Ned Evett interview

Ned Evett

Ned Evett at Riff's guitar school

Unfretted Interview

Summer 2005

Ned Evett is one of the best known and most respected fretless guitarists. He took some time off his busy schedule to have this quick chat with us.
Our interviewer Jahloon (Jeff Berg) begins…

Jeff: Welcome Ned, thanks for the interview, when did you start playing fretless?
Ned: 1990

Jeff: How did you make the leap from fretted to fretless?
Ned: For me, the fretless guitar was like meeting the girl of your dreams, and saying “she’s going to change my life”, but waiting awhile before you finally ask her out. I had the thought of doing it for two years before I actually converted a squier strat. My first gig with it was a recording session for Built To Spill, who are on Warner Brothers. Lots and lots of live gigs really brought it along quickly after that

Jeff: You certainly have built up quite a few signature licks in that time, do you ever give workshops or tuition?
Ned: I don’t teach privately. I have given clinics before at The Experience Music Project in Seattle, and a couple in Italy on tour in 2002.

Jeff: Where was the slacker jazz video recorded? I seem to remember a certain antipathy to alto sax players… or is that my imagination?
Ned: At the Big Easy in Boise Idaho, I do indeed throw down on Kenny G pretty hard.

Jeff: Michael Vick kindly sent me a video of the 2003 Guitarist of the Year competition, which was very enjoyable, looked like a lot of fun. Has winning that opened any doors?
Ned: Everywhere I tour I meet someone who has seen the show, TV is so powerful that way. The contest was very professionally run, and I had a blast. It aired in 40 states, which is great exposure for me and the fretless guitar.

Jeff: The guys in the competition (and the rest of us) were totally in awe of you doing the opening sets for Joe Satriani, and now you are going to repeat the process. What’s it like to do these gigs?
Ned: Joe and his crew are pure pleasure to work with, as good as it gets. I have faith in my songs and my show, which is good because audiences try to shake you up as support; you have about 20 seconds to suck them in and win them over. I typically play as a solo, so you really are a rowboat in a huge storm at the bigger gigs. By the end of the set you know if you’ve done your job, at the end of the tour you know if you’ll be asked back, its very simple. I wrote most of iStole on that tour, what a huge cell phone bill I had.

Jeff: With two quality commercial albums in your back pocket just where are you headed with this particular style?
Ned: Austin City Limits I hope!

Jeff: I was very impressed with the quality and feel of iStole, is this your defined career path, album wise?
Ned: Thank you. Making albums you like, that’s the only true career path, and make to sure to have a few laughs, and run everything through NEVE preamps.

Jeff: You seem to have spent much time crafting a particular sound and groove, how did you settle on that particular style?
Ned: Albums are like a flock of birds, first you have to scare up the birds to see the formation, see the greater pattern. Depending on where your hunting, you’ll get a different batch of birds, and lots of guano.

Jeff: How do you sit down and come up with so many good commercial tunes?
Ned: Thanks again, I come up with ideas and record them into my cell phone, after ten days they expire, so you have a digital deadline to get them finished. The weaker ones I let die. My songs just show up, like ghosts who aren’t dead yet.

Jeff: That’s quite a technique, like tapping into a reservoir of ideas. Do you think the phone company is scooping up the dead ones?
Ned: they must be with as high as my cell phone bill is!

Jeff: Just to put my mind at rest, what is a Rochambeau? (sixth track, iStole)
Ned: Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Jeff: That easy eh? And I thought it was something really exotic, especially with the class musical treatment.
Ned: it is also a groin kicking game in Ninjitsu, which is hilarious.

Jeff: Your recent collaboration with Franck Vigroux (Evett / Viroux CD) almost seems to be right at the other end of the musical spectrum, is that where your heart is?
Ned: My heart is in that first Evett / Vigroux record, as it is in every record I do, sometimes it beats faster on one record versus another. Carlos Duarte deserves a lot of credit on that record too.

Jeff: Evett / Vigroux broke new ground, do you have any plans to explore this route further?
Ned: Yes. I’m always intrigued by the depth to which Franck will go to get something right, and the ease of when he leaves something alone. We’re on the heals of starting the next record this fall.

Jeff: I’ve got to ask about “The Towers Are The Players” where you take the part of Gollum, and rap like a trooper. Eh?
Ned: It has been downloaded over 1,000,000 times, which is expensive when you’re streaming that much content. It was a funny thing that took off with the lord of the rings community, then USA Today ran the web address and it spiked for around 6 weeks last november/december.

Jeff: One million downloads is a major hit! Any plans to do more in the Rap vein?
Ned: I’m currently working on “Return of the Bling”, the sequel
Jeff: I’ll buy that.

The technical stuff…
Jeff: The Globro really looks like a stunning instrument, how did it come about?
Ned: The trick there was the pickup, made by Highlander, that makes it a useful touring rig. It sounds like a sarod/banjo/dobro. I love it, the sound and feel of the metal and the glass, blissssssss.

Jeff: I’m always impressed with your use of the Sustainer, do you miss it on the Globro?
Ned: Not at all, its nice to get away from the sustainer from time to time.

Jeff: Are Sustainers fitted to all Fernandes guitars?
Ned: All of the Pro and Elite models, plus its available in a kit.

Jeff: What gauge and type of strings do you use?
Ned: Ernie Ball Not Even Slinkys, Martin PB for the globro.

Jeff: Do you drop or change the tuning?
Ned: Drop G and Drop D, sometimes I tune my G up to A.

Jeff: What type of pick do you use?
Ned: Star Picks

Jeff: Any tips for the aspiring players?
Ned: if you’re switching off between fretted and fretless, practice fretting as close to the fret as possible. Work on getting a good clean tone, compressed dirt sounds work great but a clean tone is worth the effort pursuing.

Jeff: I can imagine you and Franck in the studio, you have the Fernandes, he has the Vigier. Is it all out war?
Ned: I’m not very partisan, I love the Vigier. His love of the fernandes is minimal, which is fine.

Jeff: What are the key points that put the Fernandes in front of other fretless guitars?
Ned: the Fernandes use of the sustainer gets high marks, especially for the beginners and plug-and-play types. I would say though, Vigier is the obvious top of the line, with Fernandes a comfortable second at less money plus you get the sustainer. The Godin are nice if you like Nylon strings.

Off topic stuff…
Jeff: Outside of music, do you have any other hobbies?
Ned: rapping like gollum G’

Jeff: What’s in your CD player this week?
Ned: Keane, I am such an incredible anglophile.

Jeff: Any good books to recommend?
Ned: Not the Da Vinci Codes. I can believe its all true, sure, I just find the prose style painfully self-aware, maybe george lucas wrote it!

Jeff: What makes you laugh?
Ned: The hype surrounding the Da Vinci Codes, I went to Vinci Italy on tour once, there was no code, just great gelato.

Some fun questions…..
Jeff: The building is ablaze and you get one chance to dive in and rescue just one of your guitars, which one would it be?
Ned: the globro, i’m on tour with it next month!

Jeff: Same building, you have to go in and rescue one fretless guitarist, who would get the fireman’s lift? (BTW You have already rescued Franck.)
Ned: Felix Pastorius, Jaco’s kid, we owe it to Jaco.

Jeff: Coke or Pepsi?
Ned: Diet Dr Pepper.

Jeff: Beer or Wine?
Ned: Vox Vodka Tonic.

Jeff: Pizza or Burgers?
Ned: Bacon Double Cheeseburger.

Jeff: TV or Opera?
Ned: Queen’s “Night At The Opera”, without the nose symphony or lame ‘in love with my car’ song.

Jeff: Speaking of Cars; Chevvy or Pickup?
Ned: I have a chevy Pickup that Franck and I did our first US tour in. Franck got carded for cigarettes, he thought that was totally fucked up.
Jeff: Carded?
Ned: In the states, they ask for ID for cigarettes, anyone they suspect is under 18, franck is 29
Jeff: I can see Franck being very nonplussed.
Ned: Sure was a picture.

Jeff: Finally, if you were not playing music, and had to choose another career, just what would occupy your time?
Ned: Film maker.
Jeff: That’s the perfect job! Many thanks Ned.
Ned: Thank you.

…..Interview ends

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