Janis Ian

A Conversation with Janis Ian (continued)

PM: Only those of us who've seen you play live know what a great guitar player you are.

JI: Yeah, well kept secrets.

PM: Too well kept. Do you still play at home for fun?

JI: Here and there. Not as much as I used to. Mostly I sit around and diddle on the piano for fun.

PM: On guitar, do you practice, as such?

JI: If I'm working on a new lick, yeah. Otherwise, nah.

PM: So you're still getting better, huh?

JI: Well, I don't know if I'm getting better. [laughs] I'm certainly getting more nerve wracked. You know, I worry about it more. It's harder to play loose when almost everything you do turns into something professional.

PM: Got it. That was an excellent link on your site--which is a great site all the way around--an excellent link concerning your equipment. I know you're really into your gear.

JI: Oh, well, yeah. And I'm big believers in free sharing of equipment tips.

PM: There's a lot of good stuff there. Last time I saw you play, you and your soundman Philip really did some cool vocal effects with loopers and harmonizers.

JI: Yeah, we have a good time. We've been carrying around an Eventide this last year, and that's been great just for live vocal sampling and my guitar sampling.

PM: He does it on the fly.

JI: Yes, he does. And then there are certain things where I know if I go here then he'll probably go there. But particularly with having the in-ears, where I can keep one in and still hear in real time, and I can have one ear cocked towards the speakers, that gives me the ability to hear what he's doing and then build on it. And vice versa. So it becomes almost like a jazz band, except that it's a self-contained unit of two.

PM: I've never heard of people using in-ear monitors like that before. Or is that the common way?

JI: I have no idea how most other people use them. I just know the only time I use two in is if I'm at a huge, really noisy festival where I can't hear properly over the system. But otherwise I just always work with one.

PM: That makes perfect sense.

JI: The other reason why we've been so free with the equipment stuff is that I really feel that these vendors, you know, people like Shure and Mackie and the others, they're making it possible for me to do this on the road, and the studio would be unaffordable otherwise. When Shure gave me a couple of pairs of in-ears to beta-test, and then give me the upgrades to test, I feel that the least I can do is put them on my website.

PM: Right. Absolutely. Do you ever use the Lexicon Jammans for looping with your guitar?

JI: Yeah. We used to do that all the time, we had three of them out with us. But they're not making them anymore. As with all smart things, it was taken off the market. So we bought up all the ones we could find here in Nashville, and used them until it got to the point where reconditioning them and worrying about what would happen when one failed was really too nerve wracking. I think now we've got one or two of them in the rack. But the Eventide and the SPX have really picked up a lot of the stuff that they did.

PM: The Jammans has gotten hard to find anymore even on Ebay. I'm thinking I'll buy one of those Boomerangs, but they're really big.

JI: Yeah, they're huge, and they're kind of a pain in the ass to carry around, that's what I've heard.

PM: But then so are racks. But you've got a rack already, so then it's easy to stick one or another thing in it.

JI: Yeah.

PM: When you tour these days, do you tour solo, or do you bring any accompanists on the road?

JI: No, it's just me and Phillip. I don't know if, technically, you would call that solo, just because--

PM: Not the way you guys do it.

JI: Yeah, not the way we do it. But it is just the two of us.  

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