Magazine article Guitar Player

David Rhodes

Magazine article Guitar Player

David Rhodes

Article excerpt

IF I CAN GET away with playing only one note in a song," says David Rhodes, "for me, that's success." But unlike many "play-for-the-song" players who view restraint as a function of musical superiority, David Rhodes will joyfully send up any illusions you might have about him being a great player. Rhodes gasps when hearing simple fingerpicking licks: "I can't play those fancy guitar parts!"

Peter Gabriel's guitarist of choice since 1979, the 36-year-old Rhodes has also played on albums by Toni Childs and Joan Armatrading. His latest work is on Gabriel's new Geffen release Us, the first collection of new Gabriel vocal songs since 1986's blockbuster album So, on which Rhodes laid down slinky guitar grooves for the funky hits "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time."

So why did Gabriel hire Rhodes 13 years ago, plucking him from an obscure new-wave band called Random Hold? "I don't know," Rhodes exclaims, mystified. "I was suddenly standing in a room with people like (drummer] Jerry Marotta, who were on a level of musicianship 10 times as high as I could ever expect to reach. I still feel like that when I'm in a room with a lot of musicians, because technically I've never been any good. What I do well is groove and play the song. In rock music the most important thing is getting across the mood and the song."

When Gabriel recorded his third eponymous album in 1980 [Mercury], the aim was to use every instrument in a non-conventional way. Rhodes began playing distorted, open-tuned block chords, two- or three-note melody lines, and atmospheric effects that flew in the face of conventional lead and rhythm roles--an approach that has become his trademark.

"I share Peter's attitude of avoiding the obvious," Rhodes offers, sitting in the attic studio of a renovated hay barn just yards away from the old English cottage he calls home. "It helped that I was completely unable to play the obvious guitar things. I enjoy people who play really well, but it's the attitude, the way you look at music, which is all-important."

Us is much more guitar-heavy than So. This shift in direction becomes clear as soon as Rhodes' mightily distorted feedback commences the opening cut, "Come Talk To Me." Rhodes credits the record's sound to producer/guitarist Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan). "Daniel played a lot of guitar on this album," Rhodes explains. "He felt that the immediacy of the guitar would help the songs. But I don't think Peter particularly wanted it to be a more guitary record. There are bits of it which are too guitary, actually." While most of the guitar parts are Rhodes', Bill Dillon plays on "Love To Be Loved," and the Meters' legendary Leo Nocentelli appears on two tracks as well.

Rhodes' main guitars are three Steinbergers: a 12-string, a model with a TransTrem transposing tremolo, and a very early prototype. …

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