Monday, January 19, 2015

Bill Walker Tune Hear

This is a weekly series to be hosted by Prepared Guitar. It is my hope that the following information wouldnot only highlight the artist,their techniques, and their musical endeavors, but also cause others to reach for their own goals in a realistic way. It is my hope that this will be an international site to where guitarists from all over the world would not only have the opportunity to listen but also be motivated
and inspired to follow their dreams. With that being said, let’s begin

Introducing, Bill Walker from Santa Cruz, CA (USA). I became aware of Bill’s work years ago, and to say I’m a fan is an understatement.

Bill Walker is a guitarist of uncommon stylistic range who blends a world of influences in to a unique and lyrical personal voice. His solo performance creates a rich tapestry of layered sounds, blending electric and acoustic guitars, lap steel guitars, and percussive guit-boxing techniques, with state of the art live looping techniques and sound design. A gifted composer and instrumentalist, Bill’s music has been described as cinematic, adventurous, and innovative. Recently featured in Guitar Player magazine for his collaboration with musician/composer/producer Erdem Helvacioglu on the critically acclaimed CD, “Fields and Fences”, Bill’s work “Sanctuary” released in September of 2013.

Q: What led you to choose the guitar and in your case, utilize lap steel as well, for yourown musical expression?

A: Like many musicians of my generation, The first appearance by the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and the subsequent British invasion got me interested in guitar, or at least the effect it had on girls my age :) A bit later, it was Purple Haze blasting out of the radio that really set the hook. Jimi really laid out the template for adventurous, passionate, guitar playing. Im not sure when I got the Lap steel bug, but seeing David Lindley play,in the mid eighties played an important role in my interest in lap steel guitar. Also I'm sure there was some subliminal influence from David Gilmour’s psychedelic explorations on Pink Floyd records, as well as guys like Lowell George and Duane Allman who i was listening to a lot in the 70’s. 


Q: Was there a particular guitarist, other musician, movie, art, sound, life event that
caused you to hear music differently?

A: Well I consider myself a Post-Hendrix guitarist, in that his genius had a huge impacton how I play, and how I think about sound. I believe the other guitarist’s of his
generation that I also was influenced by, including Jeff Beck , Eric Clapton, Jimmie Page, David Gilmour, were also in some part influenced and inspired by him, including the Jazz Rock guys who came to prominence a bit later in the 70’s. John McLaughlin, John Abercrombie, Larry Coryell, Terje Rypdal, and David Torn, to name a few. At the same time I was absorbing these influences, I was also listening to many guitarists in the finger style acoustic genre. Initially, John Fahey and what he described as “American Primitive” guitar, was my gateway in to alternate tunings, and eventually to slide and lapsteel guitar. another enormous influence beginning in the mid 70’s, was the music being put out my the ECM label. As a whole, the artists on that label and the expansive production on those records set a benchmark for me.


Q: What specifically about that appealed to you?

A: The Rock explorations of Jimi Hendrix and the acoustic explorations of some onelike John Fahey, both represented a kind of musical freedom to me. These guys were improvisers, and even with compositions that were set, they both displayed an adventurous approach that kept those compositions fresh and evolving. The idea of
playing as song the same way every time always seemed a bit shackling, which is whyIm probably the worst candidate for a top 40 band, and most likely why the Eagles never called :)


Q: As you were trying to find your way, were there particular sounds or gear that
helped you to achieve your sound?

A: Like a lot of guitarists, I was always tuned in to what my heroes were using. In 1975 I graduated from High School a semester early and took a job as a traveling portrait
photographer, and I was able to save enough money to buy the guitar I’d always dreamed of having. I’d been eye balling a black Fender stratocaster, at a local music store in San Jose where I grew up. Apparently it was on consignment and belonged to Terry Haggerty, the great bay area guitarist for the Sons Of Chaplain. I saved my dough, and a few weeks later I went back to get it, and Terry had changed his mindand took the Strat back. I was bummed, but what I didn’t realize at the time was this Strat was most likely a late 50’s model! ouch!! I ended up walking out of Stevens Music with a used mid 70’s Les Paul deluxe. Not my first choice, but hey, Jeff Beck was playing a Les Paul at the time, so it was cool enough :) 


It wasn’t till a few years later when I finally got the Strat I wanted, albeit, a later model. As I could afford it, I started to add some of the effects my heroes were using, First a wah pedal, then a fuzz box,either an MXR distortion + or an early Rat pedal, a phase shifter, and though I couldn’t afford my own, I would borrow a tape echo from a friend, and early echoplex. As the 70’s gave way to the 80’s, I continued to add more effects to my pallet, eventually getting an early digital delay, a compressor,and other distortion, flanger and chorus effects.

Q: Can you give an example of your work where it (pedal or technique) is being utilized?

A: Here are a couple of clips utilizing the looping techniques I have been using for a few years now, including quantize replace, a looping technique that allows me to create note sequences of various sub divisions. Q-replace is an easier technique to use than it is to articulate, so Ill let the music do the talking:

Q: How have you been able to build upon those early experiences to what you’re doing now? 

A: I believe that if you are serious about music, you never stop growing and learning new things. I have always been interested in music from all over the world and I have acted on the theory that combining disparate elements, will eventually lead to a unique and personal style. I'm not sure I'm there yet, but I hope that I'm obscuring my influences more, the older I get.


Q: Let’s take a moment to highlight some of your current work.

A: These two tunes, Blues for Kim and Kannon, from my latest CD Sanctuary showswhat I'm up to, and highlights many of the looping techniques I employ, as well as how I employ the lap steel guitar, these tracks started as Live improvisations in the studio,that were then edited, mixed, produced by my frequent music collaborator, Erdem Helvacioglu, whom I collaborated with on the 2012 release’ Fields and Fences. I included a piece from that CD as well.

Q: Is there a sound you’re still trying to achieve or are you satisfied with where you are now sonically?

A: Over the course of my musical life, I have used all kinds of effects, guitar synthesizers and looping tools. I'm at a place now where I’ve refined my sound down to the basic flavors that I like. I realized that I would never have the capital to win the pedal wars. By that I mean there is always something new around the corner, some new device that everyone has to have. I've managed to avoid that trap for the most part, because I also realized that the more effects one uses, the chance of sounding homogenized becomes greater. I have been trying to strike that balance, of using the tried and true elements I've always used, a bit of compression, a good clean sound, a nice overdrive flavor, occasional modulation and tremolo, a variety of delays (perhaps my biggest musical crutch), and a variety of reverb types. I'm comfortable now with my sound, and if I do add a new sonic wrinkle, I do it sparingly. 

Q: What can we expect to hear from you in the future?

A: I'm hoping to release more music in the coming year and Im looking forward to new collaborations. Its been a bit disheartening how much the musical landscape has changed, and how much music has been devalued in the last 10 years. Musicians are really getting shafted, not just by an industry that is tone deaf, but by audiences raised on Napster, Spotify, and other forms of on-line streaming. I see this troubling trend affecting much more established and successful artists than myself, and I'm worried that its having a negative effect on music creation. Im not sure how to change that culture at this point. I would love to sell more CDs and downloads, as it's really the only way I can generate money to release more music.


Q: If readers are interested in checking out your work further, where can we direct

A: My Music can be found at CD BABY, I tunes, and Amazon, ideally I would love people to support me on CD Baby as they are much more equitable than the other choices here are two direct links to my work on CD Baby.


  Thank you very much for your time and participation in Tune Hear.   
In closing, one final fun question:

Q: If you had an opportunity to ask any guitar player a question, who would it be and what would you ask?

A: Wow, Im' not sure I would have any one question to ask anyone, it would be more a matter of, who would I like to pick the musical brain of? Jeff Beck comes to mind, I'd love to just sit and watch him play up close and personnel. His playing has always inspired and fascinated me, how he wrings so much sound out of his guitar with very few effects. I’d love to study with John McLaughlin, that would be many questions. I'd love to get inside Alan Holdsworth’s brain, his sense of harmony is just beyond me. I would love to hang with David Torn, he’s always been a sonic adventurer and source of ongoing inspiration.

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