Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The SLIT interview: John Venet!!

John Venet as "Johnny Anonymous" in The Pedestrians, circa 1979  (photo: Cliff Green)
 SLIT: How'd you get started playing guitar? Are you self taught?

JV: I first started playing guitar when I was about 8 years old. There was an old Stella guitar hanging around my house. I had to share it with my 4 siblings, so it was just an occasional thing, until I saved enough money up from delivering the Detroit News and the Free Press to buy a guitar. 
I was playing Violin in elementary school, but it just seemed too limited.( Plus you could beat on a guitar and not break it.) I remember Grinnells Music store had a beautiful new 70 strat,  black with a maple board that I'd go in and play all the time.  Just couldn't swing the cash though, so bought a  Japanese Epiphone 335. My older brother was a blues player, and he had an ES330, so I thought my Epiphone was pretty cool.  I got a crappy little Kingston plywood electric and a Kent amplifier.

I did take lessons in Detroit for a few years, and Music was my split minor at t he UA but when it comes to guitar, I've always felt like theory got in the way of just playing what you felt, so really I am self taught, with lots of time just jammin with my brother in the beginning and friends later. I used to pull my amp and guitars around in a wagon in Detroit to go play at my buddies house.  Four piece called Telepathy and we were doing Black Sabbath and Kiss tunes in his attic.

SLIT: Do you have a fave guitar? Fave guitar player?

JV: I've always loved the Gibson SG, but I am also  real fond of Strats and Tele's. I have a couple German Hoyer Les Pauls that I like a lot.  My top fave guitar players are:  Rainer, Jeff Beck, David Gilmore, Tom Verlaine, and believe it or not David Byrne because he was so totally un-conventional.

SLIT: Do you play other instruments?

JV:  But I'm a luthier by trade,  so having a favorite (singular) guitar is tough. I also play a little bass, mandolin, violin, cello, piano, just enough to record a song fleshed out by myself. Guitar is my main instrument.

SLIT: How'd you first get involved with Tucson's music scene?

JV:  I moved to Tucson in 1976, and when I started at CDO  for 11th grade, I met  Billy Sedlmayr and Dave Seger .  We started playing together then which evolved from doing Bonnie Rait and Bob Mehan songs into The Filthy Shrews. We added Chris Cacavous  in about 1978 and became the Pedestrians.

Dave and I did White Pages with you and Lee Joseph after that, Bill and Dave did Giant Sandworms and moved to New York for awhile.  I did Trout Unlimited with Van Christian and Keith Evans, Then when Dave got back from New York, we did the Voodoo Godhead  tape on Dave's dad's 4 track, which evolved  into Naked Prey. I was actually the guitar player in Prey when we did the  First recordings to shop. I left the band after a trip to LA to play, because I was in school, and didn't want to bail on my degree. Dave took my place, Baden replaced Conklin, and Tommy Larkins replaced Sam Blake, and the rest is history.  I also was in a band with Mark Mellinger (The Confused) and John Booth called HMS. we played Nino's all the time, and Club Europa, Tequila Mockingbird etc..

SLIT: What are some highpoints of your musical life/career?

JV:  Gotta say the Coolest gig we ever did was opening for the Ramones in Nov of 1979 at the UA Ballroom in the old Student union. But, because of the "in-betweeen" LA and Phoenix nature of Tucson, a lot of future monster acts played here. We played a lot of gigs with people like X, Black Flag, Fear, Alley Cats, Snakefinger etc.. It was always kinda fun to see who got the show, the Peds or the Suspects.  Z-nine and Channel 88, Serfers ,Seldoms, Character  Reference, Loudness One, lots of really good Tucson Punk bands were springing up. Alot of the credit for that is directly attributable to Joanne and Richard at The Record Room. Also Jonathan L., and Later, David La RussaChuck Graham also covered some of the local scene, but for some reason his column didn't appear until 2 or 3 weeks after a show.  Jonathan L.  used to hang out at TumbleWeeds all night,  play pinball, and just listen. Then he'd write it all up in the Newsreel.  Amazing what a little press can do, and then "Anything thats Rock and Roll" and "Virgin Vinyl "shows started actually airing terrible cassette copies of local bands.  It was like we finally got our own Village Voice and Leggs McNeil .

SLIT: Do you have any ideas about how a guitar should be played?

JV: No, thats what the whole revolution in music was about. No pre-conceived way to play anything. You just did it till it made sense and sounded right to you.  The end result is Rock and Roll was changed because everbody stopped trying to do the same thing. A sound was new, because it wasn't conventional. New chords galore!

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