Interview with Agata of Melt-Banana
Websites: a-zap.com, tzadik.com, myspace.com/azap
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Agata – My first guitar was a handmade guitar by myself. I built it using cardboard & elastic. It broke in one or two days.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Agata – Guitar > Pedal board > Amp > Cabinet
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Agata – ALL.
Agata – Sunn Beta Lead, I like the sound
& it is loud enough & not so heavy to bring, especially to bring
into the airplane.
Agata – Gibson SG. It is lightweight. & the headstock is big enough. I can’t play a guitar that has small headstock, I don’t know why though. The size of an old SG’s neck fits me too.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Agata – I’d add a volume on/off switch.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Agata – Some very small box with different effects, & make it possible to connect like Lego blocks.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Agata – 5 guitars.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Agata – At home hung on the wall.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Agata – Lightweight, less than 2kg, & still as strong as flight case.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Agata – Same size of neck & body as the guitar I have now.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Agata – I’ve no idea.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Agata – I customize it.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Agata – Play it at the music store. If it’s a pedal, I basically like the pedal where I don’t need to read manual.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Agata – Not really. Once I like it, I use it for a long time.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Agata – The former.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Agata – More Sunn Beta Leads in good condition.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Agata – Big headstock, of course not too big.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Agata – Best > Gibson SG.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Agata – Sunn & Gibson. Maybe also Digitech because of the whammy pedal. Lightfoot Labs because I like the Goatkeeper. Fulltone, too. I like Boss, too; that’s because I can find it easily during the tour in case that pedals are broken or stolen. I don’t have brands which I dis-like so far.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Agata – Strings? I’m not sure what you mean. I think it’s harmonics.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Agata – I built my first guitar when I was 6 or 7. But I was not serious at all.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Agata – I don’t know, maybe around 22.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Agata – Because I played it for a long time.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Agata – It was piano for me & I think it is better than guitar for people’s first instrument.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Agata – I have no idea. I use it anyway, so it does not matter for me.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Agata – Now I’m not sure anymore seeing many great guitar players. I was also influenced by scratch djs, sax players, & noise musicians.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Agata – It’s natural thing. I don’t have names for my guitars, but I wish I had a good name for each guitar.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Agata – I use my guitar in a normal way, I even don’t like breaking guitars for the performance, but there were so many small scratches on my old SG. That’s because I was using a metal pick & slide a lot. It is like a pin a day is a groat a year. Once a guitar collector guy asked me to buy the guitar at $10,000, he was from NY & he said he collected guitars. I thought he was drunk but he was serious & he liked my guitar because he has not seen a Gibson SG beaten that much. I got a new old SG now, & I use it at home for the recording.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Agata – Nothing.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Agata – Sometimes I don’t play guitar at all. When I’m writing or recording, I play guitar all the time when I’m not doing basic things like sleeping, eating, etc. So it depends on the day.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Agata – I used to use metal picks that my friend made. But these days I use a Jim Dunlop nylon pick. My wrist hurts using metal picks & it’s kind of hard to keep the tuning ok, so I changed it to nylon picks. There is no big reason why I chose the nylon pick. I just found it at the music store first. When I was thinking about the pick, we (Melt-Banana) toured with Tool & I noticed Adam (from Tool) was using the same pick. I remembered about the nylon pick, so after that I picked up the Nylon pick at the music store & now I like it.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Agata – 10-46, I don’t know why, but now I’m using this. It is comfortable.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Agata – During the tour, I change strings every night. But I’m thinking I’ll change it every 2 or 3 shows on the next tour.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Agata – Since I changed picks to nylon, I have not broken strings yet before I change to new strings.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Agata – I feel I’m bad with both. That’s why I use many pedals.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Agata – I ask someone to fix or change parts.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Agata – Open tuning. Because it is easy to play for me.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Agata – I prefer recording a rough idea directly to the recorder.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Agata – Around the navel.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Agata – Sticking out my tongue, but I hide it wearing a mask.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Agata – Drums & vocal.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Agata – Play 10 guitars at the same time.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Agata – Play everything perfect at the show.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Agata – Palm mute.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Agata – Slide.
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Agata – I don’t know much about guitar technique. So I don’t know. & I think I’m not so much interested in so called technique.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Agata – No.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Agata – Feedback is the first thing I liked about the guitar, so it will be how to get feedback.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Agata – Buying a slide.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Agata – I don’t like it as I don’t like to worry about tuning.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Agata – When I need to do it. Not so often. It depends on the songs. Mostly I don’t change it.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Agata – I don’t know about the difference. Is there any definition? I guess a lead guitar player play more solos or melodies & a rhythm guitar player plays the rhythmic part. Or lead guitar player plays higher notes & rhythm guitar player plays lower notes. Or lead guitar player uses front pickup & rhythm guitar player uses rear pickup....
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Agata – Yes.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Agata – I’m not a guitar collector.…
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Agata – Marc Ribot. He was amazing when I saw him playing guitar during his soundcheck in Australia.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Agata – I hope it is at the Melt-Banana show.
QRD – Anything else?
Agata – Thank you for the interview.