ANDY SHAUF

I recently interviewed Andy Shauf for NBC SoundDiego (which you can read right here) but a couple questions I asked him didn’t end up in the final piece. I think they fit here, so enjoy. – Dustin

Andy Shauf: Bandcamp / Website / Facebook

1. You played everything except strings on The Party — is it easier to translate the idea you have in your head by recording everything yourself? Does it come down to a factor of just not knowing which direction to take a song, or not trusting other musicians to get it right? Is it an arduous process?

I really enjoy working out ideas and recording on my own. It’s not arduous at all. It’s not so much about trust, but it takes me awhile to sort out the ideas in my head, and I find it’s a lot easier to do that alone than make people wait around for it to happen.

2. The Party has a very dry sound production-wise — people have mentioned Harry Nilsson or Randy Newman when referencing it, which I think is appropriate. How did you arrive at that kind of sound?

I like the sound of a lot of those records from the ’70s. I also like trying to play quiet, which has informed the way the instruments are recorded and that drier sound.

3. Several songwriters I’ve talked to have mentioned feeling like no song ever feels “done.” When you’ve listened back to The Party, do you feel 100% satisfied with how they turned out? On that note, are there any songs of yours that don’t feel quite right to you when you play/hear them, that you’d like to re-record or re-mix?

I didn’t want to put “Eyes of Them All” on the album but there it is. I mean, I just get to a certain point with songs where I either think it’s good enough or I just never want to hear it again. I don’t think albums are about feeling 100% satisfied. I think you just have to try your best and then move on. If you’re going for 100% satisfaction there’s probably no risk involved.

4. You once told Pop Matters: “I’m a big fan of scrapping songs.” I feel like that’d require such huge restraint and self-control. Is it difficult to let so many songs go? Do you ever worry that there’s only so many songs out there to write?

Scrapping a song is the easiest thing you could ever do, you literally don’t have to do anything to scrap a song. You just forget about it. I think if you keep trying to evolve as a songwriter you won’t run out of ideas. Songs should only open doors to other songs.

5. Obviously, you play several instruments. Is there an instrument you have in mind that you’d want to learn next?

I got a flute for Christmas. I’m going to try and work on that.

6. What’s one song written/recorded by someone else that just blows you away each time you hear it — and makes you wish you had written it?

Randy Newman, “I Think it’s Going to Rain Today.” Everything about that song is perfect.

7. I’ve seen you’ve been playing a Waterloo acoustic a lot, along with a Harmony Rebel and I’ve been loving the tones you’re getting out of them from videos I’ve seen. How did you decide on those two guitars for shows? Are they your go-to’s, or simply guitars you feel comfortable taking out on the road?

I’m a Jeff Tweedy fan so that’s the first place I heard a Waterloo played. I love the tone so much and it’s been my main acoustic since I got it last year. And I’ve always been attracted to the raw sound of the DeArmond pickups in the Harmony so it’s been a go-to for a long time. I also have a Silvertone Jupiter that I play a lot that has the Teisco goldfoils or whatever those are. I just like the clarity of those pickups. They really bite if you gain it right.

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MATT RESOVICH / JOHN MEEKS, THE ALBUM LEAF & ROLL FILM

John Meeks: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube / BandCamp / Website / SoundCloud
The Album Leaf: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Roll Film (Matt’s solo project): Facebook / Bandcamp / YouTube

1. Tell me about the stuff in your photos: How does it all work together? What’s routed through what? What is each thing used for? Especially tell me about those nondescript pedals! What do those do!?!

Probably easiest to start at the amp. It’s a Musicman Sixty-Five; a little 2×10 that looks like a ‘baby Fender Twin’. I need this because the two channels allow me to run my chain to either clean or effect channel plus the spring reverb really does the Teisco justice.

On the pedalboard, I have a Boss A/B switch for each of these amp channels. The effect line switches between channel 1 of my mixer and the guitar/violin line which has a Boss tuner and a modified Linear Power Booster pedal I built. It has a switch to engage a passive tone pot based on the Big Muff tone pot and is just there to make the violin a little louder and deeper. The clean line switches between channel 2 of my mixer and the lapsteel line which has a modified Deluxe BazzFuss pedal for making the lapsteel growl. Between this A/B switch and the amp is a loaner Ditto looper just because and my favorite pedal PT the Fool. It’s a really fun delay pedal I made using the PT2399 delay chip. It’s an easy circuit to experiment with but what is fun about mine is the speed(rate) and repeat(feedback) can be ramped up together or separately using two separate momentary switches. It’s stupid fun.

Up top in the box/workstation I built just for the Meeks band, the lapsteel lives with plastic toys all arranged so I can play it and port it. It’s an old Gibson BR6; not a glamour model but a sweet sounding slide guitar. I chose C6 tuning and just stuck with it for years now. It’s on The Album Leaf’s “Tied Knots”.

Everything else in the box goes though a little mixer I made just for this rig. It’s a 4-channel, 2-bus, mono line mixer which is only cool because I can switch between sending to the clean or effect chains. Changing your mind is cool. Channels one and two are from DS8 Drumsynths 1 and 2. They are drumsynth clones built from kits by Synthrotek, one of which I sort of play by ear and the other I set to a drum tone to be triggered by our drummer Tom. I built 2 triggers for him but as of now there is one drum hit in the set. Channel three is essentially a spare currently occupied by a Korg Kaossilator which hasn’t got much use yet. Channel four is my Casio chain. Its a Casio VL5 keyboard though a Korg Monotron through a Korg MiniKP through a Nose volume knob. I know the VL1 is the standard little white toy keyboard but I love the VL5. It’s ‘polyphonic’ but gets really messy when you play chords which could be a drag or, in my case, a thrill. Only thing better would be to actively filter that sound so that’s why it goes through both Monotron and MiniKP. Sometimes I use the Monotron or the MiniKP to generate sounds and because of differing output levels I use the Nose volume knob at the end to compensate for songs which contain more than one level.

There’s also an old 36-key Hohner Melodica for reedy spookiness. At the end of the violin/guitar chain is either an inexpensive Chinese violin with a Barcus-Berry 3100 clamp-on pickup or my Teisco.

2. Your setup is one of the strangest and coolest I’ve seen in recent memory, and incorporates a lot of cool gadgets: What’s your favorite piece of gear and why? What do you use most? What do you wish you could use more?

This is one of the harder questions actually. Being a multi-instrumentalist, it is hard to pick favorites when you could just have more options. In a way, my favorite instrument is the one I’m playing at the moment and then it’s the next one. In this rig, I guess it would be my delay pedal PT the Fool because I made something that works and is fun to mess with.  My most used gear has to be the violin because I use it in so many different projects but on this latest Meeks record I use a lot of lapsteel. Frankly, I wish I could play all of them more. Any time I get to play live or record with a new piece of gear, it vindicates my purchasing or building it. I’ve been using samplers more recently and really hope to get more into that.

3. Are there any musicians that you particularly admire gear/tone/style-wise?

I guess picking one of anything is hard for me. But since its a question of gear, tone and style, I’d have to say Jaga Jazzist. They have the most evolved sound, naturally combining old and new styles and instrumentation.

4. What song of John’s do you think your sound/style comes through the best?

I totally don’t know but I’ll say “Night Sea Waltz.” In it, I jump back and forth from Teisco to Casio to Monotron, which gives a good idea of my role in the band.

5. How would you explain the difference between what you do with John vs. what you do in The Album Leaf or what you’ve done in Blackheart Procession and Little White Teeth? Do you apply a unique approach to each musical outlet, or do these instruments work well in your other projects too?

In some ways the approach is the same for all these projects. I listen. I rarely, if ever, start any songs so my role is sort of like a catalyst. If I’m listening to a work in progress, it’s a bit like a chemical reaction that needs help to finish. So I specialize in counter-melodies, harmonies and atmospherics. If I’m good, I’ll help the song go in a good direction. The big difference is in the various projects themselves. I’m reacting to them so what I bring to each project might be very different. Most projects, I’ve mainly tried to stretch the sonic possibilities of the violin which is a lot of fun. As far as instrumentation, I currently use the largest amount of toys for the Meeks band mainly because he’s been experimenting with different genres and I have a lot of random instruments.

6. What was your first piece of musical gear, and do you still have it? What are your thoughts on it? If you could go back in time knowing what you know now, what would be your first purchase and why?

The first instrument that was technically mine was my first violin and I still have it although I use it rarely. It’s a 1902 Curatoli which is actually a German boutique instrument but is old and fragile and rarely gets used except for getting that really classical violin sound. My first purchase was a Gretsch Silver Anniversary guitar and a Kustom black tuck-and-roll naugahyde amp. Beautiful sounding on their own, they were just a feedback monster in a loud rock situation. I left the Gretsch with my brother years ago and I still have the amp. If I had a time machine I probably wouldn’t go gear shopping.

7. Tell me about that Teisco: Where’d you get it? Does it stay in tune well or no? What sets it apart?

So it’s a Teisco Del Rey Tulip guitar; like an E-200 (2-pickups) with a flowery body design and I scored it back in my eBaying days for like $78. Pretty cheap way to try out a guitar with a whammy bar and it has a really distinct surf-rock sound. It is in pretty good shape for a cheap eBay score and doesn’t drift out of tune very often but the whammy isn’t exactly a precision piece of equipment, doesn’t recenter consistently and has started squeaking. But stab it though a spring reverb and you can almost smell the ocean.

8. What have you got coming up?

Coming up is the record release show for the new John Meeks album On a Sea Darkly July 30th at the Soda Bar. It’s the second recording I’ve made for the band and we’re all excited to put it out there. [INFO] Then on August 26th, the new Album Leaf record drops followed by support tours. I’m very excited about this new record and can’t wait to hear people’s reactions. And I recently finished recording an album for local visual artist Perry Vasquez so I’m also curious how his music is going to be received. Exciting times.

JERIK CENTENO / SMALL CULTURE

Small Culture: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig: How do the individual parts help you achieve the sound you’re after? Best parts? Worst parts?

Guitars: My two current favorites are my Teisco Del Rey EP7 and the Silvertone (don’t know what model). The Teisco just sounds so good right off the bat with its clean bite but can be so jazzy when you roll the tone back. It’s also the Teisco version of Tone’s Silvertone guitars from Little Hurricane. My red house-painted Silvertone is the most magical guitar I have. It is my go-to when others are uninspiring and it is the most perfect feeling guitar in my hands and against my body. These two are the lightest guitars in the world. I’ve owned the Strat and Tele since high school. The Strat is a great one when going for “arcade-y” tones because of the neck and middle pickup position. The Tele is the first guitar I ever owned that my Dad bought me from the Philippines. It’s Chinese, but I swapped the stock pickups for Texas Specials, which are super hot. The Tele is a great tracking guitar due to the versatility and an easy one to go to for a modern sound. The Farida JT602DCC is solely owned because it is the signature guitar of Two Door Cinema Club’s lead guitarist, Sam Halliday, who is the utmost reason as to why I ever started playing guitar. To the eye, the upside down headstock is so unique, but what’s more unique is the onboard delay Farida built in because of how important delay is to Sam Halliday’s tone. It is also the only guitar I have with a P90. My guitars help to primarily put me into different mindsets. If I want weird tones, I’ll get the Strat; if I want driving guitar parts, I’ll pick up the Tele; if I want to make up lead parts really fast, I’ll grab the Farida; if I want unique guitar parts or weird chords, I’ll grab the Teisco or the Silvertone.

Cons about the Strat, Tele, and the JT602DCC are that they are freaking heavy now that I’ve been playing the Teisco and the Silvertone.

Pedals: The reason why I own two super shifters is because I tried to resell one, but that never worked, so I just put both to use. One is used as a harmonist/chorus to get arcade-y, Rutger Rosenborg-y, Bombay Bicycle Club-y tones (heard on “Too Late”) and the other is to just frick things up (T-Arm setting referenced from St. Vincent). Bobby Bray, the guitarist of The Locust and coincidentally, my electronics and media business teacher, helped me make a Carbon Copy mod that is an expression pedal idea stemmed from the PS5 so that when turned on, controls the delay parameter to make more noise and to frick things up even more! My pedalboard is designed for clean bite, fun, ambience, swells, and madness!

Cons: Pedalboard tap dancing while having to sing, which actually gives me madness.

Guitar Amps: Gibson G20, Fender Vibro Champ XD. Just really awesome amps that help me get the great tones when I need. G20 for jazzy or warmer stuff and the Fender Vibro Champ for the clean bite I love. Cons: Vibro Champ tube just went out and the G20 needs to be grounded, so I kindly backline amps from friends.

Playback/IEM Rig: Mid-2013 Macbook Pro (also used for mixing/tracking), Ableton Live 9, Motu Audio Express Interface, Audio Technica M2 (x3), Alesis Micron.

The best thing about this rig and a main part of the Small Culture sound is my mid-2013 MacBook Pro, which was a high school graduation gift from my Mom. It has helped me achieve 95% of the audio and music related things in my life by helping me produce, record, and mix other people’s and Small Culture’s music. With my laptop, I am able to produce, mix, and merge electronic elements with real-life instrumentation, which is what the sound of Small Culture consists of.

For live, I use Ableton to run my ears and backtracks and just output stereo tracks to FOH. I track, mix, and obsessively love Pro Tools 11. I’ll do pre-production and songwriting in Logic Pro X. My Alesis Micron is the oldest piece of gear I own and it has some cool synth patches, but I primarily now just use it to trigger MIDI.

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

Since I feel the Small Culture sound can be a myriad of things, “Apartime” is a great example of sound, style, and gear. I mixed majority of “Apartime” hybrid by outputting stems from Pro Tools in the SSL Duality at school and incorporating the outboard gear we had. It helps show my style by the instrumentation and production because Small Culture is about fusing electronic computer-based music with big real-life instruments. I always try to go for huge size with my songs and I find that heavily relying on instrumentation and production.

“Apartime” is the oldest song off the EP and the one that took the longest. I brought a synth pad and vocal doodles to my best friend and live drummer, Ginno Tacsiat, and he laid down the main electronic drum beat and I rearranged it and wrote the rest. I then took it into the studio and had real drums, guitar, and bass guitar added to the end of the song to have a big dramatic scene change. The big factors to the size of the song in the end is the stereo synth bass I have going (actually two different mono synths panned hard L&R). For the electronic drums, we used the stock Ultrabeat drum kit in Logic Pro X and I spruced it up with the SSL Duality.

Every Small Culture song is about or includes very important people in my life, so “Apartime” was about a trip my Mom and I had to the Philippines when my Grandmother passed away and it is the song about how important and how much of a trooper she is. Half of the song title comes from having started the song in my Mom’s apartment in Hawai’i about 6 months before my Grandmother’s passing, how I work part-time at Fashion Valley, and because of how I sing “You took the time” in the chorus.

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

Oh my gosh… Probably an SSL Duality or a Neve 8058. An SSL Duality because that is the first console I ever learned off, which is at The Art Institute of California – San Diego where I graduated and the Neve 8058 is what Guy Charbonneau has in Le Mobile. I heard recordings from a Crossroad festival that he did and just those preamps alone made the live recordings so freaking huge.

4. I’ve noticed you’ve got two older Japanese-style guitars alongside two new Fenders. Why not go all vintage or all modern? What are the drawbacks for either? Benefits?

The only reason why I own the Teisco and the Silvertone were out of pure luck. The Silvertone, I came across at a swap meet at Qualcomm for $35 (also where I got one of the MXR Carbon Copies for $5) and the Teisco came out of a packaged barter (included the Fender Vibro Champ XD). Ironically, I use the Teisco and the Silvertone for gigging because they are much lighter to lug around since I have so much stuff to carry (pedals, playback/IEM rig, laptop). It’s so much easier on my life and back because I’m a pretty small dude. I’m very indecisive and I’m always the person who is in the middle, so I guess that’s why I both have vintage and modern guitars. A benefit is just the myriad of tonal and mindset options.

5. You’ve got “Always play 110%” highlighted on your volume pedal – that’s refreshing in these days, where a lot of musicians seem less than passionate onstage. How do you balance playing your hardest and with 110% effort/energy vs. playing your songs technically correct 100% of the time? Does that matter to you? Or are you able to do both?

I always try to do both because they both highly matter to me. If you’ve ever been to Max Idas’ shows with his band called The Chili Banditos or see Craig Schreiber drum in The Verigolds, these are two guys in San Diego that give every show 110% wherever and whomever they play to. At one show, Craig hit his head on his snare and started bleeding like a gusher candy, but he still finished the song and at every Chili Banditos’ show, I feel more home than my own apartment while screaming with Max to each of his songs. I get chicken skin to these shows because they break down the barrier between performers and audiences and put their hearts out for the world to see. To me, “Always play 110%” is a written reminder because I easily get lost in setting up gear and it’s a goal to let it all out just like Max and Craig. I am fortunate to be able to practice with the guys who help me play live as much as we have been (Max, Cameron Wilson, Ginno Tacsiat), so practicing and having such solid musicians in the band help. I strive to do both and have the confidence because I wrote the parts and have been with them since day one. Ever since high school, I’d also practice like how I’d be moving at a show; it helps to build the muscle memory. You just have to come to terms to just try your best to do both, have fun, own it, and show who you are. You should play 110% all the time because it’s a blessing to be up onstage when others don’t have the opportunity, so I say do it, leave it all out there on stage.

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

I’d say depends and there are a ton, but if I had to speak just about one, it’d have to be Chris Hobson. He can play instruments, but he was my senior project teacher and is hands down one of the best engineers and producers I know. He helped to connoisseur the sound I was trying to obtain with Small Culture and my engineering chops. He’d help put me back on track when I’d stray away from the sound Small Culture is and when I’d doubt myself as an artist and engineer. He’s the kind of producer and teacher that helps you to achieve your artistic vision without making it into his thing. He helped me to not care about what was technically right as an engineer and to just go with my gut if I liked something and it sounded good. I’d talk to Chris a lot and many of our conversations boiled down to his points that music is subjective, it is all taste, and that if I liked something to run with it because we are making art. From him, I fully understood how much engineering and producing music is an art form.

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

Shows:

June 3rd Album Release Show at the Che Café with Splavender, The Chili Banditos, Hit Me Harold, and Yung May May. [INFO]

June 18th Show at The OB Template

News:

Debut EP now for sale via iTunes.

Stream it on SoundCloud.