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QRD #53 - Guitarist Interview Series V
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
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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Rachel Staggs
Rachel Staggs
Rachel Staggs
Rachel Staggs
Rachel Staggs
Rachel Staggs
Rachel Staggs
Rachel Staggs
Rachel Staggs
Rachel Staggs
Rachel Staggs
Guitarist Interview with Rachel Staggs of Experimental Aircraft
July 2011
Rachel Staggs photo by Aubrey Edwards
Name: Rachel Staggs
Bands: All in the Golden Afternoon, Experimental Aircraft, Rachel Goldstar, Eau Claire, The Static Silence
Websites: rachelgoldstar.comsoundcloud.com/rachelgoldstaronesheet.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:
Couples Interview with Rachel & Carlos of All in the Golden Afternoon (February 2008)