Transcript: Transcript Steely Dan’s Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter: Guitar Guru

0:00:35 –
Hi and welcome to the show Without further ado. I really want to introduce you to my special guest this week. I know you’ve heard his extraordinary guitar playing thousands of times on groundbreaking multi-platinum albums by Steely Dan, which was a band he co-founded, as well as with the Doobie Brothers. They’ve also been countless smash hit songs and albums he’s performed on as a first-call studio musician. But the one place you haven’t heard the world-renowned guitarist Jeff Skunkbaxter to date is on an album all his own. Well, that’s changed now as you’re about to hear. Strap yourself in, because there’s a whole lot to learn about this incredible musician, from the many heavyweight legends he’s worked with, to the latest in missile defence systems that he’s invented. Please forgive my voice during this interview. I was suffering from a good dose of flu.

Welcome to a breath of fresh air. Jeff Skunk Baxter. Thank you, dear. I really appreciate your time. Congratulations on your first solo album. It’s called Speed of Heat, and it’s taken you a considerable time to finally do your own, hasn’t it?

0:01:49 – Speaker 4
Yeah, it seems like it’s been quite a while, but what was it? No hurry.

0:01:54 – Speaker 2
You’ve been doing so many awesome things. Are you happy to walk us through your career? Gee, a potter version of your career. Did you start out wanting to be a musician?

0:02:04 – Speaker 4
Well, I started asking my mom for piano lessons when I was five and she was right there. I said absolutely, She played piano as well and she got me a teacher right away. She actually started me off, like we all did when we were kids, on the John Thompson Book One and all that stuff, and then got me a teacher. I don’t know if I wanted to be a musician, but I certainly wanted to be musical. I guess it’s the right way to put it.

0:02:39 – Speaker 2
But as you grew older and through your teen years, you developed a whole lot of other interests as well. It wasn’t your soul focus, was it?

0:02:45 – Speaker 4
Oh, no, no. And then when I was nine years old it’s when I started playing guitar and that was really a huge moment in my life to realize that, oh man, my parents gave me a guitar for Christmas when I was nine and I wanted a bicycle. It just pissed me off, so I hung it on a wall and my buddy downstairs. Growing up I grew up in Mexico City So in the apartment downstairs he started taking guitar lessons and said if I teach her some chords, can I? you know, i need somebody to play with. And so I pulled the thing off the wall, tuned it up and started to get into it and realized I like this a lot.

0:03:25 – Speaker 2
Why do you think it was about it that you enjoyed so much?

0:03:30 – Speaker 4
I think it was the intimacy, and later on, when I had a conversation with Andres Tegovio about that, there’s something about the intimacy of the instrument up against your body. It even resonates with your heartbeat And your body resonates from the frequencies and the vibration of the instrument right up against you. That’s something very personal about it, very intimate.

0:03:55 – Speaker 2
The only really belongs to a guitar. No other instrument has that, does it.

0:03:59 – Speaker 4
Not really Even the violin, maybe the cello, maybe viola, but I think the guitar, you don’t tuck the viola in. Or the cello You definitely tuck the guitar in.

0:04:17 – Speaker 5
Your mind’s clouds are flying. Shattered colors fall from the sky. Flowers explode into laughter. Summer swallows to life.

0:04:39 – Speaker 2
Behold, behold and see Was Ultimate Spinach the first group that you joined.

0:04:53 – Speaker 4
No, i was playing with a band called the Holy Motor Rounders, which were just a bunch of crazy guys, some of the members from the original band, the Fugs. It was just way too nuts and way too much fun. You got to admit you’re in a band where some of your big hits are Songs like Dirty Old Man and Boobs a Lot, which were big college jukebox hits. It was a folk rock. It’s hard to describe.

0:05:21 – Speaker 3
Do you like Boobs a Lot? Yes, I like Boobs a Lot. Boobs a Lot, Boobs a Lot. You gotta like Boobs a Lot. Really like Boobs a Lot. You gotta like Boobs a Lot. Boobs a Lot, Boobs a Lot. You gotta like Boobs a Lot. Down in the locker room just three boys Heating down the locker room with all that noise. You gotta like Boobs a Lot. You gotta like Boobs a Lot. You gotta like Boobs a Lot. Do you like a Jock-a-Lot? Yes, I love a Jock-a-Lot. Got to where you Jock-a-Lot. Got to where you Jock-a-Lot, Jock-a-Lot, Jock-a-Lot. You gotta like your Jock-a-Lot. You gotta like your Jock-a-Lot.

0:05:44 – Speaker 2
You gotta like your Jock-a-Lot. I know that you refuse to tell anybody where you got the nickname skunk from, and I was hoping that maybe you’d just share that between you and me.

0:05:56 – Speaker 4
It’ll be in my book.

0:05:58 – Speaker 2
Oh, we’re going to hold for that. Can’t even give us a little hint about what we can expect.

0:06:03 – Speaker 4
Probably it’ll be a compilation of a number of things that I’ve done both in the music business and in other facets of my life.

0:06:11 – Speaker 2
Do we have a title yet?

0:06:13 – Speaker 4
I have a working title. Yeah, but I promise that my manager and I would keep that even.

0:06:19 – Speaker 2
Jeff Baxter, you are full of secrets.

0:06:21 – Speaker 4
I know how to keep the secret.

0:06:22 – Speaker 2
Oh, that’s a shame I don’t. If you twist my arm long enough, you’ll find out anything. So no luck finding out where he got the nickname skunk And no luck discovering the name of his forthcoming book. I’m really not doing very well, am I? Lucky skunk Baxter is happy to chat about his musical collaborations.

0:06:41 – Speaker 4
I was playing bass for Tim Buckley for a while.

0:06:43 – Speaker 2
What was Tim like?

0:06:45 – Speaker 4
Tim was an amazing human being in that he had a lot of demons, but in the same I put him kind of in the same category as Tim Rose and people like that who had a lot of demons. What took you down in your relationship Me? Have you considered accepting what was originally Spielberg? I don’t know, because I sometimes try to do extreme things like that and it’s almost the absolute absolute. But as they say, kill my demon, kill my muse. He figured out a way to channel much of that into a creative arena And there were times when the depth of that man musically was just beyond words. And he was a decent guy, he was a great guy.

0:07:33 – Speaker 3
I went down to the Meadwreck, taberns, and I found myself a big old, healthy girl. Now she was drinking alone. I was a waste of sin, so I went out over the street, topped that girl Now to move on in. I whispered come on, move it, move it, move it, move it. Now I’m a big guy, i don’t miss shy. I want to miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you.

0:08:21 – Speaker 2
How did you start with Steely Dan?

0:08:23 – Speaker 4
I was working in a studio, a place called Intermediate Sound in Boston. I can’t say that I was the house guitar player, but there were a number of different bands that came in and somebody always needed something. So I hung around there a lot and had done a bunch of studio work. I was going back and forth living in Boston and traveling to New York to do session work down there, and one of the bands that was recording and in Remedius I was a band called The Bead Game, john Sheldon, great guitar player Yeah, wonderful guitar player. They were being produced by another gentleman named Gary Katz, who eventually became the producer for Steely Dan. So Gary had heard my playing on. I guess he’d stuck his head in to a session or something that I was playing And he said listen, i’m producing an artist named Linda Hoover, whose album finally came out a few months ago, i guess Here comes another dawn for every child to see.

0:09:29 – Speaker 5
This time the morning sun is burning just for me. I’ve got the skyward eyes like I never had before. Just smile and say goodbye and show me to the door to everyone. There comes a precious time to break away. I need to shine. Oh, i need to shine. When you wake up with your lady gone, you’ll know I need to shine.

0:10:11 – Speaker 4
There’s these two songwriters, Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, who are writing much of the material for it. Would you come down to New York and work on the record? I said, sure you know, book the time, I’ll be down there, let’s do it. And it was a very interesting time, interesting good. At the end of the project both Walter Becker and Donald Fagan said, well, this is incredible music. And they said, well, we’ve never really heard anybody play what you play on it. So we formed this sort of loose amalgamation of sort of agreement that whoever passed go first would call everybody else. So Becker and Fagan went to Los Angeles and got a publishing deal with ABC Dunhill Records, with Gary Katz there as a house producer, And that was it. That was the camel’s nose under the tent.

0:11:04 – Speaker 2
And that first album then was Count Boss Room. That’s correct.

0:11:08 – Speaker 3
Times are hard. You’re afraid to pay the fee, so you find yourself somebody who can do the job for free When you need a bit of love because your man is out of town. That’s the time You’re getting me running and you know I’ll be around. I’m a fool to do your dirty work, oh yeah. I don’t want to do your dirty work, no more. I’m a fool to do your dirty work, oh yeah.

0:11:57 – Speaker 2
What an album that was. You were a match made in heaven, i think, weren’t you, because it was incredible songwriting and you brought this kind of jazzy pop, sophisticated feel to it, and the combination was just magic.

0:12:10 – Speaker 4
And Denny Diaz, a wonderful guitar player. You know, i think we were a dichotomy made in heaven And the drummer was the original drummer for the bead game, jimmy Harder. When they asked me, who do you know a great drummer? I said oh yeah, and Gary was familiar with them as well.

0:12:27 – Speaker 2
Did you ever expect that they’d become as successful as I did?

0:12:31 – Speaker 4
We were just kids. I mean, you never know anything, You just go, do it, take your best shot. And I have to admit you know, driving down the sunset strip listening to do it again on the radio, I thought, hey, OK, all right, maybe here In the morning you go down it for the man who stole your water.

0:12:58 – Speaker 3
Then you fire until he is down it. But they catch you at the border And the mourners are all singing as they drag you by your feet. But the hangman is in hanging And they put you on the screen And you go back. Jack, do it again. We’ll turn it around and round. You go back. Jack, do it again When you know she’s no hard climber. then you find your own friend in a room with your two timer And you’re sure you’re near the end. Then you love a little woman And she brings you on their star roll All the time. You know she’s smiling You’ll be on your knees tomorrow. And you go back. Jack, do it again. We’ll turn it around and round. You go back, jack, do it again.

0:14:26 – Speaker 4
Do it again was very interesting to me because it’s one of those songs where I think timing is everything. If we had released that a year before or a year after, it was like minute by minute. If we’d released that song a year before or a year after, nobody would have cared. So I’m not quite sure. I guess it’s all about the stars aligning in whatever way they do to permit the entrance of something new into the universe.

0:14:54 – Speaker 2
And then, of course, the next one that you did for them was in 1974, was Pritzel Logie.

0:14:59 – Speaker 4
Well, the next one was Countdown to Ecstasy. It was the second record, which I think was an amazing record. I think that was a very, very steely Dan record. There’s a song called Razor Boy which I think is kind of sums up what Steely Dan was as a band.

0:15:16 – Speaker 2
How would you define this?

0:15:19 – Speaker 4
It’s pretty eclectic in a sense that we were all burst. Myself as a student musician, a lot of guys, everybody’s a great player. Jimmy had also done a number of sessions as a session player. Walter and Donald had both played with other bands Jane the Americans, other bands So they were familiar and comfortable with working with other players. The lyrics I thought were brilliant And the songwriting was fresh, i think is the word for it and was an amalgamation of a number of different genres.

0:15:51 – Speaker 3
I hear you are singing a song of the past. I see no tears. I know that you know it may be the last. for many years You gamble or give anything to be in with the better half. But how many friends must I have to begin with to make you laugh? Will you still have a song to sing when the Razor Boy comes and takes your fancy things away? Will you still be singing it on that cold and windy day? You know that the coming is so close at hand. You feel all right. I guess only women in cages can stand.

0:17:03 – Speaker 2
It was a very different sound, wasn’t it? It was the first time we’d ever heard this. It didn’t fit into any one genre in particular.

0:17:10 – Speaker 4
No, no, and I think the sound the sound, when you talk about the actual generation of coherent oscillations of some kind had a lot to do with Roger Nichols, the engineer, and to this day there are a number of people who do both live sound and tuning monitors in studios that use a Steely Dan as a reference, because the recording was just impeccable.

0:17:37 – Speaker 2
It was a great sound, wasn’t it? And did you know? the band’s name was taken from a sex toy? Donald Fagan and Walter Becker named the group after a revolutionary steam-powered dildo that had been mentioned in the William S Burrow’s novel Naked Lunch. Stick around as Jeff Skunk Baxter tells us about his time with the Doobie Brothers.

0:18:01 – Speaker 1
This is A Breath of Fresh Air. with Sandy Kay, it’s a beautiful day.

0:18:07 – Speaker 2
Thanks for being here. As we’re discovering, Skunk Baxter has had a long and very successful career in the music business, From his first group in Mexico to working in guitar stores in Manhattan, to being a member of bands like Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers. Skunk, who’s recognised everywhere as a prolific guitarist. Today he continues to be active as a performer, commentator, composer, producer and highly sought after session musician. How important is the chemistry? Do you have to get on really well together? Do you have to second guess one another?

0:18:43 – Speaker 4
It really depends. I’ve done a number of recording sessions where it’s just here’s the chart, play it. Okay. Well, we’re all getting a click and we all live in this world And for the most part the folks who are the sort of studio crowd, studio guys, know each other. We’ve done a number of sessions together, both men and women, so everybody’s familiar with each other on some level And it can vary Again. Sometimes it’s here’s the chart.

We’ve got 56 musicians on the session. You know 40 string players, two harp players, you know timpani, etc, etc. Maybe we’re doing a movie soundtrack. Four guitar players, two bass players, three keyboard players, and so the function is really to play the chart, to try to accomplish and execute what the producer wants, and of course, you have respect for your players and you keep wanting to open. Then there are some times where it’s completely the opposite. When George Romero asked me to work on the first Donna summer record, he wanted to bring Donna into a rock genre. Yes, it was Disco, but George wanted her to cross over, so that’s why he called me. And then he said I said what do you want me to do? I said I want you to do what you do. Okay, roll tape, let’s go.

0:20:11 – Speaker 2
And you took her there, the first one was Hot Stuff.

0:20:14 – Speaker 4
I played the solo on that. If you want to be a successful studio musician, you have to learn to listen And you also. There is an etiquette amongst players that develops where you give space to other players. It’s always interesting when sometimes you go in and you know young players or folks that have never had much experience in the studio. All they do is they just want to play, and play, and play and play, more and more and more and more, and you sort of sit back and you go okay, that’s what you want to do. Sooner or later you’ll work yourself out and then we’ll get down to business. So to me it’s a question of etiquette and a question of understanding that everyone has something to offer.

Since I’ve had been working and still do work for Roland on designing musical instruments and interfaces, i had a prototype guitar synthesizer that I brought into the studio because Harold Faltemeyer and Jurgen Kopper’s, the engineer we’re all gearheads So I thought you guys are going to love this And as soon as I plugged it in, jurgen said we’re going to use that And I said, okay. So now I’m watching a play, a solo on bad girls. So the solo on bad girls is. I picked the first guitar synthesizer solo on any record. So sometimes you know it depends And it’s strange, just if the price is right you can’t score, you can’t profit strikes, but you want a good time. You ask yourself who they are. Oh, like everybody else, they come from Mirafol.

Gary Katz, the producer for Steelie Dan, called me one day, said I skunk producing this female artist. I’m almost finished, but I need you to come in, bring everything you got. So that means call your car to the company. It’s 20 guitars, you know five different amplifier, all kinds. Just bring everything, okay. So I’m sitting there. Gary says okay, i’m going to play the record for you. I want you to listen to it And I want you to tell me what it needs. I said okay. So I listened to the whole record. I turned to Gary. I said doesn’t need anything, it’s just fine. And he said meaning. He said skunk, that’s why I pay you triple scale. So sometimes it’s what you don’t play. Less is more, absolutely.

0:24:15 – Speaker 2
Is it true, skunk, that you coached Walter Becker until he could handle the guitar properly himself?

0:24:22 – Speaker 4
No, I don’t know where that came from. I mean, Walter was a pretty decent player. I mean he played bass in Steelie Dan because that was kind of the open chair. Certainly I would sit down with him sometimes, you know, show him some stuff, But I don’t think that coaching him is an interesting concept.

0:25:07 – Speaker 3
Have a change of heart.

0:25:44 – Speaker 2
It was after Pritzel Logic in 74 that you moved across to the join the Doobie Brothers. Why leave Steelie Dan?

0:25:51 – Speaker 4
Well, i was actually in three bands at the same time Steelie Dan, the Doobie Brothers and Linda Ronstadt. I was playing pedal steel for Linda. I was still in Steelie Dan And because Steelie Dan was opening a number of shows for the Doobie Brothers, as we progressed the Doobie Brothers asked me to sit in with the band. Okay, sure, well, i like to play guitar, whatever you want. So I started out with a couple of songs and three songs and five songs, then half the show And finally they said would you come out and tour with us? So I was actually at a concert in Nebworth in Britain with the Doobie Brothers. When I had the conversations with the guys at Steelie Dan that didn’t want to tour anymore And I liked touring, i really enjoyed it. So I hung up the phone. I said well, i guess that’s kind of it for me at Steelie Dan, and the Doobie said well, now you’re in the Doobie Brothers.

0:27:37 – Speaker 2
That must have been an incredibly hectic period for you, running between all three of them.

0:27:42 – Speaker 4
No, i loved it, plus sessions. I mean, all I want to do is play the guitar.

0:27:46 – Speaker 2
Yeah, right, and you talk about sessions you were working with the likes of Dolly Parton and Barbara Streisand, rod Stewart, brian Adams, ringo Carly, simon, joni Mitchell, a whole host of them. You, you were really very highly sought after, weren’t you? Actually, i shouldn’t say were, because you are still highly sought- after.

0:28:04 – Speaker 4
Well, you’re very.

0:28:05 – Speaker 2
Always been highly sought after.

0:28:06 – Speaker 4
Yeah, obviously I got it. I don’t want to let my ego get in the way, But I guess what I have to offer is helpful to other people who want help in ultimately creating, producing and delivering their vision on music.

0:28:24 – Speaker 2
Jeff left the Doobie Brothers in early 1979 after spending five years in the band.

0:28:30 – Speaker 4
It gets to a point. As a change agent which I think I am You have to know when it’s time to go to do something else, and after I brought Michael McDonald into the band and radically changed the band, it’s kind of like what happened with Fleetwood Mac. There comes a time when, from a creative standpoint, it’s time, and so I was also starting to really get into producing records, and it’s hard to produce something when you’re out on the road. You only have so many hours of the day.

0:29:29 – Speaker 3
I must be prepared any time to carry on. You can’t stop the hand of living on the run. Take it all for granted, like you’re the only one living on my own. Somehow that sounds nice. You think I’m your fool, but you made your spirit. I keep holding on. I’m sorry, i keep holding on.

0:30:39 – Speaker 2
So what is it about you that makes you so good? Is it that calculating, maths type mind that you’ve got? that goes so well with music?

0:30:47 – Speaker 4
I think that’s part of it, because mathematics and music are joined at the hip. Every physicist I ever work with, including Dr Edward Teller, the man invented the hydrogen bomb, concert pianist Albert Einstein, was a concert violinist Mike Campbell I worked with him at Lawrence Livermore and who ended up taking over the physics department at the University of Rochester. Guitar player Brian May, who got his masters in astrophysics.

0:31:12 – Speaker 3
She keeps a moe and a chandelier in her pretty cabinet And for me it takes. She says, just like Marie Antoinette, building a remedy for cruise job and energy. And at the time of imitation, you can’t take it. Carry all your cigarettes. Well-burst and etiquette, extraordinary, really nice. She’s a killer. Cream gun, body, gelatin, dynamite With a laser beam. Got a team to blow your mind.

0:31:47 – Speaker 4
The connection is visceral and I think by growing up in Mexico and having been exposed to so many different kinds of music, much of which was through my parents’ record collection very varied and eclectic musical library gave me a good, strong fundamental in terms of being able to play just about anything.

0:32:12 – Speaker 2
And do you still have such a wide-ranging taste?

0:32:15 – Speaker 4
Oh yeah, one minute I’m going to listen to Kai Bash with India Lucia, and the next minute I’m going to be listening to Peggy Lee do a fever. And then when I go to the dentist, i always listen to Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony I love.

Beethoven. Oh yeah, one time I was actually in the dentist’s chair and I had the headphones on and I was just in the place And all of a sudden they’re ripping all the stuff off my face and going are you okay? Yeah, said well. Are you in pain? No, said well. There’s, you know, tears running down your eyes. I said listen, i mean the second movement of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. Damn it, and they disturbed you. You know, I love classical music, and classical music is the basis for a lot of what I do.

0:33:28 – Speaker 2
But yet you made your living out of pop and rock music. You didn’t actually turn towards classical music.

0:33:33 – Speaker 4
Well, yes and no. I mean there are times in the studio when people would like something. I remember it was a song that we did I Cheat the Hangman with the Doobie Brothers, and at the end of it I thought I would wrap it up with a very short classical piece that I wrote, and I think I tried to synthesize it to still as much of the classical guitar that I knew into something that was definitely of the classical genre, no doubt about it.

0:34:01 – Speaker 2
So you’re always experimenting and inventing. You’ve been doing that all along.

0:34:06 – Speaker 4
Well, i’m a gearhead in a sense, you know, a person who loves technology, whether it’s designing radar systems or electric guitars. I had a lot to do with the guitar synthesizer and have always had a technology headspace.

0:34:22 – Speaker 2
Not bad really for a 74 year old, is it? It was Skunk’s general interest in technology that also led him into production, most notably helming several albums for the Scottish hard rockers Nazareth This one Fallen Angel from the album Malice in Wonderland.

0:35:06 – Speaker 3
If you’ve ever been a woman, take a word of a Fallen Angel. You know you’re not the first to fall and you know you won’t be the last In flight. You never think you can. You can be the one who’s gonna cry When you think you can go on. Look around for a Fallen Angel.

0:35:52 – Speaker 2
Hang in there, you won’t believe where else Skunk Baxter’s technology headspace has taken him Back in just a sec. This is A Breath of Fresh Air with Sandy Kay. Welcome back. We’ve been learning a great deal about the multi-talented Jeff Skunk Baxter. I believe you’ve developed an interest in military hardware and weapons systems also, which led you to being hired in 2001 by the Bush administration as a defence analyst.

0:36:24 – Speaker 4
Wrote a paper on how to convert a Navy carrier battle group and surface battle group anti-air defence system, how to convert it to do theatre missile defence. Gave it to a congressman, buddy, that I was working with, helping him with counter-terrorism because I was with LAPD at the time. He gave it to the vice chairman of the Armed Services Committee who then called him back and said what is this guy with Lockheed or something? No, he’s a guitar player for the Duby Brothers. So I got a call saying would you accept the position on the Armed Services Committee consulting on missile defence? Okay, and that just led to more and more and more involvement with the Department of Defence.

0:37:01 – Speaker 2
How does that suit with music?

0:37:03 – Speaker 4
As I explained to some of my colleagues a radar assistant, electric guitar and steroids. If you understand the physics of it, what’s the difference?

0:37:11 – Speaker 2
What was it like working for government like that?

0:37:13 – Speaker 4
Well, and I’m not going to get into much detail, but I love my country.

0:37:17 – Speaker 2
Because you can keep a good secret.

0:37:19 – Speaker 4
Yes, ma’am, having toured the Soviet Union, where freedom is less than a given. music depends on freedom to thrive. You know, jazz was outlawed in Russia and the Soviet Union for years. You could be punished for playing jazz because jazz represented improvisation, which is based on freedom of thought. Well, i can’t have that. So to grow up and to be a citizen of a country that believes that freedom is the most important tenant not only makes me happy, and I am blessed to be, and still be a part of that. So when there comes a time when you have to step up, it’s worth fighting for.

0:38:02 – Speaker 2
Do you still work with government Terri?

0:38:05 – Speaker 4

0:38:07 – Speaker 3
Freedom, freedom, freedom freedom.

0:38:16 – Speaker 2
Jeff Baxter, you’ve just released Speed Of Hate, your very first solo album. Tell me a little bit about that album.

0:38:23 – Speaker 4
My musical partner on this project, a gentleman named CJ Vanston, who I met doing sessions Jingles in Chicago. We have been doing sessions for about a week. One of the top jingle producers came in and he was pretty baked seven in the morning And I said okay, you guys ready.

I went yeah, sure, what’s up? So he handed out the music. I looked at the sheet of paper and said hi it. So I guess it was for a hi at hotels. It had a key signature and a time signature and 64 bars with no music. So Bobby says, okay, you guys ready. And you know, being the studio rats that we are, you never say no. So I said sure, absolutely.

And I met CJ at the beginning of the session. I looked at him. He went yeah, okay, roll tape. So we improvised and we wrote the jingle on the fly. And after it was over I said you know, this is an incredible phenomenon that you and I can write music together just on the fly. And I said if I were to do a solo project, i would love to do it with you.

So when CJ moved to Los Angeles, we would take some time out of our schedules and record. Was it just kind of a labor of love when we had the time? And then after about three years we realized that we had a lot of material. Maybe we should finish this up. And so he’s an aviation buff. I spend a lot of time working with aircraft, mostly military, and so the working title of the project was speed of heat, which is the aerodynamic phenomena that happens when a body moves through the atmosphere close to Mach 1, speed of sound. So that was the working title.

So the president of the record, I said I love the title of the record. I said what’s the title of the record? Speed of heat. Okay, do you know what that is? He said no, but that’s great. I said okay. So when I designed the album cover, you’ll notice that there are a number of equations on the cover. So about four months ago I got a call from one of my colleagues at North Abramic Corporation. I said Skunk. I said yeah, jay. He says I know what those equations are on the cover of your record. I said well, he says those are oblong pressure waves. So I said yep, you got it. So it was kind of fun to be able to combine everything, have a little bit of something, not playing the record backwards or anything, but have a little bit of something, have some fun.

0:41:05 – Speaker 7
I’m smoking with the boys upstairs. when I heard about the whole affair I said oh, no, William and Mary won’t go now.

0:41:18 – Speaker 6
Well, i’m not the thing that girls could be so cruel, and I’m never going back to my old school.

0:41:33 – Speaker 2
Walk us through your favorite tracks. Is there one in particular?

0:41:36 – Speaker 4
Wow, That’s like what’s my favorite child.

0:41:39 – Speaker 2
How many have you got children Two.

0:41:42 – Speaker 4
You mustn’t have been there very much if you’re always traveling around. No, but we have a wonderful relationship. It just doesn’t get any better, and my son, fender, is on the road with us Mom named Fender, and my daughter works for government as well.

Everyone would say Acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree But I guess the whole concept of doing this record I love them all because I actually like what I play I mean, i’ve done so many records. I’m not trying to sound disingenuous, i’m just saying I’ve done so many records And I can’t say, as I go back and listen to much of what I’ve done before, a couple of things on the Brooklyn Dreams album was pretty fun.

0:42:48 – Speaker 3
Like it sometimes can’t? We just can’t stop trying. No, make it last. You and me together, make it last. We’ll go on forever. Shine on brightly through the night. There’s nothing wrong. Love can’t make right. Make it last.

0:43:17 – Speaker 2
I particularly like my place in the sun where Michael McDonnell joins you, Of course your Doobie Brothers bandmate, I mean and you’ve got a few guest vocalists helping you out, don’t you?

0:43:27 – Speaker 4
Yes, yes, it was going to be an instrumental album. I just wanted to play like a patchy and have some fun. And then I ran into Mike when I was doing a charity event up in Santa Barbara And Mike asked me what I was doing. I said, well, i’m doing this solo project. I said, well, if you’d like me to do something on it, i’d love to. I said, are you kidding? I’d be fantastic. And so here’s the deal Come down to LA Right with my partner CJ the three of us and let’s do something that you’ve never done, as we say out of your wheelhouse, something that is not what you would be known for. If you’re okay with that, let’s take a shot. And place in the sun is very different than anything Michael has ever done before.

0:44:38 – Speaker 3
Not to embrace my desolation. Though I’m no stranger to this place, still one memory brings a smile like a warm breeze across my face my place in the sun. So true and clear even now. Still you find me here. Blood phrase be my light, darkness my fact. I need only believe to find my way back to my place in the sun.

0:45:34 – Speaker 4
Same with Johnny Lang, very different than something that he’s ever done before. So that was the idea let’s explore Now. favorite song hard to say. One thing I do love is the song The Rose.

Many, many, many years ago, when I was on the board of advisors for Guitar Player Magazine, they had put together a 25th anniversary celebration And they said we would like you to play something because we want to show a series of photographs of our colleagues who have passed on. So I don’t know, one day I guess I was listening to the radio and I heard the Rose. I said what a beautiful melody. So I said, okay, i’m going to do this on pedal steel. So I went out, they started, the lights went down, they started showing the photograph and I started an acapella version of the Rose on pedal steel.

And I had just gotten to the end of the first verse when Adrien Ballou came out and plugged in. And I love Adrien, he’s one of my favorite people. And so next thing, i know by the end of the second verse, we have an old rhythm section And at the end of it I thought wait a minute, i’m going to file this away. So when it came time to look for material for the record. I said I’m going to do that. I love the voice of the pedal steel. I don’t think anybody has ever done an acapella performance of pedal steel. I’ve never heard it. That’s special for me, that song.

0:47:45 – Speaker 2
You’ve never been afraid to get outside of your comfort zone, have you to experiment and create a whole lot of things, and I love the reimagined do it again from Steely Dan.

0:47:57 – Speaker 4
Pretty sleazy, slimy, greasy, yeah, kind of that New York shuffle. We love that stuff, kind of shuffle stuff. I’m glad you like it. A lot of fun to play.

0:48:55 – Speaker 2
You’re having a lot of fun generally, Jeff, aren’t you? We’ll look forward to your book coming out.

0:49:00 – Speaker 4
I hope to get back to Oz. I would love to go down and play. I love that place. I even had residency status there for many years. I played a lot with Jimmy Barrs and the party boys.

0:49:35 – Speaker 3
You know, he’ll never stop until he’s taken to life. You’re a man, you’re a man, he’s a man.

0:50:10 – Speaker 4
I have a strong tie with Australia.

0:50:12 – Speaker 2
Thank you so much for your time today. Jeff Skunkbaxter, i’m still intrigued to know how you got that nickname. Not even a little bit.

0:50:19 – Speaker 4
One of these days, and as we say in the Navy Bravo Zulu, you did a great job.

0:50:26 – Speaker 2
And speed of heat to you.

0:50:28 – Speaker 4
Thank you, you take care. Bye-bye.

0:50:31 – Speaker 2
What an extraordinary man he is, jeff Skunkbaxter. I’m still intrigued about that nickname, skunk, and after doing a bit of research I did manage to come up with an article and the now defunct rock magazine Cream. The magazine reports that Jeff earned his moniker while relieving himself outside a recording studio. Apparently he’d been mistakenly locked out of the session and was outside just minding his own business and doing his business, and then someone inside opened a door, stepping into his line of fire. The guy cried out you skunk, and the nickname was born. I’m not sure if this is actually fable or fact. I guess we’re going to have to just wait for Skunk’s book to come out to finally put the record straight. Thanks for being here with me today. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little bit more about Jeff Skunkbaxter. And don’t forget if you’d like to request a guest or what you have to do, just send me a message through the website wwwabreathoffreshaircomau. Take care of yourself, won’t you? until we meet again same time next week. Bye now, because it’s a beautiful day.