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Fender Q&A: Al Jardine

Fender Q&A: Beach Boys’ Al Jardine

April 4, 2012

With a solo album — A Postcard from California — getting released this week and his band, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Beach Boys, embarking on a worldwide tour to mark their 50th anniversary, Al Jardine has a big year on the books.

Jardine’s 12-song solo debut includes four cuts that comprise what he calls “the green side” of the new album, compositions that speak to the relationship of man and his environment.

Fender.com got in touch with Jardine to discuss the solo project and the Beach Boys’ anniversary celebration, which has spurred a performance on the Grammy Awards, a worldwide tour and an album of new material.

Fender.com: When I listen to A Postcard from California, it makes me want to jump in the car and drive up the coast. Was that a theme you wanted to follow?

Jardine: “Well, it wasn’t a Chamber of Commerce thing (laughs). It comes from the heart. It comes from my experiences growing up as a child and the first moment I came to California and literally tasted the water. My brother and I ran up to the ocean and scooped up the water and said, ‘It’s really got salt in it!’  It was such a fascinating experience coming from the Midwest. It never leaves you – that impression of magnificent vistas. It was an alien landscape, but a good one. In the Midwest, it’s all flat, so you see your first palm tree and your first ocean in one day, and it’s heavy. The whole album is about that first wonder.”

“Don’t Fight the Sea” had some connections to the Red Cross.  What can you tell us about that?

“We released the vinyl single last year to benefit Japan and their efforts to restore the water after all that devastation. I don’t know why we chose that song, but it seemed to be appropriate because they needed that relief. That song was an iTunes release, and the manager for my label, Rob Christie, suggested we could raise some money with it, so we did. The flip side of it was a tune by the Beach Boys that was called ‘Friends.’  I just was happy to help raise some money for the cause.”

What is behind the ‘Green Music’ movement?

“The green section of the album – ‘Don’t Fight the Sea’ through ‘Tidepool Interlude,’ where I coerced Alec Baldwin into doing the voice-over, and ‘California Saga’ – that’s all part of the travelogue. It’s all about the experience of being close to the coastal relationship between the land and the sea. It’s all those coastal communities that you would drive through from Los Angeles to San Francisco, or the other way around.”

You’ve been a longtime Fender player. What gear did you use while recording the album?

“My relationship with Fender is  something that’s close to my heart. Richard McDonald (Senior Vice President of Marketing, Fender Brands) was generous to ship me amps, guitars and a mandolin – which I used on ‘California Saga’ – to make the album possible.  It was an inspiration for making it happen.”

When did the Stratocaster first become your go-to guitar?

“We went electric on an early single – ‘Surfin’ Safari’ – and after that got picked up, it was important to stay timely. We were literally an acoustic band before that. So, we bought all Fender gear. It was a P-Bass, a Telecaster and a Stratocaster. That became a trademark for the Beach Boys. We tried a Jaguar, too, and a Jazzmaster. The Twin Reverbs, those were my favorite amps. I’m still going to play my Strat on tour.  I have a couple of replicas made, too.”

When you got back to the studio with the Beach Boys to record, was performing together just like riding a bike?

“That’s a good analogy. It was great. We don’t stop. Each one of us has our own bands, and we’ve all been out there touring, so we were in competition with one another if you think about it (laughs). That’s kind of neat. So, we’ve been singing all along. And the fact that I recorded my album, that kind of filled in the void for myself, resonating with the California culture, writing about my experiences living here as almost a tourist.

“I remember thinking about [the album] as a tourist, thinking about the San Simian elephant seals, and Carmel, watching the sea otters play up on Big Sur and the Monterey Bay… that’s my vision of it. 

“Now, the Beach Boys will amplify that feeling by taking it on the road and doing a couple of new songs from the new album. And hey, maybe a couple of songs from mine. Maybe two new songs from that album, hopefully.”  

For more information, visit Jardine’s official website 

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