John Mayer: Less Guitar Hero, More “Hero Of The Day”

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Despite recording that Michael Jackson cover with Fall Out Boy, John Mayer told Rolling Stone that “Guitar Hero was devised to bring the guitar-playing experience to the masses without them having to put anything into it. And having done both, there’s nothing like really playing guitar. I mean, what would you rather drive, a Ferrari or one of those amusement-park cars on a track?” See, guitars mean a lot to John. “It’s my flotation device, because I now exist in this celebrity sort of world. But I don’t feel like anybody’s been able to truly knock me off my legs, because I have a trade. You can’t just walk onstage and start playing guitar ’cause you thought it looked neat. With guitar, you get out what you put in, and it’s the ultimate shield for other people trying to fuckin’ take away your heart and soul. It’s a completely exposed craft. There is no facade.” When John stops getting to nail celebrities, he’ll still gonna be able to show up at a bar and wail for his pretzels. Can Guitar Hero players say that? Maybe someday he’ll be as awesome as Kirk Hammett, who recorded one of his “favorite guitar solos in the world.” On Load.

One of my favorite guitar solos in the world is from Metallica’s “Hero of the Day.” Clapton’s got a bunch of songs where he’s really playing blues but he’s playing it over these chordal changes, like “Old Love” and “Wonderful Tonight.” It’s not really about the solo — when I hear Prince at the end of “Let’s Go Crazy,” I get it. But for me, it’s more about the way the harmony and the melodic movement of the chords support the guitar-playing. People respond to chords. I mean, Jimi Hendrix was a songwriter.

I’m enough of a candy-ass that I’ve always had a soft spot for “Hero Of The Day,” though “King Nothing” is probably my favorite mid-’90s Metallica original. Still, I can’t figure out how anyone who puts as much stock in the six-string as Mr. Mayer does would immediately think of “Hero Of The Day” when asked what his favorite “guitar moments” were. Did it just come up on his iPod? Maybe it reminds him of his adolescence, a wonderful time before technology had corrupted the ability of young people to create.

The fact that you could record a song tonight greatly dements the creative process. The fact that if you wanted to right now, you and your friends could get together, do a photo shoot. Within 20 minutes you could have a band name, a photo shoot, a Website, a logo. The first time I ever got a four-track recorder I didn’t write a song. I did like as many-part harmony to “Star Spangled Banner” vocally as I could do, because you just want to experience the technology. So I think that’s part of it too. I’m trying to be compassionate about it and not say oh, these fuckin’ kids, you know? But it is.

Those kids with their video games and their photographs, Web sites and logos. Things were different in me and John’s day, let me tell you. The mid-’90s weren’t about technology and image, they were about soul.

Metallica – Hero Of The Day [YouTube]Secrets of the Guitar Heroes: John Mayer [Rolling Stone]