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Q&A With the Elusive Guitarist He Who Cannot Be Named

I was lucky enough to hunt down and speak with the ever mysterioso guitarist, He Who Cannot Be Named.  As well as playing guitar for the amazing Dwarves since their inception, He Who Cannot Be Named has released several fantastic and well received solo albums, the latest being “My Degeneration” in 2016.  Now based in San Francisco and playing with his band that includes Keith Mueller on guitar, Eric Borst on drums and Bobby Ramone on bass, He Who Cannot Be Named clued me in on his influences, his successes as a musician and his upcoming U.K./Euro tour.

Erin: When did you start playing music and when did you decide or realize music was the path you were going to take?

HWCBN: I took piano lessons when I was about 6 or 7 years old.  My father used to play the piano, mostly show tunes and classical stuff.  I remember enjoying watching him play. I guess I wanted to be like him.

Erin: Who are your major influences? What inspires you today?

HWCBN: I was born in 1960 so I grew up hearing the popular music of that period.  I guess that is why rock music is my biggest influence. As I said, I started playing piano when I was young so that got me interested in classical music and jazz as well. The first band I really loved was The Beatles. These days I listen to and am inspired by a variety of different stuff. I went to see Dwight Yoakam last week and the concert was amazing; great, great songs.

Erin: You’re touring the U.K. this summer and I know you’ve got new music out.  Tell me a bit about the band playing with you and your upcoming plans.

HWCBN: Yes, we are planning to come over in November for a few weeks, mostly Northern Europe and the U.K.  While I have toured there a few times with The Dwarves, this is the first time with my own band.  He Who Cannot Be Named is based in Northern California.  Keith Mueller (lead guitar) and Eric Borst (drums) are also in the San Francisco based band, “Bite”. Bobby Ramone (bass) is a journeyman who has played with numerous bands over the years. He most notably did some time backing up the legendary Dee Dee Ramone who gave him his name.  We just recorded a new album which should be out before the tour. It is titled “The Good, The Bad and The Brutal”.  We also have a split live LP with The Pink Lincolns coming out in a few months.  I’m sure there will be at least one video but I haven’t really planned that far ahead.  I will also be at Rebellion in Blackpool in August by myself to play an acoustic show along with one before the festival on Tuesday, July 31st at The Salty Dog in Northwich.

Erin: What would you consider your biggest musical success?

HWCBN: Having the good fortune to play with so many excellent musicians and friends for so many years.  As well as being shown incredible appreciation from so many great fans.

Erin: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in all your years of playing music?

HWCBN: Don’t take any opportunities for granted.

Erin: What’s your favourite song to play live?

HWCBN: This varies of course.  I recently was asked to play a few shows with my friend Spike Slawson of The Re-Volts.  We did one of his songs titled “Piles” and that was lots of fun.  For some reason I always love playing Blag’s “Demonica” with The Dwarves.  From my own collection I rather enjoy playing Saltpeter’s “Gettin’ Pissed”.

Erin: Vinyl, CD, cassette or digital music?  Why?

HWCBN: Vinyl is the coolest to own, but I usually listen to digital because it is so convenient.

Erin: Do you think the internet enhances or destroys the creativity of the mind?

HWCBN:  I like being able to send files to other musicians who can then collaborate remotely, so that is a plus.  On the other hand, I think computers in general dumb people down.  Eventually robots will take over control of everything and that could be good or bad depending on how people handle it.  If nobody has to spend time toiling away to make a living it could result in more free time to be creative.  But it also might result in more time spent with mind numbing activities like getting high, playing video games, etc.

Erin: How do you think your “mysterioso” persona has contributed to your development and success in both your solo musical adventures as well as with the Dwarves?  How does it feel to be such a cult figure?

HWCBN: I have always enjoyed that people don’t know who I am.

Erin: What guitars/amps/pedals do you use?

HWCBN: Mostly Marshall amps and Fender guitars.  I don’t use pedals or anything like that. I have always had trouble with too many things that can unplug during a show.

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