Thursday, May 22, 2008

Roo interview – The Frenchman is back to talk about his gear and recording his album

Here is the Roo interview part 2. He’s been up to a lot and had gained some nice endorsements. This dude is going places…

What tips can you give beginner and intermediate guitarists who are trying to become highly advanced players in minimal time?

Sure, hehe, purchase my DVD!
Well, start to analyse the other guitar player’s style. Transcribe some of their solos and you will get even closer to their technique.

I suggest practicing on an acoustic guitar because the strings are heavier and you don't focus on the effects. Practice with a metronome. Buy a decent one, with volume control otherwise it drives you crazy, hehe.

Remember to play standing up, using your strap, because in a real situation nobody performs on a chair, at least in rock music...

Don’t be fooled by expensive gear, especially if you don’t have specific use for it.
Focus first on getting the most out of yourself. Find a good guitar instructor, someone that is established and is a model for you, who will push you.

What gear do you use and (more importantly) why?

For amps, I rather like cabinets/head or combos than racks systems. Mostly because I get lost with all the possibilities of too many elements put together. I have been very impressed by Mesa-Boogie amps, especially their amazing clean sounds and warm distortions, they do anything you want. Today I play a PowerBall Engl (amp head with cabinet) it sounds just perfect for metal.

I like different kinds of guitars of course. My main guitar is a Carvin DC127. I like the neck thru, the very light swamp ash body, and the ebony fingerboard. The neck scale length is 25' which fits my fingers well. I'd like to own more Carvin guitars, my dream would be to work with them, visiting the San Diego factory. There's something about this brand that appeals...

I don’t play with floating bridges anymore, it takes to long to tune the guitar, and it’s hell changing strings. I can also switch easily to drop D tuning with a fixed bridge.

I love to try different pickups, I played with many brands (actives and passives) and they all have something special. Basically, I like to have a single coil in the neck position and humbuckers for the bridge. I already tried 5 different bridge pickups in the same guitar!

To conclude, I'd say that the sad truth is that gear is more the reflection of budget than a matter of pure personal taste. It's always a compromise.

As for strings, I’m endorsed by Elixir Strings and I use them exclusively. I’m also endorsed by Brossard Picks which I like very much.

What are you trying to achieve compositionally?

As a guitarist, I really try to achieve a good crossroad between something technically respectable, yet melodic and original enough. I try to mix different styles I like such as country/blue grass with heavy tones, funky grooves and aggressive BlackMetal riffs.

I also use a lot of finger-pickings with distortion, I’m a bit into Michael Lee Firkins, and open strings of course.

Today I practice some 8 fingers tapping and some jazz phrasing but it's quite new for me so it doesn’t influence my playing in compositions yet.

Rhythm is important as well. I want people to be able to beat their foot to my music. It took me years to realize that compositions must be songs first. If it's guitar oriented, there must be enough melody to catch a non-shred listener’s attention. It's always tempting to play technical and fast in order to impress but it's also very rewarding to touch people who don’t listen to the same stuff that you do. Basically when I compose I tend to take as much of each genre I like until it becomes something of my own.

What parts of your playing reflects your personality and self expression most accurately?

Wow, man that is the question, hehe. Well, we're also working on this idea with the graphic designer who works on my album cover. The visual identity must reflect the music...

I told him that I see myself as a funny guy, who is enigmatic and somehow dark... I guess I’m a complex person.

It would be pretentious to say that I can express all my personality on my guitar. Everyday, I learn something new at guitar. It's a process in perpetual motion you know...

Today, I see my playing as a mishmash of techniques and styles that adapt themselves to the musical context. In my compositions, I don’t enjoy playing minor natural & harmonic minor scales in an overly emotional musical context. Maybe I don’t feel comfortable baring my deepest feelings in a sad song. I prefer a bluesy legato phrasing with a syncopated feel, cutting a groovy guitar theme with a weird riff or arpeggio. Something happy…but a bit scary. So I will use diminished scales (that you hear commonly in classical and neo-classical for instance), more in order to create tension at some point, rather than having a genuine neoclassical feel. I try to surprise myself. I sometimes use minor tonalities in my guitar lessons but it's different then. I could say, my song "Double Trouble", as modest as it is, reflects my personality somehow. (Watch the video demo on my myspace profile.)

Talk about the process of recording your album. Are there any
tips and trick that you could pass on? How did you choose the other
instrumentalists (if you did)?

Oh it's me who need tips. It's new for me to work on a solo, instrumental, rock guitar project. Of course it's the same process as with a band, except I handle most of it myself. So basically it will be the drummer and I for the studio work. I had some difficulties with the line up. People sometimes burnout and can't handle more than a few rehearsals, then give up. I lost some time like this. I will record in a professional recording studio. There's a possibility that the drums will be recorded and mixed in a different place.

I wrote and pre-recorded all the instrument parts at home. We'll just have to sit down and do our best. Some people record themselves but I don’t have the money and the knowledge for a home studio. I rather like to leave this task to people who know their job. I also have a lot of admiration for sound engineers. It's always a learning experience to watch them working.

I can only advise people to know their material very well. Prepare a list of the gear. Adjust the intonation of your guitar, or bring it to a luthier for a neck and fret job. Remove the strings two days before recording, not the same day that you’re going into the studio because the guitar will go out of tune a lot. I also recommend writing down the guitar leads note for note to prevent last minute improvisation, which can put pressure on you. Anyway after 10-15 hours of recording, your ears are exhausted and they lose clarity. Then there's the risk of recording something you feel great about at first, but then it totally sucks on mixing day.

That's it. Thanks for the interview.