Pretty early on in a project, I’ll build a menu of sounds from
the work at hand—things that help us find a personality for
that record . . . I’ll often try to steer the guitar player to those
sounds and try to harness them over the course of the project.
The idea is to remind them of their most unique expressions.
chapter and removing the dead wood. But
“Sirens” is all one take—no overdubs except
the Boomerang processing—plus an edit to
trim the fat. I got what I got. I’m not sure I
could ever do it quite that way again, which
is some of the beauty in it.
You seem to interact with the guitar quite
physically. Seeing you play live, it’s sometimes difficult to see how you achieve some
of your modulation effects. Do you get
most of it from leaning a bit on the guitar
neck or do you use a processor?
It’s mostly the fingerpicking angle and
bending the neck. But I always try to har-
monize with the singing too—which usually
involves a lot less strumming—and that kind
of playing invites that bending approach.
The bending of the neck lends that tiny bit
of vibrato that probably sounds a bit dif-
ferent than a whammy bar. It’s a lesson I
learned from Jimi Hendrix, because he was
always leaning on something and fooling
with pitch, whether it was the whammy bar
or the neck.
”Slow Baby” is a great showcase for that.
I actually did that with my goldtop Les Paul
and a Vox AC30—no effects, just neck wobble and a lot of volume.
Is “Sirens” all looping?
That’s a Boomerang pedal. I’ll work with
loopers by putting something in—maybe a
minute-long section—and just stack things
up. That usually makes for a very long piece,
then I go back and shorten the whole thing
to three minutes paying attention to every
How does playing with a vocalist affect
your guitar approach?
I stay out of the way! [Laughs.] I use the old
Frank Sinatra big-band technique: When
Frank sings, no horns. When Frank stops, baa
boo dop, boo dop!
Working as a producer must instill a sense
of economy as a player.
Well, I’ve learned it’s nice to not have a muddle come mixing time. It’s best to be lean and
somewhat specific about your playing so you
don’t have a bird’s nest at the end. It’s what I
love about more riff-based music, funk music.
Still the best...
the best players
will settle for