CHRIS HASKETT
Insufficient Necessities
(DenCity Records)

 

There’s plenty of white-hot instrumental funk-rock action in play on the 2019 CD by guitar hero Chris Haskett. Featuring Chris Haskett And His Ongoing Dysphoria, the four-track, 20 minute EP, called Insufficient Necessities covers a ton of guitar sounds and styles. Spanning hard rock, heavy metal and funk, jazz and rock, start to finish, this way-cool set is the perfect showcase for Chris Haskett’s mind-altering guitar vision. Compared to earlier albums, including his 1995 solo album Nonfiction, recorded in Chris’ hometown of Washington, D.C., Insufficient Necessities was recorded in Holland with a five piece band of mostly Dutch musicians that adds much fuel to the musical fire on display. Chris adds, “The passports don’t matter, if the funk finds you, then you’re home.” The Insufficient Necessities sessions were so productive that in addition to the music on hand, a number of covers were also recorded featuring Haskett versions of music by Average White Band, Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk, Ronnie Montrose, Grateful Dead and more. This second batch of recordings is planned for release in late 2020 under the tentative title Partly Uncovered. A major guitar talent known for his all-encompassing merger of funk, riff-rock, jazz and psychedelia, Chris Haskett is hardly a newcomer to the guitar instrumental scene and his resume goes way back to early affiliations with the Rollins Band as well as guitar legends like Reeves Gabrels. In fact, Chris added a second guitar part to a track featured on Bowie’s 1999 album Hours. Bowie, bless his soul, once favorably described Chris’ guitar work as being “nose-bleedingly hostile”. Fans of Jeff Beck’s brand of fiery instrumental guitar fusion circa Blow By Blow and Wired, as well as guitar legends Sonny Sharrock and Frank Zappa circa Shut Up ‘N’ Play Yer Guitar, will dig Chris Haskett’s Insufficient Necessities. www.bandcamp.com / www.chrishaskett.com




 

mwe3.com presents an interview with
CHRIS HASKETT


mwe3
: Can you tell us where you’re from and where you live currently? What was it like growing up in Washington D.C.?

Chris Haskett: I am from an area of DC called Palisades. Coincidentally, I grew up about half a mile from Ian MacKaye. I’ve lived all over but currently live on a smallish island in Australia.

mwe3: What era of music did you grow up in and what artists most inspired you to pick up the guitar?

Chris Haskett: I was born in 1962 and am lucky to have a sibling 5 years my senior who was into really good music when we were both growing up. So I have a really clear musical memory of the late 1960s and the first LPs that got handed down to me were Disraeli Gears, Electric Ladyland, Cheap Thrills and Blind Faith. So Clapton and Hendrix were on the radar really early but I think it was Keith Richards and Johnny Winter that really got me interested in playing guitar. My first guitar was a Sekova nylon string. I still have it. I still remember sitting on my bed with it strumming E and Em back and forth and fantasizing being asked interview questions in the future!

mwe3: Do you still recall your first guitar and amp?

Chris Haskett: My first electric guitar was a Gibson S-1 which I bought in a pawn shop because I’d seen the ad where Ron Wood was holding one. My first amp was Traynor 100w bass amp. I don’t remember the cabinet, it may have been a Sunn. I was like 15 and got conned into it in a music store. After that, I mostly used an Acoustic 100w combo. It was WAY lighter and also an actual guitar amp.

mwe3: Also can you say something about the Go-Go music you were exposed to growing up in D.C.? This is the first I’ve heard about it!

Chris Haskett: Growing up… we’re talking the early-mid 70’s here, DC’s Go-Go music screen hadn’t really gotten on my radar. I’m not certain of the chronology but I think the scene really took off at the end of the decade. I remember the classic early Trouble Funk, EU and Rare Essence 12”s from about 1980 onward. There was so much awesome music happening on all sorts of genres at that time that Go-Go didn’t stick out too much. It was just part of the life-soundtrack. It was a bit later that I really started to focus on the richness of its beats and culture.

When I was in my first band, The Enzymes, we were soaking up this weird blend of avant garde, punk and fusion. I loved the guitar-driven punk stuff, especially the UK Subs, The Damned, The Buzzcocks and most especially the Ruts. But there was an equal attraction in the more furious and aggressive work that McLaughlin had done with Mahavishnu and Fripp had achieved with King Crimson. We were also entranced by the courage and freedom of The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Anthony Braxton, Derek Bailey, Henry Cow and especially Sun Ra and the Arkestra. Beefheart loomed large too.

mwe3: I know lots of writers ask you how you met Bowie, was it through Reeves Gabrels? What Bowie track did you play on and was the track used on the album? It’s easy to hear why Bowie had such a high regard for your guitar sound. You fit the mold of Bowie-esque guitarists.

Chris Haskett: Yes. I met them both at some festival in Finland. I was awestruck to meet David but actually more interested in finding and meeting Reeves and talking guitars! Later, Reeves moved to New York to work on an album with David and we started hanging out. We are complementary character types and were both at similar places in our respective lives, so it was good. They were using a studio round the corner from my apartment so I started coming over and hanging out while they were tracking. There’s a saying which goes, “If you hang out in a barbershop, eventually you’re gonna get a haircut.” and that’s pretty much what happened.

The music they were doing left space for a kind of utility infielder to do guitars, simple keyboards and some computer-y stuff, this was 1999 and still kind of new. So David asked me to join the touring band… unfortunately the tour got canceled. As to the recorded track, it’s on the Hours album and the song is called “If I’m Dreaming My Life”. Reeves very kindly created a need for it to be recorded live and also to have a second guitar. He could really have overdubbed it in ProTools but he made a space for me. It was a very kind thing to do, but then, he’s a really nice guy.

mwe3: Who designed the front cover art with the cowgirl in the sand artwork? And tell us about your record label.

Chris Haskett: I’m old school and don’t really feel I’ve actually put something out unless there’s a tangible product somewhere. And it’s a good excuse to print stickers. The listening suggestion was just a goof with a bit of dharma thrown in. But the Fair Use statement is completely sincere. Like I say, DenCity Records is mostly just me, so the graphics was little ‘ol me.

mwe3: How did you wind up regarding in Holland with a band of Dutch musicians? Seems like a dream come true and what was Holland like to record in? Can you mention the players that assisted on the album?

Chris Haskett: Well I ended up in Holland because that’s where my spouse got a job. After eight years there, it wasn’t really that exotic. I was living in a town called Nijmegen at the other side of the country from the bigger cities. So there was a much smaller pool of folks to play music with than there would have been in Amsterdam or Rotterdam. But I found some nice folks who were willing to put in the time to really learn my stuff.

I really lucked out with my drummer, Johan Jansen, inasmuch as he has a really solid, meaty style and a beautiful natural swing. Collin van Gerven, the bassist was already into funk so he was a natural fit. I can’t remember how I found the percussionist, Ton Maassen, maybe he answered an ad. Anyhow, he was more used to playing smooth jazz and latin stuff so my stuff was completely left-field for him. But he just loves his craft and was willing to try new music. He wasn’t always sure where to go in my tunes but he took direction well.

The music was originally tracked in a club which had multitrack facilities. There was no audience but it allowed us to jam/play with more of a live feel than a regular studio. The guitars and bass were both DI only to prevent bleed onto the drum mics. It was on a stage we knew well so it was very relaxed. The guitars and percussion were overdubbed later.

I had a bunch of amps in my house and had built myself a decent isolation cabinet. So I could run the external speaker outs on the amps to the iso cab and really crank it up without bothering anybody. The cab has two gooseneck mic clips/XLR outs and I usually had a condenser and a dynamic side by side. So I was able to track the guitars at my leisure. Getting feedback was bit trick but I managed it.

Once I had the tracking done, I mixed it myself to where the rough mixes were in the ballpark of where I wanted the track to be. Then I’d send the session, with all the volume levels and pans already in, to a fantastic engineer down in Eindhoven, also in Holland, who would do the actual mix. Sometimes I’d go and sit in but I found it was better just to let him do it and then send him tweak suggestions. Then I let him master it. His name is Peter Rave and his place is called Custom Recording. He’s awesome and I highly recommend him.

mwe3: Insufficient Necessities is listed as catalog number 009 on your label Den City (is that an acronym or something like that for density?) What other albums have you released on the label and how many albums have you released? Are they all on CD?

Chris Haskett: DenCity is a play on “density” and “DC” - as in Washington. There are 9 releases. Currently, 5 are available as CDs and only one is currently also on vinyl. They’re also on i-tunes/Amazon etc but the easiest way to get them is via Bandcamp. Here’s the link.

mwe3: The recorded sound on the Insufficient Necessities CD is extremely clean and the drums are really well recorded too. Was it difficult to mix an album with this much dynamic range and sounds? What were some of the challenges in recording the album?

Chris Haskett: Alas poor Peter Rave… I usually give him tracks that are one step above bootleg quality and he manages to make them sound so good! Actually, in this case, that’s unfair. The sound man at the club where we did the basics, his name is Kees de Waal, is an excellent musician in his own right and has a lot of experience. He also knew his mic and his room extremely well. So we managed to get good, rich drum sounds but keep the live sound and not have it too sterile.

As to the rest of the tracks, well I have finally gained a pretty good sense of how guitars can sit together in a mix so I can make tonal choices that won’t conflict or phase out too badly. Peter’s got me pretty well trained by now too. I know what to send him.

mwe3: How many guitars do you play on the CD? Are you a guitar collector or fan of strange guitars and pedals or effects? What amps do you prefer and is there a plethora of pedals or sonic effects on the Insufficient Necessities CD?

Chris Haskett: Oh goodness! The core guitars would have been a pair of PRS CE24s, my custom PRS 9-string, a Hamer single P-90 LPJ and a 2001 MIM Fender Tele. I have quite a few guitars but I’m not a collector per se. I am a fan of exotic old pedals and I have a bunch of old stuff that I found in pawnshops over the years, original Foxx Tone Machines, obscure Japanese fuzzes, Mu-Trons and so on. But nowadays the fetish for pedals has kind of driven me in the opposite direction: I use much less gain and many fewer pedals than I used to. I much prefer to find an exotic amp tone.

On Insufficient Necessities, the main effect I used was the tape-echo plugin in Logic. I don’t have a Watkins Copycat or an Echoplex at the moment and it was also easier to retain the flexibility of a plugin rather than print the delay. Other than that there’s probably a little bit of octave in a few places but even for that I mostly use the 9-string these days.

As to amps, yeah, the CD has some pretty obscure bits and pieces. Live, I mostly use a Mesa Boogie TA-30, which I adore, but for recording I was using a modded 1960 Dynacord 18w, a modded 1959 Schaller KV-40 and, believe it or not, the amp section for a late 50’s Philips portable turntable. I ran them all into the isocab which usually had an Audio Technica condenser, I forget the model, and a Shure SM57 in it.

mwe3: What can you tell us about your left and right guitar technique? It’s Beck-esque but it’s very original too. Do you practice and does practicing guitar help you in coming up with ideas for your compositions? How about finger-style guitar, say using your picking fingers in contrast to using a guitar pick?

Chris Haskett: I DO practice! Really I do! It just never sounds like it… Of course, Jeff Beck does loom like a deity in my psyche and it was his sound that got me to explore using my thumb and forefinger in place of a pick. It’s original in its Beck-esque-ness mainly because I fail so spectacularly in copying him! I once remarked it to Marc Ribot that my style was basically defined by my inability to copy my heroes and he said, “Yeah, that’s all of us.”

I’m lack both the discipline and the schedule to be able to set aside the same practice time on a daily basis. So I just try to fit it in when and where I can. At this point, rather than doing scales and modes etc… I usually set a goal of trying to learn something new, like a Monk tune or a Charlie Christian solo and then make sure to play close attention to my time and picking dynamics and so on while I’m doing it. It let’s me move forward without getting bored.

As to the fingers versus a pick thing, it’s really about expanding your palette. Pulling a string with your finger and letting it smack back down is a totally different tonal color than hitting the same note with a pick. And obviously, using a bunch of fingers at once is a different color than sequentially strumming the same notes. But I’m basically a flat-picker at heart, I just like having more tones at my disposal.

mwe3: Do you enjoy playing live gigs but wouldn’t having a band from Holland might be difficult to play live or on the same continent? Is the internet the future of live music? If not now then in say 10 or 20 years? Or at least until “beam me up Scotty” becomes a reality…

Chris Haskett: Given that I’m now in Australia, yes, having a band in Holland is extremely inconvenient! Now I have to find a whole new batch of guys and gals who are willing to work much too hard for no money! “Is the internet the future of live music?” No, at least not to me... but remember, I’m a dinosaur. To me, live means being actually, physically present while something is occurring... even if, for whatever misplaced reason, you’re watching it through your fucking phone!. “Live” is the gestalt of the experience: seeing a band from more than just a single camera viewpoint and knowing that, at that instant, your experience is utterly unique, the smell of the person next to you, the internal debate about whether it’s worth missing a song while you go pee, wondering if the band will play so many encores that you miss your bus… etc. It’s not just the streamable audio/visual content.

mwe3: What’s the best way to gain exposure for your music these days and how has the internet changed music and are all the changes it has made for the better? It blows my mind how everything has changed in 20 years. Will 2020 be the start of a new beginning in time?

Chris Haskett: My views on the internet and how it has changed the music industry, for musicians, would be a book-length answer. The short version is that it’s been a boon for people who can afford to make the music they want as amateurs but it’s been a disaster for anybody trying to dedicate themselves to it as a calling. Just look at the Spotify royalty rates or iTunes’ rules for cover art. From the fans’ point of view it’s also a bit of a mixed blessing. It allows nothing to be rare or obscure, which is great for getting attention for overlooked or marginal artists. But at the same time, it kind of devalues our efforts through the sheer volume of stuff that’s out there and competing for peoples’ attention. The internet has become the tail that wags the dog: “hit” songs are getting shorter in order to have a higher chance of being fully hard and thus qualify for streaming royalties, they seem to require a mind-boggling number of writers to churn out pap and, like Hollywood movies, which is a similar model, there seem to be fewer and less musically diverse artists rather than more. Don’t get me started… Like I say, I’m a dinosaur waiting for the asteroid to hit. But my main complaint is about the effect it has the on music. We were promised a level playing field where the direct relationship between the artist and the listener would bring utopia. Instead, now we’re paying “influencers”… Like I say, don’t get me started. And get off my lawn you kids!

mwe3: What can the fans look forward to regarding your musical plans in 2020? Are you currently writing any new music and tell us about the planned CD you have coming later in 2020?

Chris Haskett: I’m still finding my feet down under but the follow-up to Insufficient Necessities is pretty close to done. It’s tentatively titled Partly Uncovered and is almost all covers. The artists I’m mauling include Average White Band, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, Ronnie Montrose, Sonny Sharrock, Sun Ra and Vernon Reid. There’s a few more overdubs to be done and then I send it all to Peter Rave. Last year I was lucky enough to be able to work with a fantastic band from Milan called King Bong and I believe this sessions are due to see the light of day in 2020. And I think Ian MacKaye over at Dischord records in DC is going to put out a 7” of my very first band, The Enzymes. I don’t have any details on that though.

mwe3: Can you mention 5 of your all time favorite albums, just random picks from the past?

Chris Haskett: Off the top of my head without thinking about it:

Mahavishnu Orchestra: Between Nothingness and Eternity

Johnny Winter: Progressive Blues Experiment

King Crimson: Red

Cheap Trick: Cheap Trick

Aerosmith: Pump





 

 
   
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