Interview with Steven Mitchell of The Heligoats, Ulysses S. Grant, &
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.