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Author: Subject: Derek Trucks Rolling Stones Article - Whole Thing!

Zen Peach





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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 03:24 PM


Derek Trucks can't say exactly how many days he spent last year at his home in Jacksonville, Florida. "Probably thirtyish," says the blond, ponytailed guitarist. "Maybe close to forty, but not much more." Trucks, 27, spent the others onstage, playing with the Allman Brothers Band, his own Derek Trucks Band or, since last May, Eric Clapton's current road group. In fact, Trucks -- the nephew of Allmans drummer Butch Trucks -- has lived in a tour bus almost nonstop since he picked up the guitar at age nine. His Allmans heritage and prodigious slide technique made him a jam-band-circuit star before he was old enough to drive. But the spiritual poise and uncanny vocal fire of Trucks' solos and slide flourishes -- captured on his latest and best album, Songlines -- are rooted in his deep studies of not just blues but jazz and Indian music. An amazing thing about Trucks (who is married to guitarist Susan Tedeschi) is how still he is as he plays: moving only his hands, his eyes often shut in prayerlike concentration. "I looked up to guys like John Coltrane and Duane Allman, who were completely stoic," he explains. "Every ounce of energy and attention was focused on the job at hand."

Do you remember the first time you heard a Duane Allman guitar solo?

He was always around. My parents were always spinning vinyl in the house -- Eat a Peach, Live at the Fillmore East, Layla by Derek and the Dominos. Those were the sounds I grew up to. My dad would put those records on as me and my younger brother fell asleep at night. My dad was at the Fillmore East when he was sixteen, seventeen. He and his friends would skip school and hitchhike from Georgia up to New York. He made sure we knew and felt the music on that level.

How influential was your uncle, Butch Trucks, in your musical education?

In the beginning, not much. But I knew the family connection, and it was enough to make me feel like more than a fan. Once I started touring and we played in the area where my uncle lived, he started sitting in. In 1989, after the Allman Brothers got back together, they were doing a record in south Florida. I was playing there, and the whole band sat in. They were really gracious. They opened the door for me to become part of the whole thing.

What made you start playing slide guitar?

As nonromantic as it sounds, it was the fact that, at nine, playing a steel-string guitar really hurts. Having a slide on my finger -- it didn't hurt my small hands. I used a metal slide at first. Then someone keyed me into the glass slide -- the differences in the sound. I took to that.

As a slide player, you seem less interested in blues licks than in getting something close to the sound and emotion of the human voice.

There were a few windows that opened for me there. In the mid-Nineties, [Gov't Mule bassist] Allen Woody gave me a sacred-steel guitar record by Aubrey Ghent. For the first eight measures of "Amazing Grace," I swore it was a woman singing. Then I heard the noise of the pick, and it blew my mind.

Another thing was sitting in on classes at the Ali Akbar Khan College of Music in San Rafael, California. [Khan, who played sarod with Ravi Shankar, is one of India's greatest classical musicians.] He makes his students take vocal classes first, learning to sing melodies, before he'll begin to teach you to play them. That opened my mind,that you should be singing through your instrument. And the instrumental classes -- he would sing a melody for us to play, then stop the class and go, "You, third row back, tune up your third string." There are thirty musicians there; some are playing the sarod, which has twenty-five strings. And he's pointing to a guy in the third row, telling him to tune up his third string. I was like, "I've got work to do."

How would you describe your guitar tone -- and how do you get it? You don't use any pedals or effects.

I got this Fender Super Reverb amp when I was thirteen or fourteen. It's been perfectly adequate since. I plug in and let go. On a good night, the tone I'm going for is what I hear when Little Walter plays harmonica through an overdriven amplifier or Howlin' Wolf overpowers a microphone. I'm shooting for natural overdrive.

I almost feel like pedals are a cop-out. I hate to say it's always that way. Guys like Hendrix used them as their voice. But I've never had the urge. When we made Songlines, I felt more comfortable overdubbing, a little freer to experiment in the studio, whereas I used to feel I had to cut live in the studio. But I don't think I'll ever have a huge pedal board in front of me onstage. If I do, you can call me out on it [laughs].

When you play with the Allman Brothers now, do you sometimes feel you have to play exactly what Duane did?

It goes back and forth. On tunes he left an indelible stamp on, I have to pay homage in some small way. On "Stand Back" [on Eat a Peach], his guitar solo is so melodic it's almost like a bridge in the tune. I quote at least part of it, then head off from there.

"Whipping Post" and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" are like jazz standards. You play the head, stay true to it. Then at solo time, you do whatever you want. In "Statesboro Blues," some nights it's fun to quote Duane. Other nights, you want to go left. And that's a tune where the audience comes into play. If you completely leave what Duane did, people look at you kind of cross, like you're burning the flag.

You've been on the road since childhood. Have you ever been tempted by drugs and alcohol? That life can derail a kid fast.

My dad was on the road with me early on. I was very shielded from it -- although not in the sense that I didn't know what was going on. There were musicians I knew from a young age -- I could see the path they were on. Then they're not around or not playing anymore. I have experimented and dabbled. But playing and having responsibility from a young age -- I never felt I had the option to lose a day. There was always a gig around the corner.

Ironically, by starting so young, you've played professionally longer than many guitarists in their thirties and forties.

When you start gigging at nine, you get a slight head start. But there is a great Ali Akbar Khan story. He was in his fifties. He had just done a recording session, and his father -- who is in his eighties, taught Ravi Shankar and was the eminent Indian classical guy -- comes in and hammers him: "That was the worst sh*t I've ever heard. Get your sh*t together." When I think of stuff like that, I don't feel like I'm done yet. Not even close.

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 03:25 PM
Thank you kindly, Eric!

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 04:34 PM
"I never felt I had the option to lose a day".-----Great statement.

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 06:54 PM
beautiful thanks,Eric!

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 07:01 PM
On playing Duane's songs

his guitar solo is so melodic it's almost like a bridge in the tune. I quote at least part of it, then head off from there.

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 07:34 PM
What does Derek mean that Duane was completely stoic? Film and pictures I have seen of Duane show him to be an animated player much like Warren. Perhaps he means that he did not leap around like many of the 70's "guitar heroes".

Doug

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 08:25 PM
Thanks for that. Great Interview, I think the issue is available tomorrow (Feb 9) in stores. That'll be the first Rolling Stone I've bought in long time

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 10:52 PM
yes this and Downbeat with Derek and Susan (review of the Berklee Mass show 10-26-2006) is available tomorrow.

 

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