with Justin O'Connor of Church of Gravitron
Name: Justin O’Connor
Bands: Church of Gravitron
Websites: www.doomtownrecords.com, www.unread-records.com, www.modern-radio.com
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Justin – My first girlfriend gave me a Yamaha. Last time I saw it, it was in someone’s basement around 2002. The strings were rusted. The first guitar I played regularly was a an old Gibson (Melody Maker maybe?) I borrowed from a friend’s dad. I played on other people’s equipment for the better part of the next 18 years.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Justin – That sounds about right.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Justin – Probably the power strip.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Justin – ‘64 (I think) Fender Band Master. I bought it because there wasn’t anyone I could borrow amps from anymore.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Justin – A 60s Danelectro Hawk that was given to my wife. I have tiny & stiff fingers, so the short scale neck is very comfortable. Why do older guitars sound so much better? I don’t know.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Justin – It would be the bottom half of a Reubenesque woman wearing fishnet stockings. She would wrap her legs around my head when I am sad. It would also have a universal remote holder & ice water dispenser.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Justin – I have one. It’s called The Unholy Name. My friend & bandmate Mario Alderfer (www.martoneaudio.com) built it for me. It’s thin & crunchy sounding like a Rat, but he added a switch that adds a deep low end without mixing the two. It’s so fucked. I love it.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Justin – 5?
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Justin – In the streets to keep them mean.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Justin – A designated driver.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Justin – I’d rather not buy another guitar.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Justin – $150.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Justin – I’ve wanted Wyoming’s BH&R branded on guitar for a long time. I’ll never get around to it.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Justin – I rely solely on luck.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Justin – Never.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Justin – I’m tone deaf.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Justin – I gave up on that a few years ago.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Justin – A little voice that tells them to give up.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Justin – 16.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Justin – 17.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Justin – It doesn’t really suit me at all. It just happened to be available when I needed an outlet.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Justin – I imagine nature will eventually find a way to cull the abnormal amount of guitar players in the world.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Justin – Slave.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Justin – In chronological order of influence: Greg Ginn, Bernard Sumner, Kevin Shields, & the real game changers for me were Rafeal Toral & Vote Robot (did they play guitar?).
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Justin – Why would I name my slave?
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Justin – I punched a hole through an acoustic guitar.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Justin – I daydream a lot.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Justin – I play guitar 9 or 10 times a year. 11 if I play a show.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Justin – Grey Tortex.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Justin – The package was green.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Justin – When they break.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Justin – Once every couple of years.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Justin – Neither. I play like a crippled caveman.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Justin – I don’t like talking to musicians.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Justin – I have a few written down in the basement. I use alternate tunings for the same reason I play loud & use effect pedals. To over compensate for my lack of skill.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Justin – I’ve drawn shapes to represent songs that later don’t make any sense.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Justin – I prefer girth.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Justin – Break their fingers & set the bones incorrectly. Scrape the tendons with glass. Get a concussion. Go to public school.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Justin – Lead guitar players have stronger arms, but their children tend to have learning disabilities. Rhythm guitar players should probably get tested as well.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Justin – Innovation is for car commercials.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Justin – They should have been at that show I played in Chicago. I tore that shit up.
QRD – Anything else?
Justin – My only regret is not taking advantage of an opportunity that was presented to me years ago. It may not have led anywhere, but it would have been a level of exposure I had never seen before. I’m not upset about where life has taken me, just that I feel like I fucked it off on purpose out of fear. That sucks.