|MARK NOMAD - VINTAGE GUITAR "FIRST FRET" INTERVIEW
MARK NOMAD'S music has been heard on radio stations all over the world and has been used commercially in both television and film. Growing up in Hartford, Connecticut, Nomad began playing music in the 1960's and by the mid-1970's, was sharing the concert stage with many of the biggest names in show business. As co-founder of the original “Little Village” in 1973, Mark gained a reputation as a “guitarists' guitarist”.
Nomad has just released his first all-acoustic cd, “ Acoustic Land ” on Blue Star Records, available at www.MarkNomad.com .
Tom Guerra: Congratulations on the release of “ Acoustic Land ”… Your reputation has greatly been built on your abilities as an electric player, and yet this album is totally acoustic. What prompted this?
MN: I've been playing acoustic guitar for years and have performed solo off and on since the late 1970's. My last three cd's have always featured some solo acoustic tracks and various people have told me they prefer my acoustic work so it was time.
TG: The new record has a combination of originals and blues classics, yet there is a common thread between each of the tunes that makes it hang together well. How did you pick the covers?
MN: The tracks are a compilation of my solo acoustic stuff spanning five cd's. Fred McDowell and Blind Willie Johnson are well represented with two covers of each. I love slide guitar and Delta blues has always fascinated and moved me.
TG: What type of guitars did you play on these tracks? I hear a 12 string on “Special Rider”, one of the albums highlights, which is reminiscent of Hendrix' “Hear My Train' A Comin'” from “ Rainbow Bridge.”
MN: My 1930 National Triolian is always tuned to open D, my 1974 Martin D-35 is tuned to open G and my Gibson J-45 re-issue (ca. 1999) is in standard tuning. I play a lot of slide on the National and Martin. For “Special Rider”, I used the J-45 and tuned it to open A. I played a lot of octaves which made it sound like a 12 string. Skip James was a genius and very un-orthodox.
TG: How did you record the guitar parts? The recordings are remarkably crisp yet transparent…
MN: The tracks were recorded over a period of many years in different studios. More often than not, I used the same condenser mic to record my guitar and vocal simultaneously.
TG: You are recognized today as one of the top guitarists in New England , having played with some of the biggest regional acts. What is your take on the state of live music these days?
MN: I'm afraid that live music no longer pervades our culture nor has the importance it once did. Ipods, home theaters, computers and video games have helped a lot of gigs go the way of the sewing bee.
TG: As a baby boomer, was it The Beatles on Ed Sullivan that initially sparked your interest in music, or did you have other catalysts that inspired you to pick up the guitar?
MN: I was already a fan of rock and roll and was playing harmonica but my fate was sealed that Sunday night in February, 1964.
TG: Who were some of your early influences?
MN: The first Paul Butterfield Blues band album was my entrée to electric blues. Mike Bloomfield blew my mind. I bought Yardbirds singles featuring Jeff Beck. Jimi Hendrix, who I saw in Hartford in 1968, remains the ultimate electric guitarist in my humble opinion. Early Clapton was a force. I then explored the three Kings (BB., Albert and Freddie), Otis Rush, Albert Collins, Duane Allman and Dickie Betts. My God, there are so many…
TG: In the mid 1970's, you backed up a number of blues legends…can you tell us about some of these shows and artists, and what you remember about them?
MN: It was a special time and we (Little Village) got to open for and occasionally accompany many greats. To hang with Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Roy Buchanan and get to hear their personal insights and anecdotes was a true gift.
TG: Mark, what was your first good guitar and amp setup?
MN: In 1966, I obtained a 1961 Les Paul Custom (white SG style) with the ebony block. I wish I still had that one. I still have my first electric which is a two pick-up Kay Thin Twin. In 1967, I worked the tobacco fields in South Windsor , CT and bought a brand new black face Fender Super Reverb that I still use to this day. It's only been forty years!
TG: You've got some pretty cool vintage instruments and amps… Can you tell us about some of your cherished instruments and amps?
MN: I have a 1957 Strat that's kind of retired now. I've acquired an Eric Johnson Signature Strat which I use a lot in my trio. We tune down a half step. I use a 1962 Strat for all my electric open tuning stuff and I take it everywhere. I use a 1966 Epiphone Riviera when I play with quartets because other guitarists invariably use Strats. I have a 1967 Gretsch Tennessean and a 1982 '52 re-issue Tele. I also have a Les Paul '59 re-issue. I've been using a 1965 re-issue Fender Deluxe Reverb in a lot of the smaller rooms. In the studio, my go- to amps are an early 70's Princeton Reverb and a 1955 Gibson GA6 usually recorded together in stereo. I also use a British Vox AC15 at times and have a plethora of vintage effects pedals.
TG: Do you have any plans to tour acoustically to promote “ Acoustic Land ”?
MN: I'll do the usual mix and match of acoustic and electric shows. This Fall, we'll be releasing “ Electric Church ” which will be all electric and loud...
TG: I know you use several open tunings…care to tell us which, and what you like about them?
MN: Acoustically, D is great for spirituals and electrically for the Elmore James style. G is swampy for both acoustic and electric. With standard tuning, they allow different voices and textures to come through and hopefully keep things interesting for the listener.
TG: Who are your all-time favorite musicians, and are there any current players you are listening to these days?
MN: I tend to still look to the older players for inspiration. As far as current players, I don't necessarily seek them out but there's a lot of talent out there. If I thought about it too much, I'd be afraid to play.
For more information on Mark Nomad's recordings and tour dates, visit www.MarkNomad.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom Guerra recently released “So Wonderful” a free mp3 with roots rockers “Mambo Sons,” who have three cds out on Omnicide Records. For more information, check out www.MamboSons.com
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