The Music Of JC Harris

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

JCHRants

The Steve Howe Chattering O-Face

More on what’s wrong with the third snippet from the new album, Progress, called We Danced. Donald Trump? A tribute to Steve Howe. Chattering. The O-Face. Wah wahs. Yessongs. Stolen video.

Roger CortonAlready you’re not happy with We Danced.

JCHWell, it hit me what the problem is.

I can’t say enough good things about Steve Howe. His body of work from 1969 to 1975 is incomparable. I mean the definition of sui generis. In fact, one of the things that TOTALLY PISSES ME OFF is that his playing never gets its proper due when the names of the great rock guitarists are mentioned. His legend got thrown out with the ‘Prog’ bathwater.

RCI hesitate to even ask.

JCHNo O-Face.

RCThe what?

JCHOh c’mon. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
RCI do know what you’re talking about. But in the wake of the current election, can’t we be a little more uplifting?

JCHUplifting? How’s this for uplifting? FUCK DONALD TRUMP. Ya know why? I could care less about the guy’s politics. But the net long-term effect of his campaign will be to single-handedly make the world even more insufferably ‘PC’ than it already is.

RCDone?

JCHI am. But seriously. You can’t joke about anything anymore without getting called some damned name. It’s given (coughing) privileged white guys like me a eeny-teeny-tiny taste of what it must be like to be a real minority (laughs). Always having to explain that “I’m not one of those people!” just because I fish. Or like hockey. Or some other stereotype.

RCPoor baby (laughs). OK, so the o-face.

JCHRight. I was thinking about why I was so unhappy with the guitar tones. And I listened to that Money For Nothing video you threw up there (how’s that for ironic. I listen to videos now?)

RCI’ve tried to tell you.

JCHOK, I’ll work on some videos. Anyhoo, what makes the guitar on Money For Nothing rock is… DUUUUHHHH… the wah pedal. I totally forgot about using a wah as a tone control.

RCLike Mick Ronson with Bowie.

We Danced

JCHRight. But that usage never occurs to me. I always think of a wah as a moving thing, as in R&B or… STEVE HOWE. Which is the all-time great chattering o-face.

RCWhat?

RCOh that.

JCHYeah, that. But I’m not really kidding or being mocking. I absolutely LOVED seeing him do that. When I saw him the first time I was as knocked out by his face as his playing.

RCSeriously?

JCHSeriously. The affect of a performer matters. I mean it shouldn’t but I gotta admit that it does. And his facial gestures just killed me. It really did feel like he was controlling the tone of his guitar with his mouth. I mean literally molding the tone.

RCLike a talk box.

JCHWell, except that talk boxes look totally reta… er… stupidly uncool.

RCNice save. You never have to worry about being too PC.

JCHWhew! But anyhoo, it’s not just the o-face. Steve also had that chattering thing going on.

RCNow I get it.

JCHHe’d usually be fast picking and working the wah at the same time. His tone was always moving. When he was at his peak, that’s what made him so great.

RCThe movement?

JCHWell, he basically played rockabilly through a fuzz box. He could pick cleanly so he could get away with it. I mean, when he was young, his hammer-ons were just pristine. But it still needed a little something to take it beyond Chet Atkins or Elvis into a real stadium rock sound. Remember, he usually wasn’t playing a guitar with any kind of natural sustain.

RCRight. The ES-175 (a hollow body jazz guitar). I get you. So, the wah?

JCHThe wah gives you that constant movement. It’s the “Wow!” quality on And You And I and it’s also the ‘chattering’ quality of his best solos like Close To The Edge or Yours Is No Disgrace. I can’t tell how much that approach affected me. I had learned guitar as a chord, finger-pick kind of deal and I felt that guys like Santana were only using 20% of the instrument. But Steve found ‘the solution’–a way to use all the guitar and make it have that full range of speech.

RCI can’t remember the last time I heard you gush about someone.

JCHMr. Negative, huh? I can’t say enough good things about Steve Howe. His body of work from 1969 to 1975 is incomparable. I mean the definition of sui generis. In fact, one of the things that TOTALLY PISSES ME OFF is that his playing never gets its proper due when the names of the great rock guitarists are mentioned. His legend got thrown out with the ‘Prog’ bathwater.

RCAmen, brother. We’ve talked about this before, but although I hear bits of his style in your playing, you rarely stretch out like he did. People who see you live have no idea what they’re in for because you never play long solos or that kind of ‘Mood For A Day’ style on your albums. That’s why I keep ragging on you to get some live videos.

JCHWell, playing acoustic guitar live is just necessity. I mean, I have to make a compelling sounding arrangement when it’s just me. Oh, I feel a tangent coming on… Did I mention that my recorder with all my live stuff was stolen out me car last winter?

RCYou told me your car got broken into but I didn’t hear that.

JCHYeah. This is how numbskull I am about ‘marketing’. I had that recorder in my car, literally for two years and never bothered to back up the data! I thought of it like a smartphone. Just never occurred. So ‘poof’. Gotta start over.

RCYikes! I’m speechless.

JCHAnyhoo, we’ll get back to that. But if But if all the guitaristic junk doesn’t show up on albums there are a couple of reasons. First, when I started getting real gigs they were, you know, jazz and Motown and R&B and pit work and the one thing they had in common?

RCNo rocking out.

JCHNo rocking out. I was never hired to be ‘me’. I was hired to fill a role. Which was a good thing in a way because I can easily see myself having been seduced by Steve Howe’s style–becoming a clone. I just loved it too much. In fact, what stuns me is that no one seems to have taken up the mantle. I mean, how could such an influential guy spawn no followers like Clapton or whoever.

RCRight. Right. He won that Guitar Player award so many times they retired him from competition!

JCHThe other thing is that once I started doing my own records, I wasn’t hearing things the same way.

RCNot following.

JCHWell, by the time I started doing my own records, I was thinking more like an orchestrator. As my skills get better, I hear the lines played by separate instruments; not just four or five guys in a ‘band’. In other words, there are now often three separate parts on a song, rather than one guitar part trying to fulfill all three functions.

RCWhich then brings up the problem of how to execute that all live.

JCHNot easy at times.

RCIt is pretty tough to sing and play like Steve Howe. At the same time (laughs).

JCHI mean that’s one thing I’m wistful about in watching those videos of Steve. He gets the freedom to bounce around and physically lose himself in his playing. I rarely get to do that since I’m constantly multi-tasking—singing, hitting buttons, etc.

RCThings are tough all over, buddy. We gotta go.

JCHYou know it. But before we hit the road, I just wanna say that if I had to pick one guitar solo that is (Muhammad Ali voice) ‘The Greatest Of All Tiiiiime!’ I would pick the Yessongs version of All Good People. Not the studio version; the live version. (Have you noticed that Yessongs is like my fave live record ever, ever, ever?) Anyhoo, it’s like the perfect rockin’ guitar experience for me. I could hear that every day of the year and never tire of it.

RCAmen,brother!

JCHNot to be Mr. Negative again, but one of those ‘Santa Claus ain’t real?’ moments for me came when someone clued me in that the reason it’s so fucking perfect is because it’s actually edited together from a couple of shows. Nooooooooooooooo!

RCI never understand why that kind of thing matters so much to you.

JCHLook, it’s like sports doping. Or better yet: if people went to a Cirqu Du Soleil show and it turned out that all those gymnastics were somehow faked? I think there’d be a riot in Vegas. A big part of the thrill of real music done live is that acrobatic effect. OHMYGAWD, BOBBY! IT’S REALLY HAPPENING! If it’s ya know, a pop show? Sure, it’s a click track. It’s background tracks. Hell, I don’t care if Madonna is CGI’d in there. I’m not going to hear people play. But that’s how ya know if it’s real music: if you care that it’s 100%.

RCGot it. But still. It’s not any faked notes. They just comped together different verses and choruses. I don’t think that’s on the same scale of ‘fraud’.

JCHCouldn’t agree more. I apologize for going off. I hereby retract that entire mini-rant. Please substitute in ‘The Best!’ Because, seriously, that performance, comped or not, is the best.

RCWell said. Now get back to work and give We Danced that ‘O-Face’. We’re done.

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