Kashmir and wood

13 Mar 2016

I spent the day refurbring my old Mexican Telecaster, which I bought roughly 20 years ago when I was in a band with some friends (we were terrible, but it was a lot of fun). At the time brit hop was at it’s height, and the telecaster was a very popular guitar with that scene (most notably by Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead who at the time I idolised as the guitarist to be).

For the last ten years or so I’ve hardly picked up my guitars. My old acoustic had a warped neck from having too light strings one it for too long, and when you’re out of practice playing electric is a somewhat anti-social thing. Ultimately, I’m not really that good anyway. The main reason I stopped though is music is more fun when you have others to play with.

Recently I received some wonderful wooden plectrums as a gift, which was meant to inspire me to pick up my guitars again (thanks Vi & Arthur :). Both my guitars being in a slightly dilapidated state, I took this as inspiration to actually go and replace my aged Fender Acoustic with a wonderful Lâg T200ACE electro acoustic.

Part the motivation for getting an electro-acoustic is it lets me record things much more easily, and I can share them say with my brother, who is actually musically talented, which means I can try and get that slightly social aspect to music back. Not sure what Tristan gets out of this deal, other than perhaps a constant reminder that he really can play guitar.

Then, to pass the time on the commute to the Cupertino office recently, I watched the absolutely wonderful It Might Get Loud, a documentary bringing together Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White, and looking at their playing styles and histories. One message from the film really struck a chord with me (did you see what I did there…) was how they had their own styles, and it wasn’t about the sheet of music. Let me try to explain.

One of the things that I think always I got caught up on when trying to learn songs on guitar was trying to recreate them perfectly, rather than just playing them in a way that suited me; I wanted to sound just like Johnny Greenwood or Peter Buck or whoever, and pretty much always fell short, making guitar as frustrating an experience as a fun one. I first realised my mistake just as my early guitar days were about to end. The only really talented band member, Adam, gave me a song he’d written for me to try play. Because I had no reference for it, I just played it as I would play it, which was a liberating experience. Unfortunately this was just as we were all finishing Uni and cast our separate ways, thus ending our band, and so the lesson never really took hold.

But watching It Might Get Loud reminded me of that, and inspired me not only to pick up the acoustic again, but also to dust of my Telecaster, take it apart and put it back together as close to new as I can, and have some fun playing it without fretting too much (do you see what I did there…) about being pitch perfect.

As great as the film is, some of the best clips from fell on the cutting room floor, and are thankfully on youtube (see here and here) – in these the three are teaching each other how to play some of their more notable riffs from their careers (which I imagine can be dull for non-guitarists, so I see why they might cut them). Thus I’ve been trying the same, having just got my guitar back into working order:

Yes, the timing is a bit wonky, and I fluff the ending, but it’s just a huge amount of fun to play, because it’s within my range (unlike most of Radiohead); same for my attempt to learn slide and play Seven Nation Army. These riffs can withstand interpretation and just so much fun to play as I can play.

Not sure this makes a huge amount of sense, but it’s great fun to just be fiddling with the guitar and trying out new things and finding things that I can play that entertain me rather than trying to achieve things outwith my grasp. Just apologies to Tristan who ends up having to listen to it all ;)