Spotlight: Christopher Vernon of Belle Haven

Christopher Vernon
(Image credit: Oversimplified Complications)

CHRISTOPHER VERNON

HAILS FROM: Melbourne, VIC
PLAYS IN: Belle Haven
SOUNDS LIKE: Vicious and emotive post-hardcore
LATEST DROP: Time Changes Nothing (EP out now via Greyscale)

What’s your current go-to guitar?
I swap between guitars regularly, but recentlyI’ve been playing my modified Fender Squier Stratocaster. A few years ago, I had the idea to buy the cheapest Strat I could find brand new and then get my friend Michael Harron to modify it with top quality hardware and pickups. So I just searched online and found the Strat for around $240 delivered. If you were to buy that guitar new, with the mods already included, it would be more like $1,000. It’s such a nice guitar because it looks kinda cheap but feels and sounds like a very expensive guitar.

How did you initially fall in love with the instrument?
I was around ten years old when I first picked up a guitar. I found out by pure boredom that I have a bit of a natural talent for music, and the guitar just happened to be my first instrument. The first guitar that was actually mine was a three-quarter-sized nylon acoustic that my father rebuilt because it was broken and under our family house somewhere.

What inspires you as a player?
I’m a huge fan of Beau and Justin from Saosin in terms of riffs. But I think more than anything, I’m in love with how firm and consistent the right hand is on guitarists like Misha and Nolly from Periphery. I think being an audio engineer and having to focus on telling artists to play harder for heavier tunes, it’s forced me to have a bit of an addiction to a solid right-hand technique.

Are you much of a gear nerd?
I think I’m a bit of one, but more in a “chasing the ultimate tone” kind of way. If I hear something I love, then I’ll have to know what it is. That helps me choose what I want to use with my own guitars. Right now I’m using a DiMarzio Crunch Lab pickup in the bridge of my Strat, but I’m keen to put in a Fishman Fluence Alnico Humbucker that was used in an Ernie Ball guitar on a Deadlights track that I mixed. Whenever I’m working on a new project in the studio, we shoot out everything – guitars, basses, plectrums, amp sims, and even overdrive pedals. But I’m not huge into doing something just because it sounds different – I find that the most important thing is always going to be how well you can play something, and whether a song is actually good.

Do you have any ‘white whales’?
Right now I’m eyeing off a custom-built Balaguer guitar with an Evertune bridge that I created on their site. I’ve wanted an Evertune for so long, I can’t believe I somehow don’t have one already.

What would your signature model look like?
I love Strat and Jazzmaster bodies – or any body that is slightly less chunky than a Jazzmaster and looks a tad more modern. It definitely can’t have a Floyd Rose bridge. It would have to be relatively light in weight and most likely have some Fishman Fluence pickups. Or if I could work with someone to create a good middle-ground between two types of pickups I like, that would be cool. I prefer single coil neck pickups for clean tones, but I always stick with stock Fender pickups for that. I also prefer six strings, and it would have to be a slightly longer scale as I play in Drop B tuning for Belle Haven. There would be no need for a tone knob – I can’t remember the last time I actually used a tone knob below 10.

If you could jam with any guitarist, dead or alive...
For me it’s a hard pick between Tom Searle from Architects (RIP) and Nolly Getgood. I’d probably want to write an obnoxiously fast, palm-muted, chuggy riff with them, and jam that for a few hours. That would make me smile.

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Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Their bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (on which they also serve as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Their go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, they only picked up after they’d joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped them see the light…