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Moore's Code

Gary Moore

Article from Making Music, March 1987

Gary Moore Stars as Moses in our Blockbustin' Production Of "The Fifteen Or So Commandments Of Rock Guitaring". Based on the new Long-Playing LP, "WILD FRONTIER". Directed by Jon Lewin.

Thou shalt not copy me
"The first lesson is you can't really be like anybody — you gotta play like yourself. Obviously you start off copying people, but the guitar's a very personal instrument... whatever person you are, comes out in your guitar playing. And it takes maybe ten or 15 years to really develop your style.

"It's a bad mistake to emulate just one guitarist — there are so many Van Halen and Allan Holdsworth clones nowadays, and this is stopping the guitar from moving forward."

But thou shalt still learn some useful stuff by copying others
"I started on by copying people like The Shadows and Jeff Beck, that late sixties blues period with Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and later Jimi Hendrix. That whole period is in my playing — you can hear Clapton and Beck, and Peter Green on the softer stuff — on 'Parisian Walkways' I was actually using the same Les Paul that Peter Green used on 'Albatross'.

"Clapton, whatever he is now, revolutionised guitar playing in the sixties — he turned everyone onto Les Pauls and Marshalls, and playing guitar as we know it today. All those guitarists had something to say emotionally, they weren't copying anybody."

Thou shalt not stress technical ability at the expense of feel
"There's often a big gap between technique and feel. It's a bit of a mistake for a rock guitarist to concentrate too much on technique. Often the less you know about what you're playing, then the more adventurous you become. You can suffocate yourself creatively by knowing too much technically."

Thou shalt cheat (so long as it still sounds good)
"I heard a Les Paul album once, and I could tell where Jeff Beck got all his stuff from. All of it — but Jeff made it his style. He put it in a different context. The first flashy guitar lick I learned was from 'Jeff's Boogie' (a Yardbirds' song). They were little triplet pull-off things — not fast compared to what's going on today, but it was really different at the time, and it was double-tracked. Everyone in Belfast, where I lived at the time, was coming up with their versions of how it should be played and not quite getting it right. I discovered how to play it one day, and it was a lot easier than I'd realised. That's the key to Jeff's stuff — he likes to play things that sound hard.

"Everyone cheats; you don't become a rock guitarist so you can go into an office every day to teach people how to do it."

Thou shalt practice
"Yeah, especially moves... jumping off boxes, playing behind your head. Seriously, practising is important. I think you should practise as much as you can, as that's the only way you're going to break new ground. When you're 15 or 16, you can sit down after school and drive your old lady crazy by playing guitar all the time, and not going out with your friends. You become a total outcast — everyone thinks they're going to become really popular, but they're not. From the age of ten I never went out with my mates again... I turned pro when I was 16... perhaps that's why I never grew up properly...

"It's not necessary to set yourself a regime — you get the best results by playing when you want to play. It's a good sign that whenever you walk past your guitar you can't resist picking it up. If it's a chore, maybe it's not for you."

...but only the relevant bits
"I was never a great one for practising scales, except when I was in Colosseum II. Then, I had to learn more about music, practising whole tone scales, learning to read a bit. After I left Colosseum, I went back to playing rock — I just had to leave a few notes out... and put some more in my pocket.

"If you're really committed to rock, I don't think you need to be able to read, and I don't think you need to sit down and practise a million scales as you don't use the bloody things — I don't see any rock guitarist using whole tone scales, or diminished scales, anything like that — they all use the same blues scale thing."

Thou shalt use thy imagination
"Other people's licks are fun to learn, and they give you a greater understanding of where that music came from. But once you've got it down, don't just play the lick, do something with it — change it, take it somewhere else, play them faster, or throw something else in, like a Chuck Berry lick or a Tal Farlow jazz solo.

"I've got credit for licks that have come from somewhere else. Pat Thrall — he was with Glenn Hughes in Hughes-Thrall, and before that he was in Automatic Man. They were so far ahead of their time... I've learnt so much just from him. A lot of the stuff I play now is just from him, but I've developed it a little bit."

Thou shalt write songs
"The best songs are those that come to you in half an hour, out of nowhere. It's harder now I've started having hits, as people expect more of you. I can do it, but they don't always work. But my writing's getting better all the time... I think my music's got more depth to it now than when it was more mainstream heavy metal."

"You get the best results by playing when you want to play. It's a good sign that whenever you walk past your guitar, you can't resist picking it up."

Thou shalt have a good guitar as thy first fiscal priority
"If you've only got a certain amount of money to spend, get yourself the best guitar you can. That's the most important, second the amp, third a good overdrive and chorus.

"The first thing you want to do with a new guitar is play it acoustically. If it rings and sustains without being plugged in, then the chances are that it's pretty good. There are so many things you can do to tailor the sound with amp and pedals, but if it hasn't got a good inherent sound, then you're starting at the wrong point. Your sound should come from the guitar, and you should build on that. Don't let a shop shove it through nine pedals and convince you that way.

"My guitars may look like Strats, but most of them are made for me by Keith Page, who used to work for Chandler Guitars. We get guitars from Grover Jackson, take them apart and put them back together with different pickups and necks. We use EMGs a lot of the time, and I find that for live work they're the best pickups I've ever heard, they really cut through, and more importantly, there's no noise.

"The only guitars I've found recently that I really like, and weren't actually built for me, are the Paul Reed Smith guitars. They've got a lot of the characteristics of the old guitars, but with the new sounds, 24 fret necks..."

Thou shalt buy an amp with good tone
"I keep coming back to Marshalls all the time — as you turn them up, you can really feel that surge of power, and I like that. The only other ones I've gotten into in the last couple of years are Gallien Kreugers, the little ones. Good in the studio.

"The thing to look for if you're buying an amp is tone. Volume is secondary. A lot of people go for power, as in pickups, but you also need a good depth to the sound — that's why a lot of guitarists in HM bands sound like chainsaws, with that buzz, but no depth. A good guitar and a good amp, turn the bass, up and you should feel something happening. The tone controls on the amp should actually do something."

Thou shalt then splash out on some pedals
"The Boss chorus, for a reasonably priced pedal, is good value... I use a Dimension C. Their DD3 delay pedal is good if you can't afford a rackmount. Choosing an overdrive is down to you and your guitar; with the Strat, the orange Boss was good, but since I went on to Charvels, I've used the Ibanez Tube Screamer, the green one with the four controls — good edge, but it doesn't take away the body of the sound."

Thou shalt not wimp out in the face of a challenge
"There came a point when I said, if I want people to recognise me as a musical entity, I have to sing my own songs. It was really hard to get the confidence on stage to be at the front — I had to get drunk every night, I was so nervous. I was so used to being able to hide behind a singer and jump around onstage. Also there was the physical hassle of getting to the pedals, switching things around, and getting back to the stand. I was out of puff all the time but I've learned to pace it now. I'm thinking of going to a singing teacher to learn about breathing.

"I'm an all-rounder, now, and I don't think there are many people singing and writing and playing great guitar. I don't mean to sound conceited, but I think that sets me apart — I can wrap it all up in one package."

Thou shalt do what one wants with one's career, and bugger the consequences
"You have to be true to yourself — if you're unhappy in a situation, you should get out of it. You won't learn anything in life if you don't take some risks. Sometimes they pay off. Leaving Thin Lizzy was a big move, especially the way I did it, in the middle of a tour... there were a lot of problems, drugs and things.

"I'm pretty instinctive, to be honest, and I don't regret any of the moves I've made; they may have caused problems at the time but it's always worked out for the best. I'm pleased that I've got my own band, I'm making my own records, and I'm making my own mistakes, which is important."

Thou shalt have a good attitude
"It's very important to want to do it. The more natural the guitar feels to you, then the closer you are to being a great player."

Thou shalt not worry about money too much
"I dislike the business side of things most — it's the daily grind that you joined this business to get away from, and the more successful you are, the more you get involved in it. I'm not interested in business, I'm not interested in money, particularly; even now I'm still doing it because I want to. If I just wanted to make money I think I'd do something else — this is not the best way to make money.

"It's very important to have a good manager, because if you don't have a manager who people take seriously, you've had it anyway. There are people in this business whose sole aim in life is to rip off as many people as quickly as possible, and retire. I've suffered from that.

"I've been signed, I know what it's like. I paid. I bought myself out. It cost me my whole publishing advance for the first year..."

The Album

"MAIN GUITAR on the album is the Hamer white Les Paul Special that I used on 'Out In The Fields'. Very basic guitar — two humbuckers, Floyd Rose and that's it. I find in the studio it performs better than nearly all the others — good top without being screechy, good bottom without being muddy.

"Bob Daisley played bass, and the drums were mainly machines. We were going to use Mark Brzezicki, until we found how much he charged... no, what happened is I programmed most of it at home on the RX11, then Roland Kerridge from Reflex copied all my programs onto the Linn 9000, which we then used to trigger the Akai S900."

OVER THE HILLS: "I think this is the first time the Chieftains have been matched to a sequencer. We did it all on the Fairlight, then we had them play over that. We had Paddy Maloney's pipes and two fiddle players, guitarists and that. Judy Tzuke is singing backup."

WILD FRONTIERS: "Thin Lizzyish? Yeah, that's the dual guitar thing, it's meant as a dedication to Phil. I did play it to him once when we were a bit pissed, but I don't think he'd remember it if he was still around. It was an Irish type song, but with a rock feel on it, and I would have got Phil to sing it if he'd still been alive. I used the Les Paul Jr on that for those harmonies. It used to be Steve Jones', but he left it at my house one day, and I think he needed some drugs, so I gave him £250 for it. I got the guitar, he got the drugs...

TAKE A LITTLE TIME: "This is a more standard rocky song. I wrote it earlier. It's supposed to be both 'Out In The Fields', and Billy Idol; I used the Hamer Steve Stevens on that, so it was really Billy Idol; they're nice guitars."

THE LONER: "The cutting guitar sound in the intro? That's a Charvel, with one humbucker through a little Gallien Kreuger head, like I use at home for writing on. I loved the sound on the demo. We had a 4x12 and a DI, but we just used the DI. It's quite bluesy. That tune was originally written for Jeff Beck, by Max Middleton, his keyboard player. I wrote a middle section, and he said it was alright for me to play it like that."

FRIDAY ON MY MIND: "I just fancied doing a cover of this. The Shadows used to do it... Bowie? I think a lot of people who listen to me wouldn't know that version, if they knew the song at all. It was really high tech, done mostly on the Fairlight. The guitars were a Paul Reed Smith and the Hamer."

STRANGERS IN THE DARKNESS: "The drums are half machine, half toms; Roland Kerridge is really good at locking into drum machines. I was going through my Sting period at the time, and I fancied writing something like Sting. I got Pete Smith who did the Sting LP to work on it with me, and we went for that sparse sound."

THUNDER RISING: "Nothing to do with Rolf Harris. Those synth riffs at the beginning are Paddy Maloney's pipes sampled, and played against the guitar line. It's like Lizzy with keyboards. The solo was the second take, I think, done on the Hamer through a Rat distortion with tons of echo."

JOHNNY BOY: "This has a melancholy Irish ballad feel. When I lived in Dublin, we used to go to these folk clubs, see these guys singing all these old ballads, finger in one ear, and this song's a throwback to that. We tried it with piano first of all so it would all be acoustic — acoustic piano, uilleann pipes, and acoustic guitar, but the piano sounded too hard. We ended up using a cello setting on my ESQ1."

"I'd liked to have written more Irish songs, made the LP more thematic. Again it was partly a tribute to Phil, carrying on the Irish thing.

"A lot of the detail I'd got from a book of Irish legends — have you heard about Cuchlainn? He was a kind of guitar hero of his day, running around cutting people's heads off!"

More with this artist

Previous Article in this issue

Frontline 301 Guitar

Next article in this issue

Tama Swingstar 8000 Drum Kit

Publisher: Making Music - Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.

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Making Music - Mar 1987

Interview by Jon Lewin

Previous article in this issue:

> Frontline 301 Guitar

Next article in this issue:

> Tama Swingstar 8000 Drum Kit...

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