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QRD #55 - Guitarist Interview Series VI
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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 Joshua Heinrich
June 2012
Joshua Heinrich
Listen to “Control” by Black Wedding
Listen to “A Square is a Rectangle” by fornever
Listen to “Under the Gun” by fornever

Name: Joshua Heinrich
Bands: fornever, Black Wedding, premature burial, Orangabelle 5, Colder than Yesterday, Entreat, SDL, She Cries Alone
Websites: www.autumnalrelease.comwww.autumnalrelease.com/forneverwww.autumnalrelease.com/blackweddingwww.autumnalrelease.com/prematureburial

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

Joshua – A blue Hondo strat.  I still have it.

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

Joshua – These days, it’s typically my Fender strat through an RP355 amp modeling effects unit & then output direct through USB or output to mixer/computer.  In the past, it’s ranged from guitar (again, my Fender strat being a go-to) through an array of separate pedals (many of them DOD/Digitech) & Fender amps to using other amp modeling processors like the RP100 & outputting direct.

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

Joshua – Probably equal parts guitar & effects.  The guitar is obviously where the actual musical creation happens, but the tone & sound is largely created & colored by effects.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Joshua – Probably my Fender Deluxe 112 Plus gets the most use & was my main amp for years - decent sound/volume - but most of the time these days, I go direct with amp modeling.

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

Joshua – My black Fender strat.  I love the tone, & I sort of fell in love with it back when I saw the Edge playing it live.  It was sort of the guitar I always wanted & has remained my main guitar since.

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

Joshua – Probably black or purple with some sort of artistic full-body/neck design (subtle enough color-wise that it’s not distracting or bothersome while trying to play).  Or maybe some type of sepia design similar to the artwork for the new album I’m working on.  As for features, I’d probably stick to basics.  3 pickup positions & tone/volume control.  If I did go further than that, I might add midi-out for guitar synth capabilities & maybe a knob for some type of modulation/envelope filter knob to color the tone & thickness of the signal in real time (effecting both the audio output from the pickups as well as acting as a mod wheel for the midi pickup).

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

Joshua – It would probably be easy to use/program, have a versatile variety of adjustable effects & an easy to setup chain, amp modeling, USB out, & a variety of useable reverb/delay/chorus-effect lead/rhythm patches, ambient/shoegazer patches, & wah & distorted lead patches as opposed to the gimmicky/cheesy ones that typically come by default.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Joshua – 4 guitars, 1 bass.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Joshua – Honestly, I have a block of all sorts of instruments taking up one corner of my room (with another corner having a few keyboards & electronic drum pads set up).  The guitars are in the first corner leaning against each other (& against amps & a bookcase) in a variety of hard/soft cases & even the original shipping boxes in 2 cases.

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

Joshua – I’m not that picky.  Pretty happy with my hard cases & soft cases.  If it was still the 90s, I might say cassette holders based on the number of homemade demo tapes still rattling around the bottom of the hard case my first guitar is in.  Overall, though, I think the padding, pockets, & compartments are all pretty adequate.

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

Joshua – Playability, tone, ease & quality of setup, weight/balance/feel, visuals (whether that’s design or simply guitar/fretboard color)

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

Joshua – I’m probably not the one to ask since I actually have a bit of a “it’s not the equipment, but what you can do with it” streak & a tendency to MacGyver things together, but I’d say that there are cheaper guitars that are as good as guitars that cost $1000 or $2000 if you like the tone & use them to your advantage.  I mean, I’ve seen an Epiphone Les Paul that plays/sounds as good as an actual Gibson (not all of them do, though... cheaper typically meaning less standardized quality control & all).  I think “good” is subjective.

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

Joshua – I’m not much of a tech-head, so I’m not really one to change out pickups or anything.  For the most part, I stick with stock options.

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

Joshua – I can get a bit obsessive about reading reviews & checking out info before shelling out the money on equipment, especially considering the price of a lot of audio equipment & instruments.  I usually burn myself out before deciding on a purchase... he-he.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Joshua – Not really.  I like to have a standard go-to setup that I’m comfortable with & usually upgrade every so often (keeping up with the benefits of modern tech & all), but not too frequently.

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

Joshua – I have a variety of tones for different styles, but I usually fiddle around & come up with patches that I want or that fit the sound I’m going for (everything from delay/chorus-accented lead patches to wah lead patches to washed out orchestral strings-esque ambient patches), save them, & pretty much lock into that set of patches for an album.  I like being able to dial in what I want & record with losing my motivation/inspiration while fiddling around with knobs & setup for 15 minutes first.

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

Joshua – I’d like a Les Paul.  Maybe a few more effects pedals, but I’m fairly happy with my setup at the moment & have been spending more on mic/preamp equipment & have been looking into new synths more lately.

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

Joshua – I think most first guitars usually have the basic features I’d recommend.  It’s more of an issue of quality & playability with some of the cheaper student guitars that might make them less desirable.

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

Joshua – The best might be my Digitech RP series pedals, especially the RP355 with its USB recording setup & great effect & amp modeling.  Those pedals really opened up the sounds available to me.  The worst might be my DOD grunge pedal.  Really didn’t find much use for that in my setup with its barely controllable over-the-top volume & shredding distortion.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?

Joshua – I’m a fan of Fender given my long-time affinity for strats as well as some of their other guitars & basses & amps.  For effects, I’ve really been a Digitech fan for a while, from some of my early standalone pedals like a great 80s delay/looping pedal that was the heart of my effects setup in the mid-late 90s to the RP series adding in amp modeling & a nice array of multi-effects (& now, with the RP355, USB recording with zero latency monitoring).

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

Joshua – Usually a minor blues scale or a few chords.

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

Joshua – Maybe around 16.

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

Joshua – I’m not really sure.  I know I was still expanding my horizons & evolving my sound & improving my skills on my earlier albums.  I mean, I’m still evolving my sound.…  But there’s some point I hit where things sort of plateaued... where I just became comfortable with what I was doing & could just pick up a guitar & do my thing... & be at the same level even if I hadn’t played in a month.

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

Joshua – I’m not really sure it does.  I’m a multi-instrumentalist, & I might put guitar & synth at an equal level.  In fact, the new fornever album is largely electronic & almost completely void of guitar.  However, I am recognized for my playing & writing style on guitar & the various sounds I’ve come up with & my guitar work is a signature element of a lot of the work I’ve done.

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

Joshua – Honestly, I don’t think it matters one way or the other.  I, myself, started out playing some piano by ear when I was young, & it wasn’t until high school that I took up the guitar & began lessons.  I play a variety of instruments & incorporate them into my music, & I sometimes write on guitar, sometimes on keyboard.  Sometimes on other things.  I think people should just follow their inspiration.

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

Joshua – I’d say ally.  Maybe an extension of me & a tool for creation.  As a multi-instrumentalist, I think I see most of my instruments that way rather than something I’m fighting.  In fact, sometimes the limitations of a particular instrument or piece of equipment can lead to unique sounds & results you might not have thought of otherwise.

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

Joshua – Probably The Edge, Robert Smith & Porl Thompson of The Cure, Bernard Sumner, PJ Harvey, maybe Reg Smithies (of The Chameleons) & Robin Guthrie (of Cocteau Twins).

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

Joshua – Pretty silly.  But, then again, who’s to argue with B.B. King?

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

Joshua – I’m usually careful with my guitars aside from a few dings in the head/neck from occasionally bumping into something while wearing it or moving around a tight space during recording... or the occasional loose connection.

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

Joshua – Not much.  Rock Band?  Ha-ha.  I actually kind of suck at Rock Band guitar, though.  I can play real guitar, but ask me to hold down two buttons at the same time & I fall apart.  I’m much better at Rock Band drums, pro keys, & vocals... but, obviously, those are closer to (or the same as) playing the actual instruments.

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

Joshua – It really varies on what I’m doing & working on.  Sometimes I’ll be playing for hours daily, other times I’ll go for a month or more without playing at all.  I mean, like I said, I’m working on an electronic album at the moment & only one track has guitar.  So I’ve been spending a ton of time in the studio writing & recording, but any guitar playing I’ve been doing has just been bits here & there outside of that.  Having played guitar for half my life, it’s not one of those things where I feel I have to get in so many hours a week.  I usually play when I’m writing, recording, or performing something on guitar.

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

Joshua – Usually a Gibson medium.  Seems to be the most comfortable for me.  Not too flexible, but not hard enough to fly out of my fingers due to resistance.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Joshua – Usually 9s or 10s... best playability to tone ratio, I suppose.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Joshua – Honestly, hardly ever.  I haven’t changed my strings in a while.  New strings always sound to bright to me.  & drive me nuts with how quickly they go out of tune.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Joshua – It’s sort of bizarre, but I haven’t broken a string in literally years, even using worn strings & doing a lot of bends.  I used to break more when I was starting out, but these days, the problem’s pretty much non-existent, whether it’s the strings I’m using or just my playing style.

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

Joshua – My fretting hand, but I think that’s actually been a positive influence on my style, leading me to further lean towards a rhythm/lead combo style with an emphasis on two-string melodies & rhythmic phrases & fretting hand embellishments like hammer-ons & pull-offs.

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

Joshua – I guess I’ve done all three, but I tend to leave it once set up & not touch it as long as I’m not having any issues with string buzzing or things of that nature.  I’m more of a “pick up & play” kind of guy.  I’m also not much of a guitar tech, myself, & admittedly don’t always know what I’m doing...so I tend towards the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” side of the spectrum.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Joshua – Pretty much standard & drop D if I need to go lower.  I guess I’m just most comfortable with standard tuning & don’t really have much of a need for alternate tunings.  Some of my effects patches, however, involve pitch shifting for tone reasons... especially some of the patches I used on last year’s ((echo)) album.

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

Joshua – I usually use tablature for jotting it down.  I did take lessons & some music theory in college, but I’m still not that proficient when it comes to sheet music & it’s a lot faster to jot down tablature in combination with a reference/demo recording for tempo/timing.  I actually used to write down all of my songs using tablature.  These days, though, I sometimes write in the studio as I record & don’t jot it down in written form at all.  I’ll come up with a part, record it, then move on.  Really makes it a pain when I actually have to play things & go back to the multi-tracks to learn the parts, but that’s just how I roll... ha-ha.

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

Joshua – Usually a bit high... more Robert Smith-esque.  I’m definitely not one of those “bend over & play at your knees” types, especially being tall.  I’m actually most comfortable hand/wrist position-wise playing sitting down in the studio, so I usually prefer my guitar up a bit higher than some other guitarists when standing.

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

Joshua – Maybe improper strumming techniques.  But, hey, it’s my style, & it is what it is.

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

Joshua – It’s a hard call.  Obviously, other string instruments like violin might help with finger dexterity, etc.  For me, though, I’d say guitar & synth go hand in hand, especially when it comes to writing.

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

Joshua – It might be cool to be able to do the whole fast shredding thing, but I’ve never really had much of a need for that from a songwriting/functional standpoint, so I don’t necessarily miss it.  I’ve always been a bit more of a slower & more rhythmic/melodic player.

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

Joshua – I’m not sure, really.  I may have set goals for myself when I was taking lessons or whatever, but I’m not sure I ever really set many specific goals for my playing outside of that other than being able to write & play my songs.

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

Joshua – I honestly have no idea.  I’ve been playing so long that the last guitar trick I learned would probably be more of a recording/effects trick than an actual playing trick.

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

Joshua – I don’t use too many gadgets... usually just stick to a pick... so I’d probably say my slide is my favorite, & the most used, of my gadgets.

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

Joshua – Maybe fingerpicking.  I mean, I’m proficient enough to use it for arpeggios or simple plucked chords, but I’ve never really mastered the more complex techniques & layering some other guitarists use.

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

Joshua – I took about a year of guitar lessons & then, later, some music theory in college (I have a BA in computer science with an external concentration in music).  It really cemented some of the basics & techniques & let me build on them & I do use a few scales a lot when soloing.  However, I’ve always shied away from too much technicality in music, preferring to go by feel & melody rather than things like what chord is “technically” supposed to follow the previous one or consciously sticking to a set of notes.  Writing & playing has always been more of an innate, emotional thing than a cerebral thing for me.  I found myself taking & practicing the techniques from my lessons as sort of a foundation, but I began writing my own stuff within a month of starting lessons & also found myself inclined to do my own thing & follow my own style & natural tendencies.

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

Joshua – Maybe that playing what you feel & drawing from emotion is as important as the fundamentals & theory if not more so.  There have been plenty of guitarists that weren’t technically good players... some who could barely play at all... but their style & emotion & songwriting tapped into something deeper that transcended technicality.  I suppose I’ve always been of the opinion that 3 notes used creatively or with emotion can portray more than a huge, technically complex piece.

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

Joshua – Hmm... probably throw some reverb, delay, & chorus into the mix & go for a lot of rhythmic-yet-melodic 2-string interplay.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Joshua – They come in handy for some things & I used them more in the past.  These days, I hardly ever even screw in my tremolo arm & just stick to bends.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Joshua – Hardly ever.  Usually find settings I like & stick to them.  Unless the knobs get bumped or fiddled with.

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

Joshua – There’s not always a distinction, actually.  I mean, a lot of my guitar is sort of lead melodic guitar but also provides the main rhythmic backbone for a song (in the same vein as... say... Reg Smithies from The Chameleons or The Edge from U2... or even Johnny Marr’s work with The Smiths).  Some bands have a more prominent distinction... one guitarist simply playing chords & providing a framework, the other playing lead melodies or solos & coloring that framework.

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

Joshua – Sometimes I can be drawn in by one aspect of a band’s sound.  More often, though, it’s about the actual songs & writing & overall sound.  A crappy song with someone pulling off amazing guitar solos overtop of everything is still a crappy song.  However, a good song with downplayed, reserved guitar work is still a good song.  For that matter, a good song can sometimes shine through despite so-so performances or lo-fi production.

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

Joshua – This is going to sound a bit weird, but I actually like new factory guitars over used, played guitars... ha-ha.  I’ve never been one for vintage equipment.  Although, if we’re talking signature models, maybe Porl Thompson’s signature Schecter just for the design.

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

Joshua – That’s a tough question.  I mean, I wouldn’t really say any one guitar player is the most innovative.  A lot of guitar players have their own styles that are innovative & interesting in their own ways, whether it be some sort of out-there processed noise or subtle dynamics or melodic phrases.  It’s maybe a bit of a cop out to not really answer the question, but I listen to a lot of different styles & genres & trying to pick which guitarist is the most innovative is sort of like choosing between apples & oranges a lot of the time.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Joshua – Probably some of the fornever albums from the last 4 years... probably ((echo)), smile, & if you don’t like the world, change it.  Maybe a few of the more guitar-oriented tracks on the Black Wedding album from last year, too.