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May 27, 1998

Read a review of Chris' Orlando shows.

Chris Duarte Interview - 23 May 98

I was able to interview Chris Duarte at his hotel room before the second night of his two show run at the Sapphire Supper Club here in Orlando Florida. I found him sitting on his bed playing a Tacoma acoustic travel guitar along with a metronome, practicing. He made the comment that he tells all of his students that they should practice with a metronome because it helps develop timing and feel. This is an unedited interview, taken exactly as it happened. I would like to thank the Chris Duarte fan club for assisting in coming up with some of the questions. If some of the guitar gear questions bore you...skip down cause there's some interesting comments later in the interview.

Murf - What is the truth about the split with Silvertone? And what is the future of the band from there?

Duarte - Well the truth with the split from Silvertone is the is that it's a business, it's economics. The second album didn't do quite as well, not even half as well as the first album - they felt it was time to cut their losses. We didn't see eye to eye, and we went down that route. So it's fine, I mean it's sort of a breath of fresh air cause with that I get that good competitive edge on the road and I'm free to do what I want to do and I'm not worried about it. It was a good split, it wasn't a bad split.

Murf - Does Silvertone own the tapes?

Duarte - Yes, they own the tapes and the songs that we recorded and handed into them, but other songs that we did record and didn't hand into them, those are our songs.

Murf - So the band is going to keep touring.

Duarte - Keep touring...keep touring, I'm confident in our music.

Murf - Are you talking with anyone at this time?

Duarte - Oh...Respise, We're talking with Reprise, we're talking with another label and somebody has...well I'm not gonna say cause I'm really so cynical with the situation cause the record companies come out and see you and say, "Oh we like you and we like your show," and nothin ever happens. We're waiting until the real people step forward.

Murf - What do you really think about Tailspin Headwhack. Are you really satisfied with the way it came out?

Duarte - I had the most fun doing that of any recording session I've done. Basically it allowed me to just...breath a little more and uh....show my influences that I had. There's always something I could fix, but my music's always evolving and in hindsight, I would do something different so yeah, there's some improvements, but it was still the most fun I ever had.

Murf - I know you're definitely evolving, cause I know the first time I saw you about six years ago and your show is different now.

Duarte - Yeah, back then it was like a shuffle, and some other songs.

Murf - A strong Stevie Ray Vaughan influence and you've developed other sounds.

Duarte - Stevie is still an influence, and I'll never deny that...Stevie really helped me early in my career.

Murf - Was there any difference in recording your first CD (Texas Sugar/Strat Magic) versus Tailspin Headwhack?

Duarte - Oh yeah...the first CD was pretty much a live CD with a little bit of editing to it. With Tailspin we used...we overdubbed, laid down some layers and you know I think we used 13 rolls of tape. With the first CD we were just spitting out songs, and I think we used almost 50 rolls of tape with the first CD. And so it was different with the first CD...it was a lot rawer too which is what I wanted to do...I wanted to record raw with the first album. I like that raw sound.

Murf - I like that too. There's something about a raw CD that I like.

Duarte - Yeah I like that a whole lot and even though there's more mistakes on it, I still really like it.

Murf - Is there a significance to the "Tailspin Headwhack" title?

Duarte - It's just like this kind of phonetic...phonetic rhythmic thing I had goin (snapping fingers in a swing tempo). I wanted to do that James Brown thing...sort of a 6/8 rhythm...Tailspin... Headwhack.... Tailspin.... Headwhack...and it's pretty much telling you to put yourself together sort of as you tailspin into the ground you get your headwhack'ed.

Murf - I think you would do a really great live CD. I've heard some of the tapes that are floating around from your shows, including one where you did almost the entire Tailspin Headwhack album, and it was really impressive, and in some cases I enjoyed it more than the "official" release because of the rawness of it.

Duarte - Well it was in the contract and I would love to make a live album someday so we had that base covered but it didn't come out of the contract.

Murf - Well I hope you make a live album someday.

Duarte - I always thought I'm a better live performer anyway...because I'm more used to that environment. As the years go by, I hope that I get as good in the studio as I am live. When you're in the studio, you don't have those people right in front of you giving you feedback, right then and there.

Murf - I don't think I've seen as intense performer on stage as you are.

Duarte - Well that's what I'm trying to do every night...come out and play with more intensity. Playing technically is something I'm not capable of doing so it makes more of a lasting impression if you get into it and you can make an indelible print of your soul.

Murf - I know the first time I saw you, you had a real heavy SRV (Stevie Ray Vaughan) influence and every time I've seen you since then, you've evolved more and more into your own style, and last night when I saw your show...you certainly have changed since then...last night mixing a lot of heavy stuff with lighter stuff...a lot more dynamics.

Duarte - I probably comes from my jazz...my jazz background and just the way that you can change the mood of a song and change the whole environment by bringing up the intensity or lowering the sound.

Murf - I know you have a jazz background, along with punk, rock and blues. Do you have any main influences and do you lean towards one or just sort of incorporate everything?

Duarte - Oh...my...my...chief musician that I idolize is Coltrane, that's the guy, just because of his dedication to music, his variety of music, his dedication to learning and knowledge. That's who I...That's who above everybody I idolize. And yet there's so many other people I listen to. McLaughlan, B.B. King, and Stevie, and Howard King. Freddy King, Son Ra, Guitar Slim, Mike Stern, and Joe Pass and horn players. It just goes on...the list...I'm just gathering all those influences and trying to find a voice of my own.

Murf - You have a real big sound using multiple amps...you have Fender and Marshall amps and a couple more. What do you use generally for your sound such as amps, effects and all that?

Duarte - All of them just create this big wall of sound and I'm not switching between them. The amps are on all the time. The Marshall is basically a Marshall and when I turn the Marshall on, all four of them are going.

Murf - So you switch the Marshall in and out?

Duarte - Yes...exactly. The Marshall comes in on mainly the Hendrix stuff and some solos. It's hardly there all the time.

Murf - You got a Fender 4 ten up there...

Duarte - A 3 ten and right now it's really on its last legs. It's really distorted right now and that should be for the highs...the Rivera on top is for clean lows and the Rivera on the bottom is for low lows and all of them together give this real warm sound.

Murf - Are you a devotee of the heavy strings/high action school of Texas Blues Guitar?

Duarte - No I like low action but I do like heavy strings. Heavy strings add so much more tone to it.

Murf - Heavy being?

Duarte - 11, 15, 18, 30, 40, 50 and I play down a half step to get the rest. It's just because of elasticity, not because of these other things. I used to play at 430, which is...almost a semi-tone down. It was weird cause you listen to tapes of yourself and you always sound out of tune. It's just not right with the world.

Murf - I'll remember that when I try playing along with your CD's. (Duarte laughs) Is the tremolo on your guitar blocked? I ask because when you broke a string last night, you still were able to play in tune.

Duarte - It...it...needs to have a lot of work done on it too (laughing). I don't have any blocks or anything like that on it. I compensate up and down a half step...that's all I do. (here Chris gets out his guitar from beside the bed, showing the open back to show the floating trem).

Murf - Do you play around with your equipment layout much or is it pretty much the same at this time?

Duarte - It's pretty much the same. There might be a foot pedal that might die once in a while, but it's pretty much the same. I got most of the equipment that I mess around with. Sometimes I'll change the foot pedals around a bit and I'll be constantly changing parameters while I'm playing to get a certain sound out of this pedal and a certain sound out of that pedal.

Murf - What's your main equipment right now?

Duarte - The amps you saw, the knucklehead, the Vibroking, the Marshall 900, and then I have a Boss DS-1, Boss DD2, Boss DD3, a Mutron 5, Octavia, and a Boss Flanger, which is rarely used. It's just used for sweeping one note things.

Murf - Last night I heard this saxophone sound on one of your songs..how do you get that sound?

Duarte - I try to get real lyrical like Coltrane did. It's just the volume and the way you touch the strings on the guitar. And then there's this other synthesizer sound that I use. It's the octavia, and I lower the pot to get it more bass...I try to make it more like Pat Metheney's trumpet sound.

Murf - I noticed that and this sort of Eric Johnsonish violin sound.

Duarte - I like Eric's...approach to some of this chords and a lot of his arpeggio stuff and his touch.

Murf - So you're saying it's all in the hands?

Duarte - Yeah.

Murf - You're sitting here with an acoustic guitar. Have you ever done an acoustic set?

Duarte - Oh yeah, sometimes for record releases, I can play all the songs acoustic. It's just I rather have the choice of when I do that.

Murf - Do you play slide guitar?

Duarte - Very very little. I don't feel that I should go out there and play something that I'm only half-assed at. I very rarely play slide.

Murf - How did you get started playing guitar?

Duarte - Uh...just for attention, I was a small kid and it was just for attention. My older brother played guitar and I wanted to be somebody. So it was for selfish reasons for attention.

Murf - Any word on L14261? (this is the serial number from Chris's guitar that was stolen some time back which he mainly learned to play on.)

Duarte - No...it's still out there.

Murf - You don't break many strings, although you broke one last night.

Duarte - Sometimes there's a barb on the bridge, in fact (looking at his guitar) there's one developing now and I should try and file that down.

Murf - I couldn't believe last night, how you broke a string, continued playing, sounded like you didn't go out of tune, walked over to the side of the stage, changed guitars and I did not hear a break in the music.

Duarte - It's just something I've been able to hone into.

Murf - One thing I did notice though, I know you got two strats, an older one and a newer one. There is a major difference in tone.

Duarte - Well coming back to the equipment part of the thing, this one (holding the older Fender strat) this one has the better...the rounder tone. I think it's this pot (tone control), this one is really going down and I need to get this pickup replaced. This one really needs to be looked at cause I've noticed on the last three gigs that the in-between output on this has really gone down.

Murf - That one has a great tone.

Duarte - Yeah this one has that great soft tone and usually has really good output. The other one has that glassy tone of the newer pickups.

Murf - Does that one have Texas Specials in it?

Duarte - This one is a Fralin pickup...the other two might be...Oh maybe they're Rio Grand pickups.

Murf - But they're not stock?

Duarte - Oh no...but it's just that all the new pickups pretty much sound the same. They got this glassy high trebly kind of sound. The old pickups have this nice round sound. I don't like to go out and buy old pickups. It's just tearing up the guitar. I know I can't complain. I throw my guitar around, but I'm not throwing it around cause I'm gonna break it, I'm throwing it around from the emotion.

Murf - Yeah...you do have a lot of emotion. With all the touring the band has done, are there any favorite towns/venues? Places that are acoustically "superb" or geographically preferred, or whatever?

Duarte - Well there are some places that sound really good...Fox theatre in Bolder CO, has a great sound system and sounds really good. Suprisingly the Sapphire (Sapphire Supper Club - downtown Orlando) sounds good. I like playing the Sapphire a lot. I like the crowd. At first it was weird when I played there, but the more I play a room, the better feel I get for it. And it helps...when...you know...you have a nice little sound system on the stage cause sometimes I don't know what kind of sound is out there. There's a nice room in Cornell University, an auditorium there that I like the acoustics. I played there once with Buddy Guy...great room. There was a room in Belgium that I played...a big old room in Belgium. There was a great club called The Move in Denmark, I can't remember the name of the town. I played so many places...with me...it doesn't matter but the audience. The room makes a little bit of a difference. If the room sounds bad, I just focus in on the group. You know I listen to John, (John Jordan on Bass) I listen to Jimmy (Jimmy Way on Drums)...I listen to the music...and that's what I try to do most.

More of the interview / Read an article about Chris' Orlando shows.


about the author
Murf Murphy
Murf is a registered professional engineer....(i.e. haircut and a real job) who loves to play guitar. Vist Murf's home page. He lives with (1) wife who wishes he would grow up, (1) teenager who wonders how his parents got to this point in their lives without his help, (2) dogs who sleep a lot, (1) ferret who attacks when not looking and (1) cat who is basically useless.

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