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Thread: 1986 Guitar Player Magazine Interview With JWO

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    1986 Guitar Player Magazine Interview With JWO

    1986 Guitar Player Magazine interview with Jamie West-Oram


    When you know the players who influenced JWO’s style, you can better understand his shrieks, whistling tones, and sledgehammer blasts. You can also understand his sophisticated staccato lines, shimmering harmonics, ringing chimes, and the jangly, circular kind of rhythmic charge he puts into the latest hit by the Fixx “Secret Separation” from their latest album release “Walkabout”. On “Walkabout” JWO delivers another fine studio performance, with his ringing chime effects and solid chunky funk layering the action. Tom Verlaine, Talking Heads, The Stones, The Who, Nile Rodgers, Brian Eno, and Bela Bartok have all lodged somewhere in the mind of the 32 year old native of Barnsley, a city in Northern England. And he delivers his glancing guitar blows with a noticeable sense of distain, quite a switch from his shy offstage demeanor.

    Considering what a sophisticated musical envirnment the Fixx is - a drummer who insisted on packing a gas bottle along on tour to strike until his electronics could sample the sound properly, a bassist whose jazz background and mummified stage presence add to the mystery, and a keyboardist who does anything except sound like any keyboardist youve ever heard before - its no small wonder that its often hard to tell if, in fact, its JWO soloing, or keyboardist Rupert Greenall, or drummer Adan Woods for that matter. “Before the Fixx I would always get very restless and want to change after a couple of weeks”, says JWO, ”But there seems to be endless possibilities with this band.”

    Cy Curnin is the lead conscience of the Fixx, as well as the voice, and his freewheeling song interpretations get center stage. Deservedly so, since this is a lyric conscience band and he's a charismatic figure for the girls to scream at. But in his background role, JWO evokes some squeals of his own. When JWO lays into the ringing chords that kick off “Stand Or Fall”, crowds erupt into cheers. His guitar sounds are as much a trademark of the Fixx as anything else.

    JWO learned to play by watching friends, jamming, and playing along with records while growing up in Cheshire. He moved to London 10 years ago, and was just scraping by doing sessions and occasional roadwork with bandleader Phil Rambow when he saw an ad for a guitarist in “sounds”. “ I got last weeks paper-typical of me”, he says. “So I turned up a week late and managed to get the gig. It seemed to click very nicely.”

    Open minded and talented from the start, the Fixx got a good early break in their career. In 1981, they pressed 1,000 copies of their song "Lost Planes" on the tiny 101 Records. The order quickly sold out, and the groups sound caught the ears of producer Rupert Hine, manager Geoff Jukes, and MCA records in London. Hine took the band to his Farmyard Studios in Buckinghamshire, where they recorded "Shuttered Room." The groups debut featured "Stand Or Fall" and "Red Skies", which became cult hits in the U.S., thanks to generous videoplay on MTV. With the release of "Reach The Beach" the group gave up being a support act for bands such as The Police and became a headliner. "One Thing Leads To Another" features JWO's ringing, pushing rhythm, while his shimmering harmonics on "Saved By Zero" are followed by a plucky, funky gem of a single note part. JWO has toured Europe with Tina Turner and worked on her "Private Dancer" LP. More recently, he played on "I'll Be Thunder" along with the title track on Tina's new "Break Every Rule" LP. He also appears on singer Daryl Halls latest album "Two Hearts In A Happy Ending Machine". At the time of this interview, JWO and the Fixx were on tour with the Moody Blues.


    GP - “I Found You” from the first album, has a conventional guitar solo. It was a long time before there was another solo like that on a Fixx album. How do you see the role of the guitar today?

    JWO - Its bound to vary from one band to another, one guitar player to another. I saw a brilliant blues band the other day in Chicago, they were a bar band in a tiny bar. The guitarists name was Carlos Johnson. He was obviously from the old blues school, but the things he did made your hair stand on end. They were traditional licks, but with just that touch. So it really depends on what comes naturally to you. In the studio, I’m always tempted to try something new, to surprise myself. So there are no rules and there really shouldn’t be any.

    GP - “There’s hardly any sound processing on “I Found You”, as compared to “Outside” on “Reach The Beach.”

    JWO - Yeah, “I Found You” was thrown together much more quickly than anything else. It was one of the first songs we wrote together and one of our favorite live numbers, but we didn’t really know if it was going to end up as an album track. We did the whole thing in about half an hour, overdubs and everything, which explains why it sounds like it does. There’s a lot to be said for that approach to making records. The solo on “Outside” was done pretty much the same way. I just tuned my bottom string down to D, and whapped a lot of compression on it. I was in a slightly deranged mood at the time. It was quite spontaneous.

    GP - How did you get the chimey effects on the first few chords of “Stand Or Fall”?

    JWO - Its double tracked and going through a stereo chorus, which I use nearly all the time to a greater or lesser degree. I also used various harmonizers. So you’ve got quite a lot of scope for widening out the sound. That’s pretty much it.

    GP - Can you detail some of your other techniques in that song?

    JWO - The funky staccato part is quite simple. I’m damping the strings at the bridge. Its actually two parts, which I cant do live, so I just do the main part. There’s doubling on some of the bass lines, then there’s a few chops here and there. Yeah, there wasn’t a lot of room for anyone else on the track. Usually I try to keep it to a minimum, but the temptation gets too great when you’ve got all that gear.

    GP - Do you have a hard time deciding which parts to play live?

    JWO - You just try to pick the ones that carry it. Its usually obvious which parts are just embellishments. On “Walkabout”, I’ve tried to avoid using to many overdubs. On “Red Skies” the main guitar part was done at the same time as the drums, it’s the actual backing track guitar. It seemed to work, so we kept it. So that ones quite easy to do live.

    GP - You and Rupert keep your musical distance from each other. Do you spend a lot of time working on arrangements?

    JWO - We take less time than we used to, because we’re used to working together. Usually it’s obvious who’s got the part that’s carrying the song at any given moment. You have to hold back and give other people a chance. And vice versa, if you’ve got a great part and are trying to get it across. The main thing is to leave room for the vocals. I find that you create a larger sound that way. The more space you leave, the bigger it seems to sound. Dynamics, really that’s what its down to.

    GP - Do you mean that the less you play, the bigger it sounds when you do play?

    JWO - Or even the bigger it sounds when there’s hardly anything going on. It’s a paradox. And we just try to work around the lyrics. Like on “Outside”, I liked the idea of the word ”Outside”, placing more emphasis on the importance of nature and the respect for nature, that kind of thing. Just thinking about it influenced the solo.

    GP – Have you always had the inclination in your playing to leave space for others?

    JWO – No, I overplayed. It’s easy to be self indulgent, especially on guitar. I started out playing when I was very young. As soon as I could get my fingers around it I was attempting to play. I finally managed to save up for an electric. It’s exciting the first time you turn up real loud and just thrash the thing. Hendrix was my God at the time, like everyone else. I was trying to play like him, but it’s not that easy. And it can sound great to you at the time, but to everyone else it sounds a bit dodgy. Leaving space for other people is just something that comes with expe

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    octo, hi...yeah...thanx for the welcome...
    and "the Musical overachiever" comment!""
    "How Much Is Enough???" Ah...(interesting)
    "Question!!" Its...a phenomenal "I Found You"-The Website so I can be a big part of all this "Yesterday, Today" and permanently
    tomorrow- and to let everyone know I dig music a whole heck of alot...its something i loathe "Going Without!" I was reading your transcription of the "Jamie" article... Excellent my friend! (You know the in toto cover with (gulp) Mr. Big Bassist- Billy Sheenen. Good thing you didnt transcript page 29 of GP-the Mesa Boogie endorsement of The Mr. Big counterpart-Van CokeSmiles bassist..ah...who cares!!!) One line overlooked in the Q. about the "open tunings". "Saved By 0" and Privilege" but you left "Outside".
    (So for those who want to know...inquiring minds want to know...MR. W-O say For"Outside" I used to tune the bottom string down to D. Okay so Im a pr... let me make it up and send you the live show from
    Memphis 98. Curious, did anybody from the Fixxtures go to that gig? Im looking at the "bill" i cut out from the memphis paper from that show (place neatly on the inner sleeve of my 99 cents lp copy of "Shuttered
    Room" THE FIXX SATURDAY MAY 23 WITH SPECIAL GUESTS 'THE MUDFLAPS' $10 ALL AGES SHOW SIX 1 SIX (PHOTO OF RUPERT CY JAMIE AND ADAM IS ALSO ON THE "handbill") ALSO GOING TO ANSWER ONE OF MY OWN Q'S AGAIN: I called to
    Louisville about the Group's upcoming June 23rd show there. This show is one of a series of concerts being put on at the riverfront this summer season. The Fixx is performing with THE OUTFIELD as support.
    Tickets are only $5.00!!!!!!!! The show is G.A. Like I said, there are many other concerts coming thru the riverfront and one can also get a "season pass". When i called Monday 4/23, the woman I spoke to said that they were still working on a price for the "passes" and to call back after May 1st. There are some other shows I/we be interested in seeing beside the Fixx-Zapp,The Sugar Hill Gang and Parliment Funkadelic on June 2nd, The Neville Brothers on July 13th...just to name a few funkin around 'bombs' to go along with such a neat outsiding "fixxture"
    such as this in Louisville. If anyone needs info to the Riverfront(The Fixx show or any other concert there) contact "Holly at
    502-637-4150. By the Way, since the groups music is very R&B flava'd-are there any fans of such music who dig the Fixx out there(I think I saw Marvin Gaye on one list) Oh yeah its kooldrude that Cy is the same age of us!!!! One last interesting fact of note as long as nobody has a 'flat guitar tutor' they'll will understand) I was surprised to see that group played Nashville in 97 at a venue called the "Mix Factory" It t'aint here now! Must have closed up sometime after they played! Its very pathetic to know that Nashville is in a very bad LOL at the moment for concerts. In fact todays paper had an article expressing the 'lack of interest of artists to come here to gig' (Even the country scene doesnt have the big pool it once had!!) Its also a killer to know the group recorded a bunch of stuff
    here...especially since the 'scene' is quite stagnant. I can see the group has no immediate plans to play here anytime soon!!! I wonder why!!!???? Blame it on Nashville's "Weary World" of being put under "The Strain" of everyday life. (Its amusing to know all these musicians live here to like Tom Peterson, John Hiatt, Al Kooper Walter Egan and a host of others.
    Before I forget, thanks to those in letting me know about the Fixx gigging with Mike Peters(The Alarm) Peace To all!!!! OR

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    Cool

    Thanks Octo! Great article. E

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    Thumbs up

    Hi OR, I love Marvin Gaye music and grew up listening to a lot of the R&B artists of the 60's and 70's thanks to my very cool parents.

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