In Conversation with The Highway, Part II

“All the pages have been read,
And all the words were clearly said.
There’s nothing left to be discussed …”
– from “Circles” by The Highway

Daniel Tortoledo (vocals/bass), Ted MacInnes (drums/backing vocals), Adam Douglass (guitar/backing vocals), and Griffin McMahon (keys/backing vocals) form The Highway, a New York rock quartet that explores the best of rock’s roots to inspire its own original psychedelic rock. They’ve recently released the single “All You Do” as a foretaste of their upcoming second album, Enter to Exit. “All You Do” is a long, strange ride, containing the dark tale of an evil deed compelled by love. Recently all four band members took the time to answer Wanda Waterman’s questions about their favourite instruments and music teachers.
What’s your favourite instrument to play, and why?
Ted: I don’t really have one. I like to play well-made instruments that sound good. As far as drums go, I put most of my emphasis on my cymbals. The drums I have are the same ones I’ve been playing since I was eight years old. I do have a new snare, and the original hardware was accidentally left behind?and presumably stolen? at Fat Baby in NYC, probably in 2007, so That’s also been replaced, too.

I like classically made Turkish cymbals like Istanbul and Bosphorus, and also Zildjian. But those can sound bad too; every cymbal has its own character, so make, model, and year don’t really make much difference.

Daniel: Probably the bass guitar I’ve found to have the most versatile sound is the Fender Precision; you can’t go wrong with that one. I do have to say American-made guitars are lighter and That’s definitely one thing to keep in mind as a bassist? the weight.

Griffin: I recently bought the Roland V-Combo VR-09 keyboard. It’s super portable and easy to drag around NYC, and it has great organ, piano, and synth sounds. I used to use a Yamaha MO-8, which is a great keyboard, but a huge pain to carry around without a car in a city like New York! Getting the Roland was critical for easier travel to gigs and rehearsals.

Adam: If I were rich I’d have one?no, three or four?of everything. I think old Strats are the best. they’re comfortable to play for a long time and lightweight so your neck doesn’t hurt after playing one all day. They have a wide variety of tones. And as much as I hate to admit aesthetics as a factor, I’ve found that liking the way one’s instrument looks will affect the desire to create with it.

What was your most beneficial educational experience?
Daniel: I had two teachers in my music education. One was a wonderful Russian pianist, teacher, and friend, Elena Roussanova, who had a heavy influence on my writing and the way I approach music. Also Danny Morris, who helped me understand the bass and the greatness behind its simplicity.

Ted: I had a great private teacher in high school who really helped me get a practical view of music.

For a while I’d been studying jazz and avoiding rock, because rock was easy and simple and jazz was, in my mind at the time, a “higher” art form. But as I started playing in bands I realized that I’d been pretty much brought up on rock, that rock was really a part of my cultural heritage, not something I was faking but rather something that came naturally to me and that I’d been exposed to from a very young age.

This private teacher of mine (though I was mostly studying jazz and Brazilian stuff with him, getting prepped to study music in college) pointed me in that direction. I remember him talking about how great Dave Grohl was, and I also had an Elliot Smith tape that I really liked, on which Elliot Smith plays drums, and he noted that although Elliot Smith may not be the greatest drummer, that his music has a vibe of its own and is really cool.

He also taught me the “less is more” approach, a way of drumming without lots of big fills, just laying down a solid foundation, emphasizing style, and basically doing what is best for the band and the song, rather than trying to prove what I’m capable of by doing some super-fast or technical things, which, more often than not, take away from the music itself.

Griffin: It’s hard to pinpoint one person solely. For sure my organ teacher, Paul Jacobs at Juilliard, really changed my life as a musician and overall person, along with my high school chorus teacher, Pete Thomsen, and his wife, Abby Thomsen, my long-time piano mentor. My first rock concert was Elton John?he was a huge early influence on me as a teenager. I consider his early ?70’s recordings to be my first “lessons” in rock n? roll piano.

(to be continued)