His fast fingering in this performance of The Pink Panther Theme explains how he can produce so much. Surprisingly, with all this output, Mr. Wood has said very little about himself. Who is the man behind the ukulele? To find out, we asked Al the following questions:
Donnie Bubbles: Of all the musical instruments in the world, you picked the ukulele. What was it that drew you to the ukulele?
Al Wood: I started playing the guitar at about 13 and was a complete addict. A couple of years later I picked up a ukulele. Because I didn’t want to waste time not playing something guitar shaped, I mostly played it while I was walking round the house, sat on the lav etc. I ended up playing it more and more.
I think the main appeal of the ukulele is the strings being inside out – much like my brain.
DB: What is your process for writing ukulele tabs? Do you work a song out by ear, start with sheet music for other instruments, talk to the artists?
AW: For chords, I always work by ear. For tabs, I work by ear if it’s played on the ukulele (along with a video if there is one) or if the tune is simple.
Other than that, it varies a great deal. It’s probably best to illustrate it with two tunes I’m working on right now.
One is a version of Davey Graham’s Angi. I used to play it over and over on the guitar, so I’m very familiar with the tune and how it’s played. I’m transposing in my head, using my ears and letting the arrangement develop in slowly when I’m playing it. With this one, I’m not tabbing anything until I’ve got the entire arrangement pretty well set.
The other one I’m working on is Edward’s Lullaby from the film Twilight. For this one, I worked out the right hand of the piano on the uke and the left hand (the chords) on the guitar and tabbed them up. I jiggled the tab around a bit using Guitar Pro until I found the key I thought it would work best on. So now I’ve got the chords and melody in my head and I’m working up an arrangement by playing it over and over and I’ll tab it once it’s set.
DB: You are prolific, and almost everything you provide to the ukulele community is generously given free of charge. Do you have a day job to support this hobby/habit?
AW: After a number of jobs in accounts departments, it became obvious that I was completely unemployable. I have real authority issues and it became increasingly difficult not to say things like, “Why are we doing this like complete fucking morons?”
So now I have my own Internet business. And the ukulele stuff is a big part of it – hopefully I’ll be able to ditch all the boring stuff and just do the music stuff at some point.
I see Uke Hunt as an investment in the future. Right now, the Internet is a massive opportunity for absolutely anyone to establish themselves in any field. That’s mostly due to the big companies being completely clueless. Someone like Mel Bay should be working their asses off to make sure they’re top of Google for ‘ukulele tabs’ and ‘ukulele chords’, but they’re nowhere to be seen. And they certainly shouldn’t be leaving the entire ukulele ebook sector to some no-talent English boy.
I think now is the time to build something that’s the best in the world before the dip gets too big and the established sites are set in stone.
DB: Is there a Woodwife? Little Woodkids? Woodpets?
AW: No, no and no. I’m a loner at heart. I need time by myself and a lot of it.
DB: An intelligent, yet musically ignorant extra-terrestrial species overthrows the earth and abolishes ukuleles. What do you do to fill the void in your life?
AW: Start an underground newspaper and fight for the overthrow of the evil alien overlords.