Interview with Kim Chee
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.
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!!!