Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 33

MICHAEL LANDAU
Post-Punk Attitude

Michael Landau: Austin Hargrave.

M

ichael Landau is a studio and touring
musician with decades of experience. His
big break came in the late '70s, with Boz Scaggs.
"The Boz tour was definitely a pivotal moment for me," Landau recalled. "I was 19 years
old and, at the time, Boz was in full swing with
the Silk Degrees record. I went from playing
clubs in a Top 40 R&B cover band around Los
Angeles to playing arenas. It was frightening
and hilarious at the same time. I'll always be
grateful to Boz for taking a chance on me as
a newcomer."
An extended live gig with Joni Mitchell was
also important.
"The 1983 tour I did with Joni was the most
rewarding, musically," he recalled. "That lasted
eight months, and we traveled the world. It
was a small band - Vinnie Colaiuta, Russell
Ferrante, Larry Klein, and myself. She'd let
us stretch out a lot - long vamps at the end of
some songs, a lot of improvising."

Asked to pin down a single performance -
studio or live - he now considers his ultimate,
Landau recalled playing on a Pink Floyd
album in 1987.
"It was a specific delay part on one song - a
rolling, dotted-eighth-note part; I was young
and pretty confident back then. I played the
parts they asked for and added a few passes
with my own ideas. I was happy to hear later
that they kept most of those parts. That had
to be one of the best days in the studio."
One of Landau's '90s bands was called
Burning Water, and he recently had a chance
to reunite with some of its former members,
who he invited to back him on a solo album.
"I've been playing mostly instrumental
music for the past 10 years," he said. "Out of
nowhere, I woke up one morning with the
strong urge to play some hard-edged music
with vocals. I guess it makes sense because it's
really the music I grew up on. So I reunited

VINTAGE GUITAR

33

September 2018

with my ol' pal David Frazee and we wrote a
lot of songs together, most of which ended up
on the album, which I called Rock Bottom."
Landau relied mostly on three Stratocasters, including a re-creation of his '63 Fiesta
Red guitar.
"They did a great job with that guitar. My
'63 is very beat up, and they definitely nailed
the salmon-pink color they commonly fade
to. The other two are copies of my sunburst
'68 and my black '69. All of them are basically
stock, but I do wire the bridge pickup to the
second Tone control."
He also used two Strats with Lollar Imperial
humbucking pickups.
"I've been leaning more toward humbuckers these days, and since I do a lot of touring,
it's usually necessary to have the noise-cancelling of the humbuckers when I play clubs
and theaters, especially in Europe," he said.
"The buzz from single-coils can be unusable
and I'm not a fan of stacked or active singlecoils. Plus, I'm still very much addicted to the
vibrato on a Strat, and the longer scale. So,
two humbuckers makes sense for the music
I'm playing these days."
As for his sound on Rock Bottom, Landau
gave a tip of the hat to several players from the
post-punk/new-wave era.
"Like most guitar players, I was a huge
fan of the Police in the '80s; Andy Summers
truly had his own voice on the guitar - punk
attitude, but with these incredibly rich tones.
I was also a big fan of James Honeyman-Scott,
of The Pretenders. Another big influence was
the great punk/new-wave English band The
Screaming Blue Messiahs. Bill Carter was the
front man singer and guitar player - seriously
aggressive Tele playing and attitude, with great
lyrics and great songs."
Landau's brother, Teddy, is also a Burning
Water alumnus and he played bass on the
new album.
"He's very much a meat-and-potatoes
player," said Landau. "He has no interest in
solos or flashy playing. He's all attitude, and
his tone is big and warm, with a lot of balls.
He played a vintage Harmony bass with flat
wounds on most of the record."
Landau described one track, "We All Feel The
Same," as "...an alternative psychedelic blues."
Rock Bottom even interpolates classic keyboard instruments like Hammond organ and
Mellotron, and is replete with flat-out rockers
and less-frenetic songs that still proffer attitude
and interesting tones.
"I'm proud of this one," he summarized. "I
took my time mixing it because I wanted it to
sound big and open on a real stereo system at
high volume." - Willie G. Moseley


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