with Benjamin LÝzninger of LÝzninger
Name: Benjamin LÝzninger
Bands: LÝzninger, Elektrisk GÝnner, Epic Fling
Websites: www.lozninger.com, www.elektriskgonner.com, epicfling.bandcamp.com
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Benjamin – Let’s say there are two first guitars & two stories:
1. The very first one was a cheap spanish guitar that my mother got for herself when she was 13 years old with the money of a first summer job. I still have it & play it sometimes.
2. In my grandmother’s attic there was also this big guitar that had been fascinating me for years, way before I could ever play it. It was one of my uncle’s guitars. He could play perfectly any song by The Beatles, whom I was (am still) a huge fan. The guitar is a rare 60’s Hopf 12-strings folk guitar with an archtop that he gave me a couple years later. It’s been fixed a couple times, but it was still really hard to play. The neck & the strings made it really hard to play, but I used it to record & play all my first songs, for like 10 years.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Benjamin – Unfortunately I abandoned an army of pedals for a lone BOSS GT5 a long time ago. I’m using it a lot to record in my studio & when I’m playing solo & traveling on my own, it was way more convenient. I kinda regret the analogic sound though. If I could, I would just use a guitar directly plugged into a tube amp without effects. There’s no other sound than my old 12-string electro-acoustic plugged straight in a vintage Fender amp.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Benjamin – I have a RocPro Fender 70 at my house, but when I’m touring I often use a Fender Deluxe.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Benjamin – I mostly switch between my electro-acoustic guitar (12-string 70s Yamaha) & my electric guitar (Epiphone Sheraton II).
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Benjamin – It would look like a Fender ‘62 Jagmaster with an archtop. It would include 2 midi pads on the top to launch some sounds from my computer. Something fancy.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Benjamin – 8 = 3 electric guitars (Fender, Epiphone, Squier) & 5 acoustic (Hopf, Yamaha, Eko...).
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Benjamin – They are a bit everywhere in the house. I like to see them around, even for those I’m not really using anymore. They make me feel calmer I guess.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Benjamin – It’s not a question of price for a great guitar though I couldn’t afford the guitars of my dreams. Some people are into cars, I would rather spend the money on a couple guitars.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Benjamin – I let them live their own lives.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Benjamin – Not really!! Using the same rig for a decade now, just upgrading a bit sometimes, but my guitar set-up is quite the same. Mostly because I focus less & less on the guitar part.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Benjamin – I’m really into vintage guitars. Either acoustic or electric. It’s first a question on design & I’m a sucker for old Eko & Hofner guitars. I also love vintage Jaguar & Jazzmaster of course.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Benjamin – I’m a bit disappointed by my Sheraton II on the distance. It’s hard now to play a full show without tuning often. I guess she’s getting her revenge on me as I treated her quite bad during some wild shows.…
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Benjamin – I always used to play “Black Bird” by the Beatles. Otherwise, I’m just playing one of my songs.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Benjamin – It’s the first instrument I learned, it’s like an extension of my own body as no other instrument. It’s both organic, sexy, & electric. It can be quiet or wild. Firecamp or hurricane.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Benjamin – Always an ally, even when she’s sometimes stubborn or lazy.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Benjamin – Mostly self-taught musicians exploring the limits of the guitar sound in a genuine way like Sonic Youth, Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, Nirvana, Swell, or Beck.
But of course the Beatles are the original & primary influence.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Benjamin – Probably a bit silly to give your guitar a name, nevertheless, I always talk or think of my guitars as “she”. Though the name “guitare” in french, is feminine anyway.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Benjamin – During my first years of touring, our shows were pretty wild & some poor guitars often fell on the stage or hit some obstacles.…
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Benjamin – I don’t practice a lot anymore. I was away for a couple months without guitar & I could really feel how much I was missing it. Just to feel it between my hands.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Benjamin – Dunlop light grey or dark grey are my favorites.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Benjamin – Once a month when I’m playing a lot. Some of my other guitars have the same strings for a few years though.…
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Benjamin – It depends, but as I’m playing more on my electro-acoustic guitar, it’s quite rare.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Benjamin – I spent too much time hitting things as a kid & my right hand is a bit slow now, so my strumming is pretty limited without a pick. My left fretting hand is way faster, though I’m more of a rhythmic player than a solo player.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Benjamin – I used to invent a lot of different tunings a long time ago, but lately, I just use a regular tuning. It’s too complicated on tour, when you just have one of two guitars & no time to untune-retune between two songs.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Benjamin – I improvise some kinda personal tablature made of little drawings, numbers, & notes.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Benjamin – Quite low, I learned to play guitar in the grunge period, when it was still cool to play very low!
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Benjamin – Maybe typing on a computer keyboard?... Actually I don’t think it’s really helpful to play another instrument, but as I play a bit of everything & spend a lot of time behind the computer producing the songs, it’s always good to get back to a guitar & play random chords just to relax your fingers.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Benjamin – I use a capo all the time. Especially as I tend to record my voice lower in the studio, so I adapt the tune live a bit higher with a capo. I like to use a slide too to make weird noises & a bit of crunchy blues solo. I even used a small electric fan at some point, to slam the strings & make some little noises in my guitar microphones.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Benjamin – Never. In a way I don’t regret it at all because I learned to build my own limited style.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Benjamin – Not sure I’d be a great teacher. I’m not patient enough.… But just “learn by yourself & develop your own style.”
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Benjamin – Dis-learn?
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Benjamin – No! Actually I’m usually more focused on the drummer of the band. Some amazing drummers can really make me ignore the rest of the band, though the best drummers are usually in cool bands. But it’s even more rare that I notice a good guitar player. I don’t know why, but I’m thinking of Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear. His rhythmic way of playing sounds amazing to my ear, his sense of melody is wonderful & he also has a great voice.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Benjamin – I’m not really interested in other musician’s guitars, but I would probably like to own one or two of Thurston Moore’s. Just to try the different & unique tunings!
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Benjamin – I would say Kaki King, though I find it too based on technique sometimes.… I’m more touched by emotion than by technique.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Benjamin – Ah! Not sure I’m the best judge.…
QRD – Anything else?
Benjamin – Thank you!
Other QRD interviews with Benjamin LÝzninger:
Musician Dad interview with Benjamin LÝzninger of LÝzninger (June 2009)