with Matthew Filler of Mansions & Junipers
Name: Matthew Filler
Bands: Mansions & Junipers, ex-Mahogany, ex-Monocle, ex-Friendly Bears, founder at Pralaya Productions
Websites: mansionsandjunipers.bandcamp.com, pralayaproductions.com
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Matthew – It was a one of the Kramer electric guitars that metal guys used in the 80’s. It was black with Seymour Duncan pick-ups. My uncle owned Kramer. I think I sold it to a friend when I was 15.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Matthew – Typically, I play a ‘79 Gibson ES-347 through a VOX AC30. Effects are plenty, but the core of my set-up is an Eventide Space, Line 6 Delay, EH Memory Man, MXR Phase, Boss Tremelo PN2, EH Big Muff. I also like my Fender Super Reverb & my Fender Pro Reverb.…
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Matthew – The guitar, of course!
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Matthew – Vox AC30 because it’s so dynamic. It responds to my playing in a way that inspires my performance.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Matthew – Gibson ES-347.… It has a coil reversal switch that takes it from being a heavy growler & fits it well within the dynamic spectrum of a larger ensemble, so it’s super versatile. It also has those bone-rattling humbuckers & it’s a semi-hollow, so the sustain is outstanding.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Matthew – I don’t like flashy looking guitars. I like classics.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Matthew – I could really use a deeper, wider chorus that adds slight gain rather than thinning things out.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Matthew – Eight, I think?
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Matthew – Most of them are out on stands in my studio, & they get played all the time.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Matthew – Jet engines.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Matthew – Sound & feel
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Matthew – I own $400 guitars as well as $4000 guitars. As long as you get what you want from it, I don’t know.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Matthew – I usually stick with what I get, but I’d like to upgrade the tuning knobs on a couple of my guitars. Otherwise, I don’t see the point in putting really nice pick-ups in a super cheap guitar, or anything like that.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Matthew – Thoroughly... I usually know what I’m looking for before I purchase it.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Matthew – Surely
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Matthew – I change around a lot, but I have a go to sound.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Matthew – I played out of this big Orange Reverb at a show at Johnny Brendas in Philly once & it was amazing... I’d like one of those.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Matthew – Frets
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Matthew – This Eventide Space is the best reverb stomp box ever made. Most bad purchases have been Boss pedals with the exception of the Tremelo PN2.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Matthew – I like Electro Harmonix, Eventide, MXR, & some boutique stuff that I’ve tried, like Death By Audio. This stuff is often analog, dynamic, & boosts your signal. They also do multiple things that relate to one another intuitively.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Matthew – Whatever’s in my head.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Matthew – Thirteen.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Matthew – Hope to always get better.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Matthew – I’m not sure that it does
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Matthew – Piano might be a better staring point. But if guitar keeps you more interested, then rock it.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Matthew – I think I can safely say that instruments in general are a vital ally to making music.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Matthew – When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with Frank Zappa & Bill Frissell. I don’t really have favorite guitarists anymore though... just favorite composers & favorite bands.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Matthew – I don’t do it, but I’m not against it.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Matthew – I stepped on my friend classical once & crushed the body. I felt soooo horrible, but this incredible luthier down in Long Branch, NJ was actually able to fix it & that guitar still lives today. As far as the circumstances & condition under which I stepped on this guitar... well, that’s for a darker corner of the internet?
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Matthew – Sometimes I play lefty!
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Matthew – I’m not sure... all the time.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Matthew – Usually a medium Dunlop nylon... because I tend to angle down when I play & a regular plastic pick will shave down & lose its edge.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Matthew – Ten gauge.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Once per month
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Matthew – Ummm... too often for somebody that’s been playing almost 20 years, but I like to rock.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Matthew – Oh man, they better both be equally proficient.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Matthew – I use a guitar tech, but I’d like to learn more to properly do it myself.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Matthew – I used to use all sorts of tunings & make up some weird ones, but now I’m usually standard because I play lots more pop/rock influenced music now.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Matthew – Sheet music.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Matthew – Low-ish/waist.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Matthew – Drinking.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Matthew – I think everyone should play a little piano.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Matthew – Not sure.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Matthew – There’s some challenging songs I’ve meant to learn that I’ve yet to spearhead.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Matthew – If you stare at it long enough, it turns into a sailboat.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Matthew – Bowing is kinda epic.
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Matthew – I wish I was a more versatile fingerpicker.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Matthew – Absolutely. I learned everything.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Matthew – When I was younger, I had a hard time understanding how to apply new scales & modes over different progressions. I just didn’t get the application until way later & it always seemed so abstract. I would break my student from the rigidness of that & help them use their own intuition to understand the relationships between the notes in the most fundamental ways.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Matthew – My playing can be a bit unconventional, so I dunno... lots of arpeggios, open notes sustained underneath, picking by the bridge, harmonics, but very melodic & tonal.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Matthew – Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Matthew – Very very often.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Matthew – I see no difference. This is weird concept to me from the 80s or something... like Izzy & Slash.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Matthew – No way.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Matthew – Frank Zappa’s Gibson SG, because he’s my idol in so many ways.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Matthew – Honestly, I have no idea. I used to love Michael Hedges, but he passed away in ‘98 I think. He was a guy that approached a guitar with a very different idea of what it was fundamentally. I guess I feel this way about Bill Frissell as well. I remember someone calling him the Thelonious Monk of guitar. I can get behind that.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Matthew – My most guitar heavy work in recent years is probably on the first Mansions & Junipers LP, Mansion Beach... there’s lots of layered, delayed, looped, reversed, processed 12-string work & fun stuff like that. Although, I like the more recent Mansions & Junipers stuff in the past year or two, because it represents the band as a unit & the things that everyone brings to the table.
QRD – Anything else?
Matthew – Thanks for reading!