Having completed tours of Europe and parts of the U.S., Jane Getter is focused on more of the same with her progressive metal/rock/jazz project, Premonition. Her new album, On, was released in October 2015. It was co-produced by Getter and keyboardist Adam Holzman, and features an all-star lineup of musicians: drummer Chad Wackerman, guitarist Alex Skolnick, bassist Bryan Beller, saxophonist/flautist/clarinetist Theo Travis, and vocalist Corey Glover. She was joined on tour in the U.S. by Holzman, Skolnick, bassist Stu Hamm, and drummer John Mader.
[Cover Photo Credit: Lasse Hoile]
“We’re focusing on getting some more touring happening,” she says. “That’s a good way to get this music out to a larger fan base. It’s a bit different from my previous work, and there’s a little of a different fan base that I’m trying to get the work out to. In the meantime, I am getting material ready for my next record. I also am considering doing a live release from different recordings from our recent tour, with a bonus track we recorded that wasn’t released but features the same musicians.”
As a guitarist and composer, Jane Getter’s recording and performance resume includes a who’s who of music industry greats. She is a recipient of the ASCAP Gershwin Award for Music for Dance or Theatre, and was a member of the Saturday Night Live band. She released her debut album, Jane, in 1998, and received worldwide acclaim. In 2006, she released See Jane Run, in 2009, she recorded Secret Code, a guitar duet project with Bruce Arnold, and in 2012, she delved into progressive jazz/rock with Three.
When you do something different from your previous releases, is that a risk with the established fan base, or do they expect the unexpected?
It’s not that much different, and it’s been a gradual evolution. My last record, Three, has a lot of progressive rock elements in it, as did the album before that [See Jane Run]. The album before that one [Jane] had some progressive elements in it too. I’ve never put out a total straight-ahead jazz album, although I did record one that was never released. My first album, Jane, is jazz-rock fusion, See Jane Run is jazz fusion with progressive elements, and Three has even more progressive elements, so I don’t think On is a drastic change from my previous work.
Are you taking those progressive elements a step further with what you’re writing now, or are you shifting gears?
I’m still in that phase, so my new stuff is similar to On. I haven’t totally explored this direction yet. I’m still having fun here, still enjoying this style that I’ve been writing and playing in, so I’m not done with it yet!
Do you stay close to the original arrangements of your songs when you perform, or do you improvise?
There are bits of the recorded solos, but the live solos are all pretty much improvised. In terms of the arrangements, we do a few different things than are on the record. It’s a fresh approach to some of the songs, like an unexpected thing. We have a breakdown in “Train Man” — on the recording, Alex Skolnick solos first, I solo on another section, and then we do a trading thing. In the live version we still do that, but there’s a breakdown with the rhythm section, so it gets kind of quiet with us trading and it builds from there. So a few things are different, but we basically stay true to the arrangements, and sometimes the solo sections are a little bit longer.
What part does the audience play in that?
It’s a combination of what’s going on with the band, how much interaction is going on, what the drummer is doing, what Adam is playing on the chords behind me, and the audience. When the audience is really with me and hearing everything I’m playing, that inspires me to do something different. It’s a combination of all the factors.
How do you keep your sound consistent night after night?
I bring a lot of pedals with me! Every room sounds different, and the voltage in every room is slightly different, so I like to have lots of backups and combinations of pedals and tones to get a sound that I like.
What was your process for finding the right components to get your live sound?
I know how to get what I want out of my amp and pedals, but it still varies with each room and the voltage onstage. When I’m playing through an amp that’s not mine, like when I go to Europe — I am not at a point where I can bring my own amp yet, so I have to get what I can there — that is trial and error. That’s why soundchecks are so important, because I have a chance to try different tones and settings. But there’s an issue with that too, which is, it will sound one way when you’re checking things out on your own, but when the band plays, it’s going to sound slightly different, so the more chance you have to play in a particular room with a particular gear setup, the more chance you have to hopefully get a sound that you’re happy with.
What is in your chain?
When I have my amp with me, I use the Fuchs Full House 50 with a 2×12 cabinet. That’s my main distortion sound. Sometimes I’ll add another pedal to get a little bit more kick-ass to it. I start with an MXR Dyna Comp. I don’t use it all the time. It’s there for when I think I need it. That goes to a Vox wah-wah. From there, I have two distortion pedals — a Seymour Duncan Dirty Deed and a Rocktron Metal Planet — a Fuchs Plush Drive, a Fuchs Cream, and a Seymour Duncan Lava Box. I have all those pedals because, depending on where I’m playing and what the room sounds like, different pedals will sound differently, and I do use a couple of them at the same time. I go through a ToneConcepts Distillery, which is almost like a compressor preamp. From there, I have a TC Electronics chorus pedal. I don’t use the chorus much anymore, but I use the flanger to get the sounds I like. I have two delay pedals: a JAM Delay Llama that’s got a really nice analog delay that I leave on most of the time — it’s a short delay with a little bit of a train — and a BOSS Digital Delay, which I use for longer delays for certain sound effects. A lot of times I do a solo intro for a song, and I use it for that. That all goes into a volume pedal and into the amp. I bring two guitars: my Peekamoose custom guitar, which is my main guitar; it was made specifically for me by Paul Schwartz, and an acoustic Yamaha AC3R that’s got a pickup in it. The Peekamoose is the most versatile. It’s a Strat style with humbuckers, so I’m able to get a fat, almost Les Paul kind of sound and a Strat kind of sound. It’s got a beautiful sound and it plays great. I also have a Strat and a Tele, but they’re not as versatile to me. The electronics in the Yamaha are really good, and they sound good for live playing. I also have a beautiful Martin D-28 that has a pickup under the bridge. I use that guitar for recording, or in a situation where I can mic it. The band gets pretty loud, so the acoustic has to have a pickup in it, because the mic would not work without feeding back.
What do you need from your musicians?
I have to like the sound that comes out when they play. I have to like their approach and flexibility and openness. I like musicians that like to interplay with other musicians, especially during solo sections. People that have really good feel, groove, pocket, and timing, and that goes across the board. Musicians that have a lot of chops, but don’t overuse them and don’t overplay. There are plenty of awesome musicians out there. The hard part is getting everyone’s schedules together so they can all tour at the same time.
You have a new rhythm section for your tour dates. Did they learn the material note for note from the albums, or do they improvise to a degree?
We had three days of rehearsals before the last tour. They came into those rehearsals knowing their parts and with a good grasp on the music. Learning what’s on the record is a good start, but I encourage them to put their own take on it in certain sections. I like interplay during solo sections, and I like people to leave the basic groove and harmony and bass line so that the solo has a chance to grow and go someplace and not stagnate. Everyone I hire for tours or recording is professional. They’re serious, great players and they’re going to start from an awesome place. Otherwise they wouldn’t be playing with me. So it’s not that hard. A great player can adjust to situations.
What makes you a good bandleader?
Being clear, being decisive, but also being open-minded and wanting people to play like themselves. I hire them because I like the way they play, so I want their personality in what they do. If I’m not crazy about it, I’ll say something, but I wouldn’t want someone to be defensive and say, “Too bad, that’s how I want to do it.”
Let’s talk about sequencing the albums and shows.
A lot of it is feel. When you play through all the material at one time, you can feel where it needs to have a change. There’s a certain vibe in one song, and if you play another song with that same vibe, the listener might get bored. You want to keep the music interesting and you want it to sound fresh. That’s the same with the album. Live, certain arrangements are slightly different, the solo sections can be a little bit longer, and you have to take that into consideration. Also, I like to break it up so there are dynamics. I do a solo intro to a song, Adam does one, Stuart does one, so there are changes and people aren’t being blasted with loud stuff for over an hour. The solo intros are not on the album, but the album is a bit more concise than the live performances.
Do you work from a set list?
We have the same set list every night, although we change it a little bit if it feels like certain things aren’t working. Originally, the set was ending with “Transparent,” but in Europe we made that the second song and we ended with “Train Man.” That seemed to work better. The rest of the set stays the same. That’s important, because if we want to change the sound, or change our instruments, people know ahead of time. Because this music is pretty complex and there are so many elements going on, sometimes I focus on a certain aspect or section that I didn’t do the night before, or I have a different approach when soloing. I might try a different scale or phrase or arpeggio.
What does your practice consist of?
I don’t practice as much as I would like, but I have my practice routine. I write my own scales and make up arpeggios out of that, so I’m always working on something. A lot of times I warm up and I want to start writing. When I get into a groove where I have a lot of time, I always practice, but I also do a lot of writing.
Do the songs sometimes change direction during the writing process?
Yes, and that can happen organically or consciously, because I write, record, make demos, and listen back, and sometimes I don’t like a section, so I scrap it because I hear it going in a different direction. So sometimes it happens during the process and sometimes it happens during a playback.
Do you write for the guitar you’re playing, or does the guitar sometimes determine the outcome of the song?
I usually write on whatever guitar is handy at the moment! When I’ve written a part, that’s when I hear what guitar I want to use and what sound, whether it’s acoustic, a more clean sound, or an overdriven sound. That usually comes after or while I’m writing it and hear it going in a certain direction, but I don’t pick up a guitar to write an acoustic part. That usually comes after.
Early in your career, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
There were, and still are, challenges to being a woman that plays the kind of music that I play, especially in my early years playing straight-ahead jazz, because there weren’t that many of us and there still aren’t. Particularly what I’m doing now, I think there might be fewer women doing this than when I was doing straight-ahead jazz, which I still do sometimes. I still love it. One of the main challenges is the opportunity aspect, in that a lot of male artists don’t want women in their bands. When someone is given a list of players as recommendations and there’s a woman on the list, she’s going to get called last. I felt that women were criticized or checked out two-fold, like, “Oh wow, that’s a girl player. Well, how does she play?” They expect you to not be able to play very well, so you have to play your ass off in order for them to accept and respect you as a player. That’s some of the challenges that women players on all instruments have. The only thing I can say about that is you’ve got to keep doing what you’re doing. Keep practicing, make sure you’re playing to the best of your ability, and hopefully, opportunities will come out of that.
Some musicians believe that reading music is key, while some believe it creates too many rules. Your thoughts?
It’s important to read music, because otherwise you are cutting yourself off from a whole other world. Any aspect of music that can enhance your playing is worthwhile. If you’re trying to make a living as a guitar player — unless you end up being in a rock band where they don’t use written music, which does happen sometimes — if you don’t know how to read music, you are cutting yourself off from gig possibilities. When I played in the Saturday Night Live band, reading was such a big part of it. If I couldn’t read, I never could have done that gig. There are so many gigs where that is imperative. If you want to stay in your little bubble and isolate yourself from gig possibilities, that’s fine, but if you want to try to make a living at it, you’ve got to open every possibility of any gig.
Is the importance of playing rhythm often overlooked when players first pick up the guitar?
Yes. Rhythm is the basis for everything. The flashy lead players that don’t have any rhythm don’t sound that good to me because their timing is not that great. Playing rhythm makes you able to lock in with the rhythm section, settle your groove, and have a good feel. I think rhythm is imperative. I don’t understand how somebody wouldn’t want to play rhythm, but that’s me! You can be flashy and have a lot of chops, but a lot of times it has nothing to do with the music that’s going on. They could be out there by themselves and the same thing would be going on.
How important is it for you to work with other guitarists? Do you do much jamming? In the era of files, does it still exist?
It’s very important, not only for work but also for playing. You always learn something when you play with another guitarist, and they learn from you. It’s a great way to share, build up everybody’s playing and exposure, and it’s a lot of fun. Jamming still exists, I think on different levels. Some bands that write together, songs come out of jams. We have a really cool jam that was recorded during the sessions for On. I came up with a riff, we jammed on it for twenty minutes, and that’s going to be the bonus track on my live album because there’s some great stuff on there. So yes, jamming still happens, at least in my world.
Do you work much with files?
I have done some things. A lot of the overdubs on the album I recorded at the studio in my house, and we put those files into the basic tracks. I have done some for other people, but I haven’t done tons of it, like some people do.
What do guitar students need to know?
Every student is different, but every student needs to know the foundation and basics, chords, scales, and modes, and the different approaches to playing. As you learn all of this, you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to, but it’s there at your fingertips if you need it.
Is there any genre you haven’t tackled?
I would love to learn how to play metal more. There are a lot of metal aspects on my album. Alex Skolnick, who plays in Testament, is my second guitar player on the album. I wanted authentic metal playing on those certain sections, plus he and I have a rapport because we play in another three-guitar project together. He toured with us in the fall, which was great. I would like to get into that more. I don’t love all metal, but there is progressive metal that I like. I can play it, but I still sound like me playing it and it doesn’t sound real authentic at times, so I’d like to get more of that happening.
Won’t it always sound like you?
It’s always going to sound like me, but I want it to sound like me playing metal, not me trying to play metal! I think I’m getting closer to that.