Wednesday, July 18, 2012

''GUITAR GODS: Philip High''

- David "Skinny Devil" McLean
originally published at Tinfoil Music
Date: Monday, March 08 2004 @ 13:49:22 GMT

Philip High is among the creative elite. Using an electrified classical guitar pumped into a rack of audio effects, he creates intricate and flowing sheets of sound like you've never heard before.

The core of Phil's style is hard to pin down. Using a nylon string guitar, playing fingerstyle using classical, new age, & jazz techniques, Phil plays short phrases into a delay unit which then loops the short phrases. He then plays counter-melodies, harmonies, and lead lines over the loops to create vast musical textures. But he doesn't stop there. He adds to this bizarre special effects (chorus, delays, harmonizers, etc.) to add even more spice to the mix. All that is hard enough to do as it is, but Phil's compositions (before he even goes electric) are sophisticated and varied, and his technique impeccable.
The author (David) on harmonica with Philip on guitar, backstage at Woodsongs, 2009.

Now, try all that - plus a heavy dose of improvisation - in a completely live setting (where one mis-step on a pedal or one bad note can spell immediate disaster) and what you're witnessing is a unique and fearless musician. Such an attitude is rare in the world of music.

Phil's recent release, "HighperTrybe", is an amazing showcase of his talents. He pulls out ALL the stops and displays a flawless performance, and his CD is one that should be owned by every serious guitar player. But more than that, his CD is an amazing showcase of fabulous music which takes the listener on a personal journey...and every serious fan of instrumental music should give him a listen.
He calls his style "mellow mutant jazz & world fusion", which pretty much sums it up, even if it is a bit understated. But that's Phil - mellow and humble and very unassuming...not a trace of arrogance often associated with such talent.

You can see a brief overview of Phil's playing style here, and you can visit his web-site for news, performance dates, sound clips, and more.

I spoke to Phil recently, and here's what he had to say.


1) What are your current projects?

I'm currently in the process of producing 4 tunes for singer/songwriter Pat McNeese. They will (hopefully) be on his next album, due out sometime this fall. Other than that, I'm still out there promoting my own recent solo release, "HighperTrybe".

2) How does this (do these) differ from your past work?

Producing for someone else, especially a singer, is a new role for me and I'm enjoying a lot. I get to stretch my recording chops, and adding my vision to another's material and style is a rewarding challenge. I hope to do more of it in the future. With my own music, putting on the business, marketing, & management hats this last year has been pretty different. I'm not sure I actually enjoy it (hahaha!), but it does give you more control over your career, and is almost a necessity these days.

3) Do you have one project that you are most proud of as a guitarist?

I guess that would have to be the "HighperTrybe" CD. It is my first full-length solo release and was a l-o-n-g time in the works.

4) Can you give our readers a run-down of your basic gear (live and/or studio)?

I play a Yamaha APX10n, nylon string acoustic/electric guitar with Savarez strings. Going down the signal path I have a BOSS GE-7 equalizer pedal that feeds into one channel of a Mackie 1202 mixer. That mono signal is sent to my DigiTech TSR-24 multieffects processor and returns as stereo to the mixer. I control the effects in real time from an ART X-15 MIDI controller. All of that is fed from the tape out (mono sum) to a Boomerang phrase sampler and back in to another channel of the mixer. I have a very unusual old XP100a amp by Rockman. It's small (30lb.), 100 watts stereo, and splits into 2 cabinets for sound separation. It also has built in digital effects but they are outdated and I just bypass them. I can use this amp as a powered monitor and go direct out to the house for larger venues. In the studio I use pretty much the same setup unless it gets too noisy.
Phil playing in ensemble for Lori Lieberman, 2009.

5) Who would you cite as early influences, and who are your favorite new players?

I have a very eclectic background that ranges from Surf to BeBop to Bach. John Fahey was a very important early influence for me as far as switching from a flat pick to fingerstyle. There are lot's of great players these days but I'm still not through listening to my basic favorites: Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Al DiMiola, and Ralph Towner.

6) Can you give a few tips to aspiring players?

Practice lot's, yes, but with purpose. Slow down and play it right, take a break to let your neurons process, and when you come back you'll be faster and better. My favorite book for technique is "The Ultimate Guitar Workout" by Mark Nelson and Chris Connors. Listen to lot's of different music, figure out why you do or don't like it. Aspire to communicate your emotions through your instrument.

7) What are your future plans?

The immediate plan is to sell enough of my current CD to finance the next one (haha!). Beyond that I'm interested in doing some duo and trio work and some film scoring.

8) Thanx for talking to us, Phil!

Thank you for the opportunity.

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