Frequently Asked Questions
Willie Hines

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20 Questions (or so) with WILLIE HINES: September 2004
Thanks to my buddy, Willie, for taking time to complete my list of 20 questions. I hope all the fans out there enjoy this. And away we go......................

When and where did you start getting into music as far as playing guitar and singing?

WILLIE: I've been singing since I was a little kid-I didn't say singing well, just singing in general-and I would put the blame squarely at the feet of one Elvis Presley. My mother gets most of the credit-she always encouraged me to express myself and she bought me all those 45's. As far as the guitar goes, it was the typical badminton racket, standing in front of the mirror lipsyncing to the Beatles, the Monkees etc. It just went from there. My mom bought me my first guitar when I was 9, but it was too big for me so it sat under my bed for almost six years before I picked it up again. I took one lesson, learned six chords and never looked back

What guitarist has influenced your playing early on? Later on? Now?

WILLIE: Once I could actually play entire songs, it was all about getting a band together. By this time it's 1970, and power chords ruled my universe, for sure. Guys like Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad), Steve Marriot (Humble Pie) and Pete Townsend really got to me as far as the electric gutar was concerned. I've always been a rhythm guy at heart, really. I learned more riffs off of The Who Live At Leeds than almost any other single album. I started on acoustic and that's still my first love. Dan Fogelberg and Neil Young, John Prine and America. It was all about the ability to entertain oneself, and you can take an acoustic guitar anywhere; and I did. Once I started getting a few chops under my belt, I was checking out guys like Rick Derringer, Ronnie Montrose, and Peter Frampton. I have to thank Peter especially, for turning me onto the one guy who stands above the rest for me: Django Reinhardt, the Belgian gypsy swing guitarist who played with Stephane Grappelli in the Hot Club of France during the 30's and 40's. He died in 1953, and I wasn't even born until 1955, so it's kinda weird to be devoted to a ghost. Now, as I get older, I've begun to appreciate the older styles. Albert King, Jeff Beck and Keith Richards are always on at home.

What vocalist has influenced your singing?

WILLIE: As far as vocals go, my aspirations were always bigger than my abilities. Early recordings reveal a pretty anemic and hopeless romantic, if you ask me! Thank God I didn't want to be Solomon Burke. Once I took serious lessons from an angel named Judy Davis in Oakland(thanks to my friend Mark Ross from the old Eric Martin Band who got me an audition with her) I could pretty much hit all the notes, so it was a matter of defining a style. Guess what? I'm still an anemic and hopeless romantic! I can pull off a pretty mean Robert Plant if I have to, though. Still, my vocal heroes would probably be Steve Mariott, Paul Rodgers by way of David Coverdale, Robin Zander and Todd Rundgren by way of Darryl Hall. Yeah, try finding an individual style in that lot! Like I said, my aspirations....

What bands did you play in before Jet Red?

WILLIE: Like everybody else, I've been in a million bands. Some lasted three days, others a year, you know the routine. Some cool names came down the pike, though: Thunderbuck Ram, Berlin Airlift, Lost And Found. The first one of any merit was The Lights. In 1980 we had a regional number one single called "Wait For Me". I still have all the radio station playlists from then. We went to number one on my mom's birthday, July 21st, beating out Paul McCartneys' "Coming Up", the Stones "Emotional Rescue" and Bob Segers' "Against The Wind" for the top slot. I wrote the tune, had my first number one at the age of 25, and it went straight to hell from there!

How did Jet Red come together as a band?

WILLIE: Jet Red came together in the aftermath of my mothers' passing from cancer in 1984. Michael "Fro" Frowein and I locked ourselves in a warehouse in Modesto and wrote songs for a year. A drummer and me. That was the nucleus. A few bassists came and went, until the inimitable Brad Lang came along, but we'll get to that later........ The emphasis in the early days of the band was songwriting, period. We listened to so many divergent styles of music-everything except opera, really-that we knew it was going to take some time to develop our own style. Ideally, we wanted to combine the sweeping grandeur of Yes with the crunch of Van Halen. Ideally, that is. We had to be strong vocally and musically. The textures we were hearing called for keyboards, Fro's drumming was very Zeppelinesque, and I love heavy guitars, so that was the focus. Once the sound had been established, it was all about woodshedding. By the time we went shopping for a record deal, three and a half years had passed, and we'd recorded probably 25-30 songs

What was your favorite show with Jet Red?

WILLIE: You know that saying that becoming is better than being? It's probably true more often than not. I had more fun hanging with my friends and sleeping on peoples' floors and living just to play music than I ever did negotiating contracts and worrying about tour support or video shoots. Man, we was living indians! One of my favorite shows was actually six shows in five days. We were doing a week at the Shire Road Pub in Sacramento (our home venue) and were the opening slot on a New Years Eve bill with Y&T and Poison. We hit the stage at 8:00 sharp, played our set to an enthusiastic crowd of thousands, ran off the stage, drove an hour back to Sacramento and played the rest of the evening at the Pub. The other show that comes to mind was when we opened for Joe Satriani at the Wiltern Theatre in L.A. and Steve Vai was there and the crowd was very supportive. I think Johnny peed his pants that night. But hey, let's balance this with the other end of the spectrum, shall we? The worst gig was probably a show we did with Babylon A.D. where the p.a. blew up during the opening act and nobody else played. A packed ballroom, a sort of homecoming show, and we never even got onstage! So there you go.

What was/is your favorite venue to play?

WILLIE: Any venue is my favorite, man! (unless the p.a. blows up). Having said that, medium sized rooms like the Warfield are the most comfortable, but anybody who says that huge outdoor concerts are a drag is lying! The view from the foot of the stage alone, man...........

What Jet Red song was the most fun to play?

WILLIE: Hey, fun was our middle name! Still, "Lonely", "Lolita" and a song we left off the Relativity release called "Lots Of Days" which dates back to the Lights era. We'll be putting it on the soon to be released Jet Red II, which has already surfaced on Ebay, albeit in bootleg form. That song was everybodys' fave! (UPDATE 2009 - Jet Red's "Flight Plan" will be released so see the news section)

What Jet Red song was the hardest to play?

WILLIE: I think the hardest song to play was "From The Skies", except for Johnny, who nails everything every time. That, and a song we wrote about the Relativity debacle called "Connections" which we never released. Those darned time changes!

What's the deal with Relativity Records? What went down?

WILLIE: A couple of weeks before the record was to be released, the Vice President of the company - who was our point man -was in a head-on collision. Head injuries—out of the business. And so were we......

I remember we’re sitting there, in our manager’s office. He’s on the phone in a conference call. And they go, “Glen was in this bad accident, and he’s got head injuries. He’s in the hospital.” And Billy Carmassi, the drummer, turns to me and goes, “We’re dead.” And we’re like, “NO, NO, NO. In two weeks, it’s gonna be great!” He goes, “We’re dead.” And he was right...........

Who are all the drummers who played in Jet Red? Keyboardists?

WILLIE: Ah yes, drummers. I've been fortunate to play with some of the best. Michael "Fro" Frowein started it all, and continues to inspire and excite. Check out Jeff Pilsons' War and Peace or the Lynch Pilson album! Billy Carmassi. What can I say? Less is more, baby. I love that fill in "Outside"! Oh yeah, that would be the other favorite Jet Red song to play live! A local guy named Mick McKnight filled in admirably for awhile, and then we found Stevie Brown. What is it with famous drummers' little brothers ending up in Jet Red? I dunno, but it's great! You gotta hear the second album, people!

Keyboardists? Russell Van Norman was there in the beginning and was integral to our growth as songwriters. Mine, anyway. On tour for Relativity, we enlisted Joyce Imbisi, who had previously toured with John Tesh; needless to say, we had to change a LOT of her keyboard settings! She rocked and held her own, that's for sure. We found Brant Harradine after posting an ad at American River College. Now he's a medical doctor, so go figure.

What is your impression of the first Jet Red record?

WILLIE: The first Jet Red album would have killed if we had been able to mix it. The tones were there, absolutely, and then Brian Foraker took our album to L.A. without any of us and came back with what you hear on the cd. Johnnys' killer rhythm tracks are virtually nonexistent, as is Brads' bass tone. You'll notice that the "radio" songs get the royal treatment, but everything else-the harder stuff, really-got the shaft. As did we. I still love most of the songs, though.

What is your impression of the currently unreleased second Jet Red album?

WILLIE: The second album is what the first should have sounded like: huge! We produced it, and had a vendetta, so to speak, so the attitude is right there; and the songs are some of our best, I think. It totally smokes the first one.

What is it like to play with Johnny Feikert?

WILLIE: Playing with Johnny Feikert is probably what it was like for Ozzy when he had Randy Rhoades. A lovable little kid at heart with a melodic sensibility and shredding chops for days. And, like Randy, he could reproduce everything note for note. Any time, any day. On the second album, there's a song called "Dance On The Line", and you won't believe Johnnys' playing on that one! Seriously.

What is it like to play with Brad Lang?

WILLIE: Brad Lang is the best-ask Jeff Pilson, who definitely knows bass I should think. His energy is boundless, his attitude is uplifting, and he can handle any and all background vocal duties. What more could someone ask for? As I said, I've been very fortunate.

Jet Red used to play as Avion Rojo (pseudo acoustic). What is your favorite cover song to play?

WILLIE: Avion Rojo?!! Ah, you've been talking to Johnny haven't you? Yeah, we'd open for ourselves with an acoustic set of stuff we just loved to play. The one that stands out is Enuff Z' Nuffs' "I Could Never Be Without You". The funny thing is, CD Smash Records put out a tribute album to Chip and Donnie and the boys, and I rounded up my current bassist John Williams and Johnny and we went in and tracked the song on two acoustic guitars and a fretless bass, mixed it and sent it off in four hours. And it made the tribute! It's available at CD Baby. Check it out. I also loved doing "Taking On The World" by a Belfast group called GUN. That, and Jellyfish' "I Wanna Stay Home". Great stuff.
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If you were trapped on a desert island, what 10 albums would you take with you?

WILLIE: I don't know about you, but my desert island selections vary depending on my mood sometimes. For example, a Beatles album HAS to be on there, but it will be Revolver on most days, then the White Album once in a while, or Abbey Road; it changes, y'know? I HATE people who put box sets in their lists-that's cheating, or a cowards' way out at best, we go:

A)Elvis Presley-Elvis' Golden Records, Vol.1; 14 reasons why he truly is the king. All recorded before 1958, all essential. "All Shook Up" started the whole ball rolling for me.

B)The Beatles-Revolver; a band that went from "Love Me Do" to "Eleanor Rigby" in less than two years. Touch that. "Tomorrow Never Knows" is simply amazing. We miss you more than ever, John..

C)Django Reinhardt-Swing It Lightly; recorded 20 years after his death with a group of parisian guitarists called Guitars Unlimited. They extracted his solos from recordings and wrote charts around him. The arrangements are subtle and never imposing. Djangos' solos are melodic, romantic and dazzling. The other great thing about this recording is that it was done when technology allowed for better sonics; the original recordings are mostly from the thirties, and sound rather tinny, but here they come alive.

D)John Coltrane-Ballads; I learned about 'Trane listening to the last interview Duane Allman gave to KSAN where he talked about how he had absorbed all the guitarists he could and was searching for new sounds. He played "My Favorite Things" and I was hooked. Granted, a lot of later era Coltrane is NOT easy listening, but this recording from 1961 is perfect. Midtempo love songs performed with loving care by a maestro of the saxophone. Like Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue, people who don't even like jazz like this.

E)Brian Eno-Music For Airports; I walked into Cymbaline Records in Santa Cruz in 1979 and this was on, and it was the most calming thing I had ever heard. His first in a series of what he coined 'Ambient" recordings: music you could use for atmosphere in the background, but when you actively listened there was more going on. They still pipe this through the speakers in that big glass airport in France(the one on the cover of Alan Parsons' I Robot) to induce a sense of calm to airplane passengers. This, and the next entry, are, for me, what heaven probably sounds like.

F) Harold Budd/Brian Eno-The Plateaux Of Mirror; part two in the ambient series, and the one that still kills me to this day. I played this at my mothers' memorial service, and I want the first track, "First Light", played at mine. Haunting, minimalist piano musings drenched in reverb and echo. Melancholic and dreamlike.

G)Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays-As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls; I have loved Pat Metheny since his first ECM release Bright Size Life(w/Jaco Pastorius). His guitar playing is always inventive and his compositions invoke so many feelings in me. This album is less linear than most of his work, relying on keyboard textures and crystalline washes of sound to engage the listener. The title track is a journey of the spirit to me.

H)Yes-Close To The Edge; The definitive progressive rock album for me. I'd have to list Steve Howe in my top five guitarists of all time. The first time I heard this(on eight track no less) I could not believe what I was hearing. Angelic choirs of vocals swirling aroung majestic compositions with everybody playing their asses off. God, it's everything I would ever want to be able to play. Talk about a dream band..

I)The Blue Nile-Hats; This is the album for hopeless romantics in a melancholy mood, period. Every time I play this I'm right back in my tenderloin apartment in San Francisco, missing a girl. Some girl, any girl, y'know? When Paul Buchanan sings "It's over, I know it's over, but I love you still" it still sounds brand new.

J)Henryk Gorecki-Third Symphony; the first time I heard this piece on a classical station in Sacramento, I had to pull my car over. I thought about quitting music when it was over, feeling like every possible emotion had been wrung out of me. The piece is subtitled Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs, and yet Dawn Upshaws' soprano gives a feeling of optimism and hope.

Jeez, you'd think I'm a bit depressed when you look at my list, but I tell you if it wasn't for these recordings I wouldn't be!

What are you listening to today?

WILLIE: These days, I've found some amazing recordings that reinstate my faith in music, for sure. Ryan Adams' Rock And Roll is a solid piece of work. It's been getting a bit of flack for being all over the place stylistically, like he's wearing his influences on his sleeve. Well, who doesn't, really? I wish I'd written "Burning Photographs"! Then last week my drummer Jimmy Rehn talked me into heading down to Largo in West Hollywood (L.A., really) to catch Jon Brions' weekly Friday night stint there. Jon is the man behind the scenes, producing Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, and scoring films like Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love. Well, not unlike another hero of mine (Todd Rundgren), Jon is a veritable encyclopedia of pop music and a one man band. Literally. He performs with loops and samples and takes requests while laying down drums, bass, etc. It's like 'stump the band' meets 'name that tune'. Anyway, go to and you'll see what I mean. His solo cd is called Meaningless and it's anything but.

If you could pick an all-star band of players (dead or alive) to back you up, who would be in it?

WILLIE: My dream band? I probably wouldn't be in it, Ken! I'd have to have auditions just so I could meet all my heroes. Ok, I'll try. On bass, Paul McCartney (I almost went with Chris Squire). On guitar, Joe Walsh (and me too!). On drums, the late Jeff Porcaro, and I'd need a little texture so I'd ask Jon Brion if he wasn't too busy to help out on some keys. Yep. That'd do it.

If the second Jet Red release is well received, is it possible that Jet Red would fly again for a show or two?

WILLIE: Yeah, if there was a definite interest on the part of the public to see the band, I'd be happy to oblige. That's the great thing about that band-we're all still close friends, and will continue to be for the rest of our lives, I'm sure.

The first solo album is excellent. What is the status of the next Willie Hines Band (WHB) album?

WILLIE: Thank you for the kind words about "Yeahright". A quick plug here: the cd is now available at for a measley ten bucks, so buy two. Anyway, the follow-up is taking a bit longer that I expected due to two things: time and money. Still, it should see the light of day by the first of the year. In the meantime, people can check out the WHB by going to Yahoo groups and typing in williehinesband (or click here). There's some music files, some live photos and a message board, so have fun!

If you could tell the fans anything, what would it be?

WILLIE: The only thing I could say in closing is thank you. To anyone who ever loved a song, or fell in love to a song; to the dreamers who still believe in magic, and feel the power and joy that comes from a great tune...thank you. Stay young. Willie Hines III

Thanks to Willie Hines (check out Willie's solo offerings here)