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QRD #68 - Guitarist Interviews XI
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
about this issue
Guitarist Interviews:
Chris Ruffolo
Greg Kozlowski
James Youngjohns
Chandra Shukla
Raine Liimakka
Shane de Leon
Aaron Snow
Lauri Hyvärinen
Rainstick Cowbell
Jasper Stadhouders
Marcus Skinner
David Dobbs
Bonnie Mercer
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Aaron Snow
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Aaron Snow
Aaron Snow
Aaron Snow
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Aaron Snow
Aaron Snow
Aaron Snow
Aaron Snow
Guitarist Interview with Aaron Snow
May 2014
Aaron Snow

Name: Aaron Snow
Bands: Landing, Surface of Eceyon, Tinniens, Paper
Websites: landingsite.net

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

Aaron – The first guitar I played was my Dad’s old Martin acoustic (which I still have). The first guitar I actually bought with my own money was a Fender Jazzmaster. Robert Smith played a Jazzmaster, so I figured that was the guitar for me!

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

Aaron – Oh boy. Well, I typically have a few sections on my pedal board in this order: distortion leading into a modulation section (ring mod, low pass filter) leading into the first tap tempo delay section leading into a second modulated delay section leading into a looping pedal leading into a second modulation section (chorus, flange) leading into another two loopers.

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

Aaron – Undoubtedly the effects. I can usually get a decent signal out of a guitar with single coils - humbuckers don’t work for me because I need a sharp attack to cut through five or six delays, but I’ve spent fifteen years shaping my pedal board. I can’t do what I do without it!

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Aaron – I play through a ‘69 Fender Bantam Bass amp for live shows. It’s super sturdy with a sweet high end & plenty of low. The original hexagonal speaker blew out so it just has a normal 15” speaker now, which actually improved the sound a lot!  When I record, I usually use my old ‘66 Fender Deluxe. The Deluxe just sounds amazing.

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

Aaron – My main guitar is a ‘66 Fender Jaguar. It sounds clear & warm & feels SO GOOD in my hands. I love the fact that I can get tinny sharp sounds or nice round tones out of it. It can do pretty much whatever I want (& it looks COOL).

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

Aaron – My signature guitar would be a Jaguar, but full scale like a Jazzmaster. Best of both worlds! I’d cut out the jazz circuit, Sonic Youth style, but I’d still include the tone knob. I have a Thurston Jazzmaster, which I love, but I do miss that tone knob.

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

Aaron – I’d love a pedal version of my old Roland RE-301. I have the RE-20, but it doesn’t have sound on sound & they didn’t model the wow & flutter very well. An RE-301 with tap tempo would be AMAZING.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Aaron – I own eight guitars.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Aaron – All of my guitars are in my studio, hanging out, waiting for my daughter or dog to knock them over & “relic” them.

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

Aaron – The only improvement I’d make would be the ability to cart them around with the trems still attached. Sometimes at a show, I’ll forget to put it back on the guitar, which is a bummer.

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

Aaron – I love offsets with single coils. Vintage guitars are preferable.

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

Aaron – I bought my first really good guitar (a ‘74 Fender Mustang) for $500, so you can get something really good for cheap if you know what to look for. I always try to buy from people who don’t know what they have or trade up for something better.

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

Aaron – Lately, I’ve been customizing with Jaguar control knobs & a Staytrem tremolo system.

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

Aaron – I research very thoroughly! I get super obsessed with gear & will watch 500 YouTube demonstration videos before pulling the trigger.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Aaron – All the time. The general outline stays the same, but I’m always adding & subtracting pedals. Just recently, I added the new Belle Epoch Echoplex emulator pedal & a Moog Tremolo & took out a few pedals to make room. It’s in constant flux. The only one that will never change is my Digitech Multi-Play delay/looper. That’s been with me since ‘98. It’s indispensable.

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

Aaron – I usually just lock into a nice bright single coil tone, but when I use ebow I roll off all the high end. Otherwise, I’m locked in.

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

Aaron – Guitars - Fender XII, Fender VI, early 60s Jazzmaster, Vox Phantom & Phantom XII... the list goes on & on.
Amps - 60s Fender Princeton Reverb to replace the one that got stolen. Roland JC-120.
Pedals - Klon Centaur, Moog MF-104M Delay

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

Aaron – Hmmm, I’m not sure.

QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?

Aaron – My best purchase was actually a trade. I traded an old Guild acoustic for my ‘66 Jaguar. I never regret that deal. The worst deal I made was trading my gorgeous Martin 12 string acoustic for a terrible Fender Quad Reverb. I was young & dumb.

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

Aaron – I love almost anything Fender, especially before 1980. I’ve also never played a bad Martin acoustic.   I dislike anything with humbuckers or too many bells & whistles.
For effect pedals, you can’t go wrong with Electro-Harmonix. They’re cheap & sturdy. Also, Moog makes AMAZING gear. Catalinbread has been impressing me a lot lately with their tape echo simulation pedals.  I’m not a huge fan of Boss pedals, though I use a few. They sound kind of boring.
For amps, I love the sound of warm tubes. I’m not a fan of all the new emulation amplifiers - way too much going on. I just want a nice simple sound that won’t break down.

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

Aaron – “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” by The Smiths or a C chord.

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

Aaron – I was 16.

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

Aaron – Just now! I’m always getting better.

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

Aaron – I’m not sure that it does, to be honest. I’d really love to play bass in a band, but never had the opportunity.

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

Aaron – No way! When I started, I learned basslines on my guitar before graduating to chords. Bass is a much less intimidating instrument.

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

Aaron – Total ally. I love the sound of a good guitar & it always inspires me to try to do new things.

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

Aaron – Robert Smith, Michael Rother, Robin Guthrie, Robert Fripp, Adam Forkner, Peter Buck, Johnny Marr, Carl Hultgren, Neil Halstead, Miki Berenyi, Thurston Moore, Kurt Cobain, Dick Baldwin, Bernard Sumner... too many to name.

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

Aaron – I think it’s fun! I don’t do it personally, but I understand the urge.

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

Aaron – I broke a Yamaha acoustic guitar by dropping an amp on it. My Dad was pissed!

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

Aaron – When I want to improve my playing, I’ll pick out a song to learn. If I really want to push myself I’ll try to learn a fast Smiths songs. Those are tough!

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

Aaron – I play about an hour a day, which is all I can handle.

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

Aaron – My favorite pick is a Dunlop 44P.73 Nylon Standard .73mm Grey guitar pick. They have just the right amount of give.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Aaron – I use 12s on my short scales (Jaguar & Mustang) & 11s on my Jazzmaster. I like a nice full sound, so the heavier gauge strings help out in that respect.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Aaron – Barely ever! I play very gently, so they tend to last.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Aaron – Never.

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

Aaron – I’m about equally bad. My style is more about marrying the guitar with the effects, so I also play without shoes & manipulate my pedals almost as much as I’m playing the guitar.

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

Aaron – I set it up myself because I’m cheap.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Aaron – Mostly standard tunings, but we’ve used a bunch of alternate tunings with Landing over the years. I’m too scared to tune between songs at shows, so I try to keep it simple & use standard tuning.

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

Aaron – I don’t write down anything. I record demos & am able to re-learn the chords when I have to. I wish I had the knowledge to write stuff down, but I don’t know anything about music notation or theory.

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

Aaron – Pretty low, it covers my gut.

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

Aaron – I’d love to be more comfortable playing fewer things. I tend to overcompensate for nervousness by filling the void with sound. I wish I could be more minimal.

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

Aaron – I think playing bass will definitely help guitarists understand how a single note can change dynamics immensely.

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

Aaron – It would be fun to be able to play fast & shred. I can’t do it.

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

Aaron – I wish I could write a song as beautiful as Dick Baldwin (former Landing guitarist/bassist). That guy has the goods.

QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?

Aaron – I finally learned alternate picking this past year.

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

Aaron – Ebow, no question. I don’t use it much, but it’s a good gimmick.

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

Aaron – Pinch harmonics. I’ve tried for hours.

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

Aaron – I never did.

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

Aaron – The value of doing it yourself.

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

Aaron – Buy a lot of delay pedals. No reverb.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo/vibrato systems?

Aaron – I used to be anti trem, but I’ve recently come around.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Aaron – Unless I’m using an ebow (in which case I roll off all of the high end), I never touch it.

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

Aaron – Lead guitar players are lame.

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

Aaron – No way! A band has to be a BAND. If there’s a weak link, the whole chain breaks down.

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

Aaron – I’d love to own Robert Smith’s Jazzmaster. I’d loan it back to him for Trilogy shows.

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

Aaron – I’m not sure, to be honest. I don’t really care all that much about innovation - I’m more focused on a good song than technique.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Aaron – Probably on the newest Landing release. Right now it’s our II ep.

QRD – Anything else?

Aaron – Thanks for including me in the series!