Interview: Paul Bibbins

Dan McAvinchey: Hello Paul, let's get right into it. When did you first get interested in guitar, and how did you learn and progress as a player?

Paul Bibbins: Before I begin, I just want to say a big thank you to Guitar9 for taking the time to interview me.

I started playing guitar in the early 1970s. I had planned on becoming a bass guitar player, but after hearing songs like Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water" and other great '70s rock songs I bought an electric guitar instead of a bass guitar, and taught myself how to play the guitar.

The first few years of playing any given instrument are the formative years, where you form the core of your skills on your chosen instrument. My formative years were spent in essentially my own little musical cocoon. For the first five years after I picked up the guitar, I stayed caged up in my room, and all that I played on my guitar was whatever ideas and riffs that came out of my head - good or bad.

I didn't try to learn from any records at that time, or use a metronome, or jam with other musicians. So in essence the formative years of my guitar-playing life were void of the rules of timing. I therefore had no real sense of timing; whether it be 4/4 time, or otherwise. Timing-wise, I played everything free-form.

Although I wasn't into trying to learn Hendrix songs at that time, I did however, listen constantly to Hendrix albums. So Jimi Hendrix creeped into everything that I did, without me even trying. Jimi remains my primary musical influence to this day!

There was no method to my madness back then. I was just young, with no real musical goals or aspirations at that time, and totally clueless about the value of learning from others, and from records, and on working on your musical timing.

In this life though, one thing almost always leads to another: that whole process of me playing guitar without any boundaries to musical timing during those initial five years is exactly what led to odd-timing being an integral and signature part of my guitar playing and song writing. Several musicians have told me that the odd-timing in my musical compositions sounds natural, not contrived. I'd have to say emphatically that odd-timing comes to me naturally because that is the arena that I played guitar in from the very beginning.

It wasn't until later on that I got into learning from the records and albums of musicians like Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and playing with other musicians - all of which brought me into the world of traditional musical timing (4/4, 3/4, etc.), which was an absolute necessity.

A real benefit that I especially got from learning Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan records was that I learned how to project power in my guitar playing; how to really attack my guitar, and make my riffs and solos really mean something!

Dan McAvinchey: You can hear that all over your CD "Joe Kool Jack". Was your CD self-released and was that your intention from the beginning, or did you try different independent labels first?

Paul Bibbins: Yes, my latest album is self-released. I released it in late 2013. My intention was always to self-release the album.

The album is entitled "Joe Kool Jack: ...A Slight Ode To Jimi Hendrix". It recently won the "Best Hard Rock Album" award for March 2015, from the online Akademia Music Awards. "Joe Kool Jack" is a nickname that I have for Jimi Hendrix. One day a long time ago, as I watched a Hendrix video, I said to myself that Jimi was just "so cool jack!" I morphed those words into "Joe Kool Jack".

All of the tracks from the album can be heard in full length on my website, along with my videos:

Dan McAvinchey: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?

Paul Bibbins: I typically describe my music as Hendrix-inspired, original, funky, odd-metered rock 'n roll. Those who've heard my music tend to agree with that assessment.

People tell me that my music sounds unique for this day and age. I don't know if that's actually the case; but I will tell you that I'll try to sound as differently as I can, for as long as I can. When I'm no longer able to do so, then it'll be time to put my guitar down for good.

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Dan McAvinchey: Which of the tracks from your most recent project do you enjoy playing the most?

Paul Bibbins: I think the track that I enjoy playing the most is song number nine on my Joe Kool Jack album, entitled "RUN". This song is earthy, visceral, and starts and stops "on a dime" throughout, and it is as odd-timed as hell. It is also the hardest song among all of my songs for me to sing and play at the same time, and maintain the groove.

This is a song that most drummers have problems with initially, but once they get it nailed down they absolutely love the challenge and the groove of the song.

Whenever I'm in full swing playing "RUN", I feel like I'm up there in the clouds, far away from anywhere my body may be at that moment!

When I initially started writing "RUN", I had something similar to Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" in mind, with that killer backbeat of Mitch Mitchell. But the song eventually morphed into something different.

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little about the gear you use to get your sound.

Paul Bibbins: The guitar that I used for the songs on my "Joe Kool Jack: ...A Slight Ode To Jimi Hendrix" album is a late 1970s model Fender Stratocaster. It's the sweetest axe that I've ever known! I've had this guitar for about thirty years now.

My amp is a Marshall JCM 2000 DSL 50watt. For fuzz/distortion I alternate between a germanium Fuzz Face and a silicon Fuzz Face. I use Vox and Crybaby Wah pedals; although mainly for sound coloration. I sometimes also use a Voodoo Lab Micro Vibe. Lastly, I use a homemade preamp/compressor that I've tweaked many times over the years.

The signal chain that I used for recording the songs on my "Joe Kool Jack" CD is a little complex: my Strat plugs into the Fuzz Face, which is output into my homemade preamp/compressor, which is output into a passive DI box which splits the guitar signal and routes it into the Marshall JCM 2000 amp and also into my mixing board. The speaker out from the Marshall amp feeds into a Hotplate Speaker Simulator, and the line out from the speaker simulator goes into the mixing board as well.

I used a send/return on the mixing board to send some of the guitar signal to a Vox Wah, and back to the mixing board. I used the wah in this manner for slight sound coloration, rather than the wah effect. From there the output from the mixing board was fed into my DAW and Pro Tools for recording.

Anyone reading this may wonder: what the hell did I do all of that for? Well it just so happens that doing all of that gives me one hell of a live guitar sound. It might sound as if I'm blowing out speakers with earth-shattering volume on the songs on my CD, but in reality it was all done "in the box", in my bedroom. I used headphones for all of the recordings. No speakers or speaker cabinets were used at all. Where I live, I can't blast my guitar amp and mic the speaker cabinet for a recording. So I needed a way to simulate live mic'd up speaker cabinet sound; and that convoluted signal chain that I described above is how I accomplished exactly that. It did, though, take a lot of tinkering to get my guitar sound just right.

Dan McAvinchey: Are you using any social media sites to promote your CDs and music career?

Paul Bibbins: My preferred promotion site is my personal website, where visitors can find pics, videos, MP3s, and links to my CD on iTunes and CDBaby. I give away free full-album downloads all the time on my website, so it's worth a visit.

I'm not into all flavors of social media, but I am on Facebook and Twitter.

I'm also on Youtube and Reverbnation.

Dan McAvinchey: From a publicity and promotion standpoint, what do you find is working best for you at the moment? What is not working?

Paul Bibbins: At the present time I'm using a promotional company that's helping me get my songs played on more radio stations. I've had problems making radio airplay happen for my music; but the promotional company is good at what they do... and I'm seeing the results.

Dan McAvinchey: Why do you think certain music fans prefer instrumental music over traditional vocal oriented music?

Paul Bibbins: I think it has to do with the fact that with instrumental music the musician creating the instrumental piece generally has to go the extra mile to replace the lead vocal with meaningful instrumental passages. You have to make up for the loss of the centerpiece (the vocal) of the song with the music itself. The lovers of instrumental music, I think, pick up on this extra dedication to the music from the musician.

I personally am not hugely into instrumental music. My biggest guitar heroes have all been able singers, in addition to being great guitar players.

Dan McAvinchey: Have you heard any new guitarists that have really caught your ear in the past couple of years?

Paul Bibbins: Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan basically sealed the deal for me. They set the bar impossibly high for guitar players. Because of Jimi and Stevie Ray, it takes a hell-of-a-lot for a new guitar player to grab my attention.

There's nobody new on my immediate radar; but the guitar players who move me the most at this time are Eric Gales, Doyle Bramhall II, and Robert Cray.

Dan McAvinchey: What's up next for you, what are some of your plans for the future?

Paul Bibbins: I'm currently in the process of tracking the songs for my next album. The songs are all original rock 'n roll, and peppered with odd-timing, as is normal for me.

There's no timetable for when I'll be finished though. I'm a perfectionist when it comes to my music; and I'll work on every aspect of a song for as long as it takes until I feel that it's perfect. I'm the only person on the ship, so I'm free do as I please.

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A serious devotee of guitar legends Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, guitarist Paul Bibbins released an album in 2013 that pays it all back, "Joe Kool Jack: ...A Slight Ode To Jimi Hendrix". The CD features all original material, with one Hendrix cover, and recently won an award for "Best Hard Rock Album" from the Akademia Music Awards.

Dan McAvinchey was able to get Bibbins to open up on a series of questions about his guitar playing, his early musical beginnings, and promotional efforts for his album.