Guitars Of The Week:
The Week of April, 28 2003 through May, 5 2003


Hollow T Classic
Alder
Cherry Burst

What would you call a guy who wears a bright yellow, rubber jumpsuit on stage? Weird? Now wait just a minute. How can you say that? Performing with an Anderson Hollow T Classic, he is undoubtedly a superb musician. There must be another explanation.

And there is…this is Jim West, Weird Al Yankovic’s very, very superb guitar player. It is he who is responsible for replicating all those wonderful guitar tones needed to capture the feel of the songs and artists they parody. He is quite an impressive guitar player. Their new album, Poodle Hat, will be out May 20th, followed by a summer tour. Also, the band recently appeared on an episode of the Simpsons that aired April 13th—very fun! This is how Jim and his Anderson were caricatured. He dropped by the other day to have us add a VA1 pickup in the middle position of his Hollow T Classic. While he was here, we snapped these shop shots and asked him a few questions.

TAGW: Did we hear you say you were born in Canada? If so, when did you come to the U.S.?

Jim: I was born in the lovely city of Toronto, an old Indian name that means, “Large village full of soon-to-be, ego-centric guitar players.” I came to the U.S. when I was an innocent lad of nine and a half years.

TAGW: When did you begin to play?

Jim: I started playing around age twelve; right about the time a young man realizes he’d better find something cool to make girls like him!

TAGW: Who did you play with before Al?

Jim: Man, I played with every freakin’ loser you can imagine—circus clowns, megalomaniacs, old toothless mojo-men—you name it. Al was the first normal person I hooked up with. Only kidding...I was in numerous, mostly original, rock bands in my formative years with many very talented players and we were all heavily into improvised jamming and such. Music was, and still is, about fun.

TAGW: How did you come to play with the Weird Al band?

Jim: Soon after I moved to L.A., a then-former band mate, Steve Jay, called and introduced me to Al, with the offer to join his band. It was like, “Al who—you mean that guy with the accordion?” I'll have to admit, at the time I felt the “artist” in me recoil with disgust and resignation but I soon came to realize what a genius Al is and that his art is so very unique.

TAGW: How long have you been with Al?

Jim: Over twenty years now. Al’s career has outlived almost everyone he has parodied.

TAGW: How did you first discover Tom Anderson guitars?

Jim: I was introduced to my guitar-tech/guru, Brian Swerdfeger, via a friend and fabulous guitarist, Charles “Icarus” Johnson. He played with people like George Duke and Stanley Clarke back when he was a kid. Around 1992, I was at Brian's place and he showed me these guitars. They were the best I had ever played. It was the closest thing to falling in love I have ever experienced. They just about played themselves and they sounded so full and refined—not to mention their good looks.

TAGW: How has Anderson guitars made your job, or music, easier?

Jim: They play like butter so whatever you’re hearing in your head gets out through your fingers that much easier.

TAGW: Are you a silly person?

Jim: Absolutely not!! I am always in control and would NEVER think of ever allowing myself to stoop to such low forms of behavior. Someone has to maintain at least a smidgen of normalcy around here!

TAGW: How much is the band involved in coming up with the silly ideas?

Jim: You know, Al pretty much comes up with most of the album and video stuff but we contribute a little here and there. Mostly it’s in the development of good ideas for pranks to play on the less fortunate members of the crew.

TAGW: What is the yellow rubber suit with the atom symbol you are wearing?

Jim: It’s DEVO! The song and video for “Dare To Be Stupid,” recorded back in the eighties, is a stylistic parody of those nutty new wavers.

TAGW: What other types of music do you like and do you play other places when not with Al?

Jim: I write music for TV and film which can cover just about any style. I also play Hawaiian “slack key” quite a bit and am pretty well-known in Hawaii for it. I have a CD of original instrumentals, “Coconut Hat,” which is available on Amazon.com.

TAGW: We have heard of your “slack key” playing before. In fact, you did a bit of it on a Crowdster at the NAMM Show for us—very beautiful playing. Is you heart in Hawaii?

Jim: I go to Hawaii as much as possible but lately it’s only been twice a year or so. I love the place dearly and I hope to move there permanently within a few years.

TAGW: Is a coconut hat a type of fruit hat? Is there a hat something going on here that we should know about? Do you have your own dog hat?

Jim: No, but I want one....what the devil is a dog hat?

TAGW: A poodle hat is a type of dog hat—is it not?

Jim: Yea, you're right. Actually, in the new album’s cover photo the poodle IS the hat! Guess Al was trying to copy me with this hat thing. A coconut hat is a hat woven from coconut fronds, often sold to tourists.

TAGW: So then, do you have your own dog hat? If so what breed do you wear and does you hat wag its tail when it is happy?

Jim: No, I don’t but if I did it would be something small and really furry so that my ears would stay warm. A wagging tail would be good.

TAGW: How many Anderson guitars do you have and which ones are your favorites or do you spread it out fairly evenly?

Jim: I have, to date, about four hundred and ten Anderson Guitars. They have been so incredibly generous to me over the years! No seriously, I have two—The Classic with a “Floyd” and a single/single/humbucking pickup set-up and a Hollow T Classic with a newly-added middle pickup. They pretty much cover the bases, although the new Crowdster Acoustic is pretty cool.

TAGW: What do you do to prepare for a Weird Al Show—anything special?

Jim: We all get together and throw ice cubes in the toilet before we go on—it’s an old custom.

TAGW: Who can do the most push-ups in the band?

Jim: Hmmm...I would bet it’s either me or Al—probably Al. He's good at everything.

TAGW: Do you want anymore Anderson guitars? If yes, what would they be?

Jim: Yes, yes, yes—and that would be a tough decision—but a fun one!!!

TAGW: You must have to cover a lot of styles, what amps do you play through?

Jim: Well, for live shows it’s pretty simple since sound is less critical and reliability is paramount. My guitar signal goes through a Shure wireless and into a Cry Baby pedal which feeds a Marshall JMP-1 preamp with a Roland line-level volume pedal on the output. Out of there it’s into an RSP Intelliverb—an older FX box that still sounds great. Then it goes to both a Ground Control Mix-Plus—for the amp simulator-stereo out to the board—and also to a Boogie 2:90—which feeds a pair of Marshall 4x12’s, that are mic’ed. Midi switching is via a Rocktron All Access switcher. I’ve been using the same setup for years. It works great and never breaks.

TAGW: Rumor has it that Poodle Hat was recorded at Mad Dog Studios in Burbank, California?

Jim: The CD was recorded at Mad Dog in Burbank. Basic tracks were analog and that was dumped to Pro Tools HD at 96K for overdubs. The originals were mixed at Icon in Hollywood and the parodies and polka medley were mixed at Westlake Audio. I did a couple of last minute fixes at Westlake and did some mandolin parts here at home.

TAGW: We couldn’t help but wonder if Mad Dog was selected for its canine affiliation?

Jim: Never thought of that...makes sense, doesn’t it? Actually, we started working there before the CD was named. It’s a nice place and they have an old Neve console.

TAGW: What parodies can we expect or is it a secret?

Jim: Sorry, the parodies are top secret right now. They're all great though!

TAGW: We look forward to finding out. If you could give one gift to the world what would it be?

Jim: Peace and compassion for our fellow human beings—the Aloha Spirit, as they say in the islands.

GUITAR SPECIFICATIONS:


• MODEL: – Hollow T Classic

• FINISH: – Cherry Burst

• BODY WOOD: – Alder

• BODY WOOD BACK COLOR: – same

• NECK WOOD: – Maple

• HEADSTOCK COLOR: – Natural

• NECK BACK FINISH: – Satin

• NECK BACKSHAPE: – Small 50’s “V”

• NUT WIDTH: – 1 5/8ths

• SCALE LENGTH: – 25 1/2-inch

• FRETS: – Heavy

• BRIDGE: – Fixed with Piezo Saddles for plugged-in Acoustic Guitar Sounds

• TUNING GEAR: – Split Shaft

• HARDWARE COLOR: – Chrome

• PICKGUARD: – Pearl White

• NECK PICKUP: – TV1

• MIDDLE PICKUP: – VA1

• BRIDGE PICKUP: – TV3

• SWITCHING: – 5-Way with Push/Pull Add-Bridge Switch on Tone Control—for 7 sounds

• PICKUP COVERS: – Chrome for Neck and Coffee Dipped for Middle

• PICKUP RINGS: – N/A

• STRING GAUGE REQUESTED: – .010-.046

• DESTINATION/LOCATION: – Artist

• 09-28-99P

GUITAR SPECIFICATIONS:


• MODEL: – The Classic

• FINISH: – 3 Color Burst

• BODY WOOD: – Swamp Ash

• BODY WOOD BACK COLOR: – same

• NECK WOOD: – Maple with Madagascar Rosewood Fingerboard

• HEADSTOCK COLOR: – Natural

• NECK BACK FINISH: – Satin

• NECK BACKSHAPE: – 62 Roundback

• NUT WIDTH: – 1 5/8ths

• SCALE LENGTH: – 25 1/2-inch

• FRETS: – Heavy

• BRIDGE: – Sunken Floyd Rose

• TUNING GEAR: – Split Shaft

• HARDWARE COLOR: – Chrome

• PICKGUARD: – Pearl White

• NECK PICKUP: – SD1R

• MIDDLE PICKUP: – SD1

• BRIDGE PICKUP: – H3

• SWITCHING: – Switcheroo—for almost unlimited sound combinations

• PICKUP COVERS: – N/A

• PICKUP RINGS: – N/A

• STRING GAUGE REQUESTED: – .010-.046

• DESTINATION/LOCATION: – Artist

• 09-13-94P



Hollow T Classic
Alder
Cherry Burst






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