At Seymour Duncan, we are all about the players and their quest for the right sound. For every band that has achieved critical mass, there are thousands more who are putting in their dues at local bars and coffee shops across the world. Seymour Duncan Underground is a new continuing series to showcase unique musicians and bands that have not quite reached the mainstream. About 2 months ago, we came upon a very talented musician who was uploading videos to YouTube with some real soulful playing.
Having made 74 videos, we tracked down this mysterious player named Mike Baker (whose videos usually are shot below the neck) and had a chat with him about his life as a guitar player.
“I started playing a little at about 11 years old I guess after getting a Sears acoustic for Christmas and after a failed attempt at drums (my parents were thrilled). I just learned a few chords at first from books on the acoustic by myself. Around the age of 14, I wanted an electric as I was becoming more interested and serious about it. My parents bought me a Les Paul copy for my birthday that played quite nice and I started to learn some simple solo stuff. That same year my dad asked my cousin who is about 12 years older than me if he could give me lessons. He is a good country style picker so I learned a lot of country flavored licks early on like pedal steel type bends and double stops and some basic theory.”
“After a year of this I got past where he could show me anymore so I just started learning solos from my favorite bands and started jamming with other guys from school in garage bands. By 16, I was playing fairly well so my folks said if I got good grades that year they would get me a better guitar. So a trip to a good music store where I tried many Les Pauls and such but ended up with an ’78 Ibanez Artist 2617 model which I still have today, a great guitar still. So now the better bands start to come and I start playing out at gigs in bars at 16 (folks not thrilled). At 18, I took the place of a guitarist in a working band who gigged a lot. The former guitarist and I became friends and he started giving me lessons. He could rock like nobody in the area but was a real jazz/fusion type guy who knew his instrument well so this was a huge step up for me learning from this cat.”
“After one year or so of lessons from him I was quite comfortable playing most rock tunes. Even though I came up during the guitar virtuoso era in the late 70′s – 80′s I never really took the path of the shredding/tapping type stuff. I stayed more in the bluesy and southern type stuff doing tasty bends and learning to play slide quite well as nobody around my area could do it or do it very well. In my mid 20′s I started gravitating towards the fusion and jazz type stuff. I figured after the great stuff I was taught I should try to put it to use a little. So now at 49 years of age I still am learning things on the guitar to try to keep somewhat fresh if possible.”
You have many videos on YouTube that are well regarded by people, everything from the blues to pure rock, what inspires your range?
“Over the years I have played in classic rock bands, hard rock bands, progressive country bands and most recently a blues/rock band. I think all of these styles have inspired me in one way or another. Sometimes the mood will just strike me for something I just feel like playing and that is usually what comes up on these videos.”
What kind of gear do you use?
“Right now I play through a variety of live rigs depending on the gig. A 30 watt Crate Palomino 2-12 combo that I modded. A 100 watt Plexi clone head with a Marshall 1936 2-12 with greenbacks. A rack mount rig with a Marshall JMP-1 preamp, a ART multiverb delay/reverb and an old ADA TFX 4 analog flange/chorus/doubler/echo that I use for the chorus and flange and this is powered by a Peavey Classic 50/50 EL-84 power amp, this is all switched via a ADA MIDI pedal. I also have a Crate V-18 2-12 combo I modded that gets a great Clapton Bluesbreaker tone and an old Boogie Mark 3 I’ve had since 1985 and a Mesa Tri-Axis preamp that needs a trip to Mesa for an over haul.”
“My pedal board when using my amps other than the rack mount include a Korg pitch black tuner, Morley Bad Horsie wah, T-Rex Comp Nova compressor, EHX Stereo mistress flange/chorus, EHX LPB-1 line boost, a variety of overdrive/distortions that I have modded or built(depends on amp at the time), a EHX digital delay and a EHX Cathedral reverb unit. I run these into the clean channel and use pedals for overdrive. Main gigging guitars are a 2007 Gibson Les Paul standard with Duncan ’59s in it, a 2009 Carvin CS-6M, a 2010 Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Les Paul, a 2002 Gibson Les Paul Classic with my own hand wound pickups, a 2009 and a 2009 G+L ASAT classic Tele style that just sounds great. My other guitars included a 1978 Gibson Les Paul custom, a 1978 Ibanez Artist 2617, a 1997 Blade Texas Standard Strat, a 1979 Gibson ES-335 with a Duncan JB in the bridge and a Duncan Pearly Gates in the neck, A 2000 ESP H300 with a Duncan JB in the bridge, a 1993 Carvin DC200 Koa, a 2006 Epiphone Les Paul plus top with Suhr pickups.”
What players have inspired you personally?
“Early on guys like Duane Allman/Dickey Betts, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Gary Rossington, Ed King, Steve Gaines, Allen Collins, Brian Robertson, Eddie Van Halen, Michael Schenker. A little later guys like Larry Carlton, Robben Ford, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Gary Moore, Joe Satriani , Steve Vai, Steve Lukather, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and too may more to keep going. Some guys that have inspired me to give up *laughter* are Guthrie Govan, Paul Gilbert and the late great Shawn Lane. Those type guys are from a different planet that I can’t comprehend most times.”
To hear more of Mike’s music, visit his YouTube page.