It's funny, kind of. A friend of mine and I always talk about music; making music, bands, history, etc, etc. Sometimes this is cathartic and reinvigorates me. And thinking about influences, I always get a little stumped... And it's probably a good thing for me to get clear about it somewhat, to myself, for a source of inspiration when I feel uninspired. So, here goes... in no particular order.
Nick McCabe - I can still remember the chills that ran down my body when I first heard "Slide Away" on college radio. At the time (longer ago than I care to come clean on), I was playing guitar but very much wasting what was actually in my head. I was very much a bedroom player playing bullshit covers with friends in a garage from time to time. I immediately ran out to get my hands on Verve's A Storm in Heaven and when I first heard "Star Sail" it was like someone was pulling from my mind what I always wanted to hear from a guitar. Still, not quite enough to get my off my ass creatively - something that happened far too late in my opinion. When you look at Urban Hymns you see a stark change of direction; they just were not the same and that record was a drastic departure on what made early Verve so special... Owing to the fact that Nick left after A Northern Soul and returned during sessions for Urban Hymns, seemingly after much of the writing was complete with Simon Tong. I really with he, Si, and Mark Heady would just do some projects together and put out some music themselves - don't even bother touring Nick, just give people like me some ear candy.
Will Sergeant - People that know me very well know how much Echo & the Bunnymen meant to me. When I was in junior high I used to think the entire thing was Mac. Of course as you get older you get wiser and you begin to see the entire picture. Pete's drumming, Mac's voice (as iconic as Bowie's to me), and Les' bass playing; they were a unit that really was a sum of its parts. Will's playing always served the song and not itself; his use of effects were tasteful, his staccato techniques likely predated U2's (and was far more interesting), and he knew exactly when to use minimalism and when not to. His use of single notes or droning versus chords also set him apart for me. He was the unsung hero of that band prior to 1987 with Mac receiving much of the glory. Remove Will from the lineup and that band simply is not the same. To date, he is the flip-side of the trademark coin with Mac's voice. Now, with them continuing to tour and write, I think he is finally recognized for his contribution. I can even remember when John Frusciante came back to life in 1998/1999 he mentioned in an interview he was studying Will's style. So yeah, regardless how prominent his influence shines through on the work of others, his
Dave Navarro (1986-1994) - Very similar to the impact of first hearing Verve I can still remember when I first heard Jane's. Keep in mind I am not including subsequent work here, meaning nothing after Deconstruction. I remember heading with a few friends up to Melrose in Los Angeles and we picked up Nothing's Shocking. The ride back home the three of us were entranced. I recall even thumbing through the insert and even being mesmerized by the images (very similar to A Storm in Heaven's insert). The mystery of "Up the Beach" segueing into some heavier, more aggressive tracks, and then slowly bringing you down with "Ted, Just Admit It" and "Summertime Rolls". Ritual was just the same. I recall coming home from a crazy survival experience in the desert and hearing Ritual playing at Tower Records... I think "Three Days" started and my friend and I just froze... And of course following that was my all-time favorite "Then She Did...". I know absolutely zero about music theory, but Dave's chord choices, use of octaves, a simple chorus, and his unorthodox scales (likely incorporating different modes within the Pentatonic scale) were very different and had an exotic and mysterious feel. And, unlike the hyped boutique direction of guitar players everywhere, he still has $100 Boss pedals on his board as he did 30 years ago.
Robert Smith (1979-1982) - I have enormous respect for Robert. When he turned 50 and played on his birthday in Mexico City they had to essentially pull the plug on him and turn out the lights... He would have just kept playing. This is a man that, like Morrissey, loves to put on a show. To this day, Faith and Pornography are two of my favorite records. "Siamese Twins" and "All Cats are Grey" are simply fantastic. Zero fluff. Like Will, Robert knows how to serve a song and commands minimalist playing and tasteful use of effects. If only one day he reunited in the studio with Lol. Fuck any other reunion, just give me that. Again, I don't care if it has a well known name on it or not; it could easily be simply a studio project under a new name and I'd inhale it. Another testament to Robert is his true-to-self nature; he breaks all guitar player cliches by simply being himself... He follows no trends and even tours with Roland Cubes (kind of like Noal Gallagher touring with Blues Juniors to drive cabs)!
Thurston Moore/Lee Renaldo - Sonic Youth are, and always will be, one of my all-time favorite bands. There isn't a whole lot to say about this, as they plays by no rules - which is exactly what makes them special. There is just simply magic in the interaction between these two on those records. There is a warm, sweet, clangy, chimey thing going on that is, at times, one of the best things I've ever heard. And again, contrary to the direction of consumerism, these two have always done their thing their way. One of Thurston's main touring amps has been the very much commonplace Hot Rod Deluxe - a amp that is not precious and is literally everywhere. Yet, when you heard him he sounds like he could be playing a $3000 boutique vintage clone... Proving yet again the diminishing return on inflated MSRP's everywhere. A good player can get something out of anything.
John Squire - To get this, all you have to do is put on some really good headphones and listen to "I am the Resurrection". The entire thing is brilliant, but what really makes this special is the second half. As my mom can attest to, I would listen to her Zeppelin vinyls though headphones as much as I could when I was 4,5,..., and at the age of 5 when, my grandfather asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I stated that I wanted to be a guitar player. This was from the grip Jimmy Page had on me when I was only maybe 4 years of age. Later, much later actually, that turned into Hendrix. Yet, if you listen to the Roses' Second Coming, you will hear the influence of both Jim's come through. If you have a chance, go onto YouTube and listen to "Daybreak" live in Ireland off Crimson Tonight (1995). Simply, fucking brilliant.
Eric Avery (Jane's Addiction) - Those classic and nostalgic Jane's songs were built around him.
Peter Hook (Joy Division) - Again, Joy Division was built around him.
Jah Wobble (PiL) - Just listen to First Issue or Metal Box.
Simon Jones (Verve) - Knew how to groove and hold the bottom, creating the perfect pallet for McCabe.
Joshua Fauver (Deerhunter) - Melodic and driving. Always looked like he was having a blast. Was heartbroken when he bailed.
Kenny Morris / Budgie (Siouxie) - Tribal. Powerful when needed... Yet not too busy. Also influenced Paul Ferguson of Killing Joke.
Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) - Solid. Driving. Not busy. Everything he does he kills it. Now supporting both Thurston and Lee in their solo work. Spent some time filling in with Disappears as well.
Paul Cook (Sex Pistols) - To me, Paul Cook was the Charlie Watts of his time.
Jerry Fuchs (Maserati / Turing Machine / LCD Soundsystem) - As always, all good things come to an end. Jerry has the timing of a machine but without a sterile feel. Sadly, he was taken from us in 2009 due to a freak accident after a benefit show in Brooklyn.
Topper Headon (The Clash) - If anyone were to write a book based on their experiences in a famous group and how it changed their life Topper should be the guy. An absolutely brilliant drummer. And what a story of highs, and then lows, and on to a sense of balance again.
Reni (Stone Roses) - Some say he's the best since Keith Moon. I prefer Reni. Check out his isolated drums from "Love Spreads".