Kari Johansson is this month's Harmony Player. The uncompromising and style-concious guitar player from Boogie Machine has travelled far along the dusty blues road....
WHAT KIND OF HARMONY-MADE GUITARS DO YOU OWN?
I have a Silvertone H-63 and a Silvertone 1448 Amp-in-case*. I was originally such a hard-core Gibson man that people started commenting about it.
* made by Danelectro (GH)
WHERE/HOW DID YOU FIND THE H-63?
I bought it from Jonne Kulluvaara about five years ago. We have friends in common and one of them let me know that Jonne was selling this guitar. I had the idea after checking out some guys around the world that I needed one of these guitars.
WHICH GUYS INSPIRED YOU TO FIND ONE OF THESE GUITARS?
Well, among them were Teddy "Kid" Morgan which in turn led to Nick Curran. And long before that, in the early 80's when the Mighty Flyers played in Finland I remember Junior Watson using this type of guitars. It only took me about 20 years to get one. Good things come to those who wait!
DO YOU KNOW THE HISTORY OF THIS GUITAR? WAS IT IMPORTED TO FINLAND AS NEW?
No, it came here in the early 80's. Löffe (Per-Olof Löfberg, a name that you often come across when talking about this kind of stuff) brought two of them from abroad. This one was in worse shape. Too bad, somebody else has the better one**. Esa (the Blues Minister) Kuloniemi bought this one and as far as I know he used it a lot during the early years of Honey B and the T-Bones. From there it ended up at Musiikki-Fazer (a music store where Esa worked at the time) where Jonne Kulluvaara bought it. So it was up for grabs for a while.
** According to Esa Kuloniemi Kari's guitar is actually the better one of the two. See Esa's interview.
WHAT ARE THE GOOD AND BAD ASPECTS OF YOUR SILVERTONE?
The string spacing is very wide, which is kind of problematic compared to almost any Gibson or Fender. I should probably practice on a nylon-string Landola to keep my technique in shape! I try to avoid getting used to one particular guitar to the extent that I can't do anything on another model.
SO CHANGING FROM AN ES-335 TO A SILVERTONE H-63 AT A GIG IS TOO RADICAL A MOVE?
Well, that would be a very long journey. I sometimes play an ES-175 and it's set up with heavy strings and low action. I have to use lighter strings on the H-63 (no truss rod) and set the action higher. Like I said, the touch is different and you have to adapt to each guitar. Lately I've mostly been using the H-63 live.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU USE YOUR SILVERTONE FOR PLAYING LIVE?
About 90% of the time. I think that all guitars should be used live. Of course it's understandable that you don't want to take some really expensive stuff to every pizza joint. Still, my guitars have been bought second-hand and they have been around which means that you don't have worry about every little blemish. They were made to be used. When I play with Boogie Machine I might use my ES-175 and if I want to feel really old I'll take my 1946 Epiphone Broadway (with a DeArmond pickup). I've used that one occasionally, but it needs more of a jazz club atmosphere. Not a guitar for every pizzeria.
HAS THE AUDIENCE OR OTHER PLAYERS COMMENTED ON YOUR GUITAR?
Yes. One thing that's fun about this guitar is that people always ask me what it is. Some people like to talk about strats and Les Pauls, but these guitars always lead to conversations. Guitars that look a bit weird and are shaped differently to the ones that are familiar looking to the average audience-member make them curious. Actually, most other musicians are also interested.
WHICH AMPS DO YOU USE WHEN PLAING LIVE?
A reissue Ampeg J12-T , a Danelectro Nifty Fifty and a Fender Blues Jr. Sometimes a 1965 Fender Super Reverb.