August 27, 2009
By Kim Thore
If you know Prog Rock… you know Steve Rothery. If you are a fan of the band Marillion, you most likely adore him. As the one of the founding member cornerstones of the band, Rothery has for 30+ years been defining the band’s unique guitar sound.
As well he should, since Rothery began to play the guitar at the age of 15.
If you wikipedia Rothery you’ll find that in 1979, he saw an ad in the music press for a band called Silmarillion that needed a guitarist. He auditioned successfully for the band (19 August 1979). From this point he concentrated more on melody, composition and mood, and less on his technique. Later, Silmarillion shortened its name to Marillion.
As well as work with Marillion, he started a solo project under the name The Wishing Tree (with Hannah Stobart providing vocals), and released an album called Carnival of Souls.
Not content with the status quo… Rothery is continuing to thrive with Marillion, develop new music with The Wishing Tree, and has recently signed on with American guitar maker, Jack Dent for his first signature, custom made Steve Rothery guitar.
Jack Dent is a North Carolina native who is a well known wood worker and artisan who one day decided to turn his attention to the art of making guitars. His desire was to build the perfect guitar, ten years and too many to count prototypes, that perfect guitar has finally arrived. With its one piece of superb tone wood, a through body neck design, mother of pearl or abalone inlays… a Jack Dent guitar is both art and resonance in one uncompromising and unparalleled instrument. According to Jack, “There’s a 1000 different things that go into making an electric guitar and I pay attention to all of them.”
When longtime friend and associate of the band, Jon Epstein, stumbled upon Jack Dent’s designs in a small guitar shop named The “B” String, he knew he had found the guitar he had always been looking for as a musician and immediately thought of one of his own personal favorite guitarists, Steve Rothery. Guitars crossed the Atlantic, design meetings were held and a partnership between luthier and axe man was forged.
Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Steve and find out more about his latest adventure… his trek that defines that happiness truly is the road…
All Access Magazine (Kim Thore): So let's talk about where Steve Rothery is today... you have two bands, new projects and your first ever guitar endorsement... fill us in!
Steve Rothery (SR): It's a pretty busy time for me at the moment. I'm doing a lot of interviews to coincide with the European release of the Wishing Tree album and at the same time recording the new Marillion acoustic album "Less is more". I'm also coming across to North Carolina regularly to consult with Jack Dent on the signature guitar he's building for me.
AAM: Before we talk about your tools of the trade, let's discuss your particular style of playing... what is your approach as a musician and composer?
SR: The development of my style was at first influenced by the guitarists from the seventies like Andy Latimer, Steve Hackett, Dave Gilmour and Gordon Giltrap. It was always the more melodic and emotional approach that appealed to me the most. My style is all about atmosphere and emotion with bending and vibrato taking precedent over the fast legato approach. I try to find a part that enhances or completes the song in the most sympathetic way possible. It shouldn't be about ego or wanting to show off your chops.
AAM: Rumor has it that you are regarded by many fans of Marillion as providing the band's defining sound - with your signature clean toned, high-sustain Stratocaster soloing. Tell us about your new guitar endorsement and how you feel this new instrument will affect your sound?
SR: The Jack Dent SR model is a very unusual choice for me as I've been so closely associated with playing Stratocaster type guitars. When I played the prototype I was amazed at the clarity and natural sustain the guitar had. It resonates like no other guitar I've ever played and looks like a work of art. I think it's going to be a very inspiring instrument to write the next studio album with.
AAM: The obvious question is why now and why Jack Dent?
SR: I've been happy with my Blade guitars but Jacks offer of building me a signature guitar to my exact specification was an amazing chance to have my dream guitar made. After playing a selection of Jack's guitars and discussing the ideal construction for what I was after I realized that there could be no one better qualified to build this guitar.
AAM: Tell us about the future of this new guitar and what it can offer other musicians?
SR: I hope to use the Jack Dent SR guitar on the Marillion tour in October. I think any guitarist picking up this model would get that feeling that only comes when the designer has got everything just right. I think it is a truly classic but individual design.
AAM: What do you feel is the number one mistake guitarists make?
SR: Not trying to bring something new to a song. It's a real temptation to stick to the clicked licks and takes a real effort to try and think outside the box.
AAM: Tell us about your solo project The Wishing Tree?
SR: I had the idea of a solo project back in the mid eighties but only really moved the idea forward in the early nineties. I decided I wanted to work with a female singer and heard a tape of Hannah singing a couple of songs (Tori Amos and All about Eve) in 1993. I loved her voice and we started writing together releasing the first album Carnival of Souls in 1994 on my own label Dorian Music. After major label interest from Sony didn't translate into the offer of a recording contract we put the Wishing Tree on the shelf for a few years but remained good friends. In 2004 we decided to record a second album just for our own pleasure and started work on what became the Ostara album. We signed the album to Edel/Ear-music in Europe and are releasing it in the USA on MVD in November.
AAM: Do you have plans for guitar clinics to share your expertise?
SR: The only guitar clinic currently planned is in Rome the day before our acoustic show in November but I hope to do a series of clinics across the US early next year.
AAM: What guitarists have influenced you and who is influencing you now?
SR: My main influences are Hendrix, Santana, Dave Gilmour, Andy Latimer, Steve Hackett, Jeff Beck and Joni Mitchell. I tend to listen to songwriters more these days but I enjoy the playing of Damian Rice and Glen Hansard.