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Guitars, Lyrics And Inspiration On Bowie's 'The Next Day'

Published: Mon July 22, 2013  News Feed

Guitars, Lyrics And Inspiration On David Bowie's 'The Next Day'

By Hugh McKenna

David Bowie The Next Day

It came like a bolt out of the blue but the new David Bowie album The Next Day received near universal acclaim and was well worth the wait. Ever mercurial Bowie wrote the album on the quiet, in short bursts of creativity working with long time collaborators like Tony Visconti and guitarist Gerry Leonard. Preferring to let creative instincts guide the writing process, the album was recorded live without too many overdubs Gerry says:

“He likes to work fast so the pressure is on,” says Leonard. “You just trust your instincts and allow the inspiration to come forward. It’s almost a form of subconscious reaction. And that's where the most surprising and beautiful stuff lies.”

With everyone arriving in the morning and relying on spontaneous energy they could have everything wrapped up for the day by 5pm. If anything wasn't sounding right it simply got shelved, perhaps returning to it later. Apparently it's common for David to sit on a song idea for years, presenting it at a session to see if the atmosphere is right and putting it on the record if he's happy. Ultimately it's all about instinct, timing and energy.

“David wanted to work on a few songs so one morning I started playing this riff. The amps were cranked up and I could feel his energy. I threw down a beat in Reason and David jumped in with melody and lyrics. Right away he came up with the line ‘how a small town girl like you, could be the boss of me,’ and that became the song. We wrapped it up and he left with a rough mix in his back pocket.”

A permanent fixture in Gerry's rig is the Line 6 DL4 delay pedal which he used for various loops on The Next Day, along with the M9 Multi Effects for textures using tremolo, synths and stutter effects.

Gerry Leonard Pedal Rig

Gerry is also a big fan of the James Tyler Variax and his new POD HD500. When you're playing as wide a variety of gigs as Gerry the versatility can be a life saver.

“I’ve also been really digging into the POD HD500 lately,” continues Leonard. “My goal is to make it my fly rig or round town rig. The idea of having one box programmed and tailored to the specific demands of a particular show is really interesting to me. So far, I’ve done a rock show in Zurich with Aimee Mann producer Paul Bryan, an ambient outdoor show in New York with Laurie Anderson and Steve Buscemi, and an indie club gig with Nina Nastasia—all with the HD500 at the center. Very different each time, and POD was solid and really versatile.”

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