CRAZY ACES INTERVIEW – THEIR GEAR, BACKGROUND, INSPIRATION AND MORE - BY NOEL
One apt description of the surf music scene of 2011 is it was a banner year. There were so many established and new bands creating so much new and exciting surf music. I believe 2012 is shaping up as at least its’ equal. One example of this is the Crazy Aces, who have just released their first CD, Crazy Aces Greatest Hits Volume 2. It isn’t a secret that the Crazy Aces are established Nashville musicians. There used to be “thirteen hundred and fifty two guitar pickers in Nashville.” (Nashville Cats, Earle, S.) There are a lot more now.
There has to be a story to go with that fact. So I asked. Jeff Senn of the Crazy Aces agreed to let me ask him some questions via email, and here are his answers. I may have written a few extra words around the questions (as above) but what follows are the exact questions I asked and the actual answers by Jeff, whom I want to thank for his willingness to let me interview him. By way of full disclosure I’ll be writing a review of their new CD in a few days, but Jeff was willing to let me interview him anyway. I also corrected a couple of typos involving capital letters and hyphens.
Noel - Who are the Crazy Aces?
Jeff - Crazy Aces are a band made up of musicians from Nashville, TN. who joined together for the purpose of creating fun instrumental, surf, spy and psychedelic sounds.
Drummer Tom Hoey, Bassist Justin "Oscar" Cary, Guitarist Jeff Senn and Guitarist Sam Hawksley got together in mid-2011 and started playing covers of Dick Dale, Link Wray, Royal Fingers, Takeshi Terauchi, Ventures as well as James Bond and TV themes. While the band started with covers it was always the intention to write and record original material and forge a band "sound".
Noel - What are your musical backgrounds?
Jeff - Musical backgrounds in the band are varied and extensive. All members have been pro musicians for at least twenty years, and have been playing since they were very young, the drummer has had the kit he used on the record since he was six years of age. Between them they have played and/or studied styles as diverse as Classical, Jazz, Country, Rockabilly, Funk, Rock, Garage and of course Surf/Instrumental. All members have toured the globe extensively with Pop, Rock, Country, Musical/Show bands and Major Recording artists.
Noel - How did the band come together?
Jeff - I tried to start this band years ago but couldn't find musicians that could fit into the material or make the time to keep the band going. It's very difficult to start a "band" in Nashville. There are a lot of great players but very few have time to commit to a band situation and the norm here is to just plug players in for gigs as needed. This wouldn't do at all, in my mind, for an Instro/Surf band. I met Tom and Oscar on one of the last tours I did before retiring from the road and really appreciated their diversity as players and personalities as people. Once I was off the road I decided to try, again, to start the band for fun and to exercise my creative energies to perform and record music. Tom and Oscar were the likely choices and at a friendly, weekly brunch we decided to start the band. Although Sam Hawksley played guitar with us for the first year, due to his own busy schedule as a performing song writer and frequent trips home to his native Australia, the creative core of the band became a three piece and although Sam's name and picture are on the CD he wasn't present for the recordings. At present, Crazy Aces use one of a few guitar players as a fourth member for live shows, most recently Ryan Bullington.
Noel - Who are your musical influences?
Jeff - When the band first started I was the only one with Surf/Spy/Instro influences. My background with anything related to Twang goes back to being introduced, as a child, to Duane Eddy while being taught to hustle pool (billiards) by my father and uncle. I became aware of the Ventures through raiding my father’s record collection and by the time I was 14 was playing "Walk Don't Run" and Pipeline" professionally. With this band's unique ability to pick up, play and sense different styles of music, they quickly became influenced by the Japanese Eleki movement, in particular Takeshi Terauchi and Yuzo Kayama as well as domestic heroes Link Wray, Dick Dale, The Jesters, Ventures and more. Added to these influences would be The Clash, The Kinks, The Royal Fingers, Henri Mancini, Duke Ellington and many movie and TV writers and arrangers.
Noel - One thing for sure everyone will want to know is what the Crazy Aces used when you made the record; usual gear stuff. Who used what guitar(s), amp(s), bass(es) & amp(s), and what is that amazing vintage drum kit you referred to? Which effects were used on the record, that sort of thing?
Jeff - Guitars used on the record were:
2011 Original Senn "JazzGuar" with D'Addario flatwounds .010 -.048 - a 25.5"scale Jaguar I built in our shop with Lollar Jag Pickups (used on "Arigato Terauchi", "The Last Song, "Eastwood Outlaw", lead track on "Theme From Crazy Aces" and rhythm track on "Hippy Trip")
'66 Teisco W2-GL - (used on "Boogie Bored" and "Numb One")
'65 Teisco TG-64 - (Used On "Jedd's Gold Sled", Lead track on "Hippy Trip"
'2010 Gretsch White Falcon LTV - (used on "Invasion Of Malibu" and "The Last Song)
'67 Teisco EP-10 (Used on "Bangers" and "Numb One")
'53 Gibson CF-100 (all acoustic tracks)
'09 Jerry Jones electric 12 ("Attention Shoppers")
'64 Harmony Stratotone ( rhythm on "Theme From Crazy Aces", "Jedd's Gold Sled" and othes, don't remember, my wild card, do all guitar)
'58 Danelectro/Silvertone U1, highly modified - (Lead on "Bangers")
'73 Fender Princeton Reverb through 2x12 Vox cab with Mojotone BV-30H and BV-25 speakers (most tracks)
'59 Supro 1624 - (used on "Bangers" and "Jedd's Gold Sled", killer tremolo)
'64 Fender Princeton
'10 Fender Mini Tonemaster, battery practice amp.
'08 Fender Reverb Tank (well YEAH!)
Boss EQ pedal, Joyo Ultimate Octave Fuzz, Pigtronix Disnortion, Electro Harmonix Micro Pog, Behringer Vintage Delay, Boss TU-2 tuner, Visual Sound Angry Fuzz, Behringer Vibrato pedal, some kind of wah, borrowed.
All tremolo was amp created.
Recording Signal Chain was:
Nady, Cheap ass ribbon mic into LA2A compressor/pre with compression off into Radar software, mixed over 1/4" tape.
Dunlop Chrome slide on "The Last Song"
'68 Yamaha SA-50
'00's Fender '57 reissue P-bass
'12 Eastwood Bass VI
'67 Decca (Teisco made) 2 pickup bass
'64 Fender P-bass
'62 Danelectro Short Horn, short scale bass
'50's King upright Bass
Mesa Boogie combo (most tracks)
'60 Supro super through 12' Jensen Neo ("Theme From Crazy Aces)
Vintage Japanese "Custum" branded kit.
The snares are a 60s Rogers Powertone series. And early 80s Ludwig Acrolite.
There is also Tambourine, Shaker, Bongos and Vibra-Slap
Noel - Do you use the same gear when you play out?
Jeff - Mostly yes. We wanted the record to sound like we do live and vice versa. We also wanted to keep the recording process uncomplicated, very few punches or edits and the only overdubs were whatever track I wasn't playing live, lead or rhythm, percussion, iPad strings and a few samples. We tracked live and when we did do overdubs we would do two at once, ie: if I was recording an acoustic guitar track, Tom would be simultaneously recording percussion.
For live shows I often use an Eastwood Sidejack as well as the above guitars. My main live guitars are the Teisco TG-64, W2-GL, The Original Senn JazzGuar, The Eastwood Sidejack and The White Falcon
Noel - Were there specific influences or references you were aiming to recall in your tunes on this record?
Jeff - Without a doubt, but with our own twists.
"Eastwood Outlaw" is a nod to Duane Eddy.
"Arigato Terauchi" a tribute to Terry.
"Last Song" - Shadows meets Santo and Johnny.
"Hippy Trip" is a nod to the rhythm track in the Stones' "Get Off My Cloud".
Most of the rest were amalgamations of our influences. We weren't necessarily trying to make a vintage sounding record.
Also of note, if you like country music, we recorded the Crazy Aces record at Steve Wariner's studio and Steve played acoustic on "The Last Song" and electric vibrato bar answers on "Arigato Terauchi".
Noel - Can you tell us if there are there any specific future plans?
Jeff - Tom, the drummer is about to be a Dad so we're scaling back live shows for a bit, concentrating on recording new songs (we have a bunch of demos already) and promoting "Greatest Hits Volume 2". After that is will be more live shows as schedules permit and we're intently chasing the whole licensing world to TV and Film.
We write constantly and with our varied musical backgrounds would love to get into doing score and composition work for film.
Noel - If the Crazy Aces were invited to play the 2013 Instro Summit, would they accept?
Jeff - If our schedules permitted we would be totally into discussing it.
Well, that’s about it. I want to thank Jeff Senn for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly. I deeply appreciate it. And I hope Crispy reads this, really soon.
Like a said before, 2012 is shaping up to be another great year for surf music!
Contact the Crazy Aces at:
Purchase Crazy Aces CDs at:
This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.
Last edited: Sep 26, 2012 12:07:50