I am unapologeticaly a veteran, throwback, rock & roll saxman. We're becoming kind of a rare breed, but thankfully Theo has given us a true, modern hard edge rock mouthpiece! As a long time rocker, I followed the footsteps of my late, great friend Clarence Clemons, by playing mainly a nickel silver Keilwerth tenor and Rovner Deep V mouthpieces. But something was missing - the Deep V was a good rock piece with nice edge and brightness but the highest register notes had the tone and shrillness of a bagpipe! In addition I wasn't getting the buzz in the tone which I like for my aggressive, growling style. I stumbled upon a Wanne DURGA after consulting with David Kessler of Kessler Music in Las Vegas who was a Theo Wanne distributor. Loved it right away, but still had a feeling it was a bit too tame for what I had in mind. Called Theo and he personally refaced and customized a metal DATTA for me that gave me what I was looking for - much more edge, brightness, focused sound, buzz tone than my DURGA; and my playing took a big jump and I became known in the upper Midwest as the "Godfather of Growl" - and the "Growlmeister ". Theo used the custom DATTA he made for me as a benchmark for developing the new SHIVA "Destroyer" which I use almost exclusively in my rock and blues bands. I consider it to be the holy grail of modern produced rock mouthpieces - all the edge and nastiness of a vintage Brilhart Level Air but with much more character in the tone, more projection and volume and less shrill-like upper register while at the same time easy to play bottom end (which with most high baffle pieces does not happen - it's pure genius).
My first introduction to rock & roll sax was as an early teen listening to the early pioneers during the middle to late 50's, especially Steve Douglas who played sax on some of the classic Duane Eddy hits like Rebel Rouser. At the time I was a swing band alto player, but that sexy, nasty, gritty tone that those guys were producing on a tenor sax mesmerized me. I immediately went out and bought a Buscher Aristocrat tenor and a metal mouthpiece and began to teach myself how to growl, flutter and play hard edge rock & roll. I toured with a few rockabilly bands including Mike Waggoner & the Bops as a 17 year old kid eventually settling into the pop/rock scene in the Twin Cities. Then unlike most other Theo Wanne professional sax endorsers, my playing took a hit. I married, graduated from business school and began a career in consumer product marketing while raising 3 boys. Music took a back seat, but I never forgot how to play. Then in 2003 I sold my business, retired and picked up my horn again finding the blues scene as the best genre to express the way I play; and I never looked back. I'm finding that players like me, Clarence, Michael "Tunes" Antune ( Eddie & the Cruisers) or Hank "Hurricane" Carter (George Thorogood) are becoming a dying breed, dinosaurs you might say. Seems most modern players are jazz, swing or traditional players who growl very little, play a zillion notes per frame and don't wail like us old timers! But that's OK - my unique tone is quite popular here in the Midwest especially with blues bands. Theo's mouthpieces have enabled me to play rock sax better than my early days and given me a chance to play on in these my senior, retired years!
Why did you choose to become a musician?
I fell in love with the sax at an early age; I simply loved the sound it made and how it could be incorporated into a wide variety of genres. Then along came rock & roll and my life changed - I felt then as I do now that "dirty sax" as they sometime call rock sax is the sexiest sound an instrument can make - ANY instrument!
What is your experience when you feel connected into the music?
It's a pure adrenaline rush. When I'm on stage playing my blues I find myself playing lines, riffs that I never come up with in practice situations. I drift into a world of improvisation that is totally unplanned, impromptu, unrehearsed and exceptional.
What is your experience of when you don't feel connected to your music?
I'm not a session player, side man or part of a horn section. Playing like that totally reduces my feel for the music and what I think a sax can do and bring to music. I prefer to play throughout songs adding accent fills to solos, improvising just about everything.
Where does your inspiration comes from? What does it feel like?
Basically listening to the classic rock sax players of the early years and to some extent, like Clarence Clemons, some modern rockers. Then throughout the years while listening to a wide variety of genres, songs, eras throughout my life, I think about how my sax would enhance and work with those songs.
Do you have any fun stories of inspirational moments to share?
"Back in the Day" there weren't a lot of mouthpieces available to a teenage kid playing in Minnesota that would produce that edgy sound I wanted. One trick I found quite by accident was sticking chewing gum on the inside top of the piece to produce a "baffle". Worked most of the time, but at one wild and crazy teen dance at a roller rink (if you saw the Buddy Holley Story you saw that those were popular places for rock bands to play) during a solo the gum came lose and I swallowed it and played the worst squeek and squeal sequence that was not only scary but embarrassing!