Posts tagged ‘female guitarists’

June 8, 2012

Interview With Laura Kidd, aka She Makes War!

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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.

June 8, 2012

Slow Puncture – She Makes War

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 (www.saralandeau.blogspot.com) 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 29, 2012

This Week In Guitareste

This week has been crazy busy for me.  And full of guitar goodness.  Last Friday I watched Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.

This movie was a revelation to me, boys and girls.  It stars Diane Lane, and is about a young woman who has lost both of her parents.  She goes on the road with her sister and a good friend, forming a band, and calling themselves The Fabulous Stains.  They start with one (really bad) song, and gain celebrity, infamy, and heartbreak along the way.  It’s a comedy, poking fun at the music industry.  I loved it.

Last night, I attended the Forever 27 concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music.  For those of you who don’t know, the 27 club is all of those talented musicians who died at 27.  The list includes Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Robert Johnson, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, D. Boon of The Minutemen, Pete Ham of Bad Finger, Mia Zapata of The Gits, Jim Morrison, and the school snuck Nick Drake in there for good measure (he was 26).  There were many great performances last night, including those by talented women guitarists such as Lisa Derosia, Shelley Miller (last night playing banjo), and Cheryl Lawson.

And finally, all week I’ve been playing with a new little toy of mine.  It’s the Vox AC30 AmPlug.  It’s this tiny little amp you plug directly into your guitar so you can play into headphones.

This thing rocks!  Like the name suggests, the one I bought is designed to sound like a Vox AC30 amp, but they have a bunch of varieties including “Lead,” “Metal,” and “Twin.”

My S.O. was also performing in the concert last night, so he had to practice a lot this week.  He does much better practicing along with recordings — he’s all ear — while I like to switch back and forth between practicing single riffs and practicing with the recording.  So this week we kept finding ourselves in situations where we both needed to practice at the same time, but we were practicing different things.  With this little amp, I can just sit my butt down in the bedroom, close the door, and jam away.  I don’t have to drag my amp and cables in there to set up.  I just need the guitar, the tiny AmPlug, and my earbuds.  It is great.  Plus, I can practice “at full volume” any time I want without disturbing the neighbors.  It’s far preferable to practicing unplugged.

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…

January 12, 2012

Marissa Paternoster Videos – Screaming Females and Noun

January 6, 2012

Wild Flag On Jimmy Fallon Tonight

Wild Flag are on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon tonight.  Very cool.

January 4, 2012

Please Consider Nominating Me For A Bloggie

It’s 2012, and that means it’s Bloggie nomination time. Please consider nominating Guitareste for an award. I think the one that probably makes the most sense is “Best New Blog.” The Bloggies are a great opportunity for recognition and new readers, so a nomination or two would be a great way to start off the second year of Guitareste.

As for other suggestions, I’m going to be nominating Feminist Music Geek for Music, New Dress A Day for the fashion category, and Hyperbole and a Half for Comedy.  If you haven’t seen those, check them out too.

Thank you!

December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe it’ll be 2012 here in Chicago in a little more than twelve hours.  2011 was a big year for this little blog.  I started it last January on a bit of a whim.  I was upset that there weren’t more places to learn about and read interviews with women who wield guitars, so I decided to get all DIY about it and make my own place.  I ended up learning a lot myself, and getting interviews with many amazing women.  (If you missed any interviews, you can always see them by going to the “interviews” category in the sidebar.)  Readership has grown steadily over the months.  I’m hoping to grow even more in 2012 — more posts, more interviews, more reviews.  More, more, more!

This year was personally a good year for me.  I got a dog.  I learned to play much better.  Carrie Brownstein split my lip.  It was a weird year too.  The political climate was weird, frightening at times.  The economy sucked.  I got sick a lot.  I worked too much.  But overall, it was a great year, and I’m glad I could share it with you.

Thanks for a wonderful 2011, everyone.

December 30, 2011

Rocksmith For 360 – Initial Impressions

We got Rocksmith for ourselves for Christmas.  If you don’t know what Rocksmith is, it’s basically guitar hero.  But instead of playing a plastic toy with square buttons, you plug in an actual electric guitar.  The experience ends up being something in between playing the guitar and playing a video game.

Interesting to note — they’ve got a woman in one of their new commercials.  (Not unlike the World of Warcraft video featuring Aubrey Plaza.)  It seems that video game designers are really trying to get more women to play video games.

Here’s the commercial I’m talking about.

I wish I had access to all the guitars she’s using!

We’ve only had the game for a few days.  I’ve played three of the songs, and done two of the technique challenges.  Here’s my initial impression — it will sort of teach you how to play guitar.  The technique challenges are pretty good.  Right away, they teach you the difference between sustaining a note and stopping it.  You learn hammer-ons, shifting position, string bending.  So you will definitely learn techniques right away.  And… you will learn how to play a version of the songs that are on the game.

That said, it’s not going to teach you how to read music at all.  Not chords, not tab, and not standard notation.  At least it’s not going to teach you that as quickly as you could teach yourself.  It doesn’t teach you the name of the strings, using a color-coding system instead.  (Instead of E, A, D, G, B, and E, you learn red, yellow, blue, etc.)

So basically if you are really good at playing guitar, it will probably feel much more like playing a video game than playing guitar.  If you’re intermediate, it will feel sort of like playing guitar, and will help you with some of your techniques.  If you’re a beginner, it might be a helpful teaching aid, but you are probably better off going to a class, or private lessons, or getting a decent book.  Or watching lessons on Youtube.

I will write more when we’ve had it a bit longer and have a better idea of what the more complex lessons entail.

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