Thursday, July 18, 2024
HomeGuysInterview with Carl Verheyen: Supertramp, B.B. King and Improvising Without Scales

Interview with Carl Verheyen: Supertramp, B.B. King and Improvising Without Scales

Supertramp’s Carl Verheyen talks with Guitar Girl Magazine about female guitarists and gives suggestions for aspiring female artists.  In this insightful interview, Carl also gives us a view into his musical life from his early devotion to playing and practicing guitar, his diverse musical style and teachings, how he joined the 70’s and 80’s rock sensation Supertramp, his playing interaction with some of rock’s legends, to his unique teaching style referred to as intervallic which is taught in his book/CD “Improvising Without Scales.”

During his 40-plus years as a musician, Carl has been named as “One of the Top 10 Guitar Players in the World” by Guitar Magazine, “One of the Top 100 Guitarists of All Time” by Classic Rock Magazine, has won numerous awards world-wide, has written and produced numerous educational CDs and DVDs, writes for several guitar magazines, teaches, is a studio musician, and has his own band The Carl Verheyen Band.

Carl is a highly respected musician and is commonly referred to as a “guitar virtuoso capable of playing any style of music with remarkable mastery and conviction.”  To quote Beth Marlis, Vice President, Industry and Community Relations for the Musicians Institute, “Carl is a true A-list Musician…whose mastery of styles knows no bounds….”

GGM:  When did you realize you were born to play music and how do you prioritize your time with other priorities?

Carl:  I got my first guitar and lesson on the same day; my 11th birthday.  My parents had to beg me to stop practicing and do homework or play basketball.  So it was more of an issue of prioritizing the time for other things!

GGM:  Can you tell me more about your early musical interests?  Who were your influences and where does your inspiration come from?

Carl:  Earliest influences were British Invasion bands in the mid-Sixties like the Stones, Beatles and Yardbirds along with the USA bands like the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Paul Revere and the Raiders and soul stars like Sam and Dave, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin.  A few years later, it was Cream and Hendrix, and then all hell broke loose!

GGM:  You’ve produced instructional videos including one called “Intervallic Rock Guitar” and a book/cd called “Improvising Without Scales.”  Can you help us understand the intervallic style?

Carl:  Guitarists are taught to play scales early on and some of them never break away from those “tools” to actually create lines from them.  My approach is this:  Scales and arpeggios are nothing more than tools to be used to create melodic lines.

GGM:  Supertramp was a big act in the ’70s and ’80s and they continue to draw large audiences today.  I remember great albums like “Breakfast in America” and “Even in the Quietest Moments” with hit songs like “Take the Long Way Home” and “Give a Little Bit.”  How did you get in the band and do you collaborate on new songs or modifications to the big hits?  Do you have any favorites?  How challenging do you find those guitar parts?

Carl:  Back in 1995, I auditioned for the part of departing guitarist Roger Hodgson and got the job.  Instead of writing for Supertramp, I’ve always maintained a solo career outside of the band and kept my songs for my own records.  But I do help a lot with arrangements for the live show and I’ve played on four of their CDs where I’ve had the luxury of writing my own parts.  The guitar parts are not really very challenging, but the harmony singing is!  A lot of inner harmonies to sing while playing distorted bass lines or arpeggiated lines that have nothing to do with your vocal.  I like “Goodbye Stranger,” “Crime of the Century” and “Bloody Well Right” best ….

GGM:  Are you still touring with the band?  If so, when and where can we catch a live show?

Carl:  We played all the hockey stadiums in Canada last year as well as seven festivals in Europe.  It’s been 10 years since we toured the States, so I would hope that will be on the books for next year!

GGM:  I know you’ve recorded with some big names like John Fogerty and B.B. King, but have you ever met or jammed with some of the other living legends like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton or Carlos Santana? 

Carl:  Many living legends like Brian May, Larry Carlton, Joe Pass and most recently Brad Paisley.  My drummer spent 10 years with Santana so I feel I know him personally from all the stories!  And I did meet Clapton at a studio here in LA once.

GGM:  Speaking of B.B. King, his style is unique and let’s face it, only B.B. King can truly play like B.B. King.  Tell us about his skill…is he really that good?  He has admitted that he never learned to play slide guitar and he does not do much with chords.  He’s a bender and a great one at that, but do you think he is a great guitar player or just a great stylist?

Carl:  BB’s talent is in the whole package:  His huge, gruff singing voice with all that pain and soul juxtaposed against his sweet, clear high voiced tone with that hummingbird vibrato.  He’s not such a great player on the instrument, but he’s really tapped into the “creative pool” and made the most of his talents.

GGM:  Who have you patterned your playing style around?

Carl:  My list is at least two pages long!  It begins with Roger McGuinn of the Byrds and continues to today’s great players like Derek Trucks.  In between are jazz players, acoustic players, blues, rock, bluegrass and country guitarists.

GGM:  You are endorsed by many companies.  Tell us about your decision to endorse Wechter Guitars.  How would you compare the Wechter Pathmaker Deluxe Thinline Acoustic-Electric Guitar with say a similar model by Taylor Guitars?

Carl:  I’m always looking for the perfect acoustic to play live on stage with a loud, rock drummer.  I feel my search has finally ended with the Wechter; it’s the best live sound I’ve heard to date from an acoustic guitar.  I have at least 20 other acoustics for recording, many of them vintage Martins, Gibsons and a few Taylors, but the Wechter is for playing on stage.

GGM:  You have your own line of strings with Dean Markley – DMS Carl Verheyen “Balanced Bridge” Helix™ Electric Strings. How did you begin working with Dean Markley on this project?

Carl:  I reached out to Jeff Landtroop of Dean Markley Strings to develop them with me.  I was looking for the perfect set to balance the six screw or two screw bridge of the Fender Stratocaster®.  Leo Fender’s original patent diagram shows the Stratocaster bridge floating, and he intended it to be played this way.  My gauges are set up to accommodate a floating bridge on a Strat style guitar, but I use them on all my hard tail electrics, too.

GGM:  I have heard your amazing solos.  In fact, I was at the 2011 Summer NAMM in Nashville where you were judging the Guitar Superstar Event sponsored by Guitar Player Magazine.  You took the stage and got into a jam session with Reeves Gabrels…what a treat for me!  As a matter of fact, I recorded it and it’s on YouTube.  Your solos are quite extensive and complex.  What do you enjoy most…playing the popular riffs or getting lost in one of your very involved and intense guitar solos?

Carl:  Thanks for the very nice compliment!  I would have to answer with IMPROVISING!  There is a wonderful feeling when everything is clicking and you’re playing above your head, above your ability.  I live for that!

GGM:  Is there anything you would have done different in terms of the broad musical approach you’ve taken versus a specific focus?

Carl:  Not in terms of my years learning to play.  But possibly a career move would have been to leave behind the lure of the studios earlier and gotten out on the road in my 20s more.

GGM:  Where are you now and where do you see yourself in the next three years?

Carl:  All my energy is spent on my career as a solo artist, and my hope is that it continues to grow.

GGM:  How is teaching going to evolve for you and do you see more CD’s and books on your horizon?

Carl:  It is my duty to “pass it on,” to share the knowledge with the next generation.  So that will always be part of the equation.  But teaching is giving and too much of it burns me out.  So a balance of writing, practicing, recording and performing seems to work for me.  I’m working on a new CD right now and I’ll probably do an “Improvising Without Scales Volume 2” next year.

GGM:  Obviously, we’re a magazine focusing on promoting female guitarists.  Can you assess some of the talent that’s out there today and do you have any favorites. 

Carl:  I love Susan Tedeschi, Bonnie Raitt, Alison Krauss, and Muriel Anderson.  And although she’s a bass player and not a guitarist, I think Esperanza Spaulding is an incredible talent.

GGM:  Do you see any female guitarist emerging as a true legend rivaling the great male legends of rock?

Carl:  I need to do some more research on the subject because besides Bonnie and, of course, Joni Mitchell, the guitar legends seem to be men.  But I’m sure that will change.  I give master classes at USC and MI and there is a great new “crop” of female shredders coming up these days.

GGM:  Do you have any suggestions for aspiring female guitarists?

Carl:  Learn everything you dig!  Don’t ever limit yourself to one genre of music because it’s through the cross-pollination of styles that your own style emerges.  And the more styles you can play, the more hirable you become.  Set your sites on smaller, achievable goals one at a time, and don’t let up until each one is accomplished.  Before long, the big picture comes into focus…and you’re living your dream.

–Carl Verheyen Oct. 2012


Jennifer Batten has been quoted as saying, “Carl is one of those rare talents that make you want to run out of the house to hear what he’s doing next.” And with those wise words, be sure to catch Carl in his upcoming film documentary about the electric guitar, Turn It Up!, which will be premiering in early 2013.  See the trailer below!

For more on Carl Verheyen, please visit his sites below: (Carl’s Blog)

Photo credits:
Lex Gable (cover photo)
Nigel Dick (article photos from Carl’s last live DVD The Road Divides)

Tara Low



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Most Popular