Eric Gales was in Tampa Florida on his recent tour in support of his new CD, "That's What I Am." Eric came on late, almost midnight and proceeded to give the audience an excellent show for the next two hours. One of the things that I like about his playing is that he tweaks and shapes songs to however he seems to be feeling at the time. He certainly does not just duplicate the recorded versions each night. I get the feeling that each song could be done numerous ways with a variety of styles and sounds depending on the crowd reaction and the particular night. Eric certainly has a ton of natural talent and he demonstrates it when he's playing guitar and singing. His playing is some of the most natural I have seen with the guitar acting like a totally natural extension of his body. I was able to interview Eric before his show and it covered a fair amount of territory, and provides some insight into the way he has developed his music and his career. I would like to thank Eric Gales and his management for providing the time for this interview.
Murf: Tell me a bit about how you got started playing guitar. I guess your family was really musically orientated.
Eric: Well I started playing guitar at the age of four years old and drums at the age of three. My grandfather played with Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, back in the days.......nothing on record or like that, jammed you know. Then the bass came on not too long after that. And you know, I came up growing up in the church. Mom had us in church every Sunday, choir rehearsal and all that stuff, sunshine band in the church house. Just doing what we had to do you know, and uh, and before I knew it the music career came, you know. I was like 15 when I signed my first record deal, and you know, that was with Electra. And when I was 16, I did a couple records for them and a record with my brothers on the House Of Blues label, "Left Hand Band". I came out with this MCA record this year ("That's What I Am"), but I worked on it last year.
Murf: I guess you sang in the church choir and played also?
Eric: I played in the church choir, I didn't sing......I can......but I played in a church choir. I did everything, you know from organ to drums, keys to guitar, bass, you know. My uncle played guitar, he's left-handed as well. By the way I do play left handed upside down and backwards. By the time I knew it was the wrong way; I'd already learned how to play that way.
Murf: I was going to ask you how that came about.
Eric: I just picked it up man, four years old, I just picked it up and held it that way and it felt comfortable.
Murf: Was there a lot of competition when you were learning how to play guitar or did you and your brother's just work together?
Eric: Was there competition with my family you mean?
Murf: Yeah, between you and your brothers?
Eric: No, it was all about working together to try to, uh, make everybody the best that we can be, you know we all three have different styles, you know what I mean. My brother has his own record out, doing his thing, Little Jimmy King is who I'm talking about and my other brother Eugene is a big core of what I do. You know, he molded me; he made me what I am. He mentored me, you know what I mean. He showed me how to teach myself you know. It takes two, you know, one to learn and one to teach if your teaching somebody, but you can teach yourself you know.
Murf: Eugene was on the first two albums and also on the "Left Hand Band" CD, and he toured with you. I notice that he's not touring with you this time.
Eric: No...but he's the main part of writing for this last record though, that I put out. He just had a kid, and he's staying home and doing the family life right now. He just had a boy.
Murf: I noticed that he wrote four of the songs.
Eric: Right, he was a big part and more than that to be honest with it, a big part of the record.
Murf: I guess there was tons of music at your house, all sorts of influences?
Eric: All the time man, Clayton and Beck and Johnson, Eric Johnson, Johnny Hooker, everything.......everything. We listened to rap and hip-hop and the R&B, country western and jazz. You know I'm heavily into Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins and all those guys too......so it's a big mess. A lot of different things.
Murf: I guess you started out entering band competitions to get noticed?
Eric: Pretty much, it happened and I never played around as a gig man. I played like three times a year. I got noticed in a battle of the band contest. I was 15 and this guy says "win lose or draw, I want to work with you guys". So that led to a production deal, a demo of four songs and we shopped that and that generated 13 or 14 record labels that wanted it. So we narrowed it down between Electra and a couple other record labels. Ended up doing the Electra thing and uh.....and going through the motions. After the second record release on Electra, I decided to say "I'm gonna let the record industry come to me", you know what I mean. I'm gonna do what I do, what I was born to do originally. I'm not gonna chase after it. If it happens, it's going to come to me. And if it happens, I'm going to feel more grateful about it. You have to go out and chase your goal, yeah that's cool, but you know, I gotta do what I gotta do. Which is music is my thing, and it's the top of my chain. Music is the top of my chain.
Murf: If you only played out three times a year, and listening to that first album, there's some pretty fantastic stuff on there for only playing out three times a year.
Eric: Well, I didn't say I wasn't doing my work at home you know. I was in the lab you know....every day....plenty scratched records, plenty broke tapes. I devised a way to tape tapes into the four track. I would take the four track and slow it down, learning all the riffs that I wanted to learn. I would get them all.
Murf: The old half tape speed trick?
Eric: The old half tape speed trick....yeah.
Murf: Your took your 45's and run them down to 33?
Murf: I've done that!
Murf: I understand that you are actually right handed?
Murf: Of course you said you started out on bass,
Eric: Drums was first, then guitar, then bass...so it was just a lot man. I don't roll against it, I roll with it.
Murf: When you released your first CD, (the self titled "Eric Gales Band") there was a lot of Hendrix comparisons, which always seems to happen with a lot of new guitar players. Is there much difference between the response then when you were 16 and now? Personally I hear an Eric Gales sound myself. You do have a distinct sound, real thick and heavy.
Eric: Well....the comparison thing, has been there and gonna always be there and I consider it one of the highest compliments in the world, to get a comparison to a guy like Hendrix you know. I got my own thing happening. Any good guitar player who hasn't.....who hasn't been influenced by Jimmy Hendrix....they all got one thing in common. Somebody's a fool not to listen to Hendrix....if you ask me about it. I can't help it if I have the same profile you know...blues-rock upside down and backwards if you know what I mean. I'm gonna get that comparison. Again I consider it one of the highest compliments in the entire world....a comparison to a guy like that.
Murf: Do you ever get tired of that? I see it all the time, a new guys comes out and all you hear is that "he's the next Stevie Ray Vaughan" or "he's the next Hendrix"....it almost seems to me to be a press type of thing.
Eric: Pretty much...that's what it is...but I don't get tired of it. It doesn't bother me, it's just part of what goes along with what I'm doin. Part of what goes along with..... how I'm doin what I'm doin. I just think it's a great homage to pay to the fella.
Murf: Do you compare your sound to anything?
Eric: uhhhhh.......It's hard to do it man, especially this new record. You listen to me as a guitar player, and you hear different influences....Eric Johnson, Frank Marino, Robin Trower....I'm influenced by music man and it's uhhhhh......I just call it modern man. It's all I can call it.
Murf: Yeah, your right, the new CD is all over the place. I reviewed the CD and one of the things I was impressed with....and I don't like rap-rock....
Murf: I'm sorry, I don't like it. I mean you did some rap on there and it sounded musical rather than like noise like some of the other bands. You could teach Limp Bizkit and some of those guys a thing or two.
Eric: (laughing) Well you know, I like that style of what they do as well, but I'm a music orientated person, so I can't help but to have it mixed in.
Murf: Is there any significance to the title of your latest CD "That's What I Am"?
Eric: Oh yeah......the music...the whole record...that's what I am...you know, that's what I am. That's me....that's EG you know.
Murf: Do you have any comments on any of the songs, how they came about or anything?
Eric: uh.....not really man, I just sit back and let it roll. That's pretty much how the songs come about. If I think about it too hard, I'm getting in the way.
Murf: Some of the songs on "That's What I Am" have been floating around as demos for quite a few years. Were most of the songs worked out in the studio or tweaked during live shows or what?
Eric: Yeah, pretty much, yeah....that was a good question, a damn good question. Some of them were...like "Blue Misty Morning" and "Hand Writing On The Wall" and "Black Day" and "That's What I Am" have been around for years. "Can't go On" and all that was mixed and "So Good If You Could" were brought about from mere vibe you know.
Murf: So they came up in the studio?
Eric: Well I had a pre-production time where I got together and wrote songs as well for this record. I wanted to have more songs...than few....to pick from....for this record you know. The songs that didn't get picked (laughing) will wait for the next record. Wow man....the crime is like that....you know...I much rather it be that way as opposed to there being an immediate drop out, you know what I'm saying. I could have had a big hit or whatever, and then it would have been hard to continue....and it really wouldn't have been...cause I got in my mind......that I can come out with songs like that....songs like that with no problem. It ain't the best spot to be in but I know where it's going and where it's going to wind up.
Murf: Do you have any particular way of writing songs? Do you work in a disciplined manner or do they just come to you. Do you work from riffs or a combination of these methods?
Eric: A combination of them all man...you know. I might have a melody or something, I'll have a melody in my head, but a riff will come to me man, I'll just be doing my thing and a riff will come out and I'll go "God.....where did that come from?". I try to have me one of those....rehearsals, studio or anything...I have a bloops and blunders tape that I have going at all times because in-between tracking and in-between a song will come out. Bam...Got it on tape!
Murf: So everything you do is on tape...everything?
Eric: Everything....everything. Is my tape budget heavy...is that what your saying (laughing)....my tape budget is fairly...fairly major, but hey it's worth it man at the end of the day when you got countless material that you can immerse in..... immerse in and work with, you know what I mean.
Murf: It's not so much the tape budget, cause tape is fairly cheap, but how do you keep it organized, how do you find stuff?
Eric: Just remember what tape is what, actually that's not too hard for me to do man. Just remember what tape is what and go for the good stuff.
Murf: Do you consider yourself a blues guitarist, a rock guitarist or just a guitarist?
Eric: Just a guitarist, you know, heavy blues orientated....heavy rock orientated, jazz...all of it...I mess into one thing man.
Murf: Your web presence has really increased since you released "That's What I Am", do you have any comment on how the Internet is affecting musicians and their part of the music business?
Eric: If anything, I consider it being a help. You got people....you got ways to get peoples opinion about it....right directly, you know what I'm saying. Just a few strokes of the keyboard and you can know about what's going on. You know I don't do my records for creative talent, I don't do my records for opinionators, I don't do my records for he say, she say. In that case I'm makin it for the people. I made my record for myself, you know what I mean, first and foremost, cause it hittin!, just hittin!, you know what I mean, ahhhhhh, just hittin!, and you know if it feels that good to me, you know I don't have bad taste, I know I don't have bad taste, and I'm not braggin about it.....I'm just telling the truth. (Laughing)
Murf: Ok...I'm a guitar geek, I admit it, tell me about your rig and what you use to get your sounds.
Eric: Right now I'm using Rivera amps which Paul Rivera himself came down and tweaked to get my own customized type. It's called the Bonehead. I got an Ernie Ball right now, an endorsement, not exactly exclusively cause I play strats. I got a custom shop strat, which has a left-handed body with a right-handed neck. Ernie Ball gave me a left-handed body with a right-handed neck. I got a few toys that I play with, my wah-wah, my Octavia, my......Blues Driver, my Chandler delay and I run through a....I got a wireless unit that I use as well. I got an ESP as well that has original 50's pickups in it, that I got from a guitar friend of mine named Mason Ruffner. I got it from him and it's uh....pretty major man, it's pretty fat.
Murf: Is there anything that you would, wouldn't or couldn't perform without?
Eric: No....I can go straight into the amp and do the deed. Straight into the amp, it ain't all toys you know. You can have serious.....serious tone in a Pignose. You gotta get the job done....you know that's bare bones into bare bones. You gotta get the job done man.
Murf: Basic acoustic?
Eric: Basic acoustic....I like writing on an acoustic to be honest about it. You get the gist of the song, you know what I mean. You get the gist of the song, there's no hiding nothing, you get to hear clear everything. I like that! A couple of the songs would have been acoustic....if not for....just the way they sounded to me you know. Some of these songs you should hear unplugged. MTV don't know what they are missing you know.
Murf: Do you do any acoustic songs in your set?
Eric: Yes...yes I do.
Murf: I know you did a few years back.
Eric: I got some surprises.....I got some surprises!
Murf: Great, I'm looking for some surprises. You said you had a bunch more songs in the can someplace.
Eric: Plenty of them man....I got plenty of them......Plenty....way plenty. Like I said, stay tuned for the next record man....stay tuned cause it something to stay tuned about.
Murf: Is there any kind of schedule on the next record yet?
Eric: Not yet, I figure it will be sometime next year man. It will be next year sometime.
Murf: So we have something to look forward to.
Eric: Oh yeah.
Murf: Have you ever had any Spinal Tap experiences?
Eric: No....don't intend to. What do you mean by that question?
Murf: Have you ever seen the movie?
Eric: Oh yeah.
Murf: One of those nights where nothing goes right.
Eric: Well sorta...sorta....but I just go out there and bang it out, and let the night prevail, you know what I mean. Spinal Tap....I don't have too much room for that. It can go that way with the system, but my gear is pretty much lock and load you know. We had to cancel a gig yesterday though because of transmission problems.
We ended the interview here so that Eric could prepare for the show.
This Interview is copyright © 2001 by Robert Murphy, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.