Interview by Robert Cavuoto
New York guitarist Oz Noy recently released his latest CD, Booga Looga Loo. It’s an eclectic mix of Boogaloo and Miles Davis Bitches Brew.
Born in Israel, Oz started his professional career at 13 years old and by 24, he was one of the most established studio guitar players in his country. Since his arrival in New York, in 1996 Oz has made a huge impact on the local and international music scene. His unique and intoxicating style has broken all the rules of instrumental guitar music by focusing on the groove.
I caught up with Oz to talk about his new CD Booga Looga Loo and some of the guitarists who influenced his unique style of playing.
Robert Cavuoto: I know that you typically like to have a theme or concept when creating your CDs, can you talk about the vision you had going into this CD?
Oz Noy: Over the last couple of years I have done a lot of organ trio gigs. Part of the vocabulary of an organ player is to play the Boogaloo songs, so I started to get it into that. It’s a Boogaloo record mixed with Miles Davis Bitches Brew. It’s a mixture of those two elements. They like to call it Electric Boogaloo.
Robert Cavuoto: You always expend extreme efforts to seek the ultimate expression in a song through your guitar playing. What drives that artistic work ethic?
Oz Noy: I don’t think it’s anything out of the normal. Everyone who wants to be a solo artist of original music does it. It’s always there, and it’s not like you have to make an effort at what you do. I really don’t even think about it. I just go for it every time.
Robert Cavuoto: I recently read an article about you and the writer compared many of your playing attributes to Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. This is a tremendous compliment but is it a little nerve-wracking to live up to those accolades?
Oz Noy: I don’t live up to the expectation of what they do; I’m just influenced heavily by them. I don’t think that Yngwie is a part of my vocabulary, but the other guys definitely are. The idea is to be original and not sounding like a copy of Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jeff Beck; otherwise, you will lose right away. As long as I have those influences, do my own thing, then I’m in a good place.
Robert Cavuoto: You have such a unique style tell me how it originated?
Oz Noy: I don’t hear that unique style because when I listen to myself, I don’t hear it as being unique. I just hear all the influences. Other people, I guess hear the uniqueness. I was able to mold a couple of different things together. When I was growing up, I played and studied jazz but was also playing rock and blues. It’s not an easy thing to do. When I moved to New York things started to come together. I don’t have the specifics on how it happened; I just tried to play different things. One thing that helped was when I stopped giving labels to music. When you give a label to playing traditional jazz, you have to use a hollow body guitar and play like Wes Montgomery. If you play Boogaloo, you have to use a Fender guitar. It’s healthy to learn the traditions from those guys, but make it your own and playing it your own way.
Robert Cavuoto: Who are some of your musical influences?
Oz Noy: The funny thing is when I was growing up I got into jazz through John McLaughlin and Chick Corea. Then I heard Allan Holdsworth, and I wanted to play more of the jazz fusion. I went to some teachers that said I had to learn jazz which meant Bebop which is Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burell, Charlie Parker. They were my main influences while I was studying. I then put it all on the side to learn traditional jazz. I was growing up in the 80s with all these shredders too, so I was listening to Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Greg Howe, and Richie Kotzen. These guitar players were doing some fun stuff. On one side I was playing jazz and the other heavy metal [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: Did you have a go-to guitar on this CD?
Oz Noy: I have some really nice custom shop guitars, no vintage guitars. I don’t like to own something I won’t use all the time. Traveling with a $20,000 guitar is hard too. It’s not worth it for me. I would rather play the custom shop guitars and not worry. I have been using two 68 Fender Strat custom shops forever. One is maple and the rosewood. I also used my custom shop Tele and a 59 custom shop Les Paul. Recently I got a 58 custom shop which has become my main and favorite guitar. I haven’t recorded with it as of yet.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the exact moment when you said I want to be a guitarist and what was the inspiration?
Oz Noy: When was I growing up, I was listening to The Beatles and wanted to play the drums. My mother started looking for a drum teacher. Then I had a friend of mine who was studying guitar, and he said to come to a lesson with him. So I started studying guitar. I don’t remember being really excited about it and wasn’t into practicing. My brother played bass in a high school band; his friend would come to our house to play Beatles songs. At that point was like this is cool. Then my father bought me a pick up to put on my classical guitar, and once I plugged it in and started to make some noise, I was down to business. [Laughing]