Originally published in Guitar World, September 2009
Guitar World recently caught up with Longwave's Steve Schiltz and Shannon Ferguson where they discuss the importance of guitar layering to form interesting textures and ambience in music.
Guitar duos usually comes come in three varieties: the classic rhythm-and-lead combo à la Hetfield and Hammett; synchronized harmonizers like Maiden’s Murray and Smith; and lead-trading duelists such as the Allman Brothers’ Haynes and Trucks. On their new album, Secrets Are Sinister, Longwave’s Steve Schiltz and Shannon Ferguson demonstrate there are a few other variations worth exploring.
Released earlier this year, the criminally overlooked album is a textural extravaganza that showcases the duo’s massive-sounding and meticulously orchestrated guitars. Building cathedrals of sound using only a handful of delay and distortion boxes, Schiltz and Ferguson craft parts that suggest multiple overdubs as well as strings and synthesizers, where in fact it’s just two dudes with six strings and a lot of imagination (see this month’s disc for a demonstration of their methods).
“I was originally an aspiring shredder,” says Schiltz, who is also the band’s lead singer and primary songwriter. “I changed direction after hearing Johnny Marr’s work with the Smiths. Note choice and ambience became more important to me.”
On tracks like the insanely catchy “Sirens in the Deep” and “No Direction” (the kind of high-energy anthem U2 used to write), the guitarist shows he hasn’t quit ripping up the frets completely, as he slices through the band’s layered wash with some fleet-fingered soloing. Produced by Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, MGMT) and Peter Kalis (Interpol, Mercury Rev), Secrets Are Sinister is the band’s fourth album, and Schiltz feels it’s their best. “Johnny Carson once told Steve Martin, ‘In show business, you will use everything you ever learned.’ That’s how I feel about this record.”