Interview by Dewey Hammond
California Guitar Trio is:
How did the California Guitar Trio (CGT) get its start?
The CGT met in Europe in 1987 during a series of guitar courses taught by Robert Fripp. We toured for about 2 years with Robert Fripp and the League of
Crafty guitarists. In 1990, near the end of the League project Bert (Lams) invited Hideyo (Moriya) and myself to come to his house in Los Angeles and begin working together. We formed the CGT in Los Angeles in January of 1991. Originally it was going to be a quartet with another guitarist named Steve Jolemore, who was unable to join us at the time because of health concerns.
How would you explain CGT’s sound to someone who has never heard CGT before?
I generally tend to be quite vague: Instrumental Acoustic Guitar Music. I might get into the explanations of the different influences, the Classical, World, Surf, Jazz and rock. It is difficult to really describe, because I don't really think that we have much to compare to. And I don't really like putting labels on things.
Explain CGT’s songwriting process?
The compositions can come about in a variety of ways, but perhaps the most common is that one of us brings a general idea to the group and we sit down and work it out together. Occasionally we have a piece that has been composed entirely before it is presented to the group, this is the case with a new piece by Hideyo called “Dancing Anne,” which will appear on our new release with King Crimson’s Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto.
How has your songwriting process evolved in the past 10 or 11 years?
Songwriting continues to be one of the most difficult things that we do. The classical transcriptions often help us through dry writing periods. To me personally, songwriting is mainly recognizing "rightness" - to know what works and what doesn't work. A big part of this recognition can come from playing a new piece in front of an audience. If a piece puts everybody to sleep when it is supposed to be exciting or inspiring, then this may be one indication that something is not working.
Have there ever been any other permanent members of CGT?
No, but the CGT has always invited special guests along, most recently Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto.
How did CGT get involved with members of King Crimson?
In 1995, Robert Fripp invited the CGT to be the opening act for King Crimson
for a world tour. We did over 130 shows with King Crimson over the course of
about a year and a half. After getting to know Tony during these tours, in
1999 we simply asked him if he was interested in doing some playing together
which went very well. The story with Pat is a little longer, but to make it
short: The CGT featuring Tony was invited to do a project with a drummer for
another record label. A short tour was booked to prepare for the recording,
but the recording project fell through and the drummer backed out. Pat heard
the news and called and offered his help. We played 9 shows on the West
Coast last February with Tony and Pat that were spectacular. We recently did
another 10 shows with Tony and Pat, then went straight into the studio to
record a new CD in Austin, Texas.
Personally, whom were you most excited to share the stage with?
I am still in awe of Tony Levin. Sometimes I look across the stage and
think, wow, that's Tony Levin! Tony is one of most musical players that I
know of. I feel that I learn something every time we play together.
Of those musicians whom you have not shared the stage with, whom would you most like to play with?
The CGT has been talking about doing something with a vocalist sometime. I
would be very interested to hear what we could do with someone like Sarah
What has been the most interesting/weird/cool thing that has happened while CGT was playing onstage?
Having John McLaughlin watch us from the side of the stage was very scary.
One of the funniest things was at a show in Chicago when Bert suddenly
realized that his fly was open. It was a very intimate show with people very
close to the stage. Bert did his best to button up his 501's but I am certain
that most people knew what was going on.
Plans for the future?
We are actually in the process of making a sort of CGT's Greatest Hits combining our four official releases on DGM. This will give the best overview of what the CGT does. It should be released later 2001 or early 2002.