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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 Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos 
August 2010

Name: Nick Reinhart
Bands: Tera Melos, Bygones, solo
Websites: teramelosmusic.com
Listen to “Frozen Zoo”

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

Nick – My first guitar was a black Memphis Strat copy. I sold it to my best friend. My second guitar was either a Jagstang or a Telecaster. I can’t remember which came first. I still own both of them.

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

Nick – Guitar - tons of pedals - amp. I actually don’t know what a lot of the pedals are, as I’ve either grinded off the name or covered them with stickers. Lots of envelope/synth filters, delays, whammy pedals, chorus, etc. I often change things out as well. 

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

Nick – Hmm. That’s tricky. I could definitely rip an entire set sans effects. I guess I could make do with any amp. So the guitar would probably be most important. But even with a shit guitar I could probably figure something out.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why? 

Nick – Right now it’s a Peavey 6505 combo. It was given to me by Peavey as sort of a friendship deal, which was awesome. Before that I was using a Mesa Triple Rectifier out of a 4x12 & I just wanted to scale down a bit. I was tired of lugging around the massive roadcase for the head as well as destroying my back by lifting the speaker cab. The Peavey has got an aggressive edge for the most part, but it’s pretty responsive to dynamic playing when it needs to be. 

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

Nick – Peavey also hooked me up with an awesome custom guitar. It’s sort of a Jazzmaster/Telecaster hybrid as far as the body goes. Seymour Duncan JBs in the bridge & some single coil jazz in the neck. No knobs. Just a pickup selector & cutoff switch. I also designed the pickguard, which I’m really stoked on. It’s this weird cubist, Adrian Belew inspired polygon. I’d actually like to have it made for all of my guitars. Also I’ve always wanted a surf green guitar, the Fender version of sea foam, so that’s pretty rad.

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

Nick – If I could go all out I’d like to have a mic built into a guitar with a selector switch so I could send vocals through my effects. I’d probably have some Simpsons characters painted on as well. Then I’d have a custom case that was in the shape of Larry David’s head.

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

Nick – I’d really like a Line 6 DL4 that didn’t break all the friggin time. My signature pedal would be hardwired to my brain & would produce any sound that I was thinking of, like SCRONK, BZZZ OW, YEEEEEE, MGHHHHGHHHGHHH. Maybe something with lots of siren sounds too. 

QRD – How many guitars do you own? 

Nick – Probably 10 or 12. 

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars? 

Nick – I think most of them are stored below my parent’s house. Some of them don’t have cases so they’re wrapped in sleeping bags.

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

Nick – A little cash dispenser that shoots out $100 bills. Most guitar cases don’t have that. Other than that they all seem pretty cool to me.

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

Nick – Fast neck. Solid body. Cool color/shape doesn’t hurt.

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

Nick – Not sure. I’ve bought more than one rad guitar for under $100. I’d be worried about spending too much money on something that I know is going to get pounded & thrashed. 

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

Nick – Usually swap out pickups & set ‘em up so they’re lightening fast. 

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

Nick – I’m more of an impulse buyer. So probably not as much as I should. I’ll cruise around Harmony Central & see what people are saying if there’s something I’m eyeing. Otherwise it’s usually just grab it & go. Then if it sucks it just sits around for a few years. Then I’ll rediscover it & be like, “Whoa! I forgot I had this. This thing rules!”

QRD – Do you change your rig around often? 

Nick – By default my rig changes after tours because things break & I replace them with different things - heads, guitars, cabs, pedals, etc. I think it keeps things fresh & interesting for me/the band/the audience.

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

Nick – I’m not one of these tone freaks that knows amp models & years & which sounds best & blah blah blah. I like a good mid range that rips. I used to just have my ultra clean channel (green), gain channel (orange), & destroyer channel (red). I’m trying to simplify things these days with a semi clean channel & a nice distortion pedal in front of it. I just really go for that viscous mid range sound, like AC/DC with a little less high end & a bit more saturated. Right now I’m getting it with the Peavey green channel + a Boss Super Overdrive. 

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

Nick – At one point I’d like to own a JCM 800. We recorded our last album with an 800 & it sounded awesome. I’d love a new Fender Jazzmaster. The J Mascis signature is awesome. Not sure about pedals. Boutique pedals seem really cool, but they’re usually real expensive. Typically I don’t spend more than $100 per pedal. Although if I had that cash dispenser on my guitar case like I mentioned earlier, maybe I could try some out. I just got a Digitech Space Station, which I’ve wanted for a really long time. They’re super-pricey, but I found a Digitech XP 200 (modulator) for cheap & had my friend Ben Milner mod it into the XP 300 (Space Station). He’s a real life wizard. He also plays in The Advantage.

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

Nick – I don’t think there should be any “important” features on one’s first guitar. It’s good to be unaware of those features as a beginner & learn through mistakes & the shittiness of a first guitar. It’s like when daddy buys his fake gangster 16 year-old son a new BMW for his first car. The fake gangster will grow up to not appreciate what it means to drive an 83 Accord that constantly breaks down on the way to punk shows.

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

Nick – I don’t know if it was my best purchase, but definitely one of my most significant purchases was my Mesa Triple Rectifier. I think I was 19 or 20 & I had spent my entire savings on it. I didn’t even know what 150w meant at the time. The only time I’ve ever needed an amp even close to that loud is when I’m playing in my other band, Bygones, which has pretty much the loudest drummer on the planet, Zach Hill. Since my roots are in loud fast punk music, I just like the comfort in knowing I can always turn up & blast everything away.
I guess the worst purchases have been paying to have the headstocks re-glued on a few SGs multiple times. I probably wasted $300 with all the repairs & I would still just blast ‘em off at shows. Eventually I just retired a guitar or two & started piecing the others back together myself. 

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

Nick – I have a love/hate relationship with the Line 6 DL4. It has the coolest delay/looping functions available for what I like to do. They just build them like hunks of cat shit. I really dig Peavey guitars, particularly old ones, 80s-90s, because they’re built real well & you can find them for pretty cheap. I have a few Fenders, but I wish I could afford more. They’re just classic & legendary. Marshalls, Mesas, & Peaveys for amps. Marshalls sound the best, the Mesas are tanks & the Peavey is kind of an amalgam of the two.

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

Nick – I usually have a brain fart when I sit down to play a guitar in Guitar Center or something. I’m picturing walking over to a guitar in my room right now & picking it up & playing something. I have no idea what would come out. I think it’d be one of two things – “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel or a Robert Fripp riff. 

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

Nick – 11.

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

Nick – I’d like to think that my playing is constantly evolving. So by that thought process my playing is at it’s best as I type this. I actually really do like my playing now more than ever. I kind of just pile on new techniques & ideas onto everything I’ve learned previously. I’m 27 now.

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

Nick – I’m not sure. I don’t know that it does actually. I mean it’s the instrument I chose to begin on & practice & move forward with. So it’s what I am best at, therefore suits me better than any other instrument. Although, I think it does fit with what I want to do musically very well. I had heard when I was younger that piano was the “most complete” instrument because it has melody, harmony & rhythm elements. Obviously you could say the same about a lot of instruments. I guess I really liked that concept & applied it to guitar. 

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

Nick – People should learn whatever instrument they feel drawn to. Although the ratio of good guitar players to good drummers is like 10:1, so maybe people should go for drums. 

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

Nick – I heard Jack White say something about how every time he plays guitar it’s like a “battle” & he’s just trying to conquer it or something. It sounded cool, but then I thought about it & it was kind of stupid. Well, only because he was probably just saying it to sound cool & edgy. Of course the guitar is your ally. It’s your device in which you present your art. Although I guess Jack White could have meant that playing on a really shitty old guitar was like a battle & I could understand that for sure. I’ve played on hunks for years that wouldn’t stay in tune & just sucked in general. The adversary thing just seems weird to me. It’s like, I’m hungry & to satisfy this need I’m going to eat a piece of pizza & that pizza is my enemy. I will make that pizza my bitch & eat the shit out of it. Then I’ll be full.

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

Nick – Kurt Cobain, Greg Ginn, Frank Black, Adrian Belew & Robert Fripp off the immediate top of my skull.

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

Nick – Seems pretty natural I guess. I don’t have any names for my guitars or anything. I think it’d be cool if people practiced sexual objectification with their instruments & had sex with their guitars. Actually, that probably already happens. 

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

Nick – I’ve blown the headstock off of many SGs at shows. One time we played a bowling alley in Texas & I was swinging my guitar around & blasted the headstock off on a bowling monitor hanging from the ceiling. There was another time I threw an SG-X like 20 feet in the air to get it caught in some lights. Got it on the first throw. That probably wasn’t very good for that guitar’s well being.

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

Nick – Nothing in particular. Right now the only thing I’ll sometime focus on is speed in my left & right hand. Specifically with arpeggio-style riffs. Consistency in picking each note & getting them to sound almost synthetic. 

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

Nick – It depends. We just finished up a week of band practice & I played everyday for around 5 hours. But today for instance I picked up 2 different guitars & played each for 5 minutes. I’ll usually play for a while when I’m feeling inspired.

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

Nick – Usually anything that’s 1.0 or “heavy.” or anything that’s easy to steal. I hate having to pay for little pieces of plastic cut into triangles. I have no idea how people can play with thin, flimsy picks. It baffles my mind. I guess I’ve never tried it, so maybe it’d make sense if I checked it out, but I don’t think it’d be practical for the type of stuff I play.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why? 

Nick – I’ve been using slinky top heavy bottoms for awhile now. They’re .52s on the bottom & .10s on the top. They seem to stay in tune well with all the thrashing that goes on throughout our set & they never seem to break. I can only think of one or two times in the last 6 years that I’ve broken a string live. Right now we’ve got a bit of a GHS hook up, so that’s the brand we’re currently jamming.

QRD – How often do you change strings? 

Nick – My hands don’t sweat that much, so my strings sound new for quite a few shows. I could probably go 7 or 8 shows & they’d just start to sound muddy. 

QRD – How often do you break strings? 

Nick – 1-2 times every six years according to my previous answer. 

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

Nick – Both are probably fairly equal. I can set my picking hand to turbo, but it really only accomplishes a noise assault, which is what I’d prefer over shreddy scales anyways. I’ve developed a hybrid picking/finger picking thing over the last couple of years which I’m real happy with. It’s totally helped me pushing my song writing into interesting areas. 

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

Nick – I wish I knew how to set up my guitar. I’ve tried to learn by reading stuff or watching tutorials. I’m just always scared of cranking the truss rod & jacking everything up. I really should figure it out though. I usually have a friend do it or I’ll take it to a cool mom & pop shop called Son & Father Guitars here in town.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why? 

Nick – I’ve always played in standard turning. I really like the idea of playing outside-the-box things under the idea that there are no tricks (in this case alternate tunings) & that anyone can do it. Although I’m definitely curious about experimenting with alternate tunings. There’s a whole other world to explore. Perhaps one day.

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

Nick – I’ve never done either of those. I’ll usually just play a riff a thousand times until it’s burned into my brain. There have been times where I’ve completely forgotten a riff & that sucks. One time last summer I was practicing with Zach Hill in Los Angeles. We spent an entire day writing a song. I remember being really excited about it. A couple of days went by without playing it & I completely lost it. Sometimes I’ll record a riff on my cell phone & then return to it later. But that can also be a problem because I may have no idea how I actually played it in the first place. 

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

Nick – I don’t know the strap length. Pretty high, but not like up-to-my-neck high. I definitely play it higher than the dudes in Korn, that’s for certain.

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

Nick – I’m actually pretty happy with my playing. Not to sound cocky or anything. I can’t really think of any bad habits I exhibit when playing guitar. I’m not like wiping boogers on my strap or anything.

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

Nick – Drums for sure. A good knowledge of rhythm will always help push your guitar playing. I always think about how the drums will interact with whatever I’m working on. 

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

Nick – Stanley Jordan-style finger tapping is pretty insane. I suppose I emulate that a little in some songs, but it’s really just scratching the surface of what that guy can do. I’ve been into Brian Setzer lately. I wish I could play those types of leads. I’d want to take that rockabilly style & expand on it, possibly taking it somewhere untapped. I have friends that laugh when they see Brian Setzer on my iPod. He’s legit. 

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

Nick – Getting featured in Guitar World would be a pretty awesome thing for me. My dad had a subscription in the early 90s. I remember flipping through them for hours as a kid. That’d be a really cool full circle nostalgic thing for me. 

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

Nick – I haven’t picked up any cool tricks lately. Well, actually my friend Ben, the wizard I mentioned earlier, showed me how to replace the switches in old DOD pedals. The little piece that’s underneath the part you step on gets worn down flat, which prevents the pedal from being activated. So I used to ghetto rig it by taping a couple pieces of broken guitar picks over the worn down spot, which would act as a button & temporarily fix it, but it was really obnoxious. So now I know how to replace those puppies the right way. It had been a few years since I had one of my DODs working properly. 

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

Nick – Hmm, I can’t really think of any common gadgets that I put to good use. Aside from the pedals, it’s pretty back-to-basics as far as my guitar goes. I don’t even use strap locks, I just use a washer & screw the strap to the guitar itself. 

QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t? 

Nick – Other than the few things I’ve mentioned, I think it’d be cool to be able to do sweeps. It’s another technique I’d be interested in exploring for the purpose of doing something that hasn’t really been done with them. Typically, sweeps are a metal thing & they’re either super minor sounding or cheesy & epic sounding. I think I’d be able to process the shit out of them & make some pretty weird stuff happen. That’s the kind of thing that you just have to sit down & practice for hours & I don’t really do that with guitar. 

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

Nick – I took lessons for a few years when I first began playing. I’m not exactly sure what I learned from them. There was some theory integrated into learning Nirvana songs or whatever, but it’s hard to say what I walked away with. I remember bringing in a NOFX song, “The Bag,” & wanting to learn the solo. The dude had it like 85% figured out & wrote it down. I still can’t play it the right way to this day. In any case, I definitely feel that taking lessons for a little bit was a positive thing. 

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

Nick – I’d be most interested in helping someone develop their own style. One thing I would have liked to get into earlier was actual song writing. The idea of being in a band or writing songs didn’t occur to me until I had been playing for probably 4 or 5 years. So maybe style & song writing is something I’d emphasize. 

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

Nick – Well just like anyone’s art - one could emulate it, but it’d be impossible to copy it, just by nature. My entire life is pretty much based around music. Most of my thoughts can be traced to a musical root. It’s not so much bands or songs that influence my style, it’s just sounds in general. I guess what I’m saying is that you’d probably have to get inside my head to emulate what I’m trying to accomplish with guitar. As far as tangible stuff goes, I guess just raw, melodic, outside-the-box playing is kind of an overall style I consciously or unconsciously try to encompass. 

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems? 

Nick – All my Peavey’s that had trem/whammy bars I had blocked out. At some point I’d like to mess around with them though. Adrian Belew, aka the “twang bar king,” is a really cool tremolo player. I think I’ve just never played on a super legit tremolo system that was smooth & stayed in tune. It wasn’t until recently that I got to play on one of the nice Fender floating trem systems, like the ones on Jazzmasters/Jaguars. Those are awesome. My Jagstang had a “dynamic vibrato” system which friggin sucked. One dip on that thing & it was way out of tune. I think anyone that owns a Jagstang will tell you the same thing. I remember when I was 12 or 13 my stepbrother & I took his Fender Strat & taped the shit out of the trem bar so it was all the way down. We cranked the gain on the 1x10 & jumped around laughing like idiots, thrashing on that thing. Those are my earliest memories of tremolo bars, which is probably why I was never interested in them. 

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob? 

Nick – Never. Absolutely never. Wide open 100% of my life. Well, actually maybe sometimes during recording to get synthy sounds. 

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

Nick – Well the obvious difference is the lead guitar player is the one wailing solos throughout the set while the rhythm dude just strums along. One time we got a write up where our old guitar player, Jeff, was referred to as the “rhythm” guitar player while I was the “lead.” We laughed pretty hard about it. It was pretty lame. I’m not sure where the average musical Joe draws the line. I don’t really have any interest one way or the other. 

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

Nick – Probably not. That’d be tough. 

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

Nick – Greg Ginn’s Ampeg Dan Armstrong guitar would be pretty cool to have. There’s so much history behind it/him/Black Flag. Even forgetting about their music, what they did & how they did is legendary. I wouldn’t like hang it or have it displayed somewhere - I’d play the shit out of it. & I’d wear a Greg Ginn skin mask while rockin’ out.

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

Nick – Spencer Seim, from Hella, is really the only current dude who I can think of that blows my mind. It’s unfortunate because the last few years he’s been playing drums in bands, which he’s great at; but it’s his guitar playing that always rattled me. Ben Weinman, from the Dillinger Escape Plan, is an awesome guitar player as well. Seim, Weinman, Reinhart?! huh??!  it’s the “ei” combo in the last name. Yeah right, I’m just kidding. Those guys make me look like a little kid that accidentally shit all over his Pokemon cards.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Nick – On our new record PATAGONIAN RATS, out Sept 7th on Sargent House Records!!!

QRD – Anything else? 

Nick – Thanks everyone!