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QRD #55 - Guitarist Interview Series VI
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about this issue
Guitarist Interviews with:
Mason Jones
Chris Wade
Corbie Hill
Davy Curci
Matt Northrup
Xavier Dubois
Tony Sagger
Rich Bennett
Jonas Munk
Matthew Eyles
Francesco “fuzz” Brasini
Shawn Lawson Freeman
Jacques LaMore
Curran Faris
Sean Fewell
Ryan Scally
Shawn Steven
Sophia Johnson
Mick Barr
Joshua Heinrich
Jim Walker
Jacob Peck
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Guitarist Interview with Jonas Munk
June 2012
Jonas Munk
Listen to “Soledad” by Causa Sui
Listen to “Venice by the Sea” by Causa Sui
Listen to “Pan” by Jonas Munk
Listen to “Lights over the Well” by Sun River

Name: Jonas Munk
Bands: Causa Sui, Sun River, Jonas Munk, Manual, Chicago Odense Ensemble & other collaborations.
Websites: www.causasui.comwww.facebook.com/pages/Jonas-Munk/189165807772795

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

Jonas – A Stratocaster copy of a brand I can’t remember. I got it when I was 12 & sold it again when I was 16.

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

Jonas – Depends on which band I’m playing with & what kind of stuff I’m recording if it’s a recording situation. Some things that I usually have with me are a Vox wah, Rotovibe, Fulltone 69, & a T-Rex Dr. Swamp overdrive.

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

Jonas – Again, depends on the situation & what project I’m playing with. We recently played our debut show with Sun River & for that sound an amp with a good clean tone is essential. When playing with Causa Sui abroad we usually borrow amps & in those situations I’m very dependent on my pedals providing what I need.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Jonas – For live situations at the moment & a lot of recording sessions I use a Fender Super Sonic 60 head with different cabinets. I find that amp incredibly versatile – it can do classic Fender clean sounds similar to a Bassman or even the silky tone of a Vibrolux, but it also has a wonderful tube overdrive section that can be fine-tuned with two gain-stages & eq, which I find very useful. It has a super fat tone & it cleans up when I roll the volume back on the guitar which I rely on most of the time.
For recording I use different amps, I even have a Marshall transistor amp from the 1990s that works very well with a lot of effects & is very easy to work with when recording. I’m not a “tube fascist” in any way. I use everything that works in a given situation & very often transistor amps will do a good job as well. I also love my Fender Blues Junior for recording, it’s a little hard to control when cranked in a live situation, but in the studio I can get massive tones from it at low volumes, which is a nice feature. For fuzz sounds it sounds amazingly raw & has a good range of overtones, so if I’m in a situation where I need something to really cut through the mix the Blues Junior is usually my weapon of choice.

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

Jonas – I guess the guitar I’ve used the most throughout the years is my modded MIJ Jazzmaster. I replaced the original bridge with a Gibson model & put Seymour Duncan pickups in it that are a bit louder & fatter than the classic Jazzmaster pickups. I love that guitar. I’m fairly big so I like to play a guitar that’s also quite big, & I like the shape of the Jazzmaster – both aesthetically & functionally. The tremolo is also very nice. However, I play different guitars all the time. For Causa Sui stuff I like to use a humbucker equipped 72 Thinline Telecaster re-issue that I bought in New York some years ago, which is great for fat, detuned sounds. For Sun River concerts I use a modded Mex Telecaster with a vintage Telecaster bridge & original vintage pickups which gives an incredibly rich, clear tone & great sustain.

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

Jonas – It should be fairly similar to my modded Jazzmaster, but I would love to try a hollowbody version of that – kinda similar to some of the new hollowbody versions Fender Japan have been making recently, but with warmer sounding pickups & a Gibson-style bridge. I never liked the classic Jazzmaster bridge.

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

Jonas – I’m a big fan of filter-modulation pedals & that kinda thing. There aren’t that many existing filter pedals out there. I think something like the Moog “Murf” pedal is super interesting cause it’s based on several bandpass-filters, instead of just one modulated lowpass filter. I have also been making music with synthesizers for the last 15 years, so I guess I’m attracted to the idea of several parameters being modulated by the same source or vice versa. I like effects that can be CV-modulated so it gives you the possibility of combining things. I guess the short answer would be some kind of filter-pedal with more than one filter (BP + LP for example) + amplitude control & more than one modulation source as well as – kinda like a simple pre-wired modular synth setup where each parameter can be modulated by more than one source. That’s one reason I like guitar software such as NI’s Guitar Rig so much: it let’s you modulate everything in new ways.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Jonas – Three acoustic, five electric ones, one bass guitar.

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

Jonas – Yeah, I usually customize, even if just tiny adjustments.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Jonas – In the studio I patch different stuff together all the time.

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

Jonas – I usually change around quite a bit. Especially with Causa Sui where all the songs are very long & we usually go through a wide range of styles & sounds in the same song.

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

Jonas – I love Fender amps & there’s a bunch of classic models I would love to have in the studio. For overdrive sounds I also love Orange amps & sometime I would like to own at least one of them.
I would also love to have a vintage Fender Electric XII sometime. At the moment I have my eye on Wampler pedals – they have a thick, classy tone but they are quite pricey too.

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

Jonas – 11 I think.

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

Jonas – When I was in my early twenties I played guitar a lot. I always had a guitar in my hand all the time - if friends were over or I was just watching TV or something. That really gives you some basic skills & occasionally very good ideas pop out when you just mess around without a purpose.

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

Jonas – I like the incredible range of possibilities available with the instrument. Keyboard instruments & synthesizers are also very interesting to me but even at the most basic level there’s something very fascinating about the harmonic complexity of the sound of a guitar string. Even the way you pick & press a string alters the sound in an important way. That’s why I think using a lot of effects on guitars is usually more interesting than using lots of effects on keyboard instruments – the guitar is such a harmonically rich instrument.

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

Jonas – Too many to mention here. But I can list a few that have had a long lasting & very notable effect on my way of playing: Billy Corgan on early Smashing Pumpkins albums (Siamese Dream especially), Josh Homme from Kyuss, Nick McCabe on the first Verve album, Lee Underwood (who played on all the classic Tim Buckley albums), Robin Guthrie from Cocteau Twins, The Edge (who was the biggest influence on me in my childhood & who’s still very present in my playing), Lutz Ulbrich & Stefan Diez from the German group Agitation Free, Jim O’Rourke, Daniel Fichelscher (who played in Popol Vuh in the mid seventies), & of course Jimi Hendrix – especially his more improvisational live recordings.

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

Jonas – Very different. I like to have a wide range of picks at hand at all times.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Jonas – I use 10s normally. 11s when I tune way down.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Jonas – Very often! I like to play shows with strings that are almost new & I also prefer recording with fresh strings.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Jonas – Very rarely these days.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Alternate tunings is a great way to come up with new ideas & chords you wouldn’t normally think of. I’ve played guitar for almost twenty years so it’s easy to get stuck in the same chords & patterns – tuning your guitar differently is a way of breaking those habits & come up with something that feels fresh. I like different kinds of open D & open C tunings. I also wrote a song in a tuning where each string is a fourth step from the previous (“all fourths tuning”) – we ended up calling the song “Fourths” & it’s on the Sun River album.

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

Jonas – All my habits are annoying by now. It takes real effort to break them & come up with something new & interesting.

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

Jonas – I’ve always wanted to be a good acoustic finger picker in the style of Nick Drake or Mark Kozelek.

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

Jonas – Still haven’t become a good acoustic finger picker & will probably never be.

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

Jonas – Yes, I did take lessons for a number of years when I was very young. It taught me some basic theory that I still use today – scales & all that. For a while I was really opposed to the idea of learning theory – I guess that was a very romantic attitude towards ideas & what constitutes artistic “genius”. Now I wish I’d studied theory some more, cause it would have given me a bigger toolbox of ideas & opened new doors for me. But it’s always a fine balance between theory & creativity & after all I’m glad I spent so many years being fully “creative” instead of fully theoretical. 

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

Jonas – How to be creative with chords & sound. How to open up to new ideas in general & force oneself to break habits.

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

Jonas – Solos with open strings, arpegiatted chords, & I guess a certain sense of melody.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Jonas – It can be a pain in the ass but I generally like some of the classic Fender systems – especially the Mustang tremolo, which is wonderful to play & stays in tune more often than not. I had a Washburn guitar once with a Floyd Rose system on it. It gave me nightmares. It was awful in a live-situation & I can’t believe that I put up with it for so many years. But I guess that’s what people used for shredding back then. But I will never, ever use one of those again.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Jonas – I use it more & more. I like to have the top rolled back a little bit & only open all the way up for solos.

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

Jonas – No.

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

Jonas – I don’t think there really is any truly innovative guitar players around anymore & I’m not sure there needs to be. In my view Kevin Shields was the last true innovator of the instrument. But if I should mention a couple of current really good guitar players with unique, personal styles it would be Reine Fiske (Dungeon, The Amazing) & Stefan Koglek (Colour Haze). They are really underrated musicians who have done new & interesting things with classic guitar styles.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Jonas – I’d say the Sun River album & Causa Sui’s series of Summer Sessions albums.