Q&A with Vinnie Moore
Sheila Rene': Hello, Vinnie. It's nice to talk to you.
Vinnie Moore: You played some James Brown in the studio to get you going?
SR: Didn't Mike Varney of Schrapnel Records really discover you, put you in his columns in Guitar Player Magazine and record you?
VM: Yeah, he did. I did my first record, Mind's Eye, for his label. He had a monthly column where he featured new players.
SR: I understand you're heading for Europe today.
VM: I have a flight at 7:30 PM.
SR: Are these concerts or guitar clinics?
VM: Actually I'm holding some guitar clinics and I'm teaching at a guitar school for a couple of days.
SR: I'd think that performing your music is near and dear to you, but teaching young guitarist might be a bigger high.
VM: Yeah, it's pretty cool when you get people who are interested enough in what you're doing to the point that they want to learn what you do. It's definitely cool.
SR: You started playing when you were 12 years old. What was your first guitar?
VM: Some little cheapo from J.C. Penny. It was called a Kay and I got it for Christmas one year. My mom bought it for me.
SR: Moms know about those things don't they?
VM: They always get you what you want.
SR: Who were you listening to at the age of 12?
VM: Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Queen were my favorites at that time. They were all guitar-oriented bands and that had a big influence on my wanting to play guitar.
SR: How many guitars do you have now?
VM: Wow, somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 or 20 I guess. That's not a lot. I always remember hearing the stories about how Steve Howe had 120 guitars. You've have to buy a bigger house just for your guitars.
SR: Do guitars need to be stored in a humetic fashion?
VM: you have to be a little cautious. It gets really humid here in the summer and that's bad for wood. You just want to try and store them in a place that's not damp.
SR: Your favorite guitar of all time?
VM: Right now the Music Man Silhouette Special is my favorite. It's the best neck I've ever played. I like the feel of the body and the sound is great.
SR: Where are you headquartered these days?
VM: I'm on the East Coast a little south of Philadelphia in Deleware. Where's the 512 area code?
SR: It's Austin, Texas.
VM: Cool. That's a great town for music.
SR: I made it to San Francisco just a few months before Bill Graham had his first concert that benefited the S. F. Mime Troup.
VM: I read that Bill Graham book and it was so interesting to read about that whole time period.
SR: What's the story on your co-producer Paul Hammington?
VM: He's more of an engineer, a sound type of guy. He's worked with Living Colour and a lot more that I can't remember.
SR: What kind of home studio do you have?
VM: It's a fairly simple setup. It's eight tracks analog along with some drum machines and a lot of outdoor gear. It's good enough to do certain things at home, but by the time I do the next record I want to get a more elaborate set up so that I can do all the guitar parts at home and just go into the studio for mixing and for drums an bass.
SR: Did you lay down your tracks first and then bring in Brian and Dorian?
VM: We all played together on the rhythm tracks and then I sent them home. I just spent some time doing my guitar overdubs.
SR: How long have your been doing guitar clinics?
VM: I actually started doing clinics right after the first record came out in 1987. It just seemed to go really well right away. I would get great turnouts at my clinics and people were really into what I was doing. They liked the fact that they could hear me play songs and then ask questions about how I got certain tones and how I did specific things. They've gone so well that I've just continued doing them over the years. It's cool because it's more personal than just a live show.
SR: Are you touring in Europe?
VM: I'm just doing the clinics by myself. What I do when I record the records I do a remix without the main guitar part so that I can play along with my record. I can do that live and it goes over really well.
SR: How many guitar clinics do you suppose you've done?
VM: I know I've done between 150 and 200 by now. I do 30-60 a year now. It depends on the year and what else I have working for me.
SR: Do you enjoy touring?
VM: Actually no. I love playing before an audience the hour or hour and a half on stage. It's the ultimate and it makes it worth doing. It negates all the other stuff such as traveling and being away from home. Not getting any sleep and all the hectic stressful stuff you have to go through for those few hours. I'm not crazy about all that, but you have pay the price for the good stuff.
SR: Have you played on any other artist's albums?
VM: I did two songs on Alice Cooper's Hey Stoopid album and then I toured with him on his last tour. That was pretty cool. We went all through America and had a blast.
SR: So, if someone approached you about putting together a band, you'd listen.
VM: If it was somebody that I really liked musically, definitely.
SR: Is it getting any easier for the great instrumentalists to get airplay? It seemed that at one time Satraini made a difference.
VM: Yes, he's that way. One or two people come along who really can help overall and it was easier for a while and then it got really difficult. I feel like maybe it's swinging back around now. Radio doesn't support anything really.
SR: How have we managed to lose radio? In the '60s with KMPX, if an artist or promo guy dropped in with say a new Van Morrison album it went on the turntable and stayed there until all the songs were played and then they might start over and play it again if the jock really liked it.
VM: It's too formated and there's too much money and political stuff involved. It's totally commercialized and it's not art any more.
SR: Are there any new guitarists out there that you've become impressed with?
VM: There is. I'm walking over to my CDs now. I think the guy in Rage Against The Machine is a really cool guitarist. He comes up with some really cool playing. There's a kid from Philadelphia, Jeff Lee Johnson, who has an album out called Blue. I haven't talked to anybody else who knows about him, but I really think he's very interesting.
SR: I just imagine that you're a guy who listens to all kinds of music.
VM: I don't listen to a lot of guitar music. When I do it tends to be my old favorites like Jeff Beck, Robin Trower, Santana and Hendrix. All the old players that I grew up listening to. When you become an instrumentalist you like to check out other things that are going on. You don't really want to listen to too much so you can stay on your own path, so to speak.
SR: Have you worked with Brian and Dorian before?
VM: Brian went out with me on my last tour. We were out for eight months. The first time I played with Dorian was on this record. He's from Boston. He's a really a good friend of Brian and he brought him in on this album. We just got together and played and they both had a great feel. It just felt right.
SR: You said in your bio that the Meltdown album was a turning point for you.
VM: I used to take everything more seriously than I do now. I consciously sit down to write a song and I used to think that it had to be this grand statement. That there had to be a lot of notes and it had to be serious. Then about the time of the Meltdown album I realized it didn't have to be that at all. It just had to be fun and inspired. As long as you are inspired and the songs take you somewhere emotionally, then that's what it's all about. There are things I used to come up with back then. I'd say 'Nah, I can't leave that in. It's too simple.' It was stupid to be that way and I'm glad that I've gotten to this point where if it's soulful and if it speaks to someone and it makes them feel something. That's what it's all about. It doesn't matter if it's simple or difficult.
SR: A lot of bands aren't putting lyrics on their albums anymore. I like how you've broken down your songs by letting the listener in on what you were doing at the time. 'Time Traveler' is one example where you ask the question of Gandi, Einstein and Hendrix. Was their influence simply random or were they purposely sent?
VM: We won't ever know for sure. I like to think that it's true that there are people who are positive and have a big influence on everybody. Maybe it's just coincidental that there are people with that much influence. Who knows?
SR: I love the fact you put Jimi Hendrix in the same category as Gandi and Einstein.
VM: Hendrix definitely influenced me along with lots and lots of other people. The whole guitar population in general and even rock music. It goes even beyond just guitar. I think if you took Hendrix out of history, had he never existed, things would definitely be different today in music.
SR: Maybe no one would have ever though to set their guitar on fire.
VM: Yeah, maybe that's true.
SR: I love the song you wrote for your Grandmother, 'She's Only Sleeping.'
VM: The memory is always there and part of them is always with you. (call waiting kicks in) That was my Dad wishing me a good trip to Europe. Everyone is seriously nervous because of that plane that went down a few weeks ago. You just never know.
SR: 'Am I Only Dreaming' is definitely a rainy day. And 'Winter Sun' puts you in your studio looking out at the snow up to your studio window. How do you title your songs?
VM: Cool. I'm happy you got that. 'Echos' has some echoing notes in the middle. Well, the music comes from a real event. Something that's happening around me and it inspires me. That's how the song starts and then I just try to come up with a title for the whole concept.
SR: Any plans for a U.S. tour this year?
VM: After I come back from Europe in two weeks I have one day off. Then I fly to do clinics all over America for two weeks and then I come back home. We're going to follow up with some touring dates later in the year. Clinics are something we're doing initially to create an awareness and interest then we'll hit some clubs. My two Texas clinics are Houston on August 22 and then Dallas on August 23.
SR: I was interviewing Drill yesterday. Their guitarist J.D. is a friend of yours? He sends his best.
VM: He used to play with me. I've been meaning to call him. I haven't talked to him lately. He was over for dinner during the summer when Drill was playing this area. I haven't seen him in a while.
SR: Have you ever wanted to sing in a band?
VM: That's something that's not very possible for me because I just don't have the voice. If I had half a voice I'd probably do some vocals. I am interested in doing a band situation definitely, but it would take somebody else handling the singing.
SR: What's your take on all the '70s and '80s bands who are back with new material and are out touring such as Styx, Foreigner, Night Ranger.
VM: I think it's pretty cool. The original audience for those bands are still there. I think a lot of folks that grew up in that time period are alienated by some of the new music. They just feel as if it's their thing. It's made them go back and listen to the older stuff.
SR: Are you ever going to get around to fulfulling 'VinMan's Brew?'
VM: There's a place on the corner that sells beer kits so I'm planning to buy one and maybe make some VinMan's brew in the fall. It seems that the micro brewery thing is a trend in every town now. Everybody seems to be into the good beers whereas three or four years ago the generic American beers were popular.
SR: Are you online yet?
VM: I don't even own a computer; however, I went online a few weeks ago and did an online chat. That was pretty cool.
SR: I'll keep my eyes open for a club tour. Thanks for your time. Knock 'em dead in Europe.
VM: Nice talking to you. Thanks for your interest.