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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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Alan Bishop
Guitarist Interview with Alan Bishop of Sun City Girls
April 2013
Alan Bishop
Name: Alan Bishop
Bands: Sun City Girls/JFA/Paris 1942/Alvarius B./Eddy Detroit/Destruction/Maybe Mental/The Invisible Hands/Koes Barat
Websites: www.suncitygirls.com

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

Alan – Yamaha FG 335 acoustic - still have it - it stands right behind the chair I type this from.

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

Alan – Guitar to amplifier, no effects live. Only use effects in studio.

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

Alan – The guitar.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Alan – Whatever is available. I can get the sound I want from any amplifier.

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

Alan – I don’t have a main guitar. I play whatever is handy. I live all over the world & have guitars in several countries.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Alan – 10 guitars.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Alan – In my house or with friends overseas.

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

Alan – Booby traps that electrocute Homeland Security employees.

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

Alan – Yes, I’ve customized several guitars.

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

Alan – Depends on what it is. If I’ve never used it before, I research & test.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Alan – I don’t have “a rig” so yes, I change it every time.

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

Alan – I change tones all the time.

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

Alan – None. I can make a $50 acoustic guitar sound like a mandolin, dulcimer, sitar, saz, or oud & a $50 electric guitar sound like a strat, Les Paul, or rocket engine.

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

Alan – It changes every single time.

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

Alan – 16.

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

Alan – I’m still getting better, not there yet.

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

Alan – It doesn’t fit me better than other instruments. I play all instruments & I sing.

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

Alan – Not necessarily. Depends on the culture. Guitars are cheap & marketed well. That is an advantage.

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

Alan – Definitely an ally.

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

Alan – Guitarists from the 1960s.

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

Alan – YES.

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

Alan – I never damage guitars.

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

Alan – Nothing else.

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

Alan – I play 1-2 hours a day for months sometimes, but when NOT playing guitar I can go months never picking one up.

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

Alan – Heavy plastic or nylon because I play hard.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Alan – Depends on what I’m after or what is laying around. Light or medium gauge strings.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Alan – I break strings all the time, so quite often.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Alan – All the time. I play very hard.

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

Alan – My strumming hand is strongest. I’m not into solos - it never interested me. The rhythmic element is what interests me.

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

Alan – I would never even think of having a guitar tech. I make my own coffee too. It’s like asking someone to roll my cigarettes for me. Therefore my guitar is setup all the time. Or perhaps it has never been setup.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Alan – I use more tunings than I am aware of to count. Some are standard & open tunings; but many I experiment with once, play in it, & move on never to return again, unless by accident. There are many more possibilities in sound by utilizing multiple tunings.

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

Alan – I have my own very personal & evolving system for this. I do not read or write music in the standard way, but my own system is a combination of many methods & it is quite impossible to articulate.

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

Alan – I’ve never measured it before. Not really sure. Not as high as that bass player for Spyro Gyra, that’s for sure!

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

Alan – Not playing guitar for months at a time as I play/do something else, but I always figure I’ll be back like I never left - which is basically true as soon as the calluses are built up again on my fingers.

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

Alan – Any other stringed instrument.

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

Alan – “Can’t” is not in my vocabulary. If there was something I really wanted to do, I’d learn to do it.

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

Alan – Playing high C notes with Kenny G in a canoe heading over Victoria Falls.

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

Alan – Scissors.

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

Alan – Never.

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

Alan – To teach themselves. I would not be giving lessons.

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

Alan – It’s impossible to emulate my style.

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

Alan – Production credits.

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

Alan – Anyone naming one person as the most innovative would be foolish. The most innovative guitar players are living outside the western world & there are thousands of them.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Alan – Here, as I’m too lazy to think about it further: http://www.suncitygirls.com/discography/AlvariusB_CD.php

QRD – Anything else?

Alan – No.