Marcus King on raiding Dan Auerbach’s fuzz museum, soul singer solos, and chicken pickin’ hoedowns with Brent Hinds and Matt Pike

Marcus King
(Image credit: Mitch Conrad)

If you’re looking for the most sizzling fuzz tones in modern blues, you’ll definitely want to be keeping an eye on Marcus King. 

This year’s sophomore Young Blood album sees the 26 year-old American partner up once again with producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys for some truly stunning and wonderfully crackly results...

We heard you tracked most of Young Blood with your ’59 Les Paul.

“Yeah, that’s what you’re mainly hearing, though there was ’69 Black Beauty in the mix too, going into this old Gibson amp me and my dad have had for years. It’s all been reconstructed into a plywood box, so it’s a small amp that looks big. 

“We’d run it in stereo with either a Supro or an AC30. I don’t know what year but I don’t think anything in Dan’s studio was newer than at least 30 years! Everything was period-correct for what we were trying to achieve. Basically, I wanted this record to sound like a tattoo gun!”

So did you get to raid Dan’s fuzz pedal museum?

“[Laughs] Yeah, I had a look around! He does have this wonderful collection of vintage gear. A lot of the fuzz sounds came from this vintage Tone Bender that he gifted to me after the record was done. The Tone Bender was his recommendation and it worked out great. I used my Tru-Fi Colordriver a lot too. 

“I love Dan’s playing. It’s not about what he says; it’s about what he doesn’t say. You pay as much attention to the space in between the notes as you do the notes themselves. He always takes time to breathe. That’s how I approach live improvisations. It’s meditation. Just let yourself get there.”

Who were your main influences when it came to your leads on this album?

“I want my guitar to sound like a jazz singer – people like Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday. I love the break-up from the ribbon microphones used on those early recordings. So I can almost recreate those sounds using fuzz pedals. If I can phrase anywhere near as good as Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner or Bob Seger, I’m doing it right. 

“I also take inspiration from lyricists like Method Man and Tyler, The Creator. People who have a really good flow and mean what they say. If you ever find yourself writing a blues solo with a pen and manuscript, you might as well take a lighter and set it on fire. Just play something from the heart and in the moment.”

My dad played Top 40 country for a while in the early '90s, so there was a good bit of chicken pickin’ in my house growing up, but with Boss distortion and chorus on it

You often jam with Mastodon’s Brent Hinds, who – like you – is occasionally prone to using Banker Custom Guitars.

“Actually, we did use my Banker Explorer a little on this album for some doubling here and there. And yeah, me and Brent have guitar showdowns, but they’re more like hoedowns! We have a lot of fun together. 

“I got together with him and Matt Pike [Sleep/High On Fire] recently for some chicken pickin’ stuff, which we’re all into. My dad played Top 40 country for a while in the early '90s, so there was a good bit of chicken pickin’ in my house growing up, but with Boss distortion and chorus on it. Seriously man, country guitar has some wild tones!”

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Amit Sharma

Amit has been writing for titles like Total GuitarMusicRadar and Guitar World for over a decade and counts Richie Kotzen, Guthrie Govan and Jeff Beck among his primary influences as a guitar player. He's worked for magazines like Kerrang!Metal HammerClassic RockProgRecord CollectorPlanet RockRhythm and Bass Player, as well as newspapers like Metro and The Independent, interviewing everyone from Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy to Slash and Jimmy Page, and once even traded solos with a member of Slayer on a track released internationally. As a session guitarist, he's played alongside members of Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in London ensemble Metalworks, as well as handled lead guitars for legends like Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols, The Faces) and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, G3).