Fretboard interviews Britain's Kenneth Petrie, (Guitarist / Singer / Gentleman) - February 2018
About 3 months ago while at my office, a client, who is from Britain, walked in very excited. Her 14 year old son, who recently picked up the guitar, told her about an older gentleman from Britain he had seen on YouTube playing the guitar. The man's name was Kenneth Petrie. I jotted the name down on a post it note and put it on my desk.
A few days later while finishing up some projects, I saw the post it note and did a search on YouTube for this guy. Several videos appeared of this older gentelman, follically challenged like myself, playing lead guitar in a band. The song; "Running Down a Dream" by Tom Petty. I couldn't take my eyes off the video. I watched the video several more times to make sure this was not a hallucination. Then, I watched another video of him playing both lead guitar parts on "Freebird." (yeah, I know, "Hey, play Freebird!") Trust me, YOU WANT to watch Kenneth playing Freebird.
The videos show Kenneth flying up and down the fretboard like a magician, never missing a note and with such emotion. The club where his band was playing must have been small, my guess, less than 50 people there. I felt jealous that I was watching this from my office on a laptop computer, in Davie, Florida, and not front row at that club. Why hadn't I heard of this guy before? Why isn't he a household name? I had to research and find out. So, on to Facebook I went. After a quick search, there he was. I had to send this guy a friend request. I had to learn more about him and speak to him. I felt a great interview was brewing. So, with a click of the mouse, I sent Kenneth a friend request.
After a few days, Kenneth responded and I sent him a message. Kind, considerate and kick ass on the guitar, here's how that interview unfolded.
If you're not a fan of Kenneth Petrie yet, you will be in about 10 minutes.
FM: Kenneth, thank you for taking the time to speak to us at Fretboard Magazine. I feel completely honored to be speaking to you and a bit ashamed that 3 months ago, I had never heard of you. From the moment I watched you on YouTube playing lead on Tom Petty's "Running Down a Dream," I've been a huge fan of yours. That is really incredible musicianship. I wonder if Tom Petty had ever seen that video. I'm sure he would have been proud. You brought that song to a completely new level.
KP: Well, that's very flattering and I loved, love Tom Petty. Such a shame he's no longer with us.
FM: Kenneth, tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
KP: I grew up in a beautiful area of Scotland.
FM: I've never visited Scotland but I've heard it is a very beautiful country.
KP: It really is. You should visit one day.
FM: I hope I can. How old were you when you moved to Britain?
KP: I was 35. So, it's been a few years.
FM: And, if you don’t mind us asking, what’s your age?
KP: I’m 60 years old.
FM: When did you first pick up a guitar?
KP: That was in 1969. I saw a performance by Jimi Hendrix on TV and pestered my Mum and Dad to buy a guitar for me.
FM: Well, I'm glad you pestered them. Have you always been a fan of Hendrix?
KP: Oh yes, absolutely. Jimi was ahead of his time and really brought the guitar to the attention of us kids at the time.
FM: Do you play any other instruments?
KP: Yes , my first instrumenting was the bagpipes followed up by years of piano lessons.
FM: Do you still play the bagpipes?
KP: Actually, I haven't played the bagpipes since the 70's. I traded them for a Les Paul. (laughing).
FM: You know, I can only think of one rock song that features the bagpipes, and they pulled it off perfectly. I'm sure you know which one that is.
KP: (Smiling) I suppose ACDC's Long Way to the Top" would be the one that immediately springs to mind. The guitars on Big Country's records always remind name of the pipes.
FM: You know your bagpipe trivia! Let me ask this question. Reading online, I came across a paragraph that said you were a former Catholic Priest who plays incredible rock and roll. What's the deal with that? How did this begin?
KP: Well, I’m not a priest. (laughing) This started as a joke that was inspired by the Blues brothers movie because I guess I look like a priest. It got out of hand and people stared calling me the Reverend.
FM: Like Al Green.
KP: Yeah, I suppose. But, I believe Al Green really was a priest.
FM: Actually, he is an ordained pastor in Memphis. Anyway, it's a great story about you being a former Catholic Priest who shreds on guitar. You should just run with it. Unfortunately for us, we’ve only seen you on stage through live streaming or on video. Have you thought about coming to the states to perform? You know, you’ve got quite a fan base here.
KP: We would love to come to the States. We’ll have to see in the future.
FM: We can talk about that later. In your playing style, I hear some Satriani, Van Halen, Mark Knopfler, Angus Young. What’s your thought? In my opinion, you should be mentioned in that same company. You are that good. Possibly better.
KP: Well thank you for the kind words. You really listen to my playing! These are the players that have influenced me most over the years.
FM: Are there any projects you’re currently working on? Do you do originals?
KP: At the moment we are working on new songs for the band. We have only one original song but I would like to do more.
FM: That would be great. I'm looking forward to some Petrie originals. Tell us about your gear. What guitar are you playing? What effects do you use? Amps? Recording?
KP: The Guitar is a Mark Knopfler Spec Suhr. I find this to be really versatile and can handle most playing styles. I also use a Van Halen Charvel Art series guitar for Drop D applications. I bought it about 12 years ago in Los Angeles. For the sound, I use Fender amps. I like low power units and use a mic’d up Vibrolux linked to a Deluxe reverb. Main overdrive is a Fultone OCD with a Suhr Compressor. Crybaby wah (Clyde model), Digitech Whammy pedal, and Boss Tap Delay unit round of the rest of the board. I love messing with the Whammy pedal.
FM: What’s your first guitar choice for live performances?
KP: The Suhr is my main guitar for everything.
FM: What about your stage set up? Same guitar? Amps? Pedals?
KP: Yes. Same for recording as live. I practice through a Freidman BE100. Quietly.
FM: What music gets you excited and why?
KP: I love innovative music. I like Muse a lot. Classic rock played with passion always excites. I like to hear music played passionately.
FM: Unfortunately, I feel a lot of music has lost passion over the last 20 or so years. But now, I have seen a slow trend of guitar- based music coming back with Joe Bonamassa and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. When was the last time you listened to a new artist, band or guitar player?
KP: I'm always looking out for new players and bands to enjoy.
FM: Influences. Who are your top three musical influences and why is that?
KP: Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen would be two. I believe these 2 players changed how the guitar is played in the rock world. AC/DC would be a huge influence on me as they rocked with such commitment and enthusiasm that it would be difficult not to be moved by them.
FM: Those are some pretty worthy influences. What musician impresses you? It can be anyone, not necessarily a guitarist.
KP: Matt Bellamy of Muse is a top player on piano and guitar. Virtuoso in my humble opinion.
FM: How would you describe yourself as a musician in one sentence?
KP: That's a hard one - I suppose passionate guitar player would fit.
FM: I'd say so. How do you spend your free time? Family?
KP: My girlfriend and I spend spare time sailing and enjoying listening to music.
FM: Who inspires you as a musician?
KP: There are so many but I would have to say, ultimately that Eddie Van Halen is a hero to me.
FM: We'll have to make sure Eddie reads this. With your musical accomplishments, what are you most proud of?
KP: I’m just glad to be playing with a great bunch of guys that are like-minded and hugely talented.
FM: Tell us about the band you play with. Who are those guys and do they realize they are in the presence of one incredible guitarist?
KP: The band is Mr Spankey and the Hipthrusters.
FM: Cool name. Who came up with that?
KP: The name came from a discussion between Mark (our singer) and a friend who played keys with us sometimes. We wanted a name that would be easy to remember and would suggest that we don't take life too seriously.
FM: Well, it's definitely catchy and easy to remember. Even more so if you just called yourself the "Hipthrusters," but I'm not so sure that would go off too well. So, who are the band members?
KP: We have Mark Carroll on vocals, Mark Naylor on Bass, Martin Reid on rhythm guitar and Freddie Binding on drums. Freddie is new. Kevin Halley, our drummer of 10 years, recently left the band as he works in TV. There are no egos in the band at all.
FM: That's probably the biggest issue with most bands, the ego issue. So, that's great not having to worry about that.
KP: (laughing) The humour would be unbearable if somebody got a bit excited about themselves.
FM: What’s the biggest crowd you’ve played in front of? Give me some estimates.
KP: Personally 16,000.
FM: Wow. Where was that?
KP: That was at a fireworks display in year 2000 with another band. The place was Brentwood in Essex. It was a great feeling, a huge thrill. The onstage sound wasn't good but the atmosphere was one that you never forget.
FM: What was that like?
KP: It was a great feeling, a huge thrill.
FM: How about the band? What type of gigs do you guys usually do?
KP: The band plays some Biker Ralleys that may have up to 500 in attendance. Normally 100 - 200 people.
FM: Ok. Say I hop on a plane and fly to Britain. Where can I go see Mr. Spankey and The Hipthrusters?
KP: If you made it here by this weekend, we have a gig Saturday, on January 27th. We are fully booked for this year so you can catch us a lot.
FM: Excellent. Who does your booking?
KP: Our Singer Mark does all the bookings and keeps the band busy. The name always helps get us into places.
FM: Readers, you heard it right here. If you head to Britain this weekend, or any weekend for 2018 for that matter, you can go see Kenneth and the rest of the band. Where can we find your gig schedule?
KP: Go to www.mrspankey.biz. It shows all the band's activities.
FM: I'll make sure I check that out and we'll put some links on our real time calendar. Kenneth, this has been a treat. I'm looking forward to getting on a plane and heading to Britain to catch some Mr. Spankey and The Hipthruster shows.
KP: Thank you for the interview. This has been fun.
FM: Now, we're going to have to get you some gigs here in the States!
KP: Let's do that!
Craig Marks, Editor
To find out more information about Kenneth Petrie and Mr. Spankey and The Hipthrusters, go to www.mrspankey.biz. You can also go on YouTube and search for Kenneth Petrie (guitar) and you will see some really fantastic guitar work.