The Interviews - LAURENCE JUBER INTERVIEW - By Ace Batacan (a.k.a. Eiko)
09/28/06
The Collings Forum Home

Sep 28, 2006, Freight & Salvage in Berkley, CA
Question and Answer session conducted by Ace Batacan (a.k.a. Eiko).

(left: We had two pictures taken. One was without his Signature Model guitar and the other showing the guitar but with LJ covering the headstock with his hand - a very funny move because this interview WAS for our Forum to begin with)

Ace: What got you started and when did you start playing the guitar?

LJ: I started playing when I was 11 years old, in 1963. My parents got me a guitar for my 11th birthday and I couldn’t put it down. I have never put it down since. When I was 13, people would actually pay me to play. I said “This is great!”.

Ace: What was your first guitar?

LJ: My first guitar was something really cheap and nasty. It had a bolt-on neck. It was way ahead of its time in terms of construction except the bolt was on the outside. (We both laugh).

Ace: So could you attach your strap to the bolt? (more laughter)

LJ: No, it was recessed but I guess you could adjust it to do that too. It was the kind of thing where the black fingerboard was painted on and all the black stuff would come off unto my fingers while I was practicing. But you know what? It did the job. Then I graduated from there and I got an archtop. That was my second guitar. It had a Bill Lawrence pickup. It was a great pickup. I wish I knew what happened to it.

Ace: At least the first guitar did not discourage you from playing.

LJ: Oh no, not at all.

Ace: Do you remember the brand?

LJ: (Laughing) No. I think it was Russian, a no-brand kind of guitar.

Ace: Who were your early influences?

LJ: Beatles, Stones, and Animals in terms of the pop world. Also Bob Dylan and early Paul Simon.

Ace: Did you study music?

LJ: I studied classical guitar. I had a couple of lessons on steel strings just to get started but mostly I taught myself and I just kept going with it. As time went on, I became much into the idea of being a studio musician. I studied classical guitar because I wanted to take up classical music in High School and I needed an instrument but I really got into it to. I really enjoyed the music theory. I wasn’t shy about sight reading and that’s the thrust of being a studio musician.

Ace: Tell us about your first gig?

LJ: I think it was some kind of school talent competition. That was the first time I actually got up in front of an audience. I guess the first real “gig” was playing with a band at a wedding…and I didn’t know any of the tunes. It was an on-the-job training. Then I played with pop groups doing Top 40 stuff.

Ace: Were you the lead guitar player?

LJ: Yes. I was 13 when I started doing weddings with a local band leader. Then by the time I was 14, I was playing in blues bands. This was mostly on electric guitar. On acoustic, I played some folk/rock. When I was 15, I played in a duo with a friend of mine.

Ace: What got you interested in studio work?

LJ: I always enjoyed playing live but I was really more interested in the studio, fascinated by how records were put together and how guitar sounds worked

Ace: Do you have some sort of practice regimen?

LJ: I just play all the time.

Ace: Do you have any advice for non-professional guitar players?

LJ: Yes. Play as much as possible. It’s tough because normally people don’t have time to play enough. Learn things and play for other people.

Ace: How many guitars do you own?

LJ: 50 plus. I lost count years ago. I just got a new one. An Epiphone Casino, one of the re-issue models.

Ace: What’s the ratio between acoustic and electric on the instruments you own?

LJ: It’s about 50-50. My signature Martins, I have 3 Mahogany, 2 Brazilian, and the Madagascar Rosewood. That’s six right there. I’ve got four Collings. I have three OMs and one C-10. That’s ten acoustics just to start with. Then I’ve got a whole bunch of old Taylors that I used to play. I have a 12-string. Two archtops. Then I have a Les Paul, an SG, and three Strats.

Ace: Do you even touch the other guitars? Do you still play them?

LJ: Yes. I was doing a project last week where I played the Les Paul, Telecaster, Stratocaster, and Casino. When it comes to the solo stuff, my stuff, then what I tour with is the Martin Signature Model. If I’m working at home, very often I’ll designate a guitar for the day. It may be my old Collings, the OM1, the OM1A or the Brazilian/Adirondack OM2. Once in a while, I’ll sit with the C-10. That guitar is a whole other animal.

Ace: Can you call any one or two as favorites?

LJ: Whatever the current guitar is. The Madagascar Martin is an amazing guitar and I really like the OM1. I always loved that guitar. It has that Collings sound, a really cool vibe to it. It’s a Sitka top. I didn’t know about Adirondack at the time I ordered that guitar but it’s quite a tight Sitka top. That guitar is now nearly 16 years old. The characteristic sound of that guitar on my album One Wing is “Another Day”. It’s a real in your face kind of sound.

Ace: Does your new CD indicate which guitar you played on each song?

LJ: On my latest CD, the new one coming out which is “I’ve Got the World on Six Strings”, I just used this one guitar. It’s just happened to be right.

Ace: So is the OM1 your first Collings?

LJ: Yeah. The story there is that I had met Eric Schoenberg at the NAMM show and he was the one who turned me unto the OM body style, the concept. I had decided that I was going to buy a Schoenberg OM. This was in the early 90s when the only Martin OMs you could really buy were the ones that Schoenberg and Martin were kind of assembling. They were doing the necks and TJ Thompson was doing bodies. When I wanted to buy the Schoenberg OM, Eric said that there was some production issue at that time. TJ Thompson told me to see Bill Collings. I had seen the Collings before and was impressed with the kind of bell-like sound. So I went to the Collings booth at NAMM and spent some time there. I talked to Steve McCreary. I ended up ordering an OM1 with a cutaway. The first album I used that guitar extensively was my “Mosaic” album. It’s also on “Altered Reality” but by the time I made that album, I also had the Brazilian/Adirondack. I got the C-10 somewhere in that period. Then the next one was the OM1A which I used almost exclusively on my “Different Times” CD.

Ace: What is your stage set-up?

LJ:  I use s Seymour Duncan Mag Mic pickup, which is customized with an Audix mic capsule. I have a split output with a stereo cable. That goes into a Highlander Pro-Acoustic Mix DI. I’m running that with a T-Rex Room-mate reverb then it goes straight to the house with each channel EQ’d.  I actually rarely EQ the pickup side.

Ace: So what is your latest album again?

LJ: The latest album is “I’ve Got The World On Six Strings” and it’s all Harold Arlen tunes: “If I Only Had A Brain”, “Over The Rainbow”, “Get Happy”, “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea”, “Stormy Weather”, and others. Great tunes and really quite a challenging record to do but quite satisfied with the way it came out.

Ace: Tell me about your C-10.

LJ: Well, let me tell you my C-10 story. It’s Sitka/Mahogany with a beautiful sunburst.  It was really Darcy (Cotten) and Kim (Sherman) that persuaded me to get a C-10. During a session at Capitol Studios, not long after I got it, Paula the studio manager came into Studio B and said that B.B. King was in Studio A. She asked if he could borrow a guitar for a photo session. At the time, I was using my OM1 so I told Paula to give him the C-10. It’s kind of a bluesy guitar. So he was really enjoying it. During my break, I came in he was playing his “B.B.” thing. His manager walks in and tells him to stop because they can’t take pictures of him with that guitar. They had an exclusive with Gibson. So B.B. sort of sheepishly handed it back to me. I handed him a Sharpie and asked if he would mind signing it. I figured he’d sign it at the back of the headstock or something. He signed his name right across the front lower bout, below the bridge. – “B.B. King”. It was huge! So I have the one and only B.B. King signature model Collings. Lee Sklar, the bass player, was there with me and he said “I bet you don’t know whether to be happy or sad”.

My other Collings story was when I got my OM1A. I waited quite a while to get that guitar. It arrived. I take it out of the case. The first thing I would do is smell the guitar. I sit down to play it and it was kind of quiet and dull sounding. So I said that I have to wake it up. It must be the stiff Adirondack top that needs to open up. I kept playing, digging into it. After a couple of hours, it still did not sound right. I looked it over again. Inside, I see bubble-wrap. I start pulling bubble-wrap out of the sound hole – yards and yards of it. Then I played it again. It sounded a lot better but still a little bit tubby sounding. I let it sit overnight thinking maybe it would settle down. I picked it up the next morning and played it. I looked inside again and I saw more bubble-wrap and they were all the way inside, down to the bottom of the lower bout. I had to loosen the strings to get my hand down there. I had at least another 5 yards of those things. So I called up Steve McCreary and said “Thanks for the bubble-wrap, Steve”.  He said that Bill wanted to put the strings backwards before sending it out. So I was a victim of a practical joke. It turned out to be a great guitar. Unfortunately, I rarely play it because I like the wider string spacing of the Martin.

Ace: What got you in the Martin direction?

LJ: I woke up one day and said to myself that I don’t have a Martin that I can play on a regular basis. I thought that I kind of owed it to myself to get one so I called them up and asked them to make me an OM18 with an Adirondack top and braces with 2-1/4” string spacing and Waverly tuners – basically a Martinized version of the OM1. It turned out to be a great guitar and that started the LJ signature series. There is a tangible difference in tone between the Collings and the Martin. The Collings in general is a more sophisticated sound. It’s a tighter and more bell-like sound because Bill makes them that way. The Martin has a little bit more blue-collar sound. Collings has a great sound. I used the Brazilian OM2A on the Pink Panther album because of its sophisticated sound which I was looking for on that arrangement. That’s what I’ll do. If I need that particular sound, I’ll go with  my Collings. The Sitka-topped one has a more in-your-face sound. That’s a very special guitar and not just because it’s my first Collings. It has a really good soul to it. After 15 years, it’s really becoming a very mature instrument. So all these guitars have their own voices. The thing is when you travel, how many guitars can you bring? Normally, I just have one. What I found with the Madagascar Martin one is that it has a lot of the features of all the guitars that I have. It has a distinctive voice. It’s a really good all around instrument.

Ace: Is this your 4th Signature Model?

LJ: It’s the 4th version of the Signature Model. This is Custom Shop model.  As long as they have the wood, they can keep making it. They make them in batches of seven.  There are well over a hundred of these now. They made 133 each of the Mahogany and the Indian Rosewood and 50 of the Brazilian. So there are over 400 of the LJ Signature Model Martins. Pretty cool and to be honest, knowing how Collings operates, they couldn’t handle those kinds of numbers.  I’d rather have my Collings guitars be unique and special instruments. I have great affection for Steve McCreary and for Bill.

Ace: Those OMs are great.

LJ: Doesn’t Pete have two OMs?

Ace: Yes, and OM1 and an OM1A. He uses the Adirondack for recording and the Sitka for performing.

LJ: Right, I’ve played that guitar before. It’s very similar to mine, similar vintage and sound.  His is Huttlinger-fide and mine is Juber-fide.

Ace: Ok, last question. Tell us about your daughter’s music.

LJ: That’s Ilsey.  She’s getting ready to make a record. She plays one of my Taylors. It just suits the way she plays. It’s a custom deep body 512, with a very stiff top. It’s like the missing link between the 512 and the 514. It’s actually a very cool guitar. If I ended up doing a Signature Model Taylor, that would have been it. We parted company mostly because I was playing my Collings all the time. The only thing that really took over the Collings is the Martin and it was not a quantum difference. It was just ended up being slightly more in the nature of where I was going with my sound.

Ace: That’s all I have. Thanks for everything. Can I ask your wife Hope to take a picture of us?
LJ: Of course. She should be right outside.

Ace’s notes:

I met up with LJ and his wife, Hope, at the Freight & Salvage in Berkley, CA. LJ was doing a sound check for the evening show that day. We walked down the street and had some lasagna at a local pizzeria/pasta joint. Our conversation covered just about everything you can think of: music, family, dogs, and whatever else we came up with. We did the interview back at F&S in the “green room” while LJ was warming up for the show.

 I would like to thank LJ for letting me conduct this interview and having me visit with them on their No. CA stop. We’ve seen each other at CAAS in Nashville but I am so happy that he agreed to do this here, which was a better setting all together. I do have to say that LJ and Hope were very gracious and are a wonderful couple. They were simply fun to be with and talk to. I consider myself lucky to have had this opportunity.

Please visit LJ ’s website: www.laurencejuber.com

His new CD is called I've got the world on six strings.

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