Eric Schenkman is the co-founder/guitarist with The Spin Doctors. He has also just released his third solo album called Who Shot John? It’s a groove-filled extravaganza of bluesy, funky guitar oriented tunes. Eric was kind enough to call us from his home in Toronto to discuss the new album, his gear, playing at Woodstock and much more. You can listen to the full interview below.
The Full Interview
On Who Shot John?
“I’m very excited about it. It’s great. I just got back from New York. I played the record two nights in a row, . plus a set of some other some stuff the second night. It hangs together live really well.I’m psyched about it. I think it’s a good record.
“Who shot John? is an expression, actually, but I didn’t know that. I wrote the notion a long time ago and it was kicking around my head. Then I started playing regularly at a bar here in Toronto a couple of years ago and I needed more groovy material so I resurrected Who Shot John? I didn’t really have much of the lyric. And then when I started recording, which was just kind of an afterthought, I just started recording because I just had a lot of songs together and working. I went down to South Haven, Mississippi which is basically Memphis and my buddy Cody Dickinson who’s a drummer and a washboard player, I went down there to get him to play washboard on Who Shot John?
“I was down there and I set up the hard drive and he asked me what the song was and I said, “Who Shot John?” and he said, “My old man used to say that all the time.” and I was like, “Wait…Why?” It turns out it’s an old expression. It basically means…Jim, who was Cody’s dad used to say, “I don’t wanna hear any of that who shot John. Just tell me the answer to what I’m asking you.” So, in other words, it’s just kind of a cut the crap colloquialism from the South. So it was really easy for me to write the lyrics, even though it was mostly done. But it was just kind of fascinating to me, so I just finished it off. And I called the record that because it’s a loaded statement, literally, and it’s a question. It just seemed like that would be the best title.”
On the recording process
“It’s a pretty cool story, actually. My son went to live with his mother last December and suddenly, I had a little more space. I had been doing a regular gig where I sing every Wednesday night and play the guitar with a rhythm section. It’s mostly blues and stuff and original songs. It was a two stage thing. I have two drummer friends of mine that I see on the road periodically, and one of them’s name is Van Romaine. He is a fantastic drummer from East Orange, New Jersey. Back in 94, we had a trio together and I made a record with him then. So, I’ve known this guy for a long time. And I had the extreme pleasure of playing with him a couple years ago, and once again he said to me, “Man, you gotta come visit me. My drums are set up in the garage and it sounds great.” And I said, “Sure, sure,” cuz you do that with people.
“My son split and I had this time and I called Van and said I was gonna come over, so I just grabbed my guitar and a hard drive and I went to Van’s place and I just started recording this record. So, that’s how it started. I had the notion that there were a bunch of songs over the last several years that I wanted to either finish writing, write to begin with or re-record because I recorded them for somebody else or under a different circumstance or somebody else has recorded them or whatever. But these were tunes of mine, almost exclusively tunes of mine, I should add, two co-writes and it started occurring to me that that would be a good thing to do.
“So, I went to Van’s and I got some guitar and drum and vocal tracks and I went down to South Haven, to Cody’s place and I did the same thing and then I went back to Van’s and I went back to Cody’s again. And then I have a brilliant friend up here by the name of Shawn Kellerman out of Kitchener, Ontario, who’s a fantastic blues guitar player. He works for a guy down in Dallas named Lucky Peterson and he also works with me in Jerome Gother’s band for the last several years in Ontario. I called Shawn up and said “Hey, why don’t you produce this record with me?” Usually I play bass with him and this time I said, “You play bass with me.” So we had a slightly different tilt on the project and got busy.
“That’s how we did it and it was a lot of fun to make and it took probably about twelve months for ten tunes because I didn’t do it all the time. You know, I have other things going on. I still play with the Spin Doctors and I have some other gigs and some other responsibilities that I’m involved with. But in the end it came out sounding like it could have been recorded in a week.”
On playing at Woodstock
“In a weird way, it’s surreal. For me, as an electric guitar player, I was always very stubborn, especially at the time. I used to play with a lot of amplification cuz there were only three guys on the stage. I was just using a very loud amplifier and it sounded really good. Made the guitar sound good. That made me feel comfortable, at least there was something that was big around me. I don’t know man. The crowds always seemed friendly to me. You know what it’s like? It’s just like kicking a beach ball. That’s what it’s like. You’re making this sound and it’s almost like it’s a beach ball. You put it out there and people respond to soundwaves like that. You can feel them get it or not get it and you can tell if people don’t like what you’re doing and you can tell when people do like what you’re doing and you sort of navigate with notes like that. That’s how I look at it…in harmony and what not. You put the chords out there and you hope people are gonna groove on it. You have an opportunity. There’s rhythm and harmony possible. You’ve got six strings and two hands. Make it work. I enjoy it very much.
“I’ve been doing this for such a long time. It’s not a great deal different to playing to a little tiny club with three people in it. It’s the same challenge. You stand up on stage and you play music with your heart, with your body and largely without your brain. It’s based on your gut. It’s like you do when you go and play soccer. You’re not thinking when you’re really on it, you’re in it. When you stand up in front of a lot of people, you get the adrenaline. When you go see the World Series and you step into that stadium, you can feel that adrenaline, all those people. You just work with that energy. It’s a joy…and a privilege actually.”
Listen to the full interview at the top of the page for more
Official Site: https://ericschenkman.com/
Official Site: http://spindoctors.com/