with Rachel Staggs of Experimental Aircraft
Name: Rachel Staggs
Bands: All in the Golden Afternoon, Experimental Aircraft, Rachel Goldstar, Eau Claire, The Static Silence
Websites: rachelgoldstar.com, soundcloud.com/rachelgoldstar, onesheet.com/rachelgoldstar
Listen to “Fourteen Hours”
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Rachel – Acoustic Yamaha FG-401. I still have it & have written many many songs with it.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Rachel – I have a Fender Jaguar that has been my main guitar for more than a decade & for the past year I’ve been incorporating my 1966 Hofner 12-string. I use the same pedal line-up with both. I go into a Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner, Sovtek Big Muff Pi, Boss PS-3 Pitch Shifter Delay, Ibanez Phase Tone PT-909, & Electro Harmonix POG. My amplifier since 1996 has been a late 1960s Fender Super Reverb.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Rachel – That’s tough. I’d have to go equally with guitar & amplifier. If I can get a great sound, there is no need for effects. Great sound, for me, starts with the guitar/amp combo.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Rachel – It’s a late 60s Fender Super Reverb 4-10. It’s a tube amp with a great warm sound, amazing reverb, & I can make it howl.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Rachel – I’ve always played a Fender Jaguar because the shape is comfortable & I like the tremolo bar action. In 2010 I acquired a 1966 German-made 12-string Hofner hollow body that I’m quite taken with, so these two may have to duke it out. I love the fullness of the 12-string & how it chimes. They both have great tone & brilliant feedback capabilities.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Rachel – A reliable sampler. I was psyched to get a brand new Line-6 Delay Modeler, it has a 14 second loop sampler, but it stopped working after only a couple of years of light use. I’d also appreciate an analog delay that can be synced up to a drum machine. Maybe these already exist? I haven’t been pedal shopping in ages.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Rachel – 7.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Rachel – I just wish I could find one that my Hofner 12-string would fit in. It’s either too wide or too long so I haven’t been able to gig with that guitar yet.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Rachel – I look for unique & interesting design, vintage if possible. Over the past decade I’ve become enamored with vintage guitars from Europe. I test out how comfortable they feel in my arms & on my back. After years of playing a heavy Jaguar, I now look for lighter guitars that will still supply great tone & feedback, preferably with a tremolo bar or Bigsby.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Rachel – I added Seymour Duncan “Hot Jag” pickups to my Jaguar because the sound was a bit thin. I purchased it from a friend based on its make, model, & beauty. It needed a bit of oomph to get the sound I wanted though. The Hofner needed a full neck reset, unfortunately. For the most part, I keep guitars in their original state. I have a vintage Silvertone Silhouette that I haven’t touched. It has a beautiful wooden bridge.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Rachel – It depends on what I’m feeling at the moment. I purchased my Hofner 12-string while in a deep well of grief. I’d been searching for a Hofner locally, but couldn’t find one. I didn’t get a chance to play it first since I bought it through an online auction. Needless to say, it needed a neck reset because the action was so high, I could barely play above the 3rd fret. I do thorough research & figure out what I want, but when it comes time to purchase, I don’t always get a chance to test things out, but often take the plunge anyway.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Rachel – Not drastically, no. There is a constant underlying evolution, but it moves quite slow.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Rachel – I’ve always been after one tone, but I’d like to start exploring other territory.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Rachel – I’d love some Z.Vex pedals, an analog delay, & a vintage Hofner Verithin with Bigsby.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Rachel – After being classically trained on clarinet & learning to read music, I picked up a guitar & taught myself, almost 100%, by ear. I can’t really think of something on the guitar, in particular, that would have helped me.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Rachel – I’m partial to Fender tube amps, especially mine, a vintage Super Reverb. It is warm & has great mid tones. The reverb is indeed, super. I am fond of Fender guitars, especially the Jaguar because it suits my small hands. I feel the same way about my Fender Musicmaster bass.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Rachel – A song I’m working on or have recently written.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Rachel – 21.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Rachel – I haven’t yet.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Rachel – Absolutely my ally.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Rachel – When I first started playing I was listening to a lot of Stereolab, Velvet Underground, Bardo Pond, & Medicine. I can’t really put my finger on particular guitarists who influenced me. It was more the collective sound of bands that I was drawn to.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Rachel – I have never named a musical instrument in my life. It’s not really for me, but I don’t judge anyone else for doing it.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Rachel – During a show at Emo’s in Austin, Texas my guitar literally fell off of me. We had just finished a song, I reached up to adjust the microphone, & boom, it hit the stage. I thought for sure the neck had snapped, but it was fine, just missing a chunk of wood from the body. The guitar strap has been duct taped to my guitar ever since.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Rachel – I’d like to be playing at least an hour every day, but I’m lucky if I play an hour every week right now. Life can get in the way.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Rachel – Fender medium red. It’s the perfect thickness. I never have a problem finding my picks after gigs or in shared rehearsal spaces.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Rachel – 11. For more mid & low frequencies.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Rachel – Not often enough.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Rachel – Rarely.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Rachel – I would have to say my strumming hand. I have a great sense of rhythm. If I’m listening to music while I walk, I can’t help but walk to the beat. It helps with songwriting, since I’m usually trying to come up with vocal melodies & lyrics too.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Rachel – I take it to a guitar tech. I’d love to learn how to set guitars up myself though.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Rachel – I can read sheet music, & if I take the time, I can read tablature too, but with guitar I have created my own system to keep track of ideas. I’ve also recently started using the Soundcloud app on my phone while songwriting to record guitar lines & vocal melodies as I’m working on them.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Rachel – Writing songs, not recording them or making notes, & then forgetting them.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Rachel – Finger picking.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Rachel – I’ll keep that to myself for now, since I’d like to eventually do it. Let’s just say it involves several guitars, several amps, quite a few pedals, & only myself.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Rachel – I taught myself how to make sounds that resemble a jet engine with a guitar slide.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Rachel – I am fond of the slide. I also like the ebow.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Rachel – I took a couple of lessons after I first purchased my acoustic guitar. I learned how to play “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals. After that I brought in recordings of songs I wanted to learn & that’s how I learned some basic chords. My teacher wanted me to learn theory, but I was saturated in it from playing the clarinet for nine years, so I quit lessons & continued to teach myself by ear.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Rachel – No.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Rachel – Jamie Hince of The Kills. He gets some of the most original & unique sounds out of his guitars.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Rachel – Experimental Aircraft’s album Third Transmission.
QRD – Anything else?
Rachel – You can listen to my most recent recordings, where I play a variety of instruments, here:
Other QRD interviews with Rachel Staggs: