IMM Web Edition

Mike Luno

Jenny interviews this awesome musician ...

Jenny: What first got you interested in playing guitar? Why is it so important to you?

Mike: The electric guitar was the instrument of musical rebellion in my early childhood - full of vitality, aggression and power. I tended to develop first a morbid curiosity, then a keen interest, in things that made my between-war-generation parents wary (hence my interest in snakes, too). Now, my view is quite different - I just love good guitar tone the way someone with a sweet tooth loves quality chocolate. It connects with me at a primal as well as at discerning level.

Jenny: What was your first guitar?

Mike: An early-'70's made-in-Japan SG copy sold in North America under the 'Lyle' brand name. If an SG had a bolt-on neck, very poor single-coil pick-ups and a Jazzmaster-style vibrato, it would be the Lyle. The amp was an early '70's tube model made by Garnet but sold through Eaton's under the 'Vagabond' brand name. 10 watts, 2X6" speakers, If memory serves. Trem and reverb. Sounded cool, but often electrocuted me. Apparently a design flaw (in the amp, not me). Bought the whole package for $75 from a used furniture shop in Armstrong, BC with a summer's worth of allowance for shoveling horse manure. I literally went through crap to get that guitar.

Jenny: Who are your musical influences? Why? What are your favorite techniques from your influencers?

Mike: Although I'd consider myself a songwriter first and guitarist second, I'll keep this to guitar influences: Roy Buchanan, Alex Lifeson, Pat Travers, Jimmy Page, Allan Holdsworth, Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Buckley, Daniel Lanois, Danny Gatton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Bonamassa, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Frank Gambale, Angus and Malcolm Young, Andy Summers, Dave "Fuze" Fiuczynski, Les Paul, Django Reinhardt, Brian Setzer, Pat Martino, Lenny Breau, Steve Lukather, David Gilmour, Trevor Rabin, Steve Howe, Mark Knopfler. For technique, I'd single out good old Eddie Van Halen, although I sound nothing like him. I hugely respect his precise-yet-natural feel, tasteful and imaginative rhythm guitar, genius lead embellishments, innovations, strategic simplicity and distinctive tone. Like most of my heroes, he also borrows heavily from other genres but assimilates it into something very accessible yet distinctive. As for technique - I never want it to leap out at me that something technically unusual is happening. I just want to be blown away by the music, whether it's lightning lead lines or one sustained note.

Jenny: Are you self taught or had schooling and/ or lessons? Do you play by ear or read sheet music or both?

Mike: I'm in a funny twilight-zone with this one. I've got tons of formal musical training, including a BMus, with absolutely none of it on the guitar. I taught myself how to play guitar after I'd studied piano formally for a few years and and had learned ukelele at school when I was 10. It wasn't until a decade later when I started teaching guitar that I took the bull by the horns and learned to read musical notation for the guitar specifically. It's still not my forte on guitar, but I can do it. Because I learned to play guitar in the years long before the internet or even much available tablature, lifting tunes by ear off records was my modus operandi. It came in very handy during ear-training classes at university!

Jenny: How many guitars do you own? Which one is your most precious and why?

Mike: Excluding electric basses, 16, spread out over several locations. Nothing that a collector would take a second look at. Although most came off an assembly line, there's still the odd individual instrument that's an unusually nice specimen for tone and feel - and that sums up my fave, my '02 Gibson Les Paul Classic. It's stock, the maple top isn't figured at all, but it speaks to me...until I met this Les Paul, I'd been a strat guy for years! A '93 G&L Legacy, to be precise, which is still quite a workhorse for me.

Jenny: What guitar strings, pedals, etc do you use? Why?

Mike: Strings - Ernie Ball Regular Slinky (10-46). Pedals - I'm pretty minimal: Vox V847 Wah, Samson Airline AP1 Wireless, Line 6 DL4 Delay, Boss RT-20 Rotary, Boss TU-2 chromatic tuner, Visual Sound Garage Tone Drive Train Overdrive.

Jenny: What gear besides guitar would they have to pry from your hands?

Mike: If I could obtain a nice, pre-CBS Fender blackface Deluxe or Vibrolux, you'd have to pry it from me - but at this moment, it's not an issue. Otherwise, I have a violin that my great-grandfather built in 1914. Its tone is actually rather poor, and it would have zero value to anyone else - but it's beautiful to me.

Jenny: Do you play any other instruments besides guitar?

Mike: In order of skill from best to worst: voice, bass (acoustic or electric), saxophone, keyboard/piano, drums, violin, cello

Jenny: Have you been in any competitions and/or won any special awards and/or titles?

Mike: Island Music Awards - Winner of Best Male Vocalist, 2005; nominated for IMA in previous years for Best Songwriter, Best Song. Catch us at the Roxy, Vancouver, on July 26 for Supernova Showcase.

Jenny: How does music affect you and the world around you?

Mike: Walk into any public place that is designed to give you an enjoyable experience - a restaurant, a club, a store, a movie theatre - and you'll hear music of some sort. Even in its most banal roles, it enhances the human experience. It provides comfort, empathy, energy, engagement. I teach it in schools where I hear students work to learn the musical language, and I see their great, spontaneous bursts of enthusiasm when they feel they've made a step toward mastery of it. It's a natural companion to emotion, as an instigator, sympathizer, amplifier, magnifier, enhancer and hallucinogen.

Jenny: Are their any current projects you or your band "Mike Luno Band" working on?

Mike: On July 26 at 7 pm, we'll be performing at the Roxy (Vancouver) as part of the Supernova showcase of about half a dozen local bands - and this will be a competitive arena. Our next CD, "Come On Come On Come On" is recorded and awaiting release in the Fall, and I've demo'd about 2/3 of the album that will follow COCOCO. Keep track of us or get in touch at our website, mikelunoband.com , or at twitter or facebook by the same name.

Jenny: Who is the world's greatest guitarist? Who is the worlds most underated guitarist?

Mike: Greatest - no such thing in my book. A great artist speaks in his/her own voice, and if that voice speaks to your heart, that's the greatest guitarist for you. I hugely respect Allan Holdsworth, in that he essentially invented his own harmonic dialect, and his tone and technique are things of profound grace and beauty (guitar synthesizer excepted). Most of the world's music listeners would probably consider his material nearly unlistenable, or at least alien - which only speaks to his courage. Underrated - this is a bit tricky, because the line between 'underrated' and 'unknown' is rather blurred. I read recently that Angus Young is considered Australia's greatest guitarist, with Frank Gambale trailing way, way behind. Nothing against Angus, he's good at what he does, but Gambale is clearly superior in versatility, technical skill, and, arguably, artistry. Do people honestly believe Young is superior to Gambale? I doubt it - I'd suppose very few non-guitarists have actually heard of Gambale, that's all. Likewise, local guitarists Dave Martone and Brian Paulson are well known among informed guitarists as the jaw-dropping players they are - but non-guitarists might not yet have heard much of them. Here's hoping that changes. As for a guitarist that might often be upstaged or unnoticed - I'm leaning toward Trevor Rabin, guitarist for Yes 1983-94. Great songwriter, vocalist, producer, and stellar guitarist for modern tone (for that time) and facility. Even the current line-up of Yes seems to give him short shrift, so I think he'd definitely qualify as underrated. Likewise, Daniel Lanois is much better-known as a producer (U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and more), but his guitar-playing - conventional and pedal-steel - has a great non-technical, atmospheric beauty.

Jenny: For beginners, in order of importance, what should they be practicing? For advanced guitarists, what should they be doing ( to build speed, and perfecting their scales, etc)?

Mike: Whatever enthuses you about putting a guitar in your hands, DO IT! Log time on the thing, and your natural musical hunger will take you where you need to go. Play often just for the fun of it. Try to start with a healthy left-hand position (no collapsed palm), but otherwise - follow your enthusiasm wherever it goes, and try never to be discouraged by the distance yet to travel to reach your goals. Don't feel like a "natural" at the guitar? Good, that means you're human. Play along with recordings, other guitarists and bands often, and don't fear mistakes or your relative inexperience/skill deficits. Do what you can to fix them, but don't fear them. Fear no knowledge or the energy it takes to learn, and remember - it's all head, heart and groin in roughly equal measure ;). Advanced guitarists - your greatest adversary now is complacency. Challenge yourself with the unfamiliar.