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DAVE GRANEY-By The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard

DAVE GRANEY – By The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard
November 29, 2008 | Author: Gareth Liddiard

dave-graney-482x298GARETH: I’m talking shop with Dave Graney, or David to his mum. Dave leaves the tags on his guitars after he’s bought them and somehow everything makes sense. If you don’t know about Dave, then you’re an idiot and we’ll leave it at that. Show me your tools Dave.

DAVE: I play an Ibanez Talman TM71 semi hollow body electric guitar. I bought it from eBay for $300 and picked it up from a guy in Essendon. I wanted a hollow body because I want a clean jazzbox kind of sound. Stuart Perera, who plays guitar in my band The Lurid Yellow Mist, plays a left handed solid body Rickenbacker and he does all the blazing sustained notes. I wanted clean notes that didn’t sustain.

I also wanted a guitar that looked like something from the inner gatefold sleeve of the first Roxy Music album cover.There is a picture across the entire inner sleeve of the whole band posing with guitars. Bryan Ferry and Eno and Phil Manzanera and the sax player Andy Mackay and even the drummer Paul Thompson are all holding these incredibly glamourous guitars. They must be Hagstroms or something. They are all brightly coloured and textured. Mother of pearl inlays and the sorts of tricked up and boldly flecked colours you only ever saw on total hotrods. So I bid for this guitar and no one else did and I picked it up. Also, I am a musician so I don’t have a lot of money and if I did I wouldn’t spend it on a guitar.

I looked up the particular model on the magic box and saw that it was only available for a few years in the late 90s and was discontinued. That made it even better. It is an odd shape, like a Fender Jazzmaster crossed with a Gibson 335, so its hard to get a case for it.

I got my amp the same way. I wanted a solid state amp as I ain’t no electrician and valves would outfox me. I wanted a loud and clean sound. Ideally it would be a Polytone Teenybrute as all my favourite sounds are by jazz and black Rn’B players but I couldn’t find one. I found this model of a Roland called a GC408. It’s about 80 watts and has 4 8” speakers. It is perfect for me and I love to play through it. It was also a strange hybrid model that was available in the 90s and then discontinued. You can also get a separate cabinet for it but they are proving hard to find.

I listen to a lot of Rn’B and jazz and country music and the guitar sounds are all trebly and clean and sit in a place in the sound of the recordings that I find to be the sweetest. I don’t like music where the guitar is right at the centre and everything else has to fight to be heard. I like the sound to be fitting around the drums and the vocals.

I don’t use any pedals playing live. I find singing and playing to be enough to work out on and the singing is the most important. (Though playing guitar helps me sing better in some ways). I played music for years as a stand up lead singer and only started fooling with a guitar in the late 90s. When my amp and guitar were calling out to me I guess. I still like to take the pendant off and bust a move as nobody else can do that like me. I also have a Canora Flying V copy that I got at a hock shop. I wanted a Flying V as that was the only guitar that Miles Davis ever thought was cool. I played it a few times. It’s loud so it comes out for SALMON gigs. (SALMON is a six guitar, two drummer hard rock art instrumental outfit I play in led by Kim Salmon). Oh, and there’s my KYair 12 string acoustic which I have played a lot over the last few years in semi acoustic shows. I love the sound of a 12 string. It took me a while to get a handle on it. With my picking and dampening and fingering. I also needed a Sonic Maximize/Big Bottom to get the right tone for me. I don’t use any funny tunings. I just play it. And I carry it around in an alligator skin guitar case.

Our new album has my guitar all over it though. I mixed the record and I put the guitar where a person who is used to hard rock probably couldn’t hear it. It’s a total upbeat Rn’B album called “We Wuz Curious”. It’s the 21st album we’ve made. Scoreboard.

My favourite guitarists are Kim Salmon, Danny Rumour, Mike Rudd (from Spectrum/Ariel), Hubert Sumlin, John Cippolina,Tom Verlaine, Hound Dog Taylor, Ike Turner, George Benson, Matt Walker, Grant Green, John Schofield, James Williamson, Rowland S Howard, Greg Walker ( from Machine Translations) and many other like Curtis Mayfield and Ernest Ranglin. My favourite guitar bands are Queens of the Stone Age, Television, The Birthday Party, The Blue Oyster Cult, The Byrds, The Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service.

GARETH: You’re a fan of all this guitar type stuff but you’re also a hip hop fan. As good as this stuff can be musically, the whole personality factor has really risen up to take over, and it’s natural that it should in this multi-media, super celebrity time. Say with this dead Notorious BIG guy, his singing is as good as singing can possibly be, but his fame comes from being anything else. I forget who you’re interested in specifically, but you’re really into this personality thing as far as I can tell. Same thing would apply for Iggy of course, but with hip hop it’s different and these are different times. Who are you into right now and why, hip hop wise? What’s with the character thing?

DAVE: Well I loved the Notorious BIG and he was kind of loveable in his way. Great ambition. I loved his self aggrandisement, his talk about himself etc. His clothes. (He was wearing Coogee, crap Aussie knitwear a lot before he died). The rivalry with Tupac was bogus yet shocking when they both died. Hard to understand. Forces at work that nobody understood or could control. Almost Shakespearean. (At the same time Kurt Cobains death seemed kind of like something on a sad Jerry Springer level . He seemed like a sad cracker from a Seattle timber town when his anguished music seemed to go for something further out).

I read a story about Biggie in a studio smoking a lot of joints, listening to a track being cooked up and then going to lay his vocal down. The inference being that he could neither read nor write and put down his lines straight from his brain to his mouth. I was very impressed by that, whether it was true or not?

What I like in hip hop would probably mark me as a kind of pop, Rn’B type as I’m not really involved in anything on a sub cultural/identity level. I’m not worried about being cool or “in” with a crowd. So I love the new album by Nas, the untitled one. It has such power and urgency in the lyrics and he has  such urgency and political commitment. Range and power. Inspirational. The old school hip hop that I love like Eric B and Rakim and Slick Rick has such directness but this modern stuff has evolved to such fluid and spectacular manipulation of sounds and mood. I also love the new album by Lil Wayne. It is so sprawling. He’s a bit like Slick Rick in that he’s a storyteller and invents these characters and scenarios. On one track he’s a doctor who is treating another rapper for being pathetic and having no flow. The track is full of sounds from an intensive care unit and a nurse is talking to him. On another track he’s shagging a lady cop and thinking how he’d never had any love for cops (He asks for her number and she says “911”). On another he is an alien, seemingly just to put his strange and drugged tone of voice through a vocoder.

Lil Wayne is from New Orleans. I also love hip hop for moving so fast and being very regional. I love hip hop and Rn’B from the UK as well. Dizzie Rascal and Infinite Lives and Ms Dynamite and Tricky. Australian hip hop is not something I know a  lot about. It’s version of “keepin it real” is great in some ways with the locality of the language and accents. It also tends to a crushing humility and cheery “do goodism” in the lyrics. I would love to hear some BAAAAAD Australian hip hop from no good delinquents.

We did a  gig with a Melbourne hip hop player and we loved his instrumental flow. I asked could I do a  vocal. He sent me a track with his mate rapping about  how he still catches the bus and is on the dole. I wiped it and did five minutes talking of my greatness and listing my songs and how genius they were and if people needed some to love or to hate to come on over and knock themselves out. I loved doing it. It wouldn’t be right for me to stray too much into that scene though. I also love Missy Elliott but I’m just catching up with her. All the first solo albums by the Wu Tang Clan members such as Ghostface Killah and Genius GZA are always giving me something new after 12 years in the cd rack.

GARETH: I’m a Pink Floyd/Syd Barret type. I have tried but failed to see what’s going on with The Grateful Dead. I’m in LA right now and they have their own radio station… 24/7. I try and I try. It’s just not psychedelia to me. Is it meant to be? I know I’m missing something. Why do people like this band?

DAVE: I think they had such a wilful sense of things that you have to admire it and they just didn’t fit in with the music business at all. They hated recording studios and at one point just gave up for a  decade. In the meantime they became the biggest touring band in the USA. They just told their fans to tape them and set up special platforms near their desk for the fans to get the best sound.

They had a couple of albums with tight and short songs. ‘Workingman’s Dead’ and ‘American Beauty’. The best of them for me has Jerry Garcia’s thin and breaking voice with lyrics by Robert Gunter. The lyrics are great. Mythic. They are like a mythic band. Involved in gigantic scenes and energy. In a way, beyond time. That great American psychedelic era of 65-67 was like a re-run or re-shaping of the American western frontier myths. My favourite band was the Charlatans who started out as house band in 65 in wild western replica town where they all were high on acid and wearing cowboy gear complete with 6 guns. It was all over by the time the media took it up it seemed.

I was given a lot of Dead records recently, all bootlegs from the period up to Ron “Pigpen” McKernans death. (From Cirrhosis in the early 70s). I love them as artefacts. My favourite album is “Blues for Allah” which is post “Pigpen” . I love it for the cover and the guitar sounds and the lyrics. I guess it’s from the mid seventies FM years of rock music. It’s great. Basically they are a bit hit and miss. Anything that’s funky or for dancing is sung by Bob Weir and is pretty awful. Jerry was a tripper. I love his country side as well. He had  a band with some guys from the New Riders of the Purple Sage (that western fetish again) at the height of punk rock called “Old And In The Way”.

Syd’s British psychedelia was a retreat into childhood books and playing with toys in the garden. I love that too. It lends itself to Gothic horror as well. American psychedelia was outward and involved national symbols and myths. For supreme American psychedelia I love the album “Happy Trails” by the Quicksilver Messenger Service, which has the most shimmering tremolo guitar sounds ever. For lyrics and arrangements I go for the genius of “Forever Changes” by LOVE. One of the greatest albums ever made. I also love EVERYTHING by the Doors. Jim was a one off and is up there with Hank Williams and Jerry Lee as complete icon for me.

GARETH: Do you know that Roxy Music tune ‘In Every Dream Home A Heart Ache’? I love it for its xanax yuppy nightmare thing. Careful what you wish for and all that. Early Roxy Music always had this but people don’t get it. Whats with that?

DAVE: That album, “For Your Pleasure” is my favourite. I like most things they have done and have a lot of respect for Bryan. Every song on that album is great and it has the genius cover with Amanda Lear who is holding a panther and Bryan is the chauffeur by the limousine. The first song, “Do The Strand” is a charge of life and the long groove “The Bogus Man” is a song we’ve done many times. It’s fantastic.I think Eno left after that. They were still great after he left. Great with him as well.
I think there is that brilliant moment in ” In Every Dream Home A Heart Ache” where Bryan’s voice is left on its own and all of a sudden all the reverb is stripped from his voice and its left vulnerable and dry and all on its own.

As to what people don’t get, you can waste a lot of time worrying about that! We just spent a decade with John Howard as PM and he was painted as “the battler’s friend” while he divided and conquered and played a shocked and hypnotized mob with the help of a corrupt and compliant media.

GARETH: Your live rants and your RRR appearances are always a beautiful thing. You were wearing shorts once on stage and discouraged smoking in the front row. You need to talk to disc and release it.  Simple question: when and how will you approach it?

DAVE: Well talking can get a bit tedious on disc. I like that part of my shows and that to be ephemeral and in the moment. Music and performance get a lot of their power for me by being only available NOW and to the people in the room. Recording is for songs and performance I guess. I wore shorts once. I had brown belted polyester ones and long white socks with a tight shirt. I looked in the mirror at home and saw a tough looking crim. I don’t think the people in the room saw that . They probably saw a schoolteacher in the wrong place. Can’t always tell what people will see or hear! (Kim Salmon has tried shorts too. It’s tough)

GARETH: You say you’re not a valve amp man. Rule number one in guitar world is “use valves”. What is it with all of these dumb ass guitar rules? Don’t learn scales! Learn them all … and use valves. That’s the only 3 rules I can recall right now. What’s with the rules?

DAVE: I don’t know. I sometimes want to know how some songs go and look up on the internet for the chords. I tried it with some songs by the Isley Brothers and Chic and the Chambers Brothers and War and they were nowhere to be found. Guitar chord sites are for classic rock types and all the rules are as well.

The Moodists, our first band, did a reunion gig in 2003. It was a world all excited about New Rock. (Which to me was Old Rock. It was reactionary scene which was fueled by dopey kids listening to music their parents liked. And their parents were the daggy ones who couldn’t get into punk rock). Anyway, half of the Moodists had kept playing music, Clare Moore and myself and Mick Turner. And the other two, Steve Miller and Chris Walsh had not done much playing since 1985. So Steve and Chris had perfectly preserved sounds from that post punk era. In their brains and hands and old guitars. You wouldn’t find that sound in a Line 6 list of presets. Steve dialled up his horribly thin and trebley, totally reverbed out sound from his busted Fender Twin and turned it up to 10. It was his sound. The FOH guy came up with all his new rock jive and told him to “swing some mids in there man, its  a bit toppy…”. I told him to leave off as we were not aspiring to the sound of Bon Jovi then and still weren’t!
Another funny rule is strap length. I favour the strap up high like a jazz player. It’s too uncomfortable down there at your knees. But I know you like that low slung stuff Gaz! You disrespect that guitar of yours! And you slam that whammy like a  demon! I couldn’t treat my guitar like that. I like it too much! Actually, my fave player ( well one) is Clarence “Gatemouth: Brown, who I heard Ike Turner say was the baddest player hed ever heard or seen. I got an album by him called “San Antonio Ball Buster”.
Both him and Ike are cruel to their guitars and yank the whammy pretty rudely.I also couldn’t hack all the re-tuning that is involved with using a whammy. I used to have a guitar with one and I couldn’t keep my hands off it.

You also love those strange effects that give weird sustain and compression. It’s very dynamic the way you do it. Clare just got the new album by Walter Becker from Steely Dan. I love it. They have this attitude where they hated notes that sustain and only like short “plunky” sounds. They have to do a lot more work on the rhythms and the chordal shifts and arrangements. A lot of my favourite American music has so little in it. It’s great like that.

GARETH: This question showed up in a previous issue of Australian Musician. I recall Jenny from Jmag was asked why there are way more boy guitar players than girls. If you boil her answer all the way down, I mean all the way, (and I agree with her) then it’s because boys are nerds. But surely there’s more to it than that Dave. It’s a contentious issue and it’s up to you to solve it.

DAVE: You might have noticed there aren’t many smart people involved in rock music. Girls are basically smart! I think there’s something sexual involved as well. And I don’t really want to think about it too much. If you look at all those players like Paul Stanley from Kiss and any cock rock player, they are behaving in extremely feminine ways with coquettish looks away over their shoulders and prancing about.

When a girl puts on a guitar, all that gender switching and ambiguity is not there really and they are just left with looking like … girls! We were watching a recent TV show with a gig from the Sex Pistols. In 2006. And we loved it and Clare remarked how much of a relief it was when they came out how they didn’t come across with all that sexual baggage, back in 1976. And that was a big thing with them. They were PEOPLE and seeing them now was just as good. Johnny looks like something from Steptoe and Son and Steve and Paul are villains. I loved them and every song of theirs is an anthem.

Anyway, I think bands that are all one gender are  weird and basically kooky. All men together, after a certain age, it’s just stupid.

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