ADAM HAKES / STRAY MONROE

Stray Monroe: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube

1. Take me through your rig: What are we looking at?

The amp is a Hot Rod Deluxe III and it is just an absolute workhorse. This is the updated version of the amp and has a much tighter overdrive than the originals. A big complaint about the Hot Rod Deluxe is the massive volume gain it gets from putting the volume above a 2. If you can’t push the amp’s volume to at least past 5, you can’t get the natural tube drive that guitarists strive to capture. That’s why I’ve modified the preamp tubes and switched out one of the 12AX7 with a 12AT7. This gives it a much smoother volume control, lets me push the amp volume further, and drops the gain a bit so I can control the level with my pedals more.

The Les Paul is a great guitar but at the end of the day, I am a staunch SG man. I originally needed two guitars for the live shows so I had to pick up another guitar. I own two SGs but I didn’t want to use both in one show. I just wanted a cheap backup guitar that I could keep in a E-flat for a couple of songs live, namely “Tiny Islands”. When combined with my Big Muff, it gives me a great raw, break-up sound that is massive. When I walked into Guitar Center to look for a guitar, I fell in love with the sound and playability of the Les Paul. Bought it out the door for $200. The SG is definitely my main live guitar but the Les Paul still holds up at the end of the day. My main guitar is a 2007 Gibson SG ’61 Reissue. The past few years, Gibson made the SGs have thick necks which does not work for me since I have smaller hands. I much prefer the thin, fast necks that let me get around the fretboard quickly.

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2. I dig the pedalboard — very utilitarian. Do you find yourself using the compressor much?

I am really proud of the pedalboard itself, I actually made it from scratch with my Dad out of a wooden pallet I found in the garbage. My favorite pedals on here are hands-down my TS-9 Tubescreamer and my Big Muff. I love making huge sounds with those and they compliment each other extremely well. It is part of the reason we (Blake and myself) go together so well: We like to center our tone around the Tubescreamer and go in different directions from there. Blake adds a lot of the brightness in the band and I provide the warmth in my tone. I use the Dunlop Cry Baby Wah just on a couple songs like “Take It Fake It” because I don’t want it to be too gimmicky but it is great to change some of the feedback I get when making noise in the live set. The DD-3 Boss Digital Delay is a pretty standard delay, I pretty much use it for all of my solos to get a nice spacey sound. One of my guitar heroes, Noel Gallagher, got his solo sound from a Tubescreamer and a digital delay; he always gets such a great tone that adds so much to the song. My main reason for using the CS-3 is to level out the dynamics of my sound. Most of my tone is crafted out of my various drive settings I use between the amp’s settings, the TS-9, and the Big Muff. Between all of those settings, it can be difficult to keep a consistent volume. The CS-3 helps to level out the volume when I want to use the different drives for their tone. When I turn it off, my drive pedals turn into my lead boost. I am also a big fan of using arpeggios in songs. The compressor helps each note ring out and not get lost in the mix of the song. A great example of this is the bridge on our song “Muddy Soles” where I go through multiple arpeggiated chords.

3. If money was no object — what’s the one piece of equipment you’d get next and why?

I would get a classic 1962 Fender Stratocaster. Blake and I were considering buying a new Fender Stratocaster to keep as a studio guitar but I think we would both rather have an awesome vintage guitar. A big influence on my guitar playing is John Frusciante, formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and he owns a beautiful sunburst 1962 Strat. I would love to get my hands on a similar guitar and I think the band would like it if I got a guitar different than another SG for a change. I own a lot of guitars with humbucker pickups and only one with single-coil pickups so it would be nice to have a solid guitar with single-coil pickups for a different sound.

4. I noticed you guys changed your name rather recently — what went into that decision? Has it been difficult to re-brand?

We played a show at The Merrow for Mike Halloran (former 91X DJ) and he advised us to do this in order to avoid long-term legal repercussions. Before we were Stray Monroe, we were The Hype. Unfortunately there are a lot of projects with that name or variations of that name. We decided on the band name, Stray Monroe, after about a month of throwing names around. Brett (our bass player) came up with the name, “Stray Arrows” which we thought was cool, but it didn’t really click. We were at our producer’s house and we were yet again throwing names around again and we liked the word “stray” but needed a better noun. Our producer has this huge picture of Marilyn Monroe hung up by his desk and Blake just blurted out “Stray Monroe”. Even then, it didn’t immediately click right away because we were all still attached to The Hype but eventually we all came to love it.

The only difficulty about the name change was from the band. We had been playing as The Hype for nearly a year so it was hard for us at first. As far as the scene was concerned, we had barely started, there wasn’t much to re-brand in the first place. The name change really helped us to get a fresh start into crafting an image of what we wanted the band to be. We wanted to incorporate “stray” as in we stray away from the norm of San Diego bands with our unique sound. We bring this big British guitar sound that we took from one of our favorite bands Oasis, that I don’t think you hear in other San Diego bands. Monroe was also kind of a risk taker in her time and definitely stood out, which is what we set out to do as well.

5. What’s next for Stray Monroe?

We just dropped our debut EP, The Stray Monroe Show, on the 21st of March. Right now we are in full steam in promoting the EP. We are booking shows for April, playing a show at the Casbah on April 25th, Public Square on May 6th, and Summfest at the The Irenic on August 19th. The band plans to get back in the studio around summer time. I want to keep the momentum going for the music and believe that putting together a follow-up to the EP is critical to that. Blake and I have a bunch of new songs that we are working on for the next record that we are excited to put out.

OPIE TRAN / MARIEL

Mariel: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud / Bandcamp / Website

1. You’ve got quite the collection — which guitar do you play the most and why?

Up until a few years ago I only had a couple guitars. It wasn’t until last summer during recording guitar tracks for my other band did I catch GAS (guitar acquisition syndrome) haha. I’d say the guitar that honestly has been played the most is my acoustic guitar I got from Vietnam back in 2007. When I was a preschool teacher, I played it every day for the kids. I got tired of CDs skipping so I figured I’d just make my own versions of all the popular kid songs while making up my own along the way. It’s also been on random camping trips and is just always within an arm’s distance away when I feel like strumming some chords or writing new riffs.

Out of the electrics, I say the Squier J. Mascis Jazzmaster gets played the most. I originally got it to replace a P90 guitar that I was using with my other band but realized the tone and vibe fit Mariel much better. I also really like the fatter neck and Tune-o-matic bridge, being so used to Gibson-type guitars I felt right at home. I put locking tuners on it so string changing takes seconds and the balance of the body feels very comfortable. Its also a pretty inexpensive guitar so I don’t stress about too much about taking to gigs and beating the crap out of it.

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2. Is that the Ibanez DL7 on your pedalboard? Why do you use that and the Boss GigaDelay on the same board? Is one better than the other?

Yes it is! It was the first “effects” pedal I ever bought. I only ever use it for a slapback-type of delay and the occasional oscillation. The DD20 is my main delay used for medium to longer delay sounds. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other they just serve different purposes. I suppose the DD20 is more versatile but it also takes more brain power to use and the DE7 is less distracting with its simplicity. The main reason I got the DD20 is for the tap tempo function and LED screen (I have a terrible memory and need visual reminders). If I had to choose between the two, I’d pick the Boss just because it’s a tank and I tend to be rough on my gear. I have both because I’m lazy and don’t want to switch between banks on the DD20 and also I’m super sentimental and I get attached to my gear. Joking aside, stacking delays can make simple riffs sound gigantic and lead to super interesting sounds. I usually play super simple guitar parts and sometimes use delay as its own instrument similar to the Edge from U2. At one point, I had three delays but I realized it was overkill for what I was doing and that I should just get good at using two instead.

3. What’s the nondescript blue Digitech/DOD pedal?

Whoa you’re like a pedal detective! It’s a Digitech Bad Monkey, I’ve had that thing forever and it was the second “effects” pedal I’ve ever bought. I feel like there’s way better OD pedals out there but again, I’m super attached to my gear and it just works in my rig. One day, my bandmate and I got bored and started spray painting pedals so thats why it’s blue. I always have this dumb fantasy of some gear nerd trying to figure out my rig and starting a thread about it somewhere on the internet. Silly, I know. (Not necessarily! – Ed.)

4. Have you gone through a lot of different guitars and pedals to get to this point, or are you still searching for stuff?

Overall, I think I’ve been pretty good about getting to where I am with my gear. I tend to really research gear and make sure I really like whatever I’m getting. Considering how long I’ve been playing, I think the amount of gear I’ve gotten rid of is pretty low compared to how much stuff I have now. Pedal-wise I’m pretty satisfied, maybe one day I’ll replace that Bad Monkey with something else. If anything, I’d like to streamline my live rig and bring out my other toys for just recording. As far as guitars, I can’t see me wanting to stop collecting! I’d like to add an SG and Mustang to the quiver hopefully in the next year or so.

5. What song of Mariel’s is the best representation of your gear?

“We Lost the Fight.” We’re actually going to be recording soon so the best I have is from when we played at The Merrow a while back.

6. If money was no object, what’s the one ‘holy grail’ piece of gear you would buy?

A Gibson Les Paul Custom; it’s the guitar I saw so many of my heroes playing growing up and I still get aroused every time I see one!

7. What’s coming up next for the band?

We’re playing at The Merrow on 12/15 [INFO]. We’re also going to be working on new material, recordings and hopefully some touring.

 

JIMMY RUELAS

Jimmy Ruelas: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / SoundCloud

1. Tell me about your current rig.

I try to keep my rig as simple as possible. I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to gear. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. This is the stuff I use out on gigs. Gibson Les Paul from the early ’90s. I use a Marshall “Bluesbreaker” reissue from ’92. This amp has been tinkered with. So it’s actually nothing like a “Bluesbreaker.” It’s loud, it’s got that distinct Marshall tone, and I can fit it in my trunk. ……Pedals: A good wah by Fulltone and almost always two fuzz pedals. I switch up which ones I take out frequently. But there’s usually a germanium Tone Bender and a silicon fuzz. The blue one is the Fulltone Octafuzz. I love this pedal for the “Octavia” effect. Distinct. Especially when you run it into the “Sola Sound” Tone Bender. When it comes to pedals, I stay away from digital and stuff that offers a ton different options. I’m not into fiddling with pedals during a show. So a couple knobs and I’m good.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?

I am fond of the tone I got on the tune “Saints” from my latest album Charlebois. For that session, I used my ’66 Supro Thunderbolt. When it’s working, it’s the best amp I’ve ever owned. The rhythm is all Les Paul. I had some trouble getting it to feed back for the solo. So I plugged in my trusty op amp Big Muff and used my Rickenbacker 360. That did the trick. I literally shoved the pickups into the grill cloth of the Supro. Only thing that could have made that better is a better guitarist.

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

If I could snap my fingers and one instrument would magically become mine…. without question it would be a Gibson Black Beauty Les Paul. A real one. Vintage. Triple pickup. Bigsby. I’ve always been a Les Paul guy.

4. What is your favorite piece of gear and why?

My absolute favorite piece I have is by far my Les Paul. It just fits right. It’s dinged up. Been dropped on the headstock (I think you can see that damage in one of the pics). It’s not a collectors item nor is it of superior quality. But it’s mine. It’s in desperate need of a fret job. But I don’t want to part with it even for a few weeks for it to get fixed.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

On June 2nd, I’m playing with Badabing, Mrs. Henry and Taken By Canadians at The Casbah. Taken By Canadians are releasing their new album on that night. That will be a blast. I’m also playing on June 23rd at The Music Box for The Whiskey Circle‘s EP release.

BEN AMBROSINI / TAKEN BY CANADIANS

Taken By Canadians: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / SoundCloud

1. Tell me about your current rig.

Lately, I’ve been jumping back & forth between a 1974 Greco Les Paul Custom and a 12-year-old Fender Mexican Stratocaster. The Strat has been through some real beatings, and is the first electric guitar I ever owned. I had that Wayne’s World “she will be mine, oh yes – she will be mine…” moment when I first saw this guitar. I’ll never forget going by the shop every other day or so just to see it hanging in the window at Moonlight Music in Encinitas. The Greco Les Paul was found in Philly by a friend of mine, and is built like a tank! Sustain for fucking ever. Super heavy. Lawsuit-era, and so pretty… Play ‘em out of a Fender 2×12 Hot Rod Deville. I love the Deville’s warmth and tone. It’s got great reverb, it’s simple, and breaks up nicely. The most used pedals on my board are the Vox Wah and Homebrew Electronics Big D Distortion. For years, I’ve been looking for the right distortion pedal, and that Homebrew is a killer. I was watching a band at Pour House a few months ago, and when their guitar player stomped on his pedal going into a solo, I almost pissed my pants. I had to know what the pedal was. Homebrew Electronics is no more unfortunately, but you can still find their stuff online. Totally functional, no frills. Very classic and to the point. That is, most simply, the sound I go for with my guitar rig… classic and warm. I want a timeless sound.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style?

“Black Dove” is probably the best representation of the tone I’m usually after. I played the 74’ Les Paul on that one and I really wanted the guitar to walk the line between blending in and standing out when necessary. It’s pretty when it needs to be, but cuts through easily and clearly once you throw a little dirt on it. I also had some fun with “Stay Home & Fuck.” As “Black Dove” is an accurate representation of tone, “Stay Home & Fuck” is more of a representation of the guitar’s obligation to attitude. I recorded most of we eat you like a person on the Les Paul.

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

Gosh. I want a 1974 Gibson Flying V! I have never played one, but I saw a ’80 -something Flying V in a pawn shop in some state on our last tour and it occupied some real deep places in my mental landscape. I also hope to have a ‘50s Strat someday. Maple neck. I’m sure I’ll be able to afford one once our Spotify royalties come in from this new record.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?

I really admire Nels Cline of Wilco (and much more). The way that man plays a guitar could only come from a place uniquely genuine and real. It’s effortless, difficult, not perfect, perfect, pretty, and psychotic all at the same time. He uses his pedals in very interesting and creative ways, and can be seen regularly bending, beating, and smashing his guitars… He WORKS to get that sound you hear on those records, and I respect the hell out of that. His guitar work is so welcome alongside Jeff Tweedy’s voice and lyrics. I’ve never heard a guitar player compliment a singer so well.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

Taken By Canadians’ record release show for we eat you like a person is tomorrow at the world famous Casbah! We are so excited to eat everyone like a person that night, and are so honored and fortunate to be joined by our friends: Badabing, Jimmy Ruelas, Mrs. Henry, and DJ Lexicon Devil. [INFO] we eat you like a person features a bigger, more electric sound from the band, and we’re really excited to share what we’ve been working on for the last few years. We recorded it at the best fucking studio in North County, Emerald Age Recording Studios, and were lucky enough to have Mr. James Page as our engineer. The record will be available on vinyl (limited — get one early), CD, and cassette courtesy of End of Impressed Records! See you Thursday!