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QRD #68 - Guitarist Interviews XI
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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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Guitarist Interview with Chandra Shukla
April 2014

Name: Chandra Shukla
Bands: Xambuca
Websites: http://erototoxdecodings.com/artists/xambuca/

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

Chandra – My first guitar was a classical guitar, I can’t even remember what it was called. It’s probably still in my parents’ garage. The tuning machines were crap. It never got new strings & I live 2400 miles away from it now.

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

Chandra – I start off with all the loud distorted stuff like fuzz (Big Muff Pi, Zvex Fuzz Factory) & bit-crushers (Hexe & OTO Machines Biscuit) in the front; then modulators like volume, expression, chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo (Boss stuff); delay stuff in the middle (Memory Man, Echoplexes & Roland Tape Echo); & reverby stuff (Eventide Space) at the end before going into a Gallien-Kreuger head & finally a solid-state cabinet.
I like delays more than reverb, so I try to use as little reverb as possible as it starts to sound like mud for what I do.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Chandra – Fender Twin, because of the tubes. They just make a certain warm, crisp humming sound, can’t explain it, you just know that sound.  If you own one you know what I’m talking about.

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

Chandra – I have to answer this in two ways because I have had two main guitars. I have a 1967 Gibson ES-335 fire-engine red with f-holes, it’s cracked now & I haven’t been able to fix it & it has been sitting in storage for quite some time. In its place I’ve been playing a Fender Telecaster custom with a Bigsby whammy. It’s nothing like the Gibson, but it’s a nice solid body with a great tone. I hate Stratocasters by the way, they bore me.

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

Chandra – It would be a variation on the ES-335, black preferably that had f-holes, a Fernandez sustainer type mechanism built into it or some kind of sustain feature along the lines of the Moog guitar & a reversible & lockable whammy bar

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

Chandra – It would be a fuzz pedal with a seriously amazing contour knob & other knobs to shape the sound plus filters & low pass oscillators.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Chandra – 3.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Chandra – I store them in hard cases in my house.

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

Chandra – A place to put picks, sheet music, & cables & in general more compartments. I also wish they shaped the housing of the instrument better to the point that the instrument lays flush in the case with internal straps for minimal wear & tear, shock absorption & movement.

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

Chandra – I prefer hollow body & semi-hollow body Gibsons, but make exceptions for Jaguars & Telecasters solid bodies, but they have to feel & play really awesome. A guitar needs to have a crisp jangle when you can strum it without plugging it in. You have to test it plugged in as much as you do unplugged. It’s all about feeling & hearing.

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

Chandra – They shouldn’t cost an arm & a leg, a good one should be no more than $700.00 of course that price range doesn’t exist anymore.

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

Chandra – I am never satisfied with stock sound. I’m constantly searching & modifying. So yes, I customize the hell out of everything with the exception of something that took on an amazing character already.

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

Chandra – YouTube really is awesome, just by demos alone on YouTube I’ve managed to get a damn good idea of what will work with my rig & what to dish out in exchange for what’s better.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Chandra – All the time.

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

Chandra – I go from a clean, solid state, dreamy chorus & flange with a watery delay sound to doomy distorted shreddy chaotic feedback madness & somewhere between the two also.

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

Chandra – Pedals, if I can I really like the Sovtek Big Muff Pis. They are awesome. They are crappy looking & have paint coming off of them, but I love the fuzz tone relayed from them. The other one is a Zvex Fuzz Factory, one of the hand-painted ones, though they’re ugly, I believe it to be an annoying indicator that guarantees you’re receiving good quality fuzz. Kind of like a poisonous neon-colored animal you’re not supposed to eat. I also wish I had an original 80s Boss Vibrato pedal, the blue ones that cost $400 + now. An ideal amp setup would consist of a Fender Twin, Marshall & Orange stacked cabinets, & a Mesa Boogie for solid state purposes. A Vox wah, like one of the original vintage ones would be nice & I love the Mu-Tron phasers & flangers also with real Echoplex tape delay.

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

Chandra – A really good pickguard & good volume control. I think beginners don’t always have a good sense of volume, so they blast everything. One knob doesn’t cut it whether loud or low volume, there should be tonal volume control for the different aspects of guitar tone.

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

Chandra – Worse guitar purchases have usually been the crap classical guitars when I first started playing. That & the Fender Squires, I realized they were odds & ends parts early on & they still sound like that though I’ve seen some decent ones too. Think my Squier P-Bass I bought in 1988 was a pretty bad one. Best guitars I’ve played are the Gibson SGs (which I don’t have anymore) & the Gibson ES-335.

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

Chandra – I love Orange amps, they are awesome. The bigger the cabinets & wattage the better. I love Boss, Electro-Harmonix, Zvex, Blackout Effectors effects, & Sovtek amps & effects also. There are also so many names of effects out there that I can’t name them all.

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

Chandra – “Sunshine of Your Love
by Cream, no just kidding, I play an E or F chord, something low because I like low tunings & low register in general.

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

Chandra – 13 years old.

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

Chandra – I was a good bass player before I taught myself guitar chords, so about 17 years old is when I actually started to play songs.

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

Chandra – There is more types of sounds that you can do with six strings than you can anything else.

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

Chandra – No, we have too many wanky guitarists as a result. Eric Clapton is a good example of that.

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

Chandra – It can be both. I tend to play synth a lot more lately though I know that will change. Even my synths sound archetypically like they are replacing the roles the guitar.

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

Chandra – My favorite guitarists are ones that did different things with the guitar that had never been done before like Luther Perkins, Lead Belly, Lou Reed, William Reid, Blixa Bargeld, Robin Guthrie, Michael Rother, Hendrix (everybody mentions him right?),
Sir Richard Bishop of the Sun City girls, Captain Beefheart, Dick Dale, Keith Rowe, Poison Ivy, Buddy Guy, Hank Williams Sr., Les Paul, Jimmy Bryant, Paco de Lucia, & too many other good ones to name.

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

Chandra – People are weird & name weird inanimate objects like cars & guitars, a sign of inner loneliness resulting in the great claim of being misunderstood. I don’t have time for that kind of indulgent mental BS.

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

Chandra – I’ve smashed a cheap guitar to smithereens by holding the neck & pounding the body into the ground resulting in expensive stupidity & destruction.

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

Chandra – I actually practice now more on controlling & switching effects than I do playing chords.  Though I am constantly trying to learn new chords & finger picking just requires pure practice also.

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

Chandra – Usually a few, but lately it’s been zero.

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

Chandra – I either don’t use a pick or use a medium. Just depends on the type of music, song or the intent of technique.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Chandra – I prefer heavier strings like .12 guages that you can down-tune. I prefer the lower register, there’s more interesting things that happen in the lower tones.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Chandra – When they break or every 6 months.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Chandra – Often.

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

Chandra – Definitely the strumming hand is more proficient, but the left (fretting) hand has been trying to catch up for my entire life it seems.

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

Chandra – I don’t have time to set my own guitar up & I don’t trust myself & have screwed up guitars before, so I always make sure someone who knows what they’re doing gets my 10 bucks to do so.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Chandra – I’m pretty conventional, although I tend to tune down a half step & sometimes have been known to experiment with DADGAB.

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

Chandra – I can read sheet music & occasionally am in situations where I have to, but seldom do it for my own stuff.

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

Chandra – I try & strap down the guitar so that it’s right in the middle of my body where my waist starts, any higher or lower & I feel awkward & unnatural.

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

Chandra – Using my thumb over the low E to play chords.

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

Chandra – I play sitar, electronics, synths, bass, & percussion; but I guess it doesn’t matter what you play, if you can play something besides one instrument then that’s gotta be a lot better than being stuck on a guitar for life & being a total wank job. Or you become so increasingly good at your style of it that you are immortal.

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

Chandra – I wish I could learn & play more jazz chords, 7ths.  More chords & scales in general than what I know which isn’t much.

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

Chandra – Playing well.

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

Chandra – The last guitar trick I learned was chords in general & playing them in other places than what you’re conventionally used to.

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

Chandra – I’ve used all of these but I think the ebow can be really powerful as long as everything isn’t new agey & doesn’t sound like Robert Fripp.

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

Chandra – Eating my guitar. :P

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

Chandra – I took guitar lessons from total losers & sleazebags in my hometown in California. I learned to play guitar, but especially not to follow in their sleazebag footsteps.

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

Chandra – I would teach them that no matter what you like & what you do, it’s as relevant as the next guy. It really doesn’t matter as long as you are happy doing what you do.

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

Chandra – Hang out with me & do absolutely nothing but eat & drink.

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

Chandra – I use a lot of tremolo & vibrato effects & units, but only for certain moments consisting of releases & tense build-ups. I really like the Boss PN-2 Pan-tremolo & the old Boss blue Vibrato as well as whammy bars & the Digitech Whammy (the old one).

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Chandra – There should be a Veritone on every guitar, probably not often enough but I use the one I’m given.

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

Chandra – Wankiness versus holding down a fort. I tend to side with the rhythm guitarists although I could imitate a good wanky lead. I’m not into long drawn out solos. The most tasteful solos I’ve heard someone do is William Reid from The Jesus & Mary Chain.

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

Chandra – I think this is true in a lot of situations.

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

Chandra – I’d like to get my hands on a Moog guitar, I’ve tracked with one, but I’d like to own one. Either one of those or one of the signature Gibsons like Alex Lifeson’s ES-355s.

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

Chandra – I really think Nels Cline has the chops to be, but as far as innovative to me Keith Rowe still holds the trophy.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Chandra – On this record coming out later this year:

QRD – Anything else?

Chandra – There are a lot of interesting instruments out there, please don’t be inspired to become another stroking, wanky guitarist.  Its like saying you’re going to go jump off a cliff because everyone else is doing it & you should be disgusted by that thought. There are loads of more interesting instruments out there & I particularly would like to spend my life knowing what they are & how to play them & collect them.