INTERVJU: Jared James Nichols

Jared James Nichols är aktuell med sitt senaste självbetitlade album. Han har en stor kalufs, spelar utan plektrum och har haft nöjet att spela och bli vän med flertalet av de stora gitarristerna. Men vad gör då någon till en exceptionellt bra gitarrist?

They talk to you through their guitar. They speak to you. The emotions and expressions are on such a high level that they don´t have to show you how technically good they are at the guitar to make you feel it.

You´ve met and played with and befriended a lot of the well-known guitar players out there. They always say that you shouldn´t meet your heroes?

I´ve heard that saying so many times. You know, I will disagree on that because I think the reality is, even if you met your hero and they were a total jerk, go meet your hero! Life´s too short for some of that stuff. I remember when I got to open for Leslie West in 2019 and the guy who books me goes “Hey man, it´s literally such low money that it will cover a flight from LA to New York for you.” and I said “I´m doing it! I don´t care.” I remember I got there and it was in the middle of winter and his (Leslie´s) tech goes “Yeah man, Leslie´s not in a good mode today. You caught him on a really bad day.” I hadn´t met him yet and I just went “Oh no!” I remember I was sound checking and all of a sudden I heard “Who the fuck´s that?” and I was like “Shit, he´s gonna come out here and yell at me.” and he was the complete opposite. The whole thing “Don´t meet your heroes…”, even if I meet some of these guys, and I´ve met a few that were pretty stand offish or jerks, it´s ok. Just go meet them!

I interviewed Leslie a few years ago and it was just so fascinating talking to someone who actually played at Woodstock. It´s music history.

Come on, man! And he jammed with Hendrix. I got to talk to him a lot before he passed. After that night we became buddies or whatever. Some of these stories, man! Like you said, it´s literally legendary. He´s talking about the golden age and it´s nuts.

There are thousands of great guitar players, but what do you think makes a guitar player exceptionally good? On that really stands out from all the others?

They talk to you through their guitar. They speak to you. The emotions and expressions are on such a high level that they don´t have to show you how technically good they are at the guitar to make you feel it. You don´t have to be a guitar player to love  the sound of the guitar and I think that stands the test of time, because if you listen to a guy like Leslie West or Eric Clapton in Cream or any of these blues players, there´s something about… yes, there are so many great ones, but then there´s the exceptional ones and I think it comes down to that. They can say something with so little that even a guy like my dad, who´s a construction worker, when he hears Stevie Ray Vaughan he goes “That´s a great guitar player!” He doesn´t know anything about guitars, but you can feel it and that´s the difference.

When you started out, could you say that there was one guitar player that meant more to you or that you learned more from than any others?

To be honest, when I started I came from what I was hearing on the radio, like classic rock stuff like Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Zeppelin and it all meant a ton to me. Learning those riffs was super foundational, but when I found Stevie Ray it was like… when you heard it, it just grabbed you. It wasn´t necessarily his music, but it was like the power of his music and and I was like “Holy shit! That´s what I need to be doing! That´s the road I wanna take.”, which was more reaffirmed when I heard guys like Leslie and I heard Clapton or Johnny Winter or some of these old classics. I felt like they were talking to me. It was so personal and as a kid learning these things, hearing them by ear and then finding out how they did it or seeing a video, it was almost like I knew these people and the fact that most of them were dead… there´s something really special about that. I´d have to say that the first one was Stevie, the second was Leslie where it literally grabbed me by the neck and I went “Oh my god, that´s it! That´s the shit!”

(Redaktören med Jareds Les Paul vid namn Dorothy. Den flög nästan en mil i en tornado och hamnade sedan sönderslagen i en trädgård. Slutligen fick Jared den av mannen som hittade den och den fixades till. Nu har han spelat nästan 400 gig med den.)

When that happened, did you sit around listening to Stevie and tried to play like him?

That´s what I did and then what I did is “Well, where did Stevie learn this stuff?” and then it led me down the rabbit hole and I was like “Oh! Of course Hendrix, but who´s Buddy Guy, who´s Howlin´Wolf, who´s Muddy Waters, who´s Albert King?” It´s like I opened a door to a new world and I think that was the coolest part because then I was hearing where he got it and where they got it and then it was like “Wow, it really is all connected!” and it made me feel more at peace because now it was like I found the treasure.

That´s something that I feel is missing these days. When I started out listening to music and buying records in the early 80´s you always looked at the album cover, you checked which studio they recorded in, you checked the thank you list and you went “Oh, they thanked this band. Well, I gotta check them out.” Now it´s all streaming.

Of course! You don´t get that extra level of the… I fell the same way. I was like that with magazines when I was a kid. I would study them. Every page, every word, because you didn´t want to miss anything. Like with the thank you´s and the credist, like “Wait, where was this recorded? Who´s the assistant engineer?” I thought about all that stuff and it takes you from… I guess what it is, is that we´re trying to get closer to the music and we´re trying to get closer to the real. Even to this day, I´ll meet someone, like a few years ago I got to meet a drummer called Greg D´Angelo who played in White Lion, but he was also the first drummer for Pride & Glory with Zakk Wylde. I knew that before I met him and I started asking him things and he was like “How the hell did you know that?” and it´s because you love it. You´re into it.

Makes me think of “Toe´n the line”

Great fucking record! (hums the riff) I remember seeing videos of them in Sweden.

Yes, they opened up for Aerosmith in ´94, I believe. I´ve talked to Zakk about Pride & Glory and how they should make another record.

I know! I´m gonna yell at him, hahaha!

A guy like Eddie Van Halen, does he mean anything to you?

Absolutely. I think he means a lot to me as a creative… because the first Les Paul I really got into… I have three models, the third one coming out in November with Epiphone and they´re single pickups. Leslie West and Eddie Van Halen, those were the single pickuppers. I remember seeing the Frankenstrat and I was like “What the hell is that?” and then I heard it and I was like “Oh, that´s insane!”, so Eddie was really big for me on a creative level. Of course I love his playing, but what I love is that he was a tinkerer, like Les Paul and a lot of these guys would mess with their stuff. I can just see Eddie Van Halen soldering and going ”That´s it!” That to me was a really big inspiration and the fact that he wasn´t afraid to fail and take chances as a player, have a little bit of danger. That´s something really special that you don´t see a lot.

I always read that he had really big hands. Does that enhance the playing in some way?

I think that if anything, it makes you able to have that more control over the neck. There are guys like Angus Young obviously… very small hands, so it clearly didn´t affect him, but I think there are certain guitars for sure that if you have bigger hands… like some guitars for me, I don´t have the biggest hands but they´re hard to play, but I would definitely say it enhances the ease and the mobility.

Van Halen recorded at Sunset Sound and you´ve recorded there and you´ve recorded at Abbey Road. Legendary studios. I talked to Conny Bloom in Electric Boys recently and he read this book about all the recordings The Beatles did at Abbey Road, before he and the band recorded there themselves in the early 90´s just to get a feel for it. Is it just another studio or is there something special about places like that?

The first thing is… we were saying before how we love it so much and its like you´re going to the place where Van Halen recorded or where The Beatles recorded and all this incredible music was recorded and it´s almost like you get psyched out and that is something that as I grow as a musician and a music lover, I try to take that out of perspective because you can start to fall down a  path of like “Oh, I´m at Abbey Road and I have to live up to a certain standard.” When the reality is that I guarantee you when those guys walked into those rooms they were probably just like “Eh, let´s fucking go!” It´s really, really cool because  we love the history of it so much, but I have to say it´s hard because you psyche yourself out. Also, regardless, just being in the same space where so many beautiful things were written and recorded, it has to mess with your mind. I got to work with Eddie Kramer…

Don´t you just have a thousand questions for a guy like that?

Yeah! First off, he walks in and goes “Hello! How are you?” and he´s so nice and sweet and I´m like “That dude recorded Hendrix and Zeppelin.” He was so cool but the one thing is that I learned more in the studio with him in two weeks than I did my whole entire life, you know what I mean? Just like etiquette and how to get guitar sounds and stuff. It was a really fucking amazing experience! I loved him and I still love him, but I was scared. Almost like it was too heavy.

Even though you´re a great guitar player, I can see how there´s a part of you that want to impress him in a way?

Oh man! I remember we did the guitar stuff and I could tell that he was like “Ok!” and I was like “Oh!” Then he went “We´re singing now.” This is the dude who brought up Robert Plant and I´m sitting there going “Shit!” It´s like that thing where you´ll never… I think we´re our hardest critics and you´ll never live up to the image in your head, but the reality is that when you work with people that you respect and that you love the work they´ve created so much, it absolutely influences you, but it was cool.

You´ve got a cover of “Man in the box” (Alice In Chains) coming out. What made you go with Alice In Chains and why that song?

You´re gonna laugh at this. We were in the studio and we had some extra time and it was like nine o´clock at night. We were messing around at this place called Sweetwater and they have all this gear there and we started messing around with “Man in the box” live for fun. We did that recording in about an hour. We did it with no expectations of putting it out. The engineer sends it to me and my manager and he goes “Dude, this is kick ass!” Then it got sent to a few other people and all of a sudden they were like “We should release this!” and I´m going “Really? What?” All of a sudden this thing is getting steam behind it and I´ll tell you, if I were thinking in that moment when we were recording it “Hey, I´m gonna record this and it´s gonna go out.” It probably wouldn´t have come out so organically, because when you don´t have expectations for things, then it comes out cool. We just did it for fun and I think it shows in that recording because it´s just like a kick the door down recording.

Have you ever med Mr Cantrell?

Absolutely! Check this out! I´m like a Gibson brand ambassador and so is Jerry, so we did this hang one night at Gibson in Nashville. I remember I was walking in the back and I had just played and Jerry was sitting there and he goes “Hey man, sounded awesome!” and I´m like “Shit!” and then he goes “That´s a really cool guitar!” and I had a J 200, which is just an acoustic Gibson. I said “Oh, here! I´m gonna get the case.” He picks it up and he starts playing “Nutshell” and Lzzy Hale was there. I grab a guitar and Lzzy´s there and we start singing all these songs. We did “Nutshell”, we did “Brother”, we did “Down in a hole” and it was fucking crazy dude and Jerry was singing too. I´m sitting there going “This is nuts!” It was killer. I´ve met Jerry a bunch of times since then and I´ve gotten to jam with him a few times and he´s the real deal, man. Jerry´s just got a way with it, man. I even like his solo records. My biggest influence, I think, as a vocalist… not even that I wanna sound like him whatsoever, but Layne Staley. Some people look at me like “Jared, you´re crazy!”, but there´s something about that motherfucker´s voice, but Jerry´s an absolute genius to me.

Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Redaktörbild av Fredrik “Tummen” Brolin och livebild av redaktören själv.