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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 Robin Crutchfield of DNA
June 2010

Name: Robin Crutchfield
Bands: DNA, Dark Day, Robin Crutchfield
Websites: robincrutchfield.com
Listen to "Waxing And Waning"

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

Robin – A Stella acoustic folk guitar.

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

Robin – My favorite set-up was to attach a capo & slide it up a few frets so the guitar sounded more like a mandolin or harp.

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

Robin – When I switched from acoustic guitar to keyboard, the combination of instrument, amp, & effects was pretty important in tweaking the sound.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Robin – I can’t recall what brand it was, but it had a pretty good bass tone & a built-in tremolo effect. I got it from filmmaker Amos Poe who got it from Ivan Kral of the Patti Smith group when they had once been in a band together.

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

Robin – At this point my “main guitar” is a Pakistani made harp that retails for about $100. It is baby-sized & gives a nice cradled tone. It is a twelve-string which seems to be all I need.

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

Robin – It would be a harp shaped like a crutch, have electric amplification features & also double as a walking assist.

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

Robin – It would contain a number of effects including reverb, echo, flange, chorus, wah-wah, & looping sampling delay.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Robin – None at the moment. A couple of ukuleles, 3 harps, 4 lyres, 2 psalteries.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Robin – In my treehouse.

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

Robin – Portability, affordability, aesthetic charm, overall tone.

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

Robin – Up to $350.

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

Robin – I am perpetually looking for the perfect instrument & keep searching weighing new purchases with those I own.

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

Robin – I do online research first, keep my budget low & take a gamble. I am often put on the spot by dealers in shops.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Robin – I keep looking.

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

Robin – I’m after the perfect sound.

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

Robin – Nothing specific. Would like to be left alone in a big showroom with unlimited time to test under no stress.

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

Robin – They should be custom fit to each hand.

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

Robin – The best & worst purchase was an Indian tanpura, which I learned I could not play; but in working with it, I discovered a scale that I have adopted for all my work since.

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

Robin – Roland & Boss effects have been helpful to me & the right size & price.

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

Robin – I test for the clarity of all the strings then improvise.

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

Robin – Twelve.

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

Robin – Thirteen. I was never very good.

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

Robin – I don’t. Guitars are cliché/common. I prefer the unusual. Even my harp is nonstandard size; miniature compared to those most play, even Celtic harpers.

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

Robin – No, I’d recommend drums or keyboards to start out.

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

Robin – For me, at this point, a guitar is an adversary, whereas a harp is an ally.

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

Robin – When you find the right instrument for you, it seems to contain its own soul & personality. I totally understand the tightness of the relationship people have with their instruments.

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

Robin – I stored a harp in a too-hot apartment on a high shelf where the hot air rose, & the hot dry air cracked the wood, which split under the pressure.

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

Robin – I visualize myself in ancient Greece in another life playing a lyre to the sheep or for royalty. I listen to a wide variety of musics both modern & ancient & listen for each artist’s approach.

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

Robin – I play for as long as the mood possesses me & wish it would be longer.

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

Robin – I don’t use them, but prefer a well-manicured fingernail.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Robin – I prefer the nylon to steel. Steel strings have a lovely metallic ring, but the nylon is sensual to the touch & makes the instrument’s embrace more loving.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Robin – I’ve been lucky enough yet to have not had to.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Robin – I am very gentle on the strings. The instrument is a delicate tender thing.

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

Robin – Both work as partners.

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

Robin – I have come to my own methods.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Robin – I prefer not to give them away. Let each man discover his own.

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

Robin – I have used diagrams & personal tape recorders in the past, but now rely on memory or instantly commit to digital tracks.

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

Robin – Close to the heart, cradled like a baby.

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

Robin – Being too self-conscious & concerned about what others might be listening for or expecting of me.

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

Robin – Anything developing dexterity or toughness of fingertips.

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

Robin – Bottleneck slide.

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

Robin – To get a clean, lovely sound without experiencing pain.

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

Robin – To treat it rhythmically as a drum.

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

Robin – Playing what & where I wish.

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

Robin – About fifteen chords & hammering on the strings.

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

Robin – Ignore the rules & find your own method.

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

Robin – Embrace their ancient past.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Robin – They can become addictive.

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

Robin – The ideal player would do well to blend the two.

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

Robin – No, a band is balance against strife in constant struggle.

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

Robin – I don’t think any would do much good in my ownership.

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

Robin – My all-time favorite guitar player is Danny Kirwan of early Fleetwood Mac. His guitar always sounded like it was gently sobbing.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work? 

Robin – Any of my current harp albums.