Interview with Myles Goodwyn and Brian Greenway of April Wine

Article by Dave Alexander, Edited by Tom Morel

 

On Monday, March 25, 2002 I got a telephone call that I had been waiting for, for 2 months.It was Myles Goodwyn.He and Brian had agreed to an interview, but schedules and logistics had prevented it.Finally, with many thanks to Kevin Komoda, I got to talk to them and get the interview that we have all been anticipating.I found them both to be extremely accommodating and candid.What you will see in this interview may surprise you, so hold on, Ďcause here it isÖ

CGPA - Unlike many guitar based bands, you survived the Ďguitarless Ď80sí.Despite the current lack of guitar solos, do you think that guitar based rock has been on a comeback?

 

Brian - Ah..the guitarless 80's. A terrible time for guitar players that spent time getting that perfect tone together. You know, guitar based rock only went away on radio. The fans of it never disappeared. Radio just abandoned them. The Classic Rock Station format has brought guitar based rock back to the masses but it will never be what it was. It was a style that was the sound of a generation, and that generation still rocks!Is it making a comeback? The music world is such a fragmented place these days. From what I see at our shows, I would say that guitar based rock is getting attention with our younger fans. Will it make a big comeback? For the love of it, I hope so. There is always a new twist on an old sound. Rock has gone in and out of style, but it has never gone away.

 

Myles Ė A station that I listen to has recently changed its format to classic rock.Itís really refreshing because Iím hearing a lot of classic stuff and a lot of soloing, a lot of guitar work.Listening to whatís new out there, youíre really not hearing the solos and great guitar work anymore.As to whether itís going to come back, I donít know, but it really is nice to hear and something that I miss in the new stuff.

 

CGPA - How do you think Canadian guitarists are viewed on an international level?

 

Myles Ė I assume that people like Alex and Rush, Colin James, Rik Emmett whoís another great guitar player, are well respected.I would say overall thereís certainly respect for Canadian guitar players.

 

Brian - I don't think that where you are from matters as much as what you can do. If your a brilliant player with great chops and tone in a great song, there are no

borders.

 

CGPA - How has your own playing has evolved over your career up to this point?

 

Brian - I've been playing for 38 years. I wondered when I first started what I would be like when I got to this age as a player. I'm happy with it. I stayed in a style that I liked, Blues based. I love blues and never get to play it as much as I would like to. Some guitar friends got into jazz as they got older. I never got a feel for it.

I know I'm not technically as knowledgeable as others might be, but it all works for me.I don't consider myself only a guitar player. Vocals and writing are a big

part of what I do on and off the stage.

 

Myles Ė Iím not really a guy that plays much anymore.Itís totally by instinct.I remember an interview with Steve Miller some years ago and they asked him about his guitar playing and he said ĎI donít really practice, itís instinct.I pick it up and I play.íWhatever happens, happens. I donít sit down and work on it so many hours a week.I find that when I go into the studio, that Iíve got the chops and Iíve got the sense as a producer and a player to be able to put together the solos, parts, melodies and harmonies.If you donít think about it so much and you just go for it and see what happens, you find yourself in new territories.I think Santana once said, Ďwhen technique and imagination meet, thatís when itís perfection.íIf you can play what you hear, thatís perfect.Iím not someone that dedicates himself to being a ĎLead Guitar Playerí itís just all feelingÖget a great sound, get a feeling, get something that works for the record.I find that Brian and I can do that. 

 

CGPA - When you started out, who were your main guitar influences?

 

Myles Ė When I first started playing guitar, my influences were country music, when it was Country & Western.I was brought up in rural Nova Scotia and my Dad loved country music.I really got to know it very well.We used to go one night a week into Dartmouth to their version of the Grand Olí Opry and I just loved country music and thatís how I learned to play.That was the biggest influence and that continued up until the Beatles in Ď63/í64 when I first heard them that I really did a complete turn around.And then as things went along Jimmy Page was a big, big influence.Eric ClaptonÖall the Blues/Rock guys.All the guitar heroes from back then, even Hendrix.

 

 

Brian - Well, I started out to be a drummer. That didn't last long as I discovered that drums were real loud to practice you needed a whole lot of drums.

Guitar? It was easier. You only needed the guitar and a pick and with out an amp you could play for hours without disturbing anyone.

I was a Beatle Baby as most guitar players were from that era. I thought George Harrison was God. Later I found out the Eric Clapton really was, but in the beginning it was Harrison and Lennon.  One night I heard blues for the first time at a dance. I didn't think too much about it after the band's first set. I was still wanting to hear top 40. They came one for the second show and something happened. I suddenly understood the 12 bar blues and the feel of it all. It was like opening up a door. Suddenly, Top 40 seemed like a child's toy that became boring. Later that summer I was into Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop when they played with Paul Butterfield's Blues band. The biggest influence in my life was Eric Clapton when I heard him on Live Cream in 1967. His style floored me. The tone, the sustain, chops! Shortly after that came Jimi Hendrix. He still freaks me out today when I listen to him.  I once sat 3 rows away from Mick Taylor when he played with John Mayall and watched his vibrato and how he used it. I went home and practiced for weeks to develop that into my style. The others were Robin Trower in Procol Harum and Ritchie Blackmore. I think there is a little Jimmy Page there, but I was never a big Zepplin fan.

 

CGPA - Do you have any current influences now?Who do you like to listen to?

 

Brian - I love Little Feat. I could listen to them for hours. It's not just the playing but the arrangements and writing I listen to. Jimmy Nail and Mark Knoffler are two others that are in my CD most of the time. Today there are only two kinds of music for me. Good and bad. I listen to all kinds of styles from Classical to Country. I admire a player or a writer that has great chops and technique no matter what style of music they are playing.

 

Myles Ė I have my own record company now and Iím working with ĎXí number of bands.Today Iím in the studio with a country artist named Julian Austin, so Iíve been listening to an awful lot of country to understand whatís going on these days in country.Iíve been buying Dylan lately.I listen to a lot of radioÖmostly talk radio though.I got a little turned off with everything sounding so generic on the top 40.Everybody sounded the same.I found that very frustrating.Itís very seldom that I hear something come out where I can say ĎOh my God, does that ever sound good!íFor me coming back to country, I find that is a lot of fun and I find myself playing guitar on the records, because thereís not a big difference between rock and country now.I work with some serious guitar pickers too.Nashville guys that are just unbelievable.Clean, fast and perfect.Itís a lot of fun for me.

 

CGPA - Can you tell us how you first started playing the guitar?(First time you picked up a guitar, were you forced to take lessons as a kid, etcÖ.)

 

Brian - I never was forced to take guitar lessons but I was forced to take piano for two years. I'm glad I was as I can play keyboards today. I took a few guitar lessons for the first few years, but most of what I know I taught myself. Didn't most of us learn that way! I did practice for hours. Sometimes up to 6 hours a day when I could. I had a passion for wanting to become a player.

 

 

CGPA - Do you feel there is a need for a certification process for guitar teachers?

 

Myles Ė If youíre going to a place like Berkley College and GIT I think you have to be.But I remember starting off and guys teaching me guitar and theyíd come over once a week and get five bucks or something, they certainly werenít qualified but they new so much more than me.And they tended to keep it simple.They didnít come in and blow for an hour and walk out leaving me stunned.They would keep it simple.As long as you have a guy whoís a little better and heíd like to help you out, then great!But I did get some formal training in Halifax.In 1969 the entire band went there to get vocal lessons, to learn how to breathe, etc. and we gave up on that after a few weeks but I know that in that kind of environment, I think you have to be certified in some respect.Have some kind of diploma or degree that qualifies you to teach at that level.

 

Brian - No. It's not like teaching in a school music program. If you want a good teacher, reputation as a player and teacher should be good enough as a reference.

 

 

CGPA - How important was support from your families in your work as musicians?

 

Brian - I was going to do this with or without them. I felt that strong about it. They saw the passion I had and left me alone with it. Everyone was in a band back then in the late 60's and early 70's.Today, itís a different story being having a family of my own. My Daughters are young and think what Dad does is cool. My wife gives me the support she always has in everything I do. You know the story.....behind very successful man is a strong woman!

 

Myles Ė My Dad took me to a music/furniture store in Dartmouth called Niforthís and I got a cheap guitar.In my recollection, that was about as far as that went.I didnít do very well in school.I was totally preoccupied with music; it was all I wanted to know about.My mom died when I was twelve and my Dad was left alone with three kids.We were very poor and I failed a couple of grades, so it was hard for him, but I think he knew it was the music that was distracting me from other things.So it was difficult for him.I quit school and went off and joined a band.It was some time before I was actually making records and doing really well that he started to understand that this is what I wanted all along and it turned out ok.But thatís any parentís concern, when their kid quits school just before theyíre about to finish and get my hair longer and run off with a band at a time when drugs were rampant.Any parent would say ĎOh My God!He could have been something..íBut he came around.I wrote a few songs for him.One was called Childís Garden in the early Ď70ís.I said ĎDad, this is for youí and itís about what he had to put up with from me in those last years I was at home.

 

 

CGPA - Some musicians talk about being "born again" with their art. Did either of you ever go through a blank period then all of a sudden something inspired you and you got really serious about your craft?

 

Brian - I've always been serious about music. There have been good times and there have been the lean times. Hey, that happens. As a player, I have never had a blank period. As a writer, sure. That can happen. You just keep chipping away at it. It'll come.

 

 

CGPA - Do you still find the need to practice on an individual level?

 

Brian - I don't practice like I used to. I find that touring keeps me in shape. If we're of the road for a while and not recording I'll practice a few hours

every week to keep the fingers in shape. Sometimes I find it refreshing not to play for a few weeks. Just to get way from it.Kind of like a vacation. Then it feels good to pick it up again.

 

 

CGPA - When you guys are unplugged, do you play other kinds of music like classical or jazz?

 

Brian - No, ( LOL ) it's what you see is what you get with me!

 

Myles Ė No. I really donít play much at all at homeÖwe do approximately 100 dates a year, so a third of the year, Iím not even home.And so beyond that, I tend to only pick up the guitar to write.

 

 

CGPA - How do you write your songs - together, alone, words first - music later,  music first - words later? How much are you thinking about theory when writing?

 

Myles Ė I write alone 90% of the time.I collaborate a few times, but Iím pretty uncomfortable with that process of two people sitting down across from each other with a blank page.I think it takes a certain kind of writer to be able to do that.Itís difficult unless one guyís really outgoing.Ideally, if youíre going to get together, have something before you doÖan idea, a great chorus, melody, whatever. 90% of everything that Iíve written for April Wine, which is over 150 songs, Iíve done alone.I like the time it takes to write a song.Some of them come very fast and then there are others that I keep going back to and thatís a process where I can really take my time to refine the song.

 

Brian - I always write alone. It just worked out that way in April Wine.  First, I always write the music. I'll get a verse feel then I'll marry it to a chorus. I write on Adat using 8 tracks. I'll use a Boss Dr. Rhythm 660 for a beat to put down a snapshot of where I'm going. I write on keyboards and guitar. So the first track down will be one or the other. Next comes the song structure. I need a bridge after getting comfortable with the verse and hopefully killer chorus. Once all that is down on tape, I'll go back and demo the whole music track complete with solos. I write the words and melody last. I don't know if this is the proper way to do it but once again, it works for me. Theory when writing? If it sounds good... it works!

 

CGPA Ė When you do have a new song, how do you present it to the band?

 

Myles Ė I just come in and play it.I say here are the chords, this is the tempo, this is the feel.I donít like to come in with half scattered ideas.Sometimes itís great because I can say ĎI just need to jam on an ideaí, but generally speaking I find that if thereís chords and thereís a feel but thereís absolutely no melody, I donít hear a song.Whenever possible, I have all the lyrics, because the lyrics dictate how youíre going to play it.So when I present a song, I try and have as much of it together as possible.

 

CGPA - Are your guitars at home different than the guitars you use on stage?

 

Brian - Yes. My stage gear stays with the crew for most of the year as we live in different cities. At home I have a custom made one of a kind guitar made by Andrew Clement of Gould, Quebec.I love this guitar as it is a balance of a Les Paul and a Strat that works well at home.For a home amp I have a Line 6 Pod Pro which  I have a H&K Rotosphere in the FX loop.Very cool Leslie FX! I have and old Fender like bass and thatís it. I was never was a collector.

 

Myles -

 

 

 

CGPA - What guitars do you own and what are your favorites?

 

Brian - My main guitar is a 1969 Les Paul Custom I bought it new for $500 Canadian. Now they ask a bit more I hear. I have used that guitar on every recording and just about every show I have ever done with April Wine. The neck has been broken twice and I finished it is 1978. I shaved the neck down a touch to feel more like the neck on a '59 and the teardrop sunburst was toned down. The pickups have been replaced so many times I forget what is actually in there. I believe the pickup config now is 2 Seymore Duncan Jeff Beck's in neck and bridge positions. My spare guitar on the road is a hybrid Fender Strat put together from with a '62 reissue neck and an American Standard Body. The pickups are Duncan's as well. I used a Telecaster for a while but the Les Paul is the sound of April Wine, so back it came.

 

 

CGPA - For a number of years, April Wine had 3 guitarists in the band.What can you tell us about playing with 3 lead guitars on stage at a time? What are the pros and cons?

 

Brian - Hey, we called it 3 guitars no waiting! It was simple really. Each one of us had a distinct sound way of playing. We all blended together into a good sound. When we all came together in a chorus on a power chord, it was like thunder! The beauty of it was, we all did not have to be playing at the same time. Two of us could double up on a pattern and get a double tracking sound going with the natural chorusing you get from two guitars playing the same thing, while the 3rd could be playing a counter rhythm, or we could have 3 different parts like we did on 21st Century Schizoid Man. The possibilities were endless. It's too bad Gary didn't want to come back in '92. I miss him.

 

Myles Ė 3 guitar players is great.We have a utility player whose name is Carl Dixon and there are certain things that we canít do nearly as well with 2 guitars as with 3.So we have somebody like him that can get off the keyboards, and he can add a rhythm or a harmony, whatever.Thatís awesome!Unfortunately when the band got back together, Gary Moffat didnít want to get back into the April Wine thing.I donít know anybody, anywhere that can play a guitar like Gary!

 

 

CGPA - Have you ever played for a bar fight?  If so, can you tell us how you handled it and/or how you deal with other interruptions?

 

Brian - In a word? Always let the Stage crew or Security take care of it. Never get involved. You might not be able to play the next show! Worst case scenario? Leave the stage.

 

Myles Ė Funny you should mention itÖwe just had one in a show in New Mexico.There was a big fella, right in frontÖ.he was pushy and very drunk.There were 2 guys around him that were being affected by this and I was watching it all from the stage.These 2 guyís (realizing the large fellow was drunk) started putting their cigarettes in the big guyís hair, pouring beer down his back, etc. This guy was so drunk, he didnít notice.I was watching all of this and it was happening in the second to last song and in the last song and I came off stage and I said to everybody, ďListen, weíre only doing one song in the encore.Weíre stopping the show now because itís going to get real nasty down front, very, very soon and the longer we play, the worse itís getting, Iíve been watching it.ĒSo, why ruin the show by stopping it?Letís just get on and give them a song.Theyíll be happy and we can just end it before somebody gets hurt.Aside from that, when you see fights, itís very distracting, but we never stop in the middle of the show.There are a couple of times when somebody will through something.Thereís nothing worse that a beer bottle missing your head by inches.When things like that happen, as soon as the songís over, I say something.I say ďLook, itís not worth it to be up here if people are going to be throwing rocks or bottles.ĒItís usually just one guy and if I can point him out, I will.

 

CGPA - Although some rock guitarists appear very flamboyant, many performers get very nervous.How do you handle stage fright?

 

Brian - I still get nervous before a show. It's the excitement of it that I still have after all these years. You see I still love what I do. If you know your parts cold, just go out there and give it all. That's what I always do.

 

Myles Ė Thatís a good questionÖI donít have stage fright to the extent that Iím really nervous before I go on stage.It will happen sometimes and in my career, it has.When youíre going on before the Rolling Stones, if you donít have stage fright, youíre dead, thereís something wrong, youíre not breathing.You just get through it.But itís very seldom that I will feel a real stage fright.I did go through a period of panic attacks when it would come and I just couldnít breathe, but that went away after a while.Itís basically in your mind.You can get worn out and really tired and thatís when it will hit you.If youíre seriously nervous before a show, I donít think a shot of Jack Daniels hurts either if thatís what it takes for you to calm downÖhehehe

 

 

CGPA - What is the guitar on the Electric Jewels album?

 

Myles Ė Itís real and I have it in my living room.It sits next to a 1956 Wurlitzer Jukebox.Itís a Goya, all plastic except for the tuning pegs and the frets.The entire body is plastic.It obviously doesnít sound very good, but itís a beautiful looking guitar.The picture is on the back of the album and the guy was a real street person.The person standing behind him with a dog on a leash was his actual son.

 

 

CGPA - You guys have that classic 'tubey' rock lead sound that all Canadian rock guitarists aspire to - could you tell us how you get that sound? And can you tell us how you've changed your sound over the years and perhaps some tips for our members?

 

Brian - The sound is all in the hands. That's where the tone comes from. It's how you hit and pick the string or chord. The amp helps. I use a Marshall DSL 2000 head with a JMP900 4X12 cab. I like the 75 Watt speakers. Myles likes the 35 w celestions. I like the extra bottom and the fact they don't brake up as soon as the 35's do. My highs and mids on 2 with the bass on 6. Volume on the gain channel is 5 & 5. The clean channel volumes are 10 & 8. My guitar volumes are never on full unless it's a loud solo. Even then I try to back it off a touch to where there is a little more tone. For FX all I use is an old Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1 that I bought new in 1978.  I tried digital FX and had quite the rack mount thing going on there for a while, but I found it coloured my tone to much, so back I went to what worked in the beginning. If it ain't broke...don't fix it!

 

Myles Ė I use a Marshal.I took it off the road 2 years ago.Iíve had it since 1973 and thatís all Iíve ever used as my main recording and live amp.I was just afraid that because itís so old and been around so long and itís so dear to me that it would get broken or get stolen, so I replaced it with a Marshal 2000.I still use the old one in the studio for recording.I have many, many, many guitars.I have guitars here that Iíve owned longer than the amplifier.I have an SG here that Iíve had since the early Ď70ís that I still use.I love the fact that Iíve had these guitars for many years.I know exactly what they sound like.When thereís a solo needed, I can go to that specific guitar, plug it into that amp through my Marshal speakers and thereís my sound.Itís really easy, itís a no brainer.Itís really easy to get that sound.Brian experimented way more than me, but itís always Marshals.Your hands have everything to do with itÖand your pick.That really is part of it.Iíve used the same picks from day one.Iíve never changed my picks.I like the medium triangle picks.I always use those because if I broke one point, I have 2 more and I like the size of them.Theyíre very difficult to find sometimes, you canít just find them everywhere.Itís bigger than a lot of picks I see some people use, so thereís a lot of surface to hold onto.

 

 

CGPA - What are your views in regard to Internet MP3 trading? (Napster for instance)

 

Myles Ė Itís a no brainer.Itís just wrong.Period.I mean thereís not even a discussion in my mind.Unless these people are paying the writers and the publishers their fair share then it cannot be allowed.Itís as simple as that and I donít buy any other argument.I hear a lot of young bands out there who donít care; they think theyíre getting heard.I havenít heard a story yet, where somebody became a major star because Napster sold their records and they caught on. I donít know any stories like that, but even if there was, it still doesnít change my mind.Itís stealing, itís wrong and itís criminalÖ

 

Brian - I'm undecided about all this. It's a great way to promote yourself on the web, but I don't like the fact that royalties are not accountable. There is going to have to be a format worked out that benefits both artist and consumer.

 

 

CGPA - Our mandate as an Association is to promote Canadian guitar players at home and abroad.We also want to provide a united voice for guitar players and a place for guitar players to get a sense of community while being able to access guitar specific resources.Do you feel that there is a need for an organization like this?

 

Brian - Absolutely. Promotion is what we all need to get recognized in this business. A common place to access information of the trade can only benefit us all.

 

Myles Ė I think itís great.I think itís good.I think that the music business in general is very confusing.Any information you can get around guitar playing and contracts concerning your desire to be a professional guitar player or wherever you want to go with itÖI think itís really important that thereís something like that that they can turn to.Any good advice is almost priceless especially when itís that easy to access.You can ask questions and you can get answers and you can get tips from players and why not?I think itís great!

 

 

CGPA - We would like to make you a member and thank you for spending this time with us!

 

Myles Ė Thank you very much.

 

 

Brian - Dave, Thank you. I enjoyed it.

 

You can get more info about April Wine from their official website at http://www.aprilwine.ca or any of the many fan sites around the internet.

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