Something to Crow About

The San Francisco Bay area has depth, and not just in the ocean deep or championship sports teams. The musical legacy of the Bay Area also has a depth that is truly impressive. When you count the number of talented musicians that have sailed out of San Francisco over the years, it's hard to fathom why SF wasn't the metropolis labeled, "Music City, USA." Just the contributions that guitarists alone have made from the "City by the Bay" are immense: Garcia, Santana, Kaukonen, Cipollina, Schon, Hammett, LaLonde, Gilbert, Kimock, Satriani (yeah, he's from NY but he's been in SF for a long time now). And that's just in the realm of guitar.

Dating back to the mid-'50s, San Francisco's rich musical heritage has given life to more than just a few musicial icons, starting with Bobby Freeman of "Do You Wanna Dance" fame (circa 1958). The Kingston Trio had our parents and grand-parents tapping their folk-loving toes. And then - one word for you - psychedelic. San Francisco was THE musical hotbed during the '60s and churned out many of the finest proponents of that genre: Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, The Grateful Dead, Sons of Champlin, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Blue Cheer, Country Joe and the Fish. Would Woodstock have been the same without Country Joe and the Fish? I don't think so.

The list is truly amazing. As the '70s roll on, acts like Boz Scaggs, Hot Tuna, The Residents, Sly and the Family Stone, Elvin Bishop, Graham Central Station and others carried on the musical traditional. Along comes the '80s and in a warehouse, somewhere within the city limits, Adam Duritz and Dave Immergluck share an apartment, share a friendship and once again, musical legacy takes flight.

While taking time out from their recent Hard Candy tour, Dave Immergluck shares his thoughts with on the rich Bay Area musical heritage, his staggering collection of guitars, and why a Vox Phantom is really more of an Ian Curtis guitar, than a Brian Jones guitar. Hello Dave, how you doing? 

Dave Immergluck: Great! How are you? I am well. I can't believe I am speaking with you a 9 a.m. in the morning.

Immergluck: (laughing) I can't believe you're speaking with me at 9 a.m. in the morning. Being a musician, working within the industry for years, I don't know that I've ever spoken to any player before noon (laughs)

Immergluck: Well the real shock of it all is that I've already watched a movie this morning. Now that's impressive. Actually, as I was dialing the phone I was thinking, 'Hmmm, well maybe he won't have been to bed as of yet.' (laughing)

Immergluck: (laughs) Right, let me tell you, if you caught me on Friday or Saturday, that would definitely have been the case. I've been decompressing since then. Excellent. Is this downtime? I know you were in Europe as recently as last week, if I'm not mistaken.

Immergluck: We're actually filming a TV commercial today. We just finished up in Europe on Thursday and some of us flew to Manhattan and have just been, quote, 'chillin' out,' unquote. Well, then let us get to the business at hand then, so you can get back to all that. Back in like '91, I was working in Artist Relations for a music manufacturer and I received a call from someone within Counting Crows inner-circle, asking if they could forward some info for a prospective endorsement. I said 'sure' and a month or two later, I got a package.

Immergluck: Right. The only problem was, when it arrives, it was just a cassette tape. No press kit, no contact info, no cover letter, no nothing. It's one of those old transparent cassette tapes with the neon stripes all over it. It has a bad blue sticker on it with what looks like a chili stain on one side of it. It contains the songs "Omaha," "'Round Here" and "Forty Years" on it.

Immergluck: Oh yeah, that's like the original demo. Wait, it only has three songs? Just three songs. This is like around '91-ish.

Immergluck: Jeez, I don't know what that is. There was this demo that was going around that was 10 or 12 songs, but way more then three. Unfortunately, I didn't get that version. The worst part of this whole thing was, I didn't have any contact info.

Immergluck: Nothing on the sticker? Just 'Counting Crows - side A' and the aforementioned chili stain.

Immergluck: (laughing) yeah, that had to be someone from the band. No idea. It was almost a year and a half later, when someone from management called me and said, 'I'm with Counting Crows and we'd like to speak with you about a possible endorsement.' It was just before August was released. I wanted desperately to work with the band but I hadn't a clue as to who they were, where they were from.

Immergluck: So they contacted you over a year later? Yeah, easily.

Immergluck: Awesome. How strange? That might have been something that David Bryson (original guitarist and still a member of Counting Crows) passed around, really, really early on. I would love to think that it was someone in the band but I haven't a clue.

Immergluck: Bryson was doing all the demos way back then. Talking about early demos, I read an interview with you early on talking about a version of "Mr. Jones" that never saw the light of day.

Immergluck: Right, I remember talking about that. Where'd you read that? I don't recall. But as soon as I read it I had to dig up that old demo to see if "Mr. Jones" was on it. I couldn't recall. I had to dig through tons of boxes to find it.

Immergluck: The "Mr. Jones" thing had to be like '90 or early '91. Adam and I were living in this warehouse and he was doing some stuff with Bryson and I was playing in this band, Monks of Doom. And I brought home this tape. I had just done this tribute record to the year 1966 and we had done this version of the Mothers' of Invention, "Who are the Brain Police." It was full-on. We did it in the 24-track studio that we'd always use in San Francisco. We really got into the psychedelic production aspect of the song. So I had that and I came home and I'm like, 'All right - let me play this for you.' And Adam had this 8-track or maybe even 4-track demo of "Mr. Jones," that was this weird pachinko palace beat box - 'bloop, bleep, bleep, bloop, bleep, bleep' - kinda of beat on it, along with an equally weird sounding Roxy Music electric guitar. And the song didn't sound anything like what we know as "Mr. Jones" now. Interesting. I'd like to hear that.

Immergluck: Well, I remember we played the songs to each other and Adam was like 'Ugh, I'll go back to the drawing board,' because ours was so well produced. And I was thinking that there was something in that song. It's cool. That's a great story. Who knew? So '93 rolls around; I had no idea that you were involved with Counting Crows so early along. You're resume is absolutely mind-boggling!

Immergluck: I do love to play music Indeed you do and you do it well. So in '93 you're not a member of the band, you're still finishing up with the Monks of Doom? Were you touring?

Immergluck: I'm not sure how that all worked. I was touring with Monks of Doom and I had already started recorded with Counting Crows. Adam had called me down to play guitar on the record, and I played mandolin. I was doing that on and off. I remember I was on this King Missile Tour. Remember those guys? Hmmm, no, nothing comes to mind.

Immergluck: Sure, they had that song "Detachable Penis." Oh yeah, right I remember them.

Immergluck: Well, it was the Monks of Doom and King Missile and we were making mayhem across the Northeast. I had already recorded a little bit with Counting Crows and Adam had asked me to join right then. And I wasn't really sure that I wanted to do it. So I went back and recorded with them some more. I played a few gigs with them and I just decided not to join, right then. And this is right before the record came out (August and Everything After, 1993) Well, that must have been a pretty critical time for them, but obviously you had a lot of other things going on as well.

Immergluck: I needed to take a breather from being in bands and I just wanted - I don't know - I should go back in time - there's been too many pints of beer between then and now (laughs). I just needed to do something else right then, I guess and as it turns out I wound up playing with all these other people. Playing with John Hiatt was like, absolutely the best possible thing I could have done at the time. It was like, that didn't come up for like a year and a half after I decided not to do Counting Crows. I had read that John Hiatt thought he was always hard on his guitarists but he seems like such as easy-going guy. 

Immergluck: Well, I never felt that John was hard on me. I just felt that he was really into music and so was I. For me, it was like a dream musical boot camp, basically. The rhythm section was about the best section you could get. I just learned so much about playing in a band, recording records, so much about playing music. So I was really glad that happened. The time I saw you at Greene's Grocery in Tennessee, John had completely stripped down the orchestration. Really bare-bones and totally low-tech.

Immergluck: That was without a drummer, wasn't it? It was just me, Davey and John. He had like a box and a snare.

Immergluck: Oh, oh! We weren't doing the microphone on the piece of wood? You might have been. I walked in late and you were playing a strum-stick and John was playing this great old J-200 (plus bass and percussion) and you guys sounded huge for such a basic arrangement. Great vocals. The sound system in there was just amazing.

Immergluck: All right. Yeah the owner was a close friend of John's. I don't think that place is open to the public anymore. Only for special events or something like that. Too bad. It's a great house. John has gone through quite an array of musicians, guitarists especially. Ry Cooder, Sonny Landreth, Michael Landau, Michael Ward and you - that's a mighty fine corral of talent. Many of which, I suppose, are studio cats and wouldn't necessarily be touring with him but it was more his quote about being tough on guitarists. I'm sure his tongue was planted firmly in his cheek when he said that.

Immergluck: Quite possibly. I actually really miss playing with John, a lot. Note that John suffers no fools. So anyone pretending or having airs of being something they're not. It ain't gonna fly. There's a lot to be said for that. It cuts directly to the chase. How about your career highlights, for those who may not be familiar with you; to just name a few - Camper Van Beethoven; Cracker; of course, John Hiatt; and currently Counting Crows.

Immergluck: And I'm very proud to be a member of Counting Crows, believe me. Understandably. Also in the role of studio musician or maybe even "sideman," you have an incredible list of album credits: Shawn Mullins, Joan Osbourne, Hootie, Sheryl Crow, Tommy Carns, Jackopierce - which I was a big fan of. But they came and went before anyone really had a real chance to know about them.

Immergluck: Yeah, they sorta disappeared. I hadn't really heard of them but my friend Don Smith is a producer. I met him - he was the first guy I worked with through John Hiatt. He used me a lot and he brought me up to his house for this band, Jackopierce. It was really cool. I like that record too! Finest Hour, right? Yeah, that was their last effort. Their first record came out in like '92. I think they had four or five releases. The first couple were indies and were somewhat under the radar. Bringing On the Weather (produced by T-Bone Burnett) was their major label debut, with Finest Hour being the follow up. I thought they were going to be bigger.

Immergluck: Yeah, they kinda dissolved after that came out. It's a shame. I agree. It's too bad. But you've had the blessing of being in some incredible bands and also having the career capability or maybe just the available time, to play along some great artists, making them sound even better. At this point, you're obviously a devoted member of Counting Crows, but was there a time where you were considering yourself more of the studio musician or maybe in-between full-time gigs, did you consider yourself the consummate sideman?

Immergluck: I'll tell you - people always say that. So how was that? What's it like being a sideman? Oh, you're the sideman guy! You're the session guy! For me, it's like, I never really thought of myself as either a session or sideman, type of guy. To me, it's all just music. They're all just ways of achieving the same goal, making great music. I love recording. I love the process of recording. I love the magic that happens when you don't know what you're going to do and it's just that the tape recorder just captures it. It captures you discovering the right thing at the right moment or one of a few right things that could go in this particular song you're recording. I'm just addicted to that. I just love that whole process. I think the part that just struck me about your musical legacy, if you will, you usually see a guy like Michael Landau or a Brent Rowan [Editor's note: see the interview with Brent:], who are true sideman/session cats, with amazing album credits to their name but not really attached to any bands, or the opposite. The breadth of your career spans a number of great and somewhat influential bands plus a ton of session credits, wall-to-wall. That's kind of an anomaly in this industry. You're certainly in the minority and I think that's an exceptional thing.

Immergluck: Well, like I said, I do love to make music. I feel like I'm full-time Counting Crows right now. We're doing a military campaign. We're on the road until next Christmas. Are you really?

Immergluck: Yeah, it's looking that way. But that kind of schedule wouldn't really allow me much time to get involved in any other projects. A friend of mine is doing a solo album back in LA and I work that whenever I can. That's about it. But if I had more time, I'd be playing in as many possible musical situations as I could. Back when I saw you with Hiatt, you had some great old instruments on stage. And because you play just about anything that has a string on it. You must have an amazing collection of guitars, amps and miscellaneous gear. Got a few favorites you care to share with us?

Immergluck: Oh, yeah. It's an embarrassment of riches. I'll bet. What are the highlights.

Immergluck: The guitar I played for about twenty years is this 1960s Strat, which I rarely play anymore. This weird thing happened. I played this guitar forever. I had no money. I didn't own any other guitars. This was it. It was right around 1993. I did this thing - something happened to one of my tendons. I couldn't move my fingers for about six weeks. It was horrible. I tried all this different stuff. Took all these different medications. Weird exercises, nothing was making it happen. Finally, I went to acupuncture. I'm a real skeptic but for whatever was ailing me right then, in twenty minutes, I was 80% cured. When I came out of this thing, I borrowed this Gibson guitar from David Bryson that was sitting around in my apartment. It was a re-issue of one of those Les Paul Specials with two P-90s in it. I started playing that and I was playing in this band Papa's Culture up in the Bay Area. I started using that when I got back on guitar. And ever since, I've been pretty much exclusively Gibson. Really?

Immergluck: Yeah, I never really went back to that original Stratocaster after I pulled my tendon. I don't know if they were ever related or what but now I've got this 1963 SG, that is just my Satan's guitar. If I'm going to a session or whatever and I can only bring one instrument, that's the instrument I bring. Ya know, 'C'mon down to the studio,' 'C'mon, sit in at this gig.' That's the guitar I'll always bring. It never lets me down. The pickups are just sick on it. It's great. I have it set up for slide guitar and it just howls. I've got a 1971 Les Paul Deluxe. I usually hate these guitars. Ya know, they have the mini-humbuckers on them, and I usually hate them. But for some reason, this guitar is just pure magic. I play that one a lot with Counting Crows. I have a black 335 from the early '90s, which is a surprise, but it just sings. I just recently picked up a 1996 non-reverse Firebird. Nice, I've never been comfortable playing them but in the right hands...

Immergluck: Yeah, this one is a really cool guitar. I've got two mandolins from 1917 that are always out on the road with me. A-style's? 

Immergluck: Yeah, one's a A-1 and one's an A-4. I swear by the A-style mandolin with the oval soundhole. The F's are much more valuable, more expensive and more ornate but there's something about the simple design of the A-style mandolin that just sounds really good to me. Plus the oval soundhole, I think is really important. The F holes just don't sound as good, in my opinion. You have these loaded with pickups? 

Immergluck: Everything has Fishman pickups on them. All my acoustics have Fishman, as well. So how many guitars do you normally take on the road with you for a Counting Crows tour?

Immergluck: I've got the two mandolins, I've got an electric 4-string mandolin, this Kentucky, okay that's the mando's. I've got my Les Paul Deluxe, my SG. I have a Firebird I from '63. I have the '66 Firebird. I have the 335. I do have a Telecaster that's fitted with the Parsons-White B-Bender. That's a really special guitar for me. I have a J-185 acoustic and an L-00 acoustic. Ooh, I also have a Vox Phantom 12-string. Oh, that must be killer. 

Immergluck: It's totally sick. A lot of these guitars, like the Firebird I, I got from my guitar tech. The Les Paul Deluxe I got from my guitar tech. The Vox, I got from my guitar tech. He's my guitar, drug dealer basically. He goes out and buys guitars and then I plug 'em in and never let them go. (laughing) Well it sounds like he's found some real classics. Who is the tech?

Immergluck: Billy Thompson Bill, who used to be with Lou Reed?

Immergluck: He used to be with Lou Reed. I know Bill. It's been a long while, oh that's great. Please give him my best.

Immergluck: He was also with R.E.M., Bob Dylan He'll love the fact that you knew he was with Lou Reed. That's when we first met. We were both New Yorkers at the time. Running in similar camps. That's 12 guitars right there and for some reason, I'm thinking you're not done yet.

Immergluck: Oh, I've got my Fender pedal steel, 8-string pedal steel. What no baritone?

Immergluck: (laughs) Yup! Of course, thank you, I've got my Danoelectro out. It was a Dano 6-string which I converted to a Baritone. I put a different bridge on it, a different nut. Like an old one?

Immergluck: Yeah, an old one. There was this store in Berkeley, California called... Subway Guitars

Immergluck: Subway Guitars, right. I used to live in that store. So I just grabbed one of their Silvertones and had them fix it up for me. I gotta tell you about the Vox though. It one of those one's that's shaped like a squished stop sign. Right, that's a good description.

Immergluck: You know I saw it and I thought, 'oh man, Brian Jones, the Rolling Stones.' In fact I think I've seen Sterling Morrison playing this exact guitar with the Velvet Underground. It was soooo cool. Really - well that was the time, right?

Immergluck: Well, I'm playing on stage and I whip it out onstage, the day Billy brought it to the show and I just used it that night on the song "Hard Candy." I'm rocking next to Adam and he looks down and sees the guitar. He freaks out and goes 'totally cool.' And after the show I said to him, 'did you check out my Velvet Underground guitar?' And he goes 'Velvet Underground? That's Greg Kihn.' I was so crestfallen. That's the West coast connection.

Immergluck: I was like no, it's Brian Jones... Velvet Underground.....(laughs). I was just watching this movie, "24 Hour Party People." Have you seen it? No, I've never heard of it.

Immergluck: It's about the Manchester scene in the late '70s and early '80s. It's really a Joy Division guitar. Ahhh

Immergluck: Yeah, it's the exact guitar the singer, Ian Curtis, would play from time to time. He killed himself, if I'm not mistaken?

Immergluck: I'm afraid so. I'm a huge Joy Division fan. I felt better after I saw the movie. It then became an Ian Curtis guitar and I was okay with that. How about on the amp and effects side?

Immergluck: I try to keep that part of it kind of simple. My main amp is an old Fender Pro-Reverb. I think it's like a '63. I also use a Savage. I'm not familiar with that.

Immergluck: It's like a hybrid between a Marshall and a Vox. It's one of those boutique amps but it's really crunchy. So if I really need to get some real crunched out sounds, I'll use that. American-made?

Immergluck: :Yeah, American-made, up in either St. Paul or Minneapolis. It's a 2 x 12" combo. Effects, hmmm, I've been using a Cry Baby since I was born. Now I've got one of the Fulltone wahs. And I use an Ibanez analog delay and a Fulltone '70s pedal, which is just a pretty simple distortion. I also have a Rat as well. A true classic, a staple for guitarists.

Immergluck: Yeah, really. I also have an MXR envelope filter. An original? 

Immergluck: Yes, it's totally classic. I've also got an ADA flanger but I haven't been using that lately. It's in my rack. It's far more complex then I've been in the past. I used to only have a distortion, a wah, and a delay. As a kid I used to always use an Echoplex. I used to love the tape delays and I still do but it's a little cumbersome. I would think especially for road use.

Immergluck: To say the least. I use to have a Fuzzface, that's was totally classic. How about an Ibanez Tube Screamer?

Immergluck: I was never into those. I have a huge collection of pedals. You know who makes really good pedals is Moog. Really?

Immergluck: Yeah, I have this really bizarre Ring Modulator that they make. It's really, really cool. What about Mutron? They had some wacky stuff.

Immergluck: Oh yeah, they had this Bi-Phase and a really good envelope filter that they made. Jerry Garcia used to use it. Very cool. Now did you grow up in the Bay Area? 

Immergluck: Yup. I was assuming that that was the case because in my research I found this website that listed the top 100 Bay Area Bands of All Time. I never really considered how many guitar greats came out of the Bay Area. It's astounding, really.

Immergluck: Yeah, there were a lot of good ones. Garcia, Santana...

Immergluck: Cipollina Right, John Cipollina (from Quicksilver Messenger Service), Kaukonen, Bloomfield and this list goes on and on.

Immergluck: Well, Mike Bloomfield actually came from Chicago but he wound up living in San Francisco. So with this incredible list of guitarists in your backyard, who inspired you to play guitar?

Immergluck: As a kid? Yeah, as a "yewt."

Immergluck: (laughing) Hmm, well for me, obviously George Harrison, you know. I grew up in the mid-'60s and that was the first stuff I heard. I remember when George Harrison died, I really felt like so many people, that one of the foundation stones of what we do and why we do what we do, was lost. You can't be in a band without considering The Beatles. George Harrison, all his guitar solos were so - not rudimentary but easy to understand. You could figure them out. They always made sense. It was like the Mel Bay of lead guitar. It was like learning the ABC's of electric guitar. I gotta say him first. And then my older brother got me into Jimi Hendrix. That was a good jump. 

Immergluck: Yeah, and I'm still mulling over Hendrix today. It's amazing how relevant he still is today.

Immergluck: You can't - no one will ever touch him for invention. Peter Green is another big one for me today. He was a really soulful, soulful player. He's got a new record coming out. He has a whole new band.

Immergluck: Yeah... I haven't heard it yet.

Immergluck: Yeah, well I'm glad to see him out there playing. If you know anything about his history, he was sort of gone missing for twenty years. It's all about Peter Green of '68 - '69. That was the shit. I have an enormous record collection. Oh that's right, you collect vinyl as well. I remember reading that. I collect a bit.

Immergluck: Yeah, I've got thousands of pieces of vinyl and thousand upon thousands of CD's too. I was also into Richard Thompson, Bert Jansch, Roy Harper, Zoot Horn Rollo from Captain Beefheart, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, all great guitarists. Another guy I really love is John McLaughlin. I'm talking early John McLaughlin, like when he was with Miles Davis (1969 - 1971). I just got this record by this really obscure white British soul guy from the '60s. Guys' name is Duffy Power. And the band is for most of it, is Jack Bruce on bass. Ginger Baker is on some of it, it's all before Cream. Phil Seaman on drums, and John McLaughlin before he was with Miles. That must be amazing.

Immergluck: Yeah, it's like R & B with this weird exotic flavor to it because of his guitar playing. It was so good. Just a short time back I had to pickup up the Santana/McLaughlin release, Love, Devotion, Surrender.

Immergluck: Oh yeah, that's a beautiful recording. So now there's this great new crop of guitarists coming up through the San Francisco ranks. I don't know that anyone has attached all of them to the Bay Area or not but it's very impressive.

Immergluck: Yeah, there's something in the water. Most definitely, there's something in the water. That would make sense. Considering the next flank of Bay Area Guitarists that are coming up Steve Kimock, Larry LaLonde, Paul Gilbert, Kirk Hammett, Billy Joe Armstrong and of course, David Immergluck

Immergluck: (laughs) - yeah pretty interesting. I really like Kirk and Larry Lalonde. He plays some really bizarre stuff. Well I think the future of Bay Area Music is in pretty good hands.

At this point, Dave and I continue our conversation for another 45 minutes or so, rambling on about Tommy Bolin, The James Gang and the wonderful world of vinyl collection. Our thanks to Dave Immergluck, Counting Crows, Buzztone, Interscope Records, Digidesign and D'Addario Strings.

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