The latest “15 questions” feature is with guitarist Stuart Dixon.
Stuart Dixon is a successful blues guitarist who’s toured worldwide with acts including Geno Washington, Marcus Malone, and Never The Bride. Stuart shares his passion of guitar playing with record production and arrangement and is currently working closely with soul singer/song writer, Dani Wilde.
Guitar Jar catches up with Stuart to quiz him on his guitar equipment, love of record production and any plans he has for the future.
…You HAVE to check out Dr Z amps!! Whatever it takes…
I saw Brian May playing “Love of My Life” on the 12 string acoustic and thought to myself: “I reckon I could do that…” So I picked it up there and then and my Dad played a little [he’s a singer] so he showed me a few chords and how to play a little fingerstyle and off I went. I had lessons for 3 years but didn’t really listen as much as I should have, so basically for the most part, I’m pretty much self-taught, which is never a bad thing anyway… and twenty years later, after getting addicted to making the sound, here I am, still addicted I guess…
I also remember hearing Albert Collins for the first time. I had been playing for three months and Expo 92 Guitar Festival from Seville was on the TV. It had Steve Cropper, Dave Edmunds, BB King, Bo Diddly, Robert Cray and of course, Albert Collins.
When Albert came out and played, I Just went CRAZY. THAT was the REAL stuff… he totally blew me away with his sound, his feel, his phrasing, his energy. He sounded more like the real deal than anyone else on that stage to me at that time. And he still slays me to this day. Amazing!A bit later on I discovered Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was a huge influence and also Jimmie Vaughan, who was just amazing, because he was never “obvious”. A totally classy, very musical player, who a lot of people don’t “get”, so he is often underrated. I love him because he avoids clichés and you never know what he’s going to do. He sounds simple, but you try and play like him and you just can’t. He is also, in my opinion, the GREATEST blues rhythm player of all time, bar NONE. A genius.
We had between us, a small Boss 8 track recorder and a cheap condenser mic and a Line 6 Pod XT Live and an old copy of Cubase.
It was ALL trial and error, but I taught myself how to use the software etc and how to engineer and how to mix.
Eventually over time I spent more money and expanded my studio setup. I will say though, that the MOST important thing is “ears”. Don’t worry about the equipment too much. If you’re doing it right, your ears will tell you.
Yes, it’s all very nice to be able to use SSL Desks and Neumann microphones and lots of posh outboard gear with flashy lights, but it’s not essential. The most important thing is having the ears and eventually investing in some decent near field monitors.
Some people have the ears, some don’t. And you can’t “learn” the ears. You can “hone” the ears, but you can’t learn them. It’s something you have or you don’t have. It always annoys me how so many studios seduce customers in with the flashy lights and leather sofas and chillout rooms with PS3s instead of how they can make people SOUND. Surely, the sound and the end result is what people are paying for?My studio is open to the public. It’s only small, has no flashy lights, but I won’t rip people off and I will give them great results.
With regards to how difficult it is to break into this side of things, I guess it’s as difficult as anything else really… you just do it and keep doing it and see where it takes you really. Never miss a chance if it arises and always be up for the challenge…
Dani’s brother Will recommended me to her as he’d seen me playing about seven or eight years ago with Marcus Malone. I spoke to Mike Vernon, who was producing the album, over the phone and agreed to do it. That was a huge honour, both to be asked by Dani, who in my opinion is by far one of the best artists around today in the blues and soul world and I’m a huge fan of hers and also to get the chance to work with Mike Vernon, who is a legend!The new album “Juice Me Up” almost feels as if we took off from where “Shine” left off but this time, felt so much more comfortable, because everyone who was playing on the album had worked together before and are all now great friends.
Jamie Little, who is one of the grooviest drummers on the planet, was also producing this album and has done an incredible job. Jamie has played with Take That, Boyzone and done the pop thing, but also does a lot of blues gigs with guys like Sherman Robertson, Hamilton Loomis, Dana Gillespie etc. He’s a fantastic musician. Roger Inniss played bass. He has worked with Chaka Khan, Sherman Robertson etc… everyone basically. LOVE Roger’s playing.
Also on bass on some tracks was Victoria Smith of The Ramonas. She is a hell of a player too. So, the rhythm section was fantastic, which is always great for me, because I LOVE to groove and it’s great to be able to just do what you do without having to worry if this will happen or that won’t happen.
With these guys and girls, it always feels great because they’re SO “on it”. Couple that with the legend that is Pete Wingfield on keys and some amazing horn players and singers and also Will Wilde guesting on harmonica on one of the songs (…boy can HE play??!!!!) and the result is a very vibey album. I really can’t wait for everyone to hear it! Definitely the most relaxed, laid back and enjoyable session I’ve ever done!Also Dani has been touring the world pretty much flat out for the last year or so and the standard of what she does compared to “Shine” has moved up another level or six! She has always been incredible, but she just gets better and better every time I hear her.
The songs get better, the voice gets better, and the guitar gets better. This album is another huge leap forward and I think people will be blown away.
On 20 watts it sounds just as good, but a little bit different. It can do anything from clean and funky to ACDC and everything in between. It works well with pedals. Also, even when you crank it all the way up, it never hurts. The sound just gets bigger and fatter!! Hell yeah!!!On bigger stages I sometimes hook it up with my Matchless Lightning 15, which sounds incredible!!!!Pedal wise, I use a Boss Space Echo, an Award Session JD10, which is a FANTASTIC pedal/DI box for both live and in the studio. I used to use it straight into the PA without an amp when I played with Geno Washington, because he didn’t like to hear too much of the guitar. Took a bit of getting used to having the sound coming back through a monitor, but to be honest, out front, it sounded like a great guitar amp. I use it as a “second channel” for my amp when I play live and it’s the best second channel I’ve ever had! I also have a Danelectro Rocky Road Leslie emulator which I use very occasionally. Overdrive pedal wise, I have a Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive, which is like a Tubescreamer but with a clean gain as well as much more defined.
I am also currently using a LMP Overdrive and a LMP Overdrive Boost, made by Lovemuffin Pedals. These are FANTASTIC pedals and I will do all I can to spread the word about them (www.lovemuffinpedals.co.uk).I also have a Buddah Bud-Wah in line to finish off the box of tricks. I don’t really use too many effects… my board looks more complex than it actually is…
Guitar wise, my main instruments are my 1999 USA 57 reissue Strat which I replaced the pickups in. The new pickups are handmade by Engine Pickups in France and they are made to the exact specs of 1954 Strat pickups and sound incredible! (www.engine-pickups.com).
My other main instrument is a 2006 USA 62 reissue TeleCustom which is possible one of the best sounding Teles I’ve ever heard. A Fantastic guitar.
Acoustic wise, I have an old Martin DM with a Fishman Rare Earth Blend pickup, which sounds pretty cool. I also use Cleartone cables for everything.
Personally, if I hit the wall, I tend to try and “demolish gradually” and rebuild again from the bottom up.
Failing that, if you’re not a particularly practice-hungry player, which I have to admit, I’m not myself haha… then try getting as many gigs with as many different styles as you can. Even if it’s not your thing. Because eventually, it WILL be your thing and you can incorporate all of these different experiences into your own style.
Don’t ever concentrate on playing a “style”… style is just a marketing invention so that record companies could make money by pigeonholing artists. Just concentrate on playing MUSIC and you’ll soon be doing things you never thought of.
…Concentrate on playing MUSIC and you’ll soon be doing things you never thought of…
I think it’s also great if you’re a guitarist in a theatre show and you’re in the orchestra pit and need to play quietly or with cans etc.
It’s also great if you work in a wedding band or tribute band and need to sound like the record. BUT, if you are into sound and tone and real stuff, then nothing beats the real thing. The real thing just has a “weight” that the modelling stuff just hasn’t got. One day it might get there, but I won’t hold my breath. I don’t hate it by any means, but I certainly don’t love it. It’s a tool. For SOME jobs. I sold my Line 6 Pod XT live because I just didn’t use it. What does that tell you?
Now, this was an outdoor gig, with full massive PA and lighting rig etc. All of a sudden the heavens opened up and the worst storm I’ve ever seen started. We all ran inside to get away from it. Meanwhile, all our kit was still on the stage!!
The poor PA guys and stage hands had to pull the tarpaulin down from the lighting rig and lower the whole thing over everything to protect the kit, which was all plugged in and ready to go! They killed the power and we took it in turns to run out and rescue our kit as quickly as we could. Needless to say we were absolutely drenched and we couldn’t see a thing as it was pitch black and the rain was coming down almost like a waterfall.
The gig was cancelled…
To most people nowadays, music is something that happens when you press play or click download. And that is NOT good. Artists put a lot of time and effort…unpaid blood, sweat and tears to give us the music that they do. Why the hell should they give it away for free??You wouldn’t expect a plumber to work for free, so why a musician? People NEED music, but they also NEED to realise that it COSTS money.
I even have a “solo” gig on April 1st as the “Stuart Dixon Band” at Bowness Bay Blues Festival in Cumbria. No idea what I’m going to do yet but I’m sure it’ll be great hahaha!! I have some great players on that gig, so we’ll have a great time! Bit too late to change my mind now…hehe!I also need to sort out my own website, which is currently under construction and put my own little studio on the map. Recordings or mixing anyone…??
For more information about Stuart’s music, visit: