with Christian Berends of Lend Me Your Underbelly
Name: Christian Berends
Bands: Lend Me Your Underbelly, Downburst (as a bass player), Salacious Gods (ex-member)
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Christian – This was actually a guitar of my sister. It was a brand called “Vester”. She didn’t play much on it though. However, since I was mostly drawn to guitar based music (Guns ‘n Roses, etc), I tried playing a bit with it. Recently I found out that my niece is learning to play on it. A year later I got my own real first guitar, which was an Ibanez RG 270 DX. I still have that one, although I don’t play that much on it anymore, it’s still my first guitar.…
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Christian – My guitar goes via a distortion pedal (Boss Metalzone) & a wah-pedal (Snarling Dogs - Bawl Buster) to the amplifier (Marshall Valvestate 8200 + 4x10 lead). In the effect loop I have an Alesis Quadraverb (multi-effect) with a midi controller & a Behringer V-Amp 2 (multi-effect). After these two the signal is split up by a Carl Martin Paraloop, which creates another effect-loop. This effect-loop starts with a Digitech JamMan Stereo looper pedal with a small midi controller attached, then a Digitech RP90 (mutli-effect with expression pedal), & a volume pedal (Boss) to control only the volume of the looping part.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Christian – All of them are just as important I guess.…
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Christian – A Marshall 8200. Well, it is basically still my first bigger amplifier that I bought & I like the sound. It has quite some background noise though, which is less fantastic.… But, it does the job.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Christian – My main guitar is a Lag Roxane Seven Floyd. It is a handmade seven string guitar, made by a small company in France. I have had it now for more than 15 years. I just really like the tone it produces, quite warm but still tight & also it plays very pleasant & smooth.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Christian – Well, I’m already playing that guitar for quite a while, so I think if it is similar to that one it would be great!
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Christian – It would probably be a looping pedal! It would be cool if the separate layers of the loop could be treated with different effects while playing.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Christian – Four.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Christian – At home.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Christian – Being super lightweight.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Christian – The sound & the action of the neck, plus it should not feel too flimsy.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Christian – I don’t know to be honest.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Christian – Every now & then the idea pops in my head that I should change the pickups of my guitar. This is something that I see that certain guitarists do & then I just wonder how good mine would sound with different pickups. But, in the end I’m actually happy with the sound, so I never actually got to the point where I really started shopping for it.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Christian – I do try to find reviews online & read the specs a bit. But mostly I don’t test it a lot in the shop. With different guitars & amplifiers it’s not the same anyway.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Christian – I add some stuff every now & then, but hardly remove things...
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Christian – I do like a certain basic tone, which I can then alter with effects. But the EQ of the tone itself stays more or less the same.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Christian – An amplifier & some effects to play around with. In the beginning you can’t play very well of course, but I think it’s nice when you can already experiment a bit. Although your roommates or family might not be so happy with this...
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Christian – The best: a looper. The worst: a ukulele, those are just not great guitars
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Christian – I like in general less subtle stuff, either a bit heavy or just a bit too much of a certain effect. Also I don’t mind when there is a bit of grainy noisy stuff going on. I think if I wouldn’t be restricted by budget, I would also buy a lot more old effects that are just a bit out there. As for dislikes, I’m somehow not so into Fender Stratocasters. They sound a bit clean & I don’t know... they just don’t appeal so much to me.…
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Christian – I just start noodling a bit.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Christian – 15.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Christian – Pfff, that depends how you look at it. I hope I’m still developing though.…
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Christian – I like that it’s analog, but still you can fiddle around with it to get many different sounds. Like a synthesizer, but better.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Christian – Yeah, why not? It’s a cool instrument.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Christian – Ally of course.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Christian – When I started playing I listened mostly to rock & metal guitarists. I think the guitarists that I’ve listened most to are Slash from Guns ‘n Roses, Dimebag Darrel of Pantera, & Trey Azagtoth of Morbid Angel. You might not recognize this in my music though.…
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming guitars)?
Christian – I’m fine with it, as long as I don’t have to witness it.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Christian – I have given some guitar lessons over the years & it has happened that a student requested to play really shitty songs on it. As for physical damage it didn’t go further than dropping it....
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Christian – Well, I mostly just improvise, or I rehearse tracks that I’ve composed/improvised before to be able to play them live.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Christian – Much less then I would like to. It really differs per period how much time there is.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Christian – Jim Dunlop, nylon picks .88. I just like the texture of them. Have always used them.…
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Christian –.10 up to .56 for a seven string, because it works fine.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Christian – Maybe once a month. But when there’re gigs I always make sure to play with new strings. I really don’t like breaking strings on stage & it also sounds a bit better.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Christian – Now not so often. I actually can’t really remember when the last time was. When I was still playing metal, it happened every now & then.…
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Christian – Well, both hands are really important of course. In my metal days the right hand was maybe more important, because of the rhythms. But, now my right hand is really important to get the right dynamics in the playing. I really like alternating between quite loud tones & tones that appear just above the background.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Christian – I do it myself, it’s all doable.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Christian – I have been using a lower tuning (in D), but now I actually just use the standard tuning (E). For me it’s fine, it seems to match my voice, that is to say when my voice is in tune, & for the rest, you can still choose quite a bit of different notes. So I don’t really have the need to change it. But who knows. I guess it can be refreshing not to know where to find everything on the neck, which can bring up refreshing compositions. But, for that I can also play a totally different instrument.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Christian – Tablature. But I guess you need to know what needs to be played. On the other hand, how often do you want to play something without any foreknowledge about it.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Christian – As low as the strap allows. I use a bass guitar strap on the lowest position. I find it relaxing. A guitar that hangs just under my face feels a bit too pushy for my liking. However having it in front of your knees also doesn’t make too much sense.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Christian – My playing during improvisations tends to end up in a certain tempo range. It would be good to have more differences in tempo.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Christian – I guess most instruments will improve your sense of different notes, chords, scales etc. Maybe drums not so much, however this will help your sense of rhythm of course. But, if you want to learn how to play guitar, I would start of with a guitar.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Christian – That kind of fast flamenco fingerpicking. Would be cool!
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Christian – I tend to be nervous when I’m playing alone on stage. Although my face doesn’t show it too much, it does affect my playing sometimes.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Christian – Trying to put strange scales together, with notes that maybe shouldn’t be together. Then, after playing around with it a bit it can sometimes give nice different atmospheres.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (Ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Christian – Slide definitely, although I have been playing in my mind with a violin bow. A capo is my least favorite one, never had one.…
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Christian – I’m not sure if I’m too busy with mastering techniques. I’m mostly thinking of how to expand the way in which I can make different compositions.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Christian – Yes, I had lessons from 15 until 18 I think. Well, quite some all around stuff, but also how to play a good metal riff. My teacher played in a death metal band & since I listened mostly to heavy guitar stuff, it was a good match.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Christian – Well, I guess it depends on the teacher whether they teach it or not, but I think learning how to improvise is really important & fun.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Christian – Emulating your own style is already hard enough
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo/vibrato systems?
Christian – I have a Floyd Rose tremelo, which I liked playing around with, but since I lost the handle somewhere at a gig I’m also fine without it.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Christian – Never, always fully open. I’d rather switch between the front & the back pickups, ha-ha.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Christian – Well, I’m more fond of guitar players that tend to blur these lines a bit.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Christian – Well, I wouldn’t really enjoy it.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Christian – One of Slash’s Les Pauls. Those are the first thing that come to mind when I think of cool guitars.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Christian – I like what Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of Mars Volta is doing. He’s quite innovative. But, there’re lots of guitar players out there to choose from.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Christian – Well, let’s check out the upcoming album “Hover”!
QRD – Anything else?
Christian – Thank you Brian for asking me all these things!