QRD - Current Issue   About QRD   QRD Archives
QRD #46 - Guitarists Interview Series
about this issue
Guitarist Interviews with:
Azalia Snail
Alan Sparhawk
Jesse Grey
Michael Seman
Robert Brown
John Booker
Steven Mitchell
Ian McPhedran
Josef Echter
Jordan Barger
Zachary Corsa
Ed Ricart
Yair Yona
Jeff Schneider
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
QRD - Advertise
Silber Records
Silber Button Factory
Cerebus TV
Silber Kickstarter
Guitarist Interview with Steven Mitchell of The Heligoats, Ulysses S. Grant, & Hungry Mountain
December 2010
Name: Steven Mitchell
Bands: The Heligoats, Ulysses S. Grant, Hungry Mountain
Websites: theheligoats.com, ulysgrant.wordpress.com

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

Steven – My first guitar was a Fender Squire that I received for Christmas in one of those Squire packs that comes with a mini practice amp & cable. I still have the guitar & it is currently in my closet.

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

Steven – 2000 Fender American Strat into the Boss Tremolo (TR-2) & Boss Delay (DD-3) pedals into a Fender Deville “212” tube amp. I use the built in drive on the amp, controlling it with the footswitch pedal.

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

Steven – All of it is important equally. We are all in motion together, from brain to fingers to guitar to pedals to amp.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Steven – The Fender Deville “212” tube amp, I have had it for about 10 years & absolutely love it. I love the warm crunch that you can get from it & it’s loud as hell.

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

Steven – 2000 American Stratocaster. I’ve always liked the classic sound of a Strat. I have played guitars & enjoy playing on Fender Telecasters as well, but I have always just gone back to the Strat.

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

Steven – A hollow-body made out of glass. With 1965 Danelectro pickups. & the standard 3 knob controls of a Fender Strat (volume & 2 tones).

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

Steven – Analog Tape Delay Drum Machine. Combining the new full sounds of drum machines with the warmth of an analog delay all in one pedal.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Steven – 3.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Steven – The electric guitars are in hard cases & the acoustic is on a guitar holder all in my room.

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

Steven – Antlers.

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

Steven – Tone.

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

Steven – Hundreds of dollars.

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

Steven – Stick to what I get.

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

Steven – Usually I’ll try out something that a buddy has & if I like it I’ll go buy it.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Steven – I have been recently. Mostly experimenting with pedals.

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

Steven – I try to lock into a tone based on who I’m playing with & the mood of that band.

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

Steven – A Gretsch 1964 Country Gentleman guitar, Binson Echorec pedal, Vox Tone Bender fuzzbox pedal, Vox AC 30 amp.

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

Steven – Mute Button.

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

Steven – Best & Worst was my Estaban guitar tutorial.

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

Steven – Like - Fender. I just always have like that classic sound.

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

Steven – A minor.

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

Steven – 14.

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

Steven – 18, haven’t changed much.

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

Steven – I like all instruments, but I like the piercing crunch you can get from a guitar.

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

Steven – I’m with the old school of thought that a piano should be first for everyone.

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

Steven – Ally.

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

Steven – Syd Barrett, Sterling Morrison, Kurt Cobain.

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

Steven – No, I love my Bessie.

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

Steven – Smashed it. On the train tracks in front of some hot ladies in the 8th grade. I wanted them to think I was cool. Didn’t work out quite the way I wanted it to. 

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

Steven – Listen, Listen, Listen to music all the time.

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

Steven – About 14hours a week. I’d like to triple that.

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

Steven – Whatever I got laying around. Cause it’s easy.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Steven – .10

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Steven – Once a month

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Steven – Not as much as I use to.

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

Steven – Strumming, I’m more of a driving/straight forward player.

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

Steven – I set up myself because I haven’t received the check from this interview yet to pay my roadies.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Steven – Standard, I’m into the classic sound.

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

Steven – Tab is how I used to do it. Now I just play it over & over until I can lay it down on tape.

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

Steven – Medium

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

Steven – My need to smoke before I play.

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

Steven – Piano.

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

Steven – Classical finger picking.

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

Steven – Classical finger picking.

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

Steven – The one when you throw the guitar & it makes a loop around your body & then you catch it & just keep wailing on that riff.

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

Steven – Capo.

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

Steven – Classical finger picking.

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

Steven – I did take 4 guitar lessons when I was young. I learned you shouldn’t go to guitar lesson high.

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

Steven – To be themselves & come up with their own style of playing.

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

Steven – Hold back. Hit when it’s right.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Steven – I’m for tremolo. Surfs up.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Steven – I find a tone based on who I’m playing with & then let it ride.

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

Steven – Amount of groupies.

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

Steven – Yes & no. You can admire the guitar work while still not liking the band. I find that if a singer is really good I am able to forgive the band easier.

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

Steven – Neil Youngs’s “Old Black” 1953 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. Epic Sound.

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

Steven – Jonny Greenwood has been doing some interesting stuff for the past 15 years. I like the sound of the guitars that Nathan Williams has on the new Wavves album King of the Beach.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Steven – The album Goodness Gracious by The Heligoats & the upcoming EP from Hungry Mountain.

QRD – Anything else?

Steven – Thank you! Guitarist unite.