JM: Uh, yeah. I just hated barre chords--pressing my finger down. So I'd just play lead along with the records.
GW: When you discovered punk, did you totally repudiate your classic rock past?
JM: Of course. I sold all my old records. But I bought them all back. I grew out
of that. When punk first happened, though, it just seemed much more immediate and important than anything else around at the time. I remember sincerely feeling, "How could anyone listen to anything else?"
GW: Kevin, did you ever go through a conventional rock period?
KS: No. The only bands that played lead guitar that I actually liked were Jimi Hendrix and Dinosaur Jr. That's true. It seems flamboyant, but I've never been into the polished stuff.
GW: How did each of you discover Fender Jaguars and/or Jazzmasters?
KS: I've had a Japanese one since '82.
JM: Well, Slimy Bob ripped me off--Slimy Bob's Guitar Ripoff Shop. He was just this weird guy. He had a gun and mace in his store and he'd mace his employees for fun. Just start laughing. You could tell all his stuff was stolen. He'd have these ads that were all fake, like "Strat: $400." The bait and switch thing. So i painted this house and got about $500, and I went down there. I wanted to buy a Strat. I just wanted it to write songs on; I was still playing drums at the time. And of course Slimy Bob didn't have and kind of decent Strat for under $500. But he had a jaguar for $200 and a Jazzmaster for $300. The Jazzmaster has a beat-up neck, which I liked. It had no finish on it. And it had Grover tuning pegs, which I always admired from Peter Frampton and Humble Pie records. So I spent the extra hundred and bought the Jazzmaster. And it's the one I still play--my first guitar.
GW: Is it still your main guitar?
JM: Live, yeah. And on record, I use it for about half the leads. Not much for rhythm. I usually use Gibsons for that. I've got a Les Paul, but the SG Junior is my favorite. Anything with P-90's. I don't have any humbuckers at all.
GW: Are you into vintage stuff?
JM: Yeah, I refuse to buy anything past 1970. That really limits your choice of guitars; you waste more money.
KS: That's okay though--I spent about 350 quid [roughly $550] putting my Japanese Jazzmaster in half decent shape. So if you want a good guitar, it actually is worth your money to buy an older one.
JM: I like the necks on older guitars. They've been worn. Somebody's played it. It's like a baseball glove which somebody has broken in for you or something. And even though the old stuff is getting more expensive, it still can be cheaper than buying some hideous modern Nuno guitar. Modern guitars are just ****. I can't understand why anyone would want one. And I don't understand why having a guitar that is real easy to play is considered a good thing. I always thought it was bad--you start playing too fast.
GW: You mean you don't like guitars with light string tension and low action?
JM: Yeah. I can't play leads on Gibsons for that reason; it sounds sort of boring. Well not really boring, but kind of ****et Betts, you know? It's faster and smoother, but there's less style there.
KS: My first guitar was an SG, then I got a Les Paul copy. Then I went through a phase of 335 copies. Then I bought that Ibanez Jazzmaster I mentioned. It looked good--that's why I got it.
JM: I thought my Jazzmaster looked like ****. I was bummed. I liked the Jaguar, but I hated the Jazzmaster's pickups. I kept thinking of Elvis Costello. I said, "well, I'll never play it outside my house, so no one will ever know I have it." Jaguars look cool. But Jazzmasters--uggh, those pickups!
The switches on the Jags are nicer too--really Japanese looking.
KS: Yeah, but the Jaguar's got a short scale neck, like a Gibson. Only it's a bolt-on neck, unlike Gibsons[which have a glue- in neck]. So it's crappy--a short-scale neck but without the Gibson sustain: you get all the disadvantages. You can't get that nice open string sound on the Jaguar, because the short-scale neck doesn't sustain as well. It's more of a pokey guitar. But then the Jazzmaster can get really trebly.
JM: I always replace the bridges on Jazzmasters. 'Cause that first one I bought didn't have the original bridge, and then when I got another one I looked at the bridge and said, "What is this piece of ****?"
GW: But that type of bridge became a cornerstone of Kevin's style! That quavering, underwater effect you get with the wang bar taped halfway into the socket.
GW: How did you discover that anyway?
KS: I was trying to imitate string bending and slide-playing, which I couldn't really do. I thought maybe if I tuned two strings to nearly the same pitch and then bent them with the wang bar, maybe it would sound like I was doing that. I borrowed a nice Jazzmaster from a friend, but it had a re-made tremolo that was really big. So I put tape on it to keep it from going all the way into the socket.
GW: J, the rhythm guitars on your new album sound grungey but thick, and very warm-sounding. Did you layer the guitar tracks more heavily this time?
JM: No. Much less.
KS: Maybe that's what it is. You can hear the dynamics in the rhythm.
JM: And I have a good amp now, too--a '59 Bandmaster. It sounds great with an SG Jr.
GW: The lead at the end of "I Ain't Sayin" has a great,super- saturated, ultra-sustained tone. Do you recall how you got that?
JM: Sure. A '52 gold top Les Paul with P90's, through my Big Muff and into a '64 blackface Fender Deluxe.
GW: Do you use a lot of pedals?
JM: No; just a Big Muff and a custom-made Roger Mayer wah. It's really hard for me to play with things like Boss pedals. Brutal.
KS: Older distortion pedals that work on circuit boards seem to be better than the ones that use chips, like the modern Japanese distortion pedals. So I also go thorugh some older-style distortion pedals that Roger Mayer made for me.
JM: Live, I've been using Roger's wah to, like, kill people: step on it and watch people fall down. You always see people out in the audience sort of squinting.
GW: Do you like that? Seeing them squint?
JM: Yeah, I do.
KS: Me too!
Last edited by AcquiredTaste; 03.22.11 at 8:47 AM.