Thursday, October 20, 2011
three: mustang mania with archie powell
Hello everyone. Apologies for the lack of updates. I've been busy with turning 26 and getting awesome birthday presents from my girlfriend. Anyway, if you've been paying attention to what's been happening in Chicago music scene as of late, you're probably familiar with Archie Powell & The Exports. The Wicker Park based four-piece has been at it for the last few years, gigging extensively in support of their debut full length, the hooky-as-all-hell "Skip Work". I got the chance to chat with Mr. Powell himself a few weeks ago, where we talked about our mutual love for a classic guitar, the Fender Mustang.
Sahan: Tell me about how you first got into Mustangs.
Archie: I had been aware of Mustangs since I was a kid because I was a total Nirvana nerd and Kurt [Cobain] was a well-known poster child for them at the time. Back then though they were still discontinued. This was like the late 90's I think. Really bizarre. They didn't sell them for a while although had they, they could have made a mint. I never came across one until I started using eBay in high school. I think I landed my first one in 2002 or 2003. It was a Japanese reissue, Sonic Blue with a red swirl pickguard. The proper red kind, not the tortoise shell looking one. That got stolen from our van during the first tour I ever embarked upon.
S: Hard times. If memory serves, that should have been one of the 1969 reissues they did around 94 or 95.
AP: Yeah, exactly right. I don't remember if it played well at all or even sounded good, I was just psyched to finally have one. I did enjoy the feel of the thinner neck, though it took some adjustment. Those guitars kind of feel like a toy if you're playing one for the first time.
S: Absolutely. Thats kind of why I love them. The Univox Hi-Fliers too...just like...yardstick thin neck, but in the best way possible.
AP: I've never had the pleasure of playing a Univox of any kind. Would definitely like to. I've been curious about them for years.
S: They are awesome and definitely worth checking out, but I digress. How long until you replaced that first Mustang?
AP: I replaced it with a Jaguar, which I picked up for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who's read this far. I tried to make that work, but I can't deal with the string saddle situation. I play hard, and the low E would constantly come out of its groove.I've had tons of different guitars over the years - a couple Strats, an SG, Teles. I keep coming back to Mustangs. They just feel right and look so retro and cute. I think I'll go on record as saying they're the cutest body shape Fender has ever produced.
S: Haha I think that’s something most people can agree upon. The Jaguar move makes sense, obviously, but did it take a long time before you decided to revisit the Mustang? Did you ever try a Jag-Stang?
AP: I think I'll go on record as saying that the Jag-Stang is the ugliest body shape Fender has ever produced.
S: Haha, truth. Ive always wanted one for...just kinda collectorish reasons.
AP: Yeah man, I hear ya. That's really the only reason I can imagine. It's kinda like someone decided that they like chocolate but also like lasagna. So obviously we should pour chocolate all over this lasagna, right? It kind of ends up having the worst parts of both its parents. I dunno. Maybe I'm just a Mustang purist. It needed no alteration.
My second Mustang [Daphne Blue with White Pearl pickguard], I won on eBay from a legit Fender Japan dealer - you know, since they stopped exporting to the states. I go that in 2005 and it's been on the front lines ever since. Plays like absolute shit and sounds kinda poorly too. I put a Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder in the bridge position. But I still love it. One of my favorite guitars. Sometimes its about more than how "good" it actually is. It's kind of like how everyone has that one idiot friend. He's an idiot, but he's MY idiot.
S: Haha absolutely. What about your most current Mustang?
AP: Its actually the best guitar I've ever owned. 70s with the competition stripe. '72 I believe. It's real beat up. Plays like a dream.
S: That’s awesome. Where’d you get that one from?
AP: eBay. I buy virtually everything on eBay. I love it.
S: Haha, I can get behind that. So besides Nirvana, were there other bands from that era that influenced your gear choices, past or present? I know that you're a Boss DS-1 and Electro Harmonix Big Muff user, both of which just reek of like…Sub Pop Records circa 1993.
A: That's the foundation, I guess. I never got sick of that sound even once it fell out of fashion in the 00's. I don't really like most 90's rock, though. I like Nirvana a lot, obviously. Mudhoney was great. Tad. Jimi Hendrix is the best example of what the Big Muff can do, in my opinion. I'm mainly talking about the harsh noise he had going on. That's tough to beat.
S: Oh totally. Whats about the DS-1? I think a lot of people see that as like a.....”my first distortion pedal when i was 13” kinda thing.
AP: Me too, but I think it's great for that reason. It's classic and affordable.
S: What are your settings on it?
AP: Tone is usually at 10 o clock and distortion is usually around 2 o clock. Depends on the room I'm playing. Level is usually totally goosed.
S: Something I ask everyone-what are you currently thinking about adding to the rig?
AP: I'm pretty set as of late, I just got a Boss OC-3 octave pedal. I might like an analog delay, the old school kind. Those are great for making a horrible racket.
S: Haha yeah, those Boss DM-2s are great. MXR’s Carbon Copy too. So do you tend to stick to the same gear when recording or do you use that as an opportunity to use stuff that you wouldn't usually have access to?
AP: I kinda record using whatever we've got in the room that sounds good. Don't care what it is. It's usually a scramble to find the best tone as quickly as possible, since time is money in that situation.
S: Yeah totally. Did you use anything special on Skip Work?
AP: I used all of my own guitars. Fender Tele '72 Custom Reissue, the blue Mustang we spoke of, and my Martin for acoustic parts. I think we used a Marshall JCM-900 for most of the record.
S: Anyone in particular who’s tone you’re into?
AP: Hard question. I'm not much of a tone nerd, though I suppose I can say that I love what Jack White does when he goes totally mental and his guitar sounds like a dying porpoise.
S: Yeah. you're not the first person i've talked to who's mentioned Jack White.
AP: I think it's a Big Muff and a Whammy.
S: Yeah thats pretty much it. He's pretty minimal when it comes to effects.
AP: That's kinda how it is for me. I can't be bothered.
S: Absolutely. So whats next for the Exports? a new ep or full length? tour dates?
AP: We're hitting the studio in early September to record LP #2. Very stoked. My pre-game impression is that it's gonna bury the last one. We'll be on the road for most of October as well. Those are the two biggies we're concentrating on as of late.
S: Are you gonna be working with Justin Perkins again?
AP: Indeed. He's a wizard. Can't wait!
Archie Powell & The Exports are currently touring the East Coast. Check the video as well as remaining tour dates, and as always, thanks for reading.
Archie Powell & The Exports On Tour::
October 20 | Wilmington, DE | Kelly Logan's House
October 21 | Summit,NJ | Party at Steve Wolf's House
October 22 | New York City | Arlene's Grocery (CMJ Day Party)
October 23 | Madison, WI | The Frequency (21+)
October 28 | Chicago, IL | The Elbo Room