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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 Sean Fewell
June 2012

Listen to “Knives 4 Backs” by The Broken Sparrows
Listen to “Tell It to the Mountain” by The Broken Sparrows

Name: Sean Fewell
Bands: The Broken Sparrows
Websites: www.reverbnation.com/thebrokensparrows

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

Sean – An old Harmony H59 Rocket.  About as heavy as a tank & never stayed in tune long enough to finish a song.  Sold it when I was 16 I think.  Regret selling it every single day.

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

Sean – Well, my signal path is guitar, Boss TU-2, Dunlop Wah, Modtone Compression, MXR Micro Amp Boost, Sovtek Russian Muff, 1981 USA Big Muff, EHX Pog 2, Boss GE-7, Ernie Ball VP Jr, Boss TR-2, MXR Carbon Copy, Boss NS-2, amp. 

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

Sean – I often ask myself this very question.  I would have to say the Muff pedals. Seems like every Big Muff I have ever played sounds different from the last one. When I found my two vintage muffs, my search was over. 

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Sean – My main amps are a Kustom Quad Jr. Half Stack & a Univox 12’’ Stage Amp. I run them at the same time.  The Kustom amp was appealing to me for a few reasons, when you play in a band with a drummer who hits as hard as Bonham & Moon you need at least 4 12”s to keep up.  The Univox amp was a pawn shop treasure & it sounds like a germanium amp when cranked.  It also blends very well with the Kustom. 

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

Sean – My main guitar is a PRS SE Singlecut. I can’t express how good the tone is on these guitars.  Very light. Almost feels like a toy. Great gigging ax.  I also play a Hofner Galaxy that gets its share of action.

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

Sean – It would probably look vintage, have switches for the pickups. & all of my guitars MUST have a whammy. 

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

Sean – A fuzz pedal with a germanium transistor inside that would give the fuzz a battery dying sound/feel to it. (EHX makes a similar pedal, but it is kinda sketchy.) 

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Sean – Around 8-9.  I keep some of them at my Pop’s house (also a player).

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Sean – My main guitars stay out on stands in our rehearsal space.  The others are in cases.

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

Sean – Humidifiers.

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

Sean – If it stays in tune, the intonation is close, & the neck feels good; I usually buy them.

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

Sean – A thousand dollars is fair, if the wood & parts are top shelf. I will never, & have never, spent more on a guitar.

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

Sean – I usually upgrade the tuners & pickups.

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

Sean – Sometimes months, sometimes if it sounds good in the store, I take it home.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Sean – Not really.  Once I found the sound I wanted, I thought it was best to stop & not jinx it.

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

Sean – I always searched for a tone that I heard in my head.  It took years to find it. When I found it, I made sure to make notes of everything so I never loose it. I often have nightmares about people screwing with my rig, forcing me to do it over again.

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

Sean – I want a 70s Gibson SG, a vintage Fender Mustang, & an old Ampeg V-22 amp. 

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

Sean – Good tuners, a properly set up neck.  Soft frets.

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

Sean – Best purchase was my PRS Singlecut.  Worst purchase?  Anything made by Digitech.

QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?

Sean – Like: Fender, Gibson, PRS, Dillion, Epiphone, Takamine, Ampeg, Kustom, Boss, Dunlop, Ernie Ball.  Dislike: Digitech, Marshall Solid State amps, Jackson Guitars or anything else with a Floyd Rose on it.

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

Sean – An E chord. Such a nice full chord.

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

Sean – I was 9 years young. I saw a clip of some group called The Beatles & that was it. How many bands can really reach across generations like that? Crazy.

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

Sean – I made the jump probably around 16/17.  Blues music hit me hard around then, forcing me to learn slide, scales, & Robert Johnson & Zeppelin records really messed me up for life. No going back.

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

Sean – The guitar has the ability to make everyone sound different while playing it. It allows you to have your own unique sound. It was always around me as a kid. I come from a family of pickers. I was doomed from day one. 

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

Sean – No.  I understand why it is, but there are always way too many guitar players & no drummers, or bass players. I always see ads on Craigslist with bands looking for bass players & drummers.

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

Sean – It has always been my ally.  I would be lost without it.

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

Sean – In no order: Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, John Lennon, Jimmy Page, Jack White, Jeff Beck, Buddy Holly, Josh Homme, David Gilmour, Buddy Guy, Robert Johnson, George Harrison, Grahm Coxon, Pete Townshend, Lou Reed, Duane Allman, Derek Trucks, Dan Auerbach, Robin Trower, Robert Fripp, Frank Black, my Dad.

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

Sean – Anyone who thinks it is silly, usually can’t play a lick.  I love my girls. 

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

Sean – Broke it. Smashed it in my back yard showing off for girls when I was 12 or 13.  Another regret of mine.

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

Sean – Singing & playing, effect order during songs, pick up selection on different songs.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?

Sean – 30 hours a week. I would like to have a full-time job that would require more playing time, but we shall see.…

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

Sean – Clayton .63s I love the size & flex.  & Dunlop .73 Tortexes. Great grip & last a long time.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Sean – 10s & 11s.  Each guitar handles differently. I kinda like fatter strings. 

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Sean – Every 3-4 weeks. Every time. No excuses. 

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Sean – Not often. Once or twice a year.  Stretching is the secret.

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

Sean – My strumming hand has always been my strength. I do find as I get older & wiser, the fretting hand is catching up. LOL. 

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

Sean – I only had one tech my whole life & I took the time to learn from him.  I do all my own set-ups.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Sean – Standard E, Open A, Open G, C tuning.  Each tuning has a different sound & feel. Lots of slide guitar & blues with the open stuff. 

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

Sean – I learned to read music when I was first starting, but I usually just use a piece of paper & a recording device.

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

Sean – Around, well, the crotch.  I have long, lanky arms.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in you’re playing you wish you could break?

Sean – The cramping hand is always a battle with some songs. I could do without that.

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

Sean – Bass guitar or violin.

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

Sean – I wish I could do more Classical finger picking on nylon strings.  Love that stuff.

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

Sean – Making enough money playing guitar to not have a regular job.

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

Sean – Making people believe I am good. :)

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

Sean – My heavy weight brass slide. 

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

Sean – Become a better slide better.

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

Sean – I did. I learned how to play Christmas jingles.

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

Sean – How to play. 

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

Sean – Buy a Big Muff & learn some power chords.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Sean – Nothing against them, just don’t like them.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Sean – Often.  You can do a lot with that little knob. Really color your sound.

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

Sean – One is in charge of keeping the full sound of the rhythm, while a lead guitarist colors the space in between.

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

Sean – I don’t think so.  On the other hand, a good guitar player can make some players PLAY better.

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

Sean – I would have to go with John Lennon’s Rickenbacker. If a guitar could talk......

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

Sean – I really think Jack White & Josh Homme are the guys for me right now.  Both amazing live players who really have a unique sound.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work? 

Sean – www.reverbnation.com/thebrokensparrows

QRD – Anything else?

Sean – I really enjoyed these great & well thought out questions. Good luck & Cheers!!