Interview by Joyce Peters
Reprinted courtesy of Taconic Press
I caught up with Jim Weider at a coffee shop near his Woodstock studio to talk about drum grooves, trolls, and about being “badly bent.”
JP: What was it like growing up in Woodstock?
JW: Well, the Catskill Mountains, the woods, the reservoir. It was like a playground. I used to go fishing. It was really mellow. When I got older, I had the great music. Very inspiring music. I got to see Paul Butterfield, David Sanborn, Tony Levin, John Hall, all these really great musicians. Van Morrison lived here. All these people were playing in clubs.
JP: How has your writing style evolved over the years?
JW:What really inspires me is drum grooves. I’ll get a really cool drum groove that’ll inspire me to come up with a line or chord changes. As far as lyrical tunes, I’ll hear a line in my head or I’ll read it and it’ll stay with me for months. Mostly I start with a title, like “Hidden in Plain Sight.” I read that in some magazine and I thought, “Wow, what a great title for a song!” You¹ll read something really cool that just inspires you to write. Or you¹ll have a feeling about something and you’ll write from that.
JP: What about the song titles on your new record, PERCoLAToR?
JW: “The Maze” had a mysterious feel to me. “Troll” came about because I needed one more tune to finish the record. A friend of mine, Matt Henderson, had this cool groove and this loop thing happening with the mellotrone. He had this old Selmer Zodiac — he asked me to come up and check it out. I liked it so much I plugged into it and he had this drum loop. I started jamming to it. “Troll” is one of everyone¹s favorite tunes — it’s so different. I have a feeling from that tune — it’s like a crawling. It felt like trolls underneath a bridge. Kind of crawly, kind of trolly kind of vibe when you hear it.
JP: Were you going for a certain mood or vibe on PERCoLAToR?
JW:I wanted to write something completely different from my other records. I wanted a change up. What inspired me was writing with drum loops. That was a good thing. I just started coming up with these different parts. I was just trying to change up my style. I was getting bored with my own music. I wanted to get into more groove-oriented music. I’ll always have a classic blues rock vibe in my guitar style, but I wanted to meld that with modern grooves and chord changes. I think I did it. I¹m gonna keep adventuring into that area — a little different twist on it. This is nice because it’s pushing me to play differently.
JP: So why the creative spelling of PERCoLAToR?
JW: It was the album cover designer’s idea; nothing more. It’s just an eye catcher. Just changing a few letters drives some people crazy [laughs].
JP: Of all the musicians you’ve worked with over the years, who would you drop everything to perform with tomorrow if you could?
JW: It’d be a tough choice. It’d be great to do a live show with Mavis Staples and Los Lobos. Those are great musicians — and really great people.
JP: If you had only a few minutes to grab possessions from your studio, what would you take?
JW: I’d grab my ’52 Tele [laughs]. The one I’ve been playing for so many years.
JP: That¹s the only one you’d grab?
JW: Well, I’d try to grab as many as I could and strap them on my back [laughs]. It’s been with me for so long [’52 Tele].
JP: In the past, you told me that Tele players are a special breed. Can you expand on what makes Tele players special?
JW: You have to really coax the Tele to get sounds out of it. They’re not really a powerful instrument. They’re not set up as easy as Gibson guitars. They don’t have big fat humbucking pick-ups that scream. You have to work a little harder; it forms your style. Tele players have a little more unique styleŠ.we¹d like to think [laughs]! We’re badly bent [laughs].
JP: What are your limitations?
JW: I wish I had more technique. I’d like to improve my technique and be able to get out more of what’s inside and be able to expand musically. Hopefully flawlessly. It doesn¹t matter if you make mistakes — as long as you can just bend out of them.
JP: Describe your ideal evening of performing.
JW: First of all, a great sounding room means a lot to musicians. Certain rooms have a great sound. Your amp has sustain and the drums have a great sound. And if there’s a nice roomful of people [laughs], that adds to the sound.
JP: And they¹re applauding wildly…
JW: And grooving and having a good time [laughs]. If you add a beautiful room with stage lighting that looks good and feels good. Mostly playing for a nice bunch of people is always wonderful. If everyone is into the music, it feels really good. Most perfect for me is when the band is really connecting and listening and playing off each other. A nice flow between you, the audience, and the band.
JP: Anything I forgot to ask you?
JW: Hmmmm. No, that’s it. We have a new band — we’re all really excited to play the new band out. You’ll probably hear a show that’s right on the edge.