One quiet night, Pat Metheny sat down after an exhaustive
day of production-related chores that would eventually
lead to the release of Speaking of Now (his brilliant
2002 Warner Bros. release that once again showcased the
complex virtuosity in the songwriting collaboration of
Metheny/Mays). He popped a CD-R into his brand-spanking
new CD burner and started to play. He played for six hours.
When was the last time you picked up your guitar and played
for six hours straight? Pat thus embarked upon a journey
that would take him to paths quite unexpected.
Several days later, Pat hits the road for a year long
tour and finds himself pleasantly intrigued with his 6-hour
CD collection. You see, the unique thing about this particular
collection of songs is that Pat recorded them as solo
acoustic performances on a Manzer Baritone guitar. The
guitar truly sounds god-like and the playing is some of
Pat's most compelling. The performances range from stark
and haunting to melodic and meditative.
As Pat's trio tour starts to wind down, he takes a few
minutes out to chat with Guitar.com about his latest unexpected
release, One Quiet Night. Pat shares what led him to record
this new CD, his thoughts on Cream, Hendrix, and Gerry
and the Pacemakers, plus, for an added bonus, he does
his very best Nigel Tufnel impersonation.
Q: Hey Pat, thanks for calling. I know you've been
really crazy touring and such but I appreciate you following
up to make the interview happen.
Pat Metheny: My pleasure.
Q: I'm not sure if you're familiar with Guitar.com.
We're the largest online guitar community running and
I had mentioned that I was going to be doing an interview
with you on our discussion forums. I got lots of emails
firing questions at me, to fire at you (laughing).
Pat Metheny: Fantastic. Fire away.
Q: One Quiet Night is your 30th release by my count.
Am I right on that?
Pat Metheny: Wow! (long, long pause) That could
be right. Honestly, I don't count them but, I'll have
to take your word for it.
Q: Although, I think history will remember you
as a supreme jazz guitarist, you're actually quite difficult
to pin down, for the genre. From recording with Jaco back
in '74 to doing be-bop with Redman and Brecker to the
more avant-garde Zero Tolerance for Silence - each recording
is unique in its own right, certainly not limiting you
to one segment within the world of Jazz. How did you arrive
at... I think I'll record an acoustic solo record?
Kind of inadvertently, actually (laughs). Basically I
had this baritone guitar for a couple of years that I
really couldn't figure out quite what to do with. It was
sort of sitting around and I had kept thinking about it.
I had just finished pretty extensive period of time working
in the studio with my regular band. We made the record
that came out, Speaking of Now. For a period of months,
we were working on writing the music. Then rehearsing
it, recording it. Really just living in that world. We
had gotten the record done. We were at the point of making
the album cover and all that stuff. I had a night where
I was just kind of at home. And I remembered a way of
tuning and restringing a baritone guitar that I had messed
with many years before, that's kind of like a half Nashville
tuning. You take off the middle strings and tune them
up an octave. (e.g. Nashville Tuning is where you string
your 6-guitar with just the octave strings of a 12-string
guitar set. In other words, the low E, A, D and G strings
are all tuned up an octave. The B and high E are the same
as in normal tuning. This was initially a studio trick
so that you could record a normally strung 6-string acoustic
guitar, along with a Nashville strung acoustic guitar
and it would sound like a really large 12-string guitar.)
And I thought, well maybe I'll try that with the Baritone.
And I did it. And it instantly came alive. It was sort
of like, oh, now this opens up a whole different set of
possibilities. I had just gotten a CD burner that day
and it had come with three blanks CD's. And I thought,
you know what, I'm going to fill up these three CD's with
Q: Sounds like a plan.
Pat Metheny: Right, simple enough. I was just about
to go out on the road for a year, when the record got
released. But then I'd have these CDs and I'd have them
to listen to. So I just started playing. Really just kind
of what was represented on the record, that sort of very
adagio, stream of consciousness, improvisational, narrative
playing. Played for about 6 hours. Filled up my CDs and
took them out on the road. Just like my plan was supposed
to be (laughs). I play my gig, come home and say, hmmm,
maybe I'll listen to CD #2 (laughs).
Q: It's good to have variety (laughing).
Pat Metheny: Yeah, so I listen to all this stuff
and I kind of found myself becoming attached to it in
a way. As the year went on, I started to make notes, like
I really like number 17 and number 3 on CD one, etcetera,
etcetera. When the tour was over and I got back home,
I went to the computer where everything was stored and
compiled a CD of the ones that I thought were the good
ones. And it still didn't seem quite like a record. I
felt like it needed something. And what I thought it needed
was a couple recognizable tunes mixed in there and a little
bit of wrist. So I set up the same way I set up before.
Basically it was just a mic and a DI and...
Q: And you're recording onto a hard disc recorder
Pat Metheny: Going to Digital Performer (Digital
Performer, manufactured by Mark of the Unicorn, is an
integrated digital audio and MIDI sequencing production
system. It provides a comprehensive environment for editing,
arranging, mixing, processing and mastering multi-track
audio projects for a wide variety of applications).
Q: Oh great - great system.
Pat Metheny: I picked four tunes that were recognizable
tunes, the kind of standard tunes that are represented
on the record. And then wrote very quickly, two pieces
of all strumming. Then I played it for some people and
said "Is this a record?" And everybody said
"Yup, that's a record!" So we real quickly put
a cover together. I got Rob Eaton, the guy who has been
involved in all of our recordings and we mixed it in one
day. It really benefited from his expertise. He just got
the right EQ and the right reverb. It came out like four
weeks later. It was really one of the fastest turnarounds
from that moment of making the decision to release that
I've ever experienced.
Q: Now have you always been or were you ever a
fan of fingerstyle players, say a Michael Hedges, or a
Leo Kottke, or maybe Ed Gerhard?
Pat Metheny: Not to the degree that I would say
yes and that I've always wanted to do something like that.
I'm aware of all of them. Leo, especially, I would say
that I'm a pretty big fan of. We do a lot of concerts
opposite of each other. I've always really admired his
playing. I mean, the kind of thing I was kind of going
for actually, in what is represented on that record, is
really much closer to string quartet writing. I was sort
of thinking of it - the way that guitar is strung up,
it's really like you've got three two-string guitars,
that are sitting right next to each other. There's the
mid-range one that's on the top. And there's the high-one
in the middle and then there's this extremely low-one
on the bottom. What a lot of that music is is just following
lines. Sort of just handing them off from one of these
two-string instruments to the next. That was the fun of
it for me. Sort of like how can you move this line from
this register to that register, smoothly and what harmonies
sort of rebuilt from that. I wasn't really thinking about
conventional harmony in a way. I mean there are some things
on there that are certainly that but I lot of it you'd
have a hard time defining what the harmonic results are.
Q: Well I think it should be said that regardless
of how basic or how involved the recording process was,
it's truly a very resonant CD. The low end is booming,
very rich and vibrant.
Pat Metheny: It's a great sounding instrument and
we should probably talk about Linda Manzer a bit.
Q: Well oddly enough, that was my next question.
I know that she's made a number of instruments for you,
including the infamous Pikasso. How many instruments has
she made for you?
Pat Metheny: I don't even know.
Q: That many?
Pat Metheny: Yeah, maybe 13 or 14. She's really
been an important collaborator for me over these last
20 years or so. We have a great relationship in the sense
that I can sort of dream up these weird things and she
can make them happen. In fact the baritone guitar that
she initiated, it really had nothing to do with me at
all. She got a request from a guy in New York. He's a
well known session guy and he asked her to make this baritone
guitar. Well he brought it over to show me, he was so
proud of it. When I played it, I immediately called Linda
and said "I want one." (laughing)
Q: That good, huh?
Pat Metheny: She's since made four or five others.
I talked to her the other day, since the release of the
record, she's been getting bombarded by orders.
Q: That's great for her, I would think.
Pat Metheny: She's very special. We live in such
an exciting time for guitarmakers. It seems like everywhere
I go somebody brings me this amazing instrument made by
a local guitarmaker. But even within that context, Linda
really stands out. Her instruments have, to me, a very
unique quality and are particularly balanced from top
to bottom. It's something that she's been able to consistently
deliver regardless of the weirdness of the instrument.
Regardless of whether it's a soprano guitar, baritone
guitar, conventional guitar or a 42-string guitar, they
ring from the bottom to the top. There's not these big
dead spots or worse, there's not these big humps. A lot
of guitars that I play they have incredibly big low end
but the top end is just not happening. Hers have a very
similar to what a good Steinway is like; each note speaks.
She's really got something great going on.
Q: As we talked about earlier, you tuned the Bari
much like a regular Baritone, down a fifth (A-D-G-C-E-A)
but you used a semi-Nashville tuning. So to better understand
that, you left the "E and A" as bass strings.
Pat Metheny: Right.
Q: And what gauge would you be using for this application?
Pat Metheny: .060 to .070
Q: What is the scale on the Bari?
Pat Metheny: 27 3/4' but you can check that on
her website as well.
Q: That's the only tuning for the whole record?
Pat Metheny: That's the only tuning for the whole
Q: Which is incredible because there are two songs
on the record, maybe "My Song" and "Another
Chance," the harmonies and dissonant relationships
seemed to change for me.
Pat Metheny: No, it's just the one tuning but one
thing that is particularly cool about that tuning is that
you do wind up with four upper register strings that can
be used as open strings as opposed to just two. Like on
a regular guitar you only have the E and the B string
that just ring and you can work out voicings that utilize
those. With this tuning, because the middle two strings
are higher than the top two strings AND you have these
super low notes, you can create inversions that you would
never be able to play on a conventional guitar. The harmonic
territory that you can cover is so much wider. For instance,
the strumming tune on there, "Song for the Boys,"
I mean, there's open strings involved in almost every
voicing but I think I moved through eight or nine different
keys. That's something that I really wanted to take advantage
Q: But that really only made itself available once
you changed out the G and the C strings on the baritone.
Pat Metheny: Exactly.
Q: Now, a lot of players will say, once they get
a "luthier-built" instrument, that it'll take
a year or better to really open up. Do Linda's instruments
go through this process?
They sound great from the first day but they just get
better and better. The main Linda - 6, the guitar that
I got from her in 1982 is just - just - you just look
at it and it sounds good.
Q: (laughing) That's very Nigel Tufnel sounding
Pat Metheny: Thank you (laughs) Right.
Q: I read a mention on the liner notes of a Dr.
Ray Harris from your hometown. He was the one that clued
you into the Nashville Tuning. You also mentioned he was
an inventor, as well as a guitarist. Did he contribute
any inventions to the world of music that we might be
Pat Metheny: Well, yeah. He was a pretty interesting
guy. I think many small towns have like an eccentric guy
that makes stuff in his garage. In Ray's case, he was
one of those guys who would be building guitars but he'd
also have this Chevy Nova up on a rack, working on the
muffler and he was a Chiropractor.
Q: Of course, that makes complete sense (laughing).
Pat Metheny: Right. He played on the Kansas City
jazz scene but he was also playing on the Kansas City
country scene. He couldn't read. He didn't know the names
of things. He was always coming up with this weird stuff.
I remember he had this double neck guitar with a regular
guitar and a baritone guitar and he had the baritone strung
up like that.
Q: That's very cool.
Pat Metheny: Yeah, I had actually used this tuning
before on a track called "The Search... "
Q: On Amercian Garage...
Pat Metheny: Right, and that involved a 12-string
that was strung that way. He was an inspiring cat just
for his investigation of everything.
Q: I think I had the same guy living next door
to me as a kid. He worked at the dump and he'd bring home
a broken lawn mower and two weeks later he'd be trying
to make an airplane out of it.
Pat Metheny: Isn't that great stuff, though.
Q: It really is. Let's talk a little bit about
the songs on One Quiet Night. Twelve tracks, nine original
compositions - including "Last Train Home,"
which you were playing solo on your last tour. Were you
playing that on a traditional 6-string or was that on
Pat Metheny: I was doing that on the Baritone.
Chronologically, the tour followed the recording. I sort
of stumbled onto all of this that night but then was so
intrigued by it, I took the Baritone out with me on the
road and was looking for a way to start the show. And
that seemed like a good thing to do. Over the course of
the year, I ended up playing quite a bit of Baritone and
the version that I recorded later, which is the one that's
on the record, is the result of the year's worth of investigation.
Q: So that's the closure to the whole project.
Pat Metheny: Exactly right.
Q: So "My Song" by Keith Jarrett (from
his '77 release My Song), "Don't Know Why" (of
Norah Jones fame) and a hauntingly brilliant version of
the classic British Invasion song from Gerry and the Pacemakers,
"Ferry Cross the Mersey." Any particular reason
you sought or chose these songs? Did they fit the voicing
of the instrument particularly well?
Pat Metheny: Well "Ferry Cross the Mersey"
has kind of been one of my favorite songs since I was
like nine. I just always loved that song but I never really
played it. I just kind of stumbled onto the (hums melody)
- while I was playing the baritone and I was like - "Hey,
that's 'Ferry Cross the Mersey.'" Well, I figured,
why don't I play that. Well, I couldn't exactly remember
what the bridge did. But I learned a version of it and
recorded it. The one thing that you have to keep in mind
to play something on the Baritone is that if you're going
to have the melody on what we're calling the top two strings,
it sort of has to start at a certain middle zone and not
go too high or not go too low. And that tune really did
that. Same with "My Song," it just kind of happened
to lay good and it was a tune that I always loved. It's
actually quite hard. That one was physically a real knucklebreaker,
especially the bridge. But I really enjoyed the process
of - the tunes that I loved and listened to a million
times and yet never really learned and never really thought
about, well, what is that tune really. So I transcribed
it and learned it and figured out a way to play it.
Q: That's a good method.
Pat Metheny: Yeah and you learn a great deal within
the process. The "Don't Know Why" tune - I live
right in New York and across the street from me is a club
called McCore. For about two years, every Tuesday night
there was this girl singer that played there and she was
great. And it would be like Me and like three other people
checking her out. She always used good cats playing with
her. She did "Don't Know Why" and I was like,
what a great tune. I'd be walking out of the club humming
that tune. I'd usually stop by on the way home or whatever.
The rest is history.
Q: Yeah, no lie. That was a major sleeper that
came from nowhere, or so it seemed.
Pat Metheny: It made me think, wow I should have
been an A&R guy (laughs)
Q: You missed your true calling (laughs)
I picked it two years ahead of everybody else. But seriously
it's just a great tune and it just lays good on the guitar.
It was fun to put a little different spin on it, in terms
of the harmonic vocabulary.
Q: Did you get caught up in the whole Brit invasion
as a kid; Dave Clark Five, Paul Revere and the Raiders,
Pat Metheny: By the time Cream came along I had
already turned into a jazz snob. Bascially the way it
went for me was that during the time of Gerry and the
Pacemakers and the Dave Clark Five and the early Beatles,
I was completely into that. I was drawn to the guitar
in many way because of the impact of that. What was a
little bit unique about my case was that starting almost
immediately after I got guitar, my brother brought home
a Miles Davis record and as soon as I heard that, it was
like someone turned on a light switch in a room. Then
my entire focus shifted to the other thing. In fact during
all the time of Hendrix and Cream, I was like "Oh
Man, that s--t ain't happening." I was like Wynton
Marsalis times ten, twenty years before Wynton Marsalis.
It's funny, because by the time I got to be 16 or 17 I
was like, this is really a dumb way to go through life.
But in a way, I think if you're going to deal with that
music in a thorough way, and I notice this amongst young
musicians, you almost have to put on blinders.
Q: Yeah, I agree with that to a point. Total emersion.
Pat Metheny: Yeah, just complete emersion into
that genre. And that's where I was at that time. From
when I was like 12 or 13 to the time when was like 16
or so I missed everything. I missed it all. I was busy
learning everything else.
Q: But I think that it's just part of the learning
process and it's unique to each person. And the results
in your case, speak for themselves.
Pat Metheny: Yeah.
Q: You had mentioned your home studio, which is
obviously all digital. What are your weapons of choice
as far as microphones, DI's, etc?
Pat Metheny: Well, the mic I used on One Quiet
Night is a beautiful mic. It's the AMT, Applied Microphone
Technology, that goes right inside the guitar. I've got
an XLR out built right into the back of the guitar. I've
got a Fishman piezo undersaddle pickup, which gives me
great direct sound. I've got two really good Avalon preamps
that were involved in this, that go between the guitar
and the MOTU (Mark of the Unicorn's Digital Performer).
I think that helped a great deal.
Q: So there was no other ambient recording of the
Pat Metheny: By the time I got to the end, where
I was like okay, this is going to be a record, probably.
For the strumming tunes, I did put another mic a little
bit further away. For those I ran three channels.
Q: I know you're out doing dates with the trio
(featuring bass monster Christian McBride and drummer
Antonio Sanchez) currently. So I'm sure that's keeping
you busy. Are you planning on releasing a trio record
with Christian and Antonio or can we expect a band release
Pat Metheny: No we're more than half way done on
what will be the next Pat Metheny Group record. It's really
something. It's certainly the most ambitious writing thing
that Lyle and I have ever embarked on and we're really
excited about it. And this trio, just based on the weeks
worth of gigs that we've done so far, I have to record
it. It's so good. Those guys are just so good together.
In fact, we're recording every night that we do now. Technology
being the way it is we might even get something along
Q: Do you take recording gear out with you when
you go out?
Pat Metheny: Well, now you just take your Mac with
a little oxygen thing and that's it.
Q: That's true. I didn't even think about it.
Pat Metheny: Yeah. I mean having to live through
everything from the Synclavier on, it's finally gotten
Q: Right, it's truly portable and it can sound
Pat Metheny: It's really portable and you can really
do some serious damage.
Q: Pat, we really appreciate you taking the time
to speak with us. I wish you much success on your current
tour and with One Quiet Night. All the best.
Pat Metheny: My pleasure and I enjoyed talking