WITH CALIFORNIA GUITAR TRIO (italian
by Giancarlo Bolther
In the last album Whitewater you have introduced some electric moments (Led Food), how it came this idea?
Before our writing session in Atlanta I asked Tyler Trotter, our sound engineer if he had any suggestions on multi effects pedals: he suggested the Roland GT-6. Paul and I bought one immediately. It has a lot of pretty good electric guitar distortion settings. We used the effects a lot during our improv/writing session last year in Atlanta, a few months before we recorded Whitewater.
I haven’t the booklet and I want to know if Tony has played some parts cause sometimes I had the impression to ear him playing?
He plays on the song Mee-Woo. The melody is divided between Tony and Paul.
When you write music which are your influencies (movies, things, people, fantasy)?
A lot of our original songs are influenced by places we've been. For instance: Train to Lamy was written near Santa Fe, New Mexico, Yamanashi Blues came about on a Guitar Craft course in Yamanashi, Japan. The opening song "The Marsh" is influenced by a good old friend: Les Collins. He was the gardener of Robert Fripp. He was 97 when he died last year. This piece reminded us of him and of the place where he lived in Wilshire England.
In the Christmas album you have played “Greensleeves” a medieval song, have you ever thought to realize a medieval album?
That is a good idea. Hideyo arranged a traditional Koto piece for the CGT( Koto is a Japanese traditional instrument). This piece is hundreds of years old-you can hear it on our CD "Rocks the West". I have considered arranging music by Johannes Ockeghem, a Flemish medieval composer.
Do you have listened to the medieval project Blackmore’s Night made by Ritchie Blackmore, what do you believe about?
His electric playing was a major influence to me (Made in Japan was one of the first records I bought). I have not heard this CD. I will make sure to listen!
And about some Celtic music?
With the CGT we play the music that we love; this can take different forms: it can be from the past (classical or traditional music), and it can be from our own ideas in the form of new original pieces. We are very much influenced by the different music traditions we come from: Europe(Bert), Japan(Hideyo) and USA(Paul).
I made an arrangement of a Celtic piece called "Coilsfield house" for solo classical guitar a few ago.
Perhaps the only kind of music that we would not be able to play would be Flamenco because of its special tradition and culture. But maybe we will write a piece that is influenced by Flamenco music.
Recently you have played in Italy, what do you remember about?
I love playing in Italy; we always have a warm welcome in your country. The first show was in Rome at Club La Palma. It was a long time since we played in italy last time and I was worried that no one would show up for our first concert! But we had a lot of people. Here is a photo from that concert: http://cgtrio.proaudiowebsites.com/images/cgtrio20050215romaitaly1108717202_05.jpg
You can see photos from every concert on Hideyo's roadcam page at <cgtrio.com>
And of course the food is always incredible in Italy!
One place I will not forget is the beautiful restored Teatro Dei Riuniti in Umbertide. It was a very small teater for only 122 people. I loved the atmosphere. We don't have places like this in America.
The night you’ve played in Milan it was very snowy, I was comin’ but at half road I had to turn back my car to return home, cause it was very dangerous, I was really sad that night. How was the concert?
We drove through this snow as well... Sometimes people dont realize how dangerous our job is on the road. We spend most of our time driving; this tour in Italy we drove average six hours every day with a concert at night. Sometimes the weather is terrible and we have to risk our lives. The concert in Milan was great. Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel's drummer) was there and he played several pieces with us. Stick player Tom Griesgraber and the stick duo Splendore joined of for a big jam at the end of the concert. A lot of fun!
You came from very different places: Bert is European with classical background, Hideyo is japanese with surf music background and Paul is american with rock background, which is the secret to stay together with so many big differencies?
First of all it is the realisation that there is a good chemistry between us. It is a magic moment when the music is there in the room with us, and when the audience recognises this. After the concert we can see this on their faces: something happened during the concert and people have changed: they had an experience of music. We no longer have to do a 'job', we now have a 'vocation'. It is because we feel that we can do something of value, something that makes us and the people around us better. This is why we can stay together. This is the only thing that makes our life on the road possible. Sometimes people say to me:"it must be nice to travel all over and see the world!". But after a few weeks on the road we begin to feel tired and homesick. The hardest part is to be away from your loved ones. It is miserable to be on the road after a few weeks!
The collaboration with Tony Levin is going on, are you writing new music with him?
We are going to play again with Tony Levin this summer in Japan and also in America with CG3+2(that is with TL and Pat Mastelotto).
We probably will play new music with him, but this summer we are promoting our CG3+2 release from a few years back. It is not easy to have both Tony and Pat available so we are glad to have this opportunity.
You have signed with Inside Out which is well known for his prog metal catalog, why? Are you happy with them?
We met a few guys from the IO staff during a tour with the Flower Kings a few years back. Bob Snyder who works for IO was their road manager, and we became very good friends. He recommended us to the label and they were very interested in our CD with Pat and Tony(CG3+2). That's how it got started. It was all based on a personal contact and a good feel for the people who work there. We are definitely not their typical artist, but we are probably their hardest touring group!
You have played with some different rhythm sections, which are the differencies between them?
Pat Mastelotto: incredibly musical and high energy drummer. Jarrod Kaplan: intuitive percussion and worldbeat sounds, more of a free improv/jamband approach. Jerry Marotta: a master of powerful “groove” with the subtlety of a percussionist.
What do you change in your set list when you play with a rhythm section rather when you play without one?
We usually add in more rocking pieces like Dance of Maya, Blockhead and Red Iguana. But in fact, we don't change that much in the setlist! A lot of the pieces are in our CGT repertoire and we can just add drums or percussion. We also like to do more stretched out improvisations with a rhytm backup. In Austin, Texas Last month we played in Austin, Texas with Pat mastelotto and Art Kearns on percussion: we did an extended improv on a piece called Cosmo Calypso. Several people have told us: "you dont need a drummer and a bass player". We know that we can do a strong show with just CGT, but we also enjoy playing with different musicians, and learn from their experience. It is a challenge to play with other musicians; it makes us play in a different way; and we learn a lot from their experience.
Are you still in touch with Fripp?
Yes we are. Robert is a dear friend and mentor to us all.
Have you ever thought to do an album with him?
We toured with Robert and Trey Gunn about ten years ago. We recorded a CD called: the Robert Fripp String Quintet. Ever heard Robert play Bach? This is your chance! It is one of my favorite CD's. We are talking about a possible tour together next year, and who knows: maybe we'll record again?
You have played some rock tunes in front of people used to listen to classical music and Bert Lams has a classical background too, do you believe that some rock music is close to classic music in some ways?
Listen to Mozart's Requiem. Listen to The Rites of Spring by Strawinsky... Both classical and rock music have their timeless moments. Pink Floyd's Dark side of the Moon, Lou Reed's Berlin, Jeff Buckley's Grace are just a few timeless rock moments, very close to classical music. Last night I listened to Radiohead's Amnesiac-I noticed that song nr 7 is very much influenced by Franz Liszt. I heard similar progressions in his music: beautiful!
I believe that we stand on giant's shoulders.
Tell us about the best and the worst day of your career as a musician.
Every day is the the best day; even if we have a bad day we can learn from the experience to become better musicians. The CGT did a concert at the NAMM show in Los Angeles in January. We had a special guest: Jon Anderson. When he started singing "Heart of the Sunrise" it was one of the best days in my career as a musician!
Of course we had some bad days on the road: a few years ago we were in Germany and we ate in a Japanese restaurant. Never eat Japanese food in Germany! At showtime the audience was waiting for the CGt to come onstage. But the CGT was not there; the CGT was on the toilet... Being sick on the road is the worst experience in my career as a musician!
[Q for Moriya] You have played surf music, can you tell me which are some of the greatest albums in that music style?
I think the <Ventures Live in Japan '65> is the best album for surf style. Although, this is not studio album but it is Live! and they play great. I copied or try to copy many of pieces from this album in my junior high school age. You can hear some influence which I brought to CGT from this album.
Which are your future projects?
CGT is working on a Guitar Concerto with Jon Anderson. This summer we will rehearse and record some of the material at his studio in California.
I (Bert) have recorded a classical CD this year: Bach Preludes on the steel string guitar. The CD is called Nascent. It will be released on May 15 by the DGM label Inner Knot.
Do you want to do a salute to your italian fans to end this interview?
I look forward to playing in my favorite country in the world: Italy! We hope to be back in October. Arrivederci!
Other interviews: 2003 (only in italian)
Review (only in italian): CGT + 2; A Christmas Album; The First Decade; Whitewater
Live Report (only in italian): 2007