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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
Mike Cosper
Sibyll Kalff
Jamie Barnes
Nathan Amundson
Jenks Miller
Chris Olley
Don Campau
Colin Newman
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Guitarist Interview with Colin Newman of Wire
June 2010

Name: Colin Newman
Bands: Githead // Wire // Immersion - others TBA
Websites: www.pinkflag.com // www.githead.com // www.colinewman.com // www.swimhq.com

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

Colin – Suzuki acoustic. I still have it. I’ve written tons of stuff on it & still do if I’m choosing that method of composition.

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

Colin – Let’s get this straight from the top, I have zero gear fetishism. I choose guitars for their colour & shape; my favourite amp is one that doesn’t feedback when I don’t want it to. I record guitars as clean DI & use every guitar fx plug in I can get my hands on. I used to use shit loads of pedals but can’t be arsed, I can get weird shit in my computer! Orange just brought out a combo with a computer build in; it’s got 6 usb ports & wifi. I want one!

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

Colin – Person playing it… duh!

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Colin – See above.

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

Colin – I’ve got an Eastwood Airline it’s a fetching shade of seafoam green.

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

Colin – I pretty much prefer pastel shades. I like ones that come in weird shapes also, but sexy weird shapes – not retard ones!

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

Colin – Obviously the “make everything sound better” one (in a nice pastel shade of course) that does all your amp sim too plus emulates all them groovy MXR boxes. Also it should be light, so bored with lugging round equipment!

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Colin – Too many.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Colin – In the studio, under the bed, in our storage….

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

Colin – My favourite feature is whether the manufacturer will give it to me for free or not. :)

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

Colin – No idea.

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

Colin – Hell no!

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

Colin – Computers, tech gear, sure. Instruments, nope.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Colin – I don’t have a rig. Jut stuff I use on gigs. It’s hired.

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

Colin – I like guitar amps that have as few knobs as possible. Best amp for me is one with only volume. I create tones in my studio then save to my pedal. 

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

Colin – Just the new Orange combo :)

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

Colin – My first guitar is/was an acoustic. The sound is just engaging enough to fire me to do stuff on occasion. I used to mainly compose in the bathroom because it had the best acoustics! Someone getting a new guitar needs to do several things IMO. Firstly go to the store dressed like you would for the most important gig you can imagine. Make sure there is a full-length mirror. Model the guitars. Do you look cool /cute/whatever? A guitar is a fashion accessory; don’t let anyone tell you different.

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

Colin – Same guitar - Ovation Breadwinner (white) looks fantastic, sounds like a heap of shit!

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

Colin – Not really.

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

Colin – A chord of E.

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

Colin – 16.

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

Colin – 17.

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

Colin – I think it’s hard to look anything other than a prat with a set of pan pipes that’s for sure!

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

Colin – I have no opinion.

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

Colin – Hahahaha. Who knows? My main instrument is a Mac Pro.

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

Colin – I’m gonna sound dead arrogant, but I don’t think anyone anymore & not for a long time.

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?

Colin – I think it almost totally depends on the name. Girls having cute pet names for their guitars can be charming. Guys naming their guitars after viking marauders or similar are less so.

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

Colin – Broke a string???

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

Colin – Practice??? What’s that? I never play the guitar unless there’s a point to it. 

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

Colin – If I’m not using it in what I’m doing, then not at all. 

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

Colin – I’ve used Jim Dunlop .60 nylon picks since forever & ever, even though they didn’t even bother to answer my request for sponsorship e-mail.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Colin – I’ve also used Ernie Ball Regular slinky 10-46 forever, even though they didn’t even bother to answer my request for sponsorship e-mail.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Colin – When gigging, every other show.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Colin – I try not to! It’s the reason why I use that pick/string combination & change so often. Especially as I mainly use the airline live as it has that bigsby whangy bar that makes re-stringing 10 times harder!

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

Colin – Guitar playing is all about the right hand IMO (unless you are left handed of course!).

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

Colin – It probably needs doing…

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Colin – Regular. Less arsing around.

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

Colin – Pro-tools does it for me.

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

Colin – Medium, how it’s comfortable. Anything else looks stupid.

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

Colin – No idea. I have minimal technique, but no desire to acquire more… it all depends on context.

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

Colin – No idea.

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

Colin – None.

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

Colin – Juggling.

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

Colin – Plugging it in.

QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?

Colin – What’s a string cutter?

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

Colin – I leave that stuff to others.

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

Colin – Are you kidding??

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

Colin – Forget everything the teacher taught you.

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

Colin – I actually don’t think anyone can. They always play too many notes.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Colin – They are called whangy bars in Wire-speak & are generally considered to be on the same level as flutes (i.e. beneath contempt). I wish my guitar didn’t have one.

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

Colin – One is almost entirely pointless. :)

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

Colin – How could anyone think like that?

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

Colin – The most desirable & collectable one so I could sell it.

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

Colin – No idea. I don’t admire guitarists

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Colin – Get the records, come to the gigs.

QRD – Anything else?

Colin – For me a guitar has always been a means to an end as a tool & a fashion accessory in terms of the look of it. That’s kind of it really. The rest depends on what you need for what you might be doing with it.

Other QRD interviews with Colin Newman:
Father's Day Interview with Colin Newman of Wire (May 2007)
Colin Newman interview (october 2001)