Shaun Verreault deploys three slides at once to explore new ways of playing guitar

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON JAN. 16, 2021

By Steve Newton

Over the last few months I’ve been checking in with Vancouver’s top guitar players to find out how, as professional musicians, they’ve been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in October Scott Smith of Terminal Station explained how he was recording artists at his home studio and doing more teaching via Facebook; in November I learned how shredder par excellence and Joe Satriani protégé Dave Martone has managed to help pay the bills through his role as a music-technology and guitar instructor at Douglas College.

The latest local six-string ace under inspection is Shaun Verreault, whose name you may recognize for his many years as singer-guitarist with Canadian blues-rockers Wide Mouth Mason, which has released eight albums (two of which went gold) and toured with the likes of AC/DC and ZZ Top. As Verreault explains on the line from his Yaletown home, he was mostly immune to pandemic-induced financial fallout because of his full-time day job.

“I’m counting myself extremely fortunate that, alongside my career as a writing and recording and touring musician, for the past five years I’ve also worked at an amazing local guitar-based business called Graph Tech Guitar Labs. We design and manufacture and provide pretty much every guitar brand you can think of with the nut and saddles that they use, and machine heads and bridges and piezo pickups and stuff.

“So I’ve been very grateful that–after releasing a record and then having all of the gigs go away for what’s looking now like two festival seasons, not just one–I haven’t had to worry about where my mortgage payments were gonna come from. It’s interesting that along with breadmakers and Zoom, the guitar business has actually had a thriving last year. I think people, as they were at home wondering what they’re gonna do after they’ve watched everything on Netflix, have really found themselves picking up their instruments again. People have rediscovered the joy–even if it’s just in their bedrooms by themselves–of playing their guitars.”

While the global pandemic may have resulted in increased sales of Strats and Les Pauls, it has basically obliterated anyone’s ability to use those instruments in a concert setting. Verreault has used much of the time he would have spent on stage developing his “Tri-Slide” technique, which involves using three slides on his fretting hand while playing lap-steel guitar and dobro. He first tried the triple-slide approach about seven years ago.

“A friend of mine had given me a lap steel,” he recalls, “but playing standard style with one bar in my hand, everything I did sounded like an out-of-tune version of something that somebody else could do better. It just was really befuddling, because it’s a totally different set of muscles, and a totally different way of moving than playing bottleneck slide, which I had been doing for maybe 15 years at that point. It dawned on me that if I had more than one slide I could do more things, and it really sent me down a wormhole of experimentation and just making stuff up.

“It reminded me of when I was 10 and I first got an acoustic guitar. It hurt my fingers and it made me feel stupid and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep doing it. And then I remember one day home with a fever I just stopped looking at it as extra homework that I had to do and looked at it like a toy, and brushed the strings and blew on ’em and smacked the guitar and heard the sound that it made. I really started looking at it as just a thing that I could do creative stuff on.

“And so doing that with the lap steel, I went, ‘Well, what if I put a slide on my thumb and a slide on my ring finger and I pivot back and forth between those two and see what happens.’ And once I started realizing that I could have one note slide in one direction while another note slid in the other direction–with maybe one in between that’s staying the same–then it got really exciting for me.”

And not just for him. It’s amazing to see Verreault deploy three slides at once to explore new ways of creating music. He often posts short clips of himself on social media covering bits of songs he loves by the likes of guitar legends Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, and Eric Johnson. The clips are rarely longer than two minutes.

“Part of the reason I’ve kept the videos so short,” he explains, “is that I know a lot of our fanbase is at the same point in their lives as I am, and you don’t necessarily have an hour and a half to sit down and watch a thing in between homeschooling and working from home and home stuff. So I thought these easily digestible little bits of entertainment for people that I could offer could keep our connection there.”

Hopefully it won’t be too long before guitar freaks–and music fans in general–will be able to safely leave their homes and see concerts again. If the pandemic were declared over today, Verreault knows where he’d want to experience live music tonight.

“Oh man, I have floated back in my head many times to shows that I’ve either played or seen at the Commodore, and I cannot wait for the next one of those, whatever that can be. Whether it’s been sitting in with my friends or the nights that the Masons have played there, or just going there as a concertgoer, I’m counting the minutes until that is a thing again.”

 

To hear the full 30-minute audio of my 2021 interview with Shaun Verreault subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 325 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Steve Miller, 2022
Devin Townsend of Vai, 1993
Al Stewart, 1985
Stewart Copeland from the Police, 2022
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1994
Terry “Mess” Messal of Flies on Fire, 1992
James Cotton, 2002
Martin Barre from Jethro Tull, 2022
David Gogo, 1994
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1990
Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo, 1992
Popa Chubby, 1995
Jerome Godboo of the Phantoms, 1990
Alain Caron of UZEB, 1985
Billy Sheehan of Mr. Big, 1989
Ty Tabor of King’s X, 2001
Mike Gordon of Phish, 1993
Paul Shaffer of David Letterman, 2022
Paul Nieder of Scatterbrain, 1991
Bob Rock, 2002
John Cougar, 1983
Guitar Shorty, 2001
Cy Curnin of the Fixx, 1984
James Young from Styx, 1986
Charlie Musselwhite, 2002
Steve Morse of Deep Purple, 1998
Lenny Kravitz, 1998
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1998
Tinsley Ellis, 1992
Matt Minglewood, 1985
Mojo Nixon and Country Dick Montana of the Pleasure Barons, 1993
Bill Davis of Dash Rip Rock, 1992
Sue Foley, 1992
Tom Keifer of Cinderella, 1991
Terry Adams of NRBQ, 1997
Mark Hollis of Talk Talk, 1984
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 2010
Slash of Guns N’ Roses and Slash’s Snakepit, 1995
Sonny Rhodes, 1999
Peter Goalby of Uriah Heep, 1983
Lenny Zakatek of the Alan Parsons Project, 1983
Marc Storace of Krokus, 1983
Chris Whitley, 1991
Buddy Cage of New Riders of the Purple Sage, 2006
Bill Elm of Friends of Dean Martinez, 1995
Simon Townshend, 1983
John Bush of Anthrax, 1993
Aldo Nova, 1983
Steven Adler from Guns N’ Roses, 2011
Mick Ronson, 1989
Tom Morello, 2011
Paul Pigat of Cousin Harley, 2021
Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers, 1993
Henry Fambrough of the Spinners, 1983
Dave Brock of Hawkwind, 1990
Roger Fisher from Heart, 1985
Graham Goble of Little River Band, 1983
Colin Hay of Men at Work, 1983
Mark Kelly of Marillion, 1986
Luther Allison, 1995
Lee Rocker from the Stray Cats, 2007
John Critchley of 13 Engines, 1995
J. Geils from the J. Geils Band, 2006
Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, 1997
Jason Newsted of Newsted (and Metallica), 2013
Marshall Crenshaw, 2013
Dan Hartman, 1984
Sean Costello, 2006
Roger Hodgson from Supertramp, 1998
Tommy Stinson from the Replacements, 1993
Brian Blush of the Refreshments, 1997
Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, 2003
Craig Northey of Strippers Union, 2021
Melissa Etheridge, 1990
Joe Jackson, 2003
Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity, 2001
David Ellefson of Megadeth, 1992
David Lee Roth, 2003
Grant Walmsley of the Screaming Jets, 1991
John Popper of Blues Traveler, 1991
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 2012
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1993
Ellen McIlwaine, 2001
Derek Trucks of Tedeschi Trucks, 2012
J.D. Fortune of INXS, 2006
Fernando von Arb of Krokus, 1984
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, 1997
Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, 1992
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees, 1992
Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, 1985
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, 1992
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Bill Payne of Little Feat, 2002
Robbin Crosby of Ratt, 1989
Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, 1984
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
Alejandro Escovedo, 1997
Eric Carr of Kiss, 1984
Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Ivan Doroschuk of Men Without Hats, 1984
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Michael Lardie of Great White, 1987
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis & the News, 1983
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
Mark McEntee of Divinyls, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Jack Semple, 1993
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman of the Guess Who, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Alex Van Halen, 1995
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Gregg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
…with hundreds more to come

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