Chris Traynor of Bush: "Guitar Has Given Me Everything I've Ever Dreamed of and More"
It's 2 p.m. and I'm on my third glass of wine. I've just been through a hellish customs check, and I've discovered that no matter what country I'm in, beard equals terrorist or at the very least, "randomly selected for security search."
I've spent most of the past three months in underground labyrinths supporting Nickelback on an arena tour. And while I'm not really burned out, I am looking forward to going home for a week. I rented a home in Los Angeles days before Bush left for Southeast Asia and Australia.
That was in January. It's now the end of June, June 27 to be exact. I've spent a total of seven days in said house in said time period.
What makes it a home?
My girlfriend of 12 years (We should really get married), my beautiful daughter, my dog (He loves me more than anyone could) and my rack of guitars next to my bed. I always sleep with or near a guitar.
When I was a child, I was struck by an article claiming Steve Vai took his guitar to the bathroom to practice while he was relieving himself. I haven't taken a shit without a guitar since.
I later read that Jimi Hendrix used to sleep on his bus with his guitar, and that "Manic Depression" was actually about his frustration about not being able to make love with his six-stringed beauty. Since then, I've always slept with my guitar in my bed, or at arms' length of myself in dream state.
While I will never ever be as good as either of those giants, I wholeheartedly believe my love for the instrument is in league with theirs. Life never gives you exactly what you imagine, or at least not how you imagine it.
Guitar has given me everything I have ever dreamed of and more.
Guitar Girl'd: Top 12 Hot Male Guitar Players for 2012
Can you believe it’s been a year since the Guitar Girl’d column was born?
To celebrate, I thought it only fitting to resurrect my favorite column of the last 52 weeks: my list of the top 10 hot male guitar players.
Yep, last year when I broke this concept, I admit I was a bit perturbed by all those lists of hot female guitarists … with the word “hot” not defining their scathing performance skills. Oh no!
Little did I know I’d be back for another installment of my version of this little game -- and this time with 12 instead of 10 guys (It is 2012, after all).
“Tell us the criteria,” you cry. “What are the rules? How does one appear on such a prestigious, yet beefcakey list?” Alas, the rules are mine and mine alone. Completely arbitrary. Subject to female vagaries. You got it: It’s whatever turns me on at the time. Strikes my fancy. Catches my eye.
So in the photo gallery here, dear reader, is my completely self-indulgent list of 12 hot guys who, oh yeah, also play guitar!!
HORSE-BIT AND HOMELESS (5/09/12):
I woke up this morning in the parking lot of a resort hotel in Orlando, Florida. Grabbed my guitar and room key and headed through the lobby to find the elevator bank.
There's a talking red parrot being heckled by chubby kids in shorts and swim goggles. I can’t quite hear the parrot’s retort.
I am pretty sure I'm being stared down by a man in a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops. A woman corrals her Disney-clad children closer to her as I walk by.
I realize that while my bed-head hairdo and derelict-sheik clothing might look good on stage, it’s currently making me look like a homeless dude who stumbled into the lobby with an acoustic guitar.
The fact that I didn't shower after last night’s gig doesn't help. I’m usually pretty self-confident, but I don't feel cool right now. I actually feel quite lonely. The sight of kids on vacation with their parents laughing and skipping through the lobby makes me miss my girlfriend and our daughter terribly. I get hit with a wave of depression.
So far, my morning isn't starting out great. I consider the fact that our tour bus, conveniently located in the parking lot outside, is stocked with beer and liquor. I could drink my way through the day in a hammock on the man-made beach, watching stray alligators swim past sun-burnt tourists in paddle boats.
It's aptly named Hemingway Beach, which makes the thought of drinking all the more appealing. Considering how easy it would be to become a full-blown alcoholic on a tour with so many days off, I change my mind and continue up to my hotel room. I make a healthier choice and suit up for a 5-mile run around the resort golf course.
There's a saying in the music business: "I play the shows for free, it’s the rest of the day I get paid for."
Like most men, I like to fill the holes in my life with tools and toys. Since my work is play, my tools are toys: guitars. I love guitars — lust for them, actually. I care more about guitars than I do about my own body. Case in point: I recently opted out of getting an abdominal MRI because when I heard how much it cost, all I could think about was how I could buy that gold top I've always wanted with the same money. I realize that kind of thinking is sheer insanity, but when love isn't crazy, it's not really love.
On the subject of love, I just bought a 1968 Martin D-35. I bought it from my friend Doug at Mountain Cat Guitars. The guitar is the rarer 12-fret model with a slotted headstock. I've wanted a D-35 ever since I saw Bernard Butler of Suede play one at an acoustic performance in the Bowery Ballroom.
It's got a beautiful three-piece Brazilian rosewood back and a super-slack tension that's great for fingerpicking or a deep Norman Blake-like bluegrass tone. Normally these guitars are pretty pricey. I've seen them at Guitar Center for upwards of $7,000, but that’s for a super-clean one. Mine's dirty, and I like it that way — a real "player’s guitar."
When I say "player’s guitar" I don't mean it in a "Pimp My Ride" sort of way; nor is it a value judgement on the level of skill a guitarist has. A player’s guitar is a familiar term in the vintage guitar business that means a great-playing vintage guitar that's probably cosmetically messed up with swapped-out parts.
Many guitarists prefer "player’s guitars," because they were mostly likely played to death for a reason; they are great guitars to play. The ones that sat underneath someone's bed in pristine condition for 25 years were obviously not all that inspiring to pick up.
My newly acquired, yet beat-up old Martin is inspiring to pick up and to play. Each crack, ding and dent on it adds more character; just like your favorite pair of jeans or that threadbare T-shirt your girlfriend loves to sleep in.
Earlier in the week, I had a chance to walk around my friend’s farm and play the guitar for six gigantic horses called Percherons. The youngest of the six giants tried to join in the jam by biting the headstock of my guitar. The horse’s giant teeth and slobbery mouth nicked a bit of the old Martin logo off.
If the guitar were a mint-condition closet classic I'd probably be bothered, but on this old player Martin, a horse bite just adds character.
Heading to My Hometown to Play Madison Square Garden (05-01-12)
It’s the second week of the Bush and Nickelback tour and I've made it back to my hometown of NYC.
While a lot of people move to New York for a little while and claim to be New Yorkers, those of us who were born in Manhattan or one of the boroughs might beg to differ. My father is from Howard Beach, my mother is from Ozone Park, and I was born in Rosedale: the trifecta of Queens.
As an adult I lived in Manhattan for seven years and then moved into Brooklyn for more than a decade. I'm not telling you this to "out New York" anyone, because lord knows there's millions of us, but more to give you the sense of how strong my connection and roots are to this amazing city.
This week I was returning home to play Madison Square Garden for the first time. It's been a dream of mine ever since I saw Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains The Same.
When I first saw the schedule for this tour, I noticed there were a few days off in the city. I was looking forward to some free time to hang out with my family and friends, hopefully filling up on some real pizza and bagels (why can't anyplace else get it quite right?) and hitting up Chinatown for dim sum.
Of course, if I had actually really read the tour schedule I would have noticed that my week was filled with press, television and special acoustic performances that were sure to keep me stuck in traffic in the back of a 15-passenger van with a driver who didn't know how to get to wherever the hell I was supposed to be (and once I got there, having to wait four hours until I performed for three minutes and 29 seconds).
We started the first morning with the entire band missing wake-up calls from the hotel. I was supposed to be in the lobby of the hotel at 7:45 a.m., but magically woke up at 7:43 a.m. without an alarm. I was in panic mode, and it wasn't a great way to start the morning of a major day time television appearance on The View.
I must admit when I first found out we were doing The View, I wondered how it made any sense to play a daytime talk show. But in the end it totally rocked and they had a great stage set up for us with fog machines and video walls. After four hours of waiting, and three minutes and 29 seconds of rocking, it was all worthwhile.
Afterwards we got to hang with Whoopi and Joy Behar, and Star Jones told me I have a "big career ahead of me." I hope she's right.
We hopped into a cavalcade of black SUV's (hybrid upon request) and headed downtown to sound check with a kids choir in preparation for a performance to benefit The Food Bank. The Food Bank is an amazing charity that remarkably feeds 400,000 people each day in NYC.
Stanley Tucci hosted the event and it won me major cool points with my daughter to have been hanging out with the Caesar Flickerman from The Hunger Games. The performance went off without a hitch and, due in large part to the wonderful singing and spirit of the kids in the choir, we got a standing ovation from Mario Batali, members of R.E.M., Kevin Bacon and, most importantly, Kenneth the page from NBC's 30 Rock.
I stole a bottle of wine and tequila from the party and took some friends back to the Standard to have drinks in my hotel room. I think I passed out around 4:30 in the morning.
My wake-up call rings harshly at 6:30 am. A rock tip: if you spend the night drinking tequila, don't leave the open bottle on your night table because the smell is absolutely nauseating the next morning. I manage to stumble out of my room wearing the full denim outfit I fell asleep in. We are off to do VH1's Big Morning Buzz and by the looks of the other band members, we've all had a good time last night.
When we perform our partially acoustic Bush sets, we call ourselves "Shush." We do "Shush" versions of "Baby Come Home" and "Comedown" on VH1 and I think they sound really great. The dudes in Nickelback are coming in the building as we are leaving, we hang and chat for a bit by the elevators. Gavin and I head out to the next television performance (Talk Stoop with Cat Greenleaf).
Talk Stoop is shot in Brooklyn, two blocks from where I lived for 10 years. It made me feel super comfortable to be in my old neighborhood again, and Gavin and I perform the first purely acoustic version of "The Sound Of Winter."
I realize we have never rehearsed it this way, just as I was trying to reach the 14th fret on my 12-fret Martin acoustic. Shortly after we finished filming, we break up a dog fight on the street and head back into our cars to go to the hotel. I have a late-afternoon run on the west side highway into Battery Park City, and it dawns on me how much I miss living in this town.
On the morning of the Garden show, I wake up with a stiff neck. I make an emergency call to my friend Dr. Paul Salinas at Park Ave. Spine, and he comes in for the afternoon to straighten me out. Paul is a Mets fan, but I don't hold it against him since he's such a great chiropractor. My phone doesn't stop ringing with texts, voice messages and emails from friends and family asking if they are on the list and if I'm nervous. Honestly the most nerve-wracking thing about playing the Garden was people asking if I was nervous.
We got stuck in traffic on the way over to MSG and the police blockaded the street we were supposed to enter on. So far my Garden experience is nothing like Led Zeppelin’s Song Remains the Same movie.
We are sequestered in a cinder block room backstage that is similar to most every arena in the country. There is a photo of John Lennon performing at the Garden with his brown Les Paul special. I wonder what his experience was of playing there, and whether or not his mother was having trouble finding her name on the guest list 15 minutes before he was supposed to go on.
I remember seeing the Grateful Dead, Jane’s Addiction, Peter Gabriel and numerous other classic acts at this venue, and I was really trying to channel into the historic energy of the building. I don't feel mentally nervous but my heart is palpitating as we are headed toward the stage. It's pitch black on deck and I'm actually nervous that my fingers might not be on D flat to start the opening riff of "Machine Head."
The flash pots blind me synchronistically with the thunderous sound of my guitar as I begin to play. The crowd goes off and takes the band with it. The rest is just a blur of adrenaline and snap shots of moments in my mind. We finish the set with the entire Garden singing the final chorus of "Comedown," and it just feels epic.
After the show I had a few drinks with my guests, and like any good New York boy I took my mother out for a Chinese dinner.
I had most of Friday free, and found myself doing what I love to do most: hanging out in a guitar store, playing guitar, and talking about guitars. I used to work in Dan's Chelsea guitars when I was a kid, and going back always makes me feel grounded. Dan is like a brother to me and he has some of the best guitars in the world. Here are some pics of me in the store, and a Fender Jaguar that I really, really want.
Click here to see all the pictures taken at Chelsea Guitars in New York City by my good friend Yana Toyber.