Blues rocking guitarist Alastair Greene has the right tone for the Alan Parsons Live Project
Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Alastair Greene has been a mainstay of the Southern California music scene for over 2 decades. Alastair was born April 18th, 1971 in Santa Barbara, CA. Best known for his blues-based, soulful, and melodic guitar playing (as well as one of a rare-breed to play slide guitar), Alastair can be heard on CDs by Alan Parsons (2006 Grammy Nominated ‘A Valid Path’); Aynsley Dunbar (2008 SPV Records release ‘Mutiny’); blues singer, harmonica legend, and former member of WAR, Mitch Kashmar (2005 ‘Wake Up and Worry’ on Delta Groove Records), as well as French Blues Guitarist Franck Golwasser’s 2007 release ‘Bluju.’ Alastair has put out 5 of his own CDs and has also appeared on countless independent CD releases ranging from blues to southern rock. Alastair’s song ‘The Long Way Home’ appeared in a 2007 episode of the TNT hit TV series ‘Saving Grace’.
Whether with his own band or as part of others, Alastair has opened shows for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robin Trower, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Lonnie Brooks, Chris Thomas King, Lucky Petersen, Jonny Lang, Billy Boy Arnold, Joe Bonamassa, Mike Campbell’s Dirty Knobs, and many more. Alastair continues to perform an average of 100 live dates a year with his own band as well as with Mitch Kashmar, Franck Goldwasser, Shari Puorto and a host of other Southern California bands.
Why did you change out your stock pickups?
“When I first started playing guitar in high school, I would read interviews in guitar magazines with all of my early influences and favorite players, and they said they were all using Seymour Duncan pickups. That got me interested in the first place. I mean come on, if Jake E. Lee, Warren DeMartini, Vivian Campbell, and George Lynch are using them, then I probably should as well! When I heard that Seymour lived in my home town it was a no brainer. Seymour came to the very first gig I played with my first rock band, so I got to meet him early on in my musical development. He was friends with the bass player’s girlfriend’s friend’s father if I remember correctly. He has been supportive of me for a long time which I am very grateful for.”
Tell us about your band.
“My band (The Alastair Greene Band) has been a trio for most of its 14 year existence. I have a few different players in the rotation based on availability, but the guys on my recent records and who I play with the most are Tom Lackner (drums) and Jim Rankin (bass). We’re able to cover a lot of ground insofar as we play traditional electric blues as well as full-on classic hard rocking material.”
How do you approach a solo differently when playing slide versus standard guitar?
“When I’m playing with my band, I tend to play in open tunings for slide, which automatically gives me access to certain melodies and chord voicings that have deep blues roots. So in that context, my approach tends to be more of a traditional one mixed in with whatever Duane Allman and Lowell George melodies I can muster. I have tons of “regular guitar” influences but a much smaller number of slide guitar influences. When I play with other artists and play slide my melodic and tonal approach may be somewhat different than what I normally play, but by the nature of playing slide it tends to sound blues based regardless on the musical style.”
Which pickups do you use and for which guitars?
“In my cream colored Fender “mutt” Strat, I have a set of Custom Staggered. I also, on occasion, use a Little ’59 in the bridge of that guitar. In my main gigging Strat (an early ’80s ’57 reissue Fender Stratocaster), I have what I believe is a set of Texas Hot pickups but they’ve been in there so long I could be wrong. Maybe I could bring it out to the shop and find out! In my early ’80s Les Paul Standard, I have a Pearly Gates in the bridge and a Jazz model in the neck.”
“With my Seymour Duncan pickups I have higher output with more punch and cut. For the humbuckers in my Les Paul everything seems smoother and fuller. I’ve never been good at describing tone. I’m more of a thumbs up or thumbs down kind of guy, and all my experiences with Seymour’s pickups have been 2 big thumbs up.”
“I think the biggest advantage is having the confidence that my guitar is going to sound as good as it possibly can with Seymour’s pickups in them. I know that regardless of the gig, if there is shared backline, or I am using an amp I’m not used to playing through, whatever the situation is, I’m not worried about whether or not my guitar is going to sound good. They enable me to play fearlessly with conviction and authority.”
“What a lot of people don’t know is that Seymour Duncan is not only a great guitar player, one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, but he also happens to make the best guitar pickups in the world. I am proud to say I’ve been using Seymour Duncan pickups in my guitars for over 20 years.”
How would you describe your playing?
“I’m a blues based player that’s lucky enough to enjoy and get to play a lot of different styles of music besides blues. I don’t consider myself a very technical guitarist compared to a lot of guys out there, but I can usually execute what I hear and feel when I’m improvising. I play a lot of slide guitar, as well, which these days is a bit of a rarity in the rock world. I try to stay true to the musical moment that I find myself in, but regardless of whether I’m playing with my band (The Alastair Greene Band), an R&B band, a Roots Rock band, or with Alan Parsons, the listener is going to hear the blues influence, which I suppose has to do with feel, phrasing, vibrato, and lots of bent notes.”
How would you describe your music?
“Well, my 2009 CD was as close to a Chicago blues sound as I can probably get but with a bit of my rock playing element mixed in. My new disc (Through The Rain, released 11/11/11 on LeRoi Records) is much more of a hard rock record. My writing is fairly eclectic, but if there’s a common thread, I would say my writing and playing is influenced by late ’60s and early ’70s rock, which would include most the blues-based music from that time, but also some early metal, southern rock, and progressive rock influences as well.”
How did you come to work with Alan Parsons?
“A buddy of mine who knew Alan through working in radio asked me to play some guitar on his county rock record. He was doing overdubs at Alan’s home studio, which was in Santa Barbara at the time, and had a mutual friend of his and Alan’s engineering. Alan started popping his head into the studio while I was tracking, and finally came in and started producing me a little. I remember at the time really trying not to think about his recording history and just to stay focused on my “A” game. Eight months later, Alan called me to play on his solo CD he was working on (2004’s A Vaild Path). After I was done tracking guitar on 2 of his songs, I asked him what other guitar players had played on the CD, and he said with a smile, “Oh, just some guy named David Gilmour”. I’m glad he told me that after I had tracked my parts! Anyhow, I sat in with his band on a few occasions and opened a show solo acoustic over the next few years. In August 2009, I subbed for his guitarist at the time (Godfrey Townsend), who was out on tour with someone else. In January of 2010, he told me he was revamping his band and asked if I’d like to be the guitarist. Needless to say, I said yes.”
What 3 things have you learned from him?
“Firstly, I have learned how to be calm in the face the crazy and unpredictable things that happen in a live performance environment. Or at least, I make attempts at being calm! Alan is very relaxed and easy going which I think in turn makes the band more relaxed. Secondly, there are a couple studio tricks I’ve learned as far as tracking guitar, one of which really is to trust your ears when placing a mic in front of a guitar amp. The third thing would be that this really is a crazy business and to make sure to pay attention to what is going on around you at all times. Alan is always paying attention to the business end of things and that is something we all have to do as musicians regardless of where our careers are.”
Whose career would you most want to pattern yours after?
“Eric Clapton and Gary Moore. Those guys changed styles and directions so many times yet maintained an identity. That’s so rare nowadays as people like to put artists into a category and keep them there.”
What bands or artists influenced you and your career?
“As far as having a career influence that would be my late grandfather Chico Alvarez. He toured and recorded with Stan Kenton’s jazz band back in the ’40s and ’50s. He got his break early on, and then when it was over, he went back to playing bars, clubs, and private events. He kept his passion for playing long after his “spotlight time” was over, but he never stopped playing regardless of the gig. That is so inspiring to me because it seems like it would be easy to stop and do something else after the glitter and glory is gone. You have to love playing to try to do this for a living. Another big influence was Stevie Ray Vaughan. In addition to his playing, which of course was amazing, he would always talk about the players he was influenced by in interviews. That was huge for me because a whole world opened up to me. I have gotten into so many great guitar players because of him like Hubert Sumlin, Albert Collins, Jimmie Vaughan, Ronnie Earl, Lonnie Mack, Albert King, the list is endless.”
Advice from Alastair:
“Get a stage tuner and keep that thing in tune as much as you can. That may sound obvious, but it’s one of the most important things we, as guitar players, have control over. Maybe because of how I bend notes or whatever I have found it challenging to stay in tune all night. Do it as fast as possible between songs so as not to interrupt the flow of the show. Dig deeper into the music and catalogs of players and bands you like instead of just a few songs or singles. Find out who your favorite players and bands were influenced by and check them out. That’s a big challenge for the iTunes generation, but because of the access to information on the internet it’s a lot easier to do that today than when I was young and learning. I do a lot of teaching as well, and one thing I can’t stress enough is that young players should try to learn songs by ear as much as they can. When you get stuck, then go to YouTube or try to find some tabs online. Develop your ear, as that will be the tool that enables you to really wield the fury.”
Alan Parsons Live Project:
March 3rd, 2012, Boulder Station Las Vegas, NV
Europe Summer 2012, Tour Dates TBA
South America 2012, Dates TBA
All dates posted at: http://www.alanparsonsmusic.com
To visit with Alastair please go to: