October 16, 2008
“Welcome to My Hell”
By Christi Broekemeier
Timothy Scott McConnell otherwise known as “Ledfoot”, has been playing music longer than some of our readers have been alive. First signed to a major label at the age of 19, he has worked with some of the music industries greatest and has seen many changes. I received an invitation from his My Space page with a note that said “Welcome to My Hell”. Intrigued, I went right to his page.
Ledfoot classifies himself as Gothic Blues, and his masterful songwriting and haunting voice portray the idea of this new genre to perfection. His guitar of choice is an acoustic guitar; which in today’s world of electric guitar riffs and ease of use is unusual. The way he plays is amazing with sounds deep and dark. Conjuring images of pain, desperation and the destruction of how he perceives the world to be. Playing in B Minor and using steel picks he has been destroying so many strings that can’t keep up with the punishment that he forces upon the beautifully classic instrument, so he is getting one custom made.
His new Cd titled “The Devils Songbook” sounds great! The music reflects what is going on in society and his guitar playing takes you on a trip with his magical ghoulish fingers. He is now in Norway working so we conducted this interview all by email. He entertains, explains what he is doing right now; all with the twisted humor you would expect from somebody who lives on earths version of HELL.
AAM: You have been in this business for over 30 years. How old were you when you started playing and have you had any formal training and what changes have you seen as a guitar player, and a musician?
LEDFOOT: I started playing when I was about 10, my legs didn't work for a couple years so I had plenty of time to do things that didn't involve walking. My older brother played guitar so there was always one lying around to mess with, I didn't start getting serious about playing till I was about 13... started playing biker-bars around 15 or 16 moved to N.Y.C. when I was 17 and went on from there... no formal training that did me any good... As for being a guitarist/musician nothing’s really changed. It's a hard life anyway you look at it.
AAM: You have played with or have had your music covered by some great artist’s, can you tell us a little about what you have done and with which artist’s do you find your own creative juice's at their highest level?
LEDFOOT: I was honored when Bruce Springsteen recorded and filmed a version of 'high hopes, it’s a drag I never saw any cash from it. I was awarded a platinum record for a song of mine Sheena Easton did back in the 80's.I never picked it up though. I’m honored when anyone does one of my songs. I have more songs than I know what to do with, anyone's welcome.
AAM: Listening to your music you have a lot of heart and soul, though it is a bit twisted. I also know you primarily consider yourself a guitar player but you are also a gifted vocalist and songwriter. Is the guitar where you draw most of your passion for the music you make? Also, has the passion changed over the course of your career in regards to the music you make and how you make it?
LEDFOOT: Any separation that existed between the different processes that involve expressing myself as an artist have long ago vanished... it's all one big sticky confusing mess now. I'm like a mad scientist who never keeps notes, always unsure where the spark of life will come from for my next Frankenstein; having said that, after 35 years you get pretty good at making monsters, as for passion, personally I prefer the unstoppable inertia of desperation.
AAM: What is the mood and new vision you are trying to create for the Blues and Rock Community?
LEDFOOT: I play my guitar with the intention of pushing its limits and mine as well. Since electrics came along, the acoustic guitar has been turned into a piece of milk-toast, it's been stripped of its entire attitude, I want to re-establish the acoustic as the powerful instrument it is. You play different when you want to be heard; when it's your job to get everybody’s attention... I don't mean that you just wail away, you have to use the full dynamic spectrum. There's a way to fill a room with a whisper; that's the magic that blows me away when I listen to those old blues recordings. You know they filled the room with their presence; it was part of the job. Most of the time people play acoustic now like they're still a teenager practicing Cat Stevens songs softly in the bedroom so they don't wake mom and dad. I play like my soul depended on it, there's a certain tight-rope walkers aspect to my style. At least when I screw up it's entertaining. I record that way also, when I recorded with Niko Bolas down in Nashville at Blackbird Studios this summer, we had every conceivable piece of equipment you could want available and still we ended up using an old 1930's ribbon mike set up about 3 feet in front of me... no overdubs... real old school approach in a very modern atmosphere (George Massenburg designed the room, no standing waves)! I don't want to re-capture what those delta blues guys did; I want a new version of that vital-in-your-face approach.
AAM: My understanding is you are playing with a regular guitar that is unable to hold up to the beatings you are giving to ordinary Acoustic Guitars. Please tell the readers about the new guitar made and who is making it for you. Also what guitars you have used in the past?
LEDFOOT: My guitars and I up to now have always had a love hate relationship. I play mostly in an open Bb minor tuning with steel finger-picks and a porcelain slide... the only way to tune that low and get a good tone is to use very heavy strings (my high 'e' string is usually an 00.18 or 19) that combined with me beating the hell out them every night is hard on them. For years I've been using Takamine and recently went down to the tailor factory and picked up a Leo Kottke model, both companies make great guitars, but neither was made for the extremities I take a guitar too. Earlier this year I met Carl Giese from A. Davis Guitars and I talked some about my desire to have a guitar that was capable of handling my particular demands (as in go from a whisper to blowing the &*^%#$house down)! His reply was to set up a meeting between me and Art Davis. I went down to their shop with a couple of my favorite guitars and played them, describing what I felt was missing. Art looked me in the eyes and said he could build it... it'll be ready around December... I have no doubt he'll deliver what I've been looking for... this company is the real deal... I’m gonna make it my mission to make sure people know about this company... A. Davis Guitars are my new heroes!!!
AAM: What is it about the guitar that gives you a high?
LEDFOOT: I tried dating a trombone once but she had issues.
AAM: In your mind eye what makes for a great guitarist in any musical genre?
AAM: Please tell us what Gothic Blues means and is it a genre that already exists?
LEDFOOT: hmm; blues in its inception was a very vibrant, current 'of the time' music... those old guys sang about their day to day worry, happening then and there. That's not the blues I know...I don’t even recognize their old time worry, I don't even know how to 'dust my broom'. What we got today is stress, angst, overload, confusion...those are the kind of demons we face...that’s what I’m writing about. I couldn't find a genre that included me so I made my own! The genre exists because I say so... if you have any doubts, come listen to me play and I’ll prove it exists.
AAM: The Cd "The Devils Songbook" is now out and many of the songs are blues tempered with modern lyrics, guitar playing from days gone by and dark and moody music and lyrics. Was there any series of events or is it your basic personality that brings out the haunting lyrics and guitars?
LEDFOOT: I would say it's the series of events that formed my basic personality which delivered me into a series of events which led to the writing of the devils songbook.
AAM: On "The Devils Songbook" which is a Bluesy Rock/Gothic Blues, what are you trying to convey to your listeners?
LEDFOOT: I wanted to be honest.
AAM: Many performers are very different on-stage and off-stage. How do you see yourself as a musician onstage, then flip the switch off and be who you are offstage?
LEDFOOT: I've never been on stage, you're confusing me with my evil twin... and I'm not shy, I just prefer talking in silence.
AAM: Have you personally noticed shifts in the way young guitarist are approaching their playing? And do you have any advice for talented young guitarist that wish to make innovations and stamp out a name for them in the music industry. Do you think that today's young Rock/Blues based musicians are taking their cues from the music their parents listened to when they were children; and going back to the basics, or are they way off in their visions of what a good musician really means and is?
LEDFOOT: heh, I've made a lot of mistakes but giving good advice was never one of them.
AAM: LEDFOOT is there anything you would like to add?
LEDFOOT: Sure, six zero's to my bank account balance, an extra finger for my left hand and a bone for every good dog... ruff ruff... dog-talk for thank you.