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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 Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu
June 2010

Name: Jamie Stewart
Bands: Xiu Xiu
Websites: http://xiuxiu.org
Listen to "Gray Death"

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

Jamie – A Yamaha acoustic that belonged to my dad. It is at my brother’s house. He wants to learn to play so I gave it to him.

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

Jamie – Gibson SG, 50 watt single channel Ampeg Super Jet reissue & some combination of various Zvex, Electro Harmonix, & Ibanez pedals.

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

Jamie – Probably the amp

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Jamie – It is small enough that I don’t look like an asshole playing out of it, but loud enough that I can sound like one.

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

Jamie – A Gibson SG. The neck is good for me & the pick-ups are macho.

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

Jamie – It would look like a watermelon & the features would be that it would actually be a watermelon.

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

Jamie – It would be the cement enclosure that they used to wall of the Chernobyl reactor. The features would be that it would never disintegrate.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Jamie – 5.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Jamie – They are just on stands or against the wall in my little studio.

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

Jamie – That it is easy to play, has a history, does not look like a toy & sounds dark.

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

Jamie – I am not sure I would ever pay more that $1200 for one. But I like used guitars.

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

Jamie – I add graphite bridge saddles.

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

Jamie – Usually I can tell in a minute if something is right for me.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Jamie – I change pedal setups for every tour, but the guitar & amp have been the same for a while.

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

Jamie – I like pedals but my unprocessed tone I am feel set with.

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

Jamie – I would love the rectangular Bo Diddly Gretsch & there is a ring modulator by Fran Tone I want to get.

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

Jamie – Some first guitars are perfect.

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

Jamie – Best would be a 1953 Silvertone & worst would be selling a 1968 Gibson Les Paul bass to purchase car insurance so I could drive my mom’s car on an awful date.

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

Jamie – Zvex is great. Super crazy sounding & great customer service.

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

Jamie – Open E major chord

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

Jamie – 14.

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

Jamie – Probably now.

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

Jamie – It does not really, but I can’t play anything else & sing.

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

Jamie – Anything is fine as long as you play with your heart.

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

Jamie – Ally.

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

Jamie – Bernard Sumner, Steven Cropper, Toni Iommi, Rob Fisk, Daniel Ash, Nick Drake, PJ Harvey, Blixa Bargeld, Derek Bailey, Sarah Lipstate, Tom Petty.

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

Jamie – Kind of silly.

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

Jamie – Smashing it to pieces during a malfunction at a show by jumping up & down on it.

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

Jamie – Trying to learn to site read.

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

Jamie – Depends on recoding & touring schedule.

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

Jamie – Super thin pink Dunlop.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Jamie – 12s flat wounds. They sound dark & don’t break & last for months.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Jamie – When I break one.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Jamie – Every couple of weeks.

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

Jamie – Strumming, mostly I play rhythm.

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

Jamie – Tech. I would fuck it up.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Jamie – Standard. On some songs tune the high E up to G or the B down to A. I need to use certain harmonics.

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

Jamie – Some cave man system that I need to overcome.

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

Jamie – Pretty high

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

Jamie – Not being good enough.

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

Jamie – Drums.

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

Jamie – Flamenco.

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

Jamie – Playing flamenco.

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

Jamie – I don’t really know any.

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

Jamie – Incredibly good feel & time.

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

Jamie – How to play a Clash song.

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

Jamie – How to make crazy feedback.

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

Jamie – Suck.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Jamie – They are fun.

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

Jamie – Nothing if they are good.

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

Jamie – No way.

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

Jamie – Muddy Waters. He had cool hair.

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

Jamie – John Dieterich of Deerhoof.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Jamie – On a really nice stereo.

QRD – Anything else?

Jamie – Nope! Thanks!