with Jonathon Trevillien of Morelands
Name: Jonathon Trevillien
Bands: Solo, Morelands
Websites: http://jonathontrevillien.bandcamp.com/, http://morelands.bandcamp.com/
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Jonathon – It was a “Magnum”, sort of a 3/4 size steel string acoustic with no cutaway. I sold it to a friend when I was mad about loud amps & whammy bars.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Jonathon – Just my ears, fingers, my Sadowsky archtop, & a 30 watt tube combo from China. It’s called an AXL Akita 30.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Jonathon – The guitar. Most of the tone comes from there.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Jonathon – The AXL. It’s all I need in terms of volume & its tone is fantastic for a cheap tube combo. Trusty too, saw me across many a bumpy desert road in the van last year.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Jonathon – It’s a Sadowsky Jim Hall model archtop with flatwound strings on it. It has a beautifully balanced feel & tone. The fretboard has a really nice ‘bounce’ to it & it’s a laminated top so the acoustic resonance is just enough to create a complex tone, but not too much so that it all travels through the amp & out the speaker without causing too much feedback. It sort of plays like a piano if that makes any sense. You don’t feel like you’re fighting it for the tone you want. It tends to pull the tone out of you more often than not.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Jonathon – I think it would be very much like the Sadowsky, but with a nitro finish & a deep, faded red burst, perhaps with a custom-made pickup & maybe made out of some Aussie woods.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Jonathon – It would emulate a sustain pedal like that on a piano. Sustain level/effect mix & a pedal to depress affecting the gradiation of the effect.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Jonathon – 5
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Jonathon – One is in a wardrobe in Queensland & the others I keep in a corner of my room, standing on end.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Jonathon – A better handle!
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Jonathon – It’s suitability to the task at hand. Guitars are tools. A good tool is the right one for the job.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Jonathon – The price should reflect the level of human craftsmanship involved.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Jonathon – I pretty much stick with what I get. My old knockabout acoustic has copped some experimentation though.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Jonathon – Fairly thoroughly if I can. Trying it out is always the best way for me.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Jonathon – No, It’s been the same for years now.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Jonathon – All the tone comes from the fingers. I change that as often as one note to the next.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Jonathon – I have everything I need. Anything that failed I would try repairing myself or make a new one.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Jonathon – Good intonation.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Jonathon – The best was the Sadowsky. The worst was a cheap clip-on tuner.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Jonathon – I tend to steer away from the big brands. Especially with guitars. Mass production can make it really hard to rely on buying a quality instrument because machines can’t hear or feel.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Jonathon – Either whatever is running around in my head or just tune.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Jonathon – I was about 12. I used to pluck the low E over & over in as many ways as I could think of.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Jonathon – It’s specific to different styles I think. I played metal pretty well when I was 17, but I’d be rubbish at it now.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Jonathon – It’s partly because I gained a level of proficiency on guitar before trying other instruments, partly because my left thumb is half as long as the other. It goes well on the back of the neck, but not so much playing left hand octaves on piano.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Jonathon – It’s great because it’s an easy instrument to sound good on fast. Piano was my first instrument. It gave me a much deeper understanding of western music in the long run than if I had started off on the guitar. The interface is very straightforward with the piano.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Jonathon – The guitar is neutral. Perfectly adequate tool for making music with. It’s the way I see it that changes the potential.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Jonathon – In order of appearance: David Gilmour, Neil Young, Johnny Greenwood, Jim Hall, Bill Frisell, Peter Bernstein, Jack Rose, Aidan Baker, Ryan Francesconi, Mick Turner, Mississippi Fred McDowell.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming guitars)?
Jonathon – It adds character. If that helps with the music they make, then great.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Jonathon – I got drunk & fell on my mates Ibanez. Smashed the volume knob right through the body.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Jonathon – I try to be aware of the areas that are the least familiar to me. I work on them until they are more familiar.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Jonathon – About 14-20 hours a week at the moment. I try to maintain a minimum of 2 hours per day. That maintains the continuity with the interface. After that I can do more if I feel like it.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Jonathon – I use a smallish ‘pickboy’ with holes drilled in it. It’s about 1mm thick. I quite enjoy the interaction with the string using a stiff pick. Also, the holes suck up the sweat on longer playing stints making it easier to grip.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Jonathon – I use 12-50 gauge flatwounds. The tension feels very even. Just right for me.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Jonathon – Every 6 months or so. Shorter if it’s humid. Basically when I can’t stand them anymore.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Jonathon – Not very often, but you never know. Sometimes there’s just a dud string in the pack that goes when you’re tuning up.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style? I’d say my striking hand usually is a bit behind the fretting hand in terms of accuracy. It makes for some interesting rhythms & note choices that I may not have thought of had I not stumbled over them.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Jonathon – I have had it taken to other people the last couple of setups, but I am learning more about it myself all the time. It just makes more sense. You can set it up exactly to your satisfaction; you have no one to blame & everything to learn from mistakes.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Jonathon – I prioritise standard (A=440Hz) tuning for my own learning, but only because it’s based on the agreed upon set of pitches between musicians. If I’m playing solo I will choose pitches to my own taste at the time.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Jonathon – I usually record my own ideas with audio equipment or just remember it. If I want to play those ideas with other musicians, I will notate it in standard notation relevant to the instrument(s) in question. It’s just a means of communication though. Not everyone I want to play with can read standard notation so you have to find other means relevant to them.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Jonathon – I have it so that if I’m sitting, the guitar remains suspended.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Jonathon – Mistaking what I play for who I am.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Jonathon – Playing piano has helped me to understand the tonal organisation of the guitar. You get to experience an alternate interface with the system of western music & so it translates back to a deeper knowledge of that arrangement of tones on the guitar. Playing drums has helped me to understand rhythm & how it is expressed through the guitar. Having much less obligation to the tonal realm, you can develop a deeper knowledge of rhythm & so it applies to the guitar.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Jonathon – Indian classical slide guitar (Check out Debashish Battacharya).
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Jonathon – Complete setup & repair independence with my guitar & amplifier.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Jonathon – How to adjust intonation with a floating bridge.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (Ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Jonathon – Clip-on tuner. Really handy for tuning in noisy environments (e.g. before a gig).
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Jonathon – Brazillian Samba & Bossa Nova.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Jonathon – I have taken many lessons from a variety of teachers of the guitar & other instrumentalists. I have learned that with lessons, it’s not about getting the right answers, but to ask the right questions.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Jonathon – Sing what you play & play what you sing.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Jonathon – Have a go.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo/vibrato systems?
Jonathon – It’s a tasty sound if it’s used tastefully. Use it if it’s of use to say what you need to say.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Jonathon – Quite often. It makes a big difference in tonal quality as well as volume dynamic.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Jonathon – Only their ability to listen to each other.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Jonathon – All music is effect. You might learn a lot from listening to how the guitarist responds to the other musicians & vice versa.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Jonathon – Peter Bernstein’s. It’s an incredibly rare & gorgeous example of craftsmanship.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Jonathon – Mick Turner from The Dirty Three. He has found a genuine way of expressing himself on the instrument that is truly unique. He manages to say so much with so little in a way that’s truly Australian in nature.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Jonathon – Bandcamp is the the best bet. Either http://morelands.bandcamp.com/ or http://jonathontrevillien.bandcamp.com/
QRD – Anything else?
Jonathon – The guitar is a popular instrument. There are lots of opinions out there. I have found through my own experience that it’s beneficial to understand firstly that the instrument is not who you are. The most expensive/ornate/rare/perfect guitar is still just a box with a stick on it. Wood & metal. It doesn’t play itself. The music comes from whoever picks it up. Secondly, what you play with it is not who you are either. Sooner or later the song ends & you have to put down the guitar. Consider what you can say within the limited tonal palette of the guitar as a human to air interface. Enjoy it. Let it go.