Interview with Miguel Baptista Benedict
Name: Miguel Baptista Benedict
Bands: Miguel Baptista Benedict (solo project), Puberty, Divorce Party
Websites: miguelbaptistabenedict.bandcamp.com, puberty.bandcamp.com, divorceparty.bandcamp.com
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Miguel – My first guitar was actually my mother’s. I think that was her father’s guitar before her. I’m not sure of the brand name. It was extremely worn out, no strings, couldn’t read any labels that remained on it. Acoustic of course. I got it restrung & learned to play on it when I was about 10 years old. I hadn’t touched another guitar until I was about 13; it was then that I realized how warped the neck was on the guitar I was using.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Miguel – I usually just go through whatever the venue offers me. I used to have a Crate amp, but that got lost in the shuffle through out the years from moving & what not. I use a lot of effects pedals & usually an e-bow. I am not that great at the guitar. I don’t “shred,” rather, I loop different notes to create different chords & I try to create a more orchestral & atmospheric experience. On the contrary, I like to create a lot of harsh noise as well. I typically use somebody else’s electric guitar & I run it through different delay pedals & pitch bending pedals. Mostly Boss equipment. If I’m using an acoustic guitar I scratch the e-bow & I amplify the acoustic by pressing record on an old hand-held tape player that I own & plug an 1/8” to 1/4” chord in to the ear piece of the recorder; this makes it so the recorder acts as its own microphone, & I typically get a riff or chord down that I like & manipulate the sound through a Kaoss Pad.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Miguel – All parts of my rig are the most important parts depending on the performance & the night.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Miguel – I enjoy Crate amplifiers. They are built to last. I like the smaller ones especially. When they’re turned up too loud they get a really unique distorted sound that makes the listener really have to pick out what’s being played. I like incidental things like that that force you to pay more close attention to what’s going on.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Miguel – My main guitar right now is a First Act children’s guitar. I like how twangy everything sounds. When I record, it gives it a dark, analog sound that I don’t hear too much anymore. It’s more organic sounding in my opinion. The mistakes in the manufacturing of the instrument make it more honest & real. A lot of recordings these days don’t sound like real people playing, but rather manufactured sounds that you could get out of a drum machine.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Miguel – If I had a signature guitar it would be one of those Coke bottle & string guitars, but it would have a setting on it that turned it into something like a theremin. The base of it would be the reactor, so the further down the neck you got toward the pick up, the louder & more harsh the sound would be.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Miguel – If I had a signature pedal, it would be a multi-effects pedal that was really touch sensitive, & the effects would switch randomly every time you pressed the pedal so you could never compute what effect would happen next. Also, I know it already exists, but if I could go back in time & invent this myself, it would be one of those Kaoss Pads that are built right into the body of the guitar.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Miguel – I own one three.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Miguel – I store them in random places. Right now since I’m in LA, I have one here, one hidden in my parents’ attic (from my brother... if he got a hold of it it’d break), & one in my friend’s basement back in Michigan.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Miguel – I wish guitar cases had wheels, or blades that came out of them. Either one.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Miguel – I look for authenticity & sub par craftsmanship.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Miguel – I think guitars should cost whatever it takes to make it with a little extra for the manufacturer. I don’t think people should pay for labels.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Miguel – No.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Miguel – Pretty thoroughly. If I find one I like, I put it on hold, after playing with it for about an hour in the store or wherever it’s coming from. I come back the next day, do it again. I really think on it (because I’m picky & I try to be frugal) & then if I like it three days later, I usually buy it. That goes for any instrument.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Miguel – Yes. I never used to. But there are certain things that I like to do from time to time that require a rig change.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Miguel – Yes, I think one of the most unpracticed settings on a guitar are the tone knobs. Personally I like either extreme, nothing really in the middle. Either extremely muffled & bass-y or really treble-y & twangy.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Miguel – I really like Orange amplifiers. I know that before I said I like Crate amps, but that was speaking in relativity. If I could afford it, I would be the biggest Orange amp fan the world has ever scene. Also, I really like broken Casio keyboards. If you’re into circuit bending, then you know why.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Miguel – I think if you’re buying a guitar for the first time, buy one that will make you want to keep playing. All that bullshit about gear doesn’t matter if it’s Greek to you. If you want to play the guitar, go for your own particular aesthetic. Let the knowledge come on its own time & play a bigger part when you’re buying your second or third guitar. I’m not saying people should go in to a guitar shop without doing a little research; but as long as you know what is complete shit versus what you’re getting ripped off on, then it should be okay.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Miguel – I bought one of those little cranks that make it easier to turn the tuning knobs. That was a waste of $5. It didn’t even save me that much time.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Miguel – I really hate the way flanger pedals sound, & phaser pedals. I just think they’re really corny. Chorus pedals are boarder-line for me in that respect as well.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Miguel – Harmonics or something I’ve written myself really quietly. Because I hate when people play loudly in social situations.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Miguel – About 10 years old.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Miguel – I haven’t. I’m not bad. But I’m not great. I think it’d be unfair to myself to set a concrete level of “greatness.” I think it’d be unfair for anyone to do to themselves.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Miguel – I don’t really. It’s just easy to fill in the blanks with a guitar. Like a piano making up for parts in an orchestra.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Miguel – No. I think the piano should be. For obvious reasons.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Miguel – Most of the time. That or the piano. Mostly guitar though.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Miguel – I really enjoy hearing my friends play the guitar. It’s a more tangible connection & it’s more motivating. It doesn’t matter the skill level. What matters is the collaboration. Eventually you come up with sounds together & you can take that for yourself & develop on your own, or you can choose to keep growing with that other person/people.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Miguel – I don’t do it personally, but I definitely do things that personify my guitar in my own right, so no, I don’t think it’s silly. Some people spend more time with their instruments & learn more about themselves than when they’re around their husbands, wives, friends, or family. Why not make take that relationship with your instrument to the next level?
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Miguel – I smashed a guitar on a glass table because I was angry & I thought it would be a good way to make myself go out & get a new one, or learn another instrument.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Miguel – Listening to music helps. Listening to your own recordings help, especially after giving them time to brew & going back to them months after the initial recording. Anything that makes you pay attention to subtleties is a good thing. It’s important not to concentrate on the actual technical part, but rather how the over all sound expresses who you are. Anyone can learn to play “Free Bird,” but can they make it their own?
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Miguel – I don’t play too often. Maybe about 2 hours a day? I record a lot, so it really just depends on the project that I’m working on.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Miguel – No pick.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Miguel – Not sure, I usually just pick them out. I know it’s not what a “guitar player” should do; but I like to mix things up a bit, so if I ever have to use someone else’s guitar I don’t have to be an asshole & apologize to the audience because “the strings aren’t what I’m used to.” That kind of stuff is lame.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Miguel – After the second or third one has broken on the guitar.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Miguel – About every six months.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Miguel – Fretting. Depends though, because I also play bass. I can slap very well, & I’m proficient with my thumb when playing 16th notes or 32nd notes on the bass. So it depends on if I’m playing the bass or the guitar. As far as style, for the guitar I’m not that great with my strumming hand, so I concentrate on chords a lot more. With bass, I’m pretty good with both hands, so I try to create bass lines with my left hand, & counter melodies with my right. With bass, I use a lot of distortion & other effects, so it depends on what I’m working on.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Miguel – Not at all. Because every guitar is perfect in its own way.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Miguel – Standard tuning mostly. I often tune the B string & the high E string a quarter or a half pitch away from each other, so the tune is a D#+ or just a D#. I do that to other strings sometimes too. Mostly in the winter.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Miguel – I like to record my ideas when I get them if I can. Otherwise, I just forget about it. I don’t not believe in writing things down, I just generally don’t do it.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Miguel – I’m usually sitting down. So I’m used to holding it at about my mid-stomach.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Miguel – Not using my ring & pinky fingers more while finger picking.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Miguel – Piano. Bass. Mostly piano. It’s easier to learn an instrument if you know a little about music theory, or you can visualize how far away notes are, things like that. The piano is a good musical road map in my opinion.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Miguel – It sounds cliché, but blues guitar. I wouldn’t play it publicly or anything, I would just really like to know how to play the guitar in that style.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Miguel – Playing the blues guitar.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Miguel – Not sure.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Miguel – I like the ebow & the slide.
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Miguel – Hmmm... not sure. I’m pretty content.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Miguel – No.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Miguel – Not to think that guitar playing is about learning other people’s solos & songs. Sure it’s nice to know that you can play them & I’m not saying that it’s not important to learn these things for technical ability, but the best guitar players, or musicians in general, are the best because they haven’t their own style. Otherwise, you’re just another studio musician with a shit-load of technical talent, but nowhere to channel it & you get stuck as the lead guitarist for Miley Cyrus.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Miguel – Be a dude.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Miguel – I think they have their time & place.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Miguel – I usually just set it to a dark tone. I like dark tones...mostly for the same reasons that I like cold weather so I can wear sweaters.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Miguel – One’s showing off more than the other.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Miguel – Heavens, no. Then we’ve got another Aerosmith on our hands.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Miguel – I would like to own John Frusciante’s guitar. It’s just really beautiful & I would know how much of him has been channeled through it. I wouldn’t play it; I would just look at it like an empty house.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Miguel – Either Ryan St. Claire or Logan Seguin.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Miguel – On my album Catastrophic Domination.
QRD – Anything else?
Miguel – People should not limit themselves
to one instrument. Music isn’t an instrument, that’s why an instrument
is simply called an “instrument.” It’s a tool to show who you are
or what you want to express with a lack of words. Again, these are
just my opinions, but I don’t think that people should limit themselves
in any art form by comparing their skills with other musicians, but rather
they should really try to use music as a way to find themselves instead
of just trying to find hidden hand muscles so they can play Slash’s solo
from “November Rain.” I think with honest playing, technical skills
will develop on their own in their own time.