Spotlight: Psychobabel

PSYCHOBABEL

HAILS FROM: Melbourne, VIC
THE MEMBERS WE INTERVIEWED ARE: Lean Romero, Matt Forge and Stu Ferguson
SOUNDS LIKE: Punky and proggy, baroque-ish garage-rock
LATEST DROP: 'Grip' (single out now independently)

What’s your current go-to guitar?
Romero:
A 1992 Japanese Fender Mustang. The short scale and super light feel makes it very comfortable to play live.

Forge: A Telecaster copy I built from scratch. I love it for its mahogany body, caddy green nitro finish and ‘70s Seymour Duncan P-90 Dog Ear on the neck.

Ferguson: A Japanese Rickenbacker knock-off from the ‘70s. Having only played short-scale basses, I love how it feels like a double bass and affects the way I play.

How did you initially fall in love with the instrument?
Romero:
My first guitar was a non-branded, nylon-string classical guitar that I got when I was eight years old. I started to play because I had no friends.

Forge: I grew up in a pretty isolated area without much to do, and my cousin started learning AC/DC songs. I simply wouldn’t allow him to know how to do something I couldn’t. My first axe was a handmade Japanese Yari nylon with Brazilian rosewood back and sides, and a warm cedar top from ‘65 that my Aunty had passed down to me in my early teens.

What inspires you as a player?
Forge:
I’ve always loved the fluidity and otherwordly sounds that Hendrix paints, and the sophisticated, yet eerie note choices of the two-fingered, lightning fast Django Reinhardt. Not to mention Josh Homme’s raw desert-psych tones and songwriting style, and the general approach all three have to the guitar.

Are you much of a gear nerd?
Romero:
I like having gear that I’m definitely going to use. Stu and I both play Death By Audio fuzz pedals (Apocalypse and Fuzz War), and I think that has become a big part of our sound.

Forge: I am the biggest gear nerd. Lately I’ve been enjoying my housemate’s ‘63 Fender Vibroverb amp. With only 600 ever made, it was the first Fender amp to feature a vibrato system (actually taken from a Hammond organ circuit at the time) and has such piercing clarity and breakup. I can now clearly see why it was the touring choice of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Do you have any ‘white whales’?
Forge:
An ES-335 with PAFs is my personal vision of the perfect tone, but I love really weird, kooky vintage guitars from the ‘60s that make me question the designer’s abstinence from psychedelics at the time.

What would your signature model look like?
Romero:
Matt is actually entertaining the ridiculous idea of making me a Dungeons And Dragons-themed guitar with armour on the body and D20s as pots.

Forge: I’ve worked as a luthier at Maton for years, and have always dreamt about us one day doing a reissue of the Firebird. As long as we would adhere to only the best quality components – as we always do – and maybe a baseball bat-like neck and hot-as-hell pickups, I’d be happy.

If you could jam with any guitarist, dead or alive...
Romero:
Our music is pretty heavily influenced by the Arctic Monkeys, so I reckon writing a song with Alex Turner sounds like a fun time.

Forge: Hendrix would have to be my number one dream jam companion, as he would be for many other guitarists. I’d say just having Mitch Mitchell hold a groove and wail on endlessly to Neptune and back.

Ferguson: Given all these lockdowns, I think I’d just like to play with the guitarists of Psychobabel again whenever we can.

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

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. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…