1. What Henriksen Amp do you play and what settings do you use?
I use the “Bud” amp on stage primarly in my “slack key” guitar concerts. I’m usually DI’d into the PA but I run a line from the DI to my Bud so that I have an independent monitor that I can rely on if the house monitors sound bad, which they usually do! I also use the Bud by itself for small gigs with the guitar in one channel and a mic in the other. My settings are usually pretty close to flat-I start with that and then adjust the low end a bit to suit the space.
2. What instruments do you play?
I’m using Taylor 514CE models with the ES2 pickup system. I also use one of these on tour with “Weird Al” Yankovic. I also play alate 30’s Rickenbacher lap steel a bit in my solo show, using a looper to record a guitar part and adding the steel on top.
On my recordings I also play bass and many other oddball guitars like a Martin tenor guitar, a Tacoma baritone guitar, a Deering 6 string banjo, a Moog guitar and a few different ukuleles including a Deering banjo uke!
3. What styles of music do you play?
My solo project focus is Hawaiian “slack key” guitar which is played on a regular acoustic guitar. It’s an old style that began in Hawaii in the early 1800’s when guitars were first brought to Hawaii by Spanish vaqueros, imported to teach Hawaiians how to manage cattle. It’s actually older than the blues. In fact, in the early 1900’s small Hawaiian groups toured the US mainland including the deep south where blues players heard the intoxicating sound of Hawaiian “steel guitar”. This lap style of playing was invented by Joseph Kekuku who took an open-tuned slack key guitar and played it on his lap with a steel bar. These folks imitated the sound of steel guitar by using a bottleneck on the guitar strings which was a seminal part of the Delta Blues sound.
With Weird Al, I play everything from polka to metal!
4. What, if any, warm ups do you do before a gig?
With Al I don’t really warm up at all. It’s a long show so there’s plenty of time to get in the groove! For my slack key shows, I like to have my guitar backstage before I go on to warm up and maybe practice a few of the more difficult or less familiar pieces. I do like to do a few vocal warm ups when I can-that helps a lot!
5. What’s the most interesting (good or bad) gig you’ve ever played? Give us the details.
Well one of the first gigs I ever played with Weird Al was as the opening act for a puppet show! That was at Magic Mountain, north of LA. Another interesting gig was when I was flown first class to the Bahamas to back up Tia Carrere, who is a friend of mine. We had three days at the Atlantis resort all expenses paid, dinners and parties every night and we just had to play four songs. I need more of those gigs!
In my solo career I’ve played a lot of small concert venues and private events. I was once hired to play at a wedding by the bride’s parents, because they knew she loved slack key guitar. About six months later I was called to play at her memorial service, for the same reason. As sad as it was, it was quite a powerful and touching experience.
6. Whats the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten at a gig?
I was backing up my friend, Hawaiian slack key artist Makana at a show at Typhoon in Santa Monica. It’s a music venue and classy “pan-Asian” restaurant. After the show they gave us a table and let us have whatever we wanted. There was a section of the menu dedicated to edible insects. He had the scorpions on toast and I had the fried crickets. Yum!
7. What’s your favorite place to play (country, state, venue, anywhere)?
Well I do love going Down Under-Australia and especially New Zealand are favorites. That being said, I always love going to new places. Last fall the Mandatory Tour went to Europe and we played Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Scotland, England, Amsterdam and Brussels.
*BONUS: If you could eat one Crayon from a box of 64 what color would it be?
If I HAD to eat one I guess I’d go for the one with the least added color-either white or black!