Comrade Duarte

An Interview for GUITAR.RU

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Awhile ago I got an e-mail from Oleg Pavlov in Moscow, Russia. He wanted to do an interview with Chris Duarte for GUITAR.RU, a guitar magazine. Since the band was blazing into Colorado the next week, I suggested that he send me his questions and I would interview Chris for him. The interview took place backstage at the Colorado Music Hall in Colorado Springs, Colorado on February 24th, 2001. Chris insisted that I interview him in a Russian accent, so I used two voices: one that sounded pitifully like Boris Badanov (from the Rocky & Bullwinkle TV show) and my own voice when I just had to throw in my two cents worth from the CDG fanclub. Anyway, here 'tis:

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Oleg: Chris, thank you very much for finding the time to answer these questions for Guitar.ru. First of all, I want to say that all three CDG albums are well-known in Russia and blues experts appreciate the style of Chris Duarte very much.

Chris: It's my pleasure! I'm just so humbled that you know of me in Russia!

Oleg: Chris, each of your albums is very different. Does your attitude toward music change a lot over the years, or do you follow one direction?

Chris: It does change with the years. It all depends on how I feel or what's going on in my life. I want to explore music, but sometimes, for financial reasons, you have to redirect yourself and go into a more "prosperous" direction. Something that might bring you more success. I'm trying to walk a fine line between integrity and commercialism. I just don't want to be something that's old-fashioned and doesn't have anything going. I want to be able to be accessible to the industry out there.

Oleg: What tendencies do you see in modern blues? Which directions, from your point of view, are interesting?

Chris: I think the melding of different styles, the blending of the newer styles coming up, like hip-hop, rock, and jazz. I think blues is accessible to all kinds of music, you can do anything with it. I think that's exciting.

Oleg: What kinds of music do you prefer to listen to?

Chris: I probably prefer jazz and blues, and classical, as far as what I like to listen to. Many of the Russian composers are great. Whatever's on that's good.

Oleg: Studio versions and "live" versions of your songs differ. Do you improvise each time on stage or do you prepare the performance beforehand?

Chris: I definitely improvise! Mentally I pre-prepare, but I improvise on stage. I try to play something different each night, or at least play it with a little different inflection.

Craig: Damn right! (Sorry, I couldn't help but blurt that out!)

Oleg: What do you play in your concerts now, besides your own songs? I heard that your performance of Jimi Hendrix is incredible!

Chris: That's one of my heroes! Yeah, Hendrix, Coltrane (but I don't play many Trane songs), some of the songs Stevie did that never made it to an album, just a lot of people. I'm just trying to put my spin on it - but yeah, Hendrix is a whole lotta fun to play!

Craig: I would like to add that some of the cover songs you do depend on what kind of a crowd you got or how you're feeling that night. You just never know what Chris might whip out - John Hiatt's "Across the Borderline", Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here", Weather Report's "Havona", to name a few – and that's not even mentioning his own material or his amazing repertoire of Hendrix tunes. Just the other night he played an old classic of his called "Like Eric" that I haven't heard for many years! (So boys and girls, always have tape rollin'!)

Oleg: Guitar.ru's audience consists of people who have a keen interest in the guitar and its sound. What kind of instrument are you playing now?

Chris: I'm still playing my usual guitars that I take out on the road with me: My 1963 Fender Strat (my Number One), I have my backup, which is a Hamiltone, and then I have my Epiphone Les Paul. That's basically it.

Craig: And your acoustic gigs…

Chris: Takoma! I play Takoma guitars. It looks a lot like an Ovation, but it's a Takoma.

Craig: What guitars did you use to record "Duarte e Ezell" on the new album?

Chris: The guitar for the cello part I was using an Epiphone Emperor. I was using for the viola part, um, let's see, the viola was the Hamiltone. And the violin was the Les Paul, the Epiphone Les Paul.

Craig: I guess we won't be seeing that one "live"!

Chris: Actually, I've got 3 guys in the band, and they're pretty competent on their instruments - I know Jason could play one of those parts – so, yeah, it could be performed "live"!

Oleg: What kind of special effects do you prefer and what kind of equipment do you use on stage?

Chris: I guess my special effects would mainly be my foot pedals. I don't have a rack or anything, it's just foot pedals. I use a Boss DS-1 Distortion, a Boss DC-2 Chorus, a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay. I use a Cesar Diza Texas Ranger pedal, a Roger Mara Octavia, and I have a Sobbatt Glo-Vibe, which is pretty much like a roto-vibe, and that's about it. That's all I use – and maybe some reverb on the amps! For amps I have a Rivera Chris Duarte Model, a Rivera Knucklehead, a Fender Vibro-King, and I have a Marshall JCM 900. I run the Fender and both Riveras in series – in one and out the other – and then the Marshall's on a separate channel with an A/B/Y Box. Three amps are on all the time, and then when I step on the A channel off the A/B/Y then all four are goin'. My strings are GHS Boomers in .011, .015, .018, .030, .040, and .050 gauge. I use a little heavier string, and I'm down a half-step, too. Heavier strings give you better tone. I use the same strings on all of my guitars, I am a GHS Man!

Oleg: You've played with many well-known guitarists. What jam sessions were your favorites and why?

Chris: There was a really good jam session I had with Ted Nugent in Abilene, Texas, at the Paramount Theater. It was just – I think we were playing "Great White Buffalo" or "Fred Bear" – and the chords he was playing just lent themselves to these Dickey Betts-style pentatonic runs! It was a whole lotta' fun! And I like playing with the Antone's band down in Austin, ‘cuz I know I can play anything down there. Plus, I had a whole lotta' fun playing with Edgar Winter! That was the millennium thing down in Texas – one of the worst shows of my life! I had to stick around for the rest of the show because the guitar player was using my Marshall. And then they decided they wanted me to get up there and play with them at the end of the night. So I got up there and we played "Tobacco Road" and a couple other tunes. The guitar player made me feel so good and Edgar was so gracious, it was great! I was called up on stage for the G3 Tour in San Antonio, that was pretty exciting! Being up there with Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, and Joe Satriani – I mean WOW! It was cool, and I was honored to be there, but I thought it was a little too structured, everybody was just taking one chorus.

Craig: And I bet you had the heaviest-gauge strings up there!

Chris: I think I did, I'm sure I did!

Oleg: What plans do you have for the future? Any concerts outside of the U.S., maybe in Russia?

Chris: I've always wanted to play Russia! I've wanted to play the Chesterfield Café in Moscow for years, ever since I heard it was there. So get me a gig and I'm there! I'd love to play in Russia, I'd be there in a heartbeat! We're trying to get something goin' in June, hooking up with another group for a tour. Even if we could just get a little tour going, we could start connecting up dates.

Oleg: Do we have to wait another several years before your next album appears?

Chris: No! I promise you one will be out next year! Even if I have to go in and pay for it myself!

Oleg: What would you like to say to the readers of Guitar.ru and an army of Russian guitarists?

Chris: Play with your heart. Play with soul – and get a metronome! Play with your heart and it'll take you a long way. I look forward to being there in your beautiful country someday.

Oleg: Thank you very much, Chris. We wish you good luck and exciting work! And we hope that you bring us a lot of new impressions with your further improvisations!

Chris: Thank you. Like I said, I am so humbled that y'all even know of me.

 


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