A Conversation with J.J. Cale (continued)
PM: Speaking of that first record, I got in such a J.J. Cale mood just getting involved with To Tulsa and Back and having to do with the interview and stuff, I had to go on Ebay this morning and buy a new copy of Naturally--
JJC: [laughs] Oh, you did?
PM: --and a new copy of The Wind Blows, the two-CD anthology. I said, "Okay, I'm getting my fix now."
JJC: Yeah, yeah. I've got some records out there. I'd like to take some of them back.
PM: [laughs] Ain't that always the way.
PM: I like that guitar sound on "Fancy Dancer" a lot. It's one of your classic sounds. [check the clips on the Listen page] You don't remember what's going on with that, do you?
JJC: Well, yeah, the guy that's kind of my liaison with the record company really liked that song. I wouldn't have put that on there. That's really a demo. But he really liked it, and like I said, this album here was kind of me and that guy and another guy kind of picked the tunes. Generally I just pick all the tunes myself. Or when Audie was alive, he picked all the tunes.
PM: He picked them all? Wow!
JJC: Yeah, on the first eight albums. I'd just make the records. Audie was an old disc jockey there in Nashville. When I met him he worked for--not WLAC, but one of the pop rock stations there. So he had an ear for songs that I didn't. We'd argue a lot about the songs, but he had an ear for songs much more than me. I just wrote them. And he'd say, "Well, that's a good song, John, and that one there sucks."
JJC: And so after I quit making records with Audie, I picked all the tunes. This last album, me and the guy working for the record company and the guy who books me picked all the tunes. That guy likes that song real well. And what I think he liked about it was the guitar. I have a Casio synthesizer guitar I bought in I guess about 1980. And that was one of the first synthesizer--Roland come out with a guitar synthesizer and you could put it on your guitar and plug it into a Midi device and make it sound just like a piano. But Casio come out with one called a 360. So I went and bought one--in fact, I bought two. And I just like the guitar.
The guitar is Japanese made. It's a Stratocaster imitation. I've been playing it all these years. If I want to add some strings, some synthesizer, instead of playing keyboard, I would just run the Midi out into a synthesizer module or a keyboard and I could do it on the guitar, which I understood a little bit more than the keyboard.
JJC: Anyway, the nice thing about that particular guitar, it's all inside the guitar. All the Roland stuff is kind of outside. Anyway, I've been playing that, and I've been using it on records now for years. That's the sound of that guitar.
PM: Incredible. And it's a Casio 360?
JJC: Yeah, it's a Casio 360. They don't make them anymore. I tried to buy more of them. And the synthesizer generally goes bad after a few years. I don't know what happens. It hasn't on this particular guitar. I took one of the pickups off and put a Gibson pickup on it, so it's been modified. I'm not as much into lead guitar as I used to be, but it's really a good lead guitar. It gets real close to sounding like either a Stratocaster or a Les Paul, I have both of those. And it's got a Floyd Rose thing on it, so it stays in tune real good. So when I go on the road, I play that thing with a band. Number one, it stays in tune, right?
JJC: That's the problem when you're out on the road is keeping them damn guitars in tune.
PM: You bet.
JJC: So I've been using that probably on the last three or four albums that I've made, and that's the sound of that guitar. It's all over that album.
PM: So did you put a Humbucker on that, or a little--
JJC: It comes with a single-coil Humbucker, right, that configuration. So on the neck I took the Japanese Humbucker off. And Gibson makes a Humbucker called a 500, which is their strongest one they make. If you buy a new Les Paul from Gibson, you get a 490 on it or a 420 or something like that. But they make one called a 500 and it's really a strong pickup. I also have it where you could switch it and make it a single coil. It's been thoroughly modified. I don't own a guitar that I don't tear apart and rearrange. That's another one of my hobbies. It don't never sound any better, but I enjoy the process. It's kind of like playing golf.
PM: What guitars do you play around the house?
JJC: I've been playing a Danelectro that I've modified, the convertible model, which is an acoustic. I've been using it on the gigs for the last three, four, five years. The reason I like it--you can't get this one anymore, it's not the old American made Dan-o, it's made in Korea. For a little while they made these guitars, and it's the convertible model, it's not the solid body model, it's real thin. And a lot of times I don't even want to hook up the amp, and I want to sit down and play or write a song or whatever. So it's got acoustic properties in it. I put a Piezo on it and changed it so it has a lipstick tube [pickup], and then I run the Piezo through one amp and the magnetic pickup through another one.
PM: Oh, that's nice.
JJC: And I've been using that on the gigs. And the last tour--I toured in 2002, and it worked pretty well. I did a lot of solos. I also added some bands and a big bunch of musicians on stage, but I also did a lot of solos. And it works real well as a solo. It's somewhere in between an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar.
Now, I have Martins and Taylors and all that kind of stuff. They're all a little--this is almost like an electric guitar with some acoustic properties to it. Fender has come out with the Telecaster acoustic and the Stratocaster acoustic. They're real thin, but they're hollow, they don't have a board running through the middle of them like on a 335. So I enjoy that, because about half the time I don't have to hook up an amplifier, but it feels like an electric guitar--which works great on the gigs. continue