Interview with Loïc Josinski of Koyl
Name: Loïc Josinski
Websites: http://koyl.net, https://koyl.bandcamp.com/
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Loïc – It was a black Stratocaster-like Yamaha electric with a vintage type tremolo, one humbucker & 2 single coil pickups. I have absolutely no idea what happened to it… probably sold?
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Loïc – Guitar > EHX POG2 > WMD Geiger Counter > JHS Kilt (Overdrive/Distortion/Fuzz/Boost) > EHX Super Ego > Red Panda Particle Delay > Keeley CompressorPro > Source Audio Nemesis Delay > TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb > Tech21 Character Series Blonde > Laptop (that I use for live-looping &/or recording).
My loopers are the native Ableton Live looper & ExpertSleepers AugustusLoop plugin.
When I play dobro I have a Fishman Jerry Douglas Dobro Preamp running in parallel so I can have the acoustic sound of the dobro & the effected electric sound at the same time.
For further info, you can read this post about the technical aspects of my improvised soundscapes record Modular Glitchtar Soundscapes Vol.1.
In order to be able to travel with only a guitar & a backpack (& do more gigs), I recently developed an almost digital setup. Guitar > EHX POG2 > EHX Super Ego > Red Panda Particle Delay > Laptop + 2 iPads used as controllers.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Loïc – Very hard question to answer because what I do is based on using the whole guitar+pedals+looper setup as an instrument, a bit like if the whole thing was a modular synth.
That being said, I could do a gig with only a guitar & loopers… but that would probably sound a bit dry.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Loïc – I don’t have a “real” amplifier, so it’s the Tech21 Blonde Character Series pedal. It’s an all analog Fender amp simulator. A real amp would probably sound best, but a pedal is obviously way easier to carry around, doesn’t need to be mic’d & won’t take unwanted noises, which is paramount when you stack several loops of guitars.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Loïc – My main guitar is a custom 8-string lap steel made by Christopher Fouke of Industrialguitar.com. It’s entirely hollow (body & neck) & made of aluminum (like all the guitars he builds): the sound is very clear, rich & resonant. The design was conceived to achieve the best balance & stability possible. This translates into a bigger body than what you’d expect from an electric lap steel: a bit smaller than a Stratocaster & shaped like a Weissenborn, but more angular & thinner.
The pickup is a “Trinity” from french pickup maker SP Custom: it’s actually 3 pickups in one (Telecaster/Jazzmaster /P.A.F. humbucker).
It also features 2 piezo discs inside: one under the strings & one on the back plate of the neck. They’re there to give a bit of an acoustic flavor & to help produce sounds that you can’t usually get from a guitar. They tend to amplify every noises happening on the guitar: not a clean sound, but it’s part of their charm.
The wiring was conceived so I can chose which of the piezo discs I’m using & have them on the same output as the pickup (& chose to combine them like you’d do with different pickups on any guitars) or I can use a stereo-to-mono Y cable & have them on a different output/cable from the pickup, which allows me to get them through two separate effect chains. There are many ways to make good use of this: for example, I can have a perfectly clean & normal guitar tone from the magnetic pickup & have the piezo going through a lot of pedals or effect plugins so I have some kind of noisy pad going on alongside the clean chords.
Also, an 8 string steel gives me more chord types than 6 strings & it covers a larger frequency spectrum (my current tuning has the open strings going from D2 to F#4).
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Loïc – Well, I guess I have one now & I just described it! Chris actually made me the surprise of naming it the “ Koyl Kustom 8” & engraved the name on the back of it without telling me. J
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Loïc – I would love a pedal that can host any VST plugin. There’d be a software to chose what plugin parameters you want to control with the pedal’s knobs… but since it would kill half of the market, it probably will never exist.
A more realistic choice would be a combination of tweaked versions of my favorite effects. A slow gear/envelope follower like the one on the POG2 or like the Malekko Sneak Attack for even more possibilities & the LFO mode, a +1 & -1 octave pitch-shifter, the auto mode of the EHX Super Ego, the buffer sampler mode from the Red Panda Particle Delay. The envelope follower would be assignable to any setting on the pedal so you can control parameters with how you play & have an output on its own to control other pedals as well.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Loïc – I currently own the Chris Fouke lap steel I already talked about, an on-the-verge-of-dying Squier Stratocaster I turned into a lap steel, a Grestch Resonator with spider cone, a Hot Rod Guitars Biscuit Resonator, an upgraded 50s Classic Vibe Squier Stratocaster, & an Art&Lutherie parlor size acoustic: that makes 6.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Loïc – Mainly on guitar stands in my home-studio but the A&R acoustic is in its case in my bedroom (because I rarely use it) & the Grestch Dobro is on a stand in my living room so it’s always at reach.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Loïc – An overboard propelling system & the ability to transform into a guitar stand at the push of a button, & that without having to get the guitar out.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Loïc – Playability, tone, reliability & body shape (because there are some shapes that are very uncomfortable to me).
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Loïc – It depends on what type of guitar we’re talking about & how rare it is. I owned really good $300/400 electric guitars, but I would pay at least three times this price for a resonator because it’s what you have to do if you want to get something decent. $2500 is the very maximum I would ever want to spend on a guitar (not that I actually could) & that would be for a custom one or a vintage one.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Loïc – Unless the guitar is custom made, I always upgrade them mainly with quality electronic parts & good pickups.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Loïc – I hate testing gear in guitar stores & they rarely have what I’m after anyway, so I mainly buy second hand &/or online. I usually never test before purchasing, but I do quite a lot of research.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Loïc – My hardware rig is pretty stable. I carefully selected each pedal so it’s very versatile, but also easy enough to use so I can tweak it in a live improv setting. So while the gear doesn’t change, the rig can easily adapt to any project I’m working on & be used in a studio or live. This includes using my guitar pedals on synths, or using my modular synth to process guitars.
Same for the digital part of it, I tend to use pretty much the same plug-ins, but I totally adapt the rig to the project I’m working on. I built of lot of different templates for Ableton Live & for the iPad Lemur app (which I use as a controller), so I can chose what fits best for each situation: live-looping improv, making a track with other instruments or working on a song with vocals.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Loïc – Settings & combinations change all the time, even in a live setting where I like to try new things on the spot. & there’s a few order swapping going on when recording. I actually just ordered a Boredbrain Patchulator8000, which is patch bay for pedals, to make swapping easier.
That being said, while I’m not really after a particular guitar tone, I unconsciously kind of come back to more or less the same thing. I can’t really tell what it is, but I know I do!
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Loïc – The Keeley Mod Station because I don’t have modulations pedals in my pedal board. I’m also looking for a high gain distortion or fuzz.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Loïc – That it stays in tune & has a good setup.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Loïc – Best: The Fouke 8-String Lap Steel is one, but I already talked about it a lot so I’ll go with the first guitar Loïc LePape built for me: a steel-bodied Jazzmaster & actually the first steel-bodied Jazzmaster ever made. It was the first successful experiment with using a piezo disc in a guitar as well. You can hear it in all its glory on the 2nd record of my previous project Le Principe d’Inconstance ( https://leprincipedinconstance.bandcamp.com/ ).
It was not only a great piece of gear born out of a really interesting collaboration with the luthier, but also a turning point in finding what I really wanted to do & starting to find a style of my own.
More recently I should mention the EHX Super Ego & the Red Panda Particle Delay which I consider extensions of the instrument rather than effects.
Worst: Eventide ModFactor: not that great sounding, a nightmare to program & find your way around (which is really bad for improv) & very expensive. I sold it after one week & bought a Line6 M9 instead.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Loïc – I think we’re living in the golden age of guitar gear: Boutique pedals companies are now coming with original, never heard before, circuits (Malekko, Earthquaker Devices) other are blurring the lines between guitar effects & Eurorack modular synths (Dwarfcraft Devices, WMD), some makes really interesting use of the possibilities offered by the digital domain (Red Panda, Source Audio) & it’s all great & very inspiring. I’m also quite a fan of Blackout Effectors pedals, especially their fuzz.
I haven’t used a real amp in a long time, but if I did that would be a Fender, Hiwatt, Vox, or Orange.
When it comes to guitars, I like Fenders… but I must say that guitars made of wood always feel like they lack something compared to steel body ones.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Loïc – I don’t really have go-to licks or chords, so it depends on the mood I’m in & the tuning of the guitar.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Loïc – 15.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Loïc – When I stopped focusing on my weaknesses & started working on my strengths. It probably happened at around 30.
Playing lap steel guitars is a whole new adventure I started only 2 years ago & I’m working on several projects using this instrument in several contexts (ambient/drone, post-rock meets hip hop & dub, songs) so I hope my best guitar playing on this instrument is yet to come.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Loïc – Because it’s “imperfect” & organic; you can’t play a chord twice & have it sounding exactly the same. You can get a millions of nuances depending on how hard you play, where you hit the strings, with what part of the pick or fingers you do, etc… The ever-changing harmonic content. The fact that you can have some droning strings & playing on top of that.
Every time I tried to compose with another instrument (keyboard, modular synth, etc…), it felt more like an intellectual process. The guitar is more primal & instinctual with a bit of randomness thrown in: I like that a lot, it’s all very inspiring to me.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Loïc – Mmm... I think computer is people first’s instrument nowadays. But whatever you start with is good, the most important is to get started & have the will to express yourself.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Loïc – It’s both! Some days things flow effortlessly & some other days, I really have to fight with it (it’s even more true with the lap steel). I think it’s a good relation to have with your instrument since making music consists of orchestrating a series of tensions & releases. It probably makes the relationship more interesting & long lasting as well.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Loïc – My guitar exploration journey started with an interview of Tom Morello in a guitar magazine -- it totally shifted my view on the instrument. Then there was Sonic Youth (especially Lee Ranaldo). A band from Belgium called dEUS (the whole band influenced my guitar playing, especially the violin player). Seeing Joe Gore using a knife & other objects on his guitar when he was playing with PJ Harvey had a huge impact on me as well. The No-Wave scene. French experimental guitarist Marc Sens. Alan Sparhawk, Jónsi of Sigur Rós. Jazz slide wizard David Tronzo, Daniel Lanois when he plays pedal steel. Nels Cline. Rowland S. Howard. Marc Ribot. Chris Whitley.
But the thing is, at least 50% of my guitar playing is influenced by artists outside the guitar driven music world. I listen to a lot of hip hop & electronic music among other things. Artists who comes to mind are Amon Tobin, Burial, Lorn, Dälek, Hauschka…
I also have to mention the movies (not only their soundtracks) of Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch, & Sofia Coppola.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming guitars)?
Loïc – Yes it’s silly. I do it each time I get a new guitar… & forget about it pretty fast to end up naming them by their model & color like any sane human being. J
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Loïc – I made a fret pop out of the fretboard of a Squier Cyclone while doing some Thurston Moore “let’s rub the guitar neck on something” move… the “something” was not an amp or a cab, but the edge of a table. Add the crappy build quality of a $150 guitar & you get a fretless guitar without much effort.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Loïc – I don’t really practice (as in playing scales etc…), but I can rehearse a lot before recording guitar parts. Other than that, I make live-looping soundscapes just like on the Modular Glitchtar Soundscapes Vol.1 record & I like to play & sing covers in my own way.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Loïc – It goes from 4 hours a day when I’m composing or recording to 0 when my time needs to be used for something else (recording other instruments, mixing, promo stuff … or life!)
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Loïc – I use Dava picks on upright guitar because they are pointy, non-slippery, & you can chose their stiffness depending on how you hold them.
For slide guitar I use a Fred Kelly Delrin “Speed Pick” thumb pick.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Loïc – 11-49 on upright guitar. For slide guitar, the heavier the better as long as the guitar can handle it.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Loïc – When they break or when I feel guilty that it’s been a while since I did.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Loïc – Very rarely as long as I don’t try to act like I’m Thurston Moore.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Loïc – I wouldn’t use the term “proficient” for either of them & the fact that they are not definitely affects my guitar approach -- I basically built my style around that.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Loïc – I always do it myself because I had some not-so-great experiences in the past & it’s too expensive. Only exception would be neck adjustment or fret work.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Loïc – A lot of different tunings on upright guitar, but I must say I’m playing more in standard or drop D now than I did before. One of my favorite self-made alternate tuning is FGA#FGD.
For slide guitar I use open G & D a lot, plus their minor counterparts. I often drop the open D a half-step to C# when I sing.
On my 8 string lap steel, I use DACEGBDF# because it gives me several types of minor & major chords, plus more complex chords & that in every key. It’s only a base though, as I can reach a lot of other tunings by changing the pitch of 2 or 3 strings.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Loïc – Tablature + recordings.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Loïc – Short/medium.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Loïc – I’d like to get less nervous & tense when I’m recording in the studio. It’s a 100% psychological thing since I have no problem when I’m doing improv or playing live. But when I record composed stuff, I often have to make a lot of takes before being happy with what I get.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Loïc – Anything that doesn’t work like a guitar: Cello, trumpet, trombone, drums, bagpipes, modular synth, Max/MSP… it’ll give you a different angle on playing & music in general, a new set of rules, new possibilities & limitations. This will influence the way you play guitar & open new doors, even more if you actually apply the rules of those other instruments to the guitar.
I tried to play cello for 2 or 3 years. I can’t say I was really good at it, but it definitely changed the way I play guitar.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Loïc – There are a lot of playing types I wish I could do, but I’m kind of past that now & made peace with my limitations. I’d rather focus of making the most of my abilities.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Loïc – Playing a cover like the original. I’m totally unable to do it… probably because I’m not that interested in it.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Loïc – Bending a string with a finger behind the bar. It’s really tough to do it right & I can’t say I’m there yet.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (Ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Loïc – A small triangle-shaped file. I use it as a bow to make a quite convincing impression of John Cale’s violin tone in the Velvet Underground.
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Loïc – Slants: it’s when you hold the slide bar at an angle other than perpendicular to the strings in order to get intervals not readily available in the tuning you’re using. It needs a lot of practice & I’ve only started to toy with them.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Loïc – One or two. I learned that trying to play “Stairway to Heaven” note for note with 9 other students & one teacher who did nothing more than give us the tablature would lead me nowhere.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Loïc – Improvisation in the broad sense or how to make your guitar sound like something else.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Loïc – I guess you’d have to stop wanting to sound like a guitar & think of your guitar parts in terms of “layers”. You’d also have to be willing to make music that’s experimental enough so it’s too weird for most people & melodic enough so it’s too mainstream for experimental audiences: This way you can be sure to piss off everybody! J
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo/vibrato systems?
Loïc – I like them, my favorite type is the Jazzmaster/Jaguar one.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Loïc – Quite often. It helps with getting specific tones or behaviors from the guitar when used with effects.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Loïc – Number of girls waiting after the show? Seriously, I prefer when there’s no difference: my favorite players bridge the gap between the two roles (Chris Whitley, Marc Ribot etc…).
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Loïc – No, but I would follow the guitarist’s solo career.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Loïc – Justin Bieber. I’d sell his guitar on eBay & start a label or a festival with a cool concept… anything to help spread good & interesting music. That’s my Robin Hood side.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Loïc – Andre LaFosse: He’s a live-looping Jedi Master who can make his guitar & Echoplex sounds like Aphex Twin or Autechre.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Loïc – Modular Glitchtar Soundscapes Vol.1 is a good representation of what I do with a lap steel, effects, & looping in a live improv context.
“Fingerprints”, my 5in5 EP for Silber, is more studio oriented & more based on upright guitars, but each track kind of represents an aspect of my style so it makes a nice & short introduction to what I do.
I’m also quite happy about how my collaboration with Ben Hinz (aka Aen, owner of Dwarfcraft Devices) on the LightFighter movie turned out. It’s older, but still a nice way to discover how I did live-looping improv with upright guitars. The music works quite well with the picture.
Hopefully, my best guitar work is yet to come. I’m working on records that will put guitars, & especially lap steels, in contexts I never tried before so we’ll see how it’ll turn out.
QRD – Anything else?
Loïc – I enjoy this interview series a lot & I’ve read quite a lot of them. It was a pleasure answering these questions myself. Thanks!