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QRD #53 - Guitarist Interview Series V
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about this issue
Guitarist Interviews:
Jason Handelsman
Andras Fekete 
Phil Mitchell
Jessica Bailiff 
Jason Lamoreaux
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Greg & Kyrsten Magnuson
Brandon Helms
Matt Guess 
Rachel Staggs
Jun Minowa 
Michael Cosma 
Cheryl Hall
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Ben Weyerhaeuser
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Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
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Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Ben Weyerhaeuser
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Ben Weyerhaeuser
Guitarist Interview with Ben Weyerhaeuser of Rags & Ribbons
July 2011
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Name: Ben Weyerhaeuser
Bands: Rags & Ribbons
Websites: www.facebook.com/RagsRibbons
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?

Ben – Yamaha Pacifica in cream with a white pick guard.  I remember thinking that the all white looked cool when I was 13 & my dad bought me an electric guitar for Christmas.

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

Ben – Custom G&L Comanche in sparkle red flake (gotta have a little sparkle).   I use GHS Boomer strings, 10-52 set.  I just picked up a Vox AC30 TB - Korg reissue off of Craigslist that is my main amp right now.  It has a really clean & punchy tone that is nice & consistent.  Pedals include: RAT distortion pedal (88 whiteface reissue), Boss DD-20 delay pedal, Boss Digital Reverb, Digitech Whammy Pedal, Tube Screamer reissue, MXR Phase 90, Boss Chromatic Tuner.  Dunlop .73 are the picks I have always used, they seem to do the trick.

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

Ben – I would say my guitar is the most important.  I just love the feel of my guitar in my hands & it makes me feel comfortable.  Although, if the sound is the priority, I would have to say my effects pedals are critical.  I don’t have enough experience or knowledge of different guitar models & amp models; however, pedals seem critical to creating the right sounds & shapes.  They are not as emotionally as important as my guitar, but they are probably the most important for my sound.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Ben – VOX AC30.  It’s the one I used to record a lot of the riffs on our first album.  My producer & resident guitar guru really encouraged me to get an AC30 because I was just rocking a Fender Blues Junior for the first several years of playing guitar.  The  AC30 has a great balanced tone that can do a lot & can fit many sounds.  Stephan Hawkes is the producer on our record & he is incredibly talented & knowledgeable about guitars.  I totally trust him & he knows our sound & our songs.  So, whatever he recommends I am gonna pay attention to.

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

Ben – My friend Rob taught me a lot about guitars & he inspired me to get a G&L Comanche for my first electric guitar that I bought for using in the band.  I played on my old Yamaha Pacifica for the first couple years & when it was time to graduate to a better guitar, Rob inspired me to get a Comanche.  If it matters, I would dedicate the guitar & my sound to him & all his support & love that he showed the band.  I decided to go with the sparkle red because it felt sexy & I thought it felt right for the stage.

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

Ben – I saw Prince play Coachella a couple years ago & he had his purple Prince sign custom guitar that just looked amazing.  It would be awesome to have a shape shifter guitar that could transform instantly into a tele, strat, or les paul.  Everything in one.  Plus those auto tuners look really sweet, maybe a little much but they looked cool on you tube.

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

Ben – I would create a pedal & call it the “Badass Love Pedal”.  Anytime when you are going nuts & the emotions are feeling super high on stage & it feels like you can’t get anymore out of your guitar, all you do is click on the Badass Love Pedal & you could get a little more volume, a little more distortion, a little more electronic synth, a little more space, & a little more delay all in one.  Instantly just take your sound one notch higher haha!

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Ben – I own my G&L Comanche & my Yamaha Pacifica.  I am still a guitar newby.  Keeping it simple with one old & one new.  Although, I do see a lot of guitars that I admire & would love to have.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Ben – In the case. I want to get some of those cool wall mounts too, but haven’t gotten around to it.

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

Ben – A place to store paper, music books, & notes.  The ability to fold up & get smaller once you take your guitar out, hard cases that is.

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

Ben – Tone is important, a neck that feels good, & it’s gotta look sexy & badass.

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

Ben – As much as the market demands they should cost.  There are cheap guitars for those that don’t want to spend too much & there are expensive guitars for those who want to spend a lot on guitars.  I am somewhere in the middle.

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

Ben – I personally don’t know enough about guitars yet to make any personal modifications.

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

Ben – I research a ton.  If I am going to commit to a guitar, it is something that I think over a tremendous amount before purchasing.  I make sure to test out the guitar & get it or a similar model into my hands before I buy anything.  I just want it to be perfect.  Because I am not yet a guitarist who needs multiple guitars or knows enough to need multiple guitars, I want to make sure the one I do choose is perfect for me in my career right now.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Ben – I don’t change things too much.  I don’t have enough time to tweak with my set up that often because we are doing so much as a band right now & I feel like I never have enough time to experiment with my guitar.  So, I end up finding what feels right & trying to stick with that set up.

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

Ben – I am always looking for the one perfect guitar tone.  The only problem is each song necessitates its own perfect tone so I end up changing my tone a lot dependent on the song.

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

Ben – I always have thought that a Marshall half stack would be so fun to have, but right now it just seems a little excessive for what we are doing as a band & where I am at as a guitar player.  Someday.

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

Ben – Built in directions for how to restring a guitar.

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

Ben – Best guitar purchase was probably getting the RAT distortion pedal.  It has been hands down the most successful immediate purchase that I have ever made for my guitar rig.  Getting a music stand was probably another very clutch thing to pick up & have around.  The most frustrating purchase was getting my Vox AC30 amp up & running.  I ended up needing to put a new speaker & tubes into it & have the studio guitar tech, Doug, work with it quite a bit.

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

Ben – I don’t know enough about any brands of guitars or guitar products yet to make a definitive judgment on this.  The more I learn about guitars & guitar products, the more I get stoked on all sorts of brands & companies.

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

Ben – Typically whatever scale or arpeggio I have been working on lately.

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

Ben – I started playing the guitar when I was 12 but then stopped playing when I was 15 & really got heavily involved in sports & playing football in high school & college.  Ten years later, I picked it up for what felt like the first time & started relearning the guitar because we wanted to be more of a rock band.  I have been obsessed with playing the guitar ever since.  I also feel extra motivation & pressure to work hard to become a better guitar player because I am getting such a late start.

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

Ben – I am still getting better everyday.  I have hopefully not even come close to being my best as a guitar player.  I feel like there will always be so much to learn.  I will probably always be taking guitar lessons.

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

Ben – I could play other instruments.  I would love to play the drums, the bass guitar, or the piano. However, the guitar is what our band didn’t have but needed & that is why I picked it up.  I have become attached to it as my own meaningful instrument ever since.

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

Ben – Honestly, I think the piano should be the first instrument one picks up.  It is such a clear tool for understanding music theory & giving someone a musical foundation.  But I do sometimes wish that I would have learned music on a guitar & started earlier now that I am trying to learn to play guitar in my 20s.

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

Ben – I don’t ever think of it as an adversary.  Sometimes I prefer to write music on a piano more than a guitar, but that’s about it.

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

Ben – The people that I have taken lessons from have been my predominant influence.  Because I am trying to spend so much effort being a solid guitar player for my band, I don’t spend a whole lot of time trying to study other guitarists.  I admire guitarists like Jack White, Mathew Bellamy, but I am not sure if that is because of their guitar playing or just being a huge fan of their music.

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

Ben – I kinda think that it’s cool.  I have never gotten around to naming my guitar, but for those who are amazing guitar players who name their guitars, I admire that.

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

Ben – I have never done any damage to a guitar that is worthy of note.  Knock on wood.

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

Ben – Right now I have been working with my guitar teacher, Jonathan Barker, on learning different arpeggios, modes, chord structures, & pulling it all together to solo with intent.  Not the most glamorous of things, but it is something that is helping my work with the band & being more knowledgeable during the composing process.

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

Ben – I probably end up playing guitar for six hours a week, but would like to be playing 15 hours a week.

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

Ben – Dunlop .73.  I tried some thinner ones & they seemed to weak & I tried some thicker ones & they seemed a little too rigid.  That brand was what a friend told me to stick with & I just haven’t gotten around to trying anything else yet.  I still feel like a newby.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Ben – 12s on the low strings with some thinner 10s on the higher strings.  My producer on our first record, Stephan Hawkes, encouraged me to try them & I liked them.  I trust my friends who have more experience & know more than I do.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Ben – Once every 6-8 weeks.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Ben – Not very often.  I guess I am not that hardcore in my guitar career yet.

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

Ben – I feel like they are about equal at this point.  Both hands have been getting better now that I have been playing consistently for three years.  I don’t think of it affecting my style too much.  I can’t shred really fast yet but I just try & make due with what fits the songs & then incorporate style.

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

Ben – I will put on my own strings & tweak with it a little bit; however, when I need to do a full set up, I take it to the studio guitar tech.  Our rehearsal space is in the same building as the recording studio & guitar tech’s business so it is really convenient.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Ben – Normal tuning.  I haven’t learned how to use anything else yet.  I have heard drop D is fun & easy to rock out with, but that’s the only other one that I have heard about.

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

Ben – I like sheet music if I can make the time for it.  Whatever I have close by to scribble ideas works.  Iphone recorders are probably the king of it all right now.

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

Ben – I keep changing my strap length.  A couple months ago I tried wearing it lower & it felt cool, especially because I am a bigger guy I sometimes thought it looked better to not have the guitar so high on my torso.  Lately, I have been rocking it a little higher though, a little more comfortable & a different look.

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

Ben – Sometimes when we play shows my fingers will freak out on the first couple songs as they are getting into a rhythm.  I wish I could just come in cool as steel from the very minute the show starts & have my hands be relaxed but explosive.

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

Ben – Piano helps to bring things all together.

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

Ben – I still struggle with playing really fast shred guitar.  I don’t think it fits in our band’s music & sometimes it seems absurd to me, but it is still a skill that I would like to be able to have. Gotta get better at my pull offs.

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

Ben – I still have yet to play this Bach Sonata No. 1 in G Minor all the way through.  I have gotten all the parts, but never taken the time to work it all the way through.

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

Ben – I am not sure if I have ever learned any tricks on the guitar.

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

Ben – I have never tried using any guitar gadget other than a pick & some pedals.  I want to try playing with a slide though, that has seemed cool to me for a very long time & I have never really gotten around to it.

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

Ben – Getting better at more open chords higher up on the neck.  Getting back into classical guitar would be fun too.  I learned playing classical when I was a kid.

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

Ben – I have always taken lessons.  I thrive in a setting like that where there is structure & someone to run ideas & questions by.  I love the accountability; otherwise I can get distracted & end up not being productive.  I have learned a lot of music theory & technique through lessons.

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

Ben – I would teach them to take lessons, hahaha.  I might be able to teach them something about performing because that is a skill that I have spent a lot of time with.  I was in theater programs all throughout high school & college & the way I present myself on stage is very important to me.  Performing with my guitar is something that I really get excited about & think about a lot.  I like to be intentional, but natural when I am on stage.

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

Ben – Just listen to a lot of different styles of music & go to a lot concerts.  That’s where I get my style from, seeing other musicians that inspire me & trying to incorporate some of the things that they do into my own style & routine.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Ben – Never used it & don’t really know what it’s for.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Ben – Not really much at all.  It stays set pretty much in the “perfect” spot all the time.  I get paranoid to tweak with that one too much.  Maybe I need to start tweaking with it some more.

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

Ben – Both are two critical pieces to the puzzle.  Although leads get a lot of the attention, anyone who uses their guitar effectively in a tasteful manner with their band is winning in my book.  I like to do both.  I think a good rhythm guitarist is definitely underrated in the world of music.

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

Ben – Maybe in a live setting because I can focus on admiring that one person, but I won’t listen to a band with a great guitarist if the band’s music is not interesting or enjoyable.

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

Ben – One of Prince’s guitars would be rad.  He is hands down the greatest individual performer I have ever seen live in concert & he slays the guitar like a sexy beast.

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

Ben – Tom Morello & Matt Bellamy again seem to be two guys who are just always doing something interesting with the guitar.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Ben – I think some of my best guitar work can be found on our new album in songs like:  “How the West was Lost”, “the Minds”, & “Liar”.

QRD – Anything else?

Ben – I feel new to the guitar & have only been playing seriously for the last three years, but I am fascinated by it as an instrument & want to continue to pour as much of my musical work into it as possible.