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Interviews

Charlie Hunter: Seven-String Samurai

By Published: November 9, 2009
So I spent a lot of time trying to work out this really complex stuff. And sometimes it came off well. It was always impressive, the way that youth is impressive, all that energy, it doesn't have to be terribly well executed. But now I understand that all of the guitar flashiness is not necessary, that's not a big part of what makes this thing really run effectively. What makes it run effectively is the drum aspect of it, in that you really have to always be in the pocket with both sides of it. And if you want to make the bass a little bit behind and the guitar a little bit ahead, that's fine. But I spend a lot of my time just listening to the interdependence of the parts and realizing that's where it all flows from.

Charlie HunterAAJ: And how did you develop this technique?

CH: Well, I've always played drums, I like to play the drums. A lot of my contemporaries just took off way ahead of me on their instruments. And for what I do, there's so much more difficulty technically in terms of the sheer amount of combinations you have to learn, left-hand combinations, right-hand combinations and putting those two together. It's just taken a lot longer... but I think I'm finally coming to a point where this instrument is really starting to make a lot of sense and become something special that you wouldn't be able to do on a guitar or bass separately. And that's the real part, that's really what I wake up for.

AAJ: But what was the origin of the technique?

CH: Well, it's always been happening. As street musician in Europe, I always had to be very self-sufficient, and this is going back twenty years, because I played in a lot of bands on the street and you never knew if you would have to do it all yourself and backup a singer. So it started from that and I played a lot of acoustic bass on the street because I was in situation where the guitarists were a lot better than me.

AAJ: Where was this?

CH: In Paris, in Zurich, wherever the money was.

AAJ: And this was when you were really young, right?

CH: I was young, 19, 20, 21 years old. I did it for about three years. So the technique came from that time in Europe and also from growing up around the guitar when I was a kid. I was doing gigs when I was in high school, a lot of gigs. Learning how to play guitar really well was not something that was hard for kids from Berkeley at that time. Everyone played well... There were all these blues guys who I'd played with, who were a lot older, some of whom I can't even remember the names of, who just schooled me. And then you'd have your guitar at school and you'd end up not really playing. I mean, they had the jazz band at Berkeley High when I was a kid and I didn't do the jazz band because I tried out and there were three kids ahead of me who were way better, you know? And I was good, I could play, maybe not so much the jazz stuff, but I could get around.



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