Thursday, July 26, 2012

Henry Clay People Interview: Part One

A few nights ago I spent some time on the phone with Joey Siara, lead singer and guitarist for the Henry Clay People. We talked about guitar gear, some of the tones on their new album (Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives), their live setup, and Joey's favorite guitarists and songwriters.

Here's part one of our interview:

P90Noir: Let’s start with the new album. What were your main guitars and amps for those sessions?
Joey Siara: I was splitting my signal between two amps - a 1975 silver face deluxe that I picked up on tour in Dallas, Texas for $550. It was one of my tour finds. I was using that and a hand-wired AC15. For pedals, I was using the Crowther Audio Hotcake and the Paul Cochrane Tim pedal. My main guitar is a Bill Nash tele (it’s been my main guitar for a few years). Although, I was surprised when I went back and listened to this record. Most of it was an early-90’s Japanese Jazzmaster with lollar pickups. Its brighter than the tele bridge, and I ended up using it more than the tele.

P90Noir: Are there any tones on the new album that you are especially proud of?

Joey Siara: Actually it’s my brother’s (Andy Siara) guitar. He was playing an SG classic with P90s into a little hand-made 15 watt that the guy who owned the studio built. It’s sort of an old Marshally tone. And Andy was using the Crowther Prunes and Custard pedal – that thing is awesome. Since then, I’ve started using one of those in my live setup. It’s one of my favorite pedals. Most of the lead guitar on the record has this broken guitar, really nasty sound. It’s that little home-made amp and the Prunes and Custard.

  P90Noir: I had a Hotcake for a long time and I loved it. But of course, something new caught my eye and I traded the Hotcake. And now I really miss it.

P90Noir: What’s your current live rig?

Joey Siara: Bringing two amps on tour is overkill for me. So now, I have the Top Hat Club Royale. I bought it just before the tour. It’s turned out to be the best amp purchase I’ve made. I really like having a 2x12. Using a 1x12 is tough on stage, because I move around a lot and need to be able to hear it. And I like that the Top Hat has a master volume on it which allows me to not be hated by every sound man out there. For pedals, it’s just the Hotcake and a Prunes and Custard.

P90Noir: Wow, so that’s it for pedals? I'm in a basement band that plays maybe three or four times a year and my board has probably eight pedals. It's a little ridiculous.

Joey Siara: Just those two, and a little Korg Pitchblack tuner. I tried to go simple. At different parts in the band’s history you would have come and seen different amounts of pedals. This is as bare bones as I have been in the history of the Henry Clay People. There’s something about the peace of mind of not having to worry about which pedal to hit. I think, when I play live, I get in my head sometimes in a song of making a choice of this distortion or that distortion. Having limited options helps me keep in the moment and focus on performing and singing.

P90Noir: I notice you use a lot of tremolo. Is that amp tremolo or a pedal? What is it that you like about tremolo as an effect? It always seems to really sync well with the songs. Are you using something with tap tempo?

Joey Siara: A lot of the tremolo is the Deluxe Reverb. There is one song on particular on the record, Those Who Know Better, where I tried to play in between the tremolo pulses so that you couldn’t really hear the attack. That was one of my favorite tones on the record. I played it on a Richenbacher 360 that I’ve since parted ways with. It was one of those guitars you lose in order to pay bills.

P90Noir: Let’s talk about some specific songs. The first of your songs that really jumped out at me was Slow Burn, from Somewhere on the Golden Coast. I love that lead slide part. Do you remember what guitar/effects/amp you used for that?

Joey Siara: It’s a slide part on the SG doubled with a Jazzmaster on the neck pickup. It’s a little Doug Martsch bit.

P90Noir: That answers that question then. The first time I heard you guys I thought “This is awesome, there’s like Pavement, Built to Spill, Replacements, maybe some Dinosaur Jr., but they’re still doing their own thing. I love it!”

Joey Siara: There’s all of those in there. I’m a fan – I’m an indie rock purist. All of those bands kind of inform our sound. I looked and listened and examined what all of my favorite guitarists have played and used to help me find the sounds I want to try to rip off (laughter).

P90Noir: I thought I was hearing a Big Muff on that part, but now I’m guessing maybe it’s a cranked Hotcake?

Joey Siara: That one isn’t, that’s Andy playing. He does most of the leads. At the same though, his setup is usually all the stuff that I’ve bought for myself that doesn’t really suit me. His guitar and most of his pedals I technically at one time in my life bought them. I’m not 100% sure on that. The lead might be a Turbo Rat. It’s one of those pedals that I actually purchased several times. I get one and I get sick of it and then I re-buy it again.

P90Noir: I got through that as well. I think I’ve bought and sold a Boss Blues Driver at least four times. I always think I’m going to like it, but it never works with my playing or my setup. And I’ve probably owned an MXR Dynacomp more times than that.

Joey Siara: You know I’ve had a similar experience with the Big Muff. I think part of my thing is that I love Teles and I love the bridge pickup and I feel like Big Muffs a lot of times, they want you to be hanging out on that neck pickup.

P90Noir: For me and Big Muffs, I always love them when I’m at home practicing. But whenever I take it into the band setting it just disappears in the mix. Finally, about a year ago, I picked up one of the Black Russian Sovtek (last version before they quit making them) Big Muffs and it’s the keeper. It has mids and it has a range of gain that none of the others had.

Joey Siara: Oh yeah, that’s totally been my problem with them too. Being a J. Mascis fan, I ended up getting the green one that was made in Russia. It’s like made out of tank parts (laughter). It’s awesome. I had this guy mod it so it’s true bypass and it has a little more headroom and doesn’t get as lost in the mix. But it takes up such a huge chunk of real estate in my little pedal case that I ended up giving it to our bass player and it has ended up being a huge part of our bass sound, especially on the new record. We split the signal, and on some of the songs it’s mostly the dry signal. But you really hear it on The Fakers and Anymore/Any Less.

Part two of the interview will be posted next week.

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