JOHN VINEYARD / THE OXEN

 

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The Oxen: Facebook / Instagram / Soundcloud

1. Take me through your rig: You’ve got some really cool stuff – how’d you end up using what you do?

I’ve accumulated a lot of equipment, and a lot of junk, over the past 25 years! Some of my pedals were recommended by the other guitar player in my old band (El Gato) from Denton/Dallas, TX. We started in the mid-‘90s, so there were no internet reviews or YouTube demos. His guitar always sounded better than mine, so I just took his word for it on a lot of stuff. These days, I do some research online and peek at other people’s gear if I think their guitar sounds good.

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2. How did you end up with that Jaguar? What model is that? And give me the backstory on the Texas sticker…

I got that Jaguar new at a guitar show in Dallas back in the mid-’90s. It was made in 1994-95 in Japan. I recently put some Curtis Novak pickups in it, which I like way better than the stock pickups. I also got a modified Mustang bridge which has solved the problem of strings jumping into the wrong groove on the saddles when I play hard.

Aside from being from Texas, the flag sticker idea was inspired by (or stolen from!) one of my favorite guitar players, Chris “Frenchie” Smith, of the Austin band Sixteen Deluxe. He plays at high volume with a reckless enthusiasm that I love. He has an American flag sticker in that spot on his Jazzmaster, so I guess I put that Texas flag sticker on my guitar as a constant reminder that it is more important to play fearlessly and expressively than to be timid and technically “perfect.”

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3. I used to have Musicman head that I loved, so I’m way into that combo you have. What drew you to the Sixty-Five?

I really love my Musicman 210 Sixty-Five. I played a Vox AC30 for a long time, and I do still have it. My Vox is from 1985, and it has a darker sound than a lot of the more desirable AC30s. Recently, I started wanting an amp that would give me more of a twang sound, and I was researching Fender Twins. A lot of people were recommending vintage Musicman amps as a less expensive alternative. I found this one on craigslist for $400, and jumped on it. I’m super happy with it, and I’ve pretty much been using the Musicman live, but I use both amps for recording.

4. Love your pedalboard: What’s the one effect you use the most?

The effect I use the most is probably my Death By Audio Fuzz War. It’s my favorite distortion pedal that I have ever owned.

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5. I’ve heard mixed reviews on those Dunlop Tremelo pedals. Give me your quick review of it. Also, that big-box Memory Man looks like a slightly older one — late-‘80s/early-‘90s before the reissues? Totally drool-worthy. What do you like most about it?

The Dunlop Tremolo works fine for me, and I’ve had it for about 20 years. There was a time when I couldn’t get it to go as fast as it originally did, but some friendly elves must have come and secretly fixed it one night because it started working again. I think there are less expensive alternatives that work just as well or better, but that’s what I got. It takes up a lot of room – like the Memory Man – which is also about 20 years old. I can do some fun stuff with the chorus effect on the Memory Man when recording, but live, I pretty much use it as a straight delay.

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6. If you could get one piece of gear for one of your bandmates as a gift — what would you get, who would it be for, and why?

I think I would get Jozette a giant Orange Amps full stack that would tower over her. She loves those amps, and I think it would be fun to see such a tiny woman with such a giant rig. Of course, I would wind up loading and unloading it, so maybe I should rethink that…

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7. What’s your favorite Oxen song to play live and why?

Probably “Glass Pastures” just because it’s weird and has a lot of fun little parts.

See The Oxen at The Merrow on Saturday, Feb. 17, with Nowhereland and Sweet Myths. They’re also up for Best Rock Band at the 2018 San Diego Music Awards (vote for them here)

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BRIAN STRAUSS / OF ENNUI

Of Ennui: Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp / SoundCloud

1. Tell me about your current rig.

So currently I have two setups. What you see on the left is an early 2000s Mexican Fender Stratocaster with a Line 6 Duoverb combo amp. The Stratocaster has been rewired with unshielded wiring so it’s great for getting really excessive feedback and the playability is incredible. At this point, I only use them occasionally for recording, mostly when I need a warm clean sound that other guitars can’t quite replicate. The pickups, even though they’re stock, have also been re-coiled so the output in the neck pickup is especially hot. It creates a fat, warm, clean sound that, when distorted, really reminds me of early Mudhoney or Melvins.

My main rig however has become what you see on the right. The amp is a Marshall AVT-275. The reverb is really nuanced on it and it really sort of layers itself in a beautiful way. That’s an Epiphone SG Pro 1966 reissue with the split-coil humbuckers instead of the P-90s. The sustain on it is what really sold me. It really allows my lead playing to shine and when paired with my E-Bow, it’s an intense combination. The E-Bow is a bit of the secret weapon of the band. Christian (my bandmate) and I share it because when you pair it with some delay and reverb over a brooding sort of melody, it really builds a landscape, and as we progress as a band, we pull farther and farther away from verse-chorus-verse and more towards movements. Compared to some of the other shoegaze players I’ve seen, my setup is pretty minimal: Boss Compression Sustainer, FV-50, CE-2, DD-3, Korg stompbox tuner, Big Muff Pi, a Crybaby wah, and the recently acquired Dwarfcraft Eau Claire Thunder Boris edition. I’ve got the Morley Fuzz/Wah purely for recording.

I like to keep things relatively simple. I think once I’ve got a reverb pedal, I’ll be pretty set for a while. As for now, however, all the pieces have their roles. The compression sustainer is great for pulling back the mids on my sound and letting me blend a bit more with Christian, since we have no bassist I’m usually handling the low ends. But when I need to, I switch it off and push the volume on the FV-50 and my leads cut through the mix, which is useful for all the sounds Christian has, and the volume changes that come with them. I’m constantly adjusting and compensating for the changes, which is great because it gives me constant room to experiment live. The Big Muff really pushed it over the edge. Before, I was using a Boss DS-1 which is a great pedal for how cheap and simple it is, but for what we’re playing I needed something more powerful and a little more concise of a sound. The Eau Claire Thunder is my crown jewel, just a harbinger of doom and sludge and that feedback loop is great for builds. I recently used it for a 45-minute noise song I recorded and the sound was so devastating just on its own, I was blown away. I’ve almost always got my chorus pedal on, coupled with the delay, so it adds a full shimmer to my sound and is more the ambiance of the songs, often serving as a mirror to what Christian plays. I usually build my guitar parts all around what he’s playing, so it’s really essential for me to fill all the cracks of our wave-lengths while adding some syncopation with Julio (bandmate).

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

We have a song called “Delta of Venus” which is a really pretty song, but it’s also deeply despairing. We are very much inspired by that sort of duality, but there’s always a long-worded sense of humor to it. I use most of my pedals throughout that song, but it never feels very far-removed which I think is good, it creates a tonal continuity and it’s fluid all while expressing a dynamic range of sound. My pedals are very nuanced in “Delta,” and it’s as simple as switching my delay on for a few seconds during a build or turning on the Big Muff during the song’s climax and leaving it on during the final two choruses. Small but impactful touches. Volume changes are my biggest friend and provide more of a dynamic than anything texturally. I think volume is really underutilized by many guitarists in that way. Our debut EP, recorded at Rarefied Recording and Studio West, includes “Delta of Venus.”

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

Holy grail would probably be a vintage Orange head from their OR series. I take a lot of inspiration from Wata of the band Boris, evidenced by my acquisition of the Eau Claire Thunder. Plus Tony Iommi plays Orange and they’re wonderful amps, but the price range leaves me stuck with solid-state amps for the time being. The E-Bow was actually a big purchase I had wanted for a long time, but never got around to getting until last year as it just didn’t seem viable for the music I had been playing before that.

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

When it comes to gear, I’m usually thinking in categories of clean/distorted and loud/quiet and so I pull influences from pieces of different guitarists’ setups. Clean is hugely influenced by Johnny Marr and he’s probably the reason I own a Boss chorus pedal from before it technically became a Chorus Ensemble as they widened their line. Surprisingly cheap. I see a lot of guitar players knock Boss, but I’m in love. The simplicity of them and their durability coupled with that sound is revolutionary and Johnny Marr really utilized a simple setup because of it. Distortion, I’m usually influenced by Wata, as she’s just such a dynamic presence and her board really adds to that. Her board definitely influenced some key purchases I made including the E-Bow, the Korg tuner, and the Eau Claire Thunder.

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

My favorite piece is my delay pedal. I get a huge array of sounds from the most subtle tweaks in the knobs and it really took my sound so much further. It became an essential companion piece to my playing and an invaluable component to what I have crafted as far as my sound goes as an individual guitar player. Above all, it added nuance and atmosphere that you just can’t capture purely with guitar playing. People knock guitar players like Tom Morello by saying that they rely on effects too much and I don’t really see anything wrong with that. Maybe it doesn’t make him the “greatest” guitar player, technically speaking, but it does make him a stronger musician by putting the overall sound above all else.

6. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it?

First piece of gear I bought aside from my guitar and amp was a Boss DS-1 distortion and that little pedal went so far. I do still have it and it will always hold a special place in my heart, but I had to take it off rotation to make room for the Big Muff when I got that. But now Christian uses it as an overdrive so it still gets love. I’ve had it for about 10 years and aside from some paint chips, it still works like a dream.

7. What does your band have coming up that we should know about?

Of Ennui is playing The Merrow on Saturday with our buds The Filthy Violets and The Paragraphs. We also recently finished recording our EP. If there’s interest we’ll do a vinyl release down the road. Along with the EP, we’ll have additional merch and some videos coming.