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QRD #53 - Guitarist Interview Series V
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
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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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Guitarist Interview with Brandon Helms of From Oceans to Autumn
March 2011

Name: Brandon Helms
Bands: Mountains Among Us, From Oceans to Autumn
Websites: www.silbermedia.com/fromoceanstoautumn
Listen to “The Flood”

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

Brandon – A cheap Jackson no-name model. It was Dodge Viper Blue (not very attractive).

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

Brandon – It goes guitar - Boss Super Octave - Boss EQ - Boss RV-1 - Boss DD-3 - Boss DD-6 - Boss Digital Dimension - Marshall DSL-100 JCM2000 - Marshall 1960A.  Effects change constantly, I use many more, this is just my typical set-up.

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

Brandon – I would say a combination of guitar & amp, the guitar for the pick-ups & the amp for tone, clarity, & drive.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Brandon – I use a Marshall DSL-100 (JCM2000).  It has incredible response, just enough overdrive without completely distorting.

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

Brandon – My main guitar is a Gibson 1960 Les Paul Classic, the pickups are a 496R neck pickup & a 500T bridge pickup.

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

Brandon – A Les Paul 1957 custom all black with P90s.  Not sure why, but it looks badass!

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

Brandon – A delay, reverb, chorus, analog sound with digital clarity super overdrive pedal?!?  WTF!!

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Brandon – I currently own 3 guitars  (Gibson Les Paul Classic, Gibson Les Paul Custom, Gibson Les Paul Standard).

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Brandon – 2 of my guitars hang on the wall, 1 is in a hardcase in my closet.

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

Brandon – A coffee maker?  My Gibson hardcases work just fine.

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

Brandon – Set neck, solid, somewhat heavy body, pickups mainly.

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

Brandon – Wow, really depends I guess.  Although I usually play Gibsons, I do feel they are grossly overpriced.

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

Brandon – I usually customize them somehow, either pickups or strings.

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

Brandon – I think I over-research my guitar purchases, big time.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Brandon – I did for a few years, but I finally feel I have the perfect balance for our sound.

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

Brandon – I would prefer “locking in a tone” once that tone is located.  It can be quite a chore finding the right tone to suit you, it took me 3+ years to lock one in I was happy with.

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

Brandon – Vintage Les Pauls & boutique effects that cost more than my car!

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

Brandon – Good question, but I am not sure.  Maybe robot tuners.  I use to hate tuning my first guitar.

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

Brandon – Best would be my Les Paul Custom, worst would be an Epiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom.

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

Brandon – I like Boss pedals, because you cannot destroy them, Marshall amps because of their tone.

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

Brandon – Varies from time to time, usually some kind of noodling.

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

Brandon – Off & on before I was 10, seriously in high school.

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

Brandon – I really feel the older I get, the better.  Maybe I feel it’s because I am more patient than before.

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

Brandon – Because of the limitless expression & creativity.

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

Brandon – Good question, not sure.

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

Brandon – Ally.

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

Brandon – Stevie Ray Vaughan hands down.

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

Brandon – I guess natural for some, I have never really thought about it.

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

Brandon – I broke an acoustic in half by stepping on it by accident when I was young.

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

Brandon – I like to experiment with different sounds & tools to stay fresh.

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

Brandon – Not sure, but not as much as I would like to.

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

Brandon – I mainly use Dunlop .60 mm.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Brandon – I use very heavy Ernie Ball Super Slinkys on my main guitar.  They are pretty heavy.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Brandon – With normal use about once a month, in the studio about once a day!

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Brandon – Not very often, most likely while recording because I like to experiment.

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

Brandon – Both I guess, I think your strumming style dictates your sound most.

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

Brandon – I set it up myself.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Brandon – I either use drop D or drop Bb.  We play mostly aggressive so the drop tunings sounds heavier.

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

Brandon – Haha, I like to “create” my own tablature, even though most think it looks like a mess I can understand it just fine.

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

Brandon – Around waist high.

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

Brandon – Sometimes my brain moves faster than my fingers.

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

Brandon – Drums.  I think it helps your timing.

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

Brandon – More blues music, I love it but have not figured it all out yet.

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

Brandon – Not sure.

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

Brandon – Hmmm, not sure either.

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

Brandon – I like the ebow, but rarely use it anymore.

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

Brandon – Not sure of an exact one, but many I’m sure.

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

Brandon – Never had lessons, looking back I think I would have learned much faster if I had.

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

Brandon – Play how you like, not how the “right” way is.

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

Brandon – Wow, be as sloppy as possible!

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Brandon – Never use them, so no opinion there.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Brandon – Never, all knobs are set at 100 except soft strumming I pull back the volume on the neck slightly, but not always.

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

Brandon – In my band I am the only guitar player, so I play both.  But in general I think lead is a more creative style of playing.

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

Brandon – No, I still feel drums are the most important, a song with bad drumming destroys an otherwise good song.

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

Brandon – Stevie Ray Vaughan’s 1959 Fender Strat.

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

Brandon – Joe Bonamassa, I think he is the best blues or rock guitarist alive today.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Brandon – I think our recent EP “The Flood/The Fall”

QRD – Anything else?

Brandon – Thanks for your interest in my insanity!