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QRD #43 - Guitarist Series Part III
about this issue
Guitarist Interviews with:
Jon DeRosa of Aarktica
Brian McKenzie
Invisible Elephant
Wim Lecluyse of Circle Bros
Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos
Matt Stevens
Dan Cohoon of Moral Crayfish
Clayton James Mick
John Trubee
Agata of Melt-Banana
Bones Denault of Shady Lady
Eric Hausmann
PD Wilder of Hotel Hotel
Ryan Wasterlain
Miguel Baptista Benedict
Jim Dennis of Random FX
Jon Attwood of Yellow6
Travis Kotler of Pineal Ventana
Brian Elyo of mobdividual
Joe Morgan
Bill Horist
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Guitarist Interview with Agata of Melt-Banana 
August 2010

Name: Agata
Bands: 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.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Agata – Sunn Beta Lead, I like the sound & it is loud enough & not so heavy to bring, especially to bring into the airplane.

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

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.
Worst > Yamaha guitar, I forgot the name of it. I already sold it.

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.