Jimi Hendrix & Eddie Kramer, a symbiotic relation

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

At Guitars Exchange, as should happen in all the media where people speak, even just in passing, of electric guitars, Christmas Eve is not celebrated on December 24 but on November 27 - and this is not precisely about when Black Friday or Cyber ​​Monday falls - because on November 27 we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jimi Hendrix.   

However everything has now been said about him and the equipment he used. You have entire pages on the web dedicated to the guitars, amplifiers, effects and miracles of the ‘genius from Seattle’. You can even find our own 'In the style of Jimi Hendrix' in Guitars Exchange ... so in this piece today we are going to talk about one of the key pillars and maybe the seed of Jimi Hendrix’s miracle sound: his engineer and producer, Mr. Eddie Kramer.

Rarely throughout the history of music has evolution in the technical world, both in recording studios and on stage, grown so rapidly and gone so hand in hand with instrumentalists’ technical evolution as happened at the end of the 60s. 

The Hendrix-Kramer partnership exemplifies levels that perhaps have not been repeated since. The greatest genius in the history of the six strings to date was also the guy who most wanted to experiment with all kinds of new effects and new forms of studio recording. And so he went to find a sound engineer who had been absorbing the different techniques and influences of groups such as the Stones, the Small Faces and the Beatles for years and wanted to go one step further as far as studio recording was concerned.

They were two adventurers exploring unknown territory, and the thing seems to have worked. To all the effects and the expertise of Hendrix in his performances we must add the wonders that came from the mixing desk, as solos panned from left to right that now seem so everyday but at that time were not at all – not to mention the solos reproduced backwards… We also have to give him our sincere thanks for helping Jimi Hendrix create some of the most incredible guitar tones ever recorded; how many times have you wanted to imitate the tone of Little Wing? How many wahs have you bought trying to get your sound close to the Voodoo Chile Slight Return? Is there anyone out there who still cannot find the right fuzz, because when they hear Hendrix, their own version seems like a cheap copy? Well, in all these aspects the Hendrix fans owe a lot to Mr. Eddie Kramer.

The person who writes these lines is not exactly a rock star but I had the chance to record some of my songs with my band Última Experiencia under the orders of Eddie Kramer in La Frabrique studios in France. It was not the 60s; the year was 2013 and Mr. Kramer was already over 70. Well, you cannot imagine the energy he put into each mic placed, in the search for a particular tone for each segment of each track. To watch him pull and place cables and microphones around us as if he were a kid who was just starting was already something special. Some of those microphones were placed in spaces many meters away from where we played just to pick up the reverb of a corner that he especially liked. He also used ‘tricks’ such as putting a stone in the bass drum without explaining very well why. We thought that he did it so that the drum would not move but when he told us that he did the same with Led Zeppelin with whom he hooked up with in ‘69 we decided to keep quiet, continue playing and enjoying ourselves... 

So, friends, we have to come to terms with it. We can buy the Strat 68, the Dual Showman and the Cry baby...but we cannot buy Eddie Kramer.