QRD - Current Issue   About QRD   QRD Archives
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
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
QRD - Advertise
Silber Records
Silber Button Factory
Cerebus TV
Silber Kickstarter
Guitarist Interview with Matt Stevens of Fierce & the Dead 
August 2010

Name: Matt Stevens
Bands: Fierce & the Dead, solo
Websites: http://www.mattstevensguitar.com

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

Matt It was a £10 Argos Guitar, nylon strings & it smelt of polish, in the end I painted it white & set fire to it.

QRD Whats your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?

Matt For acoustic its an Ibanez Artwood Acoustic, Volume Pedal, Whammy Pedal, Line 6 DL4 (with a Korg Kaossilator going into one input of the DL4).
For electric its a Fender Mexican Tele, Volume Pedal, Whammy Pedal, Electro Harmonix Big Muff, Line 6 DL4 (with a Korg Kaossilator going into one input of the DL4), Fender Princeton Tranny Amp.

QRD Whats the most important part of your rig guitar, amplifier, or effects?

Matt My line 6 DL4 Looper delay - vital for the loops & it does some very cool retro delay sounds as well.

QRD Whats your main amplifier & why?

Matt For electric I use a Fender Princeton transistor amp, I love the clean sounds on it. I think Radiohead use them for clean sounds.

QRD Whats your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?

Matt My main acoustic is an Ibanez Artwood - what I liked about it was that it was cheap & sounded amazing. It had a hole in it, but I loved the sound. For electric I use a Fender Mexican Tele, I love it.

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

Matt Id like something light because I have back problems. Other than that, pretty much my broken Ibanez is perfect especially with the L R Baggs pickup I added later.

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

Matt Id like a special edition line 6 DL4 with midi sync, undo, & a longer loop time & multiple.

QRD How many guitars do you own?

Matt Not many 6 or 7.

QRD How & where do you store your guitars?

Matt In my spare room or in the front room ready to be played. My wife puts up with a lot.

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

Matt Not too easy to play, or can have a tendency to noodle really good sound & really stable tuning because I like to really attack the guitar. Good clean tone & no humbuckers, cant stand them.

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

Matt Depends on if its custom designed for a player - I mean you get something decent for £200 these days, which is great.

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

Matt I only do stuff that is essential, my pick up on my acoustic cost twice the price of the guitar, Im looking for specific sounds.

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

Matt Ive been hurt before, so lots of testing & Im always looking for particular things. I want quality basic tones that I can mangle with effects later. I use the Korg Kaoss Pad to mess with stuff.

QRD Do you change your rig around often?

Matt I like to add stuff, but Im really happy with what I have - I normally change the pedals a bit yearly.  I was using a synth pedal, a Line 6 Filter Modeler thing, but I swapped that for an Ebow.

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

Matt I keep one simple clean tone & mess with it - for example I dont really like really saturated distorted tones. I like fuzz as a specific effect for single notes, but you are so limited in terms of playing clearly defined chords.

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

Matt I honestly dont, maybe Id like a nice Jaguar or Jazzmaster & Id like virtually all the Electro Harmonix pedals. 

QRD What do you think are some important features to be on a persons first guitar that arent always there?

Matt Decent action & tunings pegs.  When you are learning to play, you really need to have an instrument that plays in tune.

QRD What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases youve made?

Matt I had a BC Rich during my teenage metal phase & the headstock use to hit the floor if you played it standing up & the best was the acoustic Ibanez I still use today.

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

Matt I dont like Marshalls - they feel really flat to me dynamically. Im not great with Les Pauls or Gibsons in general at the moment, I used to only play them, but I overdosed in my 20s on them. Its too easy to play fast on a Les Paul, there is no fight on them.

QRD Whats the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?

Matt Probably a Smiths song or the Mahavishnu Orchestra stuff. The stuff I first think of when I play.

QRD How old were you when you started playing guitar?

Matt 14, a late starter, I played violin for a bit when I was a kid & a bit of synth.

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

Matt 34 in terms of playing interesting stuff, 16 in terms of fast lead playing, 29 in terms of playing over jazz changes.

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

Matt Im not sure it does really, I love music really & it just happens to be played on a wooden thing with strings. I like the expressive vibrato of playing you can get with the guitar, but Im always frustrated with its limitations. 

QRD Do you think guitar should be peoples first instrument as often as it is?

Matt Perhaps, I think the most important thing is that its an instrument that you love the sound of.

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

Matt Both - I find it eternally annoying that it lacks sustain. Id like to try one of those Moog infinite sustain guitars, its like having an Ebow in every string.

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

Matt Fripp, Mclaughlin, Bill Steer & Mike Amott, Johnny Marr, Radiohead. Nick Drake maybe for acoustic.
QRD Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly?

Matt Completely silly & daft, they are just tools.

QRD Whats the most physical damage youve done to a guitar & how did you do it?

Matt Smashed the neck off an SG by throwing it on the floor mid-way through a gig a few years back, stupid but the audience loved it. It wasnt done deliberately. 

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

Matt I practice classical stuff, Bach mainly & jazz chord substitution.

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

Matt About an hour a day, I would like to play more, but I have back problems at the moment.

QRD What type of pick do you use & why?

Matt Heavy Dunlops for precision, I cant stand floppy picks.

QRD What gauge strings do you use & why?

Matt 12 Elixir, Im an Elixir evangelist, love them.

QRD How often do you change strings?

Matt Every few months, the Elixirs last ages & retain excellent tone.

QRD How often do you break strings?

Matt Not very often; I used to, but not since I went up to 12s. The heavier gauges seem to sound better.

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

Matt Fretting, Id like to get the Niles Rogers choc thing going one day with my strumming hand.

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

Matt Im rubbish so I get it set up by a guy in Denmark Street.  I need to find someone new because the last time I took my guitar down there he lost part of it!!

QRD What tunings do you use & why?

Matt Just normal, drop D, or Drop C. I am a big fan of that Nick Drake sound with the open tunings.

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

Matt I just remember stuff really. I can read sheet music, but Im not very good. If you cant remember it, its probably not very good.

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

Matt Above the waist, but not too high. Im not Slash. Recently Ive had to play sitting down because of my back.

QRD Whats a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?

Matt I mostly down pick - I need to improve that & when I hybrid pick sometimes the notes I play with the plectrum are too loud compared with the ones played with my fingers.

QRD Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someones guitar playing?

Matt Listening to the violin for melodic playing & the piano for chordal voicing, especially Bill Evans. Singing is great for working out melodies as are glockenspiel & melodica.

QRD Whats a type of guitar playing do you wish you could do that you cant?

Matt Funk guitar like Chic would be useful but I fear turning into some horrific Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar shop player. 

QRD Whats a guitar goal youve never accomplished?

Matt Open tunings, using Ableton live, slide guitar.  There are lots of things still to learn.

QRD Whats the last guitar trick you learned?

Matt Using an Ebow & I love it for nasty synth sounds combined with a whammy pedal.

QRD Whats a guitar technique youd like to master, but havent?

Matt Some of the percussive flamenco things. Slide would be very cool, like lap steel.

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

Matt I had lessons with a guy called Richard Beaumont for about 10 years. He was amazing; we did chord substitution, odd timings, all sorts. He really pushed me & got me into the Mahavishnu Orchestra & the Groundhogs. Hes an amazing guitarist. 

QRD What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you dont think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?

Matt Chord substitution & harmony.  How to come up with interesting parts when you are playing in bands, not just barre chords.  Thats the difficult thing & what people really want from you, to be interesting.

QRD Whats something someone would have to do to emulate your style?

Matt Learn what arpeggios work well together to create multiple harmony parts. Use a looper to orchestrate multiple parts & fade in & loop chords using a volume pedal. Learn odd timings, subdivision of 3 & 4. I mainly use extended arpeggios plus chromatic tones for leads, Im not really thinking of scales.

QRD Whats your take on tremolo systems?

Matt Not into them really, although the ones on Jags are very cool. Not good if you want to play guitar actually in tune though.

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

Matt There should be no difference its all about rhythm & melodies.  The hard bit is coming up with parts that really work together well, the parts that really make records.

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

Matt Nah.  Its all about the band performance for me - not interested in noodles.

QRD What famous musicians guitar would you like to own & why?

Matt I wouldnt mind a go on one of Eddie Van Halens guitars just as something I always thought was cool when I was a kid.

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

Matt Nels Cline maybe or the Radiohead guys. Both use interesting harmony & effects in a pop/rock context.  Very cool. Also Sonic Youth & Omar Rodriquez Lopez.
QRD Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Matt Not really for me to say, but I like the lead playing on The Fierce & The Dead first EP the part 1 19 minute track on Bandcamp. People seem to like it. For acoustic playing there are some fast leads on my first album Echo & Im really pleased with the layering & chord progressions on my second album Ghost.

QRD Anything else?

Matt I think thats covered every thing!! You can get all my stuff as pay what you want downloads from www.mattstevensguitar.com or Itunes, emusic etc.