Interview With Adrian Legg
One of the World’s Most Accomplished Acoustic Guitar Players
[MuzikMan] You have been around a long time, but have not received the accolades that you have so justly earned. What are your thoughts and feelings regarding not being as well known as some of your peers? Would you rather have it this way without all the hassles of stardom?
Adrian Legg It would be nice to have a hit - some kind of financial security would take some strain off and perhaps buy me some time to explore, but I do what I do and am privileged and happy to do it and get by.
What I do not have is a wide commercial appeal, and it has changed over the years anyway. I played in small time bands and had a good time. I tech'd in the instrument industry, did some interesting things, learned a lot, made some good friends, wrote and co-wrote a couple of technical books, wrote a stack of articles, and then started writing tunes and playing them on the guitar. I never expected to set the world alight, and I am truly thrilled to bits to have the friendly and supportive audience that I do have.
[MuzikMan] Your new album, Guitar Bones, is excellent, actually all of your albums are. Can you describe what, who, and what people, places, and things may have inspired this latest session?
Adrian Legg The stage work got technically more complicated over the years. I had to be able to deliver volume in sometimes acoustically very difficult circumstances. Along the way, the nice acoustic guitars I had got spoiled by all the mucking about trying to achieve that, and I ended up with a stage guitar that is purely functional, and which combines some of the harmonic elements of "acoustic" type tone with electric flexibility.
Once upon a time, I played acoustic and electric guitars as separate instruments. For the bulk of this album, it was nice to get back to a very simple acoustic and not spoil it with pick-ups, but just put a few mikes in front of it and play. Phil Hilborne was a wonderful enabler as a producer.
As for the tunes, I cannot speak for them; they have to speak for themselves. I tried to give a rough idea in the sleeve notes at the web site, but it seems to me what artists says about their work is only useful to another artist if it's talking about process, and limits a listener's perception if it's about the feelings.
[MuzikMan] Can you go in depth about the new DVD project you created? I know it is only available from your site, so it is an independent project. Do you feel that you could spread your wings out a little further without any contracts or labels sticking their fingers in the mix?
Adrian Legg It is stills and scored music in QuickTime on two CD-ROM discs. They play on a computer. At the time I did them, a DVD burner and DVD production were way too expensive, and the formatting was unclear. Also at the time, I did the music with a very cheap synth - I had no money left whatsoever once I had my good lenses. Since then, I have picked up some slightly better synths second-hand.
The juxtaposition of the fixed and the fluid fascinate me. A photograph encapsulates a moment and holds it for closer perusal and reflection. Music only exists for a moment, but leaves a trail in memory. The two together have something special I cannot yet put a finger on.
I will certainly do more, but it is a very personal indulgence - something for my own peace of mind more than anything else.
It is also very expensive in terms of cameras and computers, and as I get more experience with synths, I find myself heading more towards samples and another huge can-of-worms. In the end, even the samples are unsatisfactory, and I do not see anyone who is about to give me a budget for an orchestra. Therefore, I will potter along scoring music, fiddling with the synths, and going out with a camera when I have time.
[MuzikMan] Have you ever considered doing an electric album with some of your best cuts over the years? Have you even wondered what they would sound like?
Adrian Legg I have no budget for that, and am happy enough doing things this way. Otherwise, I dream of orchestra budgets and wonder what my scores would sound like.
[MuzikMan] Your music is so eclectic, what genre do you feel best describes it?
Adrian Legg Making up tunes and playing them on the guitar. Sorry, I have no idea, so pop/rock/general will do fine.
[MuzikMan] Who are some of the most memorable artists that you have played with since you became professional? Can you site any particular influences while growing up that helped you to decide what direction you wanted to go in?
Adrian Legg It is very hard to narrow things down to individual musicians, but I thoroughly enjoyed touring with Joe Satriani and then later on the first G3 project. Rock guitar has always seemed a lot more fun than the acoustic.
Working with Eric Johnson was a sublime lesson in self-discipline - I tend to be pretty sloppy. I loved what he did for "Lunchtime at Rosie's" (the Fingers & Thumbs version), and seeing how he put it together.
Steve Vai has a wonderful tone and touch, I would love to find a way of getting some of that into a solo thing, but I suspect it is not possible. I think I just like that whole bravura strut :-)
I heard Jeff Beck with the Yardbirds way back in the sixties playing in the Marquee. His tone sticks in my mind still, and was a big influence on a lot of the circuit experiment and design I did in the UK instrument industry. It still is in the sense that there are common harmonic structures between the electric and the acoustic. I have bumped into him a couple of times recently, and he has an ability to produce extraordinarily powerful emotional moments.
I toured with David Lindley last year, and love his anarchic approach - there are some bad things growing in the back of my mind :-)
There are people I have not played with - Dan Crary, for instance, triple-tracked "Devil among the Tailors" brilliantly and that is why I triple-tracked a couple of sections in the first version of "Lunchtime at Rosie's" (Mrs. Crowe's Blue Waltz). I was also elated to read his "acousticer than thou" observations at his website, particularly pointed from someone who is such a significant part of the acoustic tradition.
Another player who floored me is Sonny Landreth - not so much for his technique, which is very well developed, but for his touch, which is truly classy. I first saw him at a sound check on a biggish show we both worked. The first bar stopped me dead in my tracks. That time he used very little vibrato, another show in Winnipeg he used quite a lot - both times the touch was impeccable. Maybe he influences me not to play too much slide :-)
Growing up in the UK, it was Hank Marvin, which may sound cheesy now, but then it was a dynamite sound. He is the reason a lot of us my age started at all - I think Mark Knopfler cites him too. He also made it ok to wear glasses :-)
[MuzikMan] You normally play solo correct?
Adrian Legg Yes.
[MuzikMan] Have you given any thought to teaming up with a similar artist to see what kind of project you could create?
Adrian Legg Not really. There is a kind of punter dream that if you add similar musicians together you get music that is more potent-it is not always true, as frequently you get less emotional bite, especially with soloists.
I would rather team up with someone totally different. One of the most exciting things I ever did was collaborating with a couple of dancers from "Ballet Rambert" during a show that deliberately mixed across disciplines. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with images, have enjoyed the TV bits I've done, and I am happy to look at anything that might fall out of the blue, but I'm not actively seeking anything at the moment.
[MuzikMan] What is on the agenda for the rest of this year and 2003, besides promoting your new album?
Adrian Legg I am not sure I see it as promoting the album. I just like to go out and play. I see the album as an aid to doing more of that.
Otherwise, I have to find a way of sorting out my nails so they will stand up to acoustic strings and still give me a viable attack on the guitar synth. It is not going very well at the moment. www.adrianlegg.com