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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 Kim Chee 
July 2010

Name: Kim Chee
Bands: Pineal Ventana, AkuYou (current)
Websites: www.akuyou.com - myspace.com/akuyou - akuyou.bandcamp.com - myspace.com/pinealventana
Listen to "Sleepless"

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

Kim – First guitar was given to me by a HS friend. Old Peavey T-15 that I still use to bow with & make strange noises.

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

Kim – Currently I have been using Digitech JamMan looper pedal, Ibanez UE400 & UE 405 rack units, Rat distortion, MXR blue box, Boss RV-3 Delay/Rev, Boss RE-20space echo & whatever else I come across I will give a try. On the search for Ibanez UE305 that I sold years ago & now want one again.
Guitar wise I still use my 1969 SG Jr that I used in PV along with an Epiphone SG.
I got rid of so many things since the fall of Pineal Ventana that I regret! Somehow “lost” my old Sovtek head from PV so right now I am using a Fender Princeton Chorus amp. A bit bright for me, but when I can save some $$ probably go back to the Sovtek Mig-50. 
Sometimes I use a cheap Encore I picked up for $25 that gets some nice tones. Don’t even know the model. It is an SG style, electric blue with 2 white switches for the pickups.

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

Kim – For me guitar comes first as I have to be comfortable with it, then effects then amp.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Kim – Right now the Princeton Fender Chorus. Main reason was I needed an amp quickly to start playing live again & being broke doesn’t give much options. Wish I knew where my Sovtek head went! One of those, “I lent it to someone & never got it back.” Ha-ha.

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

Kim – Definitely my 1969 Gibson SG Jr. I have small hands & it fits me perfectly. I don’t know what I would do if I lost it. I can get some great noise out of it & I really know what I can do or not do with it. It is not the features for me, it just feels like it was made for me.

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

Kim – I am really not that into looks & such. I guess my dream would be a Travis Bean, but I should have snagged one back during the PV days. My bandmates each had a bass & electric Travis Bean, back when they were affordable. I have seen some of the newer custom made TB types & they sound awesome. A friend in Chinese Stars has one of the custom ones, but from what I gather they are real expensive.

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

Kim – I am all into delays, echoes, & reverb. A bit of octave ups are nice as well. & nasty distortion of course. Wish I knew those Death by Audio guys cause I really like some of their stuff, just can’t afford it right now.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Kim – Right now I own 5 electrics, one 12-string acoustic, & 2 basses, oh & a sitar.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Kim – I keep my main 2 at our practice space in their cases & the rest at home on a normal 7 rack guitar stand. Nothing fancy. The sitar I had a welder friend make me a special stand for it.

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

Kim – I don’t look for features. I do need low action though because of my small hands. Ha-ha. Need? These days I rarely look to buy guitars. Only sometimes I see what is out there in the way of some old SG Jr’s.  If I see something real cheap & interesting looking I may buy it just to see what tones I can get out of it. Even beating on the neck with a stick can be great if I didn’t pay a bundle for the guitar.

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

Kim – Pretty much same as above. I don’t feel cost is the issue. It is all in how you connect with it personally. If it feels good & sounds good why pay $2000 for something just for the name. To each their own of course. Again, I would love a Travis Bean though. I’ll wait another 10 years, then maybe I can afford one.

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

Kim – Usually just stick with what I get. Nothing fancy, I am not that technical with that stuff.

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

Kim – Funny you ask. I am one of those people who like to buy used things when they seem like they would make interesting sounds. I rarely test out things before I buy unless I am making a huge investment, which is rare.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Kim – I play around a bit with the effect loop inputs a bit on my amp but usually nothing more.

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

Kim – I try to change the tone a bit, but I think in reality most of it comes out with the same sound & feeling.

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

Kim – Death by Audio Octave Clang, my old Sovtek, & this old distortion pedal I had back in 93. It was round & was called Wizard or something like that. Of course another SG Jr (old).

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

Kim – Guess it depends on what the player is trying to do. For me any basic one would do. For others maybe extra pickups. Who knows, I sure don’t. 

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

Kim – Probably a crappy old chorus stompbox. Don’t even remember the name but it sucked.

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

Kim – I haven’t had a lot of experience with lots of different brands. I played a Strat for a while but prefer the Gibson SG. Strat I used mostly for rhythm. Like the Ibanez old analog rack units. Travis in PV had one & I just loved it. So now I have 2. Sovtek I feel gives a good nasty sound, love it. The Fender I use feels brite to me. Not to sure if I will stay with it.

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

Kim – Noise, then a friend showed me “Tangerine” by Led Zeppelin. Just the first part if I remember right.

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

Kim – 17, same friend that gave me the Peavey was an awesome player. He played a lot of blues & old southern rock. I guess I started learning chords & such from him. 

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

Kim – Probably the last few years of PV, 28-30 I guess. But I play what I feel & am not really trying to be perfect or anything.

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

Kim – I have played piano & not much else. Did a bit of percussion with PV & loved it. I am by no means a drummer, but I can come up with some cool rhythms I think. I like tribal & simple almost mesmerizing sometimes. At least that is what I strive for.

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

Kim – No I don’t think so. Anything that interests you is what you should go for. I wish I picked up sax. My friend’s 7year old is an amazing violinist

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

Kim – In PV definitely an ally. With AkuYou I have been coming up with drums before adding guitar, which has been a change. I do drums on the computer. Now working toward live shows, added 3 other musicians, so bringing the music that Clara & I did to a live setting has been challenging for me. We have a live drummer, so now I can focus on guitar again.

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

Kim – Who knows. I never know how to answer this question. I am sure most everything I heard growing up had to have some impact.

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

Kim – To each their own. Everyone has their “thing” I guess. Mine has no name, just guitar.

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

Kim – Put a whole line of knicks in my Strat neck from banging on it with a drumstick at a PV show. I had fun doing it.

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

Kim – Mostly playing, I like to hang alone & just see what kinds of sounds I can get from some of my small Gamelans or sitar ... or just mess with effects. Write a lot of music on the computer these days. So different from early 90s! Instant gratification.

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

Kim – Not enough hours in the week for me to play enough! I play at home mostly.

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

Kim – USA nylon Jim Dunlop .60mm. They don’t slip from my fingers. Always loved them.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Kim – Not that picky with strings usually 9/10 gauge.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Kim – Not often enough.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Kim – Funny enough, very rarely.

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

Kim – Strumming definitely, I think in terms of rhythms. Just is what is it is. Not really trying to get a style. Just what I play what comes out I guess.

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

Kim – Set up as in fix? custom? or on stage?  Everything myself.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Kim – Nothing fancy, sometimes I drop to D & have experimented at home with drop C, but I find the D to me more my style.

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

Kim – I usually record my ideas at home on computer these days. In PV it was all memorization. I haven’t read sheet music since I was 10 & playing piano.

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

Kim – Mid I guess?

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

Kim – My impatience between songs when playing live & lack of self-confidence. I play for me & that is what counts these days. I want to have fun & do what I want to do

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

Kim – The tennis racket helped me a lot when I was a kid. That was my guitar. Rocking out, jumping on the bed to Ozzy in like 83 I think. I loved playing to Van Halen 1 also. Piano helped me also. Any stringed instrument I guess wouldn’t hurt.

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

Kim – Classical or spanish styles

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

Kim – I feel good about it all. No expectations, so really I have nothing to accomplish except excitement with what I am doing musically.

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

Kim – Really can’t think of one off hand.

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

Kim – Ebow is cool, but never owned one myself. Just messed with them some. Bows create nice sound also on the guitar.

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

Kim – Not really sure, I play just what comes out. Sometimes in my head I have a fingering idea that I just can’t recreate.

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

Kim – I was 22. Took some for 4 weeks & it did nothing for me. Think I asked to learn wishing well from Bob Mould or something like that & the teacher wouldn’t do it. Learned mostly from just messing around myself & friends along the way (Eric, Rob & more).

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

Kim – I wouldn’t teach... but I think to make the player comfortable & let them know that it is okay to play what you feel for yourself & not to just join the trail of what is hot now. It is ok to go off the usual path.

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

Kim – Just listen to it. Very minimal, guitar layered, reverb & delay are keys I guess ... but why emulate? I guess one can take what they get from what they like & make it to their liking.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Kim – Haven’t messed with them much so can’t really form an opinion. Heard some cool stuff with them though. When I was 14 & living in Florida I remember when I first heard the tremolo in “How Soon is Now” by The Smiths & was mesmerized.

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

Kim – It depends on the type of band they are. I guess to the masses the lead would be the “better” technically, but I find that in a lot of bands that the rhythm & lead share the role back & forth a lot. From my experience of late, most ideas are from rhythms. Some bands don’t need leads I think. I like minimalism though so I’m ok with less leads. It has always bothered me when people harp on the lack of technique or ability & don’t appreciate the music for what it is. Everyone has their own vision & it doesn’t have to be “perfect” to everyone.

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

Kim – I just don’t listen to one instrument. I listen to everything as a whole. If the song or performance keeps my interest all is good, every member has their place & it is the whole feeling you get from it. A band should do what they do firstly for themselves & their self-satisfaction. You have to love what you do or why do it at all?  If the members are cohesive with each other that is what counts. But I guess to answer the actual question it would depend on the type of music it was. Hard to answer Brian unless I heard the music I think. Sometimes the “rest of the bad band” are the ones that write everything.

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

Kim – Never thought about it.

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

Kim – I love Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s playing. It seems to come so natural to him & his timings are right up my alley. I like Clipd Beaks a lot from California. Lots of layers ... also Amedeo Pace from Blonde Redhead. I don’t really look for innovation; I just like what I like. Hard to keep up with so many bands & projects these days. With the internet bands have it easy these days. Seems like one can never hear everything new. Sometimes I like mellow & sometimes ear-piercing beauty such as Arab on Radar or crazy jazz.... 

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Kim – You tell me? Ha-ha, who knows. I have never considered myself a “guitarist” I guess. But to answer the question I guess take a listen to any of the Pineal Ventana stuff or AkuYou.

QRD – Anything else?

Kim – Thanks!!!

Other QRD articles with Kim Chee:
Pineal Ventana interview (October 1995)
Pineal Ventana interview (June 1998)
Kim Chee - I Heart FX (~1998)