been taking the Dobro out with me and using it up on stage, and it’s really fun because I plug it into a half-stack, put distortion on it, and it starts howling sometimes, but it’s really a big sound. It’s hard to control sometimes, because it is an acoustic guitar, you know, it’s got holes in it, but it will be part of the live show.
TEO: Anything you’re looking forward to while hitting the road this summer?
GH: We’ve been playing a few shows on the Boston tour, it’s their 40th anniversary tour, we played a show with them in St. Charles Missouri, we’re playing with them in Seattle in July, and those are cool shows for me. I grew up listening to Boston, and being a guy from the Boston area, those shows are exciting. Then the “Dust and Bones” album coming out, we have some shows over the summer and into the fall, and I’m just excited to get out and play new music. You know how it is when you have new music to play, you get excited, but you can’t play the whole album because nobody knows the songs yet. So we’ll sneak a few in, still play the old hits, and the old songs that people still want to hear, you can’t just do everything new… Until they get to know the record, and then we can do a little more.
TEO: Any good Spinal Tap-esque stories that have happened to you on the road?
GH: Probably most of the movie is my life. I mean, I remember going on the road when we were first starting out, we showed up at this club, and it was like down on the cape or something, and we had to play like three sets. We show up and we find out it’s a club that’s playing like dance music, and we’re like a power trio playing hard rock. The owners were kind of like these Italian Mafia-type dudes, and we had all our gear setup, started doing sound check and the came in like “Wait a minute! You guys need to play dance music!” and we’re like “No, we’re the wrong band” and we wanted to leave, and they wouldn’t let us leave. They’re like “no you need to play!” So we went to a local store, and bought a book of dance songs, and learned like six songs and just played them all night long and then started over and played the first one over because we thought we were going to get killed. We saw guns in their pockets, we knew they had guns so we were like we better just play. *laughs* And at the end of the night they paid us and they loved us and they’re like “We’ll see you guys again!” We’re like “Sure,” we drove out of there so fast, we literally thought we were going to get killed. Haven’t played there since! *Laughs*
Dust and Bones will be released on July 29. Watch for our review of the album next week!