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Mary Lattimore

Mary Lattimore

Harpist Mary Lattimore makes music that sings like a memory. Melodies peer out over layers of water, soil, and stone, transporting you to places you’ve been or imagined. Earlier this year she released the stunning Hundreds of Days on Ghostly International. Her latest is a collaboration with songwriter Meg Baird. It’s called Ghost Forests, and it’s available now on Three Lobed Recordings. The album pairs Lattimore’s experimentation with Baird’s songcraft for an album of reflective and tangled musical exchanges. Their sounds live and breathe - you can hear the musician’s give and take, the act of creation itself.

Mary Lattimore spoke with Eddie Garcia (1970s Film Stock) after she and Baird made their live debut at the 2018 Hopscotch Music Festival.

Credit: Rachael Pony Cassells

Credit: Rachael Pony Cassells

Pedal Fuzz: Tell me about your early days of playing the harp - when did you start, what kind of harp did you play, who did you play with?

Mary Lattimore: I started when I was 11, playing a small troubadour harp. In high school, I went on to play the pedal harp and played with my high school orchestra and the Charlotte Youth Orchestra. I then went on to study at the Eastman School of Music, only playing classical music for a long time.

PF: Do you come from a musical family?

ML: Yes, my Mom is a harpist and my grandpa played the piano and banjo.

PF: What musical experiences were you having leading up to the 2013 release of The Withdrawing Room? Were you playing in other configurations at that time before you went on the solo path?

ML: I was in Thurston Moore's band with Samara Lubelski, John Moloney and Keith Wood. Samara, Thurston, Beck and I made Thurston's record Demolished Thoughts together and then we all went on tour, minus Beck. The tour cycle lasted almost two years, I think, and then it was time for Thurston to work on a new record. He didn't really need harp on it, so I was encouraged by Kurt Vile and another Philly friend, Jeff Zeigler, to make something solo. I had never worked on anything alone like that, but went into Jeff's studio and improvised The Withdrawing Room. Jeff played synth on “You'll Be Fiiinnne” and the title came from KV saying I'd be alright even though I wasn't playing with that band anymore. Making something solo seemed daunting at the time but it all turned out alright and now it's my favorite thing to do, come up with my own solo compositions.  

PF: What can you tell me about your Lyon & Healy harp?

ML: It's about 50 years old and belonged to a student of my mom's. It was made in Chicago and sometimes I use a black Sharpie to fill in the bald spots.

PF: When did you get into pedals, and exploring ways to loop or change your sound?

ML: I was playing for fun with Tara Burke, who plays under the name Fursaxa and layers and loops her vocals and keyboard. We were also improvising with Helena Espvall, amazing cellist from Espers, and she was doing the same thing, so I was encouraged to see what the harp would sound like through pedals. I thought I could make something unique like they were doing with their instruments.

PF: The Line 6 DL4 has been a big part of your sound and performance. How do you feel about their reliability? I interviewed William Tyler and he said he had gone through quite a few. Have you ever gotten the DL4 modded?

ML: I haven't gotten it modded, but I certainly should. They break all the time. I even flew to Iceland with a brand new one and went to play the show and it didn't work, so I had to borrow a friend's looping pedal and learn how to use it during the set. I'm on my 4th one in just a couple of years. I really know the DL4 so well, though, so I'm gonna stick with it while adding other pedals too, but yeah, William is right. They break and you can't trust them, unfortunately.

PF: What pedals are you currently using?

ML: I just bought the Strymon Big Sky and I loooove it. I have a bunch of Moogerfoogers too and those sounds really interesting, like the Ring Modulator and Cluster Flux. The delay is beautiful.

PF: When you play live, are you using an amplifier, or going straight to the PA?

ML: Straight into the PA. An amp feeds back all the time.

PF: What kind of pickup system do you use?

ML: The Dusty Strings Pedal Harp Pickup. It's gorgeous and rich and I couldn't be happier with it.

PF: What role does improvisation play on records and in live performance?

ML: I like structured improvisation, where I write a general theme but there's room for happy accidents and layers.

PF: The new album Hundreds of Days has other sounds, like synth and voice - tell me about the choice to expand from the solo harp.

ML: I love adding textures and experimenting with instruments that I don't really know how to use, like the Moog Theremini and am learning how to play guitar now too. I like the period when you don't really know where you're doing and the primitive instinct of it.

PF: You have lots of collaborations, how does that inform your solo work?

ML: It's all body-of-work style - collaboration and improvisation, classical music, solo stuff - it all influences each other in melody and listening.

PF: What is your relationship with sound engineers at venues like - do they have certain expectations when they see the harp?

ML: They do but I think generally they're pleasantly surprised that it's not too hard to figure out!

PF: Where did you record Hundreds of Days?

ML: I recorded it at the Headlands residency in the Marin Headlands outside of San Francisco in a Redwood Barn. I just used GarageBand and had a lot of freedom, space and time - also a lot of inspiration from such a dramatic, gorgeous landscape.

Credit: Rachael Pony Cassells

Credit: Rachael Pony Cassells

PF: How did you get your Headlands Center for the Arts residency, and what did you gain from the experience?

ML: It was through the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage in Philadelphia. I received a fellowship in 2014 and that made it easier to get awarded the residency. I feel incredibly lucky that both happened to me. Both changed my life so much. The validation that I am on the right track with music has meant so much, and the trust from them that I'd make something cool with the experiences.

PF: You’re incredibly active, is it hard to organize your playing schedule?

ML:  Yeah, luckily I have a great manager and a great booking agent who keep me busy and organized and I wanna take advantage of all opportunities and weird experiences - I love saying yes and bringing the harp to people who have never seen one before.

PF: Do you visualize images in your mind while playing?

ML: Yes, always. Little movies.

PF: What soundtrack/scoring work have you done recently? Any coming up?

ML: I recently wrote a part for the documentary about Mr. Rogers, Won't You Be My Neighbor. I also play the parts written by talented film/tv composers like Heather McIntosh's killer score for Amy Scott's Hal Ashby documentary that was just released.

PF: How has your musical life changed moving from Philly to L.A.?

ML: I'm working more for film and TV and making a little more money, being more active professionally. Philly was great for warmth, support, improvising and community and LA is great for work and new creative opportunities. Both are terrific places.

PF: How long has Ghost Forests, your upcoming record with Meg Baird been in the making, and how did the project come about?

ML: It's coming out on Three Lobed Recordings, an old friend of mine and Meg's label (Cory Rayborn) and he encouraged us to make something together, as we are close friends. We recorded and wrote it in only a few days and the synergy was apparent. It was super fun. It was engineered, mixed and co-produced by Thom Monahan.

PF: What was working with Baird like, how was merging your songwriting approaches?

ML: I am more improvisational I think, and she writes beautiful lyrical structured songs, so it's a melding of our styles. I love how Meg's brain works!

PF: Your gig with Baird at Hopscotch was the live debut, were you happy with the show?

ML: It went fine! I was happy with it. We are about to embark on a 30-show opening slot tour with Kurt Vile and the Violators in Europe starting tomorrow, so the set will be really good by late November!

PF: Do you have any other upcoming tour plans?

ML: Solo tour after the KV tour in Europe and the UK!

PF: Last, I know a young harpist (17) who is beginning to experiment with pedals - he currently has an EHX Memory Man, and would like to play in a rock band. Would you have any pedal recommendations, or advice to him as he takes this less traditional musical path?

ML: I would love to hear what he's doing. I played through the Memory Man on Kurt's Smoke Ring for My Halo and it's a cool sound! I would say to just keep bringing our instrument into the modern world and advocating for it and experimenting with it. There's so much untapped potential.

EDDIE GARCIA PLAYS GUITAR AND ALL THE PEDALS AS 1970S FILM STOCK. YOU CAN ALSO HEAR HIM REPORTING ON NPR AFFILIATE 88.5 WFDD IN WINSTON-SALEM, NC. IN THE WEE HOURS HE RUNS PEDAL FUZZ, WHICH IS A PROUD RECIPIENT OF A GRANT FROM THE ARTS ENTERPRISE LAB / KENAN INSTITUTE FOR THE ARTS. 

Dusky Electronics: Chris Rossi

Dusky Electronics: Chris Rossi

I’ve known Chris Rossi for at least 18 years: He lived with several of my former bandmates in a large house in Durham, where he built a small recording studio and a workshop. From time to time, I would enter that house and hear strange sounds coming from his side of the house — he was always experimenting with noise.

In 2013, Chris decided to turn his hobby into a business, and Dusky Electronics was born. Amps were the first venture, but he has created a line of pedals that hold their own in the world of boutique tone. I talked to him after trying a few of them out, including the brand new fuzz pedal, Hypatia. I quickly became enamored. The following interview has been condensed and edited.

 

Chris Rossi at work. CREDIT: Laura Busse

Chris Rossi at work. CREDIT: Laura Busse

Pedal Fuzz: I know you had been dabbling in recording and building electronics for a long time, but what made you decide to jump into the world of boutique pedals?

Chris Rossi: When I started Dusky Electronics, my focus was on amplifiers — specifically the D₂O Amplifier.  I also started designing pedals around this time; I designed the Toasted Drive and the Octomotron, but those were really just for my own use and edification. But, as soon as I built them, I showed them to our friend, Zeke [Graves], and he was like, “How much?” So then I got the idea that maybe I should sell pedals too. The R&D cycle on the pedals was much faster than on the amplifiers, so I could get a couple of pedal designs ready for production while waiting on other things to happen for the amplifiers. I figured having something I could offer at a lower price point than the amps couldn’t hurt, too. People are far more likely to take a chance on a $175 pedal than a $1500 amp. But, really, still, the impetus is I get interested in something for my own use. I get it to where I like it, and then I invite other people to use it.  

PF: What type of hurdles were there to getting your pedals heard in a fairly saturated market for sonic manipulation? Especially when you aren’t offering the type of things that a company like EarthQuaker is — was it a challenge to get your pedals into the hands of people who might help sell them?

CR: Yes, it still is. I think I’ve given myself an uphill battle for a couple of reasons: 1) I’m not offering pedals that do really wild things — they just sound good and are musically useful. So I can say, “Here’s this overdrive — it sounds really good,” and that’s a hard sell, because there are tons of overdrives. 2) I’m not basing designs on already known reference points. I’m not interested in making a tweaked Tubescreamer or a Klon clone, but when you can give people a familiar point of reference, it can be a lot easier to market. Add to this the fact that I got into this because I was good at designing circuits, not because I know anything about marketing a product, and yeah, it’s been difficult. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I’m getting better. I’ve done a much better job of launching the Mandorla, for example, than I have for any of my earlier pedals, and I’m seeing better sales as a result. At the end of the day it still has to sound really good and give people a tool they can actually use, but you have to figure out how to tell people about it as well, and that’s been a steep learning curve for me.

PF: How have you figured out how to tell people about it?

CR: Ha, well, that makes it sounds like I have it figured out. One thing that really helped, was Jon Levy, the publisher of Premier Guitar Magazine, called me out of the blue one day. I assume he does this to any new builder he notices. And what he did was he walked me through some things that in his world are very obvious: how and when to write a press release and send it out, how to solicit reviews, etc. It was an extremely kind gesture, to recognize someone who was making an interesting product but who probably didn’t have any idea what they were doing on the marketing side, and to reach out and have a conversation and lay down some knowledge.  

mandorla_black.jpg

One of the lessons learned is to coordinate a marketing push with the release of a product. When I started, I put up a website, started selling stuff, and then, very slowly, tried to figure out marketing. By the time I was reaching out to folks and asking for reviews, I’d been selling some of this stuff for a year, which in their world is way too old. Never mind that it would still be brand new to the vast majority of their audience — it was still old news. The Mandorla, in a way, has been my first opportunity to put some of these lessons into practice — I sent out a real press release, I submitted solicitations for reviews, I got them to video demo people, all right before actually putting the thing out for sale, so there was a much more coordinated effort that wound up having a much bigger impact. It’s still very much small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but it’s improvement and it’s growth, so I’m happy.  

octomotron_black_bg.jpg

 

PF: Have you thought about making pedals that “do really wild things”? At least, beyond the Octomotron, which, in my experience using it, does some really wild things? (How does it do those wild things?)

CR: Yes, I do have some wild ideas, actually.  When and if they pan out, I’ll let you know what they are.

I actually made a video about how the Octomotron works. The short answer is, it rectifies the audio signal. This isn’t a new idea, and is the same basic principle as the Octavia of Jimi Hendrix fame, although the implementation is different.  

PF: Have you gone back into any of the designs you’ve made for these pedals and tweaked them, knowing what you know now about how people use them and how they sound? Or would you want to?

CR: I haven’t, yet, but it’s likely that in the near future I’ll look at updating the Toasted Drive and maybe the Octomotron. I do have some new ideas and a little more experience under my belt at this point.

PF: Are there any pedal companies around today that you are fond of or inspired by? Are there any musicians pushing sound forward that you feel the same about?

CR: When Electro-Harmonix came back in the early ‘00s and started doing new pedals again, that was pretty exciting. My next pedal company crush was Catalinbread. Before I ever designed anything of my own, I built a few Catalinbread clones from schematics I found online of reverse engineered pedals. I had a lot of respect for their tacit support of the DIY community around their pedals, which wasn’t something you saw a lot of universally. Recently, the people that used to work there all left, so I’m not sure what’s in store for the company. I have a definite nerd crush on their former chief designer, Howard Gee, though, and I look forward to seeing what he gets into next. Earthquaker is awe inspiring for the sheer number of really good sounding and innovative pedals they make.  Lately, Old Blood Noise Endeavours and Chase Bliss Audio are both really interesting companies doing really cool things.

As far as musicians, I’ve been a huge fan of everything Nels Cline for a long time. First saw him when he came through on a tour with Mike Watt, I don’t know, close to 20 years ago now, probably. I’ve been a big fan of Deerhoof for a long time, too. The common thread, there, I guess is taking the fabric of rock and roll and making something new out of it, something inspired, and something unexpected. Technology, like pedals, plays a role, but at the end of the day it’s their genius that’s really moving things forward, not the tools themselves they use to do it. I’ve also, more recently, been taken by Nick Reinhardt and his work in Tera Melos, not to mention Big Walnuts Yonder, just to bring everything full circle again, with Nels and Watt. Juan Alderete is an interesting figure--you don’t normally see people applying that much technology to the bass, but he takes it and runs with it.  I’m a big fan of most everything Dan the Automator does, and most of his collaborators. In terms of just blazing new trails with regards to the organization and manipulation of sound, I think the contribution of hip-hop is often underappreciated by the rockist crowd — some of the most innovative and forward-thinking people in music today are working in hip-hop. Adrian Younge is a more recent musical crush for me — like a lot of people, the Luke Cage series on Netflix introduced me to his work, but I just love what he’s doing with his amalgam of hip-hop, soul, funk, spaghetti western, etc. And all the elements sound great, too — I’d love to be a fly on the wall to see how he gets his drum, bass and guitar sounds.

Dusky has just released the  Hypatia , a distortion box capable of blown out fuzz to ragged overdrive. This box has been making the rounds at trade shows and has already generated a bit of buzz for itself, with astonished players asking, "Wow, when does this come out?!" Well, the answer is - now!

Dusky has just released the Hypatia, a distortion box capable of blown out fuzz to ragged overdrive. This box has been making the rounds at trade shows and has already generated a bit of buzz for itself, with astonished players asking, "Wow, when does this come out?!" Well, the answer is - now!

PF: I agree with what you’re saying about technology vs. genius, but there’s also something to be said for the epic shifts in music just in the last decade as a result of technology. The tools do become an extension of the musician at a certain point, and sometimes genius doesn’t have the ability to think up the types of sonic worlds that effects can produce.

CR: Yep, true enough. Take Nick Reinhardt, for example. It’s not like he could compose a piece of music, then go, hey, the Earthquaker Rainbow Machine will let me do that. He had to already be using that pedal to even compose that music. By the same token, few people take these pedals and do something half as interesting with it. I guess we’re both right.

PF: How was Moogfest for you as a marketplace vendor?

CR: I’ve been to few enough of these trade shows so far, that it’s hard for me to compare. I think it went well.  I was sharing a booth with another Durham-based pedal builder, Rabbit Hole FX. For what was essentially a synth expo, there were a shocking a number of folks that came through and tried out our guitar focused gear, so that’s pretty cool, really. It was fun to get to know some of the other vendors — everyone I spoke to was very kind and it felt like a really supportive community. It was four eight hour days in a row on my feet and pretending to be an extrovert, so it was pretty exhausting, but fun exhausting.

FINN COHEN IS A WRITER AND MUSICIAN BASED IN RALEIGH, NC. HIS WORK HAS APPEARED IN THE NEW YORK TIMESTHE MOSCOW TIMESPITCHFORKVICE SPORTSCOMPLEXPIGEONS & PLANES, AND THE INDEPENDENT WEEKLY. HIS MUSIC CAN BE FOUND HERE AND HERE

Nonconnah

Nonconnah

Nonconnah make music that crackles like a fire's beginnings and ends, with embers melting a Polaroid past. Led by Zachary Corsa on guitars, tapes, keys, machines, and other things.....the collective etches sonic notes in trees smeared in ash and reverb.  

The music of Nonconnah came to be after Zachary and Denny Wilkerson Corsa left North Carolina and dissolved their ambient project Lost Trail. They were an incredibly prolific duo, releasing dozens of collections of lo-fi shoegaze soundscapes, accented with field sounds and thrift-store cassette tape samples (think 1980s sermons...). It was a beautiful noise they made.

I shared some bills with the duo, and was even lucky enough to be an honorary member of Lost Trail once on a sun-drenched afternoon in Winston-Salem, NC - did anyone record it?

 

nonconnah-new-years-eve1.jpg

Pedal Fuzz: What prompted you and Denny to relocate the band from NC to TN?

Zachary Corsa: The short answer is that Denny’s employers were relocating to Memphis for their own work reasons, and we felt connected enough with them that following them out here seemed like a worthwhile adventure. Additionally, though there are some extremely talented experimental musicians in North Carolina (and I’m talking to one, of course), I never felt we particularly belonged to, or were much welcomed in, the larger music scene in the area. There’s a lot I miss about North Carolina, but Memphis has been a much more friendly and receptive community for what we do. It was worth the hassle of relocating for a chance to find a more conducive scene, and I’m thrilled it worked out.

PF: In what ways is the music of Nonconnah different and similar to Lost Trail?

ZC: The basic bones of the projects are the same. It’s still home recording, rooted in guitar layers and field recordings with the occasional piano or synth piece, and the work still touches on the same ambient/shoegaze/drone/noise signifiers. The differences are apparent in what we’ve learned about the recording process and production while we were Lost Trail, and how the quality of the finished product has evolved largely from ‘very lo-fi’ to ‘mid-fi with lo-fi accents’. Also, Nonconnah is much more of an open collective of collaborators, as compared to Lost Trail, which was almost always restricted to Denny and myself. Live, we perform with anywhere from two to maybe seven other contributors - we have a bit of an open door policy with the Memphis weird music scene, whereby anyone who’s around that wants to help out and improvise at a show is welcome to do so.

PF: Can you explain your musical evolution, and what non-musical factors may have contributed or inspired you?

ZC: I began playing guitar at seven, and by the time I was in my mid-twenties I had played with all manner of indie and post-rock bands and was largely burned out on ‘band politics’. Around this time, through writing for music blogs, I began to uncover a lot more experimental artists than I had previously been exposed to, including very minimalist composers like David Wenngren from Library Tapes. Initially, Lost Trail was an experiment in tape recording via piano, an instrument I still don’t know how to properly play, in that dark early Library Tapes style. It was a nice break from guitar, but I eventually missed having the palette of sounds guitar offers. As time went on, some of the standard drone and ambient elements began to shift into more noisy shoegaze work, as we began to listen to a lot of heavier gaze bands like Astrobrite. I really fell in love with the process of recording and experimenting with different methods like a technician in a lab. It’s still my favorite part of making music, by far.

There’s definitely folk and rustic elements in what we do, buried beneath the haze. I listen to a great deal of old-time music, ballads, bluegrass, gospel, and Sacred Harp singing, and my college years living in the mountains of western NC had a profound impact on my sensibilities. I feel like I say this in every interview, but I really do consider us a very Southern band. That sense of a mysterious landscape that holds layers of the past beneath its surface is ingrained in what we do, a lot more than people may realize. Making original music also tends to bring out personal obsessions you didn’t know you had - in our case, passionate belief systems seem to come up often in the field recordings or in the general themes of the work. Passionate belief and the supernatural, a sense of dread or a sense of rapturous, awestruck transcendence, and also my fascination with suburban sprawl and its horrific brand of destructive beauty. It’d be naive to think the politics of our current hellscape administration don’t creep into our work, too, but I try to avoid direct addressing of politics. Our music is really emotionally-based, unapologetically sincere and epic and heartfelt. I don’t buy into the too-cool school of Stephen Malkmus irony and sarcasm very much, never have. It’s not how I live.

PF: Tell me about the nature of improvisation in your music - how important it is, what appeals/doesn’t appeal vs more rigidly constructed music.

ZC: My mind doesn’t function on the level of carefully planned-out, meticulous music. I work best on impulse. I sit down with no preconceived notions about what a piece is going to turn into, and let instinct take me where it leads. Almost nothing ends up sounding as planned in our world. We don’t overdub traditionally, we tend to collage until something just ‘sounds’ or ‘feels’ right. Live, improvisation is a necessity. It keeps things fresh. It’s impossible to replicate the layers of the recordings in a live setting, so the live entity really is entirely separate from the recorded works.

PF: How do you translate your music live?

ZC: It’s always a challenge, but we try to bring some of the spirit of the recordings to the live setting, even though we’re not performing specific pieces. We bring in taped elements and field recordings, interesting sounds. The live performances are usually variations on a single key for a long period of time, and I suppose in that way it’s closer to free jazz than merely ambient or shoegazey.

PF: What opportunities and challenges come with performing live?

ZC: Constant anxiety - not about performing, after all these years of playing, but that something technical will go wrong, which it often does. Working with old and often obsolete technology, the situation is always very precarious. The one ‘cheat’ with experimental music, I suppose, is that if you don’t visibly act dismayed by something unplanned, most people won’t take it as unplanned. The live show is a necessity because people enjoy seeing us live and meeting us, but it’s a far second to recording as far as priorities go for me. I’m pretty introverted - I like staying at my house out in the country and tinkering. The best part of touring is really meeting people and seeing new places, in my opinion.

PF: Lets talk about gear - what guitar(s) are you currently using?

ZC: My main guitar you know well, since I purchased it from you. That’s the Reverend Ron Asheton Signature, a really versatile V. I’m a very midrange-minded player - bright, trebly sounds hurt my ears and can ruin performances for me. The Asheton is a very warm and dark, rich-sounding guitar. It’s what I use for most recordings due to its quality. I must admit I’ve been half-seriously trying to sell or trade it, though, because as much as I love it, I fully believe in switching out your gear every so often to mix up your sound a bit. I adore that guitar, its been a trusted friend for a few years now, but it may be time to try something new. Otherwise, I tend to gather Teiscos, Kays, Silvertones, and Harmony equipment and the like. The sound and aesthetics of many of those guitars suit my sensibilities. My main backup is a Teisco K2L I found on the Raleigh Craigslist years ago for $80. It has a fondue knife repurposed for the tremolo. I have a Teisco Audition with a gold-foil pickup that I found at a junk shop in Burlington, NC - that one gets used for stuff like bow-work and weird tunings and such. I just picked up a Kay Effector from a friend in Chattanooga - it’s a Les Paul copy with some very strange built-in effects. Other than those, I also have an Ibanez Jet King that my Mom bought for me in 2008 and which was my main guitar for many years. Other than recording with it occasionally, it’s mostly retired now, but I’d never get rid of it. Those were the very best guitars Ibanez ever built, by miles.

CREDIT: Zachary Corsa

CREDIT: Zachary Corsa

PF: Walk me through your pedalboard.

ZC: I have a fairly large and complicated setup, I’m afraid. My main pedalboard channel, currently

-Noisemaker Effects Arcade Fuzz

-Devi Ever Rocket Mangler (Soda Meiser + Vintage Fuzz Machine w/ gain joystick and noise options)

-ProCo RAT (my oldest pedal)

-Raygun FX Super Fuzz Boy (a fuzz housed in an old Game Boy console)

-Death By Audio Soundwave Breakdown

-Old Blood Noise Endeavors EQ/Buffer

-DigiTech Whammy Ricochet

-Dwarfcraft Wizard Of Pitch

-Strymon Mobius (modulation effects)

-pink label Boss PS-3 Pitch-Shifter/Delay

-MidFi Clari(not) (tape delay/modulation)

-Boss Tera Echo

-Empress Reverb

-DigiTech DigiDelay

-Ibanez FZ7 Fuzz

-Malekko Charlie Foxtrot (granulator)

-Earthquaker Devices Data Corruptor (synth/oscillator)

-TC Electronic Polytune Classic

-EHX 22500 looper

Also on the board but on a separate channel are -

-Korg Kaossilator

-CoPilot FX Arrow (white noise generator)

-TC Electronic Ditto looper

I also utilize an old Alesis Wedge desktop effects unit in my setup, as well as an XSPRO ABY switcher and a Pyle hum destroyer.

PF: Do you have any recent pedal discoveries?

ZC: The Midfi Clari(not) has become my favorite pedal by far. They’re handmade by Doug Tuttle, who’s played in tons of awesome psych bands and does incredible solo work now.  The Clari(not) is a really solid analog delay that goes nuts when you crank the controls - it gets the best ‘out of control warbling tape’ effect I’ve heard, out of all the pedals which attempt to replicate that specific sound.

PF: What pedals do you rely on or love?

ZC: I have a lot of love for my RAT, which I’ve had forever, and also my PS3, which is again a super versatile pedal, both a very reliable digital delay and something much weirder and fun on other settings. The Tera Echo is a deeply underrated pedal, as is the Ibanez FZ7 - those are getting a bit of a cult reputation, so I advise folks to grab them while they can still be found for thirty bucks. Same for the DigiDelay, where the looper can give you some really wild glitch sounds when used right.

PF: Are there pedals that you were once enamored with that have lost their charm?

ZC: I honestly think I’ve appreciated every pedal I’ve owned, even the cheap plastic Behringers I started out with. They’re fragile in how they’re constructed, but they sound pretty incredible.

PF: What amps are you playing with?

ZC: I’m a solid-state guy, pretty devoutly, because I think it sounds cleaner with the amount of pedals I use. I played a Hot Rod Deluxe for years and it always sounded like mush. I traded that one for a Roland JC-60, the single-speaker Jazz Chorus, and that’s been my main amp ever since. Very clean and clear sound reproduction, not too much color. I had a JC-120 briefly but it was just more amp than I needed for what I do. Lately I’ve been splitting my signal at the ABY box and running my pedalboard through the JC-60 and the Wedge through a Silvertone 40XL, which I’ve had around for awhile, a really fun vintage amp. Same as guitars, I tend to gather those old catalog amps. The only tube amp I own is a little mid-sixties’ Harmony H400A that Denny found at a free market and which amazingly worked fine. It sounds incredible but it isn’t grounded, so it tends to shock the user.

PF: What other sound making devices do you utilize?

ZC: E-Bow, glass slide, flathead screwdriver, violin bow. Anything that can make sound through pickups - toy laser guns, shortwave radios, cassette and micro-cassette machines. I have a Kaito computer speaker that makes incredibly awful sounds when you plug the cable into itself, and I’ve used that at shows for years now. I usually run an iPod Classic into the PA for the samples/field recordings.

PF: Are you collaborating with other musicians live or on recordings? If so, who?

ZC: Since Nonconnah was partially founded on the idea of being more openly collaborative, we’ve been lucky to team up on tracks with many incredible musicians. One album we finished recently was the end product of about three years of work, and it features a number of names folks will probably be familiar with. For example, Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), Kenneth William (White Lung), Archie Moore (Black Tambourine, Velocity Girl), Lori Goldston (Earth, Nirvana), Jim Schoenecker (Collections of Colonies of Bees, Volcano Choir), Eric Craven (Hangedup, A Silver Mt. Zion), Stuart Dahlquist (Sunn O))), Burning Witch), Dustin Wong (Ponytail), Mike Doughty (Soul Coughing), Alyse Lamb (Parlor Walls), AJ Annunziata (Sannhet), Dan Friel (Upper Wilds), Robert Poss (Band of Susans), Paul Baker (Skywave, Ceremony, Static Daydream), Neil Jendon (Kwaidan, Catherine), Scott Cortez (Astrobrite, Lovesliescrushing), Jett Brando (All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors), and lots of other folks that aren’t as well known but damn well should be. Right now, I’m actually waiting to get a track back for a collaboration with Charles Bissell from The Wrens. It’s very humbling to work with so many folks whom I greatly admire, and whom in many cases I grew up admiring. It’s beyond flattering.

PF: What changes through collaboration?

ZC: Well, you have to let go of some of your control over what you expect the end result of the work to be, but that’s what makes it fun and exciting. Getting a track back from someone with their contributions and clicking ‘play’ is a very Christmas-morning kind of moment. I know it’s going to add something to the piece, because if I thought for a second it wouldn’t, I wouldn’t ask that particular musician. I tend to let them do as they wish because I trust them to interpret the work as they see it. It’s their vision.

PF: How do you feel about the music scene in Memphis, TN?

ZC: We have one of the most exciting music scenes in the country for weird music right now, and even for a number of bands that aren’t so weird but are just damn good bands. I just finished helping out with the second Memphis Concrète festival over the past weekend, which my friend and occasional bandmate Robert Traxler organizes. What he’s built here for this scene is a real gift to all of us, and to the entire city. This year we had performances from some incredible folks like Wolf Eyes, Alex Zhang Hungtai, Spookstina, Linda Heck, Circuit Des Yeux, Gavin from Cities Aviv…just three days of incredible and envelope-pushing work. It’s rewarding to feel like these folks will go back to their respective scenes and tell everyone what we’re building here with the community in Memphis. This is really becoming an experimental/noise music town in a way that’s very rad and satisfying.

Here’s some local Memphis folks’ projects to check out - Robert Traxler, Revenge Body, Ihcilon, Aster, The Family Ghost, Mystic Light Casino, Alyssa Moore, Sweaters Together, Avery Vaughn, Disco Volante, Starfighter Yellow Superoverdrive, Jack The Giant Killer, Aural Cavalcade, Crystal Shrines, Dinosauria, Negro Terror, Jack Alberson, Mike Honeycutt, Jeremy Scott, Noiserpuss, Spaceface, Glorious Abhor, Mike Doughty, Tape Deck, The Ellie Badge…also, Julien Baker is from here and she’s deservedly blowing up right now. Nearby in Mississippi there’s also Ben Ricketts and Argiflex, both very worth your time. These people need and deserve to be famous and heard.

PF: Do you think there are specific challenges for instrumental musicians vs those making vocal based music?

ZC: You’ll often meet people who seem to treat instrumental musicians who use ‘rock’ instruments as some strange anomaly, which I always find a bit amusing. People love lyrics, they love to have words to identify with and wail along with. That’s totally cool. I listen to a huge swath of music outside of instrumental and experimental stuff, so I get it. But we’re providing a different experience, where you have to draw in some of those lines yourself and decide what it’s making you feel. The nice thing about instrumental music is that open context - it can make a trip to the DMV feel epic and emotional. It’s for those turning-point moments of life, really. I think that’s why we use the field recordings we do - it’s a way to underline the emotion of the music without relying on lyrics to spell some ‘message out for you. People are slowly becoming more accepting of instrumental music again, and I would advise any skeptics to remember that instrumental music as entertainment is of course MUCH older than vocal music. It’s always worth getting out of your comfort zone as a listener to try something new.

EDDIE GARCIA PLAYS GUITAR AND ALL THE PEDALS AS 1970S FILM STOCK. YOU CAN ALSO HEAR HIM REPORTING ON NPR AFFILIATE 88.5 WFDD IN WINSTON-SALEM, NC. IN THE WEE HOURS HE RUNS PEDAL FUZZ, WHICH IS A PROUD RECIPIENT OF A GRANT FROM THE ARTS ENTERPRISE LAB / KENAN INSTITUTE FOR THE ARTS. 

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