Paul Languedoc Mixes it Up
JW: Could you compare and contrast some of the amphitheaters you’re playing now? I mean, you must have favorites or ones that have really good acoustics and other venues that-
PL: That suck? (laughs)
PL: Well, it’s interesting that you said that , cause last night (7-12-99)….it’s been a while since we’ve played this venue, which used to be Great Woods, now the Tweeter Center. The first few times we were here, I had a terrible time. I think that the PA system has improved to the point where I’m not worried about it being terrible. I thought last night was really good. Did you come to the show last night?
JW: I did. It sounded really good.
PL: Yeah, I mean it started off a little messy, but it cleaned up pretty good.
JW: I was down in Section 2, so I was wearing earplugs, just because I was pretty close to the speakers. So I didn’t really get the best mix with the earplugs in, but my friends who were out on the lawn said it was really crisp. I’ve actually heard from a lot of friends that the back of the lawn has like the best sound in the house. I did think it sounded great down front though.
PL: Well great, that’s good to hear.
JW: Are there any indoor venues that you really prefer over others?
PL: One that sticks out that I don’t like is the Rosemont Horizon. It’s like a big dome. That’s where they did Quadrophenia. Terrible. Terrible room. Madison Square Garden sticks out as a really good place. I think it’s a pretty good sounding room, but it just has a great energy about it too.
JW: So, as the years have gone on, Trey’s tone has gone through a lot of changes. A couple of years ago, you built a new guitar for him. How did that come about? Did he come to you and say, “I want something new”?
PL: I think I decided to build a guitar. I don’t know if he came to me or not. He needed a back-up guitar and I had the time to do it, so I decided to build this guitar. We had a few conversations about some changes, but there are really only two big changes. The bridge has a metal saddle on it. It’s a fixed bridge. It doesn’t have adjustable intonation on it. I think that helps with the tone. It doesn’t have all those little metal parts in there to rattle around and stuff. The old bridge on the other guitar, his first guitar, has bone saddle pieces and this one has like a bronze metal actually set into the wooden, ebony bridge. So, that was one thing and then I thought changing the type of wood would give him….He talked about having a clearer sound and a more cutting sound. So, those were the two main things. This one is made out of Koa, where as the other one had a maple top on it.
JW: And does he still have that one? He never plays it live anymore does he?
PL: No, he only plays one guitar live (laughs). It’s still around. It’s essentially like a back-up guitar.
JW: Is that the one Neil Young played at Farm Aid?
PL: Yes, exactly.
JW: Now, is it difficult for someone like Neil Young, or anyone else, to pick up his guitar and play it? Cause I know there’s a lot of feedback created.
PL: Well, Neil Young has played hollow body guitars and I don’t think he would worry about it anyway, you know, the kind of guitar player he is. He would just go, “oh cool, a little feedback, cool.”
JW: He did seem like he had a pretty easy time with it.
PL: It’s funny. Neil Young, he doesn’t want to know about the guitar. He’s like, “just turn it all the way up. Turn the tone all the way up and take every knob on the amp and turn them to 10.” So you just like run your hand over the knobs and turn everything to 10.
JW: So, did you have a conversation with Neil before that show?
PL: No, I didn’t. I actually got a picture of that (show). Danny Clinch took a picture of that performance, this great picture of Trey and Neil and Mike. Then we did another gig with Neil Young and some other bands in San Francisco (The Bridge School Benefit) so I had this photo and I asked him to sign it for me. But, he’s kind of one of those people I would be too nervous to approach, you know? I’m a little shy like that.
JW: One of the things I’ve always been curious about is the music that you play before and after the show and during the set break over the PA. Do you choose that music? Does the band come to you with certain music they want you to play on certain nights?
PL: Very rarely, almost never…. maybe twice in the last ten years.
JW: When was that?
PL: Oh I don’t know.
JW: Just randomly?
PL: Yeah, occasionally they’ll say, “hey, could you play this?” or something.
JW: Do you just choose the music based on the vibe of the night, kind of like the band would choose a set list?
PL: Well, I try to choose something that I think will be appropriate.
JW: I always find that interesting. Sometimes you’ll throw in The Godfather theme and then last night (7-12-99) you put on Michael Jackson…
PL: Yeah I mean, a lot of times I’ll just kind of flip through what I have and wait for something to jump out at me, you know?
JW: As far as taping the shows, I know you record on many different formats. You tape everything on DA-88 multi-tracks, on DAT and on analog. Can you talk a little bit about your set up and how you keep track of the all the tapes when you’re on the road?
PL: Well, I make sure everything is labeled carefully. I spend at least a half-hour every day labeling tapes. We run forty tracks of multi-tracks and with two sets, that winds up being five tapes per set, so that’s ten tapes. (note: each multi-track deck has eight tracks). Then, there’s a DAT of each set, so that’s two more and then two cassette tapes that are just audience tapes made with a stereo mic, probably pretty similar to what the tapers get.
JW: And does the band come to you a lot and ask for those tapes?
PL: They occasionally will ask for certain songs. Trey usually will say, “could I get this song from this set or that song from that set”. Or sometimes he’ll ask for something from a sound check. So I’ll make compilation tapes for him.
JW: Do the master tapes go to Kevin Shapiro for the official archive or do you keep them?
PL: They end up in the archives. I have very few Phish tapes actually.