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Fender Q&A: Oz Noy

Oz Noy Fender
Born in Israel, Oz Noy began playing guitar at the young age of 10 and never looked back, picking up blues, jazz, rock and R&B influences along the way.

Now living in New York, Noy is set to release his sixth studio album in Twisted Blues Volume 2 (May 20), a continuation of 2011’s Twisted Blues Volume 1.

For this edition of the Twister Blues project, Noy worked with such luminaries as Eric Johnson (guitar), Will Lee (bass), Warren Haynes (guitar), Anton Fig (drums), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Chris Layton (drums), Allen Toussaint (piano) and John Medeski (organ).  The result is 10 songs that are rooted in blues, but that also carry the heartbeat of rock and spontaneity of jazz.

Noy is currently gearing up for a tour to support Twisted Blues Vol. 2 with bassist Otiel Burbridge of Allman Brothers Band fame and drummer Keith Carlock, who has played with artists like Steely Dan, Sting, John Mayer and Toto.

Fender.com had an opportunity to chat with Noy just before he hit the road in support of the new album.

Fender.com:  Did you have Twister Blues Volume 2 pretty much wrapped back during the Volume 1 sessions?

Noy: When I started this Twisted Blues project, it was something I’d been thinking about for years.  I had some tunes that I had to finish and some that were already there.  Some stuff, I had to write, so I knew there would be two records.  One record wouldn’t cut it.  When I finished Volume 1, I already had 50 percent of the second one.  With the way I write, I have a concept from ideas that I collect over time. And then once I have a few ideas, I just start to develop them.

Oz Noy FenderWas it difficult to round up so many amazing artists to make Volume 1 and Vol. 2?

I play with those guys a bunch, but the problem isn’t about getting them to agree to play on the record. The problem is the scheduling. This record took much longer to make than the other one, and it’s just a matter of luck because you’ve got to get certain guys together in the same room.  I was able to do it, but it was over time.  The first session I did was with Eric Johnson and Anton Fig in January of last year. In May, I had one with Will Lee and Dave Weckl (drums), and then in June, I had one with Keith and Will.  Only in October was I able to get the stuff with Chris Layton and Roscoe Beck (bass).  It’s not that I wanted to do it like that, but it was the only way I could get everybody together.

I like playing with those guys so much—they’re the real deal. I don’t like to play with someone who sounds like somebody. I like to play with a real guy. That’s the price you have to pay. Hey, people are busy, but I pulled it off.

You’ve got a swaggering track on the album with Eric Johnson called “EJ’s Blues.”  What is your approach to working with a guitarist of that caliber on a song?

In general, the idea is to keep it so that I sound how I sound and he sounds like he sounds. That might be too simple, but the bottom line is that you have to let everybody show their character through their playing. It’s the same with Warren Haynes and any other guy who I’ve played with.

When did you first pick up a guitar and why?

I was 10 years old. I grew up in Israel, but for some reason I got into the Beatles.  And actually, I started out wanting to play the drums, hitting on pots and pans. My mom was already looking for a drum teacher for me, but I had a friend who was studying guitar who asked me to come to a lesson.  From there, I started to move towards the guitar, and it’s remained like that ever since.

Were you the type of kid who practices all the time?

I think what happened with me was that my brother was playing the bass, and he started a teenage band.  His friends used to come over to my house all the time and play Beatles songs.  I was drawn to that, and within a year of picking up a guitar, I could play them. It was just because those guys used to come over to my house all the time.  That gave me my first push.  After that, my brother started to listen to jazz, and I got into that at a really young age.  When I turned 15 or 16, that’s when I started to practice a lot.

What kind of gear did you use on the album?

I used almost the same guitars on both Volume 1 and Volume 2.  I have two ’68 Custom Shop Strats that they made for me. One is rosewood and one is maple.  And then, I have a ’68 Custom Shop Tele.  Those are the three guitars I used on both records.

The Strat has been around for 60 years and is still going strong.  Why do you think it’s been such an iconic instrument?

I think the main thing is that it’s such a brilliant design.  Of course, it’s about the sound, but the design is so efficient, everything about it so brilliant. It’s so comfortable that it feels like it’s a part of your body. If you think about a Les Paul, it’s got a great sound, but it’s usually heavy, it doesn’t fit on the body the same way as a Strat.  It’s a little awkward.

I think it’s a very personal thing, but I think there’s just something about humbuckers to me that are very hard to control.  With single coils, you have a lot more control over the sound. You can make it fat or thin.  The dynamic range is a little more controllable.  Maybe it’s just me not being used to it.

For Noy’s tour dates, visit his website here.

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