CARLOS SANTANA AT NAMM (LA Special)
March 15, 2008 | Author: Greg Phillips.
Prior to ripping up stages nationwide on his Live Your Light Australian tour, Carlos Santana was at the NAMM show debuting his new signature MD model PRS guitar. Australian Musician was at the launch and spoke with Carlos. Greg Phillips reports. Photos by www.pixievision.com
To go into the Latin guitar maestro’s history would be superfluous. Anyone who has ever delighted in the sound of a guitar will know the name Santana. Today, PRS guitars has gathered a swag of respected players to their NAMM booth to celebrate the arrival of 12 new PRS guitar models. American music historian Tom Wheeler introduces them all. There’s Mike Mushok (Staind), David Grissom (Storyville/John Mellencamp) Rich Eckhardt (Toby Keith), Howard Leese, Pat Travers, Mike Scott (Justin Timberlake), Frank Romano (Usher), Paul Jackson, Jr. (Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston), Evan Taubenfeld (Avril Lavigne), Lee Richards (Another Animal), Tony Rombola (Godsmack) and Johnny Hiland. As great as those players are, none however achieves the same level of respect and admiration that Carlos attracts within the international music community.
It’s with some degree of pride that Paul Reed Smith himself elucidated on the new range of guitars. First Grissom’s DGT model (Pre- launched in September 2007), then Mushok’s SE Baritone model and finally the Santana MD. “The only goal was to have something that was more musical and a new step for Carlos”, said Reed Smith to Santana. “I wouldn’t put up with anything that wasn’t going to be musical and you wouldn’t put up with anything that wasn’t going to be musical. I think we sent proto-types back and forth about ten times.”
The name of the new Santana model guitar, MD comes from the title of his new album, ‘Multi-Dimensional Warrior’ due in stores in Australia in early April. The album will be a double disc comprising of 14 vocal performances chosen from albums spanning the 1970s through to the ’00s, while disc two comprises 14 instrumental performances from albums covering the same years. In addition, Carlos has added some new guitar parts to select tracks. Carlos explains the concept behind the album title.
“When you see a pond, you see the blue sky, the clouds, things floating on top, like twigs and stuff and you see a fish and you see the bottom of the pond. So you see five things in one pond. Most people are not aware that a note should be the same way. One note. Soul. heart, mind, body, and excuse me .. cajones! Soul, heart, mind, body, cajones, all in one note, just like the pond. That’s why I call the CD Multi Dimensional because it is important to make people aware if possible, or invite them to discover their own Multi Dimensionalist that they have, and not be so predictable and mono and stuck. You know … don’t say I only do this! Say I am willing to become all of totality and absolutely. And the guitar is like that. It’s like a box of crayons with more tones. But it is really about altering people’s perceptions about themselves. That’s the goal.”
Santana’s career has enjoyed a huge resurgence with his last few albums featuring guest musicians and vocalists such as Kirk Hammett, Rob Thomas, Tina Turner and Placido Domingo to name a few. However his thirst for collaboration is far from satisfied. “I’d like to work with Yo Yo Ma. I’d like to work with Andreas Bocelli. I’d like to work with this new band Ill Nino, something like that. They’re like the new Metallica. I just think god man, I don’t have to be stuck and say I will only deal with this window. It can work for some people but for me, it’s ba ba boring! I need to co-exist or compliment whatever it is in front of me.”
With such a signature sound that everyone knows, I wondered what inspires Carlos to further explore his sound through guitar modifications and new models such as the new PRS MD.
“You know when my son was about five years old, I sat him down and I said look … this is BB King, this is Albert King, this is Freddie King. I put a video on of all of them and he said, ‘Yeah’ you’re BB King!’ Like you come from BB King. So, like Peter Green or Michael Bloomfield. My son knew that my fingerprints were based around BB. Later on I listened to Coltrane and Miles and it changed. But I am always looking for new things. You know I love the three voices that Bob Marley has. Sometimes in one note, you hear like “Waaahh’ (Carlos makes guitar noise). Same thing with Marvin Gaye or Stevie. Sometimes you hear a note that has seven tones in it and you think, and you try to think, is it the amplifier or him or his fingers. After a while you realise it is what we are thinking. We forget to ask, what are we thinking when we hit the note? So my signature sound right now is an extension of what I am thinking. And what I’m thinking is like the Berlin Wall coming down, the year 2000 when all of us celebrated one family.”
One of the features of the Santana MD is the switch that creates an early sixties single coil sound. In its design, Carlos was chasing tones closer to a Strat or Tele but also wanted to retain the PRS sound. “I listened to a lot of Albert King and Stevie Ray, ” explains Carlos. ” There’s an unmistakable sound from Stevie that doesn’t sound like Mark Knopfler or Eric. Once you separate the identity of Stevie with just the guitar alone, it’s a Strat. So I want to get closer to a Strat in a steel string singer. It is basically the basis of what I am going for. ”
Whatever model PRS Carlos is playing with, you know that inspiration is coming from a much deeper place. “Our tools are sound, resonance, vibration. They are our tools. And with those tools we get to give people chills and what I call… to rearrange the molecular structure of people. You know, you cry, you dance, you laugh. All the things about Bob Marley or Marvin Gaye or Coltrane or Miles (what they) do to us, we want to do to someone else. This guitar will allow us to do that unconsciously. We don’t have to think about it. If you are thinking about it, you missed it. It’s a holy thing man, to be able to be in the company of creation where the vision is allowed to be manifested.”