Ned Evett is using Siem Reap as his base while he works on a trippy animation about time travel
"Oh, wow! Joe Satriani just sent me some skulls!” says American guitarist and singer Ned Evett looking up from his phone with an excited grin.
Evett and Satriani, one of the world’s greatest living guitarists, are collaborating on Crystal Planet, an animated series whose hero, Satchel Walker, must travel 4 billion years into the future in order to find out about his past using a guitar that rips him through time and space.
After moving to Siem Reap with his wife six months ago, Evett has been finalising the animation for the series, and says that the town has given him the physical and mental space to complete the work.
“Siem Reap has been very conducive to my creative life,” he said. “It’s a very manageable, liveable city, and the people are wonderful – very open. I’ve been playing some gigs, and it’s a whole different vibe.
“I’ve completely fallen in love with Cambodia. There is an ease here that is borne of things being more difficult. You just have to get through it. The power cuts have been the most challenging thing for me in particular.”
Meanwhile, back in the US, guitar virtuoso and multiple Grammy Award-nominee Satriani, has been busy creating the soundtrack for the series, as well as some of the artwork – hence the skulls.
Evett is also heading back to the States in two weeks’ time, once he’s completed his first ever Southeast Asian tour, so that he and Satriani can start shopping around for a platform to broadcast their creation this autumn.
Opening the tour at the Hard Rock Cafe last Monday, Evett played songs from his 2013 album Treehouse, a rock, folk and blues blend that splendidly showcases the distinct sound and playing style he has built around his unique guitar, the “Globro”, a shining variation on a steel, fretless Dobro guitar with a glass fingerboard.
It was the guitar that led him to create his own style, fusing a rock blues sound with north Indian techniques, creating tones that are rich and deep and move fluidly between the notes, like a slide guitar, yet allowing him to finger individual notes as well.
In 1996, the Globro also led him to Joe Satriani in San Francisco, where the two players shared the same guitar repair guy.
“Joe went in to the shop one day, and the guy said ‘You’ve got to see the guitar this kid has,’ and that was the beginning of a relationship where I got to know him five minutes at a time over the course of five years.”
All those five minutes finally added up to a fruitful relationship though, and in 2002 Evett opened for Satriani in 20 shows across the US and UK. The following year, he won the North American Rock Guitar Competition, topping a field of more than 10,000 contestants. His career has also put him on stages with the likes of Smashing Pumpkins, Robert Cray, John Scofield, George Thorogood, Eric Johnson and Joe Bonamassa.
Talking about how the guitar in Crystal Planet provides an escape for Satchel Walker, Evett revealed how the shapely combination of steel, nickel and glass has moulded his own life.
“It’s more than an escape – it’s the hook and bait that lures artistic types from earth to the future,” he said. “Anyone who plays will tell you they’re hooked, and once you’re on it, it just takes you on this wild ride of frustration and exultation, the whole gamut, and it rules everything.”
The trippy animation harks back to the sixties and seventies with a raw funkiness that some will recall from, for example, Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated version of The Lord Of The Rings.
Evett taught himself the techniques and the idea for the project came about after he and Satriani worked together on a video for a song called Lies And Truths on Satriani’s last album. “We had so much fun doing it, that I said: ‘Hey, why don’t we just keep going?’” That was just two years ago.
He’ll be back in Siem Reap in October, to start work again. Asked if he minds being separated from home and family, he said no.
“I feel happiest when I’m dislocated. I don’t know why. I’ve always been a musician, travelling all over the world; here I am in Cambodia and I love it. I miss my family, but it’s part of the life.”