Vintage Guitar - June 2018 - open - 30
there's something good, I know there's a song
there somewhere. If something's not demoing
so hot, I'll take it to the band and say, "How
can we do this?"
Do you have rules about things you won't
try? I've never heard a blues shuffle or big
AC/DC power chords in a Spoon song.
Oh, I would love to write an AC/DC-type
song! I've been trying, but it doesn't come
across. "Do You" (from 2014's They Want My
Soul) was my best stab; a simple, repetitive riff.
But it's me, so it comes off differently.
What are your favorite guitars?
It used to be ES-335s. Before I could afford
a 335, it was a Guild Starfire that just would
not stay in tune, so it needed to be put out to
pasture. I still play a Starfire with DeArmond
pickups that are worth more than the guitar.
They do sound amazing.
Onstage, Fender Thinline Telecasters are all
I play. They have the scrape-y Fender sound I
like, and I'm mostly a rhythm player, so that
works. It's lighter than a 335, so I can toss it
around, and that f hole is such a cool detail.
I've bought a lot of guitars based on looks.
What about amps?
Spoonful of Sounds
f the Beatles were still around, chances are
they'd be checking out Spoon. Like the Fab
Four, the group revels in sonic exploration, creativity, and stunning pop tunes. Since forming
in'93, the Austin-based unit has recorded nine
studio albums, including their most recent, Hot
Thoughts, and a 10th-anniversary remastering
of their best-known, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
Front man and songwriter Britt Daniel is just
one of Spoon's guitarists; bassist/keyboardist
Rob Pope and keyboard player Alex Fischel
double on guitars. Jim Eno sticks to drums.
Daniel's style is unique. He plays like the
Thelonious Monk of guitar heroes with
chordal stabs, syncopation, off-kilter intervals,
and plenty of effects. All of which combine to
craft the novel sound that is Spoon. VG spoke
with him in the midst of a year-long world tour.
Do you follow the Lennon-McCartney
style of songwriting - lyrics first, then
music? Or is it more Jagger-Richards - create riffs and melodies with "placement"
I've done both, but mostly I come up with
chords and melody first, with made-up words,
syllables - a couple might stay in to lead the
direction. And the less I think about it, the
better. To me, the melody is what a song's
all about - chords and melody effect you
emotional. Doesn't happen all the time. "The
Underdog" (from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga) was an
exception; I wrote the words first.
I come up with chords as I go, and sometimes
switch from guitar to piano; I futz around,
playing rhythm chords on piano and sometimes
end up going where I wouldn't if I was writing
on guitar, just because I know less about it.
Many Spoon songs have complex arrangements. Do you come up with them,
or is it a full-band process?
I do a lot of demoing on my own, and if
And you love effects...
There's effects all over everything on this last
record, [especially] a Klon Centaur. We use a
Boss CE-1, and I've never heard any vibrato
that sounds anywhere near as good; it just sort
of twists everything up. I don't use the chorus,
just the vibrato. We use a lot of tremolos. I'm
pretty happy with the Boss TR-2, which is
basic but does the job.
The Lightfoot Labs Goatkeeper is an amazing tremolo that can give all these different
wave forms, but the cool thing is it will generate
a tremolo according to the speed of the signal.
That's really handy if you want to do something
that's right on, although sometimes you want
to drift a little.
We also use a lot of JHS Pedals, especially
the Colour Box, which emulates the sound of
plugging directly into a Neve preamp board
and cranking it! - Michael Dregni
Britt Daniel: J.W./Wikimedia Commons.
My main amp is a small head built by Matt
Gilchrist that I plug into the speakers of an AC30.
The idea is that if I fly somewhere, I can plug it
into any AC30 speakers. On tour, we have a few
AC30s with us and I just plug into those. But the
Gilchrist head is like an AC30, but made exactly
the way I want it. Whenever I rent an AC30,
they're always way too hot-sounding, without
detail and finesse; I just want to get a full sound
that's not distorted and crunchy. I was finding
that rentals went straight from "off" to way
distorted. The Gilchrist is a little mellower and
provides more detail and options. I've also got
a really nice old tweed Princeton from the '50s.