Shane Theriot: Part II
Boehlert: Can you talk about your gear choices when it comes specifically to your recording projects vs. what you might use in a live setting?
Theriot: I pretty much stick with the same gear and don’t really like to change up. I generally prefer Fender or Fender-sounding amps, but I also love my old Marshall and a few Dr. Z heads that I have. For the past few years I’ve been getting more into smaller amps. A lot of what you hear on “Dirty Power” is a Fender Champ! “Old Men” and “Four on your Floor” is an old Bassman that was at the studio - it belongs to Bonnie Raitt. As of late I’ve been really digging my old Mesa Boogie Studio Preamp too, that’s a great box. But mainly, I’m pretty basic with gear – as long as it’s not broken I can probably get it to sound half decent. I’m just not that picky. I probably use smaller amps on sessions now, and still have yet to be completely happy with my live sound. I’m sure most guys are like this from time to time.
Boehlert: What about pedals? I hear a bit of Octave box on the first solo in Old Men. How is that done - is it mixed in to another channel, or blended in in some other fashion? You always seem to get a killer sound out of that pedal - I can’t replicate it... does it come off live that way as well, or is it different.
Theriot: That track you are talking about was a PRS though a drive pedal (can’t remember what kind) into the octave box, it was done live. I sometimes just grab whatever is around at the moment, nothing fancy. It’s a Boss octave pedal (OC-2) I think, the brown one. Really I just use what’s around. I do have some Robert Keeley pedals and some high end pedals besides the usual Boss stuff, but I’m lazy! If something is in the studio close by I’ll just use that, cause I have stuff stashed everywhere it seems. But with pedals, I’ve never understood why people spend big bucks on all tube stuff and then put a whole bunch of transistors in front of it! I find myself using less and less effects these days, but love guys that can get some cool sounds out of them.
Boehlert: Do you use Verb or go dry when recording, and add a touch afterwards?
Theriot: I rarely use verb, sometimes I may use a bit of slap delay to get a room vibe, but most of my amps don’t even have reverb. I like to record in the hallway of my house, it’s got a great natural acoustic woody sound. The acoustic on “Old Men” was cut this way, as was the tambourine parts and some of the guitar on “Four on your Floor”.
Boehlert: Do you seek out an alternate tuning method to get inspiration at times?
Theriot: On acoustic I will if I’m just sitting around.
Boehlert: Have you got any ‘secret’ tunings that you like to use that you’d like to also share with us?
Theriot: I don’t know what it’s called but one is DADGAE (low to high) and on “Mr. Ed” it’s standard with the low E tuned down to B. I have other ones that I don’t know what they are called, kind of minor tunings. I just twist until it feels interesting and then I might write them down afterwards.
Boehlert: How do you decide to drop tune (-1/2 step for instance) or use a standard open-tuning or an unusual tuning for a song?
Theriot: I like the sound of a guitar in Eb for one thing... Van Halen and Hendrix - that’s why that stuff sounds so good. I think the guitar resonates better in Eb. I’ll also try and tune acoustics down a half step and capo it on sessions if I can get away with it. As for open or different tunings, that’s something I’ve been playing around with more and more. I did some stuff with a singer named Zachary Richard last year, and one of the tunes we did Sonny Landreth had originally played guitar on. It was a crazy D minor tuning with a 9 or something and I loved it so I’ve been trying to use that with conventional left hand fingerings. It’s not something that I really think about, whatever sounds good. You can really get some neat sounding ideas that way.
Boehlert: Do you like to explore unusual key changes?
Theriot: I don’t think any of my music really has unusual key changes, I’ve never really tried to consciously try that. Maybe sometime. My music is really simple actually. I will use modulations sometimes, like keeping the same melody note and shifting chords underneath it.
Boehlert: You like open-string playing, and spend a fair amount of time exploring the lower end of the neck both vertically and horizontally during a lot of your solo work. That’s one of your trademarks sonically. You also play a lot of broken chords, double stops, etc... where other players might do something completely different. Do you consciously keep it simple and stripped down?
Theriot: I really don’t consciously think about this stuff. Sometimes if I’m doing a solo I may try and phrase it so that I feel it makes sense to me musically, but that can be hard sometimes without sounding preconceived. Sometimes I feel that my stuff is too simple and second-guess everything I play. I know it’s been said again and again, but usually the best stuff is in the first or second take. I really left a lot of mistakes on this one because I tried to not do more than 3-4 takes of a solo. “Four on your Floor” and a few others are live takes and I didn’t want to go back start punching the track and mess the vibe up because of a few bad notes or a lick I may have played a hundred times before. Jim told me that Ry Cooder would never let him do more than 2 takes total of any tune in the 20+ years that he’s done records with him. Those guys have done more records than I own so they know more than me for sure.
Boehlert: On the new CD (Dirty Power), you used 4 different studios. Can you tell me what each studio has that makes it unique, or why it was chosen to track at?
Theriot: Well, that’s simple. They were chosen because they were available and the drummers were nearby! Ultra Tone in L.A. was a real nice find. Hutch (Hutchinson) recommended that place and Johnny Lee Schell, who worked with Bonnie Raitt for years was an absolute Godsend. He really helped me get some great sounds with Jim and Zig. Fudge Studio (Better than Ezra’s studio) is a few streets over from my house, so that made sense too.
Boehlert: Besides the musicians, who are the guys behind the console, and their techs? I’ve seen some of the same names on your past projects and again on this new recording... can you tell us more about Neal Cappellino? How did you guys hook up, and what makes you two work so well together?
Theriot: Neal is my right hand man and one of my best friends who just happens to be a Grammy award-winning engineer. We’ve done a lot of projects together and he just seems to read my mind with stuff. He’s one of the few people that I think really “get’s it”. Bruce Barielle really did a great job mastering and Jack Miele helped me out a bunch too.
Boehlert: On your last CD, The Grease Factor, Scott Henderson was instrumental in providing you with some very special mic’ing technique, which made a big difference to you in how that project got recorded. It was very noticeable when compared to your first CD Highway 90. How did that come about?
Theriot: He just mentioned some things about mic placement and how he approaches stuff. I was ⇓ attered when “Grease Factor” came out, Scott called and said it had been in his car CD player for a week. Knowing Scott, I took that as a great compliment. I’ve picked up little things from him, like running the output of a drive pedal all the way up, some tone pot tricks, little things. I’ve known Scott for a long time now and he knows a lot about gear for sure.
Boehlert: What other things affect your recording process?
Theriot: Well, there were a few guys that I wanted on “Dirty Power”, mainly horn players that I just couldn’t seem to nail down, but everyone else I wanted to participate I was able to get. The drummers were the hardest. Trying to coordinate those guys with everyone else’s schedule took a while. I waited a year to get Zig- and he lives around the corner!
Boehlert: How does it feel to do some of this stuff on your own and how does your studio compare with the others that you use?
Theriot: Well, my space is still a work in progress, and it doesn’t have the big time gear that the other places have...yet. No, it’s mainly set up for pre-production and overdubbing, although I’ve cut drums there. I do a lot of remote session stuff in there. I think these days most musicians have at least some sort of recording machine available. I love my space because it’s a back building behind my house that used to be a workshop, except it’s floors up so you are sort of secluded. It’s set up so that musicians can crash up there and it’s quiet, although in New Orleans, you’re only a few blocks away from debauchery! That’s it on the back photo of the CD.
Boehlert: At some point you made final decisions on song titles... how do you decide what to call your songs?
Theriot: Could be anything really. “Memphis” was something that I came up with during the Katrina limbo that everyone was in. I got a lot of cool ideas during that time. “Kirk’s Little Backpack” was named after Kirk Joseph, one of the baddest sousaphone players in the world. He’s this big guy and carrying around a huge old tuba and one day in the studio he shows up with a tiny backpack. The contrast in the tuba and backpack was hilarious so we started teasing him about it. Plus, listen to that song. What else would you call it? You could call it anything and it would work!
Boehlert: Can you describe the mixing process and mastering process that takes place?
Theriot: I’d love to stay out of both but don’t have the choice! Haha. No, the mix process is something that I either do with someone else or I’ll set up a rough and then let someone like Neal mix it. I don’t have the patience really. Mastering is just putting a little polish on it and that can be fun. But mainly by the time it goes to mixing, I’m so jaded and numb to the songs that I need to get away for a while.
Boehlert: Describe your thought process when choosing the order that each of these ‘new’ compositions will be placed in, and what techniques you use. You’ve mentioned things like not placing two horn songs next to each other.
Theriot: It’s all about flow and finding a common thread that will hold the whole record together. I find it useful to create a playlist in iTunes and then experiment with endings into different songs to see how they flow into one another. I mentioned the horn tunes because I think spacing them out helped the pace and vibe of the whole record.
Boehlert: How long did this project take from the first new song to the last?
Theriot: This project started about 3 years ago with Richie and Johnny Neel. We originally started out to do a trio record to finish up some tracks that Johnny and I had done with Matt Abts. We cut about 7 things with Richie and never finished anything, so I took 2 of those (“Memphis” and “The Pygmy Love Dance”) and finished them in New Orleans (Johnny actually played harmonica and did the CB thing on Memphis while we were driving in a car together on tour in Jan!). I’m going to put some video of that up sometime. Anyway, the tracks with Jim Keltner and Hutch were done in 2008 and the stuff with Zig was done in L.A. earlier this year. So about 3 years. But most of that was on me, trying to find the time when not touring or away to finish it. And then you have to work up the inspiration to get going - that can be hard sometimes when you spend most of your time playing for other people.
Boehlert: What’s next for Shane Theriot?
Theriot: Just to keep playing and writing and having fun. I’m lucky that people seem to like what I do enough to keep the phone ringing. My greatest fear is becoming an old bitter musician, so I’m trying to appreciate every opportunity that comes along and be thankful for that. I want to continue to get better as a composer and musician. I feel like I’m really just starting to get a grasp on the guitar and hopefully I’m starting to make some real music.
Dr. Z Prescription Xtra Strength, KT-45, Fender Twin Reverb ‘67, Bassman head ‘68, Bassman combo, VibroChamp amp ‘65, Champ amp ‘70, Korg A3 preamp, Marshall Super Lead with “crunch” mod by Bob Bradshaw ‘71, Mesa Boogie Studio Preamp, Peavey XXX head, “Wiggy” amp, Pignose amp ‘80, Trace Elliot acoustic amp
Alvarez Yairi (for hi 3rd tuning), CA guitars jumbo acoustic, Ellis/Kornau custom acoustic 1998, Epiphone Sheraton, ‘60’s, Fender Jazz Bass, Lonestar Strat, Gibson Howard Roberts, ‘74, Hamer Daytona strats, one stock, one w/mods and Screamin’ Demon bridge pickup, Koa Artist, T51, 12 string electric, Lag electric ‘89, Michael Kelly baritone guitar, Melancon Custom Artist, Ovation Mandocello (custom), nylon string, Paul Reed Smith, ‘92, Takamine acoustics (various), nylon string classical (unknown), Yamaha Pacifica
Arion chorus, Barber LTD, Boss SD1-japan, SD1-Keeley, CE1, CE2, CS3, Dimension C, DD5, OC-2, DS1-Keeley, RC 20 Catalinbread Semaphore, Crybaby wah- stock, Crybaby wah-Custom Audio mod, DOD Flanger, Ibanez touch wah, multi efx w/TS808, Tubescreamer-Keeley, tubescreamer (stock), delay, JStation multi FX, Keeley-Rat, compressor, MXR dyna-comp, Nobels tremolo, Sans Amp XXL, TC electronics 2290 chorus, Vox wah w/mello mod
Usually 10-52 or 11-54, depending on guitar, for acoustic Elixir polyweb 12 set.
I like either medium and heavy Fender picks, depending on type of music, and I always shave them down on a piece of carpet to take the bluntness off of the edge.