Originally published in Guitar World, December 2010
The influential Melvins guitarist talks about his early days, gear and his band's latest album, The Bride Screamed Murder.
What first inspired you to pick up a guitar?
It looked like it would be fun to do.
What was your first guitar?
I didn’t start playing until I was almost out of high school, and I used somebody’s cheap acoustic. My first electric was a cheap copy that looked like an SG. It was really terrible.
What was the first song you learned?
I have no idea. But I started trying to learn songs by the Who relatively quickly.
What do you recall about your first gig?
The first proper show was a Melvins show in the early Eighties. It was a punk rock show. We opened up for two bands from Canada in Olympia, Washington, and it went okay. We played the same place a few weeks later and went over pretty good.
What’s your favorite piece of gear?
It’s all about the guitars. My current guitar is an all-aluminum guitar built by Kevin Burkett at the Electrical Guitar Company. I started using it about a year and a half ago. I played Les Pauls up until then. I’ve completely converted to using aluminum guitars now. They work great, especially in an electromagnetic field. They’re second to none.
How has your playing evolved on The Bride Screamed Murder?
My guitar playing is aimed at coming up with new material, always. And if I get stymied, I just jam cover songs and it brings me out of it. People get so hung up on technical ability, which has nothing to do with music. Usually.
I’m also a much more confident player. I can play things now that I couldn’t play 20 years ago. It’s an ease thing. I used to have to rehearse all the time, but now I can just play.
What’s your proudest moment as a player on the new record?
The chord progression on “Evil New War God” is very odd, and it’s in C-G tuning [low to high, C G D G B E]. It’s strange, and it’s got slides in there. The vocals kinda cover up what’s neat about it. “The Water Glass” is also in C-G tuning, and I was really happy about that riff. It’s a strange combination of things.
I fell into C-G tuning about 20 years ago from just screwin’ around—which I do a lot of. Somebody told me the guitar’s just tuned to fifths. I don’t read music, and I don’t have any idea about that kinda stuff, so I discover a lot of things that are old hat. It’s a pretty strange way of playing.