Archive for ‘Interviews’

June 8, 2012

Interview With Laura Kidd, aka She Makes War!


photo by Annie Mole via Flickr

Laura Kidd is a multi-instrumentalist who performs under the moniker She Makes War.  She sings and plays guitar, bass, ukulele, piano, melodica, violin, harp, and recorder.  In addition to being an impressive performer, she’s a DIY producer extraordinaire, recording and promoting her own work.  Her latest album, Little Battles, is available here.

I talked with her in the early Spring.  And here for your reading pleasure is my article with the wonderful She Makes War!

When did you begin playing and why?

I started playing guitar aged 12 because my brother had been given a lovely acoustic by my Uncle and wasn’t using it. I picked it up and started messing about with it, then had a few lessons at school to get the basic root chords and strumming. I just used to play songs from sheet music, like “I’m Not In Love” by 10CC and “Wooden Heart” by Elvis Presley, then had an epiphany a few years later when a boyfriend told me about bar chords and I realised with them I could figure out how to play my favourite songs.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it?

My first guitar was a very cheap black electric my parents bought for me from a little guitar shop in Bury St Edmunds called Sounds Plus. I don’t remember much more about it, I didn’t play it very much because around the same time I started playing bass in a band and that took up most of my musical time. I actually part exchanged that guitar for some pedals a couple of years later then found a gorgeous green Telecaster in Loot (a listings paper in London) which sadly got taken in a house burglary. I was heartbroken. I called that guitar Basil because it was green and because the day I bought it I attended John Cleese’s birthday breakfast.

What equipment do you prefer now?  Which guitar?  What amps or pedals?  Why?  Has this changed over time?

The guitar I gig with is a Telecaster Thinline 69 with a pedalboard consisting of Boss chorus, delay and compression/sustainer, a Sansamp GT2, Fulltone OCD and Cool Cat Tremolo. I usually play DI-ed because of logistics – I have so much to carry and usually use public transport – hence the GT2, which really improves the sound, but I have a Roland Cube I sometimes take as well. Acoustically I play a Faith Venus and I use a Luna Dolphin ukulele as well, through my Boss RC20XL loop pedal. On the new album I played all the electric stuff on my Peerless Renaissance hollow body because the Tele was super noisy. The Peerless sounded gorgeous!

I’m always interested in improving my general sound but currently have to weigh that up against cost and logistics. I would love to play through a Fender Twin every night but that’s not possible at the moment.

I know you are a multi-instrumentalist.  Can you talk a little about that?

I played classical and woodwind instruments at school – violin then saxophone – but took up the guitar and bass outside of formal musical education and played in bands, mainly on bass. I love trying out new things and on the latest recordings brought in the tenor sax alongside autoharp, melodica and recorders to play with some different textures.

What is your songwriting process like?

It varies. Sometimes I will start with a vocal melody and find the chords that go with it, and other times songs start off with a riff. I’ve experimented very successfully with the Immersion Composition Society’s “20 Song Game” and written songs for both albums that way (‘NIMN’ and ‘Chicken’ off “Disarm” and ‘In This Boat’ and ‘Segue’ off “Little Battles”) and will definitely do that again in the future as I truly believe in the Picasso quote that “inspiration finds you working”. Songs rarely drop out of the sky, and when they do you have to be there to catch them!

You’re also a filmmaker.  Do you consider that a part of your musicianship. or something you do on the side?

I think everything I do feeds in to the She Makes War project, it’s an outlet for all the visual, art and craft experiments I want to do. I just finished making some homemade tour photo books to send to some of my Pledgers (the new album was funded by my fans via Pledge Music last year) and that’s a good example – I’ve been wanting to try making concertina books for a while and this was a great excuse. I also feel that mixing media, whether that’s digital instruments with analogue in a musical recording or digital information with hand crafted souvenirs in the case of my Valentine’s card release of “In This Boat” last month, is important because I want the songs to resonate emotionally in various ways.

What are you working on right now?

At the moment I am focusing on getting my new album “Little Battles” in to the world – it’s out on April 9th and I am organising a big launch gig on 11th (at Herne Hill Half Moon, South London) which will involve about 8 other musicians coming on stage with me, so it’s a lot to pull together!

After that I’m off on a month long tour of the UK, and am working on setting up other musical excursions for later in the year.

I’ve already got a name for my next collection of songs and have started noodling around, I like to keep creative but there’s a lot of other fun stuff to keep me busy for the next few months.

Which artist or artists do you find inspiring?  (It doesn’t have to be a musician.)  Why? 

I find Kristin Hersh endlessly inspiring, she’s a true pioneer both in her musical output and her involvement in CASH Music and flying the flag for the rights of musicians everywhere.

May 6, 2012

Nina Canal Interview!


Photo by Martin Christgau, courtesy of Nina Canal

Nina Canal is an artist and musician.  She was a member of the seminal No-Wave band Ut (pronounced Oot), and has been name-dropped by such other influential bands as Sonic Youth and Le Tigre.  They were a favorite of John Peel’s, and worked with engineer Steve Albini on their album Griller.  Their list of associations reads like a who’s-who of underground rock.  Canal was also a member of the band The Gynaecologists, and has worked with Rhys Chatham doing both the guitar trio and 100 guitars.

In addition to being a talented guitarist, drummer, and vocalist, Canal is a painter and fashion designer, crossing deftly between different art mediums.  I talked with her over email about her history with Ut, what equipment she uses, and what’s going on in her life artistically at present.

When did you begin playing and why? 

I started to play guitar in NYC in early 1977.  I went to NY from London after  finishing my Fine Art degree.  I had a very good friend from  London, Robert Appleton who had been living there 2 years, and he had met Rhys Chatham, and they had started a band called The Gynaecologists and asked me to play with them.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it? 

So Robert had a friend Jimmy who worked at a music store in Long Island, he would get me a good deal, so I went out there and bought a beautiful blond Telecaster, pre CBS (just) for something crazy like $250, not sure exactly!

What equipment do you prefer now?  Which guitar?  What amps or pedals?  Why?  Has this changed over time?

Sadly, that Telecaster got stolen in London after a gig in 1986 or so, and not very long before we started working on GRILLER LP, so when I saw Steve Albini he offered to buy me another one in the USA.  However, the prices had gone through the roof, so he suggested a copy made by these guys in Chicago.  They have an outfit called Rubber Ducky Replicas, and they made me a beautiful one.  I was able to ask for a custom colour, hence my trademark bright green telecaster with a mirror scratch board.

I like using  few pedals, I have a Big Muff and mainly  just love the sound of real tube amps, good ones that deliver that wonderful warm yet ripping distortion.

What is your songwriting process like?  I know that when you were with Ut, you and your fellow band members emphasized collaboration and equal exchange.  Have you found that method effective over time, or do you feel more like you’re a solo artist now?

Yes, with Ut we always worked together, in a total collaboration. I have worked on a few collaborations in recent years, in a similar process where everyone has equal say and we go by feel and mutual confidence. I am starting to work on some solo stuff.   It’s not so easy for me.  I always did a little of this even in NY, so yes I am becoming a “solo artist.”

Can you talk a little about your work with Rhys Chatham?  You were in at least one formation of his guitar trio, and participated in 100 guitars.  

Rhys and I were together as a couple at the time he composed Guitar Trio, and I played it with him the very first time and  several other times in NY in those amazing days, and also occasionally in the years between, so it’s a piece you could say I have an intimate connection with.

Yes, I also have played in the 100 guitars, initially at the London performance in 1990 something, and then I was also very briefly a section head for two concerts, one in Nantes, which was a wonderful experience and then we went to Reunion Island with it. That was a particularly incredible  experience.  The volcano erupted while we were there, and we went to see the hot lava jumping into the sea, amazing.

Documentary film maker Laurence Petit Jouve made a film about it, but it has never yet seen the light of day due to lack of finances….

You’re a musician — writing songs, and playing the drums and guitar, but you also paint, and make clothing.  Also, I read an interview where you said you came to rock music from a background in performance art.  Do you feel that your work across mediums informs your perspective as a guitar player?

I am also a painter, fascinated by colour and energy, I got into painting on different textiles, mostly silk and wool or cashmere. I love clothes, and I had started to make my own clothes line in NYC  around 1980 and recently found a lot of photos which I will eventually put up on line.  I need to make a new web site, as mine, although it looks pretty good, is simple and old fashioned

I studied fine art, and was into performance art yes, of course everything feeds everything.  I do not know how to distinguish in that sense, but that’s for some else to do not me.

What are you working on right now? 

Well, now having moved to Marseille, the Ut re union has taken up a lot of my time. We did some touring last autumn, and are now working on the re issues of our entire back catalogue soon,  starting with Conviction on Reactor records

There’s been a lot to organize to enable this processs to proceed, and I have hardly found the time to paint. I plan to start painting pictures and not on silk anymore.

Which artist or artists do you find inspiring?  Why? 

Well, there are just too many to mention! I can say I recently went to see an astonishing show in London by Grayson Perry at the British Museum and that was inspiring because of the many surprises, but he’s certainly not my only inspiration….

February 5, 2012

Sara Landeau Interview!

Sara Landeau, in the best sense of the word, is a guitar geek. She’s the guitarist for The Julie Ruin (with Kathleen Hanna, Kathi Wilcox, Carmine Covelli, and Kenny Mellman). She teaches guitar as well, and as you’ll see from her interview, she thinks a lot about how to get the right sound out of her gear. Landeau runs the Brooklyn Guitar and Drum Studio, and she also maintains a blog about music and gear, illustration, and women in history.

Keep reading to learn more about how Landeau modded out her Epiphone Les Paul, why she reads all her pedal manuals, and what songwriting looks like for The Julie Ruin.

When did you begin playing and why?

I was a huge music fan as a teenager, and my friends and I were really into dressing in rock fashion. I thought I’d become an artist at the time, but drawing and working in solitary just didn’t feel right. I had too much pent up energy and a desire to work with others musically. So I moved to LA (from Milwaukee) around my 18th birthday and went into a club and saw that girls were actually playing music. It was an epiphany for me and I knew what I wanted to do. I started playing around with an acoustic guitar at the time (and thinking, this sucks! I sound so awful) then bought a pale blue Fender Telecaster and have been playing ever since. The electric guitar was the missing element! That was the early 90’s.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it?

I bought the pale blue Fender Telecaster in the 90’s for very cheap – it had a chip in the paint, thus decreasing price significantly – and a few days later picked up a vintage Ludwig drumkit at a garage sale for 50$. I played both consistently and formed a band in 95.  At that time, the book “Incredibly Strange Music” had just come out and it was like a music bible to me. All those great interviews with Ivy from the Cramps, Norton Records etc. I began collecting 45’s of all the artists in that book and every night would try to play along. I first learned to play songs by the Seeds, 5,6,7, 8’s and bands like that. I wasn’t able to afford my next guitar for another ten years.

What equipment do you prefer now?  Which guitar?  What amps or pedals?  Why?  Has this changed over time?

I currently own around 9 guitars and the last one I bought is a silver Gretsch Electromatic Pro Jet with the Bigsby Tailpiece for tremolo. I also play an Ephiphone Les Paul on our current album. The newly placed Seymour Duncan humbuckers mixed with a vintage Big Muff pedal through a Fender Twin amp at the right settings sound amazing. I personally didn’t like the sunburst on the Les Paul, so I took it apart and repainted it bright red with yellow stripes like a race car. That was a scary project, but it looks so much better. The other guitars I like to use are the Epiphone Wildkat Semi-Hollow body, also with a Bigsby for tremolo, and a baritone Dan Electro. I recently bought the Line 6 DL4 Delay Effects Pedal, and have a new affinity for the Big Muff Wicker’s sustain. I also have a DanElectro Spring King Reverb pedal. I love it because when you hit it, it sounds like your Twin amp just exploded like the Death Star then fell over. (Nerd alert).  Its got to be done just right though…like at the end of melody or chord progression. I was a wanna-be gear head forever, then just said screw it, I’m going to learn something new everyday. Since then I tried to work with dozens of pedals (thats going to take forever), and meticulously read the manuals to my amps, pedals, and recording equipment. I guess I’ll always be a wanna-be gear head because there’s so much to learn and hope to open a guitar/music shop for women one day. A place to try out pedals would be wonderful for us girls.

What is your songwriting process like?

When our band first got together we planned to work on songs from Kathleen’s first solo record, Julie Ruin, and play them as a live band, then maybe write originals later. I already knew Kathleen from Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in Brooklyn where we had band-coached and recorded a teen girl group for a couple years, meeting weekly, helping them write songs, and stay focused. Our first “The Julie Ruin’ rehearsal was at Funkadelic in Manhattan and what I think people don’t realize is how funny Kathleen is, especially when Kenny Mellman and Carmine Covelli are in the mix, who I found out later did actual comedy shows. I swear I just giggled and repeated back their jokes in the mic for the first six weeks. Anyway, we wrote 18 of the new songs on the album together in different ways. Sometimes Kathleen would bring in a loop and we’d make an interpretation of it, play off it, and create a song. Sometimes we’d just start playing along to Carmine’s drumbeats or a guitar riff I’d keep repeating. When Kathi joined on bass several months later, it all came together. Kathleen asked me what I thought during Kathi’s first rehearsal and I said I didn’t remember life without her. Crazy, but maybe thats what a great bass player should be like? I think songwriting is different with every group. I’ve been in bands where I’ll do all the writing and still play drums, or the singer will do it all and I just write guitar leads. It really depends on who you’re with. I feel very fortunate in this case. Its like playing Fantasy Football and I picked my team (they do pick teams in Fantasy Football, I have no idea actually!)- Kathleen, Kathi, Carmine….and who would be my fantasy keyboardist? Uh, that guy from Kiki & Herb of course…and there he is!

When did you begin teaching guitar?  Are your students mostly women and girls? 

Around 2001, I went back to school for Art History. I still played guitar and played in bands, so I decided to put up flyers around the campus offering guitar lessons. I had several replies from women and girls right away, which really surprised me. So I started teaching from my home and on the campus. I wanted to give them exactly the type of guitar lessons I always wanted to have and offer a safe place for them to learn and develop a style all of their own. I then opened a studio around 2003 in Greenpoint Brooklyn (Brooklyn Guitar and Drum Studio for Women and Girls) and began a library of teaching materials, offered group courses, ladies jams, and kept it very female driven.

Can you talk a bit about your involvement in Willie Mae Rock Camp?

I followed the Portland Girls Rock Camp on the internet and in 2005, I discovered that a branch in NYC was about to open. I applied immediately and have been working with them in some manner every year since. Mostly I teach the guitar classes for the girls camp and the ladies version, and, when time allows, I love to bandcoach. I’ve done some after school programs affiliated through Rock Camp that I’m really proud of such as the All Girl Rock Band project at a high school in Dumbo, Brooklyn. The girls wrote, recorded, performed, and progressed so quickly. They mixed R&B with rock and other genres, and we had guest lecturers. It was like a mini rock camp.

What are you working on right now, musically or otherwise?

Currently my band The Julie Ruin is recording and mixing an album to be released this year (2012). I also teach guitar, fill in at shows, practice like crazy, work on new material, and am in the process of building my teaching studio into a lo-fi recording studio for women and girls.

Which artist or artists do you find inspiring?  (It doesn’t have to be a musician.)  Why? 

Sites like yours are very inspiring, as well as the Rock Camps for Girls around the world. Having a blog ( dedicated to women in music and art helps me stay on top of new music and I’m constantly researching and learning about people who are inspiring artistically, politically, or individually. Musically, I love those older staple bands that are creative but not too technical like Wire, B52’s, or bands that keep a stripped down sound. I’m a sucker for good beats, grooves, soul, and sometimes thats all that seems to matter. East Bay Ray, Charlotte Caffey, and Joey Santiago have been long time guitar idols of mine. I believe they really know how to serve the song which is more important than overshadowing it with solos. And there’s many drummers, bassists, and vocalists that inspire my guitar style,  I guess I believe you can learn from all instruments.  When I got into punk and early 60’s trashrock, I aimed for the tones and textures from their guitar/amp combination. Now I try to be as creative as possible with sounds and listen to everything. And I also love the opposite types, those very technically amazing and clean guitarists like Les Paul, Tarrega, Eddie Lang, Django Reinhardt, David Rawlings, Lonnie Johnson, and Chet Atkins. I could go on and on (by genre even) but thats what my blog is for, I guess!

January 12, 2012

Interview: Marissa Paternoster!

photo by Rebecca Wilson aka Saucy Salad via flickr

Let’s face it.  A lot of the best indie bands today are… mellow.  Even some of my favorite acts, people like Will Oldham and Fleet Foxes, or the New Pornographers.  They have a  certain quality that could never be confused with the mind-blowing balls-to-the-wall sounds of the punk of the 70s.  For lack of a better word, they are folky.

Not so with the Screaming Females.  The Screaming Females are the kind of sexy, gritty, annoying punk rock guitar band that was prevalent in the late 70s and early 80s.  They are noisy, in-your-face, warbling, annoying, and just out-and-out rock and roll.

This is in no small part to the guitar work and vocals of Marissa Paternoster.  Paternoster has an incredibly diverse guitar style.  I listen to her dirty, crunchy, gritty style, and players like Neil Hagerty, Judah Bauer, Greg Ginn, Carrie Brownstein, and Tom Verlaine all come to mind within the course of an album.  But this isn’t to say she’s a flake or a copy-cat.  She has her own style, and it is incredible.

Paternoster performs as guitarist and lead vocalist of Screaming Females, along with drummer Jarrett Doughtery and bass-player King Mike.  She has an equally interesting side project named Noun.  Screaming Females have four studio albums, with another on it’s way.  And Paternoster has released two solo albums as Noun.   These call all be found on Don Giovanni Records.  She’s also an impressive visual artist, and has created album covers and t-shirts for Screaming Females.

Here’s what she had to say for Guitareste.

When did you begin playing and why?

I began playing guitar when I was 14.  My Dad played guitar a bit, so we had one lying around the house.  I was sitting in my bedroom drawing and listening to Nirvana (typical!), and my Dad walked in and said, “This song is really easy, do you want to learn how to play it on guitar?” I said sure, and consequently became addicted to learning how to play songs that I liked.  That’s how I learned how to play.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it?

My first guitar was a Fender Musicmaster.  It’s my Father’s guitar.

What equipment do you prefer now?  Which guitar?  What amps or pedals?  Anything unique about strings or cables?  Why?

I play a G&L strat.  I’m not much a gear head, but I do like to  use my equipment in particular.  I just bought a 410 Kustom Hustler, but for most of my time in Screaming Females I played out of a dinky solid-state Hughes & Kettner Attax 40.  I still swear by it, it’s loud, it’s light, and I think it sounds good enough for a live show.  My main overdrive is by an NJ-based company called Earthbound Audio.  The pedals are made by a terrific fellow named Mark.  I use two of his pedals, one is called the Supercollider and the other is a fuzz called the Centurion.  They are fantastic pedals, they sound amazing and I have yet to have either of them crap out on me during a performance.  My cables are made by a lovely young man named Andrew in Philadelphia.  His company is called Cameltone Cables, perhaps an unfortunate name but the cables are terrific, I’ve had them for nearly two years and haven’t had a single problem.

 Has this changed over time?

For sure…until I discovered Mark and Earthbound Audio I went through a lot of different distortions.  I tried the built in overdrive on my Hughes & Kettner, plenty of Big Muffs, and I even used a Rat pedal for a long time…but the Earthbound pedals give me exactly the sort of sound I’d like to hear.

What is your songwriting process like?

Well…when Screaming Females writes songs, we get together in a basement and riff around a bit until something sounds right.  It sounds silly, I suppose, but a lot of the songs seem to come together organically.  Once we have some basic parts we’ll start discussing details, structure, yadda yadda.  We’re pretty flexible…if someone has an idea they’ve been knocking around for a while, sometimes they’ll bring it to practice to we can all weigh in on it.

What are you working on right now?

Screaming Females just finished our 5th album.  It has 14 songs on it, and I think it’s safe to say that we broke our backs working on the songs for well over a year.  I haven’t touched the guitar too much since then.  It’s good to take breaks from playing so I don’t obsess.  It also helps me dissolve bad playing habits.

Which artist or artists do you find inspiring?  (It doesn’t have to be a musician.)  Why? 

Gosh, I don’t know, there are just so many.  I was just about to go out to purchase a new biography on the great lady painter Alice Neel…so I guess I’ll name drop her!  I could go on and on, I’m a real sucker for hero worship.  Edith Piaf, Patti Smith, Exene Cervenka & John Doe, Frida Kahlo, Phillip Guston, Darby Crash, Courtney Love, Robert Crumb, Joan Crawford, Dusty Springfield, John Fahey…just to name a few.  Not to mention that so many of my contemporaries & friends are also artists that I would not hesitate to consider heroes, like the bands Shellshag, Hunchback, Double Dagger, Punch, Magrudergrind, P.S. Eliot, and Tenement…just to name a few of those too…

November 25, 2011

Interview: Jen Trani

photo courtesy of the artist

I first discovered Jen Trani while looking for videos about soloing and lead guitar on Youtube.  I was pleasantly surprised to find she had an entire series on soloing.  I also found a wonderful tutorial of hers for beginners on how to play Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car.  Jen has some of the best online tutorials I’ve seen online.  They’re concise, easy to follow, and fun to watch.  Enamored of the videos, I had to learn more about Jen.  I found her website, got to listen to some of her music, and instantly became a fan.  The stories and advice I gleaned from our interview are inspiring.  Check out what Jen had to say below.  And then you can hear some of Jen’s music here.

Your bio says you started playing guitar on your mom’s old acoustic.  Can you talk a little about that, and about why you decided to start playing?

I always had a love of music from the time my grandmother bought me my first record player…that’s right..i said record player.  man, i must have been 5 years old… i would listen to cyndi lauper ‘she’s so unusual’ for hours and just dance and sing.  melodies would go through my head non stop during the day but i had no way to express myself musically.  i tried a couple different instruments before the guitar found me.  i tried taking lessons with those first instruments but i couldn’t stay motivated.  i always knew my mom had her old college guitar but it did really interest me until i was 12 and me and my mom were watching a movie.  there was a quick scene of a guy sitting on the edge of the bed playing guitar.  the scene was small and pointless but something clicked in my head the and i though ‘i could do that’.  i asked my mom if she still had her guitar and if i could have it.  she said she did but it needed a bunch of work done to it…(it only need new strings but we didn’t know anything about the instrument at the time).  i insisted that she get it down from the attic but she said no.  then, to my surprise, for my 13th birthday she hid it under my bed with new strings and a newly decorated case (my initials in musical note stickers) and a video…that’s right VHS tape of how to play guitar.  she told me that since she really didn’t have to spend any money on it that it was up to me how much i wanted to practice.  she wasn’t going to force me to take lessons…i could do my own thing.  i watched the video and learned a little but it was C and G and D7….it was all too happy sounding to me so i stopped.  i couple months later i was bored, as teenagers are a lot and thought i would give it another shot.  i fast forwarded past the all the major chords and got to a new song called “scarborough fair”.  that was how i learned about dark, depressing minor chords and i have been hooked ever since. : )  just had my 17 year anniversary of playing.

What equipment do you prefer now?  Which guitar?  What amps, cables, pedals?  Why?  Has this changed over time?

Jimmy Vaughn Signature Strat

ESP ltd delux

Martin dc16-gte

ovation set up in nashville tuning

fender hot rod deluxe amp

Lots of pedals, boss trem, tuner, line 6 echo park, tube screamer, big muff, ernie ball volume, wah, micro amp, xotic ac plus, pedal power, akia head rush, line 6 m13

cables i have mainly monsters and george L’s

my taste in gear has changed a little but not much.  that set up will get me through any gig/studio session that i’m called for.  so while it’s not the most interesting to read about (since it’s all standard equipment) it has definitely paid for itself several times over.  i got lucky when i first started buying gear that i got some great advice from people that i really trusted.  i have only sold one guitar and maybe 3 pedals.  the stuff that i have now will stay with me.  but you know i’m always looking to add to it.  i’ll probably get a blues jr to take to smaller venues and i’ve been eyeing a fender jaguar for about  a year now.

Do you have any go-to techniques?

Honestly, this may sound totally cheesy, but my go-to technique is to play with confidence (or at least fake like i’m playing with confidence) hahahaha  when i second guess what i’m about to do it always comes across like i’m scared…because if i’m questioning myself that means i am.  i have to get myself into the mentality that every note is right and i can make anything work on the fly.  it doesn’t always sound as ‘pretty’ or ‘clean’ as i would like but i comes off a lot better then ‘pretty’ ‘clean’ notes with hesitation or no feeling.

What is your songwriting process like?

it’s a totally different experience each time.  sometimes a melody or riff comes to me (usually while i’m driving or in the shower….are i guess anywhere where i can’t get to my guitar or a recording device hahahaha)  i play off a lot of the other musicians/songwriters that i work with.  i mold myself to their writing style to try and make it as easy for them to get what they want out of me.

How and when did you decide to start teaching online?

about a year and a half ago a friend of mine saw an ad on craigslist for a female guitar instructor to do 10 videos.  i wanted to eat that month so i decided to take the gig…which is usually how i pick all my gigs hahahaha.  i went in did the 10 vids, the company ( liked what i did and a couple months after they were uploaded i got great numbers on youtube soooooo i just kept making more and more and more.

What projects do you currently have in the works?

right now i’m writing with several people.  eps for a couple new artists, a possible showcase at the sundance film festival…oh and abby ( and i have started on a concept album which we are hoping to debut as a theater show sometime in the middle of next year.  we are super excited about what we are creating.  it’s going to be very very different from what we have done in the past.  it’s too soon to say what direction it’s going to fully take but we have committed to getting it done.

Name one or two (or more!) artists (musicians, writers, visual artists) you find inspiring.  Why?

well my brightest diamond is one of my all time favorites.  what i like about her is that even if i don’t particularly care for something that she is doing, she always challenges me to think outside of the box harmonically and with her choice of instruments/arrangements.  right now i am crazy, crazy, crazy about the new florence and the machine album ‘ceremonials’.  that album has hit me in the right place at the right time.  it’s dark and uplifting, strong and vulnerable, driving and delicate.  and if i ever need to remember my roots as a songwriter and have a good cry i just keep it simple with a little patty griffin.  there is so much more but we haven’t got all day have we ; )

November 25, 2011

Jen & Abby Video!

September 3, 2011

Interview: Gina Gleason of Misstallica

Gina Gleason

Misstallica is an all-woman Metallica cover band.  They formed in 2008, and their focus is on Metallica’s first four albums, Kill ‘Em All, Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets & And Justice For All.  They were featured in July in the New York Times, along with two other lady-run metal cover bands.  And more recently, they were given a mention on Gibson’s website as part of a page on 5 All-Girl Tribute Bands You Can’t Miss.  (You can’t MISS, get it.)  One of the things that is particularly interesting to me when talking to someone who is in a successful cover band, is that they have had to figure out how to replicate not only the sound of songs that have been made popular by another band, but they also need to figure out how to create their own crowd-drawing persona.  In many ways, it’s a different animal than writing and performing your own songs — if you are performing original material, you can (more or less) be yourself on stage.  If you’re performing someone else’s songs, you have to create something that at least somewhat mirrors that particular band. That dynamic is even more complex when you are women who are performing songs written by men.  How do you create a successful dynamic?  I was lucky enough to snag an interview with Misstallica’s fearless leader, Gina Gleason, and here are her insights.

When did you begin playing and why?

I began playing about 5 years ago. I was really into rock music and I thought playing guitar would be awesome!

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it?

My first real guitar was an epiphone les paul, I got it as a gift and it was sadly stolen a few months later. I then saved up for a mexican Fender strat and moved to a Jackson dk2m (which is what I use now) as I got more interested in metal.

How did Misstallica get started, and why do you think you chose to cover Metallica?

Misstallica started as Queen Diamond (all female tribute to king diamond). We had some shows booked that queen diamond couldnt play so the guy who booked the show suggested we play some Metallica instead. We all loved Metallica and grew up listening to and learning the songs so we thought it would be great! it all just snowballed from there into what we do now.

Describe a typical crowd at one of your shows.

Enthusiastic to hear the Metallica classics they know and love. What I love an appreciate most about the people who come to see us is there genuine excitement and love for metal. My goal at our shows is to deliver the raw energy of James Hetfield, transporting our fans back to a time when thrash metal was fresh and thriving

Musically, what goes into covering Metallica?  Because you have a female vocalist, do you often have to change the key of the song?

No, weve never changed the key of any songs. most of my time when practicing goes into mastering the dual role of playing lead guitar and singing. I play a lot of the solos so I have to practice flipping between the lead parts and getting right back into the singing

When you’re working with Misstallica what equipment do you use, and why?  Does that change when you’re working on other projects?

I used a Marshall JVM 410 Head and a Marshall 4×12 cab. Its a really versatile amp so I am able to use it with all genres and playing styles. I use my Jackson dk2m for just about everything I do. I love playing it and I can get really rockin’ tones from it. I also use a seymour duncan pickup booster pedal for solos

What is the band working on right now?  Are you working on any other non-Misstallica projects?

Yes! While we all love playing Metallica we are still artists and are constantly writing and working on other projects. Currently I write and play with Teddi Tarnoff the music is blues and folk inspired which leaves a lot of space for interesting guitar parts and melody’s. I am also writing an original metal album, my goal is to have something released next year.

Which artists do you find inspiring?  Why?

I am always inspired by the energy and heaviness of bands like Metallica, Slayer, Death, and King Diamond but I also love stuff like Bowie (mick ronson is one of my favorite guitarists, his tones are legendary). I also love country music and guys like les paul, django reinhardt, and jimmy bryant.

August 22, 2011

Interview: Lisa Walker of Wussy!

Lisa Walker of Wussy

photo via flickr by Jason Baldwin

Cinncinati-based Wussy is one of my favorite bands, so Lisa Walker is one of the first people I thought of when I started this blog.  You may have not heard of Wussy yet.  Despite being around for awhile, and being one hell of a band, reviews of their music are strangely absent from one particular tastemaker, a certain mega-Indie music blog that will remain nameless.  If you do not yet know the band Wussy, I suggest you go buy all of their studio albums immediately.  They are a drone-pop four piece consisting of Lisa Walker on vocals and guitar, Chuck Cleaver (formerly of the Ass-Ponys) also on vocals and guitar, Mark Messerly on bass and keys, and Joe Klug on drums.  They’ve been a band since 2001, and have released three studio albums (a fourth is on it’s way) on indie label Shake It Records.   They have, however, gotten critical acclaim from Spin, Rolling Stone, and the Village Voice. Their songs are catchy and tuneful, and in my opinion, they write some of the best lyrics out there right now.  All that said, I was very excited when Lisa agreed to be on my blog.

When did you begin playing and why?

My family had me singing in church by the time I was five. But as for playing, that didn’t start until I was 15 or 16. I would play Pink Floyd songs on my dad’s classical guitar to offset the typical midwestern teenage angst. I also played his mountain dulcimer quite a bit, which first got me into alternate drone tunings. I was terrible at both of these, by the way.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it?

My first guitar of my own was a $25 beat up acoustic that my dad bought for me from a work colleague at the hospital. He said it was “a Willie Nelson guitar” – which just meant it looked like it had been run over by a John Deere mower.

What is your songwriting process like?

Usually it starts with aimless guitar playing around the house or at band practice. I make up nonsense words to fill in the syllabic structure and then go back and fine tune until there are words in place that I actually like. Sometimes this last step doesn’t happen until a moment or two before I lay down the vocal track. (I need deadlines.)

In the meantime, I’m usually writing down little obsessive notes with lyric fragments or ideas that I intend to use later. Ideally these two processes mesh quite nicely. As long as I can actually FIND all the post-its and notebooks with said lyrical fragments.

What are you working on right now?

Wussy is finishing our fourth full-length album – which will be out in the fall. I’m doing a few solo shows here and there, and then the band plans to hit the road towards the end of this year. I’m also working on some new material and toying with releasing a solo record.

Which artist or artists do you find inspiring?  (It doesn’t have to be a musician.)  Why?

So so many. First of all, I am a devoted fangirl of rock, garage and soul music from the 60’s and 70’s. But right now here are some of the things that have been inspiring me lately.

The National – amazing arrangers, amazing musicians

Al Green – has more soul in his little finger than any of us will accumulate in a lifetime

Black Sabbath and a ton of bands that sound just like ’em. – just because

George Harrison – the best, the brightest, the sweetest of all the Beatles

Roky Erickson – because i aspire to his mad genius

The Weakerthans – some of the best lyrics in recent memory

Sonic Youth – for their infectious orchestral drone

Joe Tex – because of the way he yells “TRAMP!”

Harry Nilsson – songwriter par excellance

Brian Eno (ca. 1974) – because he makes records sound so futuristicand weird – yet purely pop

July 5, 2011

Jana Hunter Interview

photo via flickr by Derek Webber

My go-to guitar song right now is “A Dog’s Dick” by Lower Dens.  The dueling guitar runs make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck every single time I listen to that lovely tune with the funny name.  Jana Hunter plays one of those lovely guitars.  She also provides the sultry voice with the slightly dead-pan delivery that makes Lower Dens album Twin-Hand Movement so incredibly appealing.  Before her work with Lower Dens, Hunter produced two full-length solo albums, two EPs, and a split album with Devendra Banhart.  She strikes me as a wonderfully brilliant weirdo.  (I mean that in a good way.)  And I was pleased to snag her for an email interview.

When did you begin playing and why?

I learned violin first and then guitar. I learned how to play and I sang at night on my bike, 13 or 14. I learned so I could do what I am doing right now, write music and not have a day job. So I could master pop music and attempt to explore my true ear and self, stay true to my ideals and gut. to relate feeling in a means other than talking or affecting. So I could have the best band in the world.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it?

Acoustic, made of wood and metal. I bought it with my own money.

What equipment do you prefer now?  Which guitar?  (I’ve seen video of you playing a Mustang…) What amps or pedals?  Why?  Has this changed over time?

I like stuff that has a lot of sand in it and color. I have a Music Master (the Mustang), blue. Die kleinen blauen. Holiest Grail, Frequency Analyzer, Ibanez Super Tank Chorus, Line 6 DL$, Boss RC-20 , Polish Warbler, Gibson Firestarter, Singer, Peavey Bandit.

What is your songwriting process like?

My writing process is dark and sweaty. All night droning into a cut up plastic soda bottle tied to a mic in the smallest room of the house without air-conditioning. There are drugs, there are cigarettes and there are pedals. The cats sleep. There is a trip to the 7-11. Or in the attic with bald overhead lighting and unmoved-in look hunched over it all. Yellow note pad, orange crackers, orange soda (the band sounds like michael jackson Thriller right now.) blue tobacco pouch.

What are you working on right now?

I am writing music with the band for a new Lower Dens record. We added people and instruments to the line up. I am working on a thematic arch. The trajectory of Lower Dens records will express this theme in one way or another.

Which artist or artists do you find inspiring?  (It doesn’t have to be a musician.)  Why? 

Ray Johnson, Arthur Bates, Tim and Eric, Cass McCombs, Spencer Kingman, Matteah Baim, Mordack, Indian Jewelry, Penderecki, Mishima, Kurzweil. They do what they want.

May 24, 2011

Interview With Kristin Hersh


photo via flickr by nicihares

With her unique voice, her wonderful guitar playing, and her special ear for poetry, Kristin Hersh has been one of my favorite artists for some time now.  She’s a performer and a writer, a mom and a philosopher.  She’s a co-founder of, a website that allows fans to help artists fund and distribute their music. With everything on Kristin’s plate, I thought it was a long shot that she would be able to answer my questions, but it turns out she’s a hell of an interviewee too. I hope you enjoy reading Kristin’s answers as much as I did.

When did you begin playing and why?

My father taught me a few chords when I was six years old and I started taking lessons a few years later. I was absolutely driven to handle that guitar, wanted desperately to tame it and make wonderful noise, but I was frustrated to learn that there were rules associated with the instrument (and music in general!). In the interim between learning the chords with which my father was familiar and taking classical guitar lessons, I invented chords, shifted from time signature to time signature, and just generally broke rules. Taking lessons separated me from this musical vocabulary that had moved me so when I was younger and it took years to get it back. I had to “forget” the rules in order to speak my own language again.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it?

My father gave me his nylon-strung Yamaha when there was nothing more he could teach me. I was still frustrated, trying to make the guitar sound the way I wanted it to, and he knew I’d be restless unless I was allowed to explore the instrument until I found the sound I was looking for, so he just handed it to me one day, told me to “play colors.” My first electric guitar was a Strat knock-off, “Lake Placid Blue,” as I recall. It served me well until I could afford a real Strat and then a really lovely Les Paul I bought at my favorite guitar shop. Aerosmith was supposed to buy it, but they hadn’t picked it up yet, so the guy sold it to me.

What equipment do you prefer now? Which guitar? What amps, cables, pedals? Why? Has this changed over time?

I play a Strat and a Telecaster with Throwing Muses; SG’s and a Les Paul with 50FootWave; and Collings C-10’s solo.

In the studio, I use whatever vintage amp is sounding wonderful that day, but on tour, I bring more reliable, standard-issue amplifiers, the make depending on the sound I need for the record I’m touring. Because I’m the only guitar player in my bands, I need versatile amps that will allow me to play both rhythm and lead. I’ve been through hundreds of amps, but never stayed in love. I’m still searching for that perfect combination of character and reliability.

My pedals are all over the map. My favorite is an ancient Electro-Harmonix fuzz-wah that I used for Throwing Muses and now have moved over to 50FootWave. It sounds so wrong–crushing compression and wooly lows. I used the one at Kingsway, a studio in the French Quarter of New Orleans, years ago and loved it, but couldn’t manage to find one as fucked up as that one for myself.

Last summer, a friend who’d toured Europe with us and heard me lamenting this fact, found me an ancient, fucked up, Electro-Harmonix fuzz-wah and sent it to me for my birthday, which is how I can use it for 50FootWave. I am now complete!

Mudrock, 50FootWave’s producer, has a collection of Japanese effects pedals, but he doesn’t play guitar and doesn’t read Japanese, so he doesn’t actually know what they do. When I play a 50Foot lead, I plug a mound of them in and Mud crawls around on the floor, pushing pedals down with his palms. It’s hilarious and almost always sounds wonderful.

Can you tell me a little about your songwriting process?

I seem to turn ambient noise into songs. Sounds are replaced by instruments and voices. I hear all this and copy it down, usually at 4 a.m.

I don’t have much to do with my songs. My job is to listen, really. And that’s good, because it keeps evils like cleverness and ideas out of the process. My songs can be pure because I have so little to do with them.

Initially, this made me sound crazy. When I was younger, people really seemed to think that my songs were psychotic, and they may have been. Now that I’m older, I don’t believe we’re here to puke art fits at each other–you aren’t supposed to say EVERYTHING, you know? The only things I didn’t say were lines that’d freak me out too bad to include. So now I edit a little more. But I censor less, if that makes any sense. If the song wants to say something, I no longer freak out and suppress it. I figure the song knows best, whether or not it embarrasses me.

On Cats and Mice, you have this amazing version of The Banks of The Ohio. Before I heard yours, I had never heard a version from the perspective of the woman. Can you tell me a little about how you came across that version, I think it was your grandmother’s?

My family is from Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and that’s where I learned all the Appalachian folk songs I know. My father taught me most of them; I guess he learned them from his parents. My grandmother was a freaky Jesus lady, but a great example of what the American south can turn you into. She was nuts and gentle and democratic and oddly violent, like the songs she sang.

What are you working on right now?

I’m mixing a new Throwing Muses record with 38 songs on it (nobody can tell us what to do anymore! or, more importantly, what NOT to do!), and helping sequence a Throwing Muses anthology. 50FootWave is about to begin its second session for “With Love From the Men’s Room,” a record that will be released as a film, and this summer, I’ll begin recording another solo album that looks like it’ll just be guitar and cello.

I’ve spent most of this year doing promo for my book (“Rat Girl” in the U.S., “Paradoxical Undressing” in the UK and its territories), plus live readings in a multi-media show from the same book. WAY outside of my comfort zone. So I’m writing another book–two books, actually, can’t decide between the two–but I’m so enjoying being in the studio again. It’s like a warm bath after all the grown-up literary events I’ve done this year.

Name one or two (or more!) artists (musicians, writers, visual artists) you find inspiring. Why?

I love Natalie Angier, the science writer, because her poetic nature so compliments her concrete subject matter. I feel more like a scientist than an artist; measuring and serving the messy music beast in my laboratory/studio. Natalie Angier’s books and articles remind me that that is a fiery role to play. You never wanna get cold when doing what you love.

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