April 1999 / Issue No. 245
"Waddy Wachtel" by David Simons
When did you become aware that you'd developed a sound that a lot of people, particularly in L.A., were quite fond of?
I never did. I wasn't trying for a "sound"; it just caught on. I never used any effects; it was always strictly a Music Man amp, my Strat or Paul, and a volume pedal.
And a good ear.
I think so. That's why I could never use any boxes. Even if I had an old MXR box, when you plug into it-even if you don't engage it-it altered the sound. That always bothered my ear, because it had this artificial top; I couldn't warm up to it. That's why I always just went with amp crunch.
Still, those deceptive simple-sounding unisons that pop up in your lead playing, like in Melissa Etheridge's "The Only One" or Steve Perry's "Oh Sherrie," became a trademark sound for you.
I was going to that well a bit much! And it's not like it's an original sound either-it's all over the place on Hendrix records. But at some point, I thought, "I've got to come up with something else to do here." But it makes a big statement; it makes a note really have a lot of grab to it. It's almost a disturbing sound. You gotta do it right, though. Your pitches really have to be perfect, or else it sounds horrible.
It seems to me that you added a lot of bite to that hyper-polished L.A. sound.
That was kind of my job, to put an edge into it, because I didn't love the recording technique. Things did sound slick, but at least I'd get in there with my dirty sound. That was why people would hire me, because they needed that rock & roll element.
One of your more famous guitar statements is that staccato opening riff to Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen." Were you aware of the similarities between that song and the Police's "Bring On the Night"?
I had never heard "Bring On the Night," and at that session they told me they were going to do this song based on this feel. I had heard something about the Police, but I didn't know what they were talking about. Then about two years ago, I had the radio on, and on comes what sounds like "Edge of Seventeen"-and all of a sudden, there's Sting's voice! I thought, "We ripped them off completely!" I called Stevie that night and said, "Listen to me, don't ever do that again!"
That's actually not an easy guitar figure to play.
Onstage, the beginning of that song is like a break for Stevie. I'd be standing there, playing that riff for around three minutes, before she'd even start singing! By the end of the tour I was able to break walnuts with my right hand.
You gave new meaning to the term "versatile" by signing on as Adam Sandler's musicial director, as well as scoring "The Waterboy."
At first I was a bit skeptical, though once we got on the road it worked out fine. But the funny part was when we got to Connecticut. I rang up Keith [Richards] and told him that we were going to be playing near him. And I said, "You won't believe this, Keith, but I'm working with a comedian." And he goes, "Aren't we all?"
Thanks to blackcat for the transcription and submission.