By Tim Boehlert
[Editor’s Note] Bio: As a solo artist, Shane’s 3 solo projects (Highway 90, The Grease Factor, Dirty Power) feature an original mix of New Orleans grooves and funk guitar with Jazz/rock overtones. Some of the world’s best musicians make appearances on the discs, including Victor Wooten, Jim Keltner, Richie Hayward (Little Feat), Kim Stone (The Rippingtons), Zigaboo Modeliste (The Meters) and Sonny Landreth. Shane has also Recorded and/or performed with: The Neville Brothers, LeAnn Rimes, Jewel, Willie Nelson, John Waite, Idris Mohammed, Leni Stern, Boz Scaggs, The SYN (with Chris Squire and Alan White from YES), Shannon McNally, Nick Nolte, Harry Shearer, Maria Mulduar, Forest Whitaker, Aaron Neville, the Lee Boys, Little Feat, Sam Moore (Sam and Dave), and many others have tapped Shane’s talents both in the studio and on stage. He has appeared in Guitar Player, Guitar World, Rolling Stone, Downbeat, Modern Drummer and many other publications. As a composer, Shane’s music has been featured in many television shows including Food Network, MTV, and the Discovery Channel. Shane has also written instructional books, including “New Orleans Funk Guitar” for Warner Bros. Publications and been featured as a contributor to Guitar Player magazine.
In May, 2009, Brian Scherzer asked me to consider doing an article for TGP’s new Webzine, tapping Shane Theriot (pronounced TERRY-OH) as the Artist, in lieu of his pre-release knowledge of Shane’s third solo CD, Dirty Power. I’ve read with great interest many interviews, but those articles never got to the heart of the matter for me regarding the recording/composition/editing/mixing/studio process. I’ve tried to fashion this article to hit upon some of those things. Shane is not only a gifted guitarist, composer, sideman, studio ace, session pro and touring professional – sharing the stage with the likes of LeAnn Rimes, Boz Scaggs, Chris Squire/Alan White, Little Feat and the Neville Brothers to name a few, and in the studio with some of the best drummers on the planet – what’s not to like about that?
Boehlert: How do you get ideas for songs? Do they start with a melody or a set of chords?
Theriot: Either or. Sometimes the melody takes the front seat… but on this record, “Dirty Power,” it’s really more about the grooves and simple repetitive riffs. I didn’t intentionally set out for it to be that way, it just happened.
Boehlert: How much do your songs change from getting the initial idea to getting recorded?
Theriot: Sometimes they are just like the rough demo (if there is a demo) and other times they drastically change in tempo, feel, etc. A good example is the song “Mr. Ed”. When we tracked that song I played the demo that I had done with Reason/ProTools for the guys in the studio. I wanted to cut it live. Jim (Keltner) was listening to the demo and could hear the different guitar tracks. He was asking me “Is there any way we can track to your demo? It’s going to make me play differently and I’d rather do that.”, which of course completely threw off all the charts I had written and the whole form changed, but hey I figured I’d listen to him! So that one changed a lot, but I’m happy with the way it came out.
Boehlert: Do your songs come from inspiration, or reflection, or are they consciously constructed and then take on meaning?
Theriot: All kinds of sources. A lot of the riffs on “Dirty Power” came out of having a little Zoom recorder or something next to the nightstand and having riffs come in the middle of the night. That happens to me a lot. You just have to have the discipline to get yourself out of bed and put them down on tape because in the morning — forget it, they’re gone!
Boehlert: How much do you pay attention to theory when putting together an arrangement – do you think about correct use of theory, or do ideas that you wouldn’t/didn’t consider just happen sometimes, and surprise you?
Theriot: I don’t really think about theory stuff when composing. I know theory and have a good understanding of it, but I guess I just don’t intentionally try and use it. If I did do that, things come out sounding like an exercise or something. But with a song like “Backpack”, it just started out with a groove and I ‘built’ that song off of Johnny Vidacovich’s part. That track was originally supposed to be part of target ”The Grease Factor” CD but I scratched all of the original but the drums. I just had certain guys play over a groove and told them a key center and just to go for it.
Boehlert: I know that drums are a big part of who you are, as I think a lot of guitarists would agree – we really dig a great drummer! Do you compose a song with a special drummer in mind?
Theriot: “The Grease Factor” and “Dirty Power” were composed around special drummers. I had “Old Men,” “Mr. Ed,” — most of the mid, slow tempo stuff with Jim Keltner in mind and then the funk stuff with Zigaboo Modeliste. Richie Hayward does that in-between-shuffle/straight time thing better than anyone, so he was perfect on those tunes. With all those guys on drums, anything will sound good, it makes my job easy! I’m a drummer from way back before I started playing guitar, I guess I’ll always be a frustrated drummer!
Boehlert: Are all or a majority of your tunes written this way?
Theriot: No, not always, just on those two solo records. Johnny Vidacovich was a big part of “The Grease Factor” and so was Russell Batiste. Willie Greene and J. D. Blair were a big part of “Highway 90”, the first record I did. I just always hear things around drums – at least my own music.
Boehlert: When you’re composing a tune – do you pick out the soloist before the project begins?
Theriot: For “Mr. Ed” I knew that I wanted Sonny Landreth to add some stuff to it, so I left some space for him, but mainly I’ll have certain solo sections open.
Boehlert: Do you write out charts, or do you let the musicians add their own thing, or do you give them certain directions to start with?
Theriot: Well, both. I had charts for some of the tunes but I knew full well going in to one particular session that certain guys (no names mentioned!) wouldn’t bother reading them anyway! Sometimes I’ll have a sequence track and play along with it. Normally on my solo stuff there’s rarely any click tracks used, just listen to it and you can tell! I like stuff to “float” a little bit and it doesn’t bother me to do things this way. I know some guys judge drummers by whether or not the click disappears when you are tracking. That’s the studio cat world, and that’s OK but for my own music I’d rather have some looseness in it.