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QRD #61 - Guitarist Interview Series Part VIII
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Guitarist Interviews:
Alan Bishop
Grégory Duby
Nathan Joyner
Nick Jonah Davies
Claudia Gregory
Matthew Filler
Julien Ottavi
Chris Brokaw
Andrea Vascellari
Jeff Barsky
Chas McKeown
Jean D.L.
Adam Cooper
Chris Summerlin
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Chas McKeown of Gray Young
Chas McKeown of Gray Young
Chas McKeown of Gray Young
Chas McKeown of Gray Young
Chas McKeown of Gray Young
Chas McKeown of Gray Young
Chas McKeown of Gray Young
Chas McKeown of Gray Young
Chas McKeown of Gray Young
Chas McKeown of Gray Young
Chas McKeown of Gray Young
Guitarist Interview with Chas McKeown of Gray Young
April 2013
Chas McKeown of Gray Young
Name: Chas McKeown
Bands: Gray Young
Websites: http://www.facebook.com/GrayYoungMusic

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

Chas – It is called Stella. My dad got it for Christmas when he was as kid. Then he gave it to me. Stella still follows me everywhere I live.

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

Chas – I plug my guitar into a Boss tuner, into an Austin Gold overdrive, followed by a Line 6 Delay, over to another delay (right now it’s a carbon copy), straight into a Holy Grail Reverb, & then its off to the amplifier (which has been a Peavey Classic 50 for a long time now).

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

Chas – Well I need all three. My effects aren’t enhancers. They are a necessity. They are the paint to my brush. But if we are talking about the different types of each of the objects mentioned, I would say that having a guitar that inspires me is really important. It needs to make me want to create something when I hold it.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Chas – Peavey Classic 50. Because I don’t have the money to buy a different one even if I wanted to.

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

Chas – A Godin. Don’t know the model. But it looks like a Strat mixed with a Les Paul kinda. It has been my one & only mainstay electric guitar until last Christmas when I received a Fender Stratocaster from Santa Claus.

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

Chas – It would have my name signed on it.

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

Chas – It would have my name signed on it.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Chas – 2.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Chas – In their cases.

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

Chas – Little squirrel figurines.

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

Chas – Whether or not it inspires me to want to write music with it.

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

Chas – I don’t know. But I have played some really expensive guitars & hated them. & I have played some really cheap guitars & hated them. I think if you are looking for an instrument you should just play it & see how you relate to it. Don’t even look at the price. It’s irrelevant.

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

Chas – Just depends on if I feel like anything needs to be done. I recently got better tuners on my Godin because the original ones were too loose.

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

Chas – I won’t ever buy a guitar without playing it. If I play a guitar & then still feel like I need to do research, then it’s probably not the one.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Chas – No. But that doesn’t mean I won’t in the future.

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

Chas – I’ve got a sound that I have very much locked in that works for what I do in Gray Young. But maybe one day I will mess with that more.

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

Chas – Delay.

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

Chas – For it to stay in tune longer than a few minutes after you start strumming it. If a guitar is constantly going out of tune & you are just learning, you might be apt to give up. I hate tuning to this day.

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

Chas – I don’t have any real allegiance to a brand. If I like it I will go for it. Effects & amps are instruments to me in a way though. They have to inspire me to want to create with them.

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

Chas – It.

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

Chas – I think I was in 10th grade.

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

Chas – Whenever I started playing in Gray Young. A band will make you play things you wouldn’t have dreamed of. But it’s not a case of leveling up to anything. Playing an instrument is about constantly searching. Gray Young is still making me feel like I have places to go with my guitar.

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

Chas – No clue. I’ve always loved that I can take my guitar wherever I go though.

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

Chas – People should play all instruments! Whenever they want!

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

Chas – Haven’t ever thought about it. But I will say both.

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

Chas – The Edge. Then from there... Johnny Greenwood. Don Peris. Billy Corgan. Robert Smith. Kevin Sheilds... & many more. Other guitar players affected me then & later & more will in the future I hope! One thing to say about this is that these guitar players are/were in bands that I loved at the time. I’m into bands as a collective voice. I’m not influenced purely by guitar players. I can hear drums in a band & feel inspired to write on guitar for example.…

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

Chas – It’s naturally silly.

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

Chas – I used to throw my guitar around a lot more. I kinda stopped that. For a few reasons. One being I didn’t want to break it. It’s got scars. The pickup switch broke off. But I’m glad because I was always hitting it by accident & switching my pickups in the middle of songs.

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

Chas – All I do is just play these days.

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

Chas – Any work I have done that I can’t do is by Guru guitars in Raleigh, NC. Or by someone that I know in town that is more knowledgeable than me.

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

Chas – I just play & remember stuff. I have a personal tape recorder too. I wish the band recorded more of the jamming we do, but usually the good stuff sticks.

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

Chas – Fingerpicking.

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

Chas – I used to play with a capo more often. Maybe I will do that again. The ebow is one of my favorite gadgets too though.

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

Chas – Fingerpicking.

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

Chas – I taught myself a lot of chords & was writing my own songs before I took lessons. I wanted to take them because I reached a point where I wanted to keep exploring, but I didn’t know where to go next. I luckily found a guitar teacher who showed me things but never forced them on me. I got to take some maps & go where I wanted on those maps. I was lucky to have a teacher that fit my personality.

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

Chas – To just make up their own music.

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

Chas – That’s not something that anyone should concentrate on. I loved certain guitar players because they found their own way. They made me want to find my own way. So I would rather encourage that.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Chas – Whatever gets you through the night.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Chas – Once.

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

Chas – Well, to be honest, I’ve never really seen the guitar in that light. I just see it as a world to explore. Not two worlds.

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

Chas – I guess you could listen to just the guitar & get something out of it. Sure. But I wouldn’t be into a band based purely on the guitar player. The music as a whole needs to move me. Not just one part of it.

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

Chas – None. They need it to play!!!

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

Chas – I don’t know. But I’m way more into the music as a whole that is coming from a band than what the guitar player is necessarily doing these days. In high school I was a lot more into this idea of an innovative guitar player. I looked at certain players like that for sure. The Edge was at the top of that tree for me. But I wouldn’t have been into them if I wasn’t into what their band was doing.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Chas – Bonfire is our newest record. I would start there if I were me.