Hey Shredder

7 questions for guitarists

Deren Ney

Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers

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Deren Ney by Andrew Quist

Deren Ney is one subtle fellow. His face rarely betrays what smoothly etched, blues infused notes are about to dance from his fingers, and he slides into the mix so smooth it’s like he’s greased with chicken fat. His quietly smiling, bearded face and primo licks are a fixture in Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, a classic sounding classic rock minded band with a nimble reach into the blues, soul, country and more, all of it done with care and quality. You can hear for yourself on their brand spankin’ new joint Driftwood (released February 1), an addictively listenable set and early standout in 2011 that would enrich radio a great deal if any program directors are paying attention. But their broad appeal is rooted in something far deeper than the vast majority of contemporaries, a real dedication to craftsmanship and woodshedding that shines through in Ney’s always thoughtful playing. He’s the sort of six-stringer that Bonnie & Delaney would have loved in their ranks, except we’re lucky enough to have him kicking around the Bay Area these days. In short, Deren Ney is simply a pleasure to listen to anytime he steps up.

Favorite effects pedal? Why?
The Boss RT-20 rotary pedal, a Leslie emulator. It has a great sound and flexibility and is one of the few convincing rotary pedals. Plus the swirly lights on it look like E.T.’s spaceship.
Tastiest guitarist — i.e. not just soloing but also overall playing — currently working six-strings?
Neil Young. Still.
A guitar solo I never get tired of listening to is…
Brian May’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” solo. It’s one of the most overplayed songs ever and yet that solo is still so good. It has everything I like about guitar. The tone is very cutting but also very warm; it’s kind of dirty blues rock that seamlessly slips into these amazing melodies and harmonies; it’s really sincere and sweet but also very visceral and buff. It amazes me more every time I hear it.
Preferred brand of axe? Why?
Gibson. I can’t play other guitars correctly. I don’t understand how to make them sound right. I like how other people play them though.
AC/DC, The Beatles, Radiohead or The Byrds – which one gives you the biggest guitar boner? What makes them SO sweet?
AC/DC. That shit still rocks harder than just about anything. It’s so pure. They didn’t even overdrive those guitars. They just turned the clean amps up as loud as they would go, and you can tell the difference. If you have even a twinge of doubt that AC/DC is the greatest guitar band of all time, go put on “Riff Raff” as loud as your stereo will go and get back to me.
One lesser known guitarist folks should check out is…
Roy Buchanan is great. He never quite found the right vehicle to put his playing into, but if he had, I think he would be a well known guitar legend because he is fantastic. He’s one of the first California Soul guitarists.
What aspect of being a guitarist always makes you happy?
How expressive it is. You can really get out of the guitar what you put into it which continues to amaze me. The thing I am always trying to get better at is lessening the distance between what I’m feeling and what I’m playing. I want that to be an indistinguishable line. It’s tough. You have to really let go. My favorite players all sound like they are experiencing the music in the moment and reacting and creating in the same moment. I love trying to figure out how to do that.