The Musicians of ENA – Part I
Let it never be said that ENA employees don’t like to have fun. Whether it’s playing cornhole, partaking in a Warrior Dash or something else in between, we like to have fun. Following suit behind the The Motorcyclists of ENA blog, we thought it would be fun to focus on another group of people within the office: the musicians.
In this multi-part series, these fine individuals will be answering the following questions:
- When did you start playing your instrument of choice, and why? Do you play other instruments as well?
- Over the years, what gear have you amassed, and what’s your prize piece?
- Do you perform in a band now or just jam at home? What genre of music do you typically play?
- How do you feel about games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero?
- If you had to pick one, who is your favorite band of all time? Additionally, what’s the best concert to which you’ve been?
Their answers are as follows:
1. I started singing in a Pentecostal church around the age of 5. To that point, I’d grown up watching some pretty spirited performances and decided I wanted to be up there. Apparently I liked to kick my foot in time to the music … the only problem being I kicked the bottom of the mic stand while doing it. I also play the kazoo and tambourine.
2. I have a wireless mic, in-ear monitor system, effects, vocal harmonizer, various Shure and Sennheiser mics, and a Takamine acoustic guitar (although I can only find about 3 chords). The harmonizer is a pretty fun gadget to play with.
3. I’m not currently involved with anything, but the last project I was in was called The Huge Hefners at first, then later Forty Watt Rocket. You can find The Huge Hefners’ tunes on iTunes or Spotify. I’ve performed everything from the 40’s to present day, including country, rock and pop. But I’d say my personal favorites land somewhere between southern and alternative rock. I was the Male Vocalist of the Year for the United States Air Forces in Europe, as well as the Horizon and Male Vocalist of the Year for the Oklahoma Opry. I performed in Country Music USA at Opryland and on a couple of different cruise ships. I’ve also performed in several different bands over the years doing country and rock, as well as in a few musical theatre productions.
4. I have fun playing these with the kids, but I’ve never achieved much skill on the guitar there either. I think these games are great for exposing the younger generations to classic tunes.
5. This really is an impossible question. Styx’s Grand Illusion was my first album and I still love those songs to this day. However, I suppose I respect the body of works by U2 and Aerosmith above most other bands. I’d have to say that my favorite concert was Aerosmith, who I just saw recently in Atlanta.
1. I got my first bass guitar when I was 13. The main reason was because all of my friends who were musicians (I use “musicians” loosely here) were guitarists and drummers, so it made sense to me to play bass with the hopes of starting a band. I got a Fender Squier P-Bass, which is a pretty standard beginner bass, and small 112 Peavey amp, both of which I still own. I started taking lessons, but as luck would have it, after only a few months I broke my right arm, which put my bass playing to a stop after only a few short months. Once my arm healed, I told myself I would learn to play on my own and just forgo learning how to read music, because as a 13 year old, who cares about reading music? If I were to compile a list of regrets in life, this is one of them. I pretty much stopped playing altogether for years (I’ll talk about what got me back into it later), and to this day, I cannot read sheet music whatsoever. As far as other instruments, my guitar playing ability is limited to what I can play on bass, and that’s about all of the musical talent I have. While I say I’ll learn to play drums one day (a friend’s drum set is sitting in my house right now), I’m not sure when I’ll get around to it.
2. Over the years I’ve amassed a fair amount of gear. I have four basses: my Fender Squier, a Traben Array, a MusicMan OLP 5 string and a Schecter C-4. I toy with the OLP once in a while, but 5 strings really aren’t my thing. I keep it to have the option though. The Traben Array is the one I would call my baby, and it was my main player for years. In the last 6 months or so though, I’ve found myself using the Schecter C-4 more often than not. I bought it from a guy on Craigslist to use as a backup since it was being sold for a good price, but it’s really giving me the sound I want right now, making it my go-to. My amp is a Gallien Krueger (GK) 700RB-II with a GK NEO 410. Sooner or later, I’m going to buy a second NEO 410, but I haven’t yet. I also use a Zoom B9.1UT pedal for the occasional effects and to tweak my sound from time to time.
I have some other gear, but that’s my main setup. As far as a “prize piece,” I really don’t have one yet. While I wouldn’t get rid of any of my gear (you could call me a hoarder when it comes to things like this), I’m not convinced my sound is perfect, so I’m constantly looking for new stuff. The most special piece I have is my Fender Squier. It’s worth virtually nothing, but since it was my first bass and I’ve had it for nearly a decade, I hold it near and dear. My fiancée and I made a deal a while back where we agreed that once I proposed to her she would owe me a Rickenbacker 4003 (mapleglo finish). While I’ve held up my end of the deal, I’m still waiting on the bass, which I’m confident will turn into my most prized piece.
3. I play in a band, and I jam with people at my house once in a while. Anyone who knows me would immediately rat me out as someone who rarely practices alone, so most of my playing is with my band and friends. My band plays a mix between hard rock, metal, alternative, progressive, etc. It’s pretty grungy (we typically play in drop B), but also pretty calculated. We’re known as Holiness Movement, and our music can be found on Facebook, although I put on the disclaimer that unless you like pretty grungy rock with distorted guitars, both screaming and singing (yes, actual singing) vocals, and the occasional bits of colorful language, then you may want to keep walking.
4. Referencing back to question #1 where I said I practically stopped playing bass, I give Rock Band and Guitar Hero credit for getting me back into it. I primarily use a pick when I play bass (bring on the hate, bass elitists), so the strumming motion on the guitar controller got my right hand in shape for it (at least to a degree). More than that though, it really worked my fretting hand out and gave me more precision and speed. Obviously playing the real thing has many differences, but for a beginner, the principles are pretty similar. Without these games, I’m not sure I’d be playing today.
5. My favorite band of all time is Judas Priest, which I attribute completely to when I saw them live in 2004 at Ozzfest. I was mesmerized, and aside from hearing the standards like “Breaking the Law,” I really wasn’t familiar with them. Looking back, while I’ve seen a lot of incredible live shows and may have even enjoyed some more, Ozzfest 2004 is what I would consider my favorite concert to which I’ve ever been. I say this for two reasons: it was my first real concert and it introduced me to a lot of bands that I would consider favorites today.
1. I started playing guitar as adolescence first encroached upon me! This was in the late 60′s/early 70′s, about the time The Monkees were blowing up on TV. I remember thinking, “Hey, lookit! They’re wearing cool clothes, playing music to screaming fans, getting chicks, living the ‘life fantastique.’ They have that cool car and that cool house. They even hang out with Frank Zappa. I wanna doo thaaat!” So I fooled around with it, halfheartedly (mostly because the adulation and chicks were not exactly forthcoming for a kid) for a while until one day I found myself spending more time in front of the record player, moving the needle back and going over and over some guitar part I thought was cool, and less time practicing rock star poses in the mirror. I think that’s when I knew I was hooked …
2. Thankfully, GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) has not been much of a problem for me! Some guys go through years of buying, selling and trading gear before they find “that sound.” As for me, I got a small pile of stuff, most of which I’ve used for decades. I play a ’78 Fender Stratocaster and an Ibanez “lawsuit era” Les Paul clone, both of which I’ve had for a little more than 30 years. About 6 years ago, I received my very first “for real” Les Paul as a gift. That thing is simply incredible! There are a handful of old classic effects pedals and a couple of signal processors in my rack, a pedalboard at my feet, and a snake running between the two. Behind me, next to the rack, is a pair of amps. The first one I’ll tell you about is my Mesa Boogie Mark III combo. Bought it to reward myself for graduating college and, now that I think about it, it was the last piece of cool gear I bought before embarking into parenthood (go figure, right?) and for (way too) many years thereafter. The other amp? Oh, yeah, that’s my “prize piece.”
My other amp is a 1957 Fender Bassman. Not one of the reissues, mind you, but the real deal. This thing is 55 years old and is a tank! My dad (also a musician) bought it brand new in 1957 and played through it for years. When I was 15 years old, he gave me a ’68 Telecaster and that amp for Christmas. It is older than I am, is beat all to pieces (and, to my chagrin, no longer of any worth as a “collector’s item,” but that doesn’t matter to me) and still produces that sound. I cannot imagine being without it! I don’t have the Tele anymore and that is a tale filled with stupidity (on my part, of course) to be told another time perhaps. But that amp fills the “prize piece” spot for me, not only because of what it is, but more so because it was my dad’s. Between him and me, we can account for every day of its life. I feel rather certain it will survive well beyond me, passing down to my son (also a musician). But he’ll have to wait a while ’cause I’m still playing it!
3. I just recently retired from a funk ensemble called JonesWorld after 8 years of more fun than I probably should’ve been having, really! It’s a freakishly large band with a high water mark of about 30 members, with typically around 15 to 20 at any given gig. We use several guitar players, bass players, keyboard players and drummers (drum players?) in a “rotating cast of thousands” kind of effect. Then, there’s the horn section. And the Glitterchicks. And fans who also dress up/out/weird for the shows. Loud guitars, louder suits, giant smoking fuzzy dice, backlit ‘girlie screens’ for dancing behind. You know, the usual spectacle-y stuff and all delivered with a joyous DIY vibe! For a while, we even had various types of dancers and trapyra artists that would perform with us. They were really great! Oh yeah, and a sword swallower (and former ENA alumnus). JonesWorld plays not only its own songs but tons of great stuff by funk royalty like Earth, Wind & Fire, Sly and the Family Stone, Prince, Cameo, George Clinton, Mother’s Finest, Morris Day and the Time, and James Brown. If you get a chance to see them, you should. Being a part of such a thing gave me a great opportunity to play with a wide variety of different players from different musical backgrounds, all of us somehow homing in together on being funky! I’m glad I took the chance …
4. Wow! You know what? I cannot play those games to save Jeff Beck’s life! My kids spent hours playing those games and would always try to draw me into them. For some reason, I could never catch on. At the risk of sounding snooty or anything, it may have something to do with the fact that I play (here it comes) “real” guitar and here’s why. I find that, while watching the game, I pay more attention to the audio that’s playing than the scrolling notes and my “muscle memory” moves my hand in ways appropriate for having strings under them. While that works for playing guitar, it turns out to be awful for pressing buttons on a controller as notes go by.
5. My most favorite band is Rush. When I was learning to play, I was on a steady diet of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Kiss, The Who, Cheap Trick and the like. Loved that stuff and I still do! One day, a friend of mine came over after school with a copy of Rush’s “2112″ and it changed my entire outlook on what was cool about guitar playing and song writing. Wound up listening to (and learning) a boatload of their stuff and all kinds of other “prog rock” bands (Yes, Genesis, Frank Zappa, Queen, Kansas, Pink Floyd and the list goes on and on), but “home base” for me is always Rush!
My favorite concert would have to be the Nashville stop on Kiss’s Destroyer tour back in (ack!) 1976. I was a young and impressionable lad when our dad brought me and my brother to that show. Yeah, the band played great, but I remember being particularly floored by their showmanship! All the fire breathing, smoking guitars, blood spitting and strategic rock star poses really sucked me in and made me think, “man, that’s so cool.” I’ve since seen them several times, sometimes bringing one or another of my own kids in some sort of perverse “rite of passage” and they have never failed to be tremendously entertaining!