with Matt Guess of White Cascade
Band: White Cascade
Websites: myspace.com/thewhitecascade, thewhitecascade.bandcamp.com, diyshoegazer.tumblr.com (my gear blog)
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Matt – Ibanez 4 string bass from high school. Used it in my first band where I played bass with no effects. Now it sits in my parent’s house unused.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Matt – Oh lord here we go. I use a modified Mexican Fender Fat Strat (HSS, 2002) with a Roland GK-3 guitar synth pickup, that goes into a Roland GR-55 Guitar Synth floor unit, & then out into my pedal board, which contains (in the following order) a reissue MXR Dynacomp, Proco RAT II (non LM308 chip), Boss MT-2 Metal Zone, Ehx Big Muff Pi, Boss BF-2 Flanger, Fender Blender, Boss HF-2 Hi-Band Flanger (1986), Boss DD-3 Digital Delay (1994), Boss PH-3 Phaser (1986), Ehx Freeze, Boss RC-20XL Loopstation, Boss TR-2 Tremolo, Boss TU-2 Tuner, & finally into a rack consisting of a Lexicon MX400 Reverb & finally a BBE 482i Sonic Maximizer before being sent to my amp, a Roland JC-77.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Matt – The effects chain, the order of effects, & the effects settings themselves, I usually keep my amp settings the same, but I constantly change the effects pedals, pickup position, & the guitar synth patches & wet/dry mix. I prefer to write songs in terms of tones & I’m constantly changing settings in order to challenge myself with new sounds.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Matt – Roland JC-77 with stock icepick speakers. It is a crystal clear full-range amp with a lot of high end that most guitar amps just don’t have which allows me to play things other than guitar through it, such as loops, drum beats, synth, samples, & even vocals. The stereo chorus gives it true dimension & a genuine 80s vibe. I always use the chorus with a very slow rate & 50% depth. Robert Smith, Neil Halstead, & Andy Summers all used Jazz Choruses.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Matt – Fender Fat Strat, MIM 2002. Replaced the pickups with a Screamin’ Demon humbucker & two blues-like vintage single coils. It is tuned to a custom tuning that my friends call “Guess tuning” which is useful for open drones. It also has a GK-3 Guitar Synth module mounted on it & I use this extensively for mixing synth textures with my standard guitar tones. I have a few extra unused GK modules that I hope to use on my future guitars, hopefully a JM/JAG next.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Matt – Jazzmaster, Sonic Blue/Surf Green with a tortoiseshell pickguard & internal Roland GK electronics. Badass.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Matt – Digital Delay with built in limiter so it could self-oscillate without getting extremely loud. Maybe with a built-in phaser on the output stage like on my current pedal board.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Matt – Two, The fat strat & a Seagull Cedar folk acoustic.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Matt – The electric in a soft padded gig bag, & the acoustic in a hard padded case
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Matt – Art on the outside.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Matt – It has to look awesome first & foremost, & second it has to have a fretboard that I instantly agree with. As far as sound, I always end up replacing the stock pickups anyways. Balance is a big thing too. I find SGs & LPs to be very unnatural to hold. I like Fenders in general.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Matt – $500.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Matt – Always, always upgrade.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Matt – Usually I research a ton online & on YouTube & then just end up buying things. Most of my curiosity pieces that don’t work out still teach me a lot about sound & that is worth something.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Matt – Yes, although the changes are now more minute settings tweaking & effects ordering & more about fine tuning what I already have. On the other hand sometimes you just have to throw a new pedal on the board & start over.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Matt – In general I do not like the idea of writing tons of songs with the same tone. That is boring to me. I strive to find new tones constantly because that is where my inspiration lies.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Matt – Jazzmasters, 70-80s Boss/ehx Pedals (SG-1 Slow Gear, SP-1 Spectrum, DC-2 Dimension C), Very harsh-sounding vintage fuzz/wah pedals like what J&MC used, & ‘80s rack Reverbs like RMX, PCM70/80. I’d like to buy or build my own theremin one day. Lastly studio compressors of any variety interest me, although I don’t have the motivation to try a lot of pedal compressors. Often things that I have never heard of end up being my favorite gear.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Matt – Playability, light strings & nice action, & an input jack that isn’t loose.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Matt – Best = 3 way tie between the JC-77, GR-30 Guitar Synthesizer, & Alesis Microverb IV. Worst = this terrible dbx 1066 compressor & those danelectro pedals that go for under $20 new. The Art TubeMP was pretty mediocre.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Matt – I love Fender guitars, older Boss pedals, & new & old Electro-Harmonix pedals, Lexicon Reverbs, & last but not least pretty much everything with Roland on it. Also the RAT 2 is the most versatile distortion I have ever used, big props.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Matt – Retune it to “Guess tuning”
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Matt – 17.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Matt – 22.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Matt – I play the effects more so than the guitars. It is about listening & observing what the knobs do to manipulate sound.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Matt – No, we need more drummers, less guitarists.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Matt – Wave generator.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Matt – Kevin Shields, Robin Guthrie, Neil Halstead, Robert Smith, & the Strokes.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Matt – I don’t feel that connection with my guitar. I’m much more attached to my pedals & I adorn them in my own special way.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Matt – I accidentally dropped my electric (on the concrete floor at the Cave no less) when the neck strap slipped out & it put a big hole in the bottom & cracked the outer finish. From then on I duct taped the strap to the guitar. I also half-smashed an acoustic guitar once so that I could be sworn in to the rock star community.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Matt – I don’t really practice as far as just repeating exercises or even my own songs. I just improvise new tones constantly until I find something that I know I like & then I explore it freely while my computer is recording everything.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Matt – Would like to do it every day. Now I usually practice once a week if I’m lucky.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Matt – Medium with a nice tortoiseshell color.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Matt – I’ve tried to move up to a heavier gauge for more sustain & better tone.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Matt – Once a month.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Matt – Can’t remember the last time.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Matt – Neither, mine both suck terribly.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Matt – I like to teach myself. If I mess something up that just opens up more possibilities for unique experimentation.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Matt – Guess tuning because it allows me to play a melody while keeping a constant drone going.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Matt – I don’t write down ideas. I record them. I can’t read sheet music anymore. I use a computer DAW for good sound, or when I don’t have much time a voice recorder or my digital camera in video capture mode.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Matt – No clue.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Matt – Missing a stomp.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Matt – Theremin.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Matt – Lap steel or slide guitar.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Matt – Speed picking. Sweeping.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Matt – Extremely slow pick slides with ringmod->delay->reverb.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Matt – I use the capo a lot, & Guitar Synth of course.
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Matt – Feedback with tube amps.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Matt – No, & I thank God every day that I was never taught the pentatonic scale.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Matt – I would show them one of each type of effect & then playback a popular song that used that effect. I would also show them how to use delay without dialing it into the distant background like a pussy.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Matt – Haul around a ridiculous amount of gear, buy & learn to use a guitar synth, retune the guitars to Guess tuning, spend several weeks on end twisting knobs & figuring out the proper combination of pedals & the proper pedal order, pay close attention to reverb/compression, always keep up the drone, oh & worship the ground that the early ‘90s british shoegazers walked on of course.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Matt – Great idea. I wouldn’t want to be without one.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Matt – Never. I never really liked the range of it.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Matt – Do both at the same time (& sing) is my philosophy.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Matt – No, that would be equivalent to enjoying Joe Satriani.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Matt – Any Jazzmaster touched by Thurston Moore or Kevin Shields would be grand.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Matt – I do not know, I’m still stuck in the ‘80s. Tough question.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Matt – “Sunblind” from White Cascade EP
QRD – Anything else?
Matt – Thank you for your questions!