Interview with Jon Attwood of Yellow6
Name: Jon Attwood
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Jon – It was a 3/4 size acoustic which came from a flea market & cost less than the new strings it needed. I had it for about 15 years (mostly unplayed for the last 14 of those) & finally gave it to a friend’s son who wanted to start playing.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Jon – Volume pedal
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Jon – Guitar. I couldn’t make the sounds without the guitar (though the looper comes close second).
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Jon – Carr Hellraiser II. It’s got a lovely clean & warm sound.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Jon – Gretsch Black Phoenix. Has a volume control, pickup selector, Bigsby & it feels just right. So comfortable to play & it sounds great.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Jon – It would either be a simplified Jazzmaster with no rhythm circuit or tone control (very like the Sonic Youth Signature Models) or a Gretsch Silver Falcon with no tone control, but added kill switch (basically a Black Phoenix).
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Jon – It would probably be based on the EHX Freeze sound retainer pedal, but with built in looper & swell pedal.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Jon – 8.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Jon – Either on wall hangers or in cases at home.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Jon – Stabilisers.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Jon – Playability - must feel right.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Jon – A fair price for the materials & workmanship… you get what you pay for & cheap materials should be cheap to buy & expensive should be what it’s worth, not half the price for the name not the quality.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Jon – Stick with what I get - if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t buy it.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Jon – Generally very thoroughly, but there’s been the occasional eBay buys for things that just look good.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Jon – Yep.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Jon – I like to change around every now & then so I don’t get stuck in a rut. I’ve sold effects that have defined my sound a couple of times, just so I have to find another new sound.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Jon – I would love a Les Paul Junior (like Johnny Thunders’) or Gibson 335, a Shergold Masquerader (maybe a 12-string), the perfect reverb (still hunting), ZVEX Lo-fi Loop Junky, Fender Twin.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Jon – Playability… it should always be something that has a good tone & a good action so it is encouraging rather than be off-putting.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Jon – Best: Gretsch Black Phoenix, Fender
Jazzmaster, Fender Bass VI, Fender John5 Triple Tele Deluxe, Texas Tremodillo,
Freeze, any looper
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Jon – Like: Gretsch guitars, T-Rex pedals,
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Jon – An odd sort of A chord that I don’t know the name of.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Jon – 14.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Jon – 30.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Jon – It’s the only one I ever really wanted to learn & put in the time & effort. I tried trumpet & violin, but didn’t take to either.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Jon – No - some people are put off by the fact it isn’t that easy to get a good sound quickly. Start with piano & take up guitar if you love music enough.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Jon – My ally…. It’s the creativity (or lack of) that is the adversary.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Jon – In no particular order:
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Jon – I guess you spend a lot of time with them, so why not… people name their cars.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Jon – Broke a headstock off a Les Paul copy throwing it across a rehearsal room at a band manager (I missed!).
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Jon – Nothing… just play.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Jon – About 3-4, but would prefer double.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Jon – For years I only ever used a white shark fin (perfect weight & blunt/sharp edges), but then they weren’t available for a long time so I switched to the pink Tortex which are a good weight & I don’t break them.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Jon – Mostly 11-49 as the heavier strings give a fuller sound. I use an 009 gauge on the John5 as that’s what it came with.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Jon – When they need it… every couple of months depending on use.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Jon – Almost never.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Jon – Strumming… makes playing a bit more rhythmical & I’m not so good with the fiddly fretwork.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Jon – Mainly not set up at all… if it feels good when I buy it then why mess around (& I’d buy it because it feels good).
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Jon – Standard for most things as I can’t get my head around other tunings. Open E used for lap steel & occasionally drop-D tuning. A-A tuning on the baritone.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Jon – I can’t read or write music, so I use own form of tab/chord charts.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Jon – Medium to low.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Jon – Hitting tops of fingers on strings when playing more aggressively.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Jon – No idea…. I only play guitar.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Jon – Flamenco.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Jon – Learning scales.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Jon – Proper use of a Jazzmaster tremolo arm.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Jon – E-Bow, but I don’t use it much any more as everyone uses them… getting into slide more recently.
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Jon – Slide guitar.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Jon – Nope.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Jon – Absolute perfection in technique is not as important as having a feel for the instrument.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Jon – Un-learn proper technique.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Jon – Love-hate… love Bigsby & Jazzmaster trems as they can give a subtle effect, but hate dive bombs etc.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Jon – Very rarely (& the Black Phoenix doesn’t have one).
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Jon – Application, confidence, & desire for the limelight (or maybe a good right versus left hand).
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Jon – No.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Jon – Quite happy with what I’ve got.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Jon – Mike Timmins (Cowboy Junkies) as he’s not afraid to do something different & unexpected.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
QRD – Anything else?
Jon – No, but thanks for asking.