Future Human: Facebook / Bandcamp

1) Tell me about the stuff in these photos: Are you using all this stuff live, or is this for recording too? Is there anything you might be replacing, or adding soon? Anything that will always be a fixture in your rig?

My main guitar that I’m using is a white Fender Hendrix Stratocaster made in Mexico.  And I run that into a Vox AC30 and run the preamp section into a Marshall 4×12″ cabinet (depending on the size of the show).


The effects I use from [left to right; top to bottom]: Stone Deaf Tremotron /// Eventide H9 /// Boss Cp1-x compressor /// Zvex Loop gate /// Boss TU3S Tuner /// Empress Echosystem /// Chase Bliss Brothers /// Black Arts Toneworks Pharoah Supreme /// Dr. Scientist Frazz Dazzler /// Meris Ottobit /// Ibanez De-7 Delay /// Boss ES-8 /// Digitech Freqout.

I’m always trying out new gear and new stuff that comes out. So while this is my board that I’ve used for recording and I’m using live, there’s some stuff that will probably change, yeah. I haven’t really been using the Z-Vex Loop Gate all that much so I might stick something else on there. I’ve been really interested in Rainger Effects’ new reverb or throwing my Deep Space Pulsar pedal on my board and use it for my synths. If there was one fixture on my board I’d probably say it’s the H9 just because it can do multiple effects in one algorithm. I’m pretty happy with it but one day I might just redo everything and not keep anything from this board’s build, I don’t know…



2) Your pedalboard is fucking insanity. What are a couple of your particular favorite pedals that you can’t do without – and explain why? Do ever wish you had a smaller board? Do you think you’ll ever put a smaller, separate board together? 

If I had to pick my favorites at the moment, it would probably be the Empress Echosystem and the Digitech Freqout. The Echosystem is a delay machine. It’s got a bunch of different kinds of delays. It’s probably my go-to pedal when I’m just jamming because it’s one of those pedals that is very easy to use and I’m always finding new sounds that can come out of it. I think it could be nice to have a smaller board. I’ve never been able to actually do it though. I’ve always had about this size of a board. I used to have a board that was just ridiculous! (hahaha!) It was probably 2 1/2 times the size in length and was double-tiered in the back row. But I mean, the shit was ridiculous to gig with as you could probably imagine. If I did go smaller, I would just use my H9, Echosystem, and Chase Bliss Brothers or BAT Pharoah……if I had to.


3) Talk to me about that H9 pedal — I don’t know much about them except that you can program a bunch of different pedals/sounds into it right? What do you use yours for?

It’s an everything box of effects. It can only run one algorithm at a time, but some of the algorithms contain multiple effects within one algorithm. I mostly use it for big reverbs, big walls of sound, modulation, and pitch shifting. There’s even a song I use it to make my guitar sound like a bass in a part of the song. I definitely will be digging deeper into this guy on our new material we’re writing.


4) How do you like that Hendrix Strat? I’ve never been able to bond with a Strat (I’m more of a Gibson guy). What drew you to that guitar? 

I bought it slightly used for pretty cheap. No problems with it really. I first learned guitar on a Strat and then went to a Gibson Les Paul, that I still own. I like both, really. Strats are prone to a lot of noise issues and tuning problems but I just like the tone of the guitar especially with the reverse bridge pickup and the feel of the guitar. But like I said, I might want to change it up for a while and rock something else for a bit.


5) Talk to me about that Organelle? It’s some type of synth or sampler, right? What do you use it for and what do you like most about it?

Yeah, it’s an Organelle. It’s such a deep piece of gear. Technically, it can pretty much do anything if programmed. I’m pretty sure it’s like a Linux computer that runs “pure data,” which is a computer language used to make algorithms for like a synth, a sampler, an effects engine, a lighting controller, whatever you want it to do. I’m not super knowledgeable about how to build pure data patches but there’s a huge community that do that share these patches. Anyways, I love it! I use it as a secondary instrument usually, and that’s why it’s awesome: you’re not limited to one instrument or one specific type of synthesis.


6) I’ve gotta ask about the Deep Mind: Have you played any of the synths that are similar to it? What are some pros and cons (if any) about it? If you had a bunch of money to blow on a new synth — what would you get?

Not many, no. I still have a lot to learn on this front. Coming from guitar, and the world of effects, and venturing into making electronic music, I became interested in synths and started getting into this type of sound design, even though I wish I was a better player. There’s a lot to like about the Deep Mind honestly.  The price, the voice count, the effects the semi-modular design. To me, it sits really nicely in a dense mix, and isn’t overbearing, especially when Matt, our synth player, has a Korg Minilogue and I think it sounds most similar to vintage Roland synths but it truly is a chameleon. I was surprised at how good you can make the thing sound for the price. I think it is super underrated.  Especially when you consider I’ve gotten tones that sound amazing that emulate vintage synths without even using the effects engine section or modulation matrix at all! If there is one con, I’d say that I wish it was multi-timbral out of the box without having to polychain it to another DeepMind, but that’s what I use the Organelle for usually.
Hmmm…That’s a tough one. There’s so many cool older synths I would love to mess around with and there’s always new stuff coming out.  But if money was no issue and neither was space, I’d love to get my hands on a Waldorf Quantum or Arturia’s Matrixbrute.


7) What’s the shittiest piece of gear you’ve bought and why did it suck? On the flipside, what’s the raddest piece of gear you’ve bought and why is it so great?

I used to have a Line 6 Uber Metal pedal that was pretty bad. It was just too overbearing and it was really hard to find a place where it didn’t stick out in a bad way.  The most disappointing piece of gear I’ve had was when I was in a guitar-synth phase and I had a Roland GR20 and GR33. I could never get used to the feel of it. As much as I wanted it to sound good — and don’t get me wrong it was cool sometimes — it wouldn’t track very well and it would always happen at the worst times (hahahaha)! Other than that, over the years, there hasn’t been too many pieces of gear that I didn’t like. I’ve usually let go of stuff because they were either too one note, or my musical interests had changed.

8) What’s coming up for Future Human? 

I’m super excited to announce we will be entering the studio very soon to begin work on our debut EP! We also have a rad show coming up at The Merrow on Tuesday, June 5th (get info here) with Blacks Beach Boys and The Gorgeous Boyscouts — big thanks to you and 91X’s Tim Pyles for putting the show together!


JD SIMO (An Interview)

[Ed. note: I work at NBC SoundDiego, and spend a lot of my time there interviewing bands. While most of the time, that content wouldn’t necessarily be of any interest to Gear and Loathing In San Diego, I believe this one warrants special inclusion. Since I’m the author, and Simo’s playing Soda Bar on Sunday, March 6 – I’m re-posting the interview here. Hope you enjoy.]

SIMO Rising

By Dustin Lothspeich

When people casually throw around words like “virtuoso,” “prodigy” and even “deity” when referring to your guitar-playing prowess, I would imagine it would be tough to keep your two feet firmly planted on the ground. Not the case for 30-year-old Chicago native JD Simo.

“If someone wants to throw positive energy your way as support, I’m not going to rob anybody of that,” the soft-spoken, wavy-haired frontman (and apparently idolized guitarist) tells me. “It’s all about how you accept stuff like that. I know better than anybody what my faults are. The people that truly impress me have no airs whatsoever; they just are.”

Simo (pronounced “sigh-moe”) may make it seem like it’s no big deal. After all, who doesn’t appreciate a nice, thoughtful compliment every once in awhile. But a little World Wide Web searching will pull up some very impressive results: Simo is a full-blown guitar star in a galaxy peppered with asteroids.

Of course, Simo would be the last guy on the planet to admit it. Modest and thoughtful, the singer/six-stringer of Simo – his last name-aping psychedelic-flavored blues/rock band – couldn’t be less of a diva if he tried.

But there are (a lot) of reasons for all the hullabaloo: Simo started playing guitar when he was 5 years old, recorded his first live album by the time he was 15 and in 2006, moved to Nashville to become one of the scene’s most in-demand session guitarists (which, if you know anything about the musical mecca of Nashville, is pretty damned impressive).

We’re not done: He’s graced the pages – or cover – of nearly every notable guitar publication (as well as Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone), finds the time to film a popular video-blog series where he demos and discusses vintage guitar equipment, and his band just released its sophomore full-length album, “Let Love Show the Way,” recorded entirely in live one-takes at Big House, the Allman Brothers Band’s own studio compound. No fixes. No overdubs. Vocals weren’t even recorded separately. What you see is literally what you get. Oh, and guess what? Every track featured Simo playing the late, great Duane Allman’s legendary ’57 Gibson Les Paul gold-top guitar (the same one used on songs like “Layla” and the band’s early records).

Needless to say, in the ax-shredding world, Simo operates on a purist’s level: He plays old (re: very expensive) Gibson guitars through just-as-old amplifiers (usually Marshall stacks) that are almost always turned to 11. Recently, Simo shared a photo on his Facebook page of a prototype signature model based on “Red,” his cherished 1962 Gibson ES-335. In non-musician speak, that means “This dude is the real fucking deal.” Know how long it took Clapton to get a signature Gibson guitar? Oh, only about 45 years. You do the math.

Yet, when I speak with Simo on the phone, he’s bewildered by something entirely different. He’s in Taos, New Mexico, and he’s endearingly stunned by the venue he’s about to play – the KTAOS Solar Center.

“This is one of the coolest locations I’ve ever been in!” Simo gushes. “I’m surrounded by mountains, getting ready to play a venue that’s basically like a big amphitheater covered like a big teepee and powered by solar panels. I’ve seen a lot of things, but never seen a teepee that holds a couple thousand people powered by solar panels.

“I’m in hippy heaven,” Simo adds. “Let’s do it. Let’s commune.”

If Simo’s latest shows are any indication, a little communing is exactly what’s in store for fans (San Diego, heads up, the band plays Soda Bar on Sunday, March 6). Sure, the guys can tear through standard 12-bar blues like no other and add a hefty Led Zeppelin-esque stomp to their more modern-rock numbers, but it’s the in-between zones they settle in that set them apart. Tipping his hat to some of his own musical heroes (Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane), Simo and bassist Elad Shapiro and drummer Adam Abrashoff go where the night takes ’em. In other words, there’s a lot of improvisation when they hit the stage.

“It’s like half the show,” Simo says. “We don’t write set lists. We have a huddle, and we say what we want to open with, and maybe go three songs deep from there. It’s completely reliant on the energy in the room. And the three of us are so keyed into listening to one another, it’s easy for us to anticipate where one of us is gonna go. Within the songs themselves, it’s limitless where we can take them. One night, we might play [the new album’s leadoff single] ‘Long May You Sail’ just like the record; the next night, we might go into a 20-minute space jam and eventually wind up back on the main riff. You just surrender to where the music is gonna go.”

It’s no surprise that listeners and critics alike have been surrendering to that music as well. Released to nearly universal acclaim, “Let Love Show the Way” features the jazz-like proficiency of each of the band’s three players, Simo’s robust vocals, and songs that are ultimately beholden to the blues medium, but never restricted by it. Psychedelic Southern rock, R&B, soul and ‘60s-esque Brit rock are all present, and it’s all anchored by propulsive grooves and their frontman’s epic, undefinable guitar solos. Shades of Cream, if you ask me.

“We worked hard on it,” Simo says. “And you can never know if people will like what you do. I try not to have any expectations, to be honest; we’d been slugging it out for several years. But with proper management and agents, and a real label behind us along with radio support, it’s all been very new to me and to us. In that regard, with just the circumstances and opportunities that have been presented to us lately, along with peoples’ receptions, it’s been pretty amazing to take in. Because, in a lot of ways, we’ve got a long way to go and a lot of hard work ahead, and that never ends, really. We’re just grateful. We’re playing as good shows as we can, and we really try to push ourselves to play differently every night. It’s harder, but it’s been great so far.”

Like I said: modesty. You can’t learn that. For Simo, it seems like being a good person trumps being a good guitar player – although in his world, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. One can only imagine the further heights this guy is going to rise to down the line (fun fact: the trio’s already plotted recording sessions for another album next January), especially when he’s as hopelessly optimistic as all get out, to boot.

“We’ve been a band for five years, and this is what we’ve waited for,” Simo says. “We’re not playing to gigantic audiences yet … but if there’s 20 people that paid to come see you, you owe it to them just like you’d owe 20,000. You have to value every person, no matter the size of the crowd. And if you stay grounded, work hard and you’re putting up something that has some value – everything kinda works out. Attitude determines your altitude.”

And, as if on cue, JD Simo – unassuming guitar god – summed up our entire interview better than I ever could.

Find the original interview on NBC SoundDiego here. Photos courtesy of SIMO‘s Facebook page.