The NAMM Show 2017 Interviews – Caleb Quaye of The Elton John Band and The Faculty
Caleb Quaye & The Faculty made their way to this year’s edition of The NAMM Show for a very special live performance at The Anaheim Marriott Hotel. A world class guitarist best known for his work with The Elton John Band from the late 60’s and well into the 70’s, Quaye has appeared on classic albums such as Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy, Rock Of The Westies, Blue Moves and a whole more!
Quaye is also the subject of the forthcoming feature film, “A Voice Louder Than Rock,” revealing the inspirational personal journey of the world renowned guitarist. GloRoc Productions has reignited a crowd-funding campaign for the completion of the film. Fans are encouraged to lend their support by visiting gofundme.com/voicelouderthanr-r. We caught up with Caleb Quaye just right before his set at the Anaheim Marriott to find out more about the past, present, and glororious future of a truly brilliant career. Read on…
What are you looking forward to the most about NAMM this year?
Oh boy, you know I always enjoy playing here. We’ve been doing it for like about ten years now. So it’s always fun to meet some new people and fans of my work from all over through the years. They pop up out of the woodwork, you know, so I was signing autographs earlier today and I was doing a guitar demo for a Brazilian guitar company called Tacoma Guitars. That was fun.
When you play live, what is your weapon of choice?
Mostly a Fender Strat. I play a Gretsch hollow body sometimes and a Telecaster, but mostly I would say my Strat.
There’s a documentary called Voice Louder Than Rock. How did that come about and what was your involvement in that?
Well, it’s based on my autobiography of the same name and it was something that my manager– Valerie Tucker– she also is the producer and director of it. She has a history with Fox TV producing documentaries. She’s won nine Emmys and so she thought it would be great to put the story into a movie context, into a documentary because it’s an unusual story with my situation with Elton John and everything going back to the beginning. So that’s really how it came about. I’ve never been involved in making movies or anything before, so it was quite an education to see how long it takes. It’s very different to making records. Very different. But we’re almost to the finish line and we’re just looking for some funding to get it finished. We have on the web page– there’s a webpage for the movie (avoicelouderthanrock.com)– and there’s a link there to a Go Fund Me page if anybody wants to help us get it finished.
In these interviews in the documentary, when you see all of these people saying all these nice things about you, are you kind of surprised?
You know, it’s very gratifying. I’ve always been proud of the work that I’ve done in the past. Most notably the work that I’ve done with Elton John in the past. We never thought when we were doing it that fifty years later we’d become part of history and now there’s the first album, the Elton John album is now in the Grammy Museum. Stuff like that. So that’s like wow. It’s just amazing. So it is really gratifying because you just never know how your work is going to influence people and not only influence people, but whether or not it’s going to stand the test of time. So it’s been very gratifying now some fifty whatever years later to see that that music has held up — stood the test of time. They’re still playing it in the grocery store and all kinds of things. [laughs]
When you first met Reginald Dwight, what did you think?
Funny. Funny. He was a funny guy and a great sense of humor. When we first met, the first thing he did was make me a cup of tea, which I thought was great. He was cracking jokes.
Out of all those albums you did with Sir Elton, what is the one you’re most fond of, your favorite in some way. And why?
Wow – most probably for me, personally – there’s some gems on different albums but most probably Tumbleweed Connection.
Any particular reason?
One of the reasons was, some of those songs were done with my band at the time, Hookfoot. We were the rhythm section. We already knew those songs because Elton used to come to our gigs and sit in with us to work out his tunes. So there were a few songs in that period, Take Me To The Pilot which was one of them, on the first album. But there was something about “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun” that – it’s the funky album. Those tracks were cut for the most part, they were done live in the studio. For instance: the tune “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun,” my band Hookfoot, we had come off the road and went straight into the studio. We had driven a couple of hundred miles doing a gig up in the north of England, go down to London. We were booked to go into the studio – went straight into the studio and that particular song was cut in one take. One take.
That’s a complicated song too.
Yeah, there were a few of those songs were done in at the most, 2-3 takes. They were done, boom. Just done. So there’s this organic magic that was captured because we were playing live. It wasn’t overdubs and bits and pieces. It was done live. And I think some of that magic, if you like, it stood the test of time. People today, they ask me – how did you get that sound? I said while we were playing, we were playing live. [laughs] It wasn’t a manufactured, processed sound. It was 4-5 guys in the studio playing it live. So that was the beauty of that music back then.
What was your professional relationship with Davey Johnstone?
Oh wonderful. Davey came in because I had gotten busy with my band Hookfoot and Elton wanted a full time guitar player, so he pulled in Davey. But when Davey joined, Davey was primarily an acoustic player. He came from a folk background, Mandolins, acoustic guitars, which he was great at. But Elton wanted him to play a lot of electric guitar. So there was a period of time where Davey used to come and ask me questions. What guitar do you think I should get? How do you get that sound? I said, well just turn it up. [laughs] Stuff like that. Oh, ok! What strings do you use? And we still have a great relationship.
What was the last Elton John album you appeared on?
What do you think of Blue Moves, looking back, in retrospect?
It was a good album and at that time, and the band was a bigger band at that time. Myself, Roger Pope, he brought us back in. And James Newton Howard. We had been touring so it the band got very tight. Very good musicianship. So again, we went into a studio in Toronto, Canada and recorded that. We were there for a month. Most of that album was done live. It was cut live in the studio. Pretty much the only overdubs were strings or orchestral stuff. Maybe a few bits and pieces of guitars but for the most part it was live. Drums, bass, all live in the studio. So again, the same kind of feeling there. Some of those tracks stood the test of time. There’s been a resurgence of interest in that album, which is interesting. Musically there were some really interesting things in there. I always felt that the band could have gone on and done some amazing stuff. But in terms of a pop music context, it didn’t, I guess, fulfill people’s expectations in that particular context. But it’s interest after all however many years it is, people are now going – oh that album sounds great! And it does sound great, because again it has the magic of the musicians playing live. Even some of Elton’s vocals were done live, sitting at the piano.
For those not familiar with your work in The Faculty, compare your new band to the stuff you did in the 70s with Sir Elton.
It’s very different. Number one, most of the music we do is original music.that I’ve written. It really echos, I think, with what I call my heart music. It’s really a lot of jazz and blues and stuff that I grew up listening to. So, it’s not a pop thing at all. In terms of musical cohesion and interplay with the band, there are a lot of similarities. But it’s not a pop thing. Harmonically it’s much more sophisticated. It’s a jazz group, jazz fusion group. It’s all instrumental, a whole lot of fun. A lot of freedom for improvisation. We stretch out, we have fun.
Will you be releasing any new material, either solo or with The Faculty?
We’ve put out a couple of CDs a few years ago now. I’m hoping to do that again. Once we get this movie out, which hopefully will be this year. I’m hoping to get back into the studio because I’ve been writing a lot of stuff. Just hadn’t had a lot of time to get it recorded. I would say probably end up this year or next year would be some new material released with The Faculty.
Do you keep in touch with Sir Elton?
Unfortunately not. No. That’s been a closed door for whatever reason. He lives on another planet. [laughs] That’s the best way I can describe that. I would love to just for old time sake, but he’s in another orbit.
(Interview and Candid Photo from NAMM by Ken Morton)
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