J S: ’Twas was inspired by classic Christmas albums by the likes of Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Ella Fitzgerald. What are your top Christmas albums?
PG: Stevie Wonder's Someday At Christmas and The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album are both records that I like a lot. When I was hunting for chords and arrangements the Nat King Cole versions were my favourite overall. The arrangements are beautiful and sophisticated, and Nat's singing, tone, phrasing, and timing are fantastic. I also discovered The Ventures' Christmas Album. Their surf guitar version of Sleigh Ride is so good. There's no way I could top that, so I took that song off my list. I also checked out Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Amy Grant, The Supremes, and Bing Crosby. It was a real style adventure!
JS: This album might present the most sophisticated harmonic contexts you’ve played in. What can a rock guitarist gain from being able to play these types of chords and solo over them?
PG: It's as much ear training as it is learning the notes on the fingerboard. The first step is just to find something that you like. Then you spend time listening, and some time seeing how things work in the musical context. My ear was opened up to jazz harmony by listening to music that was very structured. The Melody Still Lingers On by Chaka Khan, was something that I immediately liked. But as a rock player, just about every chord was a mystery to me. I looked up a jazz guitar teacher, and we went through it together. That was about 10 years ago, and I'm still slowly climbing the foothills of the jazz mountain. But you've got to start somewhere, and I really recommend doing it with a song that you like.
JS: What was your equipment setup for recording the album?
PG: I wanted to be loud enough to feel my guitar percussively and to get feedback driven sustain. So I cut some holes in a Pignose amp, in order to mount it on a guitar stand. I had the speaker facing toward the floor, and I could keep it really close to my guitar, so I could get the feel of being loud, without actually being very loud. The band and I tracked live in the same room, and I knew that my guitar would be leaking into the drum mics a bit, so that was a way to keep my overall volume down. At the same time, I plugged into a Marshall SV-20C. The Marshall has a 12 speaker and a much more full-range sound than the 5 speaker on the Pignose, so it was important to have the Marshall hooked up at all times. I set both amps clean, then used pedals for distortion. I changed things up every song, but it was some combination of the JHS PG-14, the JHS Haunting Mids, the Supro Drive, the TC Electronic MojoMojo, and an Electro-Harmonix Hot Tubes Nano. I used quite a bit of the Fulltone Deja-Vibe, the Neo Instruments Mini Vent II Leslie simulator, the Catalinbread Callisto chorus, the Ibanez Flanger Mini, and my vintage A/DA Flanger. And for delay and reverb, I used TC Electronic Alter Ego and Arena pedals. My wah-wah was a Dunlop Cry Baby Junior. I used an assortment of Ibanez guitars, and put slide magnets on all of them. I use a Jim Dunlop 318 Chromed Steel slide, as those work great sticking to a neodymium bar magnet. Some of my guitars have been professionally routed for the magnet, and it’s glued in, under the pickguard. But there is a simple way that works for any guitar. First wrap the magnet in some gaffer tape, to give it some cushion from the metal slide hitting it. Then put a strip of foamy double-sided tape on the bottom of the magnet. Stick the magnet on your guitar's lower horn, and you're good to go. It can be removed with a plastic knife, and a guitar pick, without damaging the finish of your guitar, in case you want to change the location, or take it off. I should also mention that I used Ernie Ball RPS .008s. Having light strings allows me to get my action up high, so my slide playing gets a clear tone, and my strings are easy to grab for bending. I also use a very light pick. It's a Tortex ‘The Wedge’ .50mm. I love the tones in that pick.
JS: How long did you spend sourcing songs for the album?
PG: I started thinking about it in late spring and early summer. I really enjoyed listening to lots of different versions to find my favourite songs and arrangements. I also wrote a couple of new songs in the process.
JS: You wear the slide on your second finger which is less common than the third and fourth fingers...
PG: My second finger is the biggest. It has a longer reach than the others, so I think it's easier to keep the slide flat on the strings. I use really light gauge strings, so I have to make sure I'm not getting fret buzz by pushing down too much on the high strings. It seems easier to control the angle and the pressure with my second finger.
LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW!
JS: This is a rollercoaster, stylistically, dynamically and tempo-wise, including some crazy tapping...
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