When Vintage Guitar interviewed bassist Noel Redding in the Fall of 1992, he recounted his musical and personal history in an eloquent and easygoing manner, focusing primarily on his adventures as a member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in the ’60s.
And while a brief phone interview can impart only minimal chronology, fans of the Experience’s music also had the opportunity to read Redding’s perspective in his autobiography, Are You Experienced?, to which he also alluded during our ’92 conversation.
But Redding has been busy in the ensuing half-dozen years, and he recently agreed to bring us up to date regarding his activities in the middle of the ’90s. In a casual trans-Atlantic conversation (Redding still maintains his idyllic lifestyle in rural Ireland), the affable veteran discussed his more recent ventures, including his namesake Fender Jazz Bass:
Vintage Guitar: One of the final things you noted in our ’92 conversation was you had started writing songs again. Is that still the case?
Noel Redding: Oh, yes; I’m thinking about doing another album. Tony Visconti is an old friend of mine. I went to his house when I was in New York last week; he’s married to May Pang, who used to hang out with John Lennon. We had hamburgers, sausages and beer, and he said to me, “I understand you might be doing another album. Do you want me to help you out?”
I normally don’t use a producer; I do it meself, but I thought it might be a good idea because he’s highly professional. He’s been around for a long, long time. We had a meeting and I played him my new old stuff, and he liked it, so we’ve got a vague plan about doing an album around October.
But in September there’s supposed to be some more TV stuff coming out on the BBC, I think. A guy made a short film about that Hendrix event in London last year. I went there with Kathy Etchingham, who was Jimi’s girlfriend for three years, and Pete Townshend. So there’s a lot of stuff happening.
After your interview ran in ’92, you sent us a photo of two of your instruments – a Fender Bass VI and a Hagstrom eight-string bass. I know the Hagstrom was auctioned by Sothebys, but do you still have the Bass VI?
I’ve still got it, but I converted it. I put guitar strings on it (chuckles), but I might change it back. It found it to be a bit strange trying to play a guitar with a neck that long, but the tremolo arm is very good. In concert, though, I only play Jazz Basses.
One note from you following the ’92 interview noted some of the people you were planning on touring with, including Hendrix impersonator Randy Hanson. How did those plans turn out?
Well, after my wife got killed, I immersed myself in work (note: Carol Appleby, who co-wrote Are You Experienced?, died in an automobile accident in 1990). Jim Dunlop, who makes pedals and picks, invited me to Frankfurt, where I did a gig with Randy. Then we worked in Finland and England; he’s a great player.
I’ve been working with a lot of different people, like Eric Bell; he played guitar with me in Europe, and I’ve also worked with Eric Shenkeman, who was the original guitarist for the Spin Doctors. I also did a couple of tours with Corky Laing, the original drummer from Mountain.
At one point, weren’t you going to do some performances with Leslie West?
I did a tour with him in America; I did 13 dates, then I had to leave. I didn’t get on well with Mr. West (chuckles).
More Jimi Hendrix Experience product has been released since Live At Winterland and Radio One, which we discussed first time around. Comments on any of the newer releases?
There was another BBC CD released about a month ago; some extensive live stuff from ’67, as well as a Lulu television show we did in ’69. At that show, it was thought Hendrix was going to play “Hey Joe,” but he decided to play “Sunshine of Your Love” instead; he dedicated it to Cream, and the director was going crazy, but they couldn’t unplug us, because it was live (laughs).
After the gig, we all went upstairs for a pint, and I told everyone we were probably going to be banned from the BBC. But the director, a guy named Stanley Dalton, came in and bought us a pint, and said, “That was brilliant!” It was weird, and they still play that clip on television a lot.
There’s a photo of Carol Appleby playing maracas in Are You Experienced? that also shows the headstock of a Squire Jazz Bass poking in from one side. Do you still use that instrument?
Well, since Fender did the bass with my name on it, that’s all I use.
Then we ought to go ahead and discuss how your signature bass came to be.
I’d sold my original Jazz Bass to a collector some years ago. A couple of years ago, Fender contacted me saying they wanted to make a custom-type bass with my name on it. So I found the collector and Fender got the original bass from him, copied it, and sent me a prototype, and it was exactly the same as my original bass; they did a brilliant job.
I believe your signature bass premiered at the January ’97 NAMM show in Anaheim, along with some Hendrix special Fenders, as well. There was a lot of memorabilia in glass cases, including a well-worn sunburst Jazz Bass. Was that the original?
Right; there was also one of my old original Sunn amps, and some shirts I’d worn onstage.
You were at that show; what was it like?
Joe Carducci, from Fender, is very nice, and when we went down to the show, he asked if I’d sign a couple of autographs. I said, “Yeah; of course.” Three hours later (laughs) – I’m serious about the time – he says, “You can take a break now.” The next day, when we went back, he asked me to sign a couple more autographs, and I said, “Certainly.” This time it lasted two and a half hours; it was amazing.
Weren’t some of Hendrix’s relatives at the same event?
Yeah; I saw Jimi’s stepsister, Janie, and her husband, Troy, and Al (Hendrix’s father) was there. I did a gig with the drummer from the Knack, about a 45-minute jam, but it was completely loose, and it was the first time I’d played the Jazz Bass with me name on it. It felt and sounded great.
Backing up just a bit to the creation of the signature bass; did Fender get any input from you?
It was a stock ’65 and I told them just to try to recreate it “as is.” One little point Fender picked up on was that I had taken off those funny covers over the pickups, because I had to get close to the strings to play loud. None of the modern Fender basses have covers on them; I may have been one of the first guys to take those off. So when my bass was introduced, it didn’t have pickup covers.
At that NAMM event, I was introduced to the guy who had made my original bass back in the ’60s; they tracked down the production records to see who had built it.
I gather the Noel Redding bass has been pretty successful. A guy I know named Dave Glover – he played guitar with me – works at Arbiter, in London, and he told me they sold the most Noel Redding basses last year, and they got a plaque for it.
Any other musical occurrences and/or other future plans?
I’m gigging hard on the road. The album I’m supposed to do in October is going to be recorded at my house in Ireland; doing it in the house is much easier and much cheaper, and if someone needs to take a break, no problem.
There’s talk about me going to Australia; I’ve never been there and I’d like to go. If that works out, I’d probably go a day early, find some Australian musicians, and rehearse for about 10 seconds (laughs). But I’m also going back to my European band, which includes the original drummer from Status Quo; he worked with them for 28 years. We also have a guy from Thin Lizzy, and we all get along well; we just did an Italian tour.
Later on, we’ll do a U.K. tour with Eric Bell and Eric Shenkeman.
There’s at least one future plan that’s quite positive; I understand you’re engaged.
That’s right, to Candace Carell. She’s from New York; she’s a makeup artist who was with [David] Letterman for 15 years. I met her when I did the Letterman show in October of ’90. We sort of commute; she’s in New York and I’m in Ireland. We don’t have a date set; I’m quite busy.
Busy? It shows. Redding has stayed active throughout the ’90s, and the Fender limited edition Noel Redding Signature Jazz Bass is an industry acknowledgment that the venerable musician has secured his place in the pantheon of rock bass heroes.
Redding at the January ’97 NAMM show, in front of a display containing his original Fender Jazz Bass, Sunn amp, and a concert outfit he wore in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Photo: Susan Carson, FMI.
Nov. ’98 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.