By APRIL LINE
George Wesley, the region's own reggae master, will play Rumrunners Pub and Eatery, 341 Market St., at 10 p.m. May 19. It's been a while since the Sun-Gazette hung out with him, so he discussed his winter in Florida, his album that's coming out this summer and his relationship with Martin Guitars.
APRIL LINE: So Martin donated Sting's bass and Tom Petty's 12-string at one point? What does that mean? Did they lend them to you? Can you explain?
GEORGE WESLEY: Sure. I started working with Martin in 2004. I got an endorsement, which means I can use pretty much anything from their museum to record with. I wound up borrowing No. 1 of two prototypes of Sting's acoustic bass made out of ecologically friendly wood and everything; and the Tom Petty 12-string was No. 1 of three and that was a prototype, and actually, Tom Petty had No. 2 and gave No. 3 to Dhani Harrison, and at a concert for George, he played it.
AL: So are you helping Martin to develop a guitar with MIDI technology?
GW: That was one of the things. They had one guitar that they experimented with that I borrowed because I was getting into doing things with MIDI guitar, and I liked it so much that I started playing it all the time. And I had some issues and they had another one - they only had two - so I wound up getting both of them. The MIDI guitar world is still young. There are issues with tracking, you know, but you have to play different. And the thing about the MIDI guitar is that it was made out of aluminum and stratabond, which is kind of a plastic, and the cool thing about it is that they were trying something completely different. I call it my "fishing lure guitar" now. It's brushed aluminum. I love it when I pull it out and play it around guys who are Martin enthusiasts who say, "It's gotta be wood to be Martin." They go "Whoa!" I'm helping to develop a new wooden [MIDI] guitar and I try different things and strings, and it's been really cool.
AL: So do you report back to them?
GW: I go visit the factory a lot. Part of the endorsement - it's not like they give me lots of money - but I have access to the guitars and they talk to me about doing a project where I play only acoustic guitar. That's somewhere in the future, I hope.
AL: Talk to me about your new album. How is it different from your usual projects?
GW: We did all the recording at SI Studios in Old Forge. I've done all the production and basically, it's pretty rootsy. I feel very good about it. I've been careful about the length of songs. The title track is only 3 minutes and 30 seconds. And that's amazing for me. It's a return to the roots reggae that I started out playing. I wrote all the bass lines so that they had the right reggae feel.
AL: Are you originally from this area?
GW: Yes. I was originally from Factoryville. And I lived in upstate New York from '83 to '87, then moved back down here, to Wilkes-Barre. Now, I live in Kingston. It's a right thing for a reggae musician to be from Kingston.
AL: Is James Wesley related to you?
GW: He's my son. He's playing on shows with me. He's got his own band right now, but he's performing with me on different shows.
AL: Do you have a favorite festival story?
GW: I like festivals in general because all the energy is different. The festival's outside, fresh air. It's a freer space, and you can improvise more. Clubs are nice, though.
AL: Anything you've been up to since the last interview with the Sun-Gazette you want to talk about?
GW: Well, we went to Florida, to the Keys for the winter with no real plans. I took my little MIDI Martin and played open mics, Anette [Wesley's wife] would play percussion. No loops, no effects and we found our way into the scene and ended up playing all over. It helped with financing the new album. But there weren't a lot of reggae bands there. It was an interesting adventure, and we did the live looping thing a lot, and I'm going to be out at Rumrunners on the 19th. Anette and I will be there.
Visit www.georgewesley.com for more info.