Interview with Brian McKenzie of Electric Bird Noise & SAVAS
Name: Brian Lea McKenzie
Bands: Electric Bird Noise, Something About Vampires & Sluts, Planet Cock, Catpuncher & the Mayor… every other band in my hometown.
Websites: myspace.com/electricbirdnoise, myspace.com/brianmckenziesmusicfactory, myspace.com/savas, silbermedia.com/ebn (to purchase)
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Brian – A $200 Yamaha acoustic… still have it.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Brian – It varies from project to project…
could be simply a guitar into amplifier (no effects) or a 100 pedal effects
into amplifier… or guitar into computer… depends.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Brian – Me.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Brian – Live a Mesa Boogie Mark 4… with 3 separate channels it makes it a pretty versatile amplifier…. or a Jazz Chorus 120 cause I can’t get that particular sound out of the Mesa... a Peavey Classic Chorus 130 with Electric Bird Noise.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Brian – With Electric Bird Noise & SAVAS I use a couple Paul Reed Smith EG Series guitars. These guitars are really good at going between single coil & humbucker pick up selections… a Gibson Les Paul & a Gretsch Super Axe get used quite a lot as well.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Brian – I’m so A.D.D. when it comes to equipment… don’t think there’s one guitar I could be married to for too long. Any six string on a plank of wood with some magnets (or not) will work just fine.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Brian – One feature only… remove all snare drums from the building! Snare rattle drives me crazy when I’m doing my solo ambient sets.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Brian – 7 electrics… 2 acoustic… 1 bass guitar.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Brian – In cases in my studio.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Brian – Lift.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Brian – Versatility. Playability.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Brian – $5 & up.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Brian – Stick with what I get.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Brian – I’m very thorough before I pull the trigger.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Brian – I do.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Brian – I lock into one tone remembering it then moving on to another.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Brian – Any that inspirers creativity.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Brian – A tuner.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Brian – Been happy with every purchase thus far... for me all gear has some usefulness.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Brian – I’m a fan of old Boss pedals particularly the ones made in Japan… Mesa Boogie… Paul Reed Smith… Z Vex… Amplitube…. Why? Versatility.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Brian – Depends on my mood.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Brian – 15.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Brian – 189.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Brian – It doesn’t … I’m pretty tall & lanky, so bass is probably a better fit. You should see me behind a mandolin.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Brian – Sure.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Brian – Ally!
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Brian – My pedals, guitar, amp, & mood have more of an influential pull than any outside source. Not until after I dial up a sound I’m content with will I go, “Hey, this sound reminds me of that guy that plays in….”
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Brian – Doesn’t bother me.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Brian – Broke the headstock off a Gibson 335s (a 335 solid body) while rocking out!
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Brian – Golf.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Brian – Around 10 hours… around 10 hours.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Brian – A D’Adarrio green pick because they’re heavy, but not overly heavy.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Brian – 10s… because they’re not too heavy & not too light.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Brian – About once every other month.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Brian – Rarely.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Brian – I feel pretty confident in both… but there’s a speed threshold for me so I tend to write slow to medium tempo tunes.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Brian – Sometimes I’ll tinker around with intonation & small issues, but there an art to set up a guitar to it’s full potential… so I do send my guitars off to the pros from time to time.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Brian – Standard 95% of the time…cause I’m lazy.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Brian – Recording a rough draft… or remembering it most of the time works for me.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Brian – Pretty low.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Brian – Bad habits lead to mistakes, which leads to inspiring new ideas.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Brian – Tennis racket.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Brian – Anything super fast & articulate.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Brian – See above comment
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Brian – I like the ebow, capo, & slide… what’s a string cutter?
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Brian – I did…. I did.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Brian – No matter how wrong it sounds keep playing it over & over again & again …then it becomes the right way.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Brian – Breathe.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Brian – Love ‘em!
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Brian – 20% of the time.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Brian – Whoever is louder is the lead.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Brian – I can.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Brian – Any one of those famous 60 hero guitars will do. Why? So I can ebay it.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Brian – Brian John Mitchell… because he loves you.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
QRD – Anything else?
Brian – Naw.
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Brian Lea McKenzie: