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Interview: Snowy White & his guitar

Snowy White was considered one of the best and most wanted guitarists of England for many years.

1969 Snowy White became a professional musician and performed in loads of concerts and studio sessions.
He was featured on many albums from diverse other musicians like Cockney Rebel, Al Stewart, Linda Lewis, Cliff Richard and Peter Green.

From 1976 until 1980 Snowy participated as lead-guitarist in all Pink Floyd concerts. After that the played with Thin Lizzy for two years and then from 1982 onwards, he concentrated on his own solo career.
Details are on the website.


The May 3rd, everything was set up for that day in Paris to be great: Roger Waters was playing in town tonight and Snowy White, agreed to meet us [Renate and myself (Mick)] backstage at Bercy, the big parisian venue.

It was also the occasion to meet Renate for the first time, and we had a great time, as I did lead her to see the Tour Eiffel... and then to Bercy.

We really began to stress, when we couldn't find someone able to tell us where to go with our backstage invitations, and we could see the time of the beginning of the concert approaching. But we finally did it, and once backstage we met a relaxed Snowy, always kind and humble, who still wanted to do an interview, even at just 1 hour before the show!

We then followed him through all the bakstage area, as he was trying to find the musicians and make them sign Renate's poster of last year Israel concert, which he succeeded... Except for Roger Waters, who we saw entering his private area and who seemed too concentrated to be disturbed...

Everything was great, the weather, the concert, the band and the interview itself which I transcribed here:

Snowy's guitar

What year is your Gibson Goldtop? When did you get it?
My Gibson Goldtop is born in 1957. I bought it in 1968 in Sweden. But in fact, I didn't buy it, I swapped it. I had a Stratocaster and I swapped it for a Les Paul.

Why did you decide as this guitar as your #1 guitar?
Well, I like the tone of the Les Paul. And I could only play one guitar at the time, so I only wanted one guitar.

Someone asked: Have you ever lost her?
No, not yet ... Touch wood (snowy touches his head) ...

Are you afraid travelling and gigging with her?
Sometimes it's a problem and now, they make it so difficult to get on airplanes. They try to make you put it underneath the plane, but I need to take it with me in the cabine. Sometimes they make it difficult. It used to be easy, but now it's not so easy, and I try to avoid taking it on airplanes, really.

That's why you play mainly in Europe?
Yeah, it's part of the reason.I can drive over there, I don't have any hassles.

Do You own any other guitar?
Last year I bought another Les Paul, very similar to mine, to use on Roger's Tour, because I need a tremolo arm and I put one on it. And I was given a PRS when I was in America in 1999, I still have it, and I play at home sometimes. But no, not really, I just play that one.

Is it true that Peter Green wanted to sell you his Gibson Les Paul from his Fleetwood Mac days?
Yeah. a 100 pounds he wanted for it. I didn't have 100 pounds, the only I could have bought his guitar was to sell mine, and get the money and then buy his. And I didn't really want to do it, because It would always be Peter Green's guitar...

So Gary Moore bought it...?
He sold it to Gary, I think for 150 pounds.

And did you know that Gary sold it recently?
Yeah, I read something about that.

And it's sad because it's exposed in different guitar shows... What do you think about that?
Oh really? What would I think about it? It's just a guitar though. When Peter stopped playing the guitar, it became just an ordinary guitar. The guitar playing was made by Peter Green, not the guitar. It's just an ordinary guitar to me...

Have you ever been offered to sell your guitar?
Well, no. Some people say that it's worth a lot of money, but I don't really know. Some people say it's worth 20 000 pounds, others say it could be up to 80 000 pounds. In fact, Dave Gilmour's guitar technician told me he thought it could be worth between 60 000 and 80 000 pounds. But I don't think so.

What are the best musical moments you had with her?
Oh my god! I can't answer that. It' s like there lots of nice little moments when you're playing, specially when you're playing your own music with your own band. You do a gig and get a bit of magic for a few seconds, and it's nice. I can't remember particulary one moment.

It's a lifetime thing?
Yeah, you know, Up and Down ...

The technical side

Now , we had also some more technical questions?
Well, that's difficult for me...

I'll try to keep it simple.
What amp and what type of effects do you use?
Ok, for amplifier, I use an ordinary Vox AC-30. Occasionally, I use a fender Twin reverb. And I don't really use too many effects. I do with Roger, but when I'm playing on my own, I just use a little bit of chorus and a bit of repeats sometimes, I don't use much.

What gauge of strings do you use?
They are from '09 down to '52. So that's '09, '11, '13,'30, '42, '52.

Is there any work that has been done to your guitar over the years?
Yeah, lots... It's a working guitar, if it needs fixing, I fix it. It's had things changed: The machine heads changed because they weren't working very well, and the wiring's been redone because it just got too old, the bridge was a bridge I was given by Peter Green, So I put that on. I had a couple of different things done to it, refretted, being messed about with...

I noticed you have that out-of-phase sound (like Peter Green)?
Yeah, I put a switch on that to make it out-of-phase. So I push one of the tone controls,and it puts it out-of-phase. I don't use it with Roger, but I use it in my band a lot.

Do you do this kind of work by yourself?
I don't do the work, I just give it to someone who can do it. I don't know nothing about it. I would mess it up.

Someone asked: At what point did you lose the pickguard, because on early shots with Thin Lizzy, it shows that you still had it on?
Does it? No, it must be a different guitar. I took off the pickguard when I got the guitar in 1968. I still have it. I still have a lots of the old things. But I didn't play it with the pickguard in Thin Lizzy, that must have been a different guitar.

Another person asked: I have heard that temperature changes make the goldtop finish crack, is it what happened to yours?
I think it's old age, you know it's making me crack as well (laughs). Yeah, temperature changes, sunlight, you know everything, dirt, lights, heat or whatever. It just cracks up, doesn't it?

Do you still use the original case?
No, that fell apart, and I bought one in 1977, on the Pink Floyd tour, when I was in Los-Angeles. Last year that fell apart too, so I borrowed one from the guy that does my sound on my gigs. He had a guitar case, he gave me his.

Did you know that as of this year, Gibson will stop the fabrication of the Les Paul Goldtop?
No, I didn't know that...

How is your new Goldtop compared to the old one?
It's not bad. It feels very similar, but it doesn't sing on every fret like mine does. It hasn't got the same singing tone, but it's got a tremolo arm which takes the resonance away. It's quite good, it feels good, I quite enjoy playing it.

The musician

Do you practice everyday?
No, I don't play much when I'm on my own. I enjoy playing with musicians, so when I'm on my own, I might pick up a guitar for ten minutes sometimes, that's it.

And do you write the songs on guitar?
Yeah, I strum around and I sort of imagine things I would like to do solos over, chords progressions or things. I don't work a lot on writing, I just wait 'till something comes.

Did you learn the guitar by yourself?
Yeah, I'm self-taught. I sat in my bedroom for months and years, when I was a teenager just playing blues.

Who are the guitar players who inspired you to play during this time?
Eric Clapton, when I first heard him, when he was really hot and good, in about 1965 or 1966. And then some of the old B.B.King, Otis Rush, people like that. And then Peter Green came along and I thought he was really great, soulful. And in the early seventies Carlos Santana. I thought he had a lot of spirit in his playing. So in those days, there were a few people around that I really enjoyed listening to. But I don't know anybody these days.

What would you tell a young guitar player just getting started out?
don't know, Just do it man. Just don't listen to anybody like me, just do your own thing.

Ok, I think that's all for the guitar, thank you, Could you tell what are your next plans for this year?
Well, I finish touring with Roger on the 15th of july, then I've got to finish the live album, mixing it. That will come out in september. I got a few gigs with my band. And next year, I'll try to complete the studio album which is halfway through at the moment.

Thank you Snowy for answering our questions just before the show...
We are looking forward to your new albums. ;-)

[ GH | GC | TdV | MR | SW | RS ]

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