Friday, August 5, 2011

two: young, loud & fuzzy: talkin' gear with tenement

photo courtesy of Tenement Facebook page

This summer I’ve been jamming a lot of records, but none quite as hard as Tenement's debut full length, “Napalm Dream”. It’s punk rock the way it outta be -- loud, energetic, and incredibly catchy, bringing to mind everyone from the Descendents to Hüsker. Singer and guitarist Amos was cool enough to chat with me a bit about all the gear they use, both live and on record.

Sahan: Let's start off with drums.

Amos: The drum kit pictured is the one I use on most of the Tenement recordings, and when playing live with other projects I'm involved with. It's kind of just thrown together, and pieces are replaced from time to time.

I have a 20” Zildjian ride cymbal, which I think is a late 60s / early 70s Zilco cymbal. It was given to me by a friend who moved to Alaska. For hi hats, I have a pair of 14” Zildjian New Beats-one of my only conscious drum purchases as I prefer the way they sound to others I've owned. The kick drum is from a 60's Dixie drum kit, which were low end Japanese drums made by Pearl. It's part of my first kit that I got when I was like six or seven. The snare drum is also a low end Japanese made Pearl called Maxwin. The floor tom is a no name drum that I got from a pawn shop for nine dollars. I got it using store credit from this vintage Ampeg bass amp that was totaled when I brought it home. The rack tom is part of a Ludwig Standard set I found in the basement of BFG [Appleton punk house/DIY show space]. Its not even mine.

S: Very cool. Is your hardware random Japanese stuff as well then?

A: All of the hardware is garbage I've found and fixed. I usually play with the butt-end of my drumsticks so I like to find broken sticks on the floor of clubs or wherever we play, and use them. It cuts costs. However, if possible I prefer 5B. I'm of the opinion that if you hit it hard enough, you can make it sound good no matter what it is. It's percussion…be creative!

Also, for a while I was using a vintage Rogers drum stool and I would love to get a hold of one of those again. It beat the hell out of whatever garbage I use these days.

S: Haha. What about your guitar and amp rig? What do you play?

A: Most of the time I play a Gibson SG Faded, but it’s been in the shop for quite some time now due to the neck snapping at a recent show, and some electrical problems that are probably related. It's been through a lot, which is evident by the mismatch replacement parts. In the meantime, I've been using a vintage Epiphone, which I think is a variation of their Coronet model, but I might be wrong. I'm partial to humbuckers…they can make the guitar squeal and moan, so both of these guitars suit me well. For home recordings I've often used a Gretsch Electromatic Corvette. For a lot of the tracks on Napalm Dream, I used an early 60s Gibson SG that was borrowed from [Napalm Dream engineer] Justin Perkins. All of these are usually strung with Ernie Ball Regular Slinky strings.

As far as guitar amplifiers and cabinets go, I use a Sunn Model T reissue, which is really loud and can sound really heavy. I spent my entire life savings on this thing when I was 19, rather than buying a car that I had my eye on as well. I bought it from a friend of mine for $800 It's accompanied by a 6X12 Peavey cabinet with a horn, which I've found little to no information on and the only other two of the same model I've found were in Green Bay and Australia. Over time, it's been totalled by touring and wear and tear, but the condition it's in pictured is the condition it was in when we recorded "Napalm Dream"-that's the cabinet you hear. For home recording, I like to use a Crate GX15 practice amp for both guitar and bass, and either a Pro Co Turbo Rat or a Zvex Fuzz Factory.

S: Awesome! I love how heavy the guitars sound on the record. What about bass gear?

A: For live and sometimes recording,
Jesse uses a Peavey 400 Series Bass Amplifier and a Kasino 200 2X15 Cabinet. We originally got this stuff because it was really cheap, but we soon realized that it was really loud and sounded great for a punchy and fuzzy bass sound. He uses a Mexican Fender P-Bass which was also really cheap. He’s got a really old Globe SG bass at home, which sounds great and looks even better, but he has constant problems with its intonation and setup so he never uses it live.

S: Sometimes the most random and inexpensive stuff can sound great. Is there any gear that you’re looking for at the moment?

A: I aim to purchase a Sunn Beta Lead solid state guitar amp in the near future.

S:Those things rule! So loud…which is what you should expect from pretty much anything Sunn. I understand that you also have a pretty old piano?

Yeah. The piano sound we get on tape is from a turn of the century Price and Teeple upright cabinet grand piano that I got from a farmer who moved it to our house in a pickup truck with a crane in tow. He lifted the thing with his crane a good fifteen feet off the ground and on to our front lawn. As a result, it's a little warped in shape now and sounds kinda funny. I guess the fact that we live in a punk house that does shows on a regular basis doesn't help the fact much, either. Drunks love pianos. And being violent.

S:Haha, I think at any house that does shows, things are bound to get tampered with. Is there anyone’s guitar tone that you dig?

Greg Ginn. My obsession with his guitar sound goes back to the first time I heard [Black Flag’s] "Damaged" in its entirety...and he always favored solid state amps, specifically stuff from the Peavey 400 Series.

A band who’s guitar sound has really thrilled me in recent time is a band from Minneapolis called Varix. They play d-beat punk with buzzy, fuzzed out guitars. I'm pretty sure the guitarist, Ashley, uses some sort of 400 Series Peavey. Which makes complete sense.

Tenement’s debut full length “Napalm Dream” is available now on CD through Hangup Records and vinyl through Mandible Records. Check the video and give the record a listen.

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