The Soul of an Artist, Part 3 of My Interview With Mike Tessier

Cover photo by Amarendra Ghanekar

In this part of the interview, we talk more about Canadian artists that have left their mark on rock history, including April Wine and Rush. Specifically, we talk about the great talents and contributions of their respective members, Myles Goodwyn in April Wine, and Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neil Peart in Rush.

Mike mentions to us that an acquaintance of his, Marc Parent, a musician from Mike’s hometown of Aylmer, Quebec, is taking over for Goodwyn who has decided to retire. It makes Mike very proud that someone from his hometown has taken over for a well-known band. He also tells us that Marc is a very talented guitarist and is also a very personable and friendly person.

In the case of Rush, Mike tells us that he wasn’t a “huge Rush fan” but has a “great deal of respect” for what they accomplished throughout their career, and says they are “awesome musicians.” I doubt anyone would argue with that point. Mike tells us that in the early days, Lifeson mostly used a hollow body guitar and that is partly how he developed his signature tone. We also talk about the amazing talents of Rush’s bass player and lead singer, Geddy Lee, especially how he was able to multi-task on stage. Lee was known to play bass pedals, synthesizer, sing lead, and play bass guitar. In fact, he is probably one of rock’s best ever bass players.

Mike explains that he has great innate timing and rhythm but lacks what he calls “the left brain – right brain thing,” that would allow him to play drums for example, leading us to talk about the considerable talent it takes to play drums. In talking about the famous session drummer, known for his pioneering role in Steely Dan, Toto, and countless other pop an rock songs, Jeff Porcaro, Mike says,

“(He) is the quintessential drummer (who) had that feel and swing. (He was) the technical with feel guy.”

Just about everyone would agree on those points when discussing the work of Porcaro, a drummer who “played with time” and exhibited incredible drumming “dynamics.”

We also mention the contributions of Steve Lukather, who played with Porcaro in Toto before his untimely passing.

Mike clearly loves music and guitar, and tells us,

“You could spend your whole life just digging into music. Finding out who’s who (and) who does what.”

Mike then takes out his Hendrix inspired Strat and plays a few Hendrix inspired riffs. Not only his he a great luthier, he also quite the guitarist.

We have a bit of a discussion of Mike’s Headrush pedalboard, saying,

“I’m a digital guy. I love the sound of tube amps; I just don’t like what they do live.” They “sag” as he calls it. “It’s too easy (using a modelling pedalboard). You can do what you want.”

He says, “you can’t get an amp to do what it used to do in the sixties. You can’t get the volume to move air,” especially playing in smaller clubs.

Mike then treats us to a demo of his Rand Habner inspired, Model TR, as he calls it. It’s a “neck-through” design and a true “hair metal” looking guitar. But he is quick to point out that his TR is at home playing any style of rock & roll. Even though it was inspired by the Habner, he incorporated some of his own innovations that you can see in the video.

Photo credit: Amarendra Ghanekar

Mike calls it the “sexiest” guitar he has ever made and a “totally eighties” guitar. He describes it in great detail and covers many of the steps in took to complete the project. It’s important for Mike that his guitar be as versatile as possible and should have the ability to play most any style. He correctly says,

“If you can’t play a whole show with one guitar, to me, there’s a problem.”

He designs his guitars to be balanced, both physically and sonically. He says,

“(A guitar) is supposed to do what you want it to do.”

Esthetics are extremely important to him, right down to the smallest of details.

Photo credit: Amarendra Ghanekar

“If you’re spending four or five grand on a guitar, you can’t have backplates with screws, especially if the screws don’t match. To me, a guitar has to be sexy.”

I love this guitar, right down to its fantastic bridge and hidden patch chord jack. It is a real work of art.

The video ends with a testimonial from a very satisfied customer of his from a mutual friend of ours, Janice McGuire.

I hope you enjoy watching the video as much as I enjoyed making it.

Please check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview. Links are below.

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