Guitar is a true art form. Many continue to espouse the wonders of
the modern steel sound and Henry Senior Jr. gets it down to
a science on his humorously titled 2016 CD Plates Of Meat.
Backed up by a hot band, including electric guitarist Paul
Lush, Henry steels his way through eight tracks that clock in
around a half hour and the album is time well spent. Fans of modern
masters like Mike Neer and Ville Leppänen of Finlands Southpaw
Steel n Twang will lap up Henrys hard driving, instro
steel-rock. Although Henry is masterful on his Emmons and Williams
pedal steel guitars, this album is no Nashville love fest. Henry sounds
equally inspired by say, Duane Allman who was known for his great
electric slide work. Speaking about his album, Henry tells mwe3.com,
Yep, its my first and only solo album! It didnt
start out as an album I, just wanted to record some ideas. It took
about a year to complete, the writing happened alongside the recording.
Id generally do a short demo of the head at home, take it to
the studio where wed work on a structure and arrangement. Plates
Of Meat is cockney rhyming slang for feet which are
obviously an essential part of playing pedal steel! There is a long-standing
tradition of puns in pedal steel album titles that I was keen to respect,
but also to put a British slant on it. A 21st century classic
of a much revered musical style, Plates Of Meat is truly food
for thought while devouring Henry Seniors fantastic, instrumental
steel guitar sounds. www.henrysenior.co.uk
mwe3.com presents an interview with
HENRY SENIOR JR.
The Plates Of Meat interview
Can you tell us where you are from originally and where you live now
and what you like about it? Tell us about other parts of England that
you like to visit and/or do shows in and have you been to the US yet?
I would think your new album would be of interest to American ears.
Henry Senior Jr: I was born in Scotland, in Edinburgh, I now
live in Brixton in South London, which has a rich musical heritage,
ranging from reggae artists like Linton Kwesi Johnson, to bands such
as The Clash, and it was the birthplace of David Bowie. Its
a great place to live and has a lot going on musically. When I got
my first pedal steel it turned out there was a player just up the
road who fixed it up and got me started, which was lucky for me as
Im not mechanically minded!
Ive visited the States a few times as a tourist, and the band
I play with came over one time to do a couple of gigs as part of the
AMA Awards, Id love to go back. We tour round the UK a lot,
I couldnt single a place out, its just a great way to
see the country and meet people.
mwe3: Is Plates Of Meat your first solo album and how
did it come together so to speak? How long did it take to write and
record the album and how did you choose the title for the album and
what can you tell us about the cover art?
Henry Senior Jr: Yep, its my first and only solo album!
It didnt start out as an album I, just wanted to record some
ideas. But then I got the bug a bit, and Dan from Maiden Voyage kept
referring to it as my album and said he was going to release
it! He has a very poker face at times and I had no idea if he was
serious, but release it he did, and Im very grateful.
It took about a year to complete, the writing happened alongside the
recording. Id generally do a short demo of the head at home,
take it to the studio where wed work on a structure and arrangement.
Of Meat is cockney rhyming slang for feet which
are obviously an essential part of playing pedal steel! There is a
long-standing tradition of puns in pedal steel album titles that I
was keen to respect, but also to put a British slant on it. Hopefully
this also explains why I am soothing my feet in a makeshift foot bath
on the cover
or maybe not!
The cover photo room is at my parents house, where my mum plays
the piano. The guy in the window is my dad, who managed to photo bomb
the shot! There are a couple of lap steels on display, one of which
my dad and I made when I started learning. My dad also made the wonky
lamp stand when he was at prep school and is very proud of it! Two
of the tracks are named after my nieces
there are a lot of family
references to the album!
mwe3: When did you start playing the pedal steel guitar and
do you play other instruments too? Do you think the pedal steel guitar
and sound is growing in stature in the UK?
Henry Senior Jr: I started playing pedal steel about 10 years
ago. I used to play the guitar but had stopped for a while and was
looking for something new. Id read about how pedal steels worked
and was really interested by the sliding and changing chord at the
same time, but had listened to very few pedal steel players.
Yes, without doubt the steel and its sound are growing in stature
in the UK. There are loads more players now than there were 10 years
ago. The rise of Americana has helped this. BJ Cole has contributed
to its ascent with decades of innovation and playing on releases by
artists of all walks, ranging from Elton John to Beck. Also Spencer
Cullum, from Essex but based in the States now, from Steelism, who
are putting out some superb pedal steel instrumentals at the moment.
I think were going to see some good things come out of Brit
mwe3: Can you tell us something about your Emmons and Williams
pedal steel guitars? Are they the best ones youve played and
what other guitars, pedal steel, steel and lap steel guitars do you
like? What pedal steel and steel guitarists are among your favorites
and what amps are you favorites for recording and live shows?
Senior Jr: Its a lot harder getting hold of pedal steels
over here than it is in the States, so no I havent played that
many. I bought my Williams from BJ Cole. It has a huge sound, a very
versatile copedent and stays in tune well. Id get a Williams
if I was going to buy a new one, but its quite expensive importing
from the States.
The Emmons is a 60s push-pull and is a classic! It sounds great
but is mechanically a bit harder to work with, and it has an aluminum,
or aluminium as we say, neck which is much more temperature sensitive
than wood, so goes out of tune more.
I also have a twin 8 Fender Stringmaster, which sounds beautiful,
and a Rickenbacker Model 59 lap steel from about 1938 with a huge
horseshoe pickup. It sounds brilliant for gritty slide guitar.
I use different guitars in different situations, but some of the tracks
on the album require the Universal Copedent that the Williams has
so Ill use that for those gigs.
mwe3: Who else plays with you on Plates Of Meat and
whats the chemistry like among the players on your recording?
Do you work with those musicians in other groups and bands too?
Henry Senior Jr: I play in a band called Danny and the Champions
of the World. The Danny in question is the same Danny
Wilson from Maiden Voyage, and all of the rest of the band played
on the album. Chris Clarke who played bass on the record, recorded
and produced it at his studio, Reservoir Studios.
We gig and tour a lot and have also recorded as backing band for a
few artists, so we all know and understand each other pretty well
and the communication and chemistry is quite well developed. Weve
got an album, a double actually, called Brilliant Light coming
out later this year, with an instrumental counterpart called Photogene.
Tell us about releasing Plates Of Meat on the Maiden Voyage
label and how does the album reflect the labels philosophy?
What other projects, including live performances, music writing, recording
and producing do you have planned for 2017?
Henry Senior Jr: Recording the album was a pleasure and a learning
experience throughout. It did take longer than I thought. I am very
pleased in hindsight to have kept it to a modest 8 tunes and also
to have had the guidance from Dan and Chris to keep the project on
Releasing it was terrifying! Having my oddball pedal steel instrumentals
in the likes of MOJO was brilliant, but until it came out all I knew
was that theyd reviewed it, there no indication of the conclusion
of the review. That had me sweating for a while, but I guess it would
have been a bit mean to have gone ahead with a review of an unknown
musician on a niche instrument out of its traditional genre and completely
slated it! But you never know...
I think Maiden Voyages philosophy is pretty simple. Its proprietors,
Danny Wilson and Del Day, both have expansive musical tastes. They
want to release music they like, and not be constrained by genre,
commercial pressure, bureaucracy etc. and to have fun doing it. Opportunities
for musicians to indulge themselves are few these days, people are
realizing music is worse off for it, and Maiden Voyage are responding
Their forthcoming release, another Reservoir recording, is Mad
Dogs and Moon Dogs by Donald Wheatley. Don is professional showman,
the album is Dylanesque and draws on a lifetime of experiences with
the fair. His single Smoking Gun has just been released
and seen a lot of UK and BBC airplay.
album is going to be released in May, I think Ill be doing a
set at the launch party round then, and maybe a couple of other gigs.
Well be touring the new Danny and the Champs album in September
and doing a few festivals over the summer. Ive got another album
in progress, but needless to say Im struggling with the title!
Ill keep you posted