Robert Silverstein, editor of 20th Century Guitar & mwe3.com (New York)
Aussie guitarist Ben Rogers graduated from the sound of his Instrumental Asylum and in 2007 he hit the street with Reverb Rehab. The results are pretty much the same: expertly crafted and rocking guitar instrumentals highlighted by Ben’s vast knowledge of guitarists and guitar arrangements. How many instrumental artists can combine tracks as diverse as “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “All The Things You Are” and Bert Weedon’s “Ginchy” all on the same album? Decked out with guitaristic cover art—with the back cover listing all the instruments used here—Reverb Rehab features Rogers on a wide range of electric guitars backed up by Nicki Scarlett (bass) and Denis Close (drums). The overall one-two punch of dazzling instrumentals played by expert hands makes Reverb Rehab one of the most favorable guitar instrumental CDs of the millennium. Added assets include detailed track by track notes on these classic covers and originals. www.blazz.com.au
GUITARS CENTER STAGE: AN INTERVIEW WITH BEN ROGERS
I spent my childhood in a rural grape-growing settlement called Coomealla, in the southwest of New South Wales. One of the itinerant grape pickers sent off a mail order for a guitar and instruction book. It was one of those advertisements that said “Learn to play guitar in three weeks!” He started teaching himself to play and then gave me a few lessons in the basics of plectrum guitar. I was immediately hooked, and started saving up for my own guitar. Eventually I had enough to buy my very own arch-top acoustic – an Australian Maton Alver. This was in 1962. I then took lessons for four years from a retired orchestral guitarist, and while still in high school started playing professional gigs in an instrumental trio, usually in country dance halls and private parties. As the sixties progressed the Ventures, Shadows and Duane Eddy were displaced by the British invasion. Teenage bands followed this trend, and I spent a couple of years playing covers of the Beatles, Stones, Kinks and Easybeats. Later on I moved across the continent to Perth, Western Australia, where I played all sorts of styles. I did a bit of session work for unsigned country music artists, played bass guitar in an original folk-rock band, played in a rhythm and blues pub bands, and formed a quartet called Vipers Dream, which was one of the first groups in Australia dedicated to the hot swing music of Django Reinhardt. In 1989 I moved to Melbourne and spent the next few years playing all sorts of things; freelance, corporate jazz gigs, and my own original projects. During a jazz gig with drummer Denis Close I discovered that he shared a love for surf guitar music, and we decided to form Instrumental Asylum to play that style. Bass player Nikki Scarlett was recruited to complete the trio, and we now all contribute to the compositions and arrangements for the project.
Our new CD is called Reverb Rehab, and it’s being released this month. After our 2006 debut album we still had a lot of material that we wanted to get down, and we were encouraged by favorable reviews so we headed straight back to the studio. We have our own studio in Melbourne, and we usually record live with a relatively simple setup sometimes 3 or 4 drum mics, one mic on the bass amp, and a couple of mics for the guitar amps. Although there’s a lot of surf-style music on both our albums, we draw from a range of influences with our writing and the tunes we cover – “Mr P.C.” by John Coltrane, “Nuages” by Django Reinhardt, and “She’s Not There” from the Zombies.
I have a weakness for guitars, and have about 20 new and old, including a few Alver Maton arch-tops, similar to my first guitar. Favorites depend on mood and material. For Reverb Rehab most tracks were done on a 1962 Fender Strat reissue, but on two tracks I used a 1963 Guild Thunderbird, which has a classic surf sound, and one track features an early sixties Maton Fyrebird 12 string with Bigsby tremolo. All of the guitars used on the album are pictured on the CD artwork. One track has an acoustic rhythm guitar, and for this I used a “cats eye” arch-top made by UK luthier John LeVoi. I also use this guitar for “hot swing” gigs. I use GHS strings – GB-Low, (011 to 053). They’re designed for tuning lower than concert, but they work well for me at standard pitch. My amp setup is a 1980s Mesa Boogie Simul-class III combo amp, and a 1961 Fender Vibrolux. I plug straight into the Boogie without any pedals. I don’t like using pedals between the guitar and amp, for me it seems to affect the attack of the guitar. I run a line out of the Boogie into a Boss Giga-delay pedal, and from this into the Vibrolux. This gives me a big echo sound without any loss of presence.
Initially Hank Marvin was a big influence, hearing The Shadows single “FBI” coming out of the valve radio in my father’s old Hudson Super Wasp was a life changing experience. My older brother had 5 albums by The Ventures, and I nearly wore these out! Other early influences included Duane Eddy, and Australian surf bands such as The Atlantics and Dave Bridge Trio. Over the years I’ve got into all sorts of guitarists including Santana, Jeff Beck, JJ Cale, David Gilmour, Peter Green, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Danny Gatton. However my all-time favorite is the incomparable Django Reinhardt.