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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Interview : Frank Gambale

Interview : Frank Gambale

MGS - Thanks for chatting with us Frank it’s an honor.

FG – My pleasure…..

MGS - Hows the tour going?

FG – Van, white lines on the freeway, set up, play, tear down sleep, eat, shower…the fun part is playing that’s for sure…as I always say, I get paid for the traveling, the playing I do for free…enthusiastic people but it isn’t theaters or big venues…very small time here in the USA…small group of hard core fans.

MGS - How do you keep yourself entertained on the plane?

FG – That’s what laptops are for…or a good novel…that’s my two modes pretty much…although the only flights on this tour are at the beginning and end of the tour…the rest is endless hours in the van…we all get along really well so there’s entertaining banter amongst the guys…then we get into our own things with Pcs and headphones, novels etc…

MGS - I got to see Vital Information play about 6 years ago I think it was, in Toledo Ohio. Very cool stuff. The guy in front of me had your autograph on about 20 CD covers. I was waiting for you to kick him to the curb but you were cool as ice. Anything crazy ever happen with a fan? Ever have to boot someone from the stage?

FG – I think you’re asking a jazz fusion musician rock and roll questions…people that like this kind of music are pretty cool and appreciative and understand what we’re doing…mostly they’re musicians…if someone has 20 of my Cds the very least I can do is sign all of them and shake his hand in appreciation. No one ever jumps up on the stage at a jazz concert!!

MGS - Can you tell us about the Frank Gambale Yamaha guitar and the Carvin preamp?

FG – My Yamaha AES-FG model has just been discontinued. It was a beautiful guitar but it was a bit expensive because Yamaha had to use a third party factory to build it…it was a complicated guitar. So we’re about to start working on another new instrument soon…it will probably be semi-acoustic…I find semi-acoustic guitars way more versatile than solid bodies at the moment.

The preamp is called Tone Navigator and it has been very popular. It took 2 years to get it right but it was worth it…sweet tone and no tubes…I’m a bit of a contrarian when it comes to guitar amps…most guitarists like tubes…but not me, and I definitely don’t like tube power amps…they just sound terrible mostly…I use a PA power amp ( 1000 watts ) just for head room…I like clean power…you never see PA companies using tube power amps now do you?

MGS - Do you ever use or still own the old Ibanezes? Those are still pretty sought after.

FG – I still have them gathering dust in my closet. I’m under contract with Yamaha so I don’t play Ibanez in public. I still love my GB-10 and some of my old FGM-400s…they are beautifully made instruments…I guess those and the Yamahas are going to be somewhat collectable.

MGS - Can you give the details of your current live rig. Amps, pedalboard, picks, cables etc.

FG – OK…4 space rack with TC Electronic G-Force, Tone Navigator – Carvin Preamp, Carvin 1000 watt power amp. Rolls midi pedal, Ernie Ball volume pedal, Planet Waves by D’Addario cables, Yamaha guitars…planet wave big triangle picks regular heavy.

MGS - Please tell us about the new DVD and CD.

FG – Concert With Class ( Alfred Publishing ) has been out for a while’s a 90 minute concert with Steve Smith drums, Ric Fierabracci bass and Steve Tavaglione on two sax in two songs as special guest. Then there’s an instructional part for 60 minutes plus it includes a book with transcriptions of many of the tunes I played in the video…pretty cool product.

My newest CD is called Natural High. It’s all acoustic with Alain Caron on bass and Otmaro Ruiz on piano and Mike Shapiro on occasional percussion…the album is burning and you don’t even notice the absence of drums…which gives the acoustic instruments more space. We just completed a tour in Europe and it was really well received.

The album before my latest one is called Raison D’etre. It featured Billy Cobham on drums…I invented a new tuning and Yamaha made me a double neck guitar so I could have standard and the Gambale tuning available at all times. Some very fresh sounds from the guitar. There are transcriptions and an explanation on my website.

MGS - Do you write much on the road? How do you record your ideas?

FG – I used to write on the road…but I rarely do nowadays…there’s just no time…we’re doing 18 shows in 19 days…no time…I’d rather take a month off and write and prepare in peace and quiet rather than drag a bunch of gear, set it up in a hotel room and try to come up with something when you’re dead tired…not generally productive. If I do get an idea I do it the old fashioned way, I write it down on music paper!! Imagine that!!

MGS - I recently saw some riff raff on Harmony Central bootlegging one of your DVDs. I think this younger generation doesn’t quite get it. Thoughts?

FG – It’s a real sore point with me…sometimes makes me want to quit the whole business of music. If people only knew how much work goes into conceiving, writing, recording, selecting the musicians, paying the musicians, choosing studios, artwork expenses, pressing costs, distribution costs…people say they think it’s a rip off to pay $19 for a CD when you can copy it for 50 cents. Well, let me say this, they have never been a record company. My latest album had a modest budget of around $30,000 which I paid for…that’s all up. My until cost is around $9.00….just to make the CD. I sell to my distributor for $8.75. That’s all they will pay because at that cost the retail is $18.99…now is that a good business to be in?? Hell no…it’s madness…I can afford to do this because I make money elsewhere, but as a pure business model, the recording business basically sucks right now. The circle has been broken, not enough money is coming back to the artist because people are copying, file sharing etc etc…that’s all well and good but it’s killing the industry…you don’t go to a hardware store, fill up your cart and walk out…you must pay for your items….there’s a whole chain of events that goes into bringing a product to market…the producers must be paid otherwise the system fails…people lose jobs etc…well with intellectual property it’s so easy to steal, a few moves and buttons on a computer and you can copy something that cost a lot of money to produce and basically, it’s stealing…yes STEALING!!! It’s so hard to police it that it goes on and people have very little conscience or moral fiber these days to stop and think, hang on a minute, this is somebody’s hard work here and I’m stealing it…no…I’ll go out and buy it. That rarely happens. The argument is always, well, people discover an artist that they wouldn’t normally buy and then go out and buy it legitimately..that’s crap, once someone has it they don’t go and buy it. Just look at the statistics on CD’s falling and there’s no end in sight. The jazz world is such a small market to begin with…sales are what I would consider pitiful at this point in history.

MGS - Has Vital Information ever busted out a Journey tune? When I saw you guys, Steve was doing a clinic and explained the Don’t Stop Believing riff. Sometimes clearing the room of guitarists and having screaming chicks might be a good thing.

FG – I’d rather see chicks screaming at fusion or jazz and I have seen it many times so I know it’s possible. What’s wrong with playing what we play that we would have to “break out a Journey tune”….to me it’s the difference between reading the cat sat on a mat as opposed to a great work of literature…just because something is popular doesn’t make it better…and I’ve accepted that many “chicks” will most likely never understand or dig jazz because there’s mostly crusty guys playing jazz and there’s no video with perfect, beautiful people partying…playing jazz is almost a religious experience…it’s not about fashion or popularity…it’s art.

MGS - I totally agree Frank.

MGS - Do you use a MP3 player?

FG – Itunes and an Ipod…I love mp3s. I have most of my music available on my website for downloading as mp3s plus music minus one, pdf charts etc etc.

MGS - What are you currently listening to?

FG – Monk and Coltrane Live at Carnegie Hall, Morph The Cat – Donald Fagen, Transition – John Coltrane, A Time 4 Love – the new Stevie Wonder album, Faces – Earth Wind and Fire…Police – Message in a name a few.

MGS - Have you tried any of the guitar amp modelers? Thoughts?

FG – Hmmm….no. I guess if you use your imagination you can start to believe that it’s a vintage Marshall or a black face twin…I think most people that use the modeling computer simulated amps use them more for the convenience more than the sound…it’s good enough for most folks…let me see…simulation verses the real thing…I know which one I go with…

MGS – I’ve only seen pics of the double neck Yamaha, how do you utilize both necks?

FG – I had it built for the Raison D’etre album and tours. I invented a new tuning for guitar…I think it’s revolutionary…it will probably take a few more years before people cotton on to what I’ve done…if you play any keyboard as a guitar player you envy the liberty that keyboardists have to play any notes together they choose…guitar is very limited in that sense…we’ll my new Gambale Tuning brings us VERY close to the chordal possibilities and liberty of keyboards. Long overdue…it only took 40 years to think of it! I reckon it could easily become another standard tuning.

The best thing about it is that you don’t have to learn any new shapes…if you play open D it still comes out as a major triad…so you don’t have to start over…it’s voiced differently but that’s the whole point. I can play almost any voicing I want to for 4 and 5 note chords and I can play that cool voicing in all keys comfortably…it’s awesome.

The double neck guitar allows me to have the standard tuning on one neck and the Gambale tuning on the other…check out Raison D’etre at my website and hear some new sounds from the guitar. I also have the entire album transcribed and available as pdf with music minus ones for that album going up soon. The pdf charts tells you how to tune the instrument.

MGS - Can you tell our readers about your website and what you offer there?

FG – Well I’ve mentioned it a lot already but what the hell. I don’t know of any other guitarist/ artist website that offers what I am offering…albums for downloading, then the music transcribed for that album as music/TAB in pdf format…then the actual album mix minus guitar, drums, bass and keyboard to download as practice / play along backing tracks…I’m also going to offer extended 20 minute versions of my latest album so folks can practice the changes…plus the usual news and information and tour info and a message board…I’m going to revamp the look of the site soon to incorporate pics of my new hairless head.

MGS - If you had beginning guitar students what would be the first 5 things you would start them on to get a good foundation?

FG – Intervals, chord construction, modes and the harmonized scale.
Understand these things and you understand all you need to know. Music theory isn’t hard…all students can understand it cerebrally…if a student can count to 13… that’s as hard as the math is…now…applying it to the instrument may take the rest of your life….

Feature Interview

Frank GambalemusicgearsourceCheck out for CD/DVD info and download songs per track.