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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 Ryan Scally
June 2012
Ryan Scally
Listen to “Someone Like You” by Orange Blossom Flyover
Listen to “Twelve Month Jury Zodiac” by Orange Blossom Flyover

Name: Ryan Scally
Bands: Orange Blossom Flyover
Websites: soundcloud.com/orangeblossomflyoverfacebook.com/orangeblossomflyover, orangeblossomflyover.bandcamp.com

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

Ryan – My first guitar is alive & well. A black Squire Stratocaster that I got in 8th grade for my 13th birthday.

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

Ryan – Guitar into a giant mulit-purpose Digitech pedal into one of my Valvestates.

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

Ryan – Well, without a guitar the other two are deemed useless. It’s all about the guitar.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Ryan – My main amp would be an 80 watt Marshall Valvestate, but while playing & practicing I mostly use a 15 watt Valvestate or a 15 watt Crate. A friend has the Crate right now; it’s a toss-up anyways. They both have great tones & reverb for small amps.

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

Ryan – I recently bought an AVRI Jazzmaster. It’s smooth as hell, plays exactly how I’d imagined. White with the tortoise shell. Looks amazing, which has its significance, but primarily sounds awesome.

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

Ryan – I wouldn’t be able to speak to features, but maybe something cool looking with a maple neck.… All of my guitars have rosewood necks, which are great, but there’s something underrated about the maple neck that I find appealing. Dark blue, maple neck, black pickguard. Or something.

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

Ryan – A mellotron pedal? Does that exist yet? A pedal to make a guitar sound like a mellotron. Whistle, flute, & strings. Pre-recorded orchestras.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Ryan – As of now, 7. Three electrics, three acoustics (one of which is “Spanish”/nylon stringed), & a bass. Or maybe 8 guitars. I gave one to my sister to hang on her wall as a decoration.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Ryan – Just out & about around the house. No method in proper storage in terms of preventing weathering.

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

Ryan – When I’ve bought guitars I’ve either looked specifically for a Strat or for a Jazzmaster. So it was the features that were already derivable from those guitars. However, for my “next guitar”, I will probably just look for something that surprises me. & it will hopefully be not that expensive.

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

Ryan – A good guitar should ideally cost between $500-800. There are so many now way above $800, which doesn’t seem fair.

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

Ryan – Have not upgraded anything yet. I might put a different bridge on my Jazzmaster.

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

Ryan – A lot of research on the internet & hopefully at least one decent trial with it in person.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Ryan – Hardly ever.

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

Ryan – Ideally every song would have a different tone. It seems the fairest way to treat the songs (as individuals). Tones should technically even change within the song often, even if just at a verse chorus verse level. Sometimes I might want a verse to have a clean trebly tone with a lot of reverb & the pre-chorus to be a slight distortion dry chorus-drenched tone that’s bassy, & the chorus to be mid-range clean with a slow flanger setting with high reverb, & then the same thing but with swampy distortion played over it. It’s about adding the right shades. Never one color. Painting with a guitar.

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

Ryan – The Kimberly Kay or Kingston Teisco guitars seem interesting. I’d like to find a cheap Ibanez Talman on Craigslist. I think it’s their version of a surf guitar, which looks cool.

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

Ryan – Half the time I just start playing the current song that I’ve been writing & working on, which is probably why I grabbed the guitar. The other half would just be spontaneous chords to see if they go together, or of course different lead/solo style techniques too to warm up/get the feel going. It will never get old when you start playing accidental chords & you realize it sounds better than the song that you were trying to work on.

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

Ryan – Thirteen.

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

Ryan – I’m 24 now. Hopefully many years from now when I’m still trying to get better, while then imagining many years more of getting better from that point too.

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

Ryan – It just happens to be the dominant instrument of most of the music I listen to. It’s actually kind of funny when you think of it.… It’s the music that I love that I could listen to forever that makes me want to be a part of it & write my own music... You’d think if I loved it so much I’d just be satisfied with listening to their music!

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

Ryan – Yes & no. It’s a very easy instrument to get started with. Especially with different forms of simplistic guitar in all kinds of popular music. So you can therefore learn their easier songs quicker, which then makes you feel good & accomplished, “I can do this”, & then, like anything, you hopefully evolve into a more sophisticated version of how you started. If you come from a family with parents who listen to Brahms or Mahler or Bach or Beethoven then you’re most likely going to start with a piano or a violin. Which are amazing instruments.

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

Ryan – Supreme Allied Commander.

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

Ryan – It’s a long list, but I’ll do it by saying the guitarist & including specific songs that have greatly influenced my guitar & songwriting approach, as well as tones: Billy Corgan – “Vanity” / “Let Me Give the World to You” / “Cupid de Locke” / “Speed Kills” / “All Things Change” / “Pretty Pretty Star” / “Perfect.” & George Harrison – “And Your Bird Can Sing” / “She Said She Said” / “Let it Down” / “Give Me Love.” & Paul McCartney – “Hear of the Country” / “Michelle” / “Two of Us” / “Fixing a Hole” / “Man We Was Lonely.” & John Lennon – “I’m Only Sleeping” / “Girl” / “Ticket to Ride” / “If I Fell” / “Dig a Pony” / “Across the Universe.” & Kevin Shields – “Moon Song” / “Off Your Face” / “I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It)” / “I Only Said” / “Sugar.” & Kurt Heasley – “Returns Every Morning” / “The Hermit Crab” / “The Night Sun Over San Juan” / “Will My Lord Be Gardening” / “The Spirits Merchant.” & Josh Homme – “God Is in the Radio” / “Hangin’ Tree” / “Interlude with Ludes.”
Anyways. Annie Clark & Dave Longstreth are both great. Jeffy Tweedy & Nels Cline too. & most of the famous jazz guitarists because they’re all masterminds, Al Di Meola, Pat Metheny, George Benson, etc. Also maybe most importantly my friends Matt Billington, Alex Dandurant, & Gracie Jackson. They’re all great guitarists who I’ve played with a lot over the years & I’ve certainly learned a lot from them.

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

Ryan – Playing is key but listening to the guitarists you really respect is right up there in importance too.

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

Ryan – On average maybe 2 hours a day & then I’ll spend all the other hours worrying about not playing, worrying about not writing.

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

Ryan – I’ve been using one of those Star Picks for a while now, a red one that I can’t remember how I have it. A pick shouldn’t be too heavy, assuming it’s bad for the strings.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Ryan – No idea. Whatever gauge that works well with trying alternate tunings & doesn’t mind to be always moving lower & back to higher, etc., is what I should use.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Ryan – Only if I break one.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Ryan – Rarely. But it’s always a gloomy day when I do.

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

Ryan – I’ve always thought my strumming hand was more dominant, in that I could comfortably strum any type or rhythm, or even to just mimic percussion while muting the strings. I feel just as good about my fretting hand though now. It’s an interesting dynamic though for sure. Same with two piano hands playing in different tempos at the same time, hard to picture the actuality of what you’re doing, so I try not to.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Ryan – Some standard E & E-flat. I like 2 steps down. I like the G-string up a half step. Which also works well with the high-E down a half step. I like the G-string down a half step, which also works well with drop-D. Open-G is fun. Or is it open-D? I have a song in DGDF#BD, one in C#A(b*)C#C#A(b)C, & B(b)B(b)B(b)FCD. And most recently B(b)FBG#B(b)F#. Playing in different tunings can feel like playing a whole different instrument. But you’re obviously still familiar with it. It allows a different type of creativity that can be refreshing. * (b) = flat

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

Ryan – I’ve never written down a guitar idea. I can remember mostly everything very well. If I don’t think I can remember something, then I’ll try & quickly record a demo of it. On the other hand, I try to write down lyric ideas as fast as I can so that I won’t forget. If I feel I might forget a melody idea then I’ll find the guitar & play the notes of the melody so I’ll have the memory of the initial sung notes as well as the visual on the guitar.

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

Ryan – Medium

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

Ryan – Possibly being lazy at times with lead/soloing patterns & not branching out to different styles I suppose.

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

Ryan – Tough question. Maybe the harp.

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

Ryan – Jazz fusion.

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

Ryan – There was a point 6 or 7 years ago I really wanted to be able to sweep-pick. Just to do it. I never listened to the type of music where they did that, but I knew how difficult it was. I can do it “a little bit”, but never got that great at it. The great jazz guitarists like Al Di Meola can play those sweep-picked notes just as fast with normal fast picking though, which I find more impressive.

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

Ryan – Whatever latest new tuning I stumbled into.

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

Ryan – A capo can be great, but I rather test out chords on even lower frets than higher ones! The anti-capo. I like Ebows too, although I’ve never owned one.

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

Ryan – Self taught. Learned from the musicians I’ve listened to. Like Quentin Tarantino said, “I didn’t go to film school, I went to films.” & early on, the occasional live video to see what their hands were doing definitely helped. I wanted to be exact. If they were playing an A note or chord, I wanted to be sure if it was an open-A string or the low E string on the fifth fret. I wanted to know. Obviously now you can tell those sort of things by knowing tones.

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

Ryan – I would teach them that pure creativity is far more valuable than anything standard & “by the book”. But at the same time, like sports, the fundamentals should always be there.

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

Ryan – I like the note before the note. I want everything to sound pretty. Even the ugly chords. They just need to be properly put in the right place.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Ryan – Love ‘em.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Ryan – I never adjust the tone knob, but I adjust the pickup switch all the time.

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

Ryan – In relation to the song that’s being played, the rhythm player is obviously guiding the song along the right path. It’s the setting & the plot. The lead guitarist should hopefully add a dropped-in nuance & texture that kind of correlates to the mood of the song. The right drop-in at the right time should enhance the listener’s attitude of whatever he or she is feeling at that moment of the song. That moment should be like knowing the point of view of the character. So I guess the lead can be like the theme, but also the dialogue. And a huge guitar solo would therefore be the climax.

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

Ryan – I guess so. I ignore Robert Plant.

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

Ryan – Hard to say, or even pick one. If George Harrison used a specific guitar for every solo from 66-69, then I would want that. I’m sure Kevin Shields has a thousand Jazzmasters. Billy Corgan’s Reverend guitar from his Future Embrace album is interesting to me. Unbelievably creative guitar work on that album.

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

Ryan – I would definitely give the nod to Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors. Extremely innovative to me & very melodically unorthodox. All of his albums, especially his first one, The Graceful-Fallen Mango. His body of work is amazing. His composition of “Two Doves” on Bitte Orca is beautiful, & his guitar on “I Will Truck” from The Getty Address is maniacal. It’s like an inverted Hendrix-esque progression.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Ryan – I have 3 main websites that I listed above where mostly everything can be downloaded. I’ve had 2 tapes released so far with I had An Accident Records, possibly a 7” vinyl split on Hand Rolled Gold, & a split tape called “In the Sawdust Lobby” on a Norwegian label called Koppklys with my friend who makes great music under the name Heirloom. So my best guitar work, um, I’m not too sure. Maybe a song called “Twelve Month Jury Zodiac”, but it could also be either “Someone Like You”, or “Between” or an eventual song called “Telewisher.” Many new songs to come though! Thank you very much for the interview. Take care.