On Conceptualizing What You Play
“I visualize things and go off to the galaxy’s limit,” says iconic Fanny guitarist June Millington. “I just let myself be led. I don’t ask questions. I just go. Somebody told me once that Laura Nyro said to her producer, ‘I want it to sound like mist rising over a lake in the morning.’ I’ll never forget that, because that’s exactly how I feel music.
“But my licks often come out of the lineage of hearing Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore West. I was standing right in front of him. In fact, this kid and I were fighting for position, because the only way you could learn back then was to stand in front of the guitar player and absorb everything they did. I later found out that kid was Carlos Santana.
“You see, the live stuff really informed me. I didn’t learn the sh*t off the records. I learned it from watching guitar players, or going to a club where somebody great was playing so I could ask them questions, or seeing if people would jam with me. All of that is like a hologram now, and the sounds are swirling in front of me. I can hear it, I can feel it, and I can see these guys. They were all guys, because very few women I knew at the time could play well—although I thought the lead guitar player in Birtha [Shele Pinizzotto] was unbelievable. So I can just go fishing, draw a lick in, and make it mine. It’s like going shopping.”
What Today’s Players Could be Missing
“I don’t think people are experimenting so much with sound now. I feel like guitarists aren’t taking the time to really get into the circuitry of each guitar and each amp they’re playing. I’ve always liked that fearless attitude of finding out what a guitar and an amp can do together, and a lot of my time is still spent doing exactly that. You’ll never find out about all the tonal characteristics available to you unless you experiment with everything. You’re the one who pulls it together, and creates that magical thing that happens—which is sound, melody, and the unexpected. You’ve got the technology, but you have to be the maestro.”
One of the Guardians’ favorite guitarists of all time, June Millington was a founding member of the early-1970s, all-female rock band Fanny (or, as we often like to say—”pre-Runaways”). June and her sister Jean—along with drummer Brie Darling—recorded a new Fanny album last year, Fanny Walked the Earth [Blue Elan].