Since it’s implementation as the cornerstone of rock ‘n’ roll, the guitar has grown, been elevated, twisted, and reimagined in countless, strange new ways. While this journey has given way to explorers and innovators, it has also clouded the history of the storied instrument.
In this vast landscape, Wallace Mullinax, lead guitarist for the Dead 27’s, serves as a portal between past and present. A pure player, a workhorse guitarist who prowess derives from a soulful understanding and devout reverence to the spirit of classic rock and blues. Mullinax brings forth experience beyond his years, embodying guitar tradition and presenting a new generation of music fans the opportunity to see the beauty of the guitar for what it is has been, is now, and always will be.
Rusty’s had the distinct opportunity to sit down with Mullinax following his two demo shoots and get some insight into what drives a real player’s player.
Rusty’s: How were you introduced to the guitar? What was your first instrument, and what inspired to begin your journey?
Mullinax: I was raised in a musical family where everybody played an instrument. When I was about ten years old, my Mom said “you can play any instrument you want, but you have to pick one.” I decided on guitar because my uncle played and the music he made was so much more fun than what I heard from violins, pianos, etc.
Rusty’s: Jack White has said he likes a guitar that fights back… When you perform, do you prefer to go to battle or relax and let the music flow?
Mullinax: I do like a guitar that fights back a little. Those instruments seem to be a bit more expressive, for whatever reason. Usually that “fight” is derived more from setup than an engineered quality. Musically, I think you’ve got to be able to both push the music and allow it to breathe. Different songs require different approaches.
Rusty’s: You perform in a Grateful Dead tribute band at the Charleston (SC) Pour House every Wednesday night… How do you approach filling an iconic role like Jerry Garcia and has it affected your style at all? What’s your favorite Dead tune to play, and why?
Mullinax: It’s definitely been a learning experience with the Dead tunes. I’ve always liked that stuff, but I studied other players (Hendrix, Herring, Buchanan) more in my formative years. Playing the Dead properly is a study in restraint and listening. You shouldn’t push that music like you can an Allman Brothers or Hendrix tune. A lot of guys think the Dead is all about noodling–it’s not. It took me years to understand the intention in stuff I thought was mindless or a mistake. When done properly, its impossible to be self-indulgent playing those tunes because you’re so focused on the totality of sound.
I’ll always have a soft spot for the Europe ’72 songs, as that strat and twin combination is so genuine compared to Garcia’s later experiments. He’s Gone and Jack Straw are two at the top of my list.
Rusty’s: What’s next for the Dead 27’s?
Mullinax: Dead 27s is firing on all cylinders right now. We are getting tunes ready to record in November with Galactic’s Ben Ellman. Everybody in the band is really excited about challenging what we are able to do as a five-piece band. Big guitars, harmony vocals, synths, and percussion–we won’t be holding much back.
Rusty’s: What did you like about the guitar you demoed in the shoot?
Mullinax: The first electric I ever owned was my Dad’s old guitar that looked and felt like the Dean. Those guitars are the pinnacle or grinding, heavy rock tone. They can also sound smokey and jazzy, like BB King. The Dean had a fast, even neck and the controls felt great. I’m always working my volume and tone knobs, so it’s important to me that they respond properly.
Check out more of Wallace’s work with the Dead 27’s at: facebook.com/dead27s