Prog Rock is alive and well thanks to guitarists like Scott Abene! Planet Tone has been fortunate to work with amazing talent through the years and one of those gems, no doubt, is Mr. Abene. Not only is he incredibly fun to chat with, he is a wealth knowledge, not just in music, and comes from a family rich in musical talent which is a story all of its own!
Scott plays a mean axe and can build one too! He is always busy and often can be found doing something related to music. His bands TSK and Flight are exceptional prog rock bands. If you love rock, prog rock or instra-metal. You’ll love his works.
We highly recommend his latest release, Elements by Flight. It’s an amazing collection of works where all types of influences can be heard. If you are not familiar with Flight, just like TSK, the line-up are amazing. The rhythm section are world class. And, the song writing is exceptional. Quite a mood lifter and, if you play guitar, you’ll be motivated to pickup up your axe and push forward!
We caught up with Scott, and he was kind enough to share his insights and experiences with the Planet Tone community as well as the latest with TSK and Flight!
1. Who are some of your musical influences and what do you listen to these days?
My musical influence is always such a tricky question. I will listen to anything and as a kid I was exposed to all genres of music. I am a huge Freddie Green fan. Freddie really was the best of the best when it came to Big Band guitar players. He was just a comping dynamo. Early on in life I think that the first guitar players that I remember were guys like Roy Clark, Glen Campbell and Marty Robbins. I remember being enamored by Glen and Roy. Both of them were just monsters as players.
I have two older sisters, one of which is 9 years older than I am. She introduced me to Clapton, Page and Gilmour. All three of those guys really played a huge part in my early influence years as a young player. As I got near and into my teens, Brian May and Steve Hackett got an awful lot of time on my turntable. My oldest sister brought home Deep Purple’s “Made in Japan” and I just couldn’t stop playing it. Eddie Van Halen for sure changed the world for me. Nobody ever did anything like that and I had to know how. I also felt the same way about Andy Summers. His textures were just amazing.
I spent a lot of time as a kid with friends that listened to funk, R&B and dance music. Because of this I am deeply rooted in the groove playing mindset. It really is a great place as a guitar player to find yourself. Players like Ernie Isley, Nile Rodgers, Bootsy etc. all heavily influenced me over time.
Did I mention Zappa? I miss him dearly. He changed how I approach everything. He was the master of masters. I feel very similar about Pete Townshend also.
I was always blessed with great teachers and they have definitely influenced my playing and approach. I studied for a long time with Allen Hanlon and Bill Connors. Allen was like a second father to me and Bill was a true mentor in my life.
These days, I listen to a lot of things that maybe most in the US would not. I am a big fan of the Cubano rap group “ORISHAS”. They are just simply amazing. There is a German / Turkish rapper from Köln named Eko Fresh who I am also very fond of. From a guitar player point of view I have been listening to an awful lot of Dean Brown lately.
The album that has been getting the most play lately though is a Brazilian band called Trombones De Frutas. Their album “Chanti Alpïsti” is quite frankly one of the best things that I have heard in years.
2. What’s it like playing at NAMM. Is the environment hectic? What are some of your fondest memories of past NAMMs.
Playing NAMM whether at vendor booths or at the nighttime events is just such a huge privilege. Even getting asked blew me away. The other side of the coin is that you want to make sure that everything is as tight and well-rehearsed as possible because not only are you there representing your endorsements and your band, you are also playing for your peers. That can be a bit heavy on the mind and back at times. That being said though, what a truly amazing experience it all is. 3.5 days of nothing but playing, listening to playing, gear gassing and networking.
I think that my fondest memory was sitting and listening to my father and Bernard Purdie talk about years gone by in 2017. Just two guys that helped change the music scene sitting down as old friends and telling stories and enjoying themselves. Getting swarmed by a bunch of French who wanted pictures and autographs at the airport this past January was a pretty darn good way to end a NAMM trip too. They had seen TSK play at the BASS BASH and loved us. That type of experience makes me remember that Music fixes everything.
3. Currently you are working with two bands, Flight and TSK. How did these projects come about?
Flight happened a bit by accident. I put out an ad on Craigslist that was pretty much looking to start a band like TSK. Funk Fusion Groove Jazz type thing. I got no bites whatsoever. I did however get contacted by a guy named Scott Deardon who also was a guitar player. He emailed me with something that started out with “Just a shot in the dark but what the hell”. I met him at his house just to talk and we hit it off. We spent the next year or so going through drummers and bass players until Sal Demetrio and Then Tony Puleo joined. I was not looking for Flight but I think that maybe somehow Flight was indeed looking for me.
The ultimate irony here is that TSK was born from Flight. During the time that Flight was auditioning drummers, Keith Augeri answered an ad and came down and played. Keith and I clicked immediately and I believe I called him a few days after he auditioned for Flight. He was not right for Flight but he was right for the original fusion band idea.
A couple months later Tony Puleo auditioned for Flight and joined the band. I remember mentioning to Tony that he would be a good fit for the fusion band and that I knew the right drummer. Another couple months passed and Tony was offered a NAMM spot at the BASS JAM. That was the moment that TSK was born. We started rehearsing on mid October 2016 and never looked back.
4. What can fans of TSK and Flight expect for the remainder of 2018?
Finally!!! And I mean finally both albums are to be released. Flight “Simulator” was released on April 7, 2018 and TSK “Jupiter’s Greasy Moon” will be out in June. Flight is already writing new music and preparing for gigs in the New England area to back up the release. I imagine that the same is also on deck for TSK.
5. You have a lot of guitars! How many do you have and tell us about some of your unique models.
The total number is a super-secret number known only by the ancient Gnomes that I employ to take care of them. The running joke for an answer though is 4. I own 4 guitars. From a unique point of view I now have 4 instruments that I have built that have guitar bodies that were rescued and were survivors of fires. Getting them up and running again seemed like the only fitting thing to do. I love finding guitar bodies that have not had great lives and getting them back in the thick of things where they belong. It really makes me feel good knowing that they are ready to do what they were meant to do and not just tossed away.
I have my grandfather’s 1927 Gibson L series archtop guitar. I think that is very unique in this day and age. It is the guitar that for the most part I learned to play on. It just brings me great happiness.
6. Your tone is warm yet fresh and vibrant too. What are some of the techniques and gear you use to capture your tone both live and in the studio?
These days for live situations I am using all amp modeling. Either the Fractal Audio Axe FX or the Fractal Audio AX8 units. They give me everything that I could ever need live and the give me consistency in sound from venue to venue.
When in the studio, I try to use every option that I can or that is needed to get specific sounds. So a mixture of the Fractal units and more traditional amplification. Over the last couple years I have found a number of low watt tube amps that I very much love. Two of which are the WANGS HD15 and the WANGS HD30. They sound like big old school 100 watt amps but do not blow the windows out. I also still use my old Gallien Krueger MLe and my Gallien Krueger 250RL, both of which I have had longer than some of my kids. I even use two old ART Multi-verbs that I have had since the late 80’s / early 90’s respectively.
Guitar wise, I am pretty straight forward… I think… I am playing Super Strat types with Floyds, strats and ramped up teles. On the strat types with Floyd Rose tremolos, I am using GHS Super Steels 10’s. On everything that does not have a Floyd on it I am using GHS Super Steels 11’s True Medium Custom Shop strings that GHS has been kind enough to put together for me. My Picks are Dunlop Delrins .71mm dark pink. I will say that it is hard to lose a pink pick and that most nobody will steal a pink pick.
On my older electrics the pickups are more often than not ESP LH100 / LH200 and mini rails humbuckers from the 80’s when ESP was making their own pickups. They really were making simply fantastic stuff back then. You will also see a lot of Bill Lawrence L250 Singles in my older electrics. They are just solid.
As many people know, most of the guitars that I play these days I have built. I am a stickler for smooth linear pots, wax clothe wiring and vintage capacitors. I find that build the guitars myself gives me the luxury of tapering them to my hands, needs and playing style. It also allows me to have a consistency in the instruments that makes it easy to jump from one to another.
In all the guitars that I have built in the last couple years I have used a variety of different Planet Tone pickups. There is however a constant that I keep going back to. Those are the 1957 Humbucker, Elite Pro Single Coil and the 1951 Original for Tele® – Bridge. Over the last 4 years I have recorded the better part of three albums with some variation of those pickups. I firmly believe that those three pickups can do anything. My main tele that I use for TSK has all three in it. 51 bridge, Elite middle and 57 neck. That guitar is the most versatile instrument that I own. I believe that it can do anything. There is definitely magic in the Alnico II 57 humbucker.
When it comes to dialing in guitar tones I think that I tend to like more of the lower end rather than the brighter end of the guitar tone. I am not a person that uses a ton of effects so I spend a lot of time dialing in the amps or Fractal units to make sure that I hear what I need to hear. The audible is the part that gets me off and gets me going when it comes to playing. If I can find that sweet spot then I know that my hands will do the rest of the heavy lifting. I use the volume and tone knobs on the instrument quite a bit. I know that is not very fashionable anymore but for me it allows me to tweak where I need to tweak. I also tend to like more traditional output pickups that do not blemish the sound of the instrument or the picking of the strings. Since I usually just use a minimal amount of effects it is important that I focus on execution of the notes when I play something.
Thank you Scott for the fantastic interview!
TSK on Bandcamp: https://tskmusic5.bandcamp.com/
Flight on Bandcamp: https://flight6.bandcamp.com/