Interview: Allen Hinds

Dan McAvinchey: Allen, how did you initially get interested in the guitar, and how did you develop into the player you are today?

Allen Hinds: There was always a guitar lying around our house. My older brother played a little. But I got a bit more serious in high school. Actually, I came a little late to that table. I began really working at it when I was around 16. Before I was out of high school I started sneaking into night clubs and soaking up the whole southern rock scene. This was 1972-ish and I was living in Auburn, Alabama. I saw the Allman Brothers Band right after Duane had died, and seeing Dickey Betts up there with that 1957 goldtop was it! I was hooked.

After that, I started playing with friends. It progressed to where we were playing all over the South at all the big clubs and frat parties at all the major colleges. I always had a good ear, and helpful friends that guided me along until I went to Berklee in 1978. At that time we were trying to play Chick Corea, Steely Dan type stuff, so we were lucky, we had no limits or barriers as to what was commercial or artsy jazz, so we just went for it, best we could. It was new and fresh.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you think drove you to develop your skill from the average guitarist level to world class ability?

Allen Hinds: Probably ego (ha ha), but it's partly true. I always wanted to be the best, the hippest player around. And once again I surrounded myself with better players, that pushed me. Moving to L.A. was huge in that I could really see how I stacked up against the best in the world. Don't know if I would have done that had I stayed in Alabama. M.I. (which was then GIT) was the best thing I could have done. I do well in competitive scenes. I progressed fast in those years.

Dan McAvinchey: What are you striving to achieve musically, particularly on your last CD, "Falling Up"?

Allen Hinds: Well, when the compositions come from the heart, it's hard to think anything but emotions, but I guess I like the combination of heartfelt playing on real compositions with some harmonic diversity. I think I got there with this last CD.

Dan McAvinchey: What went into the decision to release records independently?

Allen Hinds: No master plan there, i just always have some ideas lying around. and the older I get, the more I feel a purpose in life to leave something behind. and since my music is a bit quirky, and knowing the commercial music scene like I do, I figured the best way was the internet. But I had to just get them out there and get them finished. I know so many guys who have been working on their solo debut for the last 25 years. I am glad I had the nerve to just get them out.

Dan McAvinchey: Having gone that route, what do you now find to be the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent musician?

Allen Hinds: Well, advantages are you can pick and choose what you want to do. The disadvantage is like all "self employed contractors", work can be slow - then it's a mental challenge not to get down on ones self because Quincy Jones isn't calling you every day.

Dan McAvinchey: Why do you believe certain music fans prefer instrumental music over traditional, vocal oriented music?

Allen Hinds: Well, I guess that's the way it's always been. Some folks don't need words to feel emotion in music. Same reason I guess some people are musicians and some are not. I can hear the first chord, or groove of a song and immediately be thrown into some mood. I don't need words, but I have to say, the older I get the more I really appreciate lyrics and singer songwriters. I think I get as much of a kick working behind singers as I do playing instrumental stuff. It's a whole different approach, but just as rewarding. I love filling and creating a "vibe" behind a singer. I remember being so knocked out by Beatle stuff, or all the guitar work on all that old Joni Mitchell or Stevie Wonder stuff - magical!

Dan McAvinchey: Have you heard any new guitarists that have really caught your ear in the past couple of years?

Allen Hinds: I really love grass root players such as Val McCallum, Jon Leveanthal and Stuart Smith. There is a local guy named Billy Watts that just always plays the perfect parts, and of course I can't get enough of Mike Landau - always fresh and inspired.

Dan McAvinchey: If you could do a once-off album project with any guitarist in the world, who would it be?

Allen Hinds: So many out there, Jeff Beck is every guitarists dream. Jon Leaventhal, Robben Ford. Robben and I used to play a lot when I was student at M.I. Or maybe Greg Leisz the pedal steel player here in L.A., or John Scofield, just for the humor. Yeah, that would be very cool.

Dan McAvinchey: Where do you see your challenges in the areas of publicity and promotion?

Allen Hinds: Trying to push my stuff into the "smooth jazz" world won't work, although i've done so many "smooth" CDs and tours throughout the years with other artists so it would be the most logical way to go, but my music is not that at all. That genre "smooth jazz" seems to have morphed into a whole different thing the last 10 years. I think working with a publicist and getting my stuff in Europe and elsewhere would probably work best for my stuff.

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Dan McAvinchey: How do you find the live music scene at the moment, given the current economic climate?

Allen Hinds: Not good. Bands that used to hire a rhythm section from L.A. to go across the U.S. now hire local bands when they go to Detroit, or wherever. No airfares, no hotels, and guys will work cheaper. And in the "smooth jazz" world, often, to generate ticket sales, promoters are forced to put 3 or 4 principle artists on the stage with one rhythm section - saves them money but cuts three other bands out of work.

Dan McAvinchey: Finally, what`s up next for you, what are some of your plans for the future?

Allen Hinds: I just finished my second CD with Gino Vannelli, this is a CD of all his hits, from "Brother To Brother" and before, and after, but with new arrangements. It should be great, and he is planning a tour in the U.S. in the fall. Got some Crusaders (Wayne Henderson) gigs, and a couple with saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa. I am headlining a Festival in Portland with my own band in July.

I am always working on new stuff. Now I'm working on a CD of all bottleneck/vibey stuff to shop to T.V. and movie folks. I do some sessions, I work at MI a couple days a week, and I'm getting ready to see if a publicist can help get my stuff out there.

When I am not holding a guitar I am holding a tennis racket - big diversion from the music world, and a very welcome one. Sometimes, you need balance.

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A native of Auburn, Alabama, Allen Hinds was exposed to blues and R&B at an early age. Moving into jazz and fusion in his teens, he attended Berklee College of Music and shortly after, moved to Los Angeles to attend Musician's Institute. Allen has a touch that most guitarists would kill for. Utilizing influences ranging from Wayne Shorter to the Beatles, his style is exciting and eclectic.

Dan McAvinchey buttonholed Hinds for this interview in order to get more background, and acquire more information about his musical endeavors.