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Wachtel Band

Waddy Wachtel

  2010 "Life" by Keith Richards

Some excerpts from the Keith Richards biography.......

Keith Richards:
“... With five strings you can be sparse; that’s your frame, that’s what you work on. ‘Start Me Up,’ ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,’ ‘Honky Tonk Women,’ all leave those gaps between the chords. That’s what I think ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ did to me. It was the first time I’d heard something so stark. I wasn’t thinking like that in those days, but that’s what hit me. It was the incredible depth, instead of everything being filled with curlicues. To a kid of my age back then, it was startling. With the five-string it was just like turning a page; there’s another story. And I’m still exploring.
“My man Waddy Wachtel, guitar player extraordinaire, interpreter of my musical gropings, ace up the sleeve of the X-Pensive Winos, has something to say on this topic. Take the floor, Wads.”

Waddy Wachtel:
“Keith and I come to the guitar with a very similar approach. It’s funny. I sat with Don Everly one night, Don was a real drinker at that point, and I said, ‘Don, I’ve got to ask you something. I’ve known every song you guys have ever done’ -- that’s why I got the job in their band; I know every vocal part, I know every guitar part -- ‘except,’ I said, ‘there’s something I’ve never understood on your first single, “Bye Bye Love,” and that is the intro. What the fuck is that sound? Who’s playing the guitar that starts that song?’ And Don Everly goes, ‘Oh, that was just this G tuning that Bo Diddley showed me.’ And I went, ‘Excuse me, I’m sorry, what did you say?’ And he had a guitar, so he’s putting it in the open G tuning and he goes, ‘Yeah, it was me.’ and he plays it and I go, ‘Oh, my fucking word, that’s it! It was you!’
“I remember when I discovered this weird tuning -- as it seemed to me then -- Keith had adopted it. In the early 70’s, I went to England with Linda Ronstadt. And we walked into Keith’s house in London and there’s this Strat sitting on a stand with five strings on it. And I’m like, ‘What happened to that thing? What’s wrong with that?’ And he goes, ‘That’s my whole deal.’ What is? He goes, ‘The five-string! The five-string open G tuning.’ I went ‘Open G tuning? Wait a minute, Don Everly told me about open G tuning. You play open G tuning?’ Because growing up and playing guitar, you’re learning Stones songs to play in bars, but you know something’s wrong, you’re not playing them right, there’s something missing. I’d never played any folk music. I didn’t have the blues knowledge. So when he said that to me, I said, ‘Is that why I can’t do it right? Let me see that thing.’ And it makes so many things so easy. Like ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.’ You can’t play that unless it’s in the tuning. It sounds absurd. And in the tuning, it’s so simple. If you lower the first string, one step, then the fifth is always ringing through everything, and that’s creating that jangle. The inimitable sound, at least the wy Keith plays it.
“Those two strings he travels up and down on, you can do a lot with them. We got on stage with the Winos one night and we’re about to do ‘Before They Make Me Run.’ and he goes to do the intro and he starts to hit it and goes... ‘Argh, I don’t know which one it is!’ Because he has so many introductions that are all based on the same form. The B string and the G string. Or the B string and the D string. He just went, ‘Which one are we doing, man? I’m lost in a sea of intros.’ He’s got so many of them, a whirling dervish of riffs, open G intros.”
p. 245-247

Keith Richards:
“Steve [Jordan] and I thought we ought to make a record and started to put together the core of the X-Pensive Winos -- so named later on when I noticed a bottle of Chateau Lafite introduced as light refreshments in the studio. Well, nothing was too good for this amazing band of brothers. Steve asked me who I wanted to play with, and first up, on guitar I said Waddy Wachtel. And Steve said, you took the words, brother. I had known Waddy since the 70’s and I’d always wanted to play with him, one of the most tasteful, simpatico players I know. And he’s completely musical. Understanding of it, empathetic, nothing ever needing to be explained. He’s also got the most uncanny ultrasonic ear, still tuned high after years of bandstands. He was playing with Linda Ronstadt and he was playing with Stevie Nicks -- chick bands -- but I knew my man wanted to rock. So I called him and said simply, ‘I’m putting a band together and you’re in it.’
“Waddy describes our journey, and bears flattering witness to my improvement as a singer from the early thwarted promise of the Dartford boy soprano.”

Waddy Wachtel:
“We went up to Canada and did the whole of the first record, Talk Is Cheap, there. I think the second track we cut was ‘Take It So Hard.’ which is a magnificent composition. And I just thought, I get to play on this? Let’s go. And we played it a few times. I guess you could call it rehearsing. And there’s one take that’s just a great pass. It’s just ridiculously good. It was the second tune of the night, and it was this killer fucking take of our strongest tune. I went back to the house going, we’ve conquered Everest already? These other mountains we can climb easily if we’ve got the big one down. And Keith didn’t want to believe it; he was going, I don’t want these guys thinking they’re that good. He made us do a retake. I don’t know why. The take was shouting, hey, dude, I’m the take. I think Keith just did it to make people stay in focus. Because it never sounded as good as that first take. When you’ve got it, you’ve got it. When we were putting the sequence of the album together, I insisted ‘Big Enough’ should be the first song. Because the first time you hear Keith sing on that, that first line is amazing, his voice sounds so beautiful. He delivers it effortlessly. I said, people when they hear this, they’re not going to believe it’s fucking Keith Richards singing. And then we’ll hit ‘em with ‘Take It So Hard.’ “
p. 473-475

Keith Richards (about writing songs with the Winos):
“I’d never really written with anybody on a long-term basis except Mick, and I wasn’t really writing much with Mick any more. We were writing our own songs. And I didn’t realize until I worked with Steve Jordan how much I’d missed that. And how important it was to collaborate. When the band was assembled in the studio, I often composed the songs there, just standing up and voweling, hollering, whatever it took, a process that was unfamiliar to Waddy at first.

Waddy Wachtel:
“It was very funny. Keith’s concept of writing was this. ‘Set up some mikes.’ ‘Huh? OK.’ He goes, ‘OK, let’s go sing it.’ ‘Go sing what?’ And he goes, ‘Go sing it!’ ‘What are you talking about? Go sing what? We don’t have anything.’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, right, let’s go make something up.’ And this is it. This is the routine. So Steve and I are standing up there with him and every so often he’d go, ‘What the fuck... that feels good,’ trying to come up with lines. Throw everything at the wall, see if it sticks. And that was basically the routine. It was amazing. And we got some lines out of it too.”
p. 475-476

Keith Richards (about recording the album “Talk Is Cheap”):
“...we had to listen to a sudden outburst of wrath from Doris [Richards, Keith’s mom] at what she saw, through the studio glass, as our dilatory approach to our work. She was in New York visiting and came by the studio. Don Smith showed her in. ...”

Don Smith:
“Keith and the guys are out in the studio to record background vocals, and they are just blabbering away instead for about twenty minutes or so. Doris asks me what’s all this about and then asks how she could talk to them. I show her the talk-back button, and she presses it and starts screaming, ‘You boys stop messing around ut there and get to work... This studio is costing money, and you’re standing out there talking about nothing and nobody understands a thing you’re saying anyway, so get to bloody work. I’ve flown all the way from bloody England. I don’t have all night to sit around listening to you yapping about nothing.’ In fact it was much longer and stronger. She actually scared them for a tiny minute and they all laughed, but they got to work fast.”

Keith Richards:
“So thanks to Doris we renewed out labors. And it became a punishing regimen, which Waddy must describe.”

Waddy Wachtel:
“We started first at seven at night and we’d go for twelve hours at least. Then, as it went on, we’d go, oh, let’s go in at eight, let’s go in at nine, let’s go in at eleven. So all of a sudden, and I swear to God this is how it wound up, finally we’d go in to work at one in the morning, three in the morning. We’re in the car one morning and Keith’s sitting there with his drink and his shades on, it’s bright sun, and he goes, hey, wait a minute! What time is it? And we said, it’s eight in the morning. And he said, turn around! I’m not going to work at eight in the morning! He’d completely turned his day around.
“We were there for weeks trying to finish this record. We were in New York, it was during the summer, I never saw the sun once. We’d come out in the morning, it would be gray. I’d get back to my room, sleep all day, get up at night, go back to the studio. To give an idea of how long it took us: I was a total chain-smoker and I had this little mini Bic lighter. Jane Rose said we had a month and a half until we were supposed to be finished. And I said to Keith, ‘Well’ -- and I was lighting a cigarette -- ‘you know, these lighters, they last about a month and a half. So when this pink lighter is empty, we should be done.’ He goes, ‘All right, man, cool, we’ll watch the lighter.’ So a month and a half is gone. I buy another pink lighter and I don’t say anything. And now it’s almost two months. Every time he has a cigarette, I’m making sure I’m lighting it with a pink lighter. And he’s looking. We still have time, you know? So three lighters later, my wife, Annie, comes to New York to visit. I say, honey, I’ve got an assignment for you. I want you to go out and find every little pink Bic lighter you can. Because we’re heading into mix mode. Finally we’re mixing the last song, ‘Demon,’ and it came out really nice. Keith comes in the room and he’s really happy and he goes, ahhh, I’ll have a cigarette. And I go, oh, let me light that for you, and I reached in and brought all these lighters out. And he’s, ‘You motherfucker! I knew something was going on!’ “
p. 495-497

Copyright 2010 by Mindless Records, LLC

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