Reeves Gabrels
by Michele Christopher

I'M ALL ABOUT THE GUITAR- - Playing, buying, listening, learning. If you play - even air guitar - this one's for you. by Cullen

I love these old<br />
advertisements.What in the hell is he doing to that guitar?

I have seen drills, vacuum tubes, and violin bows applied to the guitar. I have seen wild exploits by many an axe-man, but there are only two I can think of who constantly apply ingenuity and innovation to rethink the way the guitar is meant to be played. One of those two is the most underrated guitarist on the planet: Reeves Gabrels.

The other is Tom Morello, who has gotten far more attention from the popular crowd, but I think is the inferior guitarist. That is, of course, my opinion. Feel free to disagree.

The first time I ever saw Gabrels was around 1988 or '89, when David Bowie eschewed more stylistic music and gave us some good old hard rock via the band Tin Machine. Well, there were a couple of good songs, but overall the band lacked the cohesiveness needed to sell the band. However, Gabrels continued to work with Bowie and produced two of the coolest albums of the '90s – Outside (1995) and Earthling (1997).

Where Outside introduced Bowie's entrance into the modern electronica/techno musical field of the '90s, it was an unsteady and uneven album. But it was a commercial success. Eathling wasn't half the commercial success, but is a far better album. Tracks such as "Little Wonder," "I'm Afraid of Americans," and "Seven Years in Tibet" were fantastic songs.

Gabrels has long been a user and endorser of Parker Fly guitars. The sounds he gets out of them sure are a sound endorsement. Listening to "Little Wonder," you wonder at some of the sounds that Reeves got from his guitar. If you happened to see Bowie perform on Saturday Night Live in this era, you got to see Reeves rip out some wild guitar work.

Reeves has written guitar columns for different guitar magazines through the years. Usually his topics are about getting the most out of your instrument by rethinking how you play it. I happened upon one of his articles quite by accident many years ago. He talked about fretting your strings past the frets – using the edge of your neck and bridge pickups to fret the note. Things like this are hallmarks of his playing style.

Sure, Robert Fripp from King Crimson and others have a long history of exploring new ways of playing, but guys like Gabrels really reinvented the way that people look at the guitar.

Cullen writes daily at Half a Pica Distance


more drills!!!

also, tom morello is skinny and cute. it's no wonder he gets more attention.

he is also THAT good.


Nice article Cullen. Is he still playing or doing anything new?


I never heard of him. I'll have to check him out.


I've never heard of him before today. Thanks Cullen.


Kali, of course Tom Morello is good. He was taught by Michael Angelo. But he's not on par with Gabrels.

Uber, Gabrels is still doing stuff. Should have included this web site, which is a fan site with tons of info.

Michelle, Dan; check out the link I just posted and pick up Bowie's Earthling.


Cullen, you're dead on about Tin Machine. I don't know why it didn't go better, but the band very rarely seemed to "click".... Earthling is briiliant, tho...

I always wondered what it would be like if Gabrels and Tim Alexander worked together... In my head, it works beautifully but I'm not too sure how the actual experience would play out.


while i don't care for tin machine at all, i can appreciate gabrels guitar work within the band. i did see that SNL, and goddamn..he was great. he's also done some good work with robert smith, of the cure.

as far as new ways of playing guitar goes, blixa bargeld & alexander hacke consistently make my jaw drop. (of course, with hacke, he also does crazy shit to the bass.)


Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Buck Dharma (Blue Oyster Cult) and Walter Becker (Steely Dan) are some of the most underrated guitarists in my opinion.

Martin Barre did some amazing playing (electric and accoustic) on such Jethro Tull epics as "Heavy Horses", "The Minstral in the Gallery" and of course, "Aqualung".

Without Buck Dharma, Steely Dan wouldn't have a sound, but thanks to him, everytime you hear one of their songs come on the radio you know right away that it is one of their songs.

Walter Becker may be more of a personal favorite, but I love the mixing of music genres and his smokehouse blues and eclectic rock fusion is like candy for the ears.


Always loved Steely Dan. A lot of the best stuff is lesser known too... that jazzy sounding guitar towards the end of King Of The World, for example. Yowza.
I'm no expert, tell me if that just sounds cool, but it always gets me.


Although the pair themselves seem like two of the biggest dicks around. Fuckin' hate those guys.

The guys from Steely Dan that is.


eXTReMe Tracker