Douglas J Noble and Nigel Kennedy, London, 10 January 1995.
In the second part of the Nigel Kennedy interview Nigel talks about his acoustic and electric violins, his amplification and effects.
UniVibes: Which is you're main violin?
Nigel Kennedy: Well, it's difficult to say because I've got some special ones made for me for my electric playing. Electric violin making is still a very unexplored art form - it's not like guitar where loads of players over generations have said what they need and people have been trying to get that sound for them. The violin is a very unrefined thing so far in the electric world and so I'm trying to get violins made for me all the time which might get closer to various things that I want. In acoustic music I've found one that I really love - it's a Guarneri Del Gasu violin, made in 1735. Maybe I'll find a better violin but if I don't I'll be happy with the one I've got for life. Whereas with the electric thing I'm still experimenting with different equipment and different instruments themselves trying to find something that gives me the amount of control that I've got on an acoustic instrument. There's no volume pedal that I've experienced yet that can give the same sensitivity as what the bow can - there always seems to be one area where you press the thing and it makes a load of difference then there's 3 or 4 inches where there's no difference at all. I like to have real touch sensitivity or at least be able to emulate it on an electric instrument. For those type of things it will probably be a few years before I get what I need out of it.
UV: Do you use your acoustic violin for any of the Hendrix material?
NK: Yeah, quite a lot. The Guarneri has got a kind of animal aspect to it but also the most refined [aspect]. And having those two qualities is very suitable for Jimi's music 'cause Jimi is someone who had that amazing energy in his playing but also refinement which has hardly been matched since. So that instrument of mine at least enables me to have that kind of tonal spectrum that could benefit Jimi's music and give me the chance of being able to do something that I want with it. So, I really enjoy playing Jimi's music acoustic as well as electric.
UV: How many violins do you have?
NK: I've got loads of electric ones that I've had made... Then just two acoustic ones. Including violas and cellos I've probably got about 20.
UV: What sort of amps do you use?
NK: I was using a Mesa/Boogie cab with a head and I found it was all a bit dark and difficult to have any definition in a group context so I changed to Marshall - a cabinet and a new head that I've forgotten the name of but it's excellent. I use Trace Elliot for acoustic stuff.
UV: Do you use a Marshall 100 watt head?
NK: You're talking to the wrong person, mate - I just got the bastard! It's really good because it's got depth of sound but also real definition.
UV: How loud do you have the Marshall?
NK: Loud enough to have the rest of the band wearing ear plugs! But it's disturbing so many people and I don't wanna lose my hearing so I'm gonna see if there's some way of having all the amps that we use in a room backstage and just use a monitor system - there's no need for it too be that loud with PA systems and I don't want to lose my hearing before I'm fifty.
UV: Which effects do you use on your electric violin?
NK: I've got a whole load of Boss footpedals - nice and old fashioned tactile stuff - and a CryBaby [Wah-wah]. I'm trying different rack things for different reverbs and stuff like that but I've forgotten the name of the one I've got at the moment!
UV: So all effects you use are conventional electric guitar effects?
NK: Yes, at the moment. I haven't had any effects specially made for the violin.
UV: On 'Fire' you're credited with playing 'phased violins' - what's that?
NK: That was something we did afterwards on the acoustic violin - we phased them using the tape instead of an effects box just to make the sound a bit more exciting.
UV: You're also credited with 'Kerrang Violins'.
NK: [laughs] The problem with a lot of my music is that a lot of people assume it's guitar if they don't know. So, I have to identify everything for the one or two people who might be interested. I can't quite remember that arrangement but it's the violin that means a bit of business - hopefully!
UV: What do you use for distortion - a pedal or the amp?
NK: Either a Boss pedal or the Boogie head I was using at the time. Because the violin has a sustained sound you can do more extreme things with the head of the amp than with a guitar.
UV: And you're also credited with 'doctored piano'.
NK: Oh, yeah. Instead of getting a percussion player I like to put a whole load of coke bottles or cans or knives and forks on the strings of the piano and hit the notes - it comes out sounding like some exotic percussion or something. A tool box is sometimes handy!
UV: How do you get feedback on electric violin?
NK: That's quite difficult because the instrument is designed not to feedback. So you just have to turn it really loud. The Boss Heavy Metal pedal is also really good for that.
© UniVibes 1995 - reprinted by permission of UniVibes, International Jimi Hendrix Magazine, Coppeen, Enniskeane, County Cork, Republic Of Ireland