Interview with Wim Lecluyse of Circle Bros
Name: Wim Lecluyse
Bands: Circle Bros, Pernath
Listen to “waiting is not killing time”
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Wim – This was/is a Maison 190-LPC, as sort of a Les Paul clone. A really heavy guitar, it weighs about 8 kilograms (16 pounds). I got it when I turned 15. My parents paid for part of it. I still use it to this very day. Sure, the microphones aren’t that good, the neck is a bit twisted & the frets are worn out... but through the years I got so used to all of these small errors that I really got accustomed to playing this guitar. So I still use it a lot.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Wim – When using a minimum setup: guitar - delay - amp. Any kind of guitar, any kind of delay, any kind of amp. When circumstances are perfect: Maison guitar - Boss Feedbacker - Behringer Ultra Tremelo - Behringer Vintage Time Machine - put into my old Fostex 4track, that I used as a mixing panel/tapelooper - a Boss Pitch Shifter/Delay 3 added to that Fostex, & putting that out to my Fender Rock Pro 1000 amp. I tend to put the microphone into the Fostex as well, so it has the same delay on it.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Wim – These days… I think the effects. I often replace guitar as input by vocals, keyboards, stylophone... & sometimes I don’t use an amp, but just headphones in the Fostex. So I think I’ll go for the effects these days.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Wim – The Fender Rock Pro 1000. The clean channel sounds great & works very well for the effects. I need to have the amp checked though - it hisses pretty bad because the reverb seems broken.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Wim – These days, I use the aforementioned Maison most. If I want to use a cleaner, more resonating sound, I tend to use my one other guitar: a Gretsch G3900, a synchromatic part of the historical series.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Wim – The people of Maison can contact me any time. Never heard of another guitarist using them. So I guess if they want someone to have a signature model, they’d have to go for me.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Wim – Probably a delay - I really like both the Boss & the Behringers I use, but I could use separate volumes for the dry sound & the sound with the delay on it.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Wim – Two. The Maison & the Gretsch.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Wim – In their guitar cases in the room where we use them.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Wim – Straps so you could carry them on your back.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Wim – I’ve only bought two guitars. The first time, I wanted a black Les Paul model, because my favorite guitarists at the time used that sort of model (I thought) & black looked best. For the Gretsch I was looking for a hollow-body. I was thinking of buying one of those cheap Ibanez guitars, but then decided to throw in some extra cash.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Wim – I guess you should be able to find a very decent guitar for around 500 euro, unless you want some really specific features
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Wim – Never upgraded a guitar.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Wim – I tend to ask people about it. & test it in the shop. Of course that’s not the case when buying a 25 euro Behringer pedal - that’s more impulsive.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Wim – Not really. I sometimes throw out stuff for a while.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Wim – I always thought I locked my tone about 10 years ago, but listening back to old recordings, I do hear quite a big difference. So I think it evolves very slowly.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Wim – Still haven’t decided whether I’d like a phaser & a wah-wah. I think that would be a toy I could mess with for a while, but then would get bored of it very fast. I’m happy with both my amps & both my guitars.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Wim – I think the most important thing is that you start with the kind of guitar you’d like to play eventually: don’t buy an acoustic nylon string guitar just “to learn how to play.” If you want to end up playing rock music, or metal, or drones, that would end up being quite a frustration.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Wim – Best: the Maison. Worst: the pick-holder I’ve glued on the back of the head of that Maison.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Wim – I truly hate the zoom multi effect processors. They made every beginning rock band I ever saw sound the same. (Added up to horrible songwriting skills off course.) Horrible, horrible sounds come out of it. I truly think I’ve never seen a good band/artist use one of those.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Wim – A few open chords I think.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Wim – I got my first guitar when I was fifteen. I played a friend’s guitar a couple of months before that.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Wim – Best (as in what I like to listen to): maybe five years ago, when I was 25. “Technical”: when I was 17. I listened to a lot of Jesus Lizard-esque stuff back then, & that reflected in the way I played. Since I have no interested in playing music like that anymore, I think my “skills” went downhill. However, I think I definitely grew as a musician because of that.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Wim – It’s quite an easy way to manipulate sounds.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Wim – No, I’d like to see more other instruments around. As long as they’re not afraid to experiment with the sound.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Wim – I’ve never thought of it that way. I tend not to blame my guitars when something doesn’t work out. In the end, it’s a tool.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Wim – When I picked up the guitar: Lou Barlow/Eric Gaffney of Sebadoh & Rowland S Howard of The Birthday Party - still love their music, but I haven’t play anything remotely similar for years now. Jason Diemilio of Azusa Plane is a long time favorite - I definitely owe a lot to him - he made me realize you can disguise pop songs as experimental music. In more recent years, Michael Anderson of Drekka showed me that you don’t need to use a guitar all the time, or that you can dispose your skills. Ray Raposa of Castanets inspired me because he makes traditional songs sound very bleak.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Wim – Never realized that people do this. Definitely silly.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Wim – Break a string?
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Wim – I consider listening to music practicing.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Wim – I play as much as I want to. So sometimes, I play a few hours a day; sometimes I don’t touch a guitar for weeks. In general: that’s about one-two hours per week. I know, not a lot.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Wim – I like those Dunlops that are indented on the borders. When playing them with the sides, it makes the string bump a bit.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Wim – Mostly a set of 0.011. Fat strings resonate better.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Wim – Once every two years?
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Wim – Never. Well, not in the last ten years.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Wim – Never though of my hands as two single units. Since I don’t try to shred, I can’t say what’s my strong point.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Wim – I set it up myself, because I’m not keen on letting guitar shop asshole-types work on my equipment. No idea how I’d explain them that I don’t care about hiss. & also I can’t imagine paying someone for this. I’m not a pro.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Wim – EADGBE - so many great songs have been written in this tuning. I think this was my safest choice. All the other tunings I used, ended up being one off experiments. Plus I hate retuning.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Wim – Sometimes I make something that remotely looks like a tablature. Most of the time I’m too lazy, so I just write down chords, & a vague instruction on how to play (something like: focus on bass-strings, not more than two notes at a time) - & I make drawings of how the knobs on my effect pedals are adjusted. But most of the time, I just forget.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Wim – When touching the bridge of my guitar, my elbow has a 110° angle.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Wim – Not picking up the guitar for weeks?
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Wim – These days, I prefer vocals & organ. Pretty much any instrument that makes a sound that pleases you.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Wim – Turning down my amp in the mix. It’s always too loud compared to the vocals. I think I need to focus more on this, but I’m confident I’ll learn to adjust the volume better than I can now.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Wim – Playing slower. But I learned that already quite a few years ago.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Wim – A capo. I need to buy an ebow though - I’d love to try this on our piano.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Wim – Never did.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Wim – I wish more guitarists (& musicians in general) would actually listen to what they play. I’d probably let people listen to something they recorded.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Wim – Listen to lots of Sebadoh (for Pernath) or Azusa Plane (for Circle Bros). You’ll be fine then.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Wim – Never really used one - I’m used to bending the strings without a tremelo. On the Maison guitar, I sometimes bend the neck. Works just fine.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Wim – The one on the guitar is always open - I rather adjust the one on the amp. That one used to be open 100% as well when I started playing. I think I got bored of the piercing sound, & turned it down through the years.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Wim – Egos? I’m not interested in “lead” guitars.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Wim – Not at all. If a band is not good, I won’t notice there’s good guitar work going on. What each band member does separately is pretty irrelevant in my opinion.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Wim – Lou Barlow’s Rickenbacker bass. Maybe I’d like a bass at some point. & the Rickenbacker has a really nice design.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Wim – My favorite “new” bands of the past 5 years are Castanets & Liars. I’d pick those guitarists.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Wim – I hate to say this, but probably on my latest record, which is Haven, out on Morc Records. & for “technical” guitar work, I think the split 7” Pernath did with Fields of Gaffney. Though Steve Morse-fans will be highly disappointed.
QRD – Anything else?
Wim – One of my favorite band names ever is: “you can unlearn guitar.” Just use a guitar for whatever you think you need it. If not, stay away from it.