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QRD #42 - Guitarist Series
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Guitarist Interviews with:
Ashkelon Sain
Zac Keiller
Eric Muhs
Patrick Vega
Russ Stedman
Bret Hart
Rick Ray
John William Gordon
Evan Peta
Evgeny Zheyda
Dave Halverson
Charles Rice Goff III
Calvin Johnson
Kim Chee
John G Sosnowski
Michael Walton
Annelies Monseré
Eric Quach
Robert Poss
Sarah June
Ted Johnson
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Guitarist Interview with Charles Rice Goff III 
July 2010

Name: Charles Rice Goff III
Bands: -ING, Disism, Herd Of The Ether Space, Turkey Makes Me Sleepy, The Magic Potty Babies, River Cow Orchestra, PLUS a wide variety of solo & collaborative work, been operating Taped Rugs Productions since 1980
Listen to The Power Of Your Inner Ear

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

Charles – I got a plastic Mickey Mouse guitar when I was maybe 3 or 4 years old; don’t know what happened to it. 
First real acoustic guitar when I was 15; an “El Degas.”  I still have it now (age 51). These days I use it mostly for lap slide playing.
First electric when I was 17 (new 1976 Telecaster).  I sold it in 2007 for a lot of money.

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

Charles – Cord to 3 different distortion pedals (circa 1970s, early 80s) in series, to volume/wah pedal, to loop duplicator, to amp.

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

Charles – All are important.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Charles – Stereo amp ? it’s what amplifies my computer recording equipment.
Vox Pathfinder ? for on the road performance -- it’s lightweight, clean, easy to mic, & loud.

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

Charles – Hello Kitty Squier Stratocaster.  It’s lightweight, easy to play, stays in tune, & attracts attention.

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

Charles – Lightweight is important.  Clean sound without junked up volume/tone controls.  Frets & neck in good condition.  Easy access to being able to place things on or near pick-ups is important to me.

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

Charles – I like loop duplicators, not too complex though.  I like volume pedals too.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Charles – Five: the above Hello Kittycaster, a 1990s Squire Stratocaster, the above El Degas acoustic, an Ovation Acoustic (old big belly model), a 1970s junky Japanese off-brand bass

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Charles – Closet, cases (both hard shell & soft gig bags).  Humidity control is important in Kansas.

QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?

Charles – In a perfect universe: anti gravity grips.

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

Charles – Individuality, playability, clean electronics, frets & neck in good condition.

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

Charles – Good guitar?  For my purposes, $100 used.  I have been a starving artist all my life, & seeking out value for low cost has always been an important survival technique for me.

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

Charles – I often set-up temporary preparations (John Cage-style) during performances & recordings.  I’ve had the frets ground a few times on a couple of my guitars when the string grooves started to buzz.  I’ve had pickups installed in acoustic guitars.  I had the original tuning pegs on the Telecaster switched for Shallers.  I had a custom made bone bridge made for the El Degas.

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

Charles – For guitars, I play them through amplifiers in the store. Generally for any musical equipment I invest in, I attempt to secure a “trial” period to give the goods a proper workout in my home studio.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Charles – I am always looking for new things to play guitars with or to hold next to the pick-ups & play (electronic toys & such).

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

Charles – Tone depends on what I’m doing & how I’m hearing it when I’m doing it.

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

Charles – I don’t go shopping for such things very often at this point in my life.  My music studio is filled with a lot of stuff besides guitars & guitar gear.  I think getting a new mixer might be on my list of future acquisitions.  I just bought a 1927 wind-up Victrola phonograph, which I intend to experiment with as a performance tool.

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

Charles – On the guitar itself?  Maybe a chord cheat sheet.  It might be nice to have a little removable lyre music holder like woodwind players use in marching bands.

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

Charles – All the guitars I’ve bought have had good & bad qualities for my purposes, but if the instrument is too heavy to hold around my neck, that’s unacceptable for me. My Telecaster was solid oak & gave me some real problems after years of use. 

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

Charles – Generally all companies fail & succeed for me in various ways.  I like Road Hog cords.  They never die. 

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

Charles – The strings.  The electronics come next.  Both are important to me.

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

Charles – I got Mickey when I was 3 or 4, but got more serious at 15 with the El Degas.

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

Charles – Leveled up?  I’m always trying new things, challenging my improvising skills sometimes, my song-playing skills sometimes, my experimental skills sometimes.  These are all different ways of interacting with the instrument, & I leave it up to someone else to decide which of them is “best.”  I usually have a goal to achieve when I pick up an instrument, & I work until I achieve it.  Unfortunately, I’m not always able to retain the ability to achieve my goals consistently. 

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

Charles – It doesn’t; but I have played guitars for a long time, so they’re familiar to my fingers, arms, & brain.

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

Charles – My first instrument was a rubber headed drum.  Each person has his or her own artistic drives, & the first instruments that each person plays might simply be organic extensions of these drives.  No “should be” in this response, however, for me.

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

Charles – It is a tool.

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

Charles – Robert Fripp, Frank Zappa, Todd Rundgren, Henry Kaiser, Fred Frith, Andres Segovia, Lou Reed.

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

Charles – Yes to both.

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

Charles – The El Degas has suffered a lot from the pounding of repeated hard plectrum rhythm chords played around the sound hole. These chippings were made in my earliest years with the instrument.  Otherwise, my guitars have fared well in my care.   I like to prepare my guitars, but I try hard not to damage them in the process. 

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

Charles – Plotting out a course before playing, then seeing how well I can follow that course, while perfecting the plot in the process.  Being able to repeat the plot with ever-increasing original flair can also be a part of this process.

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

Charles – The amount I play my guitars depends entirely on what I’m using the guitars for.  If a show’s coming up, & I need to get ready for a live guitar performance, I usually play one-two hours per day, until I have the planned presentation seriously embedded in my head & fingers.  If I’m recording something, I play until I get the part right (this may take one to several days & one to several hours on each of those days).  I play a lot of instruments, & the guitar comes in only when it’s called for.

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

Charles – I use all kinds of plectrums because they all can do different things.  Besides the standard acetate thins (fast rhythms), mediums (leads), hards (scraping), sawtooths, triangles, teardrops, (each for different grips) etc., I also use the big thick felt ukulele picks (which work well for pounding the fretboard & getting ringing tones), arrow heads (which get some great grinding noises & even shoot sparks), & metallic picks, (which have unique scraping qualities).

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Charles – Medium ? they stay in tune & are easy to play.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Charles – Whenever they start to sound wrong.  It’s mostly an ear thing for me.  If I don’t use a guitar for a while & then I get it out & notice dark spots on the strings or places where the winding is separating, I change the strings right away.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Charles – These days not very often.  Used to a lot in my aggressive youth.

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

Charles – I’m not very good with either.  I think the brain is the answer here.

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

Charles – I don’t fiddle around with the action much if that’s what you’re after here.  My old Japanese bass needed some alteration in its tail because I got it after a friend took it for a ride in an unpressurized airplane cargo hold.  I did the altering.  The bass is purely an experimental instrument for me.  It’s an electric bass, but I often play it in a stand with a violin bow, so higher action helps anyway. 

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Charles – Standard & random ? those are the ones I know.

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

Charles – I prefer audio recording ideas first, then writing down some tablature, maybe writing out some notation, & I always include lots of verbal explanations (either recorded or written out).  I keep the recordings for future reference.  I often dream melodies & develop them later in the recording studio.  The recorded dreams are often sung or hummed.  I offer this site in way of demonstration:

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

Charles – As high as I can ? I like to see the frets clearly.

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

Charles – Hitting the wrong string at the wrong time.

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

Charles – I can’t speak for others.  For me, it’s piano.

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

Charles – I emulate the styles of others to varying degrees at various times, but genres don’t really work well for me in general.  Each piece of music or sound art that I approach has its own organic qualities.  I do my best to work within my limitations of ability & experience.

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

Charles – Instantaneous sight-reading of notation.

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

Charles – Playing a Zizzle Zounds through the pick-ups with the guitar body sitting flat on my lap.

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

Charles – Vibrator (dildo type).

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

Charles – Playing notes loud enough to be heard by fingering the fretboard alone, without picking or strumming the strings with my other hand.

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

Charles – No guitar lessons.  I learned woodwinds in grades 3-6. That’s where I learned the basics of how to read music & how to finger instruments.

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

Charles – The ability to reject genre.

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

Charles – Approach each playing experience as a unique & organic artistic expression.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Charles – If you are talking about the tremolo bar or “whammy” bar, I don’t like to use such things because they make the guitar go out of tune quickly.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Charles – Whenever necessary.  Some of my guitars have no tone knobs.

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

Charles – None, every guitar player is both a lead & a rhythm player from my point of view.

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

Charles – I can never ignore any member of any band ? in my experience, “good” is in the ears of the beholder & often in the mood of the beholder.

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

Charles – I wouldn’t know what to do with a famous musician’s guitar, so I guess I’d like to own John Lennon’s signature Rickenbacker, so I could sell it for a lot of money & use the money to buy some musical equipment that I could actually use myself.

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

Charles – Innovative? This is a trick question.  I’ll vote for Tipper Gore here.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Charles – I have posted nearly 200 albums & videos at archive.org.  Most of the posts feature my guitar playing in some form, but some don’t include any guitar bits on them at all.  Again, “best” is in the ears & the mood of the beholder.  Try the suggestions I offered at the beginning of this survey to start with.  Go here for a more complete Taped Rugs selection:

QRD – Anything else?

Charles – For me, the sounds a guitar produces are not limited to notes & chords.  I often use guitar pickups to channel the sounds of battery powered electronic toys, motors, music boxes, & other such things.  These sounds also can be manipulated through effects in various ways.  Placing metal thimbles, rubber page turners, etc. on your fret hand can provide interesting sounds.  Pulling strings & wires through the guitar strings can create unique noises.  Placing playing cards in between the strings creates some great percussive opportunities.  There are several sound artists who have created extraordinary musics with these & other much more innovative techniques (Henry Kaiser, Fred Frith, Bill Horist, etc.)
THANKS AGAIN FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY, BRIAN.  Good luck with your survey.