The old restrictions in technology forced us to do things right. It forced us to have to make decisions. It forced us to spiritually be so in tune with the other people that magic had to happen. It made you step up to the plate, whereas now, when I go to play on someone’s record I feel uncomfortably free-and I almost hate that. I can actually play on a record all day long and do ten different solos and take all these different approaches to the rhythm and all this kind of stuff. And then the producer has to look at all this work like a film-they have to go back and edit and figure out which bits they want to use. Whereas in the old days, when a person hired me to work on a record, I had to get it right, right there. You had to play great, you had to be smokin’, and there was no way that they could fix it and make it better.
When I played on Michael Jackson’s last record, I knew what they were going to do, so I said, “Hey, Michael, here’s like a billion ideas. I’m going to play all this cool s***, and you go off and do it.” So I didn’t have to write it, so to speak. I didn’t have to give them the definitive, perfect, guitar part; I gave them lots of definitive, perfect guitar parts, and they decided which ones to use. That’s weird to me. Once you’re unlimited, you’ll never play that same way–you’ll just go on and on and on and on. It’s like the ultimate jazz person’s fantasy: “You to tell me I’m going to solo for the rest of my life, and you guys will think it’s great?”
Having infinite options also means you don’t have the pressure on you…
-which means that you won’t necessarily work as hard as you would if you knew you had just two takes in 20 minutes to get it right.
You can’t help it. You see, I grew up in the days of, time is money-as Madonna would say, “time is money, and the money is mine.” And I like that, I love that.
You had a limitation of tracks, too. You were lucky if you had two tracks and you could do an alternative take.
You know what people do now when they want me to overdub on a record? They’ll send an album with a mix, and I have like 22 open tracks of guitars I can put down. So now you are going to figure out what my part is.
And speaking of which, I have an article in the August issue of Nuts & Volts on Roland’s GI-20 interface, titled “Shut Up And Play Your Computer!”. The GI-20 allows any guitar with a Roland guitar synthesizer pickup to drive a myriad of software synthesizers via the PC’s USB port, opening a realm that was heretofore almost entirely the exclusive province of keyboard players.