Interview: Geno White

Joe Matera: Can you tell us about your background, such as who inspired you to pick up the guitar, your early bands etc.?

Geno White: I was born in 1956 to a deaf mother and quite a quiet household
since my father seemed uninterested in music. It was on a visit to Philadelphia to see my grandparents (I was around 6 or 7 years old), I went down to the basement where my grandfather was strumming an electric guitar through an amp. I was completely amazed and taken over by the sound of hearing a guitar being played for the first time in my life. I
just couldn't believe how free it made me feel. I also saw how it let my grandfather get away from everything around him. He was smoking a cigar, drinking whiskey and cared for nothing else at that moment. I begged for a guitar the next morning.

I had a toy plastic Mickey Mouse uke that I worked on, then an old mandolin that was around, finally got a guitar for my tenth birhday. I put my first trio together when I was eleven, did some school shows and parties, Beatles, Quicksilver MS, Creedence, and a few
originals. During this time I got turned on to Hendrix. The very next day I
gave away my Monkees LP's and a few others to my bandmates sister, 'cause I
immediately zeroed in on Hendrix, Zeppelin, Ten Years After and Jeff Beck.
Furthermore one Sunday I saw an advert for The Jimi Hendrix Experience-
Live -April 12th 1969- The Spectrum-Phila.PA. I pounded my dad full on to
take me and he did, along with my little trio. That did it! I walked out of
that show commited to music for the rest of my life.

When I was fifteen I joined the local band "Kentucky Waters" (we were from New Jersey and had never been to Kentucky, but they were who was hot and all older than me, sixteen
and nineteen year olds, so I didn't care what they were called I just wanted to play). We were playing out every weekend, doing Mountain, Rory Gallagher, Humble Pie, Cactus and originals. After a five year period it ended. I was twenty-one and also started to listen to Miles Davis, Pat Martino, Frank Zappa, John Mclaughlan and Coryell along with the blues and rock guitarists I had been following. My favorites were Bloomfield, Harvey Mandel, Leslie West, Jeff Beck and Roy Buchanan. I also at this time met Paul Prospero, a
frequent jammer in an inner circle of musicians based around Pat Martino in
his earlier days. Already a legend. Paul and I had a band and worked six
years writing instrumental/vocal progressive rock. Now I was getting into
Holdsworth, Brand X, Gong and such. We were damn close to a record contract
when things fell apart. This is when I went and started to do things based
as a solo artist, taking full financial responsibilities, etc. But I had been introduced to Pat Martino in 1977. That lead to a friendship which continues to this day. And a part time job as road partner/assistant to Pat from 1985-1996. This took me around the world and all over the US.

Joe Matera: Can you tell us about your early releases?

Geno White: My first session was for a Christmas 45 in 1987, I traded my service
to have complete freedom to record an instrumental on the B side with the leader paying the bill. "Kringle Jingle" b/w "Santa Goes Surfing". After selling 2,000 copies I went ahead and financed two EP's of my own, cassette only releases. I had gotten a lot of airplay from these. The first was "Standing In Stereo" and then "Right Out Left." Both were live in the studio - no overdubs. In 1993 I recorded a CD entitled "Music From Inside The Light House." This was an all acoustic recording that I did, bringing in musicians inside a 159 foot tall lighthouse. It was built in 1859. A historic site. The natural
echo was behind the concept. I wrote the music to sound like it could have
been played over a hundred years ago. I promoted it as a National 1st (here
in the US) and ASCAP gave me two cash awards for it. Two years in a row.
This was released on Clear Ear. I also did the soundtrack for Richard Walters'
(1974 World Champion) Judo instructional video.

Joe Matera: You're now signed to LoLo Records and your current release, "Standing In Stereo", features some great guitar instrumentals. Can you take me through the writing and recording process of this album?

Geno White: "Standing In Stereo" on LoLo Records is all about guitar tones and
textures, and marks a finalization in the writing of the two independent
EP's I had released, plus the added jam times and gigs of a couple of
years. It let me take it to a world class marketplace. And it still
contains a dualism; I wanted to share extra guitar voices and
personalities, but not have the music so far away that I couldn't get
some center point and play it live with just a trio.

The recording process started with the fact that the music was much played, exercised
so to speak, because I kept pounding at it with the drummer and various
local bassists. Bringing Hansford Rowe (bass) in on the session with one
rehersal gave it a balance of newness with elegance, plus having a great
verbal relationship with engineer/producer Paul Bagin (several Pat
Martino CD's and many others). A man who knows music theory but can also
understand a statement like, "I want it to sound like thick air".

All the main tracks were cut in two days. I used all three of my Strats, all
completely stock, unaltered and pre-CBS. I have a '62,'63 and a '65. All
would go through a Marshall 50 watt Tremelo head from '68/'69. That's the
origin of my sound, pure Fender and no effects pedals at all. We used four
mics/tracks for the live guitar signal. One mic on one of the 12"
celestion greenbacks of the 4x12 Marshall cab. Two mics, one at the top
of the rotating barrell and one on the side of the Fender Leslie cabinet
I was using as an extention. And also one room mic 10 feet back and 7 feet
up. A cranked Marshall to four mics made for a thick sound.

Bon Lozaga cut his parts on day one. He played all the solos on Dirty Birdie. The credits
missed this info. I put two tracks of everything that's behind him
including the chordal wall behind the main solo. Then we intertwined
guitars on "Angel Of Stereo". I cut my track one take, then Bon built his in, in just a couple of passes. I always had four motifs to instigate "Angel Of Stereo". There was never a structured chart, but you always could hear an identity. A vibe type piece that's the same but not played the same way twice. Bon played like the angel he is, possible a reflection from his Gong days. He had used a Stienberger with two Boogies.

Next I booked a session to cut a few more overdubs by myself. This is when I made the
guitar collage "Temptations Of Electric". The rhythmic center is an old 1959 Gibson ES355 plus three Strat takes. All the cuts are real time on this except at the very end where it sounds like a childs merry-go-round dream trailing off. Otherwise no extra studio trickery on the CD. As an opposite to this I cut "Riverwide", a one take solo piece. I also put in the orchestrated three feeding back Strat part on the B section after the drum solo in "Army Of The Gone". There are overdubs and or guest dubs on all takes except for Houdini Street and Lovechoke, these two are live in the studio - no overdubs. All my tracks are Stratocaster except for the ES 355 used for Houdini Street. And one guitar track of
"Temptations Of Electric".

Joe Matera: It also features Harvey Mandel. What was it like working with Harvey?

Geno White: The final recording session was to get Harvey Mandel in. We had met several months before, crossing paths at the famous Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. We got a really cool rapport going with Harvey, Pat Martino, and myself. So I flew Harvey in with his guitar tech Buck Jensen and picked them up at JFK. Harvey came in and burned it up, all in just a few hours in the studio. It was remarkable to see him work, very clearly a true legend. He was totally on with the guitar and focused right inside the music. One of electric guitar's all time kings, plus personally, I have been a fan for years. Harvey not only added the extra grace to the music, but just by his nature he gave that spiritual
element of suspended time. He used a Parker Fly on this session.

Joe Matera: Do you know if it is true Harvey Mandel, was the first guy to feature two-handed tapping into his playing, way before Van Halen?

Geno White: We had a few long hangs talking about guitars and music and one subject was the tapping. I wouldn't put the pressure on Harvey as being the one and only very first guy to tap, (who can put a finger on that?) but yes, he is one of the first to have featured tapping in the forefront of rock guitar. "Shangrenede" came out in 1973, Van Halen was still in high school,and damn, Eddie, being the genius he is, could of very well
been tapping, but not at the forefront, the world at large would not meet Eddie for a few more years. Harvey had already played Woodstock, toured the world several times over, and was hanging with his peers, Hendrix, Jeff Beck and the like. "Shangrenede" is all about tapping.

Joe Matera: You also play on some other CD releases?

Geno White: Yeah, I've done several sessions for a variety of artists, from independent blues and rock artists to a couple of low budget films. Most notable is a guest spot on Bon Lozaga's "Bon To The Bone" release, I play on track five, "Of Sound Mind". David Torn is on several other tracks.

Joe Matera: What are your current projects, are you working on a new album?

Geno White: I'm right in the middle of my next CD for LoLo Records. It's called "The Octave Jester" , and all the basic tracks are finished. There were no
more than two takes of any piece, and like the last time several of the
tracks are live in the studio no overdubs. Chico Huff is on bass and I'm
featuring Danny Blaze on drums. Furthermore Blaze wrote several tunes
for this project. And of course there are the tunes that will have extra
guitars and I'll have another special guest guitarist to fulfill the
daring sounds part. "The Octave Jester", like "Standing In Stereo" is about
guitar tones, and again, no keyboards. In contrast, Blaze and myself are
working on a duo release for Clear Ear. We've done many gigs including
jazz festivals where he plays piano and I'll use my Ovation acoustic or
a mellower electric sound. What's cool about this is that we do a lot of
the music written under the power trio vibe in a whole new setting. It's
what I was saying before about having the music written and recorded
with the solos and feedback and all the projection that I love, but still
I have a centering in the music so it can be presented in an extremely
naked and delicate fashion. And this opened up more gigs, such as having
my own show within, let's say, a jazz fest that features mostly straight
ahead artists.

Joe Matera: Let's talk gear. What is your set-up live and in the studio?

Geno White: Gearwise with me everything is very primal. On "The Octave Jester" I cut all the main guitar tracks using one of the pre-CBS Strats, mostly the '65 this time, and played through a Fender Prosonic with two 10's that I borrowed. No effect pedals at all. As a matter of fact I don't even own a single one. And I used only one mic this time as oppossed to the setup for "Standing In Stereo". This CD is all screaming pure Stratocaster. I pushed the amp loud to get the whole thing vibrating. You have to get up to the point where those extra harmonics start flying. Also I use this old Fender bass cabinet for overdubs and live gigs. This thing used to belong to Tim Bogert when he was in
Vanilla Fudge. He blew the speaker and just chucked it out backstage. It was given to me years later and I put two 12 in. Celestion Vintage 30's in it. I'll put the 50 watt Marshall or this Sears & Roebuck all tube late 60's amp through it and it realy rocks. This cabinet really vibrates like nothing else, probably from Bogert's incredible energy. It's producer Paul Bagins favorite of all. For live shows, I use either the Marshall top with a Marshall 4x12 with 25 watt Greenbacks or just that 2x12 Fender cabinet, according to the venue size. And always no pedals. Guitar straight to amp. Around my home area I have a blues band and in the small clubs I use one of those 60 watt all tube Pignose amps
with one 12. It sounds fine, I just got to turn it up past 9. Everything has to do with working the Straocaster. There's also that whole other acoustic personality I have. I own an Ovation 1993 limited edition model and I'll go direct into the house system with a pre-amp. I just got off of a tour as solo guitar opening for Bon Lozaga/s Project Lo and I just went through his rig.

Joe Matera: Have you got a home studio, if so, do you use computer based recording?

Geno White: No, I don't have a home studio. If I need to demo something I just use a cheap mono cassette recorder. I'll tape myself or the trio, lately I've just been running new tunes with Blaze and he writes out stuff and I'll have my own chord chart I'll do up. I like the whole process of working the tunes, hanging and talking about them, taking them live and then renting out a full sail studio and Bagin producing. Going at everything raw and primal and then the studio lets you have this whole other side to do things. But you need people, I'm lucky to have a writing partner and then a producer that I can work with. Plus I always like to support other artists with what they do best, I don't mind paying to have studio/art freedom. Even my guitars, I don't work on them
myself other than changing strings, I'll pay a man who has devoted himself to being the best guitar tweeker he can be, and does it for a living. An artist. And I like seeking out the guys who do it 'cause there is style and individuality from one techs setup to another. We should all back each other up. It's all one big art project.

Joe Matera: Have you any guitar playing tips you would like to share with guitarists?

Geno White: Yes, for anyone just picking up or thinking of picking up guitar the old saying of, "if you can play three chords you can play a song" is true. I'm always saying that anyone can play guitar, it's the easiest to pick up and learn something, but it's the hardest to master. I don't think anyone has completely totally mastered the guitar, that's a forever quest. How come master players like Martino and Mclaughlin are
still coming up with new stuff? Because they have befriended the guitar and music so deeply that it talks back to them in the deepest way, the inner conversations they have reach the spiritual plane. So it's mutual, the super killer players are still seeking even deeper, so music as a godforce is always one step ahead. The air is already there before the note is sounded.

And there's the dualism, one of the greatest guitarist I ever saw was John Lee Hooker, he was the most primal, minimal, rawest, untechnical player I had seen, he wasn't even using a pick, but was flicking out his blues licks with his bare middle finger, hitting the strings with a flicking upstroke, I was stunned and knew I was in the presence of a tone god. What he was, was totally and wholly completely real. He was not about guitar chops but human projection of the highest order. So anyone who wants to play should, but go into it knowing it has to be fun. It will allow you to be yourself and to speak for yourself in ways that words might not.

Beginners can start by working out the difference between Major and minor and work in dominant after that. Get your major scale under your fingers and see the numerical value to chord tones sitting there. Intermediate and advanced players can start going
with what falls naturally for them and work the accidental riffs and chords that happen into killer riffs and statements that will be unique to them only, because that individual got them from the spiritual energy they put into it. Don't worry about trying to play someone else note for note. You see, everyone's body english and nervous system and life is different, so nobody is ever going to sound exactly like anyone else

Plus I have to mention there are two things, music and then the business of music delivery. Not everyone who plays an instrument is meant to go and entertain the masses, it's a business that requires a hard outer layer to bounce off the rejection that can outweigh the love factor. It can take a long time to be heard. A musician for profession is having to be an outlaw,you have to be willing to live your life in an alternate
time zone concept. But music in and of itself is for all people. Playing guitar or any instrument will enhance the life of anyone who lets it, it can give professionals and students of all types an outlet from the daily crushes of life. Finish your day's work and go home and play.

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Joe Matera: You know Pat Martino. What sort of things did you pick up from Pat?

Geno White: Yes, I know Pat very well. We met at his spot in New York City in 1977. After his brain operation in the early eighties we hung out a lot. I was one of the few who was around during this time that he was out of the public eye and was not playing guitar at all. Then he started coming back. What was good was that I never asked any guitar or music questions. I was already long hell bent on my own path. It seemed that
many others who would come in contact with him only wanted to tap his enormous knowledge of guitar. So I never studied with Pat. We had the ease of two friends hanging out. As he started performing again I would go on the road with him if I had no gigs of my own. You see he's an only child and just before his mother and father, who I became very close
to, passed away, they asked if I would help their son. And of course I did. So through all this I did indeed learn a lot, in real time. What it's like to run a band and those responsibilities. Dealing with record execs, the inside nature of the music business from his point. The intensity of survival. And life as a canvas itself. And of course some of
the hidden ways of guitar and music. But I always contort them to my way of doing things. If two people sounded totally different it's Pat and myself. I'll tell you, Pat is truly one of the all time masters, I've been privileged to hear many things he's recorded privately or when he's played at a rehearsal or just at his place, and never has
been anything less than amazing.

Joe Matera: What would you say defines your playing technique and style?

Geno White: I would have to say it's a combination of my early days of loving Hendrix and Jeff Beck and all the electric blues players I listened to. Plus, I love the raw un-pasturized Stratocaster sound. I want the feedback, pings and noises inherent in those single coils. That's where all the elusive extra angel wind sounds are. All the harmonics, even the ones that only dogs can hear. And the the ones you don't hear I believe you still feel way down in the reseses of your inner being. The technique is also part of the many hours I had put in just playing with not knowing any rules at first. And working the guitar, especially Strats, my personal style is that I'm not a laid back sitting on a stool type of player. Plus, my manner of teaching myself, I'm someone who
learned and is still learning from the street level. I learn from my fellow musicians and right on stage during shows even. And I'm still incredibly excited by guitar. Even today, all I need is to hear Jeff Beck plugging in and I start flippin' out. Hearing those dark thick Martino chords. And anything Hendrix. This is the ongoing fuel for technique and style.

Joe Matera: What would you like to achieve with your guitar playing?

Geno White: Several things on different levels. Everyone wants to be loved, and for a musician guitar player that means to be heard and loved with unbiased ears. I want to keep the freedom I've attained by being a guitarist. That outlaw time zone I mentioned. It's an achievement that's ongoing, you could say I have achieved it, but you have to stay on the case, because things can change on any given day. You can't let creativity stop. On another side I need to have by way of music the financial freedom to record more. Have the ability to book Electric Lady for a week solid and have my musician mates in. To be booked on a flight to spend a week at Stuart Wildes mansion. I am a free man already but I have a lot more to do. So I need to achieve complete freedom by sharing and playing guitar. There is also the spiritual journey, and nothing is more pure and at the same time earthbound than music. Sound as music is the direct connection to all heavens. And for
me no spirit tool is more fun than an electric guitar.

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LoLo Records recording artist Geno White plays instrumental guitar driven rock blues fusion. Pat Martino calls him "A complete original." Guitar Player Magazine wrote "White's tortured tone conjures the anarchic spirit of Blackmore and Jan Akkerman
with frenzied whammy-bar work and chunky double-stop riffs."

Geno recently hooked up with guitarist and writer Joe Matera to talk about his life as a guitarist.