About thelittleguitarblog

I'm a self confessed guitar nerd and owner of The Little Guitar Shop in Birmingham, UK which specialises in vintage and second hand guitars and gear. I have a passion for everything and anything to do with guitars and with 40 years of playing and guitar tech under my belt I decided to set up this blog to share some of my knowledge and thoughts about my number one passion.

Strings ‘n Things #14- Jakob Cusp (Brain Food/Tremorsz)

We’ve past our baker’s dozen of blog posts now- and the fact that we’ve nowhere near scratched the surface of Birmingham’s endless pool of talent just goes to show how thoroughly healthy the scene is right now. Pandemic shandemic! Today we’re making time with a true shining star of the more recently emerging, multi-disciplinary psych scene- Jakob of Brain Food and Tremorsz.

Anyone who’s been lucky/foolish/stubborn enough to float around the Birmingham ‘indie’ scene for the past decade or so would surely agree when I say it has become a far more inclusive, optimistic and kind place. And that is in no small part due to the increasing crossover between the visual and musical arts- of which the monthly night Kaleidoscope has become instrumental in facilitating. Showcasing live music and local artists under one roof on the first Thursday of each month- for free! My Friday mornings have never been worse, frankly- the night has fast become a true institution of the cities nightlife, and the Brain Food ménage have been a big part of making it happen. And lucky for us, they also happen to be a talented, oddball bunch in their own right- with Jakob providing an ethereal, reverb-soaked backdrop to singer Liam’s rootsier delivery (more on him forthcoming). But like any true creative type, Jakob is a man of many talents- skating, painting, and also rocking rather hard in the relatively new riff-merchants Tremorsz (again, watch this space). So feed your face with some Brain Food below, and then jump with us into the catacombs of Jakob’s music box.

 

 

Talk us through your guitar history from your first to your most recent.

“My first guitar was a glossy red Ibanez Destroyer! It was £40 from Cash Converters and I got it around 7 years ago. I’d originally bought a bass and was jamming with my mate Clark (now drumming for Tremorsz) however my mate Will (bassist, Brain Food) picked it up and was a natural, so my hand was kind of forced to pick up and learn guitar. I then got myself a Squier Affinity Telecaster which I’ve never really got on with and still never really play to this day. I think I had an Epiphone SG, Squier Strat and a small handful of 70’s Teisco/Kay guitars before treating myself to a proper Fender Strat (which is actually a bit of a relic of it’s own). I also have a vintage Burns Batwing which I got recently, and a Burns Double Six, which is my main guitar for Tremorsz.”

 

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Who inspired you to pick up guitar, and who inspires you to keep on playing today?

“First of all a big shout out to my Mom who, as an original 70s skinhead punk, influenced my taste in music massively as a kid, losing her was my whole reason for ever wanting play music – I love you forever X

I remember watching my friend Tubes’ band Silvershores playing at the Adam & Eve (RIP), I was about 19. They’re very psychy/shoegazey and I was into a lot of the usual teenage, indie-kid kinda stuff at the time- 2000’s indie and electronica, Britpop, classic rock and what have you. I remember watching them using loads of effects and just doing the classic delay oscillation/feedback at the end of their set and thinking ‘I’m going to start a band’ – the rest is history! Today I look up to Thee Oh Sees massively- watching John Dwyer’s play style develop from lo-fi, garage thrillers into full-blown prog-rock 25 minute epics is really inspiring. It just goes to show that you really can teach an old dog new tricks, and keeps me pushing myself out of my comfort zone. His new group,Bent Arcana, are really exciting- John’s really flexing his ability to play jazz guitar too which is great listening for me as a jazz lover.”

Tell us about your music, and how you approach your guitar playing within the context of it.“Brain Food is very much psychedelia. Lately we’ve been exploring a lot of jazz elements. Myself and Will didn’t actually play our instruments prior to starting the initial project with Clark (Liam joined shortly after, Clark left and we had a few drummers before luckily landing on my childhood friend Connor), so the duration has been nothing short of a learning experience for us both, which I think has contributed to a more genuine and organic sound. However, being a natural left-hander who plays right-handed, I don’t think I’ve made things as easy for myself! Most recently I’ve taught myself how to play piano with some help from my wonderful partner Hannah (of Mount Pleasant, Tremorsz) and applied this to synth/keys for Brain Food- exploring new chord variations & flavours like diminished, augmented, 7th and 9th chords, and exotic scales like the Ahava Raba to really push our sound into unchartered territory. Tremorsz are pushing for a heavier sound, which is a great outlet for me- downtuned guitars, 12-string for that droney sound, high-gain set ups –  it’s early days yet but I’m really excited to see where this project takes us!”

What setup are you currently running, amp and pedal wise?

“Brain Food: 1993 Fender Strat -> Vox wah -> Korg Blackout tuner -> Boss Wazacraft BD-2W (always on for extra cronchy cleanish tones) -> Proco Rat 2 -> MXR Classic 108 fuzz(dialled in ‘waspy’) -> Earthquaker Devices ‘The Depths’ Vibe Machine -> Boss RE-20 Space Echo -> Earthquaker Devices ‘Levitation’ Reverb -> Fender 1973 Silverface Twin Reverb

Tremorsz: Burns Double Six (tuned to C standard) -> Vox Wah -> Danelectro Wasabi Distortion/Boost -> Behringer SF300 -> TC Electronic Alter Ego x 4 -> Death By Audio Reverberation Machine -> TC Electronic Spark booster -> Egnator Renegade 65

Tonally, I’m dialled in to chase and occupy high end scratchiness for both bands.”

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What’s the one pedal that you couldn’t live without?

“The Boss RE-20- hands down. It’s such a versatile pedal- I use it for everything live and during production, and I love the hold function on the tap tempo, or “MASH” as I like to call it. I really hope to one day own a proper space echo unit for studio use. Hell, I might even use it live if I ever get my hands on one!”

What’s your current main guitar, and why so?

“I can’t put my Strat down! I bought the Burns Batwing to replace it, however the Strat just outperforms it in every way. There’s a big air of mystique around these 1993 MIK Fender Strats- apparently they were made in the Korea factory shortly before a chunk of operations were moved to Mexico, parts-wise they’re very standard but there weren’t many of them made, and they’ve always been a hot topic of debate on guitar forums.”

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Are there any other local guitarists you particularly admire?

“Loads! My Brain Food band mate Liam McKeown is one of the best to have ever done it (tricky to learn from however due to his unique upside down, reverse strung set up – but an absolute pleasure to play with), Matt Jenkins aka Uncle Dad of Tremorsz has taught me a lot in our short time playing together, other local heroes like Scott Vincent of Table Scraps, Connor Boyle of The Cosmics, Thom Edwards of God Damn, Steve Baker of Black Mekon, Connor Hemming aka Con Dwyer of Bad Girlfriend (big time rippers), Brandon Robinson of Exhaler, Kaila Whyte aka Blue Ruth (previously of Youth Man), Tubes, Dianne Burden aka Sofa King,  Rob Oulton aka Robby O’ Rock, Hamish of Hamer (Leeds based but had to mention), Jack Younger of DOXA and previously Mother’s Earth Experiment, as well as Mark Roberts of DOXA and previously of Mother’s Earth too, Liv Gardner and Josh Sellis of Monastry (keep an eye out for these absolute shredders), James Brown of Mutes, Kit of Pretty Vile aka Brum’s answer to Ty Segall and last but not least my partner Hannah Al-Shemmeri of Mount Pleasant and Tremorsz is just an all around inspiration and support. There’s too many to mention, sorry if I’ve missed anyone!”

Where can we find your music and see you play next?

“You can find Brain Food’s 2nd EP as well as Tremorsz first 2 offerings on Spotify. Live show’ are yet to be figured out as I’m sure you all know but I’m itching to get out there. Some exciting live sessions are currently in the works for both bands, and I’m in the studio 24/7 recording EP3 with Brain Food, as well as some fresh singles and potentially a first EP with Tremorsz – I can’t spill too much at the moment regarding Tremorsz; all will be revealed very soon, keep ’em peeled!”

 

Strings ‘n Things #13- The Novus

It’s probably fair to say that a lot of us are missing live music right now- audience and performers alike. And there’s fewer Birmingham bands that were tearing it up with as much unbridled ferocity than The Novus.

The best bands create their own worlds and dare you to pay a visit- and its this relentless pursuit of being ‘the whole package’ that have made The Novus one of the most dropped-names at various venue bars around town since 2019. Everything about them is unashamedly theatrical, boisterous, and charged with a dystopian electricity that only the depths of the second city could nurture. From hosting wild, over-capacity shows in secret locations to getting spins from the taste-maker Steve Lamacq, this is a band that is gleefully growing at an alarming pace- all the while driven by the song-serving principles of guitarist Thomas Rhodes. Knowing when to pummel on a fat, dirty riff or instead when to pull back and let frontman Connor take centre-stage is crucial to the dynamic of the band- it’s what makes their relentless rock and roll so damn irresistible. So strap in and sit tight whilst Tom takes us on a ride to tone-town.

 

 

Talk us through your guitar history from your first to your most recent.

“I’m a self-certified guitar addict so over time I’ve had loads come and go. My first ever electric guitar was a little Epiphone Dot ES-335 in sunburst- which was a great guitar but as a young 11/12 year old lad, the neck was huge on it, so I sold it and traded it for a Mexican HSS Fender Strat and that’s my most played guitar to this day. Then there was a period where I bought a bunch of real crappy guitars, took them apart, wrecked them and left them alone, like old Chinese copies and Yamaha Strat rip-offs. But my second proper guitar my parents bought me for my 18th birthday. I found a local luthier called Jamie Davey who makes guitars for Status Quo amongst others, who custom built me a Telecaster-type guitar which is just amazing! I adore it and has got the most amazing flame maple neck. Since then I’ve picked up a Gretsch Electromatic Jet with a Bigsby, and just recently found myself a Hofner Galaxie in a cherry red which I’m playing a lot at the moment- it sounds really great fuzzed up.”

Who inspired you to pick up guitar, and who inspires you to keep on playing today?

“Initially my parents brought me a little classic guitar when I was about 7, and I just couldn’t hack the science of a guitar- my hands and brain couldn’t compute which was a deterrent for quite some time! But couldn’t help still gravitating towards the guitar through my sheer love of music, so I kept at it. Eventually I had the most amazing guitar teacher, who was a great blues player and Beatles addict. From thereon he was the drive for me to be able to play like him, which carried through until getting in my first bands from age 11. These days I do it because it’s the best way to express myself,- to convey my ideas and thoughts to the world through song. I’m also a huge Hendrix and Frusciante fan, so learning Hendrix and RHCP songs regularly carries me through when the guitar loses its little bit of shine.”

 

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Tell us about your music, and how you approach your guitar playing within the context of it.

“The music that we play in The Novus has two different approaches from a guitar point of view- its either hugely riff-based, wherein the riffs are the primary focus of the song, or vocally-leaded wherein the guitar doesn’t feature so prominently . Riffs are my favourite- there’s nothing more liberating being in a punk band and bashing out a riff where you can see people physically feel the motion of the sound through their bodies! But in regards to “vocal” songs, I play more atmospherically with effects to enhance the vocals as best as I can.”

What setup are you currently running, amp and pedal wise?

“I’m fortunate enough to be endorsed by Blackstar, so currently I play a HT Club 40 Mkii, which has an amazing Vox-like jangle, but a bit more low end and beef that I always found that AC15s lacked. In regards to pedals, first always straight into a Korg tuner, the most important thing! Then from there, an Electro Harmonix Mono Synth, into a Dunlop Cry Baby Mini, into a Boss DS-1, into a TC Electronics Spark boost. Then I have a Russian Big Muff copy, into an old Akai Flanger, Electro Harmonix Nano Clone which is great. Then I use two delays- a Dr Green Waiting Room set to a constant slapback, into a cheap little Tone City Tape machine, and it all ends with a Electro Harmonix Holy Grail reverb.”

What’s the one pedal that you couldn’t live without?

“Either the Spark, which is always on pedal and works as an amazing preamp, or the Dr Green Waiting Room which is also always on- I love the way a constant slapback delay just slightly thickens out my sound and makes me sound like a Tarantino film.”

What’s your current main guitar, and why so?

“I go between two. My Stratocaster is my #1 because it’s so reliable, and I can chuck it about and beat it up. It thrives under those conditions and has never failed me. But then there’s my Telecaster- which is a gentle soul and needs love and care, and I would never dream of throwing it around the way I throw the strat around- but it cuts through a live mix so well. I always record with my telecaster, but I try to be more considerate about how often I play with it live .”

 

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Are there any other local guitarists you particularly admire?

“There are multiple amazing players in Birmingham who all deserve credit! But I really admire Daragh from The Pagans SOH, the way he plays funk is insane and I’m very jealous of how talented he is. I also love Leo from Flares, he’s a good mate of mine and has no right to be so good at such a young age. I admire our producer Gavin Monaghan from The Magic Garden studio endlessly- he’s not necessarily just a guitarist because he seems to play everything insanely well, but he has played a bunch of guitar bits on our new stuff. But that’s just a few people, we’re a lucky city to have an abundance of talent.”

Where can we find your music and see you play next? 

“You can find us everywhere, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube mainly. We have got an insane project in the works at the moment but I can’t say too much, just know there is a possibility that there will be some big news soon!”

It seems the band may be gearing up for a secret show in September, so keep ’em peeled and join their mailing list

String ‘n Things #12- Conor Boyle

Our dozenth post in the quintessential blog for all things strummy and Brummy sees us get our teeth into vintage Fenders and fuzz with the garage-rock prince of B-town, Conor Boyle of The Cosmics.

 

‘Punk’ is an interesting term, and often thrown  often with with abandon- both as a complement and a take-down. It it used to describe an aesthetic, a sound, a principle and a practice. Poptimism? That’s punk! Barely able to string 3 chords together? So punk. Getting your arse out at the BRIT awards? Punk AF. And so it’s become a generic, often self-appointed term, in an attempt to secure some validation & credibility from fence-sitters, or shut-down detractors. I think ‘punk’ is a mindset- it’s that bloody single-mindedness that drives one to do things their way and no-one elses. Not even wasting energy on giving the finger. Not justifying the outside world with a response. Complete self-absorption in the creative process. And when you see Conor play, you see just this. The boy becomes otherwordly, manic- electrifying mess of flailing limbs, contorted face, sweat-drenched hair and bare feet. So it’s no wonder The Cosmics have become one of Birmingham’s most talked-about live bands- their energy is something interstellar. You can’t help but think “Wow, they are really into what they’re doing”- and that’s pretty punk, I’d say. Get your fill with the video below, and then let’s become acquainted with Conor and his weapons of choice.

 

 

Talk us through your guitar history from your first to your most recent.

“The first guitar I ever bought myself was a second-hand cherry red Epiphone SG when I was 8 or 9 years old. Then I went on to a sunburst Epiphone Les Paul a year or two later and played that for years until I snapped it in half when I was 16, walking out of school one day. After that I went onto an Epiphone Sheraton, then a Mexican Strat HSS for a very short period of time. When I was 19 I bought a Fender Duo Sonic HS which I played for about a year or two – it was my first short scale guitar which really suited me. From then on, I was incredibly intrigued by short scale fender offsets and one day in July 2018 I spotted a 1978 Fender Bronco in The Little Guitar Shop and looked at it for a few months whilst I sold things to pay for it. Along the way I also picked up a ‘64 Hofner Colorama.”

 
Who inspired you to pick up guitar, and who inspires you to keep on playing today?

“I was gladly force-fed a lot of Bruce Springsteen when I was a young kid, so The Boss and his Telecaster inspired me the most to pick up a guitar. Then I started getting into  shredders like Scott Gorham & Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy, and Angus Young of AC/DC. When I was 12 I heard Raw Power by The Stooges for the first time- I instantly fell in love with that guitar sound and the energy of James Williamsons’ playing. Guitarists that have recently inspired me are Alan Duggan of Girl Band, Glenn Branca and his many collaborators, and Luciel of Drahla


Tell us about your music, and how you approach your guitar playing within the context of it.

“Being the only guitarist in a three-piece means that I’m not tied down with playing either lead or rhythm, so I always try to do both at the same time. With The Cosmics I aim to make as much noise as possible – usually I’ll play open string solos with the open string acting as a drone, and disgusting feedback is always welcome on stage.”

 

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Photo by Emilie Mauger

What setup are you currently running, amp and pedal wise?

“I currently use my 1978 Fender Bronco and run it through a Vox AC30C2 and a 1976 Fender Champ. I’ve had the Vox for about 8 years now and have recently just added the champ – it brings this extra saturation and a different texture, especially when I use copious amounts of fuzz and distortion, also it’s a really great amp for recording! I get my main gained out tone by cranking the champ to ten and pushing the Vox’s top boost channel to eleven.  Pedal-wise, I’ll just “draw” my pedal chain:

Korg Tuner -> Death By Audio Super Fuzz War -> Suhr Riot Distortion -> Boss FB-2 Feedbacker/boost pedal -> Earthquaker Devices Avalanche Run (with an exp pedal) -> Electro Harmonix Holy Grail -> Boss DD-3 -> an ABY with phase & ground switches.”
What’s your current main guitar, and why so?

“My current guitar is that 1978 Fender Bronco: it’s a small Fender with one mighty hot bridge pickup. The simplicity of it allows me to just pick up and play how I want to play, also it’s a short scale guitar for a short scale person.”

What’s the one pedal that you couldn’t live without?

“I couldn’t live without the Super Fuzz War, just because it has a great treble boost that I always have on, it does very little to my sound but when it’s on I feel like tearing down walls (in a good way), also the fuzz on it is ferocious!”


Are there any other local guitarists you particularly admire?

“Birmingham has a lot of great guitarists; I really admire Joe and Ian from Outlander – they create new worlds with their guitar playing. Also, Brandon and Liv from Exhaler are great, Brandon plays such wild and catchy riffs and Livs’ bass parts are a perfect accompaniment. Kaila from Youth Man is an insanely good guitarist, Aaron Buckell (fka ‘pedal bitch’ by my Mother) from Monday Club and the Robert Craig Oulton Rock Show is a virtuoso (Mr. Oulton also has chords falling out of him) and my fellow bandmate Erin’s guitar and bass playing really inspires me, she makes me a better guitarist for sure.”

Where can we find your music and see you play next?  

You can find us on streaming platforms like Spotify, and our 12” EP is available on our Bandcamp. As for play next, that is a very good question. We had a couple tours that were cancelled because of the pandemic, but we’re hoping to reschedule for the end of the year or early 2021. We’ll see!”

Strings ‘n Things #11- Joshua Rochelle Bates

Welcome to the Strings ‘n Things blog- wherein we grab local musos for a chat regarding all things gear. Guitars, pedals, influences, here’s where we give our fellow Brummy six (and four) stringers a chance to splurge all about their formative and present-day times from the bedroom to the stage. In this week’s feature, we’re at a low point- sonically speaking, as we ditch the six-pack and beef things up with our first bass-player spotlight- Joshua Rochelle Bates

Without wishing to offend any of our contemporary 4-string folk, a good bass player is hard to find. Yes-sometimes a root note is all you need, but sometimes the very bones of a song must be more something more delectable – no point in putting lipstick on a pig. Josh is of an inquisitive nature-  on a journey to find his own voice as a musician through the assimilation of any ideas that perk his ears up. And this is why he is unashamedly comprehensive in his answers- a stimulating tonic for the slackerisms of Gen Z. Whilst his style may be rooted in the galloping, meandering style of Post-Punkers like Peter Hook,  Josh’s excursions into jazz lend his outfit The Taboo Club a sense of sophistication amongst the sleaze. Catch the live footage below, and then soundtrack our conversation with the group’s delicious new LP Debauched Times.

 

 

Talk us through your guitar history from your first to your most recent.

“Well I started playing when I was about 12/13, and I had a shitty China made P-bass, and then I moved onto a Washburn Taurus T-16 before I quit playing around the age of 16 as I had become sponsored for freestyle scooter riding and was all over the place doing competitions, tours and filming etc.

I then severely sprained my ankle about 4 or so years later, and after having some time to explore and listen to music without the context of me being a musician I developed a much wider perspective as to what I could play. All the bass players that I loved at the time used Jazz basses, so I decided to invest in a Mexican Fender Jazz Bass and that’s pretty much been my main since. I just love how versatile the sound is on them, and the growl that you can get from them whether it’s in a rock setting or in a jazz setting really accompanies how I play.

As I started to get into contemporary jazz a bit more I started to notice a bit of a resurgence in people sticking to P-basses, and although I could get quite a close approximation with my Jazz I always liked the idea of potentially having a thicker sounding and feeling bass in comparison to my more versatile and growly jazz.

So, I was on eBay and I came across a P-bass body that some guy in Poland had put together and engraved by hand, and I just remember looking at it and thinking I needed to make a guitar from it. So I got some Seymour Duncan pickups, a Fender Tele P-bass neck and some hardware and put it together with some help from The Little Guitar Shop.

My jazz is always gonna be my main guitar, but the P-bass definitely serves its purpose when needed and has such a delicious tone.”

Who inspired you to pick up guitar, and who inspires you to keep on playing today?

“Well originally it was because my brother played guitar and so did my dad. I remember my brother having MTV on and there was a music video on for ‘Rollercoaster of Love‘ by The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and my brother pointed out to me that Flea was playing a bass guitar and that it’s easier to play, so I pretty much got into it from that. At the time though I was just into whatever came on Kerrang, so I never really played anything at the time that would have infer I would develop the style I have today – except for ‘Californication‘ by RHCP maybe, I was always drawn to the melody of that song.

It was after I got back into bass at the age of 20 that I really started to think a bit more seriously about the instrument. I was super into Interpol at the time, and I remember picking my bass up for the first time and deciding to tune my musical ear into ‘Slow Hands‘, and I remember hearing how the bassline just flowed and drove the song whilst serving it and thinking that was how I would want to play. I was into Joy Division and other post-punk bands at the time, and although artists during the 80’s definitely explored where the bass could fit in harmonically I think it was Carlos D that actually put a musician’s hat on behind it. It was like he acknowledged that what Peter Hook did (more or less being a lead guitarist on bass) was cool, but instead decided to play as a bassist. He was just a great writer and if you listen to any of the albums he featured on his contributions are undeniably what made that band who they are. That summer I pretty much learnt 80% of their discography and even harassed Matador Records about playing bass for Interpol…

Other bassists that have influenced me would definitely be people like Jaco Pastorius, who was pretty much the Jimi Hendrix of bassists. The guy uncovered the versatility and creativity that is possible on the instrument. He explored the idea of the bass guitar being something more than what people expected it to be – an instrument that could be melodic, create harmonies and even be the leading voice.

My most recent heavy influence has definitely been Tim Lefebvre, who was the bassist that played on Bowie’s Blackstar, but since getting into the material he’s played on besides that he just provides such a wide array of different shit to get stoked on. His project called Whose Hat is This? is definitely up there as the best example of that, as well as the Donny McCaslin album Casting for Gravity. He’s the bass player’s bassist, and he has such a versatile and solid approach to his bass playing that no matter what track you’re listening to you can tell that it is him playing on it. He’s the guy that’s pretty much encouraged me to not be so pretentious to be honest, especially when it comes to effects pedals. Since listening to him I’ve been way more into the idea of how experimental and creative pedals are instead of me cynically (and rather immaturely) just thinking they are just there for a sonic aesthetic.”
Tell us about your music, and how you approach your guitar playing within the context of it.

“I guess in terms of how I’d play I just refuse to be seen or dismissed as just being a bass player. Nothing annoys me more than people that just don’t give the instrument the respect it deserves in a sound and just expect root notes to be played, and I think the bassists that allow that to happen are even worse. Sure, there’s something to be said about sitting in a support role in a sound but as an instrument that accentuates and almost vocalises the beat you need to be communicating something with what you’re doing.

I’m not musically educated in the slightest and sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m a bassist, I just try and feel the music I’m playing as a conversation, and like in all good and fulfilling conversations I try to express myself as well as I can within the collective confines of the song. By conversing with other instruments in the band you really make the diamond shine in my opinion, no matter what it is that you’re playing. I definitely like to be way more active in the sound and to be playing quite aggressively but I also make the effort to refrain from doing that and serve the song when needed, because there’s nothing worse than having someone talk over you when you’re trying to make a point in a conversation.”

 

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What setup are you currently running, amp and pedal wise?

“So I have an Ashdown EB12 Combo amp that I have had for years, it’s a good amp and for the venues we find ourselves playing in it does the job well enough, especially because I can DI the signal out.

Pedal wise I’m running a TC Electronics PolyTune into a TC Spectra Comp, this then goes into a 3 Leaf Audio Octavbre Pedal (Tim Lefebvre’s signature octave pedal), a C9 Organ Machine by Electro Harmonix, a Tech 21 VT Bass Overdrive pedal, and then my Sansamp Bass Driver DI.”
What’s the one pedal that you couldn’t live without?

“Hmmmm, I’d say it would definitely be the Sansamp Bass Driver, as it is such a versatile and great sounding preamp. You can really dial in the tone that you’re looking for, so for me it is having that almost motorcycle growl for my jazz bass by dialling in the presence knob at just the right point.

Although I would also find it very difficult to not have my Octavbre pedal with me, as it has so many fun tones that you can dial in with it. The dry signal can be completely dropped using the mix tone, and it is so much fun to DNB/Dub styled stuff with it.”
What’s your current main guitar, and why so?

“The jazz bass is gonna always be my main guitar, because after playing with it for so long and getting used to the sound and how it feels it just feels like an extension upon my own body by now.”

 

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Are there any other local guitarists you particularly admire?

“Rob Smith has always been a bass player that I’ve enjoyed listening to, whether it is him with Byron Hare or Liquid Cheeks, you can tell that he has a respect for the music he’s playing with but still makes the effort to have his presence felt in the song. He’s definitely more of a bass player than I am, but I guess we both just have a very similar idea of where the bass can fit within a song.”
Where can we find your music and see you play next?

“You can find The Taboo Club on thetabooclub.bandcamp.com as well as Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud and all other music streaming services.

We currently have a show booked in for September with Kaleidoscope, however this will all be dependent upon whatever happens with COVID-19!”

 

Strings ‘n Things #10- Kaila Whyte

Our gear-centric blog is now into double-figures, and to mark the occasion we’re shooting the shit with local polymath and all-around bad-ass Kaila Whyte.

Anyone who’s had the pleasure to be caught up in the unbridled fury of a Youth Man performance will know that Kaila does not mess about. Everything about her is razor-sharp- from the metallic thrash of her dissonant, hammered-out riffs to the melodramatic wail of her vocals- one second it’s agony, the next it’s screaming ecstasy. Like a hand that lets you up for air only for the pleasure of pushing you back down, there was always been something deliciously malevolent about Youth Man’s performances. But that’s in the past now- and like any true artist, Kaila does not intend to look back. Having performed her first solo electronic shows as Blue Ruth at the end of 2019, she’s delving headfirst into the world of sequencers, CV ins and outs, and (probably) wishing she’d bought something with presets. But as her most recent performances with the ephemeral Birmingham supergang Pretty Grim have shown- she’s still very much capable of rocking the fuck out. Get your fill after the video below (filmed by local videographer extraordinaire Thomas Wagstaff)

 

Talk us through your guitar history from your first to your most recent.


“My big brother had one of those shit Argos-catalogue Encore guitars when I was growing up, and I think I took it out of his room when I was about 14 and just never put it back! Shortly after that the church I attended as a kid received a grant to buy loads of new musical equipment- including a Yamaha APX500 acoustic guitar that I borrowed… forever (yes, I stole it…).
Around that time I saved up a couple hundred quid and bought one of those beginner Ibanez GIO guitars. I was 15 and mad into Metalcore, so it was an obvious choice!
Then I bought a heavily reliced, white Fender(ish) parts-caster from eBay for £200. I think I was 17. I’s still my main guitar today!
About 2 years after that I part exchanged a Line 6 Spider Valve mkii amp (that I had won in a battle of the bands) + £30 for a purple MIM Fender Strat.
Then I got a Fender Modern Player Mustang in Daphne Blue. It was shit. Sold it shortly after.
Then a Gibson SG Melody Maker in white. It was also shit, so I got rid and I’ve never bought another guitar since!
I managed to sell the SG and Mustang for the same price I bought them, so as of today I have spent a whopping £400 on guitars my whole life.”

Who inspired you to pick up guitar, and who inspires you to keep on playing today?

“It wasn’t anyone in particular, I just wanted to make cool music and have a distinctive style! As a drummer I felt a bit limited- like I had ideas that I couldn’t express without a melodic instrument. So picking up guitar was a means to an end. At the time I admired Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Kurt Cobain, Duane Denison. I was inspired by those guys to do my own thing.
Now, it’s my peers that inspire me really. I want to keep up with the scene and be able to play well with the people around me. There are some insanely talented musicians that I get to play with. Shout outs to Marcus Perks, Meesha Fones, Anna Palmer and the rest of the gang…”

Tell us about your music, and how you approach your guitar playing within the context of it.

“At the moment I’m experimenting with an electronic project- but I write on guitar first then translate that to synthesis. To quote my mate Marcus, “instruments are tools”. I see the guitar as a tool to take what’s in my head and turn it into sound. I don’t speak synth though, so it has to go through guitar first!

 

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What setup are you currently running, amp and pedal wise?

“I don’t use it much these days but when I do play guitar through a full setup its a Roland Jazz Chorus 160, set clean with a bit of chorus on, then for pedals I use a ProCo Rat, Boss Dyna-Drive distortion and a Nine of Swords Headache Harmonic Percolator fuzz/OD. 3 gain stages and that’s it. Horrible!”

What’s the one pedal that you couldn’t live without?

“I could live without pedals.”

What’s your current main guitar, and why so?

“My partscaster. It’s always got my back- even though I’ve treated it very badly over the years. Its just a real workhorse, and it fits me better than any other guitar I’ve tried. It’s got perfect action and a tone that won’t quit. I’ve played back-to-back tours without so much as changing the strings and it just keeps on rocking. Its a real perverted piece of shit- a masochist of a guitar!”

 

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Are there any other local guitarists you particularly admire?

“The legendary Tom Ford. The guy’s an undeniable beast! He once replaced me in a band I was in called Elephantine and it was funny seeing him play parts I’d written better than me! [ED: check out our last blog with Tom here]”

Where can we find your music and see you play next?  

“You can’t yet, but I shall be releasing some new music very soon. Trust. In the meantime, I will be featured on a compilation put together by local label Die Das Der doing a cover of the Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam song ‘Auto‘ so look out for that! For now, go check out my old punk band Youth Man on Spotify, YouTube, Bandcamp etc…
Gig-wise, that’s up to COVID-19 and the UK government to decide. Probably not this year though. I’m toying with the idea of doing a online gig so to keep up to speed on that, follow my project Blue Ruth on Instagram.”

 

Strings ‘n Things #9- Thomas Seminar Ford

This week we’re getting to know one of the most accomplished and widely-travelled contemporary guitarists in Birmingham- Thomas Seminar Ford.

Music is in Tom’s blood- and that’s not just down to patrimony. I distinctly remember watching him play with his math/post-hardcore band Elephantine and thinking “Jeez, now that’s a real guitar player”. Not just to say that his virtuosity alone isn’t something to behold, but it was clear that his relationship with the instrument was almost symbiotic- there was clearly nothing coming between them. Rather than utilise his prowess to shock and awe through chops alone, Tom has a true pioneer-spirit towards his playing- it’s this incessant desire to explore that his seen him further his studies at Berklee- where he majored in Jazz Composition & Performance. Equally at home in his own projects Delta Autumn and TROPE or as a sideman amongst countless jazz and r’n b acts, Tom is well on his way to becoming the guitarist’s guitarist- one whom us indie shitkickers look to when we need schooling (literally). Watch Tom tear it up on an incredible Tiny Desk performance below, and then get ready to get learned.

Talk us through your guitar history from your first to your most recent.

“My first ever guitar was a little steel-string acoustic, I can’t remember the brand but I used to play it around the house (I say ‘play,’- more like strumming the out-of-tune strings as loud as possible!). My first ‘real’ guitar was a ‘Frankenstein’ Stratocaster my Dad gave me when I was about 7. It was an 80’s Tokai body with an 80’s MIJ ’57ri neck, a single bridge humbucker and it had ‘Dr Ford’ written on it… very cool indeed. I had that guitar well into my mid-20’s, though I eventually put it back to a usual Stratocaster configuration. Throughout my teens I had a bunch of different guitars- but my main guitar for most of my life has been a Fender USA Standard Telecaster that I saved up for. It saw me through all my early gigs, my studies at Berklee and my entire playing career up until I joined the band Elephantine. By then it had been modded somewhat- with a thinline body and different pickups (my Dad and I are both tinkerers- always modding and swapping stuff around). These days I have 4 guitars in regular rotation- one was built by UK company JJ guitars. whom I endorse, the next is a unique little archtop guitar from a Berlin luthier called Schorr Guitars that has sliding pickups and a unique neck joint (see me demo it here),  then there’s a custom prototype from Andy Charles Guitars, and finally my beloved Teisco EP-8T.”

Who inspired you to pick up guitar, and who inspires you to keep on playing today?

“My Dad, Stuart Ford, is a well known Midlands-based guitarist, but I actually started on piano and took lessons with an amazing local boogie-woogie pianist called Danny McAlister! I did love the piano, but one day a friend of my Mom’s by the name of John Allison taught me to play the theme to Peter Gunn on his acoustic guitar, and I was hooked! It was after showing my Dad what I could play that weekend that he decided to gift me the Frankenstrat, and ever since my piano playing has become progressively worse! These days I am inspired by all sorts. There’s just the ability to continuously explore on the instrument that keeps me going- forever trying find my own voice and all its harmonic possibilities. Some guitarists that inspire me are the likes of Marc Ribot, Nelson Veras, Lee Ranaldo and Kurt Rosenwinkel.”

 

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Tom with his custom Andy Charles creation

 

Tell us about your music, and how you approach your guitar playing within the context of it.

“I approach music first and foremost as a creative, expressive art form. It is for me fundamentally about the communication of ideas and feelings- just so happening to be via the medium of sound. I do feel the craft is important- but only to the extent that you honestly feel like you can communicate your ideas creatively. I spent time studying at Berklee in the USA and have a lot of experience playing jazz and improv in addition to contemporary composed music. I felt I needed to acquire a certain level of academic knowledge and technical ability on my instrument to feel that I could truly create worthwhile art. I’m far from a snob this though- it’s all subjective. For example- I feel Link Wray’s  playing on his seminal track ‘Rumble’  trumps that of most of the super technical ‘virtuosos’ I see and hear today, from an artistic standpoint. As for my own approach to the instrument, I essentially put a lot of faith into voice-leading- this is predominantly influenced by my love of J.S.Bach’s compositions. I love that through voice-leading, melody and harmony become synonymous. Rhythmically, everything for me essentially goes back to West-African music. I grew up with a great love of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music, and as I searched I found how their rhythms were inherited from West-African musical traditions. So I am always feeling syncopation and the sub division of a clavé on everything. I like music that makes people want to move!”

What setup are you currently running, amp and pedal wise?

“I have used the same amp for around 6 years now which is a Henriksen Jazz Amp. It’ only got a 10″ speaker but it’s crazy loud and clean. It has parametric EQ instead of the usual 3-band. I find it really excels as a clean pedal-platform  and it’s super portable. I sometimes run it in-stereo with a little 10w Cornell Romany to I get some ‘valve’ saturation and sound. I like the blend of the two because the Cornell gives me some richness to the higher overtones that get lost a bit on the solid-state Henriksen. Unfortunately as I tour a lot I am usually supplied a backline of worn out Fender ’65 Twin reissues that I find almost impossible to tame. They’re unbelievably loud, and I’m just not a big fan of the classic Fender mid-scooped sound. I love my amps with loads of mids (I am from the MIDlands, after all!).

As for pedals, currently my set up is a cheap auto-filter thing from china > TC Electronics Sub ‘n Up octave pedal > Behringer Vibrator > Strymon Riverside OD > Boss DD3 >- Boss RE20 Space Echo > Red Panda Particle granular delay > Strymon Flint trem/reverb > Meris Mercury 7 reverb. I’m a big fan of delays and reverbs! For strings I tend to use Rotosound 11-12 gauge rounds on my solid bodies, and 12-gauge flats on my hollow bodies. I’ve generally always played with a thumbpick and fingers in a hybrid, classical-influenced technique too!”

What’s the one pedal that you couldn’t live without?

“My Boss RE20 Space Echo- as I use it with a expression pedal to control the wet/dry mix and so it functions almost like the sustain pedal of a piano. It is the only delay pedal I’ve ever found that doesn’t cut the delay trails as you bring the mix back to dry, so you can play notes over the top of the decaying notes but in a super expressive way! Also I’m pretty sure the preamp of an original space echo in the algorithm too and I’m just so used to it as being part of my tone that I feel pretty weird without it. I’ve had the pedal for a decade now and it’s still alive. I don’t think I’ll ever stop using one.”

What’s your current main guitar, and why so?

“One of my main instruments is a custom-made prototype from a luthier called Andy Charles based over in Stourbridge- it’s a fully-hollow, flattop electric with gold foil pickups we co-designed. Anyone local to the Midlands should go check him out! And my second most-used guitar is a little mid-60’s, fully-hollow Teisco. It’s a difficult guitar to play and feeds-back easily but it’s so worth it- it’s tough but sweet! I have always had an affinity towards cheap, old japanese guitars- back in my Elephantine days I would go to The Little Guitar Shop and play some amazing old Teiscos and Guyatones that Martin had sourced. I’m still really happy that a guitar shop in my city  offers some unique and rare guitars (I even saw some old Soviet Jolanasin the shop once!).”

 

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Are there any other local guitarists you particularly admire?

“Oh yes, I have a big love for the fact Birmingham and the Midlands are a breeding ground of freedom for creativity, so there are plenty of interesting musicians and guitarists around! I really love my friends Reuben Reynolds, Lewis Spencer and Ben Lee, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with or playing alongside from time to time (I sometimes moonlight as a bassist). I also love some of the older generation too- big love to Paul Foad both for his dedication to teaching young musicians, and his amazing work from the Au Pairs through to more recent stuff with Andy Hamilton and The Blue Notes. I of course admire my Dad’s playing too, I loved the old album he and Trevor Burton recorded in the 80’s called Double Zero- I think I learnt every guitar solo from it!”

Where can we find your music and see you play next?  

“Before the lockdown I had several shows with my band booked in London and Birmingham. When things are looking like they will be getting back to normal I’ll most likely be looking to reschedule those. In the meantime I’m regularly uploading content of stuff I’m up to via my Instagram page. I am also releasing the first recordings under my own name this year- with an album coming sometime this summer and some singles beforehand, so stay tuned!”

 

Be sure to keep up with Tom as he undoubtedly breaks uncharted ground both in the Midlands and beyond!

Strings ‘n Things #8- Exhaler

Ease your lockdown blues by joining use for our weekly dive into all things 6-string. Today we are joined by another TLGS regular who just so happens to be in a kick-ass group- Brandon of Exhaler.

I remember the day I first caught Exhaler (then known as Exhailers) well. They were caterwaulic, chaotic, cool and catchy all at once. I was instantly smitten with the group as a whole, but was particularly taken by Brandon’s playing. He uses dissonance within a melodic context in a way that is jarring, yet perversely satisfying. Like fries dipped in milkshake- it’s kinda gross, kinda bewildering, but bloody delicious. And as their ‘Abyssal Orbit EP displayed- this is a young group with a myriad of influences that aren’t afraid to weird you out. Whether it’s drummer Fred’s beat-inspired lyrical imagery, or lead vocalist and bassist Liv’s sweetly menacing delivery,  Exhaler are unashamedly idiosyncratic and genuinely intriguing. Join us after some live footage as we talk shop.

 

Talk us through your guitar history from your first to your most recent.

“My first proper guitar after a cheap 3/4 strat copy was my Dad’s Butterscotch Ibanez AS80 Artstar. He ended up giving it to me when I was 11 because I could play ‘Teenage Kicks’ better than him. Since then I’ve had a red Epiphone Wilshire, a pink sparkle Telecaster made by a company who used to supply some parts to Fender (so it was kiiind of a legit Fender Telecaster), and a Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster in Sonic Blue. Got an old bashed up LAG acoustic guitar in an attic somewhere too.”
Who inspired you to pick up guitar, and who inspires you to keep on playing today?

“Suppose my first inspirations were all the guitarists in the bands I was listening to growing up- so Josh Homme, Jack Steadman, Ryan Jarman, Johnny Marr, and a load of others. Currently look up to whoever I get the chance to see live, so a lot of local Birmingham guitarists. Been really rating Frankie Broyles from Omni recently, he manages to convey so many melodic ideas in each song and keeps it really interesting- even with just a slightly driven guitar signal.”
Tell us about your music, and how you approach your guitar playing within the context of it.

“I’ve found recently that creating unique effects have influenced how I’ve been playing and writing. I’ve just about finished writing the instrumentals for the next Exhaler release, and have found myself playing around with pitch-shifted delays and shimmery reverbs. Don’t wanna say too much, but I think we’ve gotten a lot better at combining cute melodic instrumentals and big, scary drone passages- so I’m really excited to get some stuff out once we can actually get back in the studio. I don’t feel like I have a cemented approach or technique in playing guitar- I like just making up chord positions over and over till I find one that sounds nice… or horrible, which is also sometimes nice.”
What setup are you currently running, amp and pedal wise?

“My pedal chain is currently Mooer Yellow Comp > Boss TR-2 > EHX Little Big Muff> Visual Sound H2O Chorus/Delay v.1 (bought from TLGS) > Fulltone Full-Drive2 Mosfet > ProCo Rat 2 > Donner Jet Convolution Flanger > Loop/Bypass Pedal (to bypass Zoom) > Zoom ms-70cdr. That goes into a malfunctioning Peavey Classic 30, with a Caline 10-band EQ in the effects loop as an attempt to make it sound less shit. If money wasn’t an object I’d most likely have a big ol’ Fender Twin and some proper fancy reverb & mod pedals in place of the Zoom. Love my Fulldrive and Rat though, can’t imagine getting rid of them anytime soon.”

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What’s the one pedal that you couldn’t live without?

“Actually think I depend on my Zoom ms70cdr the most. I have all my patches saved in order of our live set, going through various reverb, chorus, delay, and phaser effects which is really easy to scroll through when playing live. It’s an £80 pedal which I think sounds really good for the price, and it can do so so much- can even tune your guitar! Some of the effects sound like shit but I just ignore those.”
What’s your current main guitar, and why so?

“Currently got a Fender Squire Vintage Modified Jazzmaster in Sonic Blue, as it seemed to be the best, cheapest guitar with a whammy bar at the time. I’ve sprayed the scratch plate this pretty awful green, but I think I actually like it to be fair. In retrospect I wish I saved a bit more to get a better Jazzmaster or another offset Fender with a whammy, although I could say something similar about all the gear that I own.”

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Photo by Sam Wood photography

Are there any other local guitarists you particularly admire?

“Really rate all the cute little tappy guitar licks in Coffee Breath’s music. Everyone’s different in their playing styles, and there’s no one player who I don’t have some form of admiration for.”
Where can we find your music and see you play next?

“We got an EP on Spotify and Bandcamp at the moment. We also have Facebook and Instagram pages that we keep updated and will hopefully be releasing something new pretty damn soon so worth following if you wanna see that (ED: check out new single ‘Organelle’!). I imagine we’ll be playing locally almost immediately once we’re allowed to, but we’ve got no concrete plans at the moment unfortunately.”

 

Give Exhaler’s latest single ‘Organelle’ a spin and purchase via bandcamp, and be sure to catch them live as soon as you can!

Strings ‘n Things#7- (fka) Flares

 

 

This week in ‘Strings ‘n Things’ we talk to one of the brightest young stars of the second city’s explosive punk scene (and sometimes TLGS employee)- Leo of (the band soon to be FKA) Flares.

Those darn kids and all their talent, eh? Not simply content with being a talented drummer and excellent showman, Leo has been bashing out furiously catchy nuggets of pop-punk with Flares to considerable acclaim for a few years now. As part of the cities most recent boom in loud and proud younger bands, alongside such new-heavyweights as Riscas, The Clause and Sugarthief, Flares have been strutting their stuff all over the UK with the kind of schedule that even veterans wouldn’t turn their noses at- and with Leo’s networking skills aiding the group in navigating a notoriously shark-filled industry with a confidence that belies their age. As the band’s singular guitarist, Leo needs to fill space and hold it down tight- but he doesn’t let that get in the way of him putting boundless levels of energy into his live show. Like many multi-instrumentalists, Leo see’s his guitar as just another cog in his musicbox, and approaches it with a suitable sensibility. Name issues are keeping official recordings offline right now, but transport yourself to the days of sweaty, heady gigs via live footage below, and then get down with Leo and I as we talk gear and grunge.

 

Talk us through your guitar history from your first to your most recent.

“I’d say my guitar history started back when I was about 10? My Grandad found this dusty old 70’s MIJ Kay in his loft and I started messing around with it. I actually played drums before guitar, so I think I was trying to achieve more rhythmic and percussive sounds. I was playing this Kay 2-T through my Dad’s old PA system with a couple of Behringer pedals for ages until I realised that investing in some actual gear would be worthwhile! Anyway, now I am playing 3 main guitars- the first one I bought was a red G&L Fallout (which was purchased from TLGS) the second one I acquired (inherited from a family member) was a 1994 Fender Stratocaster, and my most recent purchase is my Fender Japanese FSR 70’s Mustang in California Blue.”

Who inspired you to pick up guitar, and who inspires you to keep on playing today?

“My main initial influence was Kurt Cobain- hence the long blonde hair and obsession with Mustangs! I was into loads of Grunge bands, like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains etc. Now, there’s so many guitarists that inspire me to keep playing, but artists like King Krule, Rage Against the Machine, FIDLAR, Foals, Shady Nasty, These New South Wales, Mac Demarco and SWMRS influence my playing a lot. Honestly though, the list could go on forever!”

Tell us about your music, and how you approach your guitar playing within the context of it.

“I still approach guitar playing with more percussive and rhythmical ideas than melodious. I still can’t even read tab, whereas I’ve done entire grades in playing drums! I think that gives my playing quite a funky sound. I’m also really into messing around with a lot of weird sounds you wouldn’t usually expect to come out of a guitar- my band always moan at me for making so much intentional feedback!”

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What setup are you currently running, amp and pedal wise?

“Right now I’m running my Mustang and Strat through a pedalboard consisting of a Hudson Broadcast fuzz/preamp, a T. Rex Dr. Swamp overdrive, a Marshall Reflector reverb, a Digitech Grunge distortion, a Walrus Audio Julia chorus/vibrato, and a Fender Marine Layer reverb. And of course the essential Korg Pitchblack tuner too. The amp I’m currently using (also the best amp in the world) is a 1999 Fender Cyber Twin (which I also bought from TLGS).”

 

What’s the one pedal that you couldn’t live without?

“Definitely my Hudson Broadcast preamp. I’ve found this pedal literally makes any guitar sound crisp, crunchy and lovely. It’s a very tricky decision though, because the Fender Marine Layer is also such an awesome pedal! I’ll just have to find an amp with reverb….”

 

What’s your current main guitar, and why so?

“Currently my main guitar is my 1994 Fender Anniversary Strat. It’s been my primary guitar for three years- it’s just proved to be the most reliable, and really suits my band’s sound the best. It compliments the rest of my set up perfectly too. Back in the day the original bridge was swapped out for a locking Floyd Rose system, and as much as I have a love-hate relationship with it, it does make the tuning extremely stable. But it’s mainly just fun to absolutely hammer that whammy bar whilst in feedback chaos!”

 

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Are there any other local guitarists you particularly admire?

“There are so so many amazing musicians, artists and guitarists on the local scene right now! Jack and Jordi from Sugarthief for sure, Tom from The Novus, Kit from Pretty Vile– there are so many awesome players. The lads from Violet, & Harry Hanford of Spilt Milk Society / Mr. Marmite may just have some of the best atmospheric tones in the world. Gotta give it out to our producer Craig Davis of RML Studios too- even though he may not mainly be a guitarist he is an incredible musician and a master of achieving great guitar tones.”

Where can we find your music and see you play next?

“Sadly, due to a copyright claim against our name you can’t really find my band apart from on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. However, we will be renamed by summer and have some very exciting stuff planned, so you’ll definitely be able to catch us playing around the UK and find our music online after the coronavirus situation blows over! You can also follow @frittersfritters on Instagram where I’ll be releasing my own solo music soon.”

 

Flares will be re-naming soon, so be sure to follow them on social media to keep in the loop! They’ll be back with their high-octane brand of powerpop as soon as time allows, and we can’t wait to see Leo in action again!

Strings ‘n Things #6- God Damn

 

On this week’s ‘Strings ‘n Things’ we’re chatting to the leader of one of the fiercest bands in the country- the Black Country’s loudest export, Thomas Edward of God Damn.

As the bands sole primary guitar player, it’s fair to say that Thom does a fair amount of heavy lifting (and we’re not just talking cabs here). His tone is, pardon the pun, ungodly. As the band became synonymous with his wall of Orange amps during their earlier days, his sound became utterly uncompromising- viscous mid-range honk cut like a scythe above the gut-punching, bone-shaking bass, courtesy of a 3-amp and 1-DI setup that shook venues and crowds across the globe to their core. But it isn’t all about volume- Thom’s playing needs to carry the entirety of a song and all the emotional intensity contained therein. And so his style owes as much to the power-pop of Weezer as it might the brutality of Neurosis; down-tuned sludge might sit alongside a 3/4 waltz, or a party-riff banger. Every God Damn song creates its own world and invites you in- but it never promises that it’ll be pretty. Prime yourself with ‘Dreamers’ below, and then join us for the full-story on the backline.

 

 

Talk us through your guitar history from your first to your most recent.
“I can remember there being a guitar shop in Stafford near where I grew up in Penkridge. I was a pre-teen and had just discovered guitar music, obsessed with the electric guitars in the window. I nagged my mum to let me spend my Christmas and birthday money savings on one. She wouldn’t let me- she said I had to prove it wasn’t a fad and we bought the cheapest acoustic we could find from the Argos catalogue. I learned a few chords and the riff to our/her favourite song, ‘Peaches‘ by The Stranglers. She walked into my room one day and said”Oh… you’re pretty good at that!”
Off we trotted to go buy a green Encore Strat and practice amp. I distinctly remember thoroughly pissing my mum off from the first day, and making her regret the decision by doing long, OTT pick-scrapes into big strum Emaj power chords in the mirror. How cliche!” 
Who inspired you to pick up guitar, and who inspires you to keep on playing today?
“The posters on my wall as a kid were James Marshall Hendrix and Kurdt Cobain, though contemporary players like Omar Rodriguez Lopez or Jack White were maybe more my generation’s taste makers. As a teenager I genuinely thought I had to smash guitars, chase the dragon and die in my 20s to be successful. Quite sad that really- wish I could have told my younger self to chill out a bit! 
I guess the people and guitarists that inspire me today are those who create a distinct mood or sonic palette- Warren Ellis, Frank Zappa, Girl Band and the guitar work in King Gizzard. “
Tell us about your music, and how you approach your guitar playing within the context of it.
“I think there’s always that fight with being a bit suspicious of old habits that maybe define you as a player- little tricks or licks that you go to automatically, but then there’s the other train of thought that you should roll around in that shit and embrace it. There’s something to be said for having your character recognised on a tiny radio from across the room, going deeper into your own cave but maybe picking up a little torch or spade left behind from people who’ve maybe gone that way before. Basically don’t be afraid to learn new things but find your groove within that. Sometimes an effect or tone can pull out creativity and sometimes I want to strip it back to basics: guitar, amp, cable, play!”
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What setup are you currently running, amp and pedal wise?
“My rig is at a crucial state of evolution at the moment but I guess my signature sound is- crunchy amp drive (such as an Orange OTR 120 into a 4×12), blended with a sub split (bass head du-jour into 1×15) and fuzzy amp (a cleaner combo such as a red-knob Fender Twin). A mainstay for me has been, since it came out; the Rainbow Machine by Earthquaker Devices, I love that double-tracked, tight chorus and slap delay in one thing that it does, and at the push of the magic button- self-oscillating madness! Other mainstays have been the Blackarts Toneworks Pharoah, Way Huge Swollen Pickle & DOD Meatbox. I’ve recently acquired a Death By Audio Reverberation Machine that does this wicked front-end, amp-smashy boost and that tight, surfey reverb that I love. I’ve also recently got a Barefaced cab finally, which has been a real spine-saver!”
What’s the one pedal that you couldn’t live without?
“So difficult as I rely on the combination of pedals to get my sound but if I had to keep things simple I’d go Guitar > MXR Micro Amp >Overdriven amp.”
What’s your current main guitar, and why so?
“My main work horse for some years now has been my Yamaha SG200 which I got for a great price at the TLGS. I’m not even just saying this as a plug, you can see how much abuse this thing has been put through and its solid as hell. It has got some real stories to tell but it is one hefty tank of a plank. I’ve always envied people who’ve got that ONE guitar that’s etched to their soul, and I think the Yamaha is that for me now. I think we’re buddies!”
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Are there any other local guitarists you particularly admire?
“I really rate the feel and slick delivery of Dave from Black Mekon. I’ve always admired the chops of Michael King from Boat to Row and Kaila from Youth Man. Conor from The Cosmics, Outlander are killer. My boy James from Mutes and our band God Damn keeps me on my fucking toes and there’s a couple of new lick makers from Tremorz and Dead Slow who’ve been catching my eye. I’m sure I’ll think of more and hate myself for not remembering them in time for this!”
Where can we find your music and see you play next? 
“We’re currently in lockdown, so that idea is a fluid thing. Go to goddamntheband.com for dates and updates.”

God Damn’s latest eponymous LP is out now via One Little Indian. Follow the band on Spotify, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram to find out when they’ll be back to irreversibly damage your hearing and scare the crap out of in-house sound-men nation-wide.

Strings ‘n Things #5- Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam

 

We’re well into our ‘String ‘n Things’ blog now, and we’ve barely scraped the surface of Birmingham’s multifarious music community! Up this week is veteran of the stage Pete Dixon, of power-pop dreamboats Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam.

Pete has been a figurehead of the Birmingham independent music scene as long as this fair-faced author can remember. Earlier bands such as Autolight saw him collaborate with future scene-stars such as Alexei of Johnny Foreigner (watch this space), but cult-favourites Distophia put his exceptional songwriting on national display- with the ‘Soda Lake’ EP and ‘Beat Dyslexia’ LP still being spoken of with hushed reverence to this very day. Taking things on a more experimental tangent with Calories led to a series of exploratory and outward-bounding releases, before he found a musical consort in Andy Bullock. Founding Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam in 2011, the group have been relentlessly prolific, both in-studio and onstage, and are stalwarts of everything Birmingham. Pete’s songs seem to come effortlessly, and melody is always king. In the tradition of indie-front-runners like Pavement, Archers of Loaf and Sebadoh, SFL’s music’s slacker-exterior belies a sharp-wit and self-deprecating charm, and Pete’s playing is similarly smart, often understated, and delightfully chaotic at times. Checkout the title track of latest LP ‘Blackout Cowboy‘ below and then get stuck in.

 

 

Talk us through your guitar history from your first to your most recent.

“My first guitars were my Mom’s Kimbara acoustic and Miami telecaster bass. Which looked great but was in fact a bass so… My first electric guitars were a Sunn Mustang Atrat in white, ala Wayne’s World, and a black and white Westone Concord 1 that I am about to start rebuilding into a single-pickup shredder. I think of the Westone as my first guitar because I chose it- rather than it being my Mom’s or something that was picked for me. It’s a funny thing- kinda a slightly pointy version of something between a Tele and Mustang. So this rebuild will be both my most recent and my first!”

 

Who inspired you to pick up guitar, and who inspires you to keep on playing today?

“I used to love Meatloaf and Micheal Jackson as a kid- and all the squiggly guitar sounds! It was probably the guy from the TV show California Dreams or Pugwall that pushed me to the next level, ha! My top 2 at the moment are Buck Meek of Big Thief and Nels Cline of Wilco- both the type of guitarist that show so much restraint and then BAM! Leaving you like “where did that come from?”

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Photo by Sam Wood

Tell us about your music, and how you approach your guitar playing within the context of it.

“I write in a number of different ways, Andy and I have been close friends for over 15 years so there’s a lot of “Do you remember that dun nuh nah nah riff you had?” that can be patchworked into something else. We can go from humming into a dictaphone to even creating a whole song or album around a  saying we both like. We’re lucky to have each other to bounce off.”

 

What setup are you currently running, amp and pedal wise?

I’ve been through a ton of valve amps over the years- Fender Hot Rods, various Marshalls, a Peavey Classic 30 etc.  I have now landed on the Roland Blues Cube Artist. It’s such a great amp- loud as anything and switchable down to 0.5 watts, with DI/headphone-out. It handles pedals great, and it’s light weight whilst being bulletproof. I still record with various valve amps, but the Roland is my favourite choice for playing live. I love it! Pedal-wise, onstage I limit myself to 4 so that I don’t have to tap-dance whilst singing! So any combination of my Boss DD7(with ext. tap tempo) a Pearl CH-02 Chorus, Danelectro Phaser, Morley Wah and my trusty EHX Hot Wax. (which sometimes gets swapped for a TS9 clone or a Boss Bluesdriver). Generally pretty basic stuff.”

 

What’s the one pedal that you couldn’t live without?

“As boring as it sounds- the Boss TU2! It’s kinda sad when you first get it out of the packaging and realise that it makes no sound, but I’ve had mine for at least 10 years and never had a problem… it’s a bit crap in daylight sometimes though!”

 

What’s your current main guitar, and why so?

“I play a Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster. I bought it as a spare to my Fender Modern Player Jazzmaster for the sake of having the same tremolo system, should I need to change tunings or break a string, and it has become my one and only. It’s such a versatile guitar- almost everything from Tele to Les Paul sounds are available with a bit of jiggery pokery.”

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Photo by Sam Wood

Are there any other local guitarists you particularly admire?

“My friend Rick from Faux Palms is a great rhythm player. I love the way he just concentrates on the simplicity of a good sound- no pedals, no frills- just a good guitar, a good amp and a great player! And James from Mutes– his rock guitar is some of the most exciting I’ve seen from our scene in years. I like it best when his inner-shredder comes out and just fucking rips a full-bore squiggly.” (ED– *blush*)

 

Where can we find your music and see you play next?

“Live dates are very much up in the air- we had some festivals booked for the end of the Summer but we can only wait and see now. However have recently released a live album, which has all of ‘Blackout Cowboy‘ and a few new songs from the next record- available on our bandcamp.

Check out Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam on Facebook, Spotify and bandcamp, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for rescheduled live dates later on in the year!