Starcrawler’s Henri Cash on why he plays a three-string guitar: “I’m basically doing a Keith Richards thing without the top strings”

Henri Cash
(Image credit: Gilbert Trejo)

Starcrawler guitarist Henri Cash can do a whole lot with very little. Throughout his band’s smashing new album, She Said, he fires off rip-snortin’ punk rock riffs and rhythms on just three strings.

“It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid,” he says. “My dad played guitar, and he used a lot of open tunings. I kind of narrowed that down to the bare essentials and found that three strings were all I needed.”

Cash’s main electric guitar is a custom model designed by luthier Randy Parsons. He struck up a friendship with the guitar builder several years ago at a NAMM show, after which Parsons crafted Cash’s White Bat model.

“It’s got one pickup, kind of Malcolm Young style,” Cash says. “And there’s an R2R treble booster built right inside, so I get a lot of lift with that.”

On most songs, he sticks with a G-D-G tuning (gauges .046, .036 and .026, respectively). “I’m basically doing a Keith Richards thing without the top strings,” he says. “I never wanted to be a shredder dude. I’m more of a Chuck Berry/Johnny Ramone-type guy. I like to play solos, but I make sure they’re tight and melodic and without a lot of notes.”

Cash’s minimalist approach achieves maximum thrust on gnashing rockers like Roadkill, Thursday and True Deranged. But all isn’t pedal to the metal: on the frothy ’70s funk-disco pastiche Jetblack, he whacks up a disturbing noise solo (played on a five-string version of the White Bat), and he adds genuine country-rock flavor to the Stonesy acoustic dirge A Better Place. Teamed with his pedal steel-playing brother Bill on the Bowie-esque Broken Angels, he demonstrates an artful flair for spacey, abstract textures.

Cash cites the recent addition of his brother to the band’s lineup (which also consists of singer Arrow de Wilde, bassist Tim Franco and drummer Seth Carolina) as a major factor in the evolution of their sound.

“Bill adds a lot of dynamics and frequencies that we didn’t have before,” he says. “We’re bigger and fuller now – more multi-dimensional.” He laughs. “To my ears, we sound like the Byrds playing Nirvana.”

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Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar World, Guitar Player, MusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.