with Dan Bridgewood-Hill of NASDAQ
Name: Dan Bridgewood-Hill
Bands: dbh, NASDAQ, The FTSE 100, Burnst, DAQ Sabbath & others using other instruments
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Dan – It’s a cheap classical guitar from Argos, I think. I cut my teeth on it learning Oasis songs. It got covered in stickers. The intonation issues eventually forced me to buy something a little better, but it’s still hanging around.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Dan – For acoustic guitar I play straight into a microphone. Acoustic pickups can sound horrible to me, unless they’re very expensive, & I usually play gigs that are quiet enough for me to not worry about feedback issues. When I’m playing electric guitar I will throw a few effects in, but not much - distortion, reverb, delay, & wah. I might get a tremelo pedal one day.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Dan – It depends what sort of music I’m making & in what environment. Playing heavy rock music requires a great amp & acoustic music requires a guitar that feels comfortable to play.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Dan – I have a little Vox amp that is good for playing solo & busking as it has a battery option. I’m currently in the market for a hundred watt valve amplifier as I tried buying a dirt cheap one, but it keeps breaking...
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Dan – Again, that would depend what sort of music I’m making. I have a nice Spanish classical guitar for acoustic stuff & I’d like a good steel to add some different sounds to that batch of material. I tend to value intonation over tone when picking an acoustic. In The FTSE 100 I play a Gordon Smith Telecaster. It’s a really great guitar, lovingly built near where I live in Manchester. The fretboard seems so easy to play & the pickups have a really nice clear sound to them. With NASDAQ I borrow our drummer’s black Gibson SG as it sounds so rich & heavy. Burnst don’t play very often any more, but that was always a single-coil pickup band so I could do all the screeching & skronking I wanted to.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Dan – It would be brown & cheap & perfectly in tune.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Dan – I’d get them to make a time travel pedal. Features would just be date & time settings.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Dan – Five, but only three work.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Dan – Just around the house, in corners, on chairs, on the floor, sometimes badly balanced.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Dan – Food & alcohol.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Dan – I’m really bad at buying guitars. I don’t feel at home in guitar shops. I don’t know anything about guitars other than how to play them & I find people who work in guitar shops make me want to leave guitar shops. The first thing I do is check if the intonation is good. Then I buy it so I can get out as quickly as possible. Then I regret it.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Dan – Probably quite a lot. There’s a lot of skill & knowledge that goes into making a good guitar. But then again, with production lines & low wages I’m sure you could get that cost right down. I don’t know enough about guitar making to give you a figure.…
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Dan – I change the strings & bits break off, but that’s about it.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Dan – I’m getting better at doing this in that I use the internet to have a good look at something. But the internet is full of useless information & uninformed opinion, so perhaps I need to find a new method.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Dan – Both, I think. I seem to have confronted my broad musical taste by playing in different bands to satisfy different parts of it. So each band will have a sound or vibe of some sort that doesn’t really change & if I fancy playing something radically different, I’ll find some different people, different instruments, or whatever & do something different.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Dan – I’d love a Marshall SuperBass 100. I had one & it was stolen. That incident has caused me an awful lot of sadness.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Dan – I wonder how many people are put off playing the guitar by their first guitar being unmanageably shit? Mine was & it didn’t put me off, so I have some hope. Maybe terrible guitars are a good way of weeding out the people who don’t really care enough. But I think I’d rather there was a well-stocked musical instrument library in every town so people have access to guitars that actually work as they should.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Dan – The best was a Marshall SuperBass 100 watt head & accompanying cab. That was in the days when I had a personal shopper. Or, to be precise, a band mate who knew lots & cared enough to get me something great. I think it was only £600 for the pair as well, which seems unfeasibly cheap in today’s amp market. The worst was its replacement, a Bugera 1960 & a Hughes & Kettner cab. It was so so cheap, only £200, I should’ve smelled a rat. I’ve had about 8 hours playing out of it & it’s broken twice.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Dan – I like Gordon Smith guitars. Well built, made with love, made locally. Mine has been a dream to play for the last 6 years or so.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Dan – All the strings, to see what tuning it’s in. I live in a house with other people who use weird tunings, as I do myself, never mind our guests, so it’s a bit of a lottery as to what you’ll find.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Dan – 15? I think?
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Dan – I think I hit a peak at around 23 where I could play all sorts of crazy stuff, but I think as I get older (I’m now 32) I’m not as good as I once was in terms of skill, because I don’t have as much free time.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Dan – I play a few other instruments, but guitar does fit me better. I think this is simply because I’ve spent more time playing it than the others. Not least because a guitar is an instrument that just lies around next to the sofa. It’s always there, ready to be picked up & played when nothing’s going on. Unlike the violin, which is kept in a case because it’s so fragile & you even have to tighten the bow & apply rosin before playing. Furthermore, the guitar can be gently plucked in the middle of the night without disturbing anyone, piano & drums don’t work in those situations.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Dan – It’s a great first instrument, due to it’s integral involvement in popular & youth culture & also because it’s so easy to make a nice sound with just a one minute lesson. I dare say computers may be taking over in both those respects, so maybe that’s a better first instrument these days? Or maybe those aren’t the criteria for what a first instrument should be.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Dan – An ally.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Dan – Nick Drake & Dave Pajo both came to me at a crucial time in my musical development, so I think a lot of my playing stems from them. I also love all aspects of Neil Young & Jimi Hendrix’s playing & have listened to them all my life. Other people who have opened the instrument up for me are Victor Villareal (Owls, & his pals band American Football, although I can’t remember the name of their guitarist), Eddie Hazel & Michael Hampton (“Maggot Brain”, of course), the guys from Enablers (those chords they make), Slash (his soloing on the Use Your Illusions albums never gets old for me) & hundreds more, I guess.…
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Dan – Silly. Although they do become much more than the wood & metal they’re made out of. Perhaps anthropomorphism is people’s way of coping with that.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Dan – The worst thing I’ve done is leave them, inadvertently, as traps for other people to knock over. Doing this has seriously damaged more than one guitar.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Dan – If I write something I can’t play very well I will play it again & again at various speeds. I never do scales or anything like that. I found them useful to form a knowledge of how music works but beyond that it’s pretty much the most tedious thing I think I could do with a musical instrument.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Dan – I have no idea. I play it every day. But that could be from ten minutes up to six hours or more. Every two or three weeks I might end up having a couple of days where I don’t play it, for one reason or another, but I don’t mind as it seems all the more fresh when I get back to it.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Dan – Nothing too floppy as I find I lose precision. Other than that I’m not too picky.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Dan – I’ve never worked out what I prefer. I usually leave them on till they break & that doesn’t happen a lot, so I rarely buy strings. When I visit the music shop I just look for something that says “medium” on it or something similar.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Dan – I can’t really separate them in my head when I think about playing something, so I don’t know.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Dan – I don’t really set it up much at all. I do the occasional bit of a botched job on it if there’s something that needs doing. But I have had fret-buzz on the high E of my electric guitar for at least a year now & not bothered to do anything about it other than use a capo more often!
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Dan – I really love retuning the guitar because it throws up so many different melodic options. & I enjoy geeky chats with other guitarists about tunings, so I’ll just answer this question in much more detail than is needed.
It’s not that you can’t play the same basic thing in standard tuning, it’s more that a lot of my musical “ideas” are stumbled upon rather than thought-out & drastically altering the playing field means I stumble on a whole bunch of different things. Also, open strings ring out in a particularly lovely way & placing them in certain structures or sequences can have a really nice effect & even just make things easier to play.
In NASDAQ, all the tunings are based on a bottom C & built up to form various potentially nasty sounding things. I’ve used CGCEbBbC, that’s a really mournful one, CGDGAD, weird at first but has loads going on once you figure the basics out, CGCEAC, some nice A minor action to be had here, CGCGGD, CGCFAbC, CGCGBbEb, & more. I use a few of them playing acoustically too, but generally starting a bit higher on D rather than C. Open D is another acoustic favourite (DADF#AD), as is standard tuning, but I’ve never used DADGAD, strangely. Standard tuning is also more common when I play with The FTSE 100 because it’s funk music & has a lot more of a tight, clipped sound so string-ring is less crucial.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Dan – I rarely write them down, I either record them or play them so many times that I’m erroneously sure they’re unforgettable.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Dan – Medium-high.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Dan – Using the same riff/idea in more than one song.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Dan – Piano is a helpful thing to learn for any musician. I suppose any of the guitar-like instruments will help with picking & strumming & left hand stuff.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Dan – Something like “Maggot Brain” by Funkadelic. If I ever found a rhythm section who’d be willing to put up with me doing that for hours...
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Dan – Earn a living. I don’t expect to accomplish this one, but it would be cool if I did just for a while.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Dan – It was a long while ago now, but I think it was probably getting heavily into alternate tunings. Actually, the other day I learned how to play a left-handed guitar (the same way round I’d play a right-handed one). But I suppose that’s just an alternate tuning too, just a really fucked up one.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Dan – I always thought capos were rubbish & for guitarists who were just being soft. But now I love them. I even have one of those spider capos, which is a gadget I’d recommend to anyone who’s interested in using weird tunings.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Dan – My uncle showed me how to bend strings & do harmonics but that’s about it. I did have a good understanding of music theory though, from violin lessons at school.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Dan – I’d probably demand their silence, turn all the lights off, & put on “Spiderland” by Slint very loud.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Dan – I think I stopped using them because I didn’t like my guitar going out of tune. Maybe if I played in a loud band with shorter songs I’d consider putting the bar back on. I recently found out about the hipshot string bender system, now that looks exciting.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Dan – Never ever.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Dan – Yes. In fact there’s bands who I think I really liked, only for them to become unlistenable once I’ve stopped paying full attention to the guitar playing & realised what the singer’s doing.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Dan – Probably Elvis or whoever’s is most valuable so I could sell it & get better stuff. I’d love to play on someone like Nick Drake’s guitar, or just have a nice close look at it, but I wouldn’t want to own anything like that.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Dan – I dunno about claiming anyone’s the best this or the most that, but I saw a band called Cleft recently & their guitarist really impressed me. He had some great melodies up his sleeve, but also some innovative ways of delivering them, whilst still staying within the boundaries of the genre, in their case two-piece math-rock. The other guitarist I’ve really enjoyed recently is a guy called Kiran Leonard. He had all Jeff Buckley’s jazzy chords, but he was smashing them out like Neil Young or Jimi Hendrix & the sequences seemed to circle around for ages without repeating, culminating in some heavy, noisy, skronking, guitar abuse. It was quite something.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Dan – At a gig - dbhmusic.wordpress.com for details.