“I love the way it looks, the way it feels, the way it sounds. I think it’s really meant for the player that is prepared to go all different kinds of places. It’s the kind of instrument that invites people to experiment and just have a good time. Whatever kind of music you want to play...whatever you want to plug the guitar into.”
As a founder of rock band, Living Colour in 1984, guitarist Vernon Reid has been making waves in the music world for years. Reid is considered one of the top "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" (Rolling Stone), and has an eclectic style that ranges from punk to funk, to R&B and avant-garde jazz. This month, Living Colour is releasing their latest studio album, Shade, to an excited fan base around the world.
Vernon has worked with PRS through much of 2016 and 2017 on a signature model, the S2 VR Vela which blends the original S2 Vela with a few of Vernon's personal favorite features including a Floyd Rose 1000 Series Tremolo, a "V-shape" neck, and powerful HFS pickups. The model is available for order through September 30th, 2017.
PRS: How did you start playing music/guitar? How old were you?
VR: I started when I was 15, stopped, then picked it up again at 16 & have been playing since. A distant cousin of mine gifted me an old Gibson Dixie Hummingbird that he no longer had interest in. he was little older & had moved on. I’ve loved the sound of all types of music my whole life.
PRS: Who are your 3 biggest influences?
VR: My 3 biggest influences were:
Carlos Santana - His playing on Black Magic Woman had a tremendous effect on me. This in combination with his extreme openess to Jazz based on the Blues & his Latino roots had a huge influence on me.
Jimi Hendrix - I was too young to have seen Hendrix Live, but he reshaped my sense of things as I started listening to him in High School in the 70’s. I do remember seeing him on The Dick Cavett Show. He was mesmerizing, funny, charming. Utterly comfortable being himself- referring to himself as “The greatest guitarist in this chair” when Cavett asked him about being considered the greatest guitarist in the world.
Arthur Rhames - Arthur was an extraordinary local player who also lived in my neighborhood of Crown Heights Brooklyn. He himself was deeply influenced by Johnny Winter & more significantly, John McGlaughlin & The Mahavishnu Orchestra. I list Arthur over John because Arthur was a neighborhood guy that those of who saw him play with his Mahavishnu inspired trio Eternity were completely in awe of. Simply put Arthur Rhames was an astounding improviser on electric guitar & extraordinarily intense multi-instrumentalist also on saxophone & piano. He is the single greatest Jazz & Rock musician I’ve ever personally known. Arthur died in 1989.
PPRS: Describe your warm up routine before you hit the stage.
VR: I play a series of semi-chromatic, whole tone, diminished, & pentatonic shapes up & down single strings & across the neck. Moving & holding stacked fifths to stretch my reach. Almost as a type of meditative device to be in the present. Not the past or future. Sometimes that works.
PRS: What attracted you to PRS Guitars? What PRS model(s) do you currently play?
VR: Custom 24 & Custom 22 models but then I discovered the S2 Vela. I contacted PRS to see if they could customize one for me and add a Floyd Rose tremolo system. I was so pleased with the finished product and talks began on my signature model which is available to order thru September 30, 2017.
PRS: Do you play any other instruments other than guitar?
VR: A little 6-string banjo. Even less bass. I have played lap steel, but am VERY rusty. I consider myself a synthesist without keyboard. I have ALWAYS been attracted to electronics in music from the first time I heard the Theremin in the Bernard Hermann score for The Day The Earth Stood Still & Louis. Bebe Barron's all electronic score for Forbidden Planet also continued my interest both in analog & digital technologies in both hardware & software for film scoring composition and performance.
PRS: Describe your creative process when writing and recording new material.
VR: I would say my process is building off a single idea, filling in details. It could be single sentence of text for a song, or a guitar riff. That process can be quick or long depending on the pieces temperament. Some things seem to practically write themselves, other pieces can feel as if they will take forever to finish. For me, it really is the nature of the end result that is determinative. Some pieces need intense focus. Some have to be walked away from, for a time. That's if I'm creating for myself. It all changes when the environment is collaborative. If I'm working on a soundtrack, for example, that first cue accepted by the film-maker is crucial. My Motto is "If I can start it, I can finish it."
PRS: When you aren’t writing music or touring, what do you like to do during your free time?
VR: I'm a photographer. I transform my photography into digital collage art. I also make multimedia video art and weird animation. I love movies in the Sci Fi genre. Some horror too. Love comedy.
PRS: What’s been your coolest experience as a guitar player?
VR: Getting a compliment from Joe Satriani's mother.
PRS: How would you describe yourself stylistically?
VR: A morphing mishmash fueled primarily by Blues, Rock, & Avant Garde Jazz.
PRS: How has your playing evolved over the years?
VR: Paying more attention to picking & fingering consciously. Respecting what it takes time wise to get better at anything. Really being okay with who I am in the present moment even as I work at being better than I am.
Grab Vernon's new album Shade here!