Why Guitarists Should "Tear Up the Rulebook" by Godflesh's Justin Broadrick

Godflesh’s seventh studio album, A World Lit Only by Fire, is out now.

What inspired you to first pick up a guitar?

My stepfather. He was a guitarist very influenced by David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. As a young kid, seeing him play always inspired me to want to pick up a guitar. After that it was when I was listening to punk. I got into the Stranglers and then into more hardcore punk, like Discharge. I quite simply just wanted to play extremely basic and primitive punk guitar styles.

What was your first guitar?

I was about 11 when my mum and stepfather bought me this cheap Gibson ES copy. It was like a copy of a copy of a copy. An absolute piece of crap! But what I liked about it was that it looked just like [Kevin] Geordie [Walker]’s guitar from Killing Joke.

What was the first song you ever learned?

I first learned how to play a barre chord, and from what I can recall I was playing Discharge’s “Fight Back,” which was the first seven-inch by them that I bought.

Do you remember your first gig? What was it like?

My first gig was with my ambient noise project, Final, in front of maybe 15 people. At that stage, it sounded just like power electronic noise. I actually never even used a guitar; it was all microphone feedback, shortwave-radio noise and synth.

Godflesh are known for their massive low sound and aggressive tone. In terms of gear, what is the “secret weapon” to your sound?

Strangely, I don’t feel that there really is a secret weapon to my guitar sound. I used to exclusively use Boss Heavy Metal pedals and Boss delays, but I feel now I can recreate the tone almost instinctively. It’s all about texture. It may take some time to get there, but I can pretty much use any distortion and get the sound. I use an eight-string guitar now, which is extremely important in terms of being able to play lower and have more strings to explore discords!

A World Lit Only by Fire is Godflesh’s first album in 13 years. What inspired you to resurrect the band?

Many things inspired me to resurrect Godflesh. As much as anything, I really felt the need to compose like Godflesh again and indulge in riffs that are both heavy and somewhat surreal, abstract and essentially nasty. Riffs that are driven by a sense of dissonance and discordance are very exciting for me.

You used drum machines on this record, like you did when you first started the band. How did that help ignite your creativity?

The machines and drum sample banks are something I have been working with throughout my career. I always find machines very inspiring creatively, because I have a very clear picture of what rhythms I wish to hear and how to produce them. It was very, very important for us to go back to that original sound and concept.

You’ve always had a unique approach to guitar and songwriting. What advice would you give to young players just getting started?

I feel if I do have a unique approach to guitar and songwriting, it’s accidental, just a sum of its parts and my influences. I was never traditionally taught. I learned the basic chords and after that paid no attention whatsoever. I go completely on feel, and most of the time I have no idea what chord forms I am playing. My only bottom line is that it sounds good. My advice for young players is to tear up the rulebook and explore a guitar as if it is something completely fresh and new to them, so new ideas and concepts can emerge.

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Brad Angle

Brad is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and video producer. He is the former content director of Revolver magazine and executive editor of Guitar World. His work has appeared in Vice, Guitar Aficionado, Inked and more. He’s also a die-hard Les Paul player who wishes he never sold his 1987 Marshall Silver Jubilee half stack.