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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 David Dobbs
August 2014

Name: David Dobbs
Bands: Vampires
Websites: http://vampiresband.bandcamp.com/

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

David – First guitar was a rental Fender Squire Tele, super rusty & missing the “ashtray”. It kinda looked like my Dad went into the rental section & was like, “Hmm, this one looks like the one Bruce Springsteen used!”
I had that guitar for 8 months until my I went to L.A. for Christmas & my uncle bought me my actual very first guitar, it was an Ibanez RG220 with a Floyd Rose bridge & dual humbuckers. It probably was the thing that got me into DH’s because that’s what I use now. It wound up in a pawnshop so I could buy a ticket out to Toronto to live with my girlfriend at the time.

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

David – Right now I run a Fender Black Top Strat with stock Dual Plate Humbuckers, into effects: Ibanez BS10 (1980s Japanese), Boss FZ, Ibanez DL10 (1980s Japanese), Boss ODB-3, MXR M-108 EQ, running into a Peavey Century 120w Bass Head (1976), into a Traynor 2x15 cab (1972). I also sometimes run a second head & cab using a clean channel with some light reverb to bring up the mid-highs.

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

David – Right now, all of it! I spent about 2 years buying/selling all sorts of combinations of things to get the sound in my head out in the real world. I think my Peavey bass head & my BS10 bass stack would be the essentials though. The rest I could tweak & get close.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

David – I use a Peavey Century 120w Bass Head from 1976, I was at a house show a few years back & they had this Peavey P.A. set up as the guitar amp & the natural crunch that came out of it blew me away, I spent the next 6 months searching for anything that came close. When I found the 120 at a pawnshop I snatched it up & went on some forums, turns out they were better guitar heads than bass! Simple minds think alike I guess.

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

David – I used a 1987 Japanese Fender Strat forever because it had this great neck & had dual humbuckers. I used fat jazz heavy strings with a lot of high gain effects, so they really helped smooth everything out. I looked around for 3 years trying to find something similar, & Fender doesn’t make dual humbucker Strats apparently... until 2014, when they reissued the same guitar pretty much, but instead of calling it a Fender Contemporary they called it a Fender Black Top, I bought that on site. Rosewood neck.

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

David – High gain distortion with top boost, possibly a fuzz octave switch, & a POG switch built in. Dreams do come true!

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

David – 5, Ibanez Acoustic Electric, Granata Les Paul style rip off, Asher full body electric, Fender Squire Strat, Fender Contemporary Strat, & Fender Black Top Strat.

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

David – Interchangeable foam pieces to accommodate different guitar shapes!

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

David – I usually buy things based on other bands I like & online forums. Then I buy it, test it all out, & sell it if I don’t like it. Or buy an EQ pedal & tweak it till it “works”.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

David – I used to every month, every show, but then I started getting comfy with the sounds I was trying to produce & had set “goals” I wanted to achieve, everything works towards those goals now.

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

David – With VAMPIRES, it’s a locked in tone. 2 years worth of trying & experimenting. I used to buy pedals all the time & then I went through what I call my “clean phase” where I tried to get all the effects just out of the guitar & a 2 channel amp. In other bands I tend to have certain tones & effects for certain songs or parts. But with Vamp it’s all locked in & how I want it to sound the whole time. I was into Wes Motgomery at that time & was very interested in what could be done with just simple settings. Those jazz masters knew things that seem to be forgotten.

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

David – Miles & miles...the quest is never over.

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

David – A good neck can make or break your playing style, so I would recommend playing different necks & bodies to see how you feel about them. Less is more in way. One tone knob instead of three, 3-way selector instead of 5, etc.

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

David – I think it’s because you can really play, like dance around & be yourself, in ways that maybe a stationary instrument may not allow. I’ve never seen a flute player thrashing around & maybe there’s a reason for that...

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

David – Piano. All the way. It’s the orchestra in your home.

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

David – I was afraid you’d ask this! There have been a few over the years ha-ha...Growing up before I played guitar I thought Slash from G’n’R was the coolest guitar player on the planet. His top hat & long hair just screamed cool to me. When I started to play I really got into the tones that Stephen Carpenter from Deftones was creating, high & washy...before all those cool indie bands started to do the same things. John Cummings from Mogwai probably really started my interest in using the guitar to fill in sounds & textures that weren’t in my scope though. Mogwai was that first band outside the box for me. Wes Montgomery showed me what real guitar tone sounded like, so I was into him for a while. But lately I’ve been drawing a lot of influence from Nick Zinner in Yeah Yeah Yeahs, they are like a two-piece sometimes but it’s his compositions I’m really into. My cousins boyfriend out in L.A. would put me in front of Yngwie Malmsteen videos on repeat while he smoked pot with his friends. Maybe that influenced something. Maybe. I think it’s cool what he did FOR guitars, not WITH guitars. Oh geez, & Jeff Beck. What he does with guitars is just amazing. Tones for daze.

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

David – Ha-ha. I’ve done it. My Ibanez RG220, I named it Scarlet. But that was the first & last guitar I’ve named. They are already named! Squire, Blacktop, etc.

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

David – Brain’s Cat Tongue picks are simply the best for me. I sweat because we move around so much & those picks just hold into my skin like a cat tongue! .76 or .83 gauge.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

David – Jazz Heavy with wound G string. Usually 12-54 or 13-56 gauge.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

David – A week or so before a show. I don’t like too fresh, but I can’t stand dead sounding.

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

David – Hmm, good question. I think my strumming hand is better & it probably effects my playing style because I am used to creating a very full sound, so a lot of interchanging strums.

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

David – All me. Cost & I have a hang up on musicians who don’t know their own gear. I call them “plug & play” musicians. I’ve lost thousands of dollars worth of gear from people who just thing you can plug any head into any cab. I don’t let anyone use my gear unless they can hold a conversation about what sort of ohms & impedance they usually use.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

David – Standard. Sometimes a half-step down. Mostly because it’s so versatile & if you bust a string, a back up guitar usually comes in the form of standard.

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

David – Drums. When you have to share the tempo, a lot of bad habits start to show themselves & unless you’re making an album all by yourself, you’re probably going to have to share the tempo with someone else ha-ha.

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

David – Fancy licks. But our songs don’t need them, so I’m cool without them. It’s just nice to wow people & shut up & naysayers in the room. I had this one friend who couldn’t’ write an original song worth his life, but could play all Van Halen & Clapton riffs...people thought he was so good. Perspective.

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

David – Playing in front of sold out crowd of people I’ve never met.

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

David – I went to formal lessons for one year when I was 13 in my first year. But really wanted to just play my own things & not scales. I then when to this teacher down the street & he said to “bring me a tape of songs you want to learn”. I was hooked from then on. He would just play drums along with me & we’d jam basically. My parents never knew what was going on with those lessons, but we’re happy I was learning songs.

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

David – Listen to a lot of different music! Learn to play rhythm & lead at the same time.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

David – Because I move around so much I usually just leave everything turned up all the way on the guitar, so I don’t have to worry about settings being messed with while I’m thrashing around. But I roll off some treble tone for certain intro or solos even. Texture.

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

David – 2-3db of mid-treble?

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

David – Vampiresband.bandcamp.com, but to be honest that would be me in my basement after a few beers or after some truly terrible news in life & not caring what comes out & just flying of the walls. It may change half way through a bar, but you’ll know I’m feeling it on purpose. A lot my playing is directed through an almost therapeutic relationship with the songs we write. I’ll be like, “This is my Interpol riff, or this is my just dumped riff, or wishing I more money riff.”

QRD – Anything else?

David – Less is more!