November/December Answers, Part IV
1/15/2010 (updated 1/15/2010)

You use a finger style technique where you use a flat pick between your thumb and forefinger and then fingerpick with the remaining fingers. What is the advantage of using this technique rather than just using the standard style of  finger picking? Thanks, Gene Ruminski

You can go seamlessly from flatpick to fingerstyle, and even though it’s counter-intuitive, you can up-and-down flatpick while using your other fingers to play other things. This is impossible with any other technique.

I was wondering if there is any chance of a full band version of 1000 Years of Popular Music being recorded. I imagine the song selection would be different. Perhaps you can solicit song suggestions from fans. Thank you for the wonderful music. David Zipkowitz

The full electric band would be less useful before 1950. I suppose the over-the-top version of 1000 Years would have appropriate musicians for each period – Early Music specialists for everything before 1700, folkies, jazzers, chamber orchestra etc. Could be expensive.

How do you decide when a new song is truly finished – that is, you feel confident enough about the lyric to perform it? Do you tend to do many rewrites or do you find at this stage of your career you hit the mark more quickly?

I suppose when it seems like the best you can do. I get it wrong sometimes…Some songs just come out finished, others take a million rewrites. Yes, I think you can get better with age, but ruts must be avoided.

As an amateur singer/songwriter I find that nervousness affects my playing, especially on complex fingerstyle tunes, with the occasional errantly plucked note, missed chord change, forgotten lyric or general vocal tightness. How do you manage pre-performance jitters (especially given that you’re a shy guy)? How do you get “in the zone” before a show?  Does your warm-up vary between band and solo gigs?

I could never be a classical performer. I assume that there will be imperfections, and that that is the nature of the style of pop/jazz/improvised music. And that gives it its charm, or so I tell myself. So I can relax. Classical performers also make mistakes, but they make teeny weeny mistakes, that we might not notice, but it drives them crazy, ha ha. Artur Rubenstein made the odd fluff, but I’d go with him over the rest for his interpretation. I warm up on acoustic for solo shows and electric for band shows, but really the same amount.

You’ve mentioned in this space how much you liked the Kinks, The Who and Hendrix in their early days playing around London. But what was your impression of the Beatles BEFORE the Brit invasion began in February 1964?  Were they just another band from Liverpool? Or did you sense the Beatles were something special? Among you and your fellow musos, what was the general feeling about/reaction to the British invasion on YOUR side of the pond?

At the time, the Beatles were a pop group from the North, and a lot of kids in London preferred the Stones, as being a bit funkier and home-grown, or even Tottenham’s own Dave Clark Five (dread thought!). I saw the Stones quite early on, and they were very bad. Cyril Davies was the best R&B band at the time. By about 1966, it was clear that the Beatles were way more than a pop group. I enjoyed all the Liverpool bands, and saw quite a lot of them as they toured the South. Because we were too young to go to clubs, the package tours were a great way to see a lot of bands in a short space of time. I must have seen 4 or 5 of them between 1964 and 1967. I’m confused at this point as to who played on which show, but performers I remember being very good include Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, The Animals, Nashville Teens, Moody Blues (with Denny Laine), Beatles, Hollies.

What kind of guitar did your father play? What was your first guitar? What was your first “serious” guitar? Do you keep in touch with any of your former band mates from Emil & the Detectives?

My Dad had an f hole arch top up in the attic – I only saw it once at our old house in Ladbroke Crescent, so I was 5 at the most. To my young ears, it sounded fabulous, but it was probably something like a Hofner. When we moved that year, 1955, it was sold, I think. Serious guitar? How serious? My Hofner V3 was serious at the time, and so was my Gibson 175D.

I’m recently back in touch with Hugh Cornwell, my old schoolmate – we played in a school band from about –64 – 66. The name changed every week.

What does your home studio set-up consist of? (One would imagine that you have a state-of-the-art system with Pro-Tools or something similar plus tech assistance from Simon.)  As a self-proclaimed “techno-neutral” do you enjoy recording at home? Did you find the learning curve on the Mac to be steep? Douglas Alan Feinstein

My system is minimal, and my space is tiny – basically 8 x 8, but I can use the guest house if I need to spread out. I use Digital Performer, a bit more user-friendly than ProTools. I have a nice Peluso P12 copy of a C12, a couple of Russian large diaphragm condensers, and a pair of Neumann 184s for guitar/mandolin. I have a Universal Audio mike pre/limiter, and a few other bits and pieces. If I was going to mix at home I’d have more outboard gear.