|Modern surf guitar hero Gary Hoey will have two new studio releases this fall on Surfdog Records. His latest album due out in October titled "Money" is a collection of rockin', new instrumentals. Also coming this fall is Ho!Ho!Hoey III, more of your favorite Christmas classics.
GC: Are there big differences between instrumental music and music with vocals in terms of writing it, recording it, how it's presented to and appreciated by the audience?
Hoey: When I approach instrumental music, I find that I have to still pay attention to the melody a lot. I have to think of the arrangment in the same way you would think of a song with vocals and lyrics because I think that if you want to communicate to people on an instrumental level you have to have a strong melody. You have to have something that people can grab on to. But at the same time, instrumental music offers a lot of freedom because I try to create music that takes people on a journey in their mind or takes them to another place emotionally through the music. So it's kind of nice because it gives you more freedom and it lets people interpret the song in their own personal way instead of having a lyric that really depicts exactly what the song is about. It kind of goes both ways, you know?
GC: If I was just getting started as a guitarist and I don't have a lot of money to spend, for instance, what would you suggest would be the first thing that I should get equipment-wise?
Hoey: Obviously, you want to get yourself maybe a Fender Squire or a Strat or something like that to get started. Once people get an instrument and start to get a little more comfortable with it a 4-track is really helpful. One of the first big purchases that I made after I got going was a 4-track. I bought a Tascam 4-track recorder and I was able to start putting ideas and a rhythm track down and then practicing putting a lead over it and I found that those skills stayed with me throughout my career. Very early on I started making little 4-track demos and I think the sooner people start recording themselves and hearing back what they're doing, the quicker they can grow and learn from themselves. It's scary to hear yourself back on tape! I think that was something that helps me now to be in a studio and not to feel afraid. The reason I feel as comfortable recording as I do is because I've been recording since I've been 14 years old!
GC: Say I'm an intermediate player and I already had like the basics and I want to expand, what directions would you suggest for that? What would be the next thing I should get to improve my sound or my writing?
Hoey: I think at that point, you know, you can take it to another level recording-wise. Maybe get more tracks or more equipment to kind of see the vision of what you're doing. Like for myself right now I've been recording a lot with the Rocktron Prophecy, the new pre amp that they just came out with. And for me that's something that gives me a lot of sound real quick. I can get great tones right to tape at 3:00 in the morning. I don't have to sit around messing with an amp. I think, as you get more developed, what you want is equipment that's going to let you get your ideas down faster, you know? The Rocktron Prophecy preamp is great for that because I'm not always struggling with how I'm going to get things down on tape. At home right now I've been recording. My studio is based around Tascam DA38's. I have 3 of them, and I'm running them with the Panasonic Ramsa WR-DA7 digital board. I've got to tell you, I was always sort of afraid of the whole digital world - I'm a real analog guy at heart - but when I got the DA7 digital board and the 3 DA38's I got 24 tracks! It opened up my whole world because I was able to be more creative. I'm a big digital fan now because you can store things and it remembers every scene, every cue and every fader move! I can come back to a song a week later and it's exactly the way I left it. So I think digital technology is something that is going to launch people into the next millennium and people shouldn't be afraid of it. They should take their time and learn it piece by piece because in the end it really speeds things up for you!
GC: What other sort of equipment do you have in your home studio and what do you think about what you're using?
Hoey: Well, like I was saying, my home studio is built around the digital setup. On top of that I'm using the Ensoniq ARSX Pro Sampler which is great because it gives me a lot of really good drum sounds and very realistic samples of things. I've been using it for my sequencing, programming and sampling. That's another world that I've just sort of entered into: using a sampler and things where you can create sounds and then make a drum loop or make different things work with the tune. So that's another big step for me. On top of that I'm using a lot of different pre amps. I have my Rocktron Voodoo Valve and the Chameleon and I use different pre amps within the context of what I'm doing. Other than that, I keep my system pretty straight ahead. I'm using some different compressors. Rocktron has a thing called an RSP Reanimator which is a great compressor. Then I'm using the Intellifex, the Intelliverb and the Replifex. I've been working with Rocktron for 10 years. They've been supporting me and we've been working together as a team. What I tend to do in my home studio is just wheel my live rack in and kind of use a lot of the same effects that I would use live on the recording.
GC: What about microphones and things like that?
Hoey: I like the old standard Shure SM57 microphones for guitar. I tend to use them with a very close miking technique. I like to have the mike right up to the speaker, maybe an inch and half away from the center of the cone to, you know, get that really direct sound. I don't tend to use a lot of ambient mikes in the room. I also bought a mic at Guitar Center, the Groove Tubes MD2, which is a really nice tube mic which I use to record acoustic guitars and vocals. Or I might want to use that on an amp for a different, more full-bodied sound.
GC: What is it that you like about Rocktron gear?
Hoey: Well, the big appeal in working with Rocktron for the last ten years is that I find the company to be always pushing ahead and always innovating with their equipment. The company is built around real players that go out and play every weekend, do gigs and then come back and work and work on equipment. So a lot of their stuff gets used out in the field and tested in live situations. I also find that their products have a more musical sound than others. Also their factory presets are usually excellent on all their units. The Prophecy has got some great factory presets! It's got some great Eddie Van Halen type sounds. He's one of my favorite guitar players. These Prophesy presets are so close to his sound I can't even believe it! Their factory presets sound great right out of the box. You don't have to struggle with it. With every unit they come out with, they break new ground. They never stop pushing the envelope and that's the biggest thing that keeps me with Rocktron.
GC: You've mentioned bringing your live rig into the studio. What kind of guitar rig do you use for live work?
Hoey: The Fender Big Apple Strat is my main guitar right now. It's a two-humbucker Stratocaster that has a five-way switch so I can get a lot of different sounds out of it. As far as amps go, I'm kind of using old school mixed with new school. I basically always run a 100 watt amp with a half stack and lately I've been using the new Sun Model T amp by Fender. I'm also using the Fender Prosonic amp and a couple of different amps like the Rocktron Taboo Twin. The way that I run my amp is I pretty much run a half stack dry then I take the line or send out of the amp and run that into my Rocktron Intelliverb. Basically I run all of my effects separately on two separate cabinets using the Rocktron velocity valve all-tube power amp driving two cabinets in stereo. So I'm running three 4x12"s live, a dry in the middle and a wet on each side.
GC: So the wet cabinets are totally wet? With no original signal in them?
Hoey: No, I usually mix a little of the direct in because it gives you a better sound live. I just blend the effect. But in the studio when I'm recording I use the dry in the middle and then I completely take out the direct in the effect cabs so it's only effect. It's a little easier to do in the studio but live it's kind of hard. But it's a really great sound because it gives me a dry amp sound in the middle that's really kind of old school and effects in 2 separate cabinets which makes the effects sound better. It really gives you a good blend!
GC: So, in the studio, you're miking those effect-only cabinets?
Hoey: Yes, I'm miking them separately. Sometimes I'll even put the effects cabinets in a separate room so I can really isolate the effects. What's nice about it is I can dial up my delay sound, say on the Replifex or whatever I'm using, record with it, store it and then when I go out on tour all the pre sets are exactly the way I did it in the studio! And live, you know, we play as a trio so I like to have a big sound. It really fills things out.
GC: Do you use any sort of pedal board to control your live rig?
Hoey: Yeah, on the live stuff I'm using the Rocktron All Access pedal. It's working real well for me and I'm running that with a Rocktron Patch Mate patchbay, I use that to get all my effects in & out of the chain. I use the Crybaby, you know the standard Dunlop Crybaby Wah, I use the reissue of the MXR Phase 100, and I use an MXR Flanger, and the Ibanez and Tube Screamer, those are kind of my foot boxes you know.
Hoey: I think the latest thing is probably the Prophecy for me. It has been something that has really opened up a lot of doors for me in terms of creating sounds and even live. I have it in my rack and sometimes I use it live because I can run a couple cabs off that for my effect sounds. That's been my latest toy that I've been really excited about.
GC: Do you have a 'wish list'? What's the next thing that you are thinking about getting?
GC: So what's the coolest recent addition to your setup, either studio or live, or both?
Hoey: I'm kind of excited about maybe getting into Digidesign ProTools, you know the digital hard disk recording system. They've been using it in some of the studios that I've been working in and I think it's the future of recording really. Because you can really manipulate the sound and you can do a lot of editing and changes that you couldn't normally do later on in the game. So the whole Protools thing is kind of exciting to me and I think in the future I may get into that. I just got done recording a new Christmas CD called "Ho Ho Hoey III" and I have a new studio CD that's coming out also this fall entitled "Money."
GC: So you've been pretty busy?
Hoey: Yeah, I've been really busy. I just cut 2 new records and I've also been producing, I'm in the middle of actually producing right now a guy named "Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks" which some people maybe remember from the 70's. He's a real killer singer songwriter who has been around for many years. I'm producing his album and that's really been exciting! We may have Tom Waits guesting on it and Elvis Costello said he would do a track, so it's kind of neat. I'm sort of pushing my producing career, as well as making my own records.
GC: Do you have a guitar practice regimen?
Hoey: I usually get up in the morning and play for a couple of hours. I've been playing guitar for 25 years so I've spent a lot of years doing the typical drills and exercises and scales that people do over and over. I'm kind of bored with that at this point in my career. What I tend to do now is sit down and try to play things that are more musical. I find that it's better for me to take maybe a little rhythm progression or blues progression and just kind of sit there, tap my foot, get a groove going, and play a little vamp. Then I try to play melodies around the vamp, and then jump back in. And it's those kinds of things I work on, it seems to help my timing and my groove. I'd recommend that people work on the side of their playing where you sit and play scales but try to do it at a tempo that, you know, you can practice phrasing and things. It's not just playing scales up and down, it's making it more musical and that's sort of how I approach it.
GC: Do you feel that you are "pushing the envelope" as far as your personal playing? Trying to do different things than you would normally do?
Hoey: Actually, the new album,"Money," is an album that for me is definitely a step forward. This is my eighth solo record and you know, I've done a lot of instrumental records already and I've sort of done a lot of things a certain way. I've tried to make this new album a lot more high tech, a lot more cinematic, you know. When you listen to it it's a lot more visual, it takes you on a journey. I'm using a lot more different keyboard sounds and some drum loops. I'm using some hip-hop beats. I'm using samples. I'm using some crazy guitar sounds, really extreme guitar sounds that just don't sound, you know, typical. I'm really trying to push it and I think this new album is going to show people a new sound, I really do.
GC: How do you write songs? Do you have a song writing routine?
Hoey: I find writing songs to be a real mystery, something that you can't always put your finger on. So, I get in a room with my guitar, sit down with a little tape recorder, put a tape on for 40 minutes and just try to let it roll. I sit there and play, like, little rhythms and little grooves that make me feel good. I like to put on my sampler or my drum machine or put on my Ensoniq ASRX Pro, put that on with a little groove. I find that helps me sometimes to decide whether I want to write a fast song or a slow song. Then I'll sit and just groove for awhile. Then I'll go back after and play some of the tape, maybe even the next day, and listen through it. Then I'll edit down my ideas onto a second tape. That's a way of being free and creative, not being a critic or a judge at the moment you're creating. I think that's the dangerous thing. People need to sit down and let their ideas flow and not be a critic at the time they're creating because you can stop yourself dead in your tracks! You don't want to say: "Would Bon Jovi or whoever, would The Stones like this?" You can't really think of that at that moment. You have to think: "Am I having a good time right now? Is this exciting? Am I having some fun?" Then later on, go back and be the critic, but give yourself a chance to explore ideas first.
GC: Once you have these snippets onto the second tape, what's involved in fleshing them out?
Hoey: Usually, once I have all those ideas onto my tape, I take a note pad and just go down and number each idea. I give it a number, and then I write next to the number maybe a vibe. I write "ballad," or "up-tempo," or I write "good melody." I write something about it. Then I catalog these ideas and maybe look through them and try to pick one idea that I could try to develop a little better. I try to come up with a verse and a chorus and then build it up a little bit. If I'm looking for one section, believe it or not, I might look through my ideas and maybe number 43 is what I'm looking for for number 3 so I put things together and see if they work. It can be kind of tedious, but I think if you want to make a real career as a songwriter, it takes that sort of discipline.Keep cataloging your ideas and keep track of what you're doing because you could let a real gem go by if you didn't take time to listen to the tape! For me it just takes that kind of structure to get more progress I think.
GC: How do you warm up for a performance?
Hoey: I usually sit down and do the typical 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, like, chromatic kind of scale up each string and down, I usually do that up and down with the metronome. Maybe starting out at 60 beats a minute. I like to start out slow because it gives my muscles a chance to warm up. Then, I'll just take, like, the major scales. I'll run them up the neck and then from there I may play a little bit of a blues thing to try to work on my bending and getting my vibrato warmed up. I usually go through that kind of thing and I try not to play too too much before I go on stage because I'll burn out. You know, if I sit back stage for 2 hours and then go on stage, I have no more energy. I'm the kind of guy that, about a half hour before show time, I like to start warming up and get my hands going. Then, usually, I'm ready to go by the time the show starts.
GC: What advice would you have for a young player who might want to model their career after yours? What would you say to somebody who said to you "How can I be successful and get to where you are today?"
Hoey: My advice to them would be to focus on something that they really enjoy and they really love. I'm an instrumental artist and a lot of people would have told me I'm crazy trying to make a successful career out of being an instrumental musician because it's hard, when you don't have words, to get songs on the radio. But, I've managed to do that! My advice to people is to stay true to what you really feel in your heart, what you believe and something that you enjoy. Don't try to follow trends because trends come and go. I believe music kind of flows in waves. If you stay on a path that's true to yourself then, eventually, it will come around to something that you're doing. My other advice is to try and have fun with the music, to not take it too seriously because if you take it too seriously, the ebb and flows of the music business can really be hard on you. I think you have to go into your career with the understanding that it's a long hard road but that it can be fun. You have to enjoy the ride because if you don't enjoy the ride, then when you get to the top, you're not going to be happy. Because there's always going to be things that are hard to deal with in this business and I think that people have to, you know, try and find the fun in it. Don't lose sight of why you started out in the first place because things take time. If you try to audition for a band and you don't get the gig, you know, don't worry about it. Don't take it personally. Go forward and keep believing in yourself.
GC: Do you shop at Guitar Center?
Hoey: Well, my personal experience with Guitar Center has been great, I have to say. I have been shopping there for 10 years! In '87 I moved to Los Angeles from Boston where I grew up and I had my first experience with the Hollywood Guitar Center. I find that you can go in there and you guys have a great selection, the staff is always friendly and people are eager to help you. Also, you guys have had a tremendous number of players come through there that have gone on to play in bands and do well in their careers. So you go in there and you meet real musicians that are selling the products and real players that are, doing the gigs. I find that it's nice to get feedback from people that know what they're talking about because they're using the gear. I've gone in there at times and said, "Hey, I'm looking for this," and then the guy will say "You know what? That's cool. But have you checked this out?" They steer you in directions sometimes that you otherwise wouldn't go in and I find that to be helpful. So I'm a big Guitar Center fan!