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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 Jon Attwood of Yellow6 
August 2010

Name: Jon Attwood
Bands: Yellow6
Websites: yellow6.com

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
Boss TU-2
MXR Super Comp
Boss FZ-5 Fuzz
EHX Holy Stain
Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone
ZVEX Distortron
Diaz Texas Tremodillo
Boss DF-2 Super Feedbacker
EHX Freeze
T-Rex Replica
T-Rex Roommate
Boss RC-50 Loop Station

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
Worst: Fender Jazzmaster AVRI (eBay - didn’t feel right), MXR EVH Flanger, Lap Steel

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

Jon – Like: Gretsch guitars, T-Rex pedals, Carr amps
Dislike: Stratocasters, Marshall amps, Line6

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:
Steve Jones
Sterling Morrison
Bernard Sumner
Daniel Ash
John McGeogh
Alan Sparhawk
Ron Asheton
Robin Proper Sheppard (God Machine/Sophia)
Graham Sutton (Bark Psychosis)
Adrian Utley

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? 

Jon – CUT (2010 album release) & Painted Sky (2007 release)… www.myspace.com/jonyellow6 & www.yellow6.com 

QRD – Anything else?

Jon – No, but thanks for asking.