Pete Lesperance | interview

This is the interview that appeared in the March issue of "Young Guitar", a Japanese guitar mag.(translation: Akiko Hagiwara)

This is the first Japanese tour since your debut 5 years ago. How was the reaction from the audience?
It's been amazing! They gave us a great welcome, and are one of the most enthusiastic audiences we've ever played for. We've toured a bit through Europe as well as Canada, but the Japanese fans are quite different to play for.

They are a very polite audience, in the way that no matter how crazy they get (and they do) when someone steps up to the mic to say something they get very quiet and listen. Then when you're done, they go ape shit again!! Playing in Japan has been a great experience. I mean it!

A lot of people say, "Japanese audiences love guitar technique." Do you think that's true?
I think they are interested in music itself, not only the guitar. Actually, it seems Japanese audiences pay more attention to the players than in other countries. This interview (featuring a guitarist) proves that. (laughs) In Canada, a musician's technique doesn't seem to be as important as it is to the fans in Japan. If you can play more than three chords in Canada, you're not cool! (laugh) In the last few years, it seems being technical players is considered "old-fashioned." That's tough for us because we are a technical bandto some degree. It's great for us to come to Japan because people really seem to care about that kind of thing here.

Some people said that you have changed your musical style on "Voice of Reason." Youplayed4 newsongs in a row yesterday. Was that to impresss "new" Harem Scarem fans?
No. We tried some different song combinations in rehearsal and found out that the set list we played yesterday flowed the best. We thought about it a lot. And yes, we have changed musically from the 2nd to the 3rd album. That's also true with the 1st and 2nd albums. We always want to grow and change musically speaking. If we do the same record every time, we're going to get bored, and boring to our fans. We released the 1st album in '91, and now it's '95. We also know that there are some songs that people want to hear from the 1st album, but that was 4 years ago and we have changed quite a bit since then. We try and compromise and still play the singles from the 1st album, but "VOR" is more about what are about right now. In Canada, practically our whole set is made up of the new record. Also, our show is about an hour and a half long. That's long in Canada - people get bored after an hour and a half. But in Japan, I've heard that our set was short!! If we had of known, we probably would have played more from the first 2 records.

By the way, you played an instrumental song called "Zinger." Was that song only for live shows?
I was thinking about putting it on "VOR," but it didn't really fit with the rest of the record, so wedidn't. But we're recording it for the live album. (Ed: The version on the live album will be a studio version of the track.)

When are you going to release the live album?
Probably the Summer of '96.

How did you feel about playing the songs from the 3rd album?
We didn't do as much overdubbing in the studio, so we could capture more of a live vibe. On "VOR," I Quadrupled the Rhythm parts so the tone was huge, but they are all identical parts. Harry plays guitar live whenever there are overlapping passages.

As far as guitar playing goes, some guitarists improvise when they performlive. But in your case, you played almost exactly the same as you did on the album.
All my solos are written for the song, and are made up of the best shit that I could come up with within that context, so I personally don't feel that I could do something better on the fly. Besides, the kids who come to the show like a particular solo, and if live I do something totally different, they might be disappointed. I know that I was sometimes at a concert.

On the 3rd album, one big difference from the previous albums was that you changed your guitar from an Ibanez to a Les Paul. The Ibanez is designed to create a contemporary sound. On the other hand, the Les Paul isn't designed for that kind of sound. Didn't you find it difficult to play songs from the 1st and 2nd albums with the Les Paul?
Yea.. some of the faster stuff is harder to pull off on the Les Paul. I started to use them right after the "Mood Swings" tour. It took me a year and a half just to get comfortable with them. I'm still not sure if I can play as fluently on them, but they sound amazing! I have the necks shaved down on both of the Les Pauls I use live.

When you switched to a guitar without the bar from one with a bar, didn't you feel uncomfortable playing, especially live? was different at first. The bar was kind of a crutch for a while, and getting away from it was something I wanted to do. Change is always a good way to keep you on your toes as a player, but was hell at first.

The guitars you brought with you this time are the "Les Paul Studio" model.Are they for the tour?
Yes, one is regular tuning, the other is in drop D tuning. They are relatively cheap models, and they're not my faves or anything, but I'm not worried about putting them on a plane. I have 2 other Les Pauls that never leave my house. One of them is a 60's gold top, and the necks of both of my studios are shaved to be identical to it.

You said that you use .011 heavy gauge strings. This must be too thick toplay.
Yes... I use .011 to .052. I'm using a combination of Ernie Ball for the top 3 strings and D'addario (or Gibson) for the heavy strings. I can't tell the difference between string brands anyway, so it doesn't matter. (laugh)

How about amps and effects?
It's a Marshall JMP-1, Alexis Quadraverb, Rocktron Hush, ADA power amp, a Jimi Hendrix Wah, and the ADA cabinet simulator (no cabinets are miked.) It's a pretty simple set up. I'm from the Eddie Van Halen school of "your sound is in your fingers... not just in your gear." Whatever you use is cool as long as it's good quality stuff, and the rest is up to you.

Interview by Young Guitar
Originally posted at YOUNG GUITAR magazine, translation: Akiko Hagiwara