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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 Invisible Elephant 
August 2010

Name: Invisible Elephant
Bands: Invisible Elephant
Websites: invisible-elephant.bandcamp.com, myspace.com/invisibleelephant1, http://sonicreverie.bigcartel.com/product/invisible-elephant-the-lights-go-out
Listen to “Time”

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

Invisible Elephant – An ancient Korean Zenta that looked like a Strat someone had beaten & burned & dragged out of the back of a car. I didn’t have an amp so I used to just play it unplugged. I had it for a few years & lent it to a friend. Never saw it again.

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

Invisible Elephant – Lead > EHX Big Muff > Boss DD20 > Amp

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

Invisible Elephant – Effects. I’ve played with the worst guitars & the worst amps ever made, but still managed to make everything sound okay. I’ve never been able to do that with bad effects. The music I make also means that effects are important & I don’t just run guitars through them. The keyboards, drums, vocals all sometimes use effects of some sort.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Invisible Elephant – Fender Deluxe 112. I only use the clean channel which stays clean even if you’ve taken the volume up to the level of a plane taking off.

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

Invisible Elephant – Fender Jazzmaster American Vintage. The tremolo, the tone, the weight, the look. All of it.

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

Invisible Elephant – Probably some sort of mutant Jazzmaster/Jaguar hybrid.  Vintage Jazzmaster single coil pickups, floating tremolo, & size.  Jaguar controls/switches.

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

Invisible Elephant – Looping with EHX Cathedral reverb options.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Invisible Elephant – Four. Two electric, two acoustic with different tunings.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Invisible Elephant – On stands, in cases, under beds.

QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?

Invisible Elephant – A drinks compartment.

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

Invisible Elephant – Just the right sound & the right feel when you play it. It’s hard to tell until you’ve picked it up to play & you can see if it “clicks” with you on not.

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

Invisible Elephant – I’ve bought great guitars for less than $100 & spent a lot on crappy ones.

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

Invisible Elephant – Yes, I put stickers on them. I consider that both upgrading & customization.

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

Invisible Elephant – I’ll read up on a few reviews & have a listen

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Invisible Elephant – Hardly ever. I mainly do recording anyway so I have a million options to make different sounds there.

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

Invisible Elephant – It all depends on the song. It tends to change from song to song.

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

Invisible Elephant – I’d like an EHX Cathedral & a nice 12 string acoustic.

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

Invisible Elephant – Strings are always useful.  Besides that; nothing in particular. My first guitar was terrible, but after a few years when I’d got a good one I couldn’t believe how easy it was to play. Sometimes it’s a good thing to make things challenging at the start. 

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

Invisible Elephant – Best: Fender amp. Have never even thought of changing it.
Worst: any multi-effect pedals. I’ve found it better to think about the sound I need & get a single pedal for that particular sound

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

Invisible Elephant – I used to play Gibsons. I’ve had Les Pauls & an SG in the past; but for some reason, whether it’s just bad luck or not I don’t know, they’ve always been temperamental. I now like Fender guitars & Elecro Harmonix effects.

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

Invisible Elephant – Just make something up off the top of my head.

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

Invisible Elephant – 15.

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

Invisible Elephant – Probably about 19/20. At least in terms of technique. I used to play in a band at that time & we rehearsed a lot. I haven’t been playing as often the last couple of years but I’m better at getting the sounds I want now. Just not as good at playing anything.

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

Invisible Elephant – It’s so versatile. You can pick a sweet melody or pretty much assault someone with some evil feedback or a riff. I still like other instruments, but guitars feature on most of the songs.

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

Invisible Elephant – I don’t think it matters that much what the instrument is. Once you can play one kind it helps when you pick up others.

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

Invisible Elephant – Ally. One good thing about being solo is that you’re not “the guitarist.” If a guitar’s not working on a song you don’t have to try & force it in. You can play something else instead.

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

Invisible Elephant – John Squire (Stone Roses). I bought a book of the tab for the Second Coming album & learned to play the guitar with that.
Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai). Just listen to ‘Like Herod’ & ‘CODY’. Can do tender & evil.  
Johnny Marr. Great player & my friend Nic has a huge crush on him & regularly talks of her sick & probably illegal fantasies involving him. I’m not sure how this has influenced my guitar playing though.
James Blackshaw. Although there are other older, more famous artists that have influenced him, he was the first I got into. His playing is totally absorbing.
Kevin Shields. Plays dreams or nightmares. Warped, otherworldly, original, ace.
Nick Drake. I always think clean & precise, but that makes him sound boring & the music is just beautiful.
Bernard Sumner. Really under-rated. Doesn’t waste any notes & at his best (Joy Division) sounds like he’s poking you in the eye with rusty needle. In a good way.
Nels Cline.

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

Invisible Elephant – Not something I’d do.

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

Invisible Elephant – On stage, drunk, dropped it. More damage to ego than the guitar.

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

Invisible Elephant – I don’t play a lot anyway. I tend to just picture in my head what my fingers will do & then pick up the guitar when I need it.

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

Invisible Elephant – Usually maybe less than 1. Maybe 5 to 10 if I’m recording something.

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

Invisible Elephant – None with an acoustic.  With an electric; medium. It’s not too flexible.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Invisible Elephant – Flat 12s. They go better with the Jazzmaster & I don’t really solo or bend much.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Invisible Elephant – Rarely.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Invisible Elephant – Rarely.

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

Invisible Elephant – Fretting. I tend the pick around chords.

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

Invisible Elephant – It sounded awful when it arrived so it had to go to a tech for a set-up which was well worth it.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Invisible Elephant – Usually standard but I sometimes drop to a D & I have a second acoustic tuned to open C. Just to get a different tone & playing around with the tunings always seems to create a song.

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

Invisible Elephant – I just scribble very hard to decipher notes in a book like “play melody, do a big swooshy sound, make loud noise.”

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

Invisible Elephant – Quite low. Holding it right under your chin is not a good look. Saying that, if you go Hooky-low it’s like de-evolution in action & you’ll probably get a hunchback. Also not a good look.

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

Invisible Elephant – Losing concentration. Hogging the swings while other people are waiting for a go.

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

Invisible Elephant – Playing a keyboard helped a lot with chord structuring. Drumming helps you appreciate how hard it is for those drummer-types to play along with your arrhythmic noise. Getting a stylophone has helped me realize my dream of being like Rolf Harris, which has nothing to do with guitar playing but is cool.

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

Invisible Elephant – Wish I was better at fingerpicking.

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

Invisible Elephant – Playing the guitar effectively under water.

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

Invisible Elephant – I tried to pull one out of a hat, but I ended up just getting rabbits & an extremely long multi-coloured handkerchief instead. I’m not good at tricks.

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

Invisible Elephant – A slide. Not for nice bluesy slide guitar, but for using as a tool to make high-pitched screeching sounds.

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

Invisible Elephant – Never took any.

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

Invisible Elephant – I have no idea. Just to play your own way & make whatever sounds you feel are good.

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

Invisible Elephant – I doubt anyone would want to bother. I may let them borrow my DMs if they asked nicely & promised to wear clean socks.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Invisible Elephant – Like ‘em.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Invisible Elephant – Not very.

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

Invisible Elephant – It’s harder to find a good inventive rhythm player & they’re under appreciated.

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

Invisible Elephant – Very rarely.

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

Invisible Elephant – I’d have no preference for a famous person’s guitar over a non-famous person’s one if it was one I wanted. Unless it had belonged to the legendary Kriss Akabusi, but I don’t even know if he plays the guitar.

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

Invisible Elephant – Nels Cline. Always inventive & original. On his own & with a number of different bands.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Invisible Elephant – Either in my bedroom or the kitchen.

QRD – Anything else?

Invisible Elephant – Not that I can think of.