ISAIAH NERY / QUALI, MICE ELF & FIVEPAW

Quali: Facebook / Instagram / SoundCloud / Website
Mice Elf: Facebook
FivePaw: Facebook / Website

1. You play guitar in Quali, are you a member of any other bands?

Yes, I’m currently in two other active projects besides Quali. I play bass in this band called “Mice Elf”. It is more of a jammy/space alt-rock type of band. We actually just had our first show at Black Cat bar the other night. The other project is “fivepaw”. I play drums in that project. It has more of electronic, sci-fi elements to it, mixed with synths and modular-type stuff. I have also been messing around with Ableton lately, trying to get into sampling and making beats.

2. I’m assuming your first piece of gear was a guitar, I could be wrong though. Do you remember what it was?

The first instrument I ever owned was a Ludwig drum set when I was 10. I actually didn’t start playing guitar seriously until I was about 16 and I really didn’t get serious with messing with gear and becoming a total gear head until I moved to LA and started Quali.

3. What’s your current setup?

My current set up with Quali:

I play a Fender Classic Player Jazzmaster. I personally think it’s the only guitar you should own due to its sonic versatility, tremolo arm and beauty.

The Jazzmaster goes into a TC Electronics Polytune, then into my favorite pedal and part of my signature tone, the Ab-Synth Supreme by Fuzzhugger. This pedal gives me the harsh zipperyness I want from a fuzz while also somehow managing some clarity in my chord playing. It also has a second foot switch to activate an oscillation mode which can get pretty nuts sometimes.

Next in my pedal chain is a Marshall Shredmaster. I really like this high gain pedal for more of a conventional overdrive/distortion type of sound. That goes into this boutique pedal I got at NAMM a couple years back called The Epsilon, by dreadbox. This is more of a hybrid pedal of sorts. It can be an overdrive pedal or an auto wah. And of course you can blend the effects to get an even crazier sound. It also has a gate switch on it. This is a very cool interactive pedal. The next pedal in my chain is one of my favorite pedals, the Superego by Electro-Harmonix. This pedal is so innovative for guitar. It is basically a piano-style sustain pedal for guitar. The tracking is insane, you can just sustain chords while playing over them endlessly. The superego then goes into my Line 6 M9. This pedal is such a workhorse for me for the fact that you can have three effects on at the same time while also being able to have an expression pedal that can be used for all of them simultaneously if you want.

Next on the chain is the Timeline delay by Strymon. There’s really not much to say about this pedal except for the fact that it is the king of delay pedals, period. The Timeline goes into my Hardwire RV-7 reverb pedal. Just a really solid reverb that pairs perfectly with my fuzz. And that goes into my crazier reverb the Descent by Walrus Audio. This pedal is the ultimate ambient reverb pedal with separate wet and dry knobs, reverse reverb, 3 preset saves. You can also have shimmer-style reverbs with dedicated knobs for an octave down and up. And at the very end of my pedalboard chain is the Ditto X2 by TC Electronics. I really like the looper that was on the DL4 by Line 6 and this pedal is just that in a smaller housing.

The board then goes into my pride and joy: The Fender Bassman 70. This amp is the ultimate pedal-playing amp. You get such a nice clarity and headroom with this amp while also getting some really nice, felt lows. I actually got mine modded to carry 6550 tubes in it for more headroom and now it runs at about 110 watts. Also known as a sound tech’s nightmare. But to me, there’s nothing better than really feeling the sounds go through you. I play this with a Fender DT-412 cab. I believe it has Celestion G12T-100s in it.

4. What piece of gear, if any, are you looking to add? 

Right now, I’m looking to get a 2×12 cab to run on top of my 4×12. I used to have a 1×15 bass cab that came with my Bassman and I would run that with my 4×12. Having a full stack rig is so unnecessary and necessary at the same time. Nothing feels better in my opinion.

5. What new projects do you have lined up? 

The newest project I’m working on would have more beat-based and sampling stuff I’ve been doing on Abelton. I’m still new to the program but I have some cool ideas I want to work on with it. I also occasionally play drums for Recycled Dolphin, who happens to play drums in Quali for me. Also, be on the look out for the next Quali album which should be out hopefully later this year.

Many thanks to J. Smith (of NBC SoundDiego and Parker & The Numberman) for this interview.

GLENDON ROMETT / QUALI & RECYCLED DOLPHIN

Quali: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

Recycled Dolphin: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / SoundCloud

1. You’re primarily a drummer, right? What bands are you playing in at the moment?

I only have time to work on one project at the moment, and that’s Quali. I like playing drums in Quali because the music caters to my personal style, laggy and apathetic. When I had more time, I would play in other projects that were different from my personal style, to challenge myself to get better. Working in Quali is especially awesome for me because Isaiah (guitars, vocals) is a drummer first. When he writes a song, he has an idea of what he wants for the drum part. He allows me to be creative in my own right in the band, but if I am ever having trouble writing my own part, I can have him show me how he would play the part and pull influence from there. His drumming style is a lot different from mine but we have a similar approach to feel so it’s easy to communicate how he wants the song to feel and I can make that happen.

I’ve been fortunate to play with bunch of bands since I moved to San Diego including Primitive NoyesBruisecaster, Paper Forest, and I performed live with Indoor Cities, who made one of the best records I’ve heard come out of San Diego since I’ve been here, so I want to shout them out. When I can, I also make electronic music under Recycled Dolphin.

2. What does your current setup look like?

I have a ’71 Ludwig Blue/Olive badge kit with a pearl white finish. It was a gift from my amazing partner. My drum kit was stolen in the fall of last year in North Park. It was a ’76 ludwig Blue/Olive badge that had a fake wood vinyl finish. The dimensions were really unique: 24”, 18” and 14”, so if anyone sees it out there, let me know. I hope to get it back one day.

The kit that was gifted to me is exactly what I would’ve gotten myself. I feel really fortunate my partner took it upon herself to get me this amazing kit ‘cause honestly I was considering quitting. So many people went out of their way to support me when my kit was stolen. I feel blessed because as much as it sucked, I understand that the world is a tough ride for everyone and people are going through a lot of tribulations daily. Me losing my drums is not a big deal. Musicians around town were offering to float me kits, pitch in for a new one, and I was gifted new cymbals. It was really supportive. Thank you.

3. Outside of playing drums, you also program beats — what pieces of equipment do you use for your electronic stuff?

For my electronic music, my main instruments are a modded Gameboy with LSDJ tracker cartridge, a Yamaha Portasound PSS-470 digital synthesizer that I found at Amvets for $12, a Numark DXM06 DJ mixer, and various field recordings on my iPhone or a tape recorder.

I will usually start with a loop that I make either from a field recording or on the synth and build from there. I can’t really make the music that I hear in my head. I’m better at building on an atmosphere that I like and then just adding layers and layers until I have an ample amount to work with and then editing the shit out of it in Ableton with in-the-box plugins. Once I have the structure of the song how I like then I try out new melodies and rhythms track live over it. I keep going until my newer ideas don’t stick to the original. This could take months. When I feel I can’t add any more elements, I start to get into really trying to mix the song. And then…Ozone! Cause I can’t afford to pay a mastering engineer (hope to one day).

4. How does your approach towards playing drums differ, if at all, from making beats?

My approach to playing drums in a band, as opposed to making beats, is very different. In the band format, I love being supportive. My goal is to be a compliment to the song. If you’re writing songs and you have a vision of how to make them a reality in a band format and can communicate that with me, I think that I can be very helpful in making that happen, especially if I dig your style. I’m an introvert, so when I perform, I want nothing to do with front of the stage or talking to the crowd. I just want to close my eyes and try to get in the pocket with my bandmates.

When I am making beats, it’s totally different. I create atmospheres through field recordings and synths, and also program beats. Once the initial feel of the song is established, I’m off and running with the rhythms. I will program beats on beats on beats. Then, I will setup to record drums live and just make loops. I’ll set the BPM, feel, atmosphere and then just fuck the rhythms up by playing live over top of it so I have a bunch of live drums on top of the initial ideas. Then I take those and create loops in Ableton, and match and mix them to my liking.

A good example of that is in “The Yearning.” I created atmospheres over a drum break I played then built the composition of the song around that. I took samples of me playing drums, chopped them and ran them through filters. In the middle of it all there is even a short live drum solo. The song ends with an ambient blend of field recordings with me playing live drums over top of it.

Another example of a way I make beats is, if I like another artist’s feel, I will try to make a song with a similar feel in my style. I really like the Gold Panda song “You” and wanted to make a song with a similar feel. So I picked a BPM and recorded myself playing a 4-to-the-floor beat on drums in a variety of ways. Cut up my drums then built a song around that rhythmic feel. The result is “Don’t Die Alone.” I don’t know if I nailed the feel down or not because my goal wasn’t to copy another artist’s song, it was to create a similar feel, mood or pocket based off a piece I really like.

5. What new projects are you working on?

Right now, the only project I’m working on is the new Quali album. We are almost done tracking and I’m happy with the results so far. It will be the follow up to The Familiar and the Other [Listen/purchase it here]. Quali was founded by Isaiah Nery when he lived in LA. While recording the first album, he moved back to San Diego, and started to pull together people to play live with him. We’ve been really fortunate to receive a good response around California and have been able to connect with communities like OCDiy and Dirty Rabbit Records in SF. It’s been really fun to get out of town and play and I hope that we can continue to meet different creative communities with the release of the next record.

Many thanks to J. Smith (of NBC SoundDiego and Parker & The Numberman) for this interview.