Guitar Hero Prepares for West Coast Tour

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 9:00

An Interview with Eric Johnson

By Casey Pukl

Guitarist Eric Johnson is considered among the top players in the entire world. If you’ve ever tried to play Guitar Hero, you know his song “Cliffs of Dover” as the hardest tune in the entire game— he’s just that good.

Johnson is fresh off his first UK tour in over 20 years, and he’s ready to roll! Armed with new material, Johnson says he’s ready to get in and start recording soon. Read on to find out more about his upcoming projects and what he’s most looking forward to about returning to Anthology!

CP: I’m super excited to hear what you’ve been up to lately. I know you’ve been touring for the new record, “Up Close”, doing the Hendrix Tour, and all sorts of great stuff, so I’d love to hear about all of that.

EJ: We just got back from Europe. We did a fair amount of touring over there, about a month, and now we’re starting this west coast tour. We have one more tour on the east coast in september, and that’ll be it for a while.

CP: This was the first time touring in the UK in about 20 years for you, right?

EJ: Yeah, just about 20 years. The shows were great, most of them sold out, a lot of fun.

CP: Excellent. For the west coast leg, who’s playing with you?

EJ: Chris Maresh on bass, Wayne Salzmann is on drums, and we’ve been playing together for a couple of years, so it’ll be the trio.

CP: So tell me about a little bit about your recording process— you seem to really take your time trying to perfect the sound on all your albums.

EJ: It’s a lot of overdubs, a lot of experimenting in the studio. I’ve been thinking about playing live more in the studio, doing less overdubs. That’s something I need to work on more.

CP: Do you have any new material you’ve been working during this tour?

EJ: Yeah, I have a lot of new stuff I’d like to get in and record.

CP: Awesome! You had some guest appearances from Jimmy Vaughan, Sonny Landreth, and Steve Miller on your last record. Any special guests in mind for the next one?

EJ: Not any plans yet, but I love working with other people so I just gonna keep the door open and see who’s available and wants to come in and play.

CP: Is that a big part of your songwriting process? Do you keep specific people in mind as you’re writing new material?

EJ: Not necessarily, but sometimes I will think of someone’s style like “Oh, I want to write this song to suit their style or the way they sing or play”. Whether they can come in or not to record isn’t known at the time, but I like to think of different ways to approach a song, different versions maybe if someone’s prolific in certain style.

CP: You also play piano, I know. Do you gravitate towards the guitar or piano when you’re writing?

EJ: Actually, I start more often on the piano and then transpose [the chords] to guitar.

CP: I’m surprised to hear that! Actually, listening to your harmonies and voicings, sometimes the voicings do seem more piano-based after listening and looking at the charts.

EJ: I really love piano, and you have a little more freedom when you’re exploring voicings since you have both hands, but when you move it over to guitar it just gives it that little different sound.

CP: You’ve been in the music industry for many years now, and you’ve seen the changes in recent years. Do you think those changes have helped or hurt you as an artist?

EJ: Yeah, I think it’s helped me in some ways. Certainly it’s good for live music because people always want to see musicians play live, and I think there’s a desire in this day and age, when it’s so easy to digitally [manipulate] what they’re doing, so when you go to see someone live and they’re really trying to play everything, I think the audience appreciates that.

As far as record sales, that’s a totally different thing. Nobody sells records like they used to so that’s been a big change.

CP: What can the crowd at Anthology expect from your show?

EJ: We’ve been playing together for a while. We really enjoy what we have going on; our dynamics and improvisation as a group are getting better and stronger. We’ve got a couple of new songs to add to the mix, something off all the albums. I think they’ll get a really good mix of stuff.

CP: And what are you looking forward to when you come to Anthology?

EJ: It’s a nice little club, and I love playing in San Diego, hanging out downtown. It’s just so beautiful down there; it’s a great opportunity to play at a really elegant club in one of my favorite cities.

Special thanks to Eric for catching up with us! His show is almost completely sold out, so be sure to snag the last few tickets before they’re gone!
Eric Johnson on Spotify

WHAT: Eric Johnson
WHEN: Saturday, August 25, 7:30pm
TICKETS: $13-$59 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile