What’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison? What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle? According to Mr. John Heinz, of Landers and Heinz Duo, “the difference between a violin and a fiddle, depends on what side of the mountain you are playing on.” John goes on to say that, “the violin is for classical and jazz, while fiddle is for folk, country, and bluegrass. Some fiddle players flatten out the bridge a little so that they can hit a 3-note chord rather than a 2-note chord.” However, what is clearly known, is that anyone who ever gets the opportunity to see John play the acoustic or electric fiddle / violin, words like spellbinding, and passion and soul get tossed around as naturally as the notes he brings forth from his instrument of choice.
I stopped by a venue last Thursday night to see Tim Landers, guitarist / vocalist / singer / songwriter. In walks John with his lovely wife Madde. Tim and John have been knocking out tunes together at venues all over Coastal Hghway and beyond for the last 9, or so, years. As expected, John takes the stage with Tim and, even with a sparse crowd, those guys deliver like they are at Carnegie Hall. John also happens to be an excellent lead vocalist and harmonizer, as well.
Tim and I are planning to catch up for an interview over the next couple of weeks.
John, here comes the obvious question: How did you get your start in music and what drew you to the violin?
I was born into a musical family but, I can’t say that my father, nor my mother, got me into music. The one thing my father and I had in common in regards to music was discouragement at a young age. He got thrown out of the Glee Club when he was 16 years old and went on to become a world famous opera singer. In the 4th grade I was asked to join the orchestra and I picked the violin. The music director, Marjorie Bramm, got a hold of my parents and said, ‘this is definitely not for him.”
By 6th grade, I was playing piano for a while and even accompanied my mom, who was also a renowned opera singer. But, I didn’t stick with it. My brother did, however, and went on to play bass and took lessons from Stanley Clarke, whose musical accomplishments span working with many artists and mediums. My brother is now a fusion jazz artist and he is a tremendous talent. You should hear him play.
We went to the opera a lot. I can remember being 5, 6, 8, 10 years old and opera was playing in my house all the time. Was it my favorite type of music to listen to? Not particularly. I was a child of the ‘60s.The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the whole British Invasion thing was going on and I still wasn’t interested in playing any instrument. My first concert was The Doobie Brothers. I was totally impressed in every way about them. I got out of high school in 1975 and country music in New York started to become popular. I started noticing the fiddle players. Here they were, playing a classical instrument and making it do things I hadn’t heard before. I went up in to my closet, got out the old violin, took it to the music store and got it cleaned up, new strings, tuned up and ready to go, with the help of my brother, Dave. So I start playing this thing and I’m thinking to myself, “I’m not taking lessons; I’m going to do this on my own.”
The late ‘70s brought a melting pot of music into my life. Classic rock was all over the place, country was changing, rockabilly, and so on. I start listening to the radio. I picked up the violin, and played it based on what I heard on the radio, without any sheet music. It’s where I really learned to play. It’s also where I learned how to improvise. I guess I was able to do that because music was so ingrained into my blood. I couldn’t put the instrument down.
I was a closet player for a number of years. It was the late ‘90s when I set myself free with the violin. I found that you can be a lot more creative with a fretless instrument. There’s just so much more that you can do with it.
Back in the late ‘90s, I was able to get electrified. I got a solid body electric, which is like playing with the weight of a cinder block under your chin. The violin is about the toughest instrument to get electrified properly. In the early 2000’s, I got introduced to multi effects pedals and I came up with some stuff that was really cool. Jean-Luc Ponty, who played with Stanley Clarke, was doing some new and interesting things with the violin and effects.
I imagine that violin players are like other musicians and that you could own any number of them at any time.
That’s true. I currently have eight or nine violins. There are three that I play regularly. The Zeta Violin is the one that you will see me playing with pedals. I use that a lot with the Tim Landers Duo. I have two old German violins, one of which is about a hundred years old. I outfitted both of those with LR Baggs pickups, after many, many hours of research. Oh, and one that you saw me playing the other night is a mic’d up acoustic.
Wrap up. John and Madde are in the process of moving to Greenbackville, Va., which will put him within 10 minutes of a job he secured within the last year with NASA, at Wallops Island. So, from rocket scientist to rock ‘n roll violinist, John promises to to come back and play as much as he can in the future.
In the meantime, this Saturday, 10/18, may be the last chance you will get to hear John perform for a while. He will be a featured artist, with the RandyJamz Allstar Band, at the Jive closing party from 7 pm to 1 am. Jive is on 83rd and Coastal Highway here in OC. John and Madde got married at Jive seven years ago, so it would only be fitting that they would play the very last event that would see Jive closing its doors forever.
There is much more to reveal next week with this most interesting artist, his famous mother and father, and his plans for the future. See you out and about.
Oh, buffaloes are found in Africa and South Asia, while bison roam in North and South America. There are some physical distinctions that are real easy to see once you put them side by side. Do a search and you’ll be able to answer that and the violin / fiddle question at your next dinner party. C’mon, look it up. It’s fun.
RandyJamz is the frontman for The RandyJamz Band and half of the duo with, The Baltimore Boyz, featuring Jay Vizzini. Available for gigs of all types as a solo, duo, and full band act. If you would like to be interviewed for a Meet The Band article, contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org