with Chris Jeely
Name: Chris Jeely
Bands: Llarks, Accelera Deck, (the) Dead Sea Flowers
Websites: lathelight.org/llarks, lathelight.org/accelera.deck, lathelight.org/deadseaflowers
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Chris – I don’t recall who made the guitar, but it was the “growler” model. I eventually took it apart to learn how the electronics fit together & I never reassembled it.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Chris – For live shows with my band (the) Dead Sea Flowers I use a Fender Telecaster into my pedal board which has a tuner, Big Muff, Vox Wah, Boss orange distortion, Boss Hyper Fuzz (used as a signal boost), a Micro-POG, a hold pedal, delay, Murf Mooger Fooger, reverb. I sometimes us an Electric Mistress or a German Big Muff. In the studio with my solo project Llarks it is an “anything goes” approach. I record multiple guitar layers to tape, sometimes going through a computer & using sound shaping tools before it hits the tape
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Chris – Guitar
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Chris – Samamp 25 watt 1 x 12” tube amp. He is a local guy & gives great "after purchase" service. I can get consistent & versatile sound whether it is live or in the studio. That leaves me able to focus on mic placement, amp eq, or using different guitars to get the sound I want.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Chris – Fender Telecaster. I replaced the bridge pickup with a Hot Rails for brighter chime. It has a center pickup that is a Danelectro lipstick & stock pickup in the neck. Instead of a 5-way toggle (like a Strat) it has a 3-way toggle switch. The tone knob on the guitar has been converted to a volume knob for the center pickup.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Chris – A Bigsby tremolo, rosewood fretboard with block inlays, Telecaster body style & bridge. For pickups I would want a nice bright single coil in the bridge, humbucker in the middle position, & a single coil in the neck. The center pickup would have its own volume control & there would be a 3-way toggle for using bridge, bridge/neck, or neck only pickups. & while we are at it let’s make it sunburst with a black pickguard!
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Chris – An analog delay pedal with multiple delay lines & feedback control for each & then a “hold” function for grabbing & looping an infinite note
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Chris – 8 electric guitars, 4 acoustic guitars.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Chris – In their cases or on a stand.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Chris – Stronger handles.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Chris – Playability & feel of the neck, because unless it is a high quality guitar with amazing electronics then I’m probably going to put the kind of pickups I want in it anyway.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Chris – I think you get what you pay for. The cheaper the guitar, the greater the sacrifice in some area. It depends on what is important to you. I won’t pay $4000 for a guitar but I don’t expect an amazing tone out of a $300 guitar straight off the shelf either.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Chris – Customize with different pickups a lot of the time, or removing things that get in the way (like the lead/rhythm switch on a Jazzmaster) or sometimes more durable toggle switches or volume/tone knobs.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Chris – Tons! I read about it, find somewhere that has it & play it, think about it, read some more, play it again at a store if possible, think about it, wait, play it again. I usually feel comfortable that I know what I am getting & I know what I will need to change or not by the time I purchase it.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Chris – Occasionally I will switch a few pedals in & out with others, but generally no, I use different guitars & tunings to get a different “sound”.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Chris – It really depends on the song when I am recording. I try not to force a “tone” onto a song, but the flipside is re-creating it live where a standard tone makes sense. Then I can use different pedals to “color” the sound. In the studio there is the added step of natural tape saturation, which doesn’t translate live
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Chris – I would really like a Gibson Firebird.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Chris – I don’t think it matters much as long as it stays in tune & you can bang around on it til you decide you really want to play more
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Chris – The best was a mid 1980s Guild from a friend. It was such a great price & he was definitely giving me the friend deal. So we worked out that, if after a while he changed his mind, he could buy it back for the same price. Thankfully for me he decided he was fine without it. The worst was a 1966 Fender Mustang that never stayed in tune & was a constant fight to make it sound decent.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Chris – I like the Electro-Harmonix stuff. I prefer amps & pedals that are analog, but I will use anything as a tool to get a sound that is needed for a song. The song comes first always, no allegiances to a brand or a way of working. I use computer software in my solo work as Llarks to cause disruptions, skips, granulation, multiple filters, & that signal is multi-tracked onto tape. That way of working over the years has yielded the results I am happiest with.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Chris – I don’t know, never thought about it, but probably an E-minor chord.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Chris – Ten.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Chris – When I started playing & writing my own songs in a band, so about 17 or so. There are loads of folks who can shred & play the scales & burn the neck off a guitar, but I am more interested in crafting a song & a mood or an emotional image.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Chris – I have no idea, but I definitely feel at home with a guitar. I enjoy kicking around on drums or playing a little bass too, but the guitar is quite different for me. Even when I did very electronic stuff with Accelera Deck, I still had the guitar mixed in as texture. Sometimes I sampled & looped my own playing, which resulted in the guitar sounding like something else entirely, but it was a guitar & my playing nonetheless.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Chris – Hmmm.... not sure really.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Chris – Ally.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Chris – In no particular order: Kevin Shields, Michael Rother (Neu! & his solo stuff), Mark Clifford (Seefeel), Robert Hampson (Loop era, & early 90s Main), Michael & John Gibbons (Bardo Pond), Peter Kopps & Marty Willson-Piper (The Church), Thurston Moore & Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), John Frusciante.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming guitars)?
Chris – Yeah it’s kinda silly, but I have done it for sure, or someone in whatever band I am playing in will nickname a guitar. I had a GTX hollowbody that was nicknamed “The Bike” & a Peavey T-60 that was named “The Door” because it was so heavy & all wood grain. We drove a nail through it one day just for fun.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Chris – Shredded a fretboard on a cheap guitar by using a drill while recording the results. Live I have bent tuners & pulled string saddles & bridges off. Never have actually fully smashed one though.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Chris – Just playing, maybe concentrating a little extra if I have to sing & play too
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Chris – I probably sit & play a total of 3 hours a week, most of the time though I am trying to write & record for my solo stuff or rehearsing with my band
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Chris – Dunlop 1.14mm, I like to feel my pick go across the strings & stay steady in my hand.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Chris – 10s with the low E being a 49 (instead of a more traditional 46).
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Chris – I don’t change them at any regular interval, if I have a show then I change them about 5 days before. If I am recording, then about 2 days before.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Chris – Rarely while playing, but using an odd tuning will sometimes cause it
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Chris – Strumming hand, I think it effects my style because I don’t play what is considered a traditional lead guitar in my band, it is more repetitious & steady like a metronome.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Chris – No, I have an awesome guy who does all of it & really understands what I am after. I use him cause he is brilliant & does great work.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Chris – Too many to list, a few in particular I like are F#-A-Db-A-A-E & E Db E B B Db
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Chris – I have a little shorthand method of writing out chords & tunings for a song. I will use my own tablature if it is a weird made up chord & has unusual fingering.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Chris – Mid-length I guess.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Chris – Not using my pinky enough.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Chris – Piano.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Chris – Slide on a resonator guitar (though I am slowly learning).
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Chris – Slide on a resonator guitar.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Chris – Detuning a string & pulling it behind the neck in jerking fashion to get a rubbery sound.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (Ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Chris – Capo is the one I use the most.
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Chris – It isn’t really a technique, but I would like to be more fluid at times & be able to transpose more quickly.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Chris – No.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Chris – To practice listening to what is going on in the music. To sense the space between the notes, & be unafraid to make mistakes & hit notes that sound “wrong”.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Chris – Mute multiple strings with your fretting hand, because I almost always strum all six strings & get a percussive sound out of the muted strings. Also I omit notes from chords to make more room for the bass guitar or additional guitars
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo/vibrato systems?
Chris – I like the floating tremolo on the Fender Jazzmaster & Jaguar & a Bigsby (or none at all) on anything else.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Chris – Never.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Chris – I guess I gravitate towards twin guitar bands where neither guitarist is playing only lead or only rhythm. Television & Sonic Youth are who come to mind most easily. When I think of a traditional lead guitarist I think of Wayne Kramer from the MC5 or Eddie Hazel from Funkadelic
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Chris – A little bit with the Red Hot Chili Peppers because I like John Frusciante.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Chris – Any old acoustic played by a pre-war Missisippi Delta Blues singer
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Chris – Maybe not innovative, but I loved the twin guitar attack of Comets on Fire circa Blue Cathedral & for pure expressionism I love to listen to early Jandek records.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Chris – Hopefully it hasn’t been done yet! I am very happy with the orchestral layering & compositions on the Llarks material. I think it is my best writing so far.
QRD – Anything else?
Chris – Never put an eagle in a cage.