In my opinion, Guy Blakeslee is one of our times greatest guitarists, and one of my favourite musicians. A while back, I got to pick his brains for a bit about his style of playing, and the music that influenced him while growing up. What an absolute honour.
One of the first things I have to ask about is your style of playing, which is upside down. Are you left handed, and did you teach yourself?
I picked up a guitar that was around the house an started playing when I was 10 or 11, before that I’d play a tennis racket as an air guitar and I’d hold it left handedly. I played for a few months before finding out that it was upside down, I just didn’t realize. I’m kind of confused because I write with my right hand, but that was just how it felt right and how I naturally picked it up. I can write with my left hand as well though, it’s weird. After a while I started breaking all the strings and didn’t know how to change them, so my father took me to a music store and the people there saw me play they were like «that’s backwards!!», and they also told me that I had been tuning it all weird and making up all of my own tunings. But by that time I had been playing for too long to be able to switch, so I stuck with it.
What music did you listen to while growing up that got you into playing yourself?
Both of my parents are born in the late forties and were teenagers in the middle to late sixties. They were kind of the bad kids who got kicked out of high school, and they both have pretty good taste in music. A lot of the stuff that I grew up on through them was stuff like The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. My dad was into African music as I was growing up, then I had this skater babysitter when I started playing guitar, he taught me and my brother about music too. He turned us onto stuff like Black Sabbath and Sonic Youth.
I’ve seen that with your solo work you’ve swapped a bit between using your own name and «Entrance», will you be going under «Entrance» from now on?
Yeah I’ve just started using Entrance again, so the next record I release that will be the first Entrance record in ten years or so.
Will that be some of the same songs you play with The Entrance Band as well, or primarily your solo work?
It’s pretty much just all new stuff that I’ve written. The drums one of the songs is by Derek, and all the violins are by Paz, so they both played on the record but then there’s also songs they’re not involved in. So I guess it’s a solo record, even if I’ve got other people singing with me and working with me. I wasn’t that comfortable with my own name which is why I chose to be Entrance originally, and then we became The Entrance Band, which made it quite confusing. I’ve been called Entrance for longer than the band has existed, but we’ve been around for ten years now and the band has become more well known than myself.
When writing music, do you then know if it’ll be for yourself or if it’s something that’ll work better for the band?
The band is fully collaborative, and we write everything together. I write the words, but it requires us to all be in the same place to be able to write something. One of us will have an idea and bring in which we’ll work on together, but it’s definitely not the kind of band where one person writes the songs and tells everyone else what to play. I would never tell any of them what to do, and neither would they, we all just do it in our own way.
Having seen the band play, it almost looks like a jam, and that you guys just go with whatever feels natural and comfortable on the night, which is really cool as it keeps it interesting.
Yeah, that’s also what I do on my own, but it might not be as easy to tell when someone is by themselves as I don’t have to relate it to what anyone else is doing.
Last time I saw you with The Entrance Band you were rocking the butter knife slide guitar…
Hah, I left my slide in America and ended up just grabbing that while rushing out the door. I think when people first started playing the slide, before guitar companies started making them, it would be with a bottle neck or a butter knife, or just whatever they had lying around the house. You could use a lighter.. Sometimes I actually use my iPhone.
You’re based in both the UK and the US, do you feel that being in different places affect your songwriting?
A lot of the stuff I’ve been writing these past three months in the UK, is based on experiences I’ve had over here, and looking at the world in a different way. That’s one of the things that are so good about traveling, how travel and music are so intertwined. Being able to get a different perspective on the world. I’ve been living in California for a very long time, and even if I love if there I get more inspired in other places.