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QRD #41 - Guitarist Interview Series Part I - June 2010
about this issue
Guitarist Interviews with:
Jason LaFarge
Aidan Baker
Jamie Stewart
Brian John Mitchell
Martin Newman
Mat Sweet
Robin Crutchfield
Darren Hayman
Anna-Lynne Williams
Larry Marotta
Andrew Weathers
Mike Cosper
Sibyll Kalff
Tam
Jamie Barnes
Nathan Amundson
Jenks Miller
Chris Olley
Don Campau
Colin Newman
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Guitarist Interview with Chris Olley of Six by Seven
June 2010

Name: Chris Olley
Bands: solo, six.byseven, Julian Cope
Websites: www.chrisolley.co.uk

QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?

Chris – It was so cheap it never had a name. I swapped it with my mate for something else.

QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?

Chris – Not much, a tuner, overdrive, & sometimes echo delay pedal.

QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?

Chris – A good lead & my tuner.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Chris – Vox AC30 1965, it sounds, er, amazing!

QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?

Chris – Rickenbacker 330. I won’t play anything else. I have played this guitar since I bought it in 1997.

QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?

Chris – The one I have.

QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?

Chris – Coloursound Overdrive.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Chris – Rickenbacker 330 electric & Martin 00015S acoustic, Fender jazz bass. I sold everything else.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Chris – Hanging up in the hallway upstairs, on stands, lying around in the living room. They are in constant use.

QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?

Chris – I don’t buy guitars, I found what I was looking for.

QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?

Chris – £1000 upwards to be a proper instrument.

QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?

Chris – I stick with what I got.

QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?

Chris – Not too much, check it out on YouTube.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Chris – No.

QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?

Chris – I have one sound. When you put a Rickenbacker into a 1965 Vox AC30, well, it doesn’t really get much better than that.

QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?

Chris – Nothing, I’ve reached Nirvana

QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?

Chris – It should be shit.

QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?

Chris – I bought a Gretsch Electromatic. Nice looking, but sounded terrible.  Cheap Fender Telecasters... rubbish.

QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?

Chris – New Marshalls are shit. I like Sans Amp pedals for demo recording. I hate Line 6 stuff & anything that pretends to be the real thing in a digital simulation kind of way.

QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?

Chris – A chord.

QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?

Chris – 15.

QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?

Chris – 35.

QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?

Chris – It’s the coolest thing… electric guitars are the sexiest instruments in the world.

QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?

Chris – For me, yes.

QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?

Chris – My brother, my lover, my best friend, never leaves my side

QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?

Chris – Neil Young, John Martyn, Peter Buck.

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly?

Chris – Eh?

QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?

Chris – I’ve smashed quite a few to pieces, including a 12 string acoustic & a 1963 Burns guitar. My Rickenbacker has been rebuilt 4 times & has had 3 scratchplates. I once threw it across the stage at the Electric Ballroom in London & I nearly cried in the dressing room, but it managed to survive. I’ve just had it refurbished & I will never throw it again.

QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?

Chris – Nothing, I always play songs.

QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?

Chris – I play about 4 hours a day. I would like to play 10, like I used to.

QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?

Chris – I use 88mm green ones because they work best for me & I’m always picking them up out of the washing machine

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Chris – 10-46... that gauge works for me, light.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Chris – Every gig after sound check.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Chris – Never.

QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?

Chris – Strumming hand, that is the most important, the other one pushes buttons but the strumming hand is the language.

QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?

Chris – I get someone who knows what they are doing to do it.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Chris – On electric, always standard, on acoustic drop D sometimes.

QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?

Chris – Neither, I look on YouTube or ask a friend to show me how to play something.

QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?

Chris – As low as possible so I can still play.

QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?

Chris – Don’t have one.

QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?

Chris – Don’t know.

QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?

Chris – Really good ragtime picking or Eddie Van Halen/Gary Moore fast playing.

QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?

Chris – There are many, see last question

QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?

Chris – I can’t do any tricks!

QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?

Chris – Just to be able to play really fast like Steve Vai!!

QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?

Chris – No, never.

QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?

Chris – The importance of the strumming hand & simplicity & attacking the strings hard.

QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?

Chris – Play really hard & strum really fast.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Chris – Love them! Been toying with the idea of putting a Bigsby on my Rickenbacker, but been told it will change the sound.

QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?

Chris – One is a twat the other is the salt of the earth.

QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?

Chris – No, the drummer is the backbone of any band. If the drummer does his/her job right you will be listening to the guitarist.

QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?

Chris – Neil Young’s black Les Paul or Steve Jones’s white Les Paul.

QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?

Chris – Neil is God & always will be.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Chris – On my new solo album.

QRD – Anything else?

Chris – Find your place & be yourself.

Other QRD interviews with Chris Olley:
Father's Day Interview with Chris Olley of Six by Seven, Twelve, & Fuck Me USA (May 2007)
Six by Seven interview (june 2000)
Six by Seven interview (september 2002)
Chris Olley (Twelve/Six by Seven) interview (May 2006)