Malkmus gave his band, the Jicks, a more collaborative role this time, seeking their feedback on the multiple demos, which often explored different genres, that he brought in to record Sparkle Hard. Photo by James Rexroad
Electric-wise I played some I’ve had for a long time, like my Guild S-100, I think it’s called—similar to what that guy from Soundgarden [Kim Thayil] played. I can’t remember who else played one, but they were economical ’70s guitars that are actually really good.
It’s a ’73 or ’74. I’ve told the story before of buying it from a friend of mine, who… I don’t know where he got it, but I don’t think that it was on the up and up. But I was 16 and I wasn’t the most on-the-up-and-up person, either. Someone had put two humbucker pickups in it, and I took those out immediately. Even then I knew that was probably a bad idea. I’ve played that guitar forever. It weighs like zero pounds. It’s just a fun guitar to play, and it sounds so cool. But then again, it also needs a little bit of looking after. These old guitars can just be great, but they do need some love. They need somebody who understands what you want and also how they should sound.
I play with my thumb and pointer finger exclusively. That offers me a lot of control, but, of course, people can get a lot of control with their guitar picks, too. There are plenty of outrageous flatpickers. Plus, when you’re working with distortion and compression, you can get away with a lot. You don’t have to hit every note just right, at least not with what I’m going for. But, yeah, that’s something I’ve done for the last 20 years. I’ve kind of abandoned using a pick.
No, those are all pedals. [Producer] Chris [Funk, of the Decemberists], he has a shitload of pedals and he split it two ways. There’s his way, my way, and a direct sound, which hypothetically we could’ve used, but for the most part we didn’t. He had his pedals running to one amp and he had a lot more of these ones that make your guitar sound like a synthesizer. I was like, “You go for it and I’m going to do what I do over here with my standard setup.”
TIDBIT: Malkmus played guitar in the control room during the recording of his latest album. “It’s amazing what you can hear and what you can get away with without wearing headphones,” he says.
That’s a good question. It goes song to song. If it sounds really gnarly, it’s more likely his setup. Sometimes we would get over synth-guitar’d and we’d want to back it off. But it’s an awesome sound. He had a pedal from Japan [a Korg Miku Stomp] that makes an anime character’s voice. I didn’t use that, but I was interested in it. Pedals can be quite addictive.
Yeah, I was hearing both at once. I stood in the control room with the band. I wore no headphones during the whole recording, so I was just listening to the monitors, and we were trying to develop a group sound in there. And the band sat in the other room, because the drummer and the bass player, they should be together. There’d be no bleed in my vocal. And it was a small room with mirrors and windows. I could see everybody, but they were on the other side of the fence from me, so I could hear everything coming through my vocals. I didn’t have to deal with headphone mixes.
It’s kind of nice to not have to wear headphones in loud rock. You can do it in acoustic music, of course. And actually the room we had was so fancy and quiet that I’ve done some acoustic in there. It’s amazing what you can hear and what you can get away with without wearing headphones.
Not really. When I soloed, I just did what I normally do. We went into the studio with some pretty solid demos, which maybe I’ll release some day. If you like us, they’re interesting, but they’re maybe not for the average listener.
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