The folks over at GuitarWorld recently conducted a cool interview with one of my all time heroes, Leslie West, former guitarist of the hard rock band Mountain. In the interview, Leslie discusses his personal influences and inspirations, why he ended up with the Les Paul Jr., his health problems and his upcoming gigs at the Iridium in NYC.
Of course, looking back, Leslie’s biggest success obviously was his time with Mountain. The band was often compared with Cream, maybe a bit louder and a bit rougher. “Mississippi Queen” is probably their trademark song featuring one of the most popular guitar riffs in rock history. During that time Leslie managed to put himself of the map which later on allowed him to do a bunch of projects with Ozzy, Slash, Billy Gibbons, Zakk Wylde and other guitar players.
When asked about who inspired him to pick up the guitar in the first pace, surprisingly it wasn’t another guitar player, but Mr. Elvis Presley. His grandparents treated him for a four string guitar which he later on upgraded to a regular six string, once he became more serious about practicing. Speaking of guitars, it was former Mountain band member and bass player, the late Felix Pappalardi who introduced Leslie to the Les Paul Jr. The rather plain and basic concept of those guitars, referred to by Leslie as a “tree with a microphone”, seemed to leave a profound impression on him, which many years later helped him in designing his own Dean Leslie West series.
As you probably know, Leslie lost one of his legs to diabetes. However, I actually saw him not too long ago in an interview with Howard Stern and he seemed to be in very good spirits despite this physical impairment. While performing on stage – at least for now – he prefers sitting in a wheelchair, because that way he doesn’t have to worry about maintaining his balance. However, he says he’s getting better with the prosthetic, it will just take a little longer to get accustomed to it.
For the whole interview, please visit the GuitarWorld website.