I have enjoyed getting to know the Jesus Culture guys. They are all cool and funny and nice. Which are the three most important things in the world. Anyways, I officially met Chris Quilala a few months ago at that big new years Passion thing where he and the band dominated every square inch of the Georgia Dome. He has such an awesome voice, His songs rule, he can dominate on the drums… his hair is super curly… By the way, I know being funny and cool aren’t the most important things in the world. Being nice is probably one of the most important things in the world… anyways… So, I checked in with Mr. Quilala a couple weeks ago. Here’s how it went… ENJOY.
What’s new, man?
Just had another baby girl… well, my wife did most the work. I now have 2 beautiful girls… and a pitbull. Apart from that, we are getting ready to go on tour for a couple weeks. I think we might be in your neck of the woods even.
You are. I’ll see you there. Congrats on that baby girl! Hey, what’s your favorite song?
Don’t know if I have one. I’ve been lovin’ Be Still from the last Killers album. Shadowlands still gets me… What’s yours?
I think my favorite song is Ultra Violet (light my way). But I am a U2 fan. So…
Your last name is really fun to say. Where is Quilala from?
Quilala… it is Filipino… wait, how do I spell check on this? Anyhow, the pronunciation is like… Key-Lala. Or at least thats how I’ve always said it… hehe
How did you get started with Jesus Culture?
I’ve been involved with Jesus Culture since the beginning. We started out as a youth group band that wanted to make a cd with songs that were ministering to us on Wednesday nights. The goal was to have something that our youth group could take home and worship God with in their bedrooms/cars/etc. It kinda took off from there, but the heart is still the same… we just want people to encounter God and, in turn, share Him with others.
I really like your voice. Have you always been a good singer? Did you ever take vocal lessons or anything?
Yes. YOUR VOICE.
Aww, thanks man… thats super encouraging. I never really took formal lessons. I guess I learned by singing to albums that I loved. I sang in a few church musicals when I was a kid. My mom still says I couldn’t carry a tune when I was young. Recently I’ve been trying my best to warm up using one of those fancy speech-level-singing-training cds.
What is your favorite song you’ve written? Where did you write it?
I’d have to say, “I want to know You” It was a prayer of mine for a couple years. I started singing the bridge hook spontaneously when the band and I were playing in Australia. I guess a lot of my songs have a similar theme but that one sticks out to me.
What’s some advice you can give to songwriters?
I’m somewhat new to songwriting but something I’ve learned is to never ignore an idea. If I get something, whether it be a melody or a lyric I will always try and write it down or do a quick voice memo of it. For myself, the inspiration for a song usually comes when I least expect it. If I don’t write it down or record it… its gone. Chalk it up to short term memory loss or something.
Who are your favorite songwriters?
Love Dylan, James Taylor… Ryan Adams.. Brandon Flowers… the latter being my current favorite.
I like your curly hair.
My hair is kind of curly too.
Yeah, I noticed that… is it natural or do you use curlers?
I really like your new album, Live from New York. What was it like getting to make a record with Martin Smith? Were you so stoked!?! I would have died, probably. From happiness.
It was a dream come true. When I was 14-ish someone asked me, “If you had the chance to play with anyone who would it be?” I said Delirious. At the time I was playing drums so I never even thought I would actually be leading worship alongside one of my heroes. I’ve always looked up to him as a sort of father in modern worship… however, I believe he would prefer to be called uncle.
Who decides the setlist for your shows?
Kim and I.
I saw Jesus Culture play at the last Passion event in Atlanta. I was pretty blown away at what was going on when you guys were playing. I know it was a crazy experience being on that enormous stage surrounded by 60,000 people, but were you guys aware of just how powerful it was?
Man, it was crazy playing in front of that many people. I felt super humbled that Louie and the passion guys would share the stage with us. I still can’t believe how many people were there… makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it. Needless to say I was nervous but I know God touched people during our set and that makes me happy.
You and Kim sing and flow really well together. Do you two talk about what you are going to do, or do you just walk on stage and rule everyone?
Haha, you make-a-me laugh. We don’t usually talk about it. We’ve been leading together for a long time… 11-12 years? I love singing with her. I’d say we’ve gotten used to each other and usually have a sense of where is we are heading during a set. That being said, Kim always keeps me on my toes. She is great at breaking through the “norm” to get somewhere we haven’t been. That make any sense?
That makes sense, Chris. You are doing great, man. You are also a drummer. Does that influence the way you write songs? Are you picky about the drums on your songs when it’s not you playing them?
I am a drummer… always will be. When it comes to writing I am always thinking of what the drums might look like on the song when it is finished. I can also be very picky with drum parts but Josh is an amazing drummer. I’ll throw ideas back and forth with him a lot of times… I can’t help it. If I ever do a solo studio album… I might have to get behind kit for a least a couple songs. Whatcha think?
What do I think? I think you probably should. Who’s your favorite drummer?
The killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. I also love Glenn Kotche from Wilco. I’m too indecisive to have a favorite.
I’ve noticed that. Ever thought of leading worship from the drums like Don Henley or something?
Don is the man… Someone told me once that I reminded them of Don. Perhaps I should give it a try. Seems tough, ya know? Seems like a multitasking nightmare, and my wife is always telling me that multitasking is not strongest attribute.
You drink coffee, right?
Love coffee… You? Are you coffee connoisseur?
I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur. Other people would, but I wouldn’t. It sounds too braggy. What’s next for you? What’s coming up for Jesus Culture?
Next for me? Well, Jesus Culture is starting a church.. Crazy! I’ve lived in Redding my whole life… gone to the same church my whole life. The thought of moving and starting something new is scary for me but I’m excited to be stretched and get outside my comfort zone. What else… I’m gonna start writing for a solo album. You write? wanna help? haha.
Yeah I’ll help! Bye, Chris Quilala.
Lets hang soon. Talk to you later Mr. Duke.
I’ve got a new conversation for you guys. Mr. Jack Parker.
I met Jack when I was playing with John Mark McMillan on the David Crowder Band farewell tour. It was cool getting to know Jack and the guys. They are all very kind people. It was also really fun getting to watch them play every night. Jack is an amazing musician. Also funny.
I caught up with Jack a couple weeks ago. We discussed everything from his daily routine to Yngwie Malmsteen and got an update on his new band The Digital Age. And BWack.
Hey former tour buddy!
What are you doing?
Sitting at our studio trying to put out some fires. The email variety – not the literal state, process, or instance of combustion in which fuel or other material is ignited and combined with oxygen, giving off light, heat, and flame.
Oh. Ok. This is going to be interesting… Do you drink coffee?
Not very often. I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to caffeine. So only in emergency situations is my final answer. I seem to recall you and Jon consuming it by the gallon on tour?
Yeah… Dukes love coffee. What’s happening with your band The Digital Age?
Tons! We are currently working on finishing up our first full-length record entitled “Evening:Morning” which is scheduled to release on August 6. It is quasi-conceptual, with each song corresponding to its respective hour of the night/day. We were wanting to do an indie release like we did with “Rehearsals” which would have put the album out sooner, but our good friends at Fair Trade Services convinced us to partner with them and we happily obliged! On top of all that, we are still touring around playing shows and producing projects for other bands here at our studio Asterisk Sound.
I kept up with you guys via twitter and instagram while you were building your studio. Did you guys build most of it yourselves?
Yes. Our drummer, “bwack” or “the bwack” or “whacker” or anything else you want to call him pertaining to bushwhacking — his dad is a contractor/carpenter and would take him on jobs. So he had a knowledge of construction/design and basically we designed our dream studio and constructed it with bwack’s knowledge and skills. It definitely gave me an appreciation for what construction workers do. We would all show up at about 8am, do hard manual labor until about 5pm, come home, eat dinner and then just crash out. Are you familiar with what they call the “manual labor?”
I worked hanging wallpaper in an industrial park for 2 days. So…
You’ve been playing with the guys in the band for years now. With that kind of history is it easier or more difficult to write new music together?
I would definitely say easier. There is a kind of comfort level we have with each other just based on how much time we’ve spent together and I think writing thrives better in a more relaxed, unforced, familiar environment.
One thing I learned about you when we were on tour is that you can really shred on guitar! How did you learn to do that and who are some of your influences?
Ha! Well, I wanted to be able to walk into my local Guitar Center and battle with other players Dragonforce style! Not really though, but maybe a little. I started playing guitar in high school and at that time I was listening to a lot Metallica. So I would come home, put in the “Master of Puppets” cassette tape and basically learned by ear how to mimic what I was hearing. I had a year and a half of piano before that so I had a rudimentary knowledge of theory and that kind of thing. But mostly it was just a punk teenage kid in his room shredding along with his favorite hair metal bands. It’s weird though because my influences aren’t really shredders but players who approach the instrument in unorthodox ways – guys like, Michael Hedges, Jonny Greenwood, Tom Morello, Nick Zinner, etc… have you heard of Hedges? That stuff will blow your mind.
I have heard of him, but I haven’t ever listened. I’ll check him out. In your opinion, what makes a great guitar player?
I would say it’s knowing when not to play. I admire a guy like Gordon Kennedy who doesn’t play a lot of notes, but when he does, he makes it count. And it’s just so dang tasteful! So quality over quantity I guess. I know you’re way into C.C. Deville and Yngwie Malmsteen.
I actually really like C.C. Deville’s guitar playing. I think his soloing was way more melodic and hooky (hooky?) than most of the other guitar players in his genre. I went to an Yngwie show once. It was crazy. I had just heard some (probably not true) story about him getting in a fist fight with a fan after a show. My friend had also heard that, so for the first, oh i’d say, 45 minutes of the show he stood about 5 feet from Yngwie screaming “YOU SUCK, YOU ***** ***** ******* *** ***** *** ***” and using various offensive hand gestures that would possibly be sort of offensive to most people on earth. I guess he was trying to incite some sort of fisticuffs from Rising Force himself. So Yng’ is up there, pirate shirt unbuttoned all the way down to his belly button… gold necklaces and rings sparkling in the lights. He was playing the fastest guitar I’ve ever heard with one hand and high fiving fans and doing the rock fist with the other. He had to see my friend. Had to. It was actually kind of funny at first. At first. but then the next 44 minutes and 59 seconds just got sort of scary and weird. All these, um, fans started getting mad (of course) and then I could tell they were about to kill him. So we left and laughed. Yngwie can play so fast though. And his name is fun to type and say. YNGWIE.
Yeah, I don’t see you as “likes to fight guy”, so probably a good move to get out of there. Yngwie, Yngwie, Yngwie,…
Remember on tour when your speaker cabinet caught on fire?
That was amazing! The funny thing about it is I had no idea until about a minute after the fact. My signal had died and I was busy trying to figure out which pedal on my board was the culprit. I happened to turn around at one point and the road manager, stage manager, and 3 other confused bystanders were freaking out and throwing water on my amp. Not a pleasant sight, but we rallied and got a backup amp set up before the song finished and I was able to complete the aforementioned shredding.
What does a normal day look like for Jack Parker?
Well, it depends if I’m home or on the road and home is more eventful, so let’s go with that.
2. Perform personal sanitary measures i.e. shower, brush teeth, deodorize, etc…
3. Cook breakfast for my 2 daughters, get them ready for school
4. Drive to studio
5. Work on music, emails, general internet browsing, interact with my bandmates, etc…
6. Drive home
7. Help with dinner
8. Bathe daughters
9. Read them books
10. Put them in bed
11. Put them back in bed after whatever flurry of excuses they have for “not being tired”
12. Play boggle with my spouse
13. Watch a show with my spouse
14. Sleep and repeat
Where is BWACK?
He is in his mad scientist’s dungeon working on a clone of himself.
How did you get started doing music?
That’s always been such a strange question for me because I never really set out to be in music. I was at college studying to be an accountant and guitar was just a hobby. Before I knew it, I was playing guitar at a bible study headed up by Louie Giglio of the Passion movement and from there it just turned into playing guitar for a bunch of Texas worship leaders and being gone all the time. How about you? Did you pursue a career in the musical arts?
I did. Sort of. I did in the way I never really had a backup plan. But I never really tried to make anything happen. So no. But I never pictured myself doing anything else. So yes.
What’s the best thing about touring?
Touring is such a funny thing because it puts you in this weird reality where you live on a bus, wake up in a different city every day, play the show, and repeat. Everyone sees the performance part of the show and has a concept of that, but there are 23 other hours in the day! And typically your responsibilities for those other 23 hours are minimal at best. So you have Crowder band and John Mark guys (me and you) talking about Ryan Adams at like 3:00 a.m. outside a bus in folding chairs backstage in the middle of metropolitan downtown areas. Does that seem normal?
Nailed it, Jack. It really is a strange life. Getting adjusted back to some kind of normal life when you get home is always fun as well.
When we toured with you guys we got to play some really great venues. I think my favorites were Irving Plaza in NYC and The Moore Theater in Seattle. What’s the favorite place you’ve played?
Radio City Music Hall or anywhere in Scotland. Scottish people are intense and a blast to be around!
What was the first album you bought? What format was it on?
Tears for Fears. Songs from the Big Chair – format was a compact case containing a length of magnetic tape that runs between two small reels: used for recording or playback in a tape recorder or cassette deck.
My first cassette tape I bought was Phil Collins “But Seriously”.
Nice! My Mom would rock out to “No Jacket Required” on the way to school so there was a point in time when my brain virus song was “Sussudio.”
My first cassette single was Gerardo “Rico Suave”.
I have no words right now…
What was the first song that really made you want to be a guitar player?
There was an A&E documentary on the life of Jimi Hendrix that looked like it was filmed in the 70’s with a version of him playing “Red House” live. I remember just staring at the tv mesmerized. One of the rare moments in my life when I “felt” rather than just listened to a song.
How many guitars do you own? What’s your favorite?
Hmm… I want to say 10 or so. Favorite is probably my 1970 Martin D-35 acoustic because it was a gift from my dad when I graduated high school and it inspired me to learn as much as I could about the instrument. You’re up to about 30 or 40 now, correct?
Correct. Have you gotten any new gear that you are excited about?
I just got my Line-6 M9 modded by Jack Vaughn at jhv3.com. So I’m super excited about that! I’m not really a huge gear guy. Mitch Watkins who is part of the Austin music scene and a good friend of the family who I’ve always admired for his guitar prowess said something that really stuck with me – “tone is all in the hands”.
What’s coming up for you? What should we be on the lookout for?
We are putting the finishing touches on our first radio single called “Captured” and working on a press release about the new band that will include a video we shot for another song on the album called “Believe”, the album release on August 6. And amps that catch on fire.
Thanks Jack. Bye Jack.
Welcome James. Bye James
I have a new conversation for you guys. My brother, Jon Duke. Jon plays with a bunch of wonderful artists as well as our band we have together, All The Bright Lights. If you’ve heard Jon play, you know that he’s a very unique bass player with an amazing ability to make a song sound huge. He’s really good and has a lot of wisdom in regards to music. He also has a great heart. Enjoy.
What are you doing?
I am home, unwinding. Quiet apartment all to myself. It’s nice… what about you?
Just hanging out, man. You just played at a Passion event with 60,000 people. Was that weird?
I don’t think it was weird… it’s the 3rd year in a row that I have played the conference. It’s always a highlight and a great way to start my year. You were there… did you like it?
Yes I liked it. A lot. But I didn’t mean weird being there. I meant weird playing in front of 60,000 people.
I’ve heard people say that anyone can play bass. Is that true?
I think anyone can play a bass… some do a good job… then there are some who can PLAY the bass.
I remember when we were kids and you would set up that junky black drum set in the garage and play drums and sing at the top of your lungs. You wrote your first songs in that garage with those drums, I believe. Do you ever think about those days?
For some reason when people ask me if I play any other instruments, while I’m sorting my thoughts for the answer, it seems like the screen-saver in my brain is that black drum set on the left hand (stage right) side of the garage in that Neptune Beach house. Is crazy to think back to those days and all the hobbies we had… surfing, skating, biking, music… but music always felt a little more sacred than the other things, didn’t it…
Do you sing and play bass, or play bass and sing? Is there a difference?
I play bass… and sing. Yeah, there’s a difference.
When you listen to music, what do you want to hear?
From a technical standpoint; I want to hear good melodies… I have always been drawn to melodies. Also, I love good singers. But the kind of music that changes me and inspires me has nothing to do with talent or clever writing, though it may contain that. There’s a sound in the sound that I’m always looking for… it’s that sound that sometimes is uncomfortable and pressuring. It’s also impossible to explain… which is pretty cool. Do you know how to explain it?
I know what you mean. We call that the fire, man. It’s the only thing I look for. I think it’s the union of spirits. There’s nothing like that. When you connect with a song, or connect with the people you are playing with on that level, it’s a pretty intense feeling. It’s the only feeling. It’s what I look for every time I pick up a guitar.
When you write music, what do you want to hear?
I guess my answer is pretty similar for this too… when I’m creating I’m sort of fishing around ’till I feel like I’ve tapped into something… a sound or a feeling that moves me. Once you get to that point the song almost writes itself. You know, like on the new All The Bright Lights album… we would play around with ideas until we felt… the “fire”.
Do you practice?
Yeah… me neither. Are there any bass players that make you want to “practice” and get better? Who are your influences?
Pino Palladino inspires me like no other. He plays like a gentleman. He’s mastered the art of playing simple groove bass but doing little subtle nuances that most don’t notice but the ones that do get their minds blown. He can also play busy and blow minds… I don’t know. He’s better than everyone.
I like Adam Clayton. He has inspired me a lot, James. I like unorthodox players…
He plays like a gentleman. That’s true, and a compliment I’m sure Pino would love. What makes a great drummer?
I think timing and feel. There’s a whole world to explore in both of those things. I think a lot of drummers think all there is to timing is staying on the click… but that’s not true. It’s the same with all instruments but your timing is a huge part of your “feel”. You could line up 10 drummers and give them a simple groove to play and they will all feel completely different. One or two of them will probably make you want to jump out of your skin and dance… it’s all in the approach. I always say, you can tell a lot about the drummer by how he dances. If you are auditioning a drummer just go to a dance club. Which brings me to my next point, “musical personality”. Just kidding… well, I’m not kidding.
I agree. While in a lot of scenarios a click is pretty necessary, I think it can hurt feel. I used to turn the click up so loud in my ears because I was scared I was going to play out of time with it that I think it actually made me play worse. Last year I turned it down to where it was barely audible when the band was playing and I think it helped me a lot. That way when I’m starting a song by myself I can hear it great and when the band comes in I can focus on playing with the band as opposed to a click track. Besides, I sort of like to play around the beat. I don’t like it to be perfect. Actually, some of the worst decisions I’ve made in the studio was to play to the click instead of what I was feeling.
Same here… years ago, Jacob Arnold (drummer) and I had to share mixes a lot and we sort of learned together how to treat the click track…
What makes a good rhythm section?
You tell me, you’ve played with more rhythm sections than I have.
When I think about the kind of music I like to listen to there is always an ebb and flow to the rhythm section. U2 is a good example. You have Larry Mullen Jr who is a very solid, right on top of the beat drummer. It’s like a drum machine. Adam Clayton comes in and, while he’s playing solid with the drums, he’s playing around what Larry is playing. It’s a great sound. You and Jacob Arnold play that way sort of. Jacob plays very precise. Very solid. Which allows you to come in and play with and around the beat. I also notice the way you tap your foot when you are playing is different. I don’t know if you have ever noticed, but when you stomp your heel down with the music you sort of move in and out of time. like you are subconsciously allowing yourself to flow around what the drummer is playing. That’s what I think makes a good rhythm section. Two people playing with each other but not necessarily together. What?
Yeah… that’s another thing Jacob and I learned together… the balance of “locking in”. We used to talk about kick patterns and stuff but then we sort of found a medium and it actually makes what’s going on in the rhythm section sound and feel more vast..
Can you explain that a little?
well, I guess the best way to explain it is to look at the definition of “vast”;
[vast; immense - huge - extensive - enormous - wide - spacious]
It’s learning a tasteful way to use space and counter rhythms. I don’t approach it from a technical mind… it’s all feel to me, which there are pros and cons to that. The pro- I never play a song the same way twice. The con- I never play a song the same way twice.
You are one of the only bass players I know that gets constant compliments on your bass sound. Do you think about tone? What is your secret?
I never spend a lot time on tone. If it feels wrong then I try to fix it but mainly I just try to have a full round tone with some edge on it so it will cut in the mix. A big part of tone, to me, is your touch… when to play soft when to play aggressive… when to use a pick, when not to… when to use the side of your thumb… I guess?
What does your rig look like right now?
As far as amps go I have a ’67 Ampeg B25 head that sounds real nice. Also an Ashdown Evo II 500 4×10 combo from back when they still made them in England. I rarely use my amps though. Most the time there is back-line provided and I ask for Ampeg SVT Classic and an 8×10… ya know, the standard. I don’t really use a lot of pedals… I have a Boss TU-2 tuner and an Ashdown bass drive (thanks for that, by the way). Right now for my DI/pre I’m using an Aguilar Tone Hammer. I’m sorta of missing my GrooveTube “Brick” that Delta destroyed. My main bass is a Geddy Lee signature Jazz Bass. It sounds great. I have a 70′s univox (pre lawsuit) p bass. I love it. I also have a Hofner violin bass. I’m itchin’ for something new. I have a couple other little ones not worth mentioning.
If you had to choose, and I’m making you, what is your favorite album of all time?
U2 The Joshua Tree. That album taught me how to listen to music.
Tell me how you got started playing music. What happened? What was the moment where everything clicked?
Well, as you know, there were always instruments in our house, so it’s hard to remember how I got started. I think after messing around with guitar and drums I felt like I was most natural at bass. Plus you had latched on to guitar, so you would have probably (tried to) beat me up for copying you. I remember being 15 and our friend/ home school tutor Mark Shubert got me to play at a youth service where he was leading… that was the first time I ever played in a band. It went as expected, but Mark was so encouraging and had me play every week after that.
I think everything “clicked” after years of practicing, playing out and studying music. There was a time when I settled into my own style and sound. That should be the goal. No great player ever got his respect because he could play exactly like someone else and could afford all the same gear. Everyone has different personalities, different lives, different upbringing, etc. That should show in their sound.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Less is more.
you can follow jon on twitter @thejonduke
What are you doing?
I just ate some cold pizza!
Gross. Happy New Year?
Ha. Yes. Happy New Year.
Why is that funny?
I always chuckle at your addition or omission of ironic punctuation.
How many songs do you write in a day?
Like a hundred. But most all of them are terrible.
You played guitar with Future of Forestry on their last couple of tours. How was that?
It was awesome. The first tour was just on the west coast, which was awesome but I’d been to lots of those places before. This time we went way east, so I got to see lots of the country that I’d never seen before. Plus I totally love all the guys we toured with. It was so much fun.
You played few different instruments on that tour. What all were you playing? Did anything go terribly wrong during a show?
Yeah. I played guitar (duh), keyboard, vibes, bells, harmonium and some cymbals. And I did some vocals. Oh and a stand up kick drum.I think the worst thing that happened for me was in one of the songs I have to start the click on my computer a little ways into it. But this time I completely forgot. Eric (the singer) finished his part and other guy was holding out a harmonium note and they were just staring at me and I couldn’t figure out why. I just stood there like an idiot waiting for them. Eventually I started the click and the song went on. Luckily, from the crowds perspective, it probably looked like Eric’s fault.
I’m sure he appreciated that. Speaking of spacing out, One time I was in Brazil (humble brag) and I had an allergy attack on the way to the church we were about to play, so my friend gave me some allergy medicine. I took 2. immediately after that he said, “yeah take one and put one in your pocket for tomorrow”. I said “I took them both”, to which he replied: “YOU TOOK BOTH?!?!?!”. The next thing I remember is hearing “earth to James”. I snap out of it and look around and I am standing on stage, with my guitar in the middle of worship. I looked over at my friend and he whispered “start the song”. I remember nothing before that. Nothing. I had to ask him what song he wanted me to start. Cool pills.
That’s even better than my story.
It’s not a competition, Andy.
Too bad it didn’t look like someone else’s fault though. I also jumped off a kick drum (humble brag) and twisted my knee and fell over and knocked Eric over. But that ruled.
Tell me about your Ambient Songs series.
It all really started for me with YouTube videos. I started doing the Ambient Songs series because I was frustrated with songwriting. They helped me simplify and get some good ideas down. Those started to kind of take off, and people started asking me lots of questions.
Which lead to you blogging.
Yeah. The blog is really there to try to answer people’s questions on a larger scale. Lately I’ve really turned the focus of the blog to songwriting tips and advice on self promotion, because those are the biggest questions I get.
What’s the funniest comment you’ve gotten on youtube.
I made a video announcing that I was doing the Future of Forestry tours, and I had one guy say something like “how could you do that to your family??” as if the video was also my announcement to my wife that I was leaving and that we hadn’t already been discussing it for months. That gave me a good laugh.
I never watch YouTube. Ever. I mean, I have watched a couple of your videos, but that’s about it. A lot of people watch your ambient songs. Have you found that posting your videos to YouTube help your album sales?
Yeah, it definitely does. I sort of “started out” on YouTube, so that’s still where my biggest fanbase is. And a large majority of people who sign up for my blog tell me that they discovered me through YouTube.
Actually I did just watch a YouTube video last week where these two kids are speaking german or something and then they walk over to a table, rip the tablecloth off, one boy falls back and hits an entertainment center and it falls over on top of him. I laughed.
I know the one of which you speak. I laughed too.
I think it was fake.
See, I thought that too. But then that seemed like too much destruction to be fake? Maybe you just watched it too many times in a row.
I think you should make more videos. This one made me laugh. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQAoXKjdgJc
We just talked about YouTube for a long time. Wow. Should we talk about gear?
Probably. Here’s a picture of the pedalboard I used on the Future of Forestry tour. http://instagram.com/p/TEpQZrh4ju/. I also used a Boomerang III looper that you can’t see. For amps I run stereo into a Matchless Chieftain and Clubman. I put the cab for the Clubman on the other side of the stage, so it sounded huge in stereo. My main guitar is a parts Telecaster with Antiquity pickups in it. I’ve got a Gretsch Country Classic Jr and a ‘78 Tele Deluxe that both rule too.
Are you still loving your new Badcat? It looks so awesome. And it’s named after your daughter.
It’s a cool amp! about 5 hours ago I put some new tubes in it. I put a Dario Miniwatt rectifier tube in it. Also a Phillips EF86 and some old Yugoslavian 12AX7’s in. All NOS. Blah Blah Blah. But I will plug in it tomorrow and see how it sounds. I never get to play guitar at home. Stetson hates loud noises.
That rules. On the fall tour with Future of Forestry I came across this massive bin of NOS tubes stashed in this random church office. I guess the worship pastor had a friend who was an old radio guy and he just gave him all these tubes. I bought four 12AX7s off him. But I haven’t even tried them yet. Maybe they’re awesome.
Luckily my kids are cool with me being loud. They even sleep through it right next door.
You just quit your job.
Tell me about it.
Well, the goal was always to quit my job and do music full time. So my wife and I were preparing for that. But when I told my manager about the second Future of Forestry tour, they basically told me that I had to choose between keeping my job and doing the tour. So I quit and did the tour. It happened earlier than we were planning, but I think it’s gonna work.
I know we talked about that several times over the last couple years. I remember telling you not to quit your job. But I am proud of you.
Yeah, I remember that. I wanted to quit for a long time. But it wasn’t the right time. THANKS JAMES. If I could put the crying emoji in here I would.
Tell me about your new record.
It’s called Passage. It’s five songs. I wrote and recorded it all in the four weeks between finding out that I had to quit my job and leaving for tour. I tried to capture both my excitement and sheer terror of my new situation. It’s lots of swirly, verby guitars, but I used lots of banjo and other things this time around.
It’s really pretty.
Thanks. So is the new ATBL. Am I allowed to tell people that I’ve heard it? And when is it even coming out?
You may tell people you’ve heard it. At least people will actually believe we have a new album. It’s coming out… soon.
Good. It’s good.
Thank you. Do you find it hard to keep a consistent song quality when releasing a lot of music? How do you keep yourself accountable.
Yes and no. I feel like the more I do it the better I get at it. So that helps. But there’s also a little more pressure each time to try to do better than before. I try to be honest enough with myself about the good and the bad in my songs so that they’ll always come out better next time.
What do you have coming up? What will we see you doing this year?
Well, my wife and I have our third baby due at the end of February. And I’ve written music for each of my other kids, so I’ve kind of set the precedent and will be doing that for this little guy as well. I’m also going to be doing a lot of work on my blog trying to help people learn how to write, record and promote their music all on their own. And hopefully I can release another full length album by the end of the year. That would be swell.
What about Lowercase Noises shows? Are you going to play live this year?
Oh man, I’ve done that a few times and it was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. I don’t know. I do most all the instruments myself, so I’d either have to get a few guys together and coordinate all that or figure out a way to cover a bunch of stuff myself without making it boring. I’m open to the idea but I haven’t thought up a good way to do it without going crazy. Probably not this year. But maybe. I don’t know.
Do you play at church?
I do. I haven’t played a whole lot the past 6 months or so because of touring and lots of other stuff, but yes.
Do you like playing at church?
I like it in the sense that I get to serve others by playing my guitar. I like when people tell me that my playing helped them worship. But I really struggle with a lot of the cultures and mindsets within worship music. I feel like there’s a lot of settling for mediocrity that goes on, and I don’t like that. I guess in a nutshell I’m glad to play occasionally, but I’m glad that my “career” isn’t based on playing at church or being part of the larger worship music scene.
Who are some of your musical influences?
When I was in high school I was all about Van Halen and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I wanted to shred so hard. But eventually I got sick of that kind of playing. When I started college a friend gave me a copy of El Cielo by dredg, and I freaking loved it. It’s still my favorite album of all time. Their guitarist Mark has this absolutely massive sound that I fell in love with. From there I discovered post rock and ambient music, my biggest influences there being Hammock (especially the Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow album) and Riceboy Sleeps by Jonsi and Alex.But the first song that I ever fell in love with was Changes by Bowie.
How much do you love his new single?
I love his new single! I love Bowie. His music feels so important, if that makes sense. When I listen to Bowie I feel like I’m being allowed into a different world. Or whatever. Yes. I love him.
I agree. I’m glad we get to hear some more.
If you could write a song with anyone, who would it be with?
If I got put in a room with Josh Scogin and Skrillex I think we could come up with something pretty cool. (I’m not even kidding)
But for real, I would love to get together with you and Frodo. I don’t know what it would sound like, but I think whatever we made would rule.
What is Post Rock? Are you Post Rock?
Post rock is Explosions in the Sky. Everyone knows them, right? To me I feel like it always has full percussion and lots of big dynamic crescendos. I wouldn’t say I’m post rock. But I dunno. People can call it whatever they want. I just want to make music that they can feel.
Are you Post Rock?
No. I don’t know. No.
I made up a genre name one time. “Motivational Rock”.
That sounds great. But maybe too happy. I’d go for the “Demotivational Rock” where you are crippled by a debilitating sadness.
Where are you?
I’m in LA working on some music and living in great weather.
What have you been up to lately?
I’ve been on the road and tracking/writing for the most part of the last year.
Did some touring this fall with Phil Wickham, Robert Schwartzman, and Kate Earl.
Now I’m concentrating on pulling this loose tooth in the form of an original project with some friends of mine that I’ve had for awhile. Very excited about some stuff on the bubble. Writing a bit too.
What’s this original project you speak of?
It’s called Dallas. My friends Tyler and Josh and I have been writing a lot the last few years together. We tracked a bunch of stuff last year with some good folks in LA, Manny Marroquin and a producer named Malay, but have decided to run with it ourselves now seeing that we are geographically challenged (our singer lives in Texas). We are all excited.
What’s the best guitar?
On a scale of 1-10 how much do you love U2?
I love certain songs of theirs. You know I didn’t get into them until the All That You Can’t Leave Behind era?
A little late to the game, but that’s a good record to acquaint yourself with.
I like that record because it introduced me to Daniel Lanois when I was 16. My favorites off that record were “Kite”. Sheesh, what a song! And “When I Look At The World” (currently teaching my fiance how to play the solo on that tune. She likes the idea of playing one note and rocking the whammy!)
It was not cool to like U2 growing up. As a young guitar player the Edge was average at best amongst my friends. Guitar at that age was more of an athletic competition than musical.
Those songs still make the hair on the back of my neck stand up at the production and parts and tones and energy. Not the biggest Bono fan but he can sing.
Yeah. Kite is my favorite song of that record as well. The first time I heard that guitar solo I didn’t know what to do with myself. So good. The solo for When I Look at the World is also one of my favorites. I’ve definitely ripped off that delay sound a few times. And I love Daniel Lanois with all my heart.
Who are your favorite guitar players?
David Grissom and Andy Summers.
David Grissom is responsible for my interest in country guitar. If it weren’t for him I would have never started hybrid picking which there’s no going back on now. Listen to the Joe Ely record “Live at Liberty Lunch”.
Andy Summers, from the Police, shaped my playing and ear a ton. He would be responsible for a lot of my tendencies from note choice, chord voicings, phrasing, use of effects.
Speaking of being a standout guitar player, What are some important aspects you feel get overlooked by a lot of guitar players right now?
My dad is a songwriter. Before I ever got into how a guitar sounded I was asked to play parts. This was very early on as a player. I’d play with my dad who’s a pianist and he’d go “Taylor, why don’t you start this song?”, putting me in the hot seat at a young age. So, I had to come up with something hooky and melodic in a matter of seconds because he thought guitar would sound good at the beginning. (At this point I had a strat and a marshall valvestate so it better be a good part ‘cause I had no clue how to use effects!) It stretched me a lot without even being too aware of how much he was asking of me as a musician.
He also used to train my ear before I played guitar. We’d be in the car when I was 12 and he’d go “what chord is that?” and I’d have to pick out the 1, 4, 5, minor 6 chord by ear. That helps and it was fun.
Fast forward to doing this as a job and I’ve found that it’s now ingrained in me. Thanks, Dad.
Legendary songs have legendary parts, something signature. It gets people going. Beatles songs have a lot of them (day tripper, paperback writer, please please me)
One of the first ones I wanted to learn was the figure at the beginning of the Billy Joel song, “big shot”. So cool!
That’s not to say every song needs a guitar riff or hook, but something signature is great. It can be a tone, a drum beat (nirvana’s “scentless apprentice is a rad example), the bass, whatever!
The first professional band I was in was with Robbie Seay. I was 19 and had no gear. A strat and a VHT pitbull with a tubescreamer and a wah pedal. I had no clue what tap tempo delay was or what a Twin Reverb even sounded like. Within my first 4 months of playing with him I had to play on a live record in front of thousands of people. Live in the sense of no overdubs later, at all. I wanted to make sure I had a signature part for every song. It gives the band another voice.
How old were you when you started playing guitar. Do you play any other instruments?
I was almost 15 when I started. Before that I was borrowing a drumset from a friend whose family was in between houses and fell in love with Weezer. I learned the drum parts for every song on the Blue record. When they found a house about 4 months later I had to give it back. My dad plays piano but had an acoustic guitar so he put me in group guitar lessons. I went all in and tried to learn the theme song from the movie “That Thing You Do” cause I thought those guitars and that song were amazing. Piano a bit as a kid and in music college. Anyone can play bass, right?
Right. What was your favorite record of 2012?
Synthetica by Metric.
Really like Jake Bugg’s EP too. He’s got this Paul Weller thing happening.
Mine was Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
That was released in 1973. Come on, James.
My answer stands. What’s your favorite era of music?
Undoubtedly the time when the Beach Boys and Beatles were neck and neck as to who was writing the best songs in pop history.
The Who are incredible. 1969 might be the best year in music
I watched you play at Big Church Day Out with Phil Wickham. Why are you so good?
How did you get started doing what you are doing now?
My family. They encouraged me to go out and play when all I wanted to do was stay at home and listen to Pinkerton.
Ok, so what does your guitar rig look like right now?
I use my Gretsch a lot. It’s a small guy, country classic junior. I have a handful of others laying around and actually pick up my strat more often than ever.
Pedals I look at a little differently. I am not into geeky hour long conversations about this overdrive or that delay. Fulltone overdrive, Boss verb/vibrato/delay, Strymon delay, and that Diamond tremolo are what’s on my board.
I run my amp hot. For example, if you were using a deluxe reverb or fender type amp like that I tend to keep it on 8. AC30 or 15 I run at about 2 o’clock, and so on…
I learned this from David Grissom. The theory is you use all the amp you can and if you have a good enough guitar its going to clean up nicely with your volume knob/pedal. The cleans sound better when the amp is being run hot. It’s also an “oh crap” technique that I learned from playing festivals with little to no soundcheck. When your board goes down you better have a fat sound coming from the amp! When you run your amp hot, a good tube amp, then this or that overdrive doesn’t really make too much of a difference. Feels way better.
I don’t run my amp all that hot. Mostly because If it starts breaking up all my stuff doesn’t sound right. And I’m too shy. But, I do love the way a cranked amp sounds on other people.
Yeah, there’s nothing like squashing an old AC30 to 10 with a rad guitar. I just don’t get off on pedals like some people do. I have a semi packed effects board but it’s cause I play with a variety of people. I don’t want to have to remember overdrive settings and all that on pedals.
I have a few things I do when I’m plugging into an amp that’s new to me (rental amps, etc…) to get it where I want. It doesn’t take long. It’s gotta feel right and have some attitude. You can always clean it up with your volume knob or pedal. At that point your clean sound is still hitting those EL84s or 6V6s you spent an arm and a leg to use! When your amp is run low I feel like you aren’t getting all you can out of it.
Do you love Frodo, or what?
You know it. I think he’s one of the kindest, most hard working dudes I know. He’s got a lot of drive for such little legs.
What advice can you give to aspiring musicians who want to be doing what you do for a living.
Create and work hard. Play often. Love God and love people and you’re good to go!
in honor of the new year i have a new convo for your reading pleasure.
daniel carson is the guitar player for chris tomlin. if you play guitar in a church on sundays, chances are you’ve played some of his guitar parts.
i run into daniel a couple times a year and he’s always so great to talk to. he’s a really sweet guy. very humble and kind, and he always sounds and plays great. he, along with the rest of the chris tomlin band have made a huge contribution to the church. it’s pretty amazing to think about. he says some really thoughtful things and gives us some great advice.
Hi Daniel! What are you doing?
At the moment, I am sitting on our tour bus in Charleston, West Virginia. We are on a tour w/our Pastor, Louie Giglio, and Christy Nockels.
How’s it been going? Been busy?
It was a really great, but pretty busy Summer, and now we are in the middle of a Fall tour. We took about a 7 or 8 week break after the Summer. Chris and his wife, Lauren, were having a baby so we had some time off! As you know, you get kind of used to the swing of things on the road…kind of get into rhythm where you almost never fully unpack your suitcase! It’s definitely not a normal lifestyle, but I wouldn’t trade it! I like the ebb and flow of traveling and being home. We are making significant efforts to be home in Atlanta for Sundays at Passion City Church.
Does the band practice/rehearse?
More than we used to! It sounds like a funny thing to say… I’ve been in the band for 11 years now and I feel like we practice more now than ever. I think we used to travel SO much that all of our rehearsal time was spent at soundchecks. That probably sounds familiar?
Yes. Definitely. We never practice. Well not never… but we never practice.
But now that our schedule is a little more manageable, we practice more. Also, we have a studio space now so that really helps us. Mostly we rehearse when we have new songs to learn for an album or for Passion/Church. Also, we always rehearse before every tour.
Your guitar playing has made a really big impact on the church and the worship movement as a whole. You’ve written dozens of guitar lines that are played every single Sunday in churches all over the world! That’s pretty cool to think about! One thing I’ve noticed about your playing is that your guitar parts are very concise and sing-alongable (I just made that word up). What is your process for coming up with your guitar parts when you are in the writing/recording phase of an album?
Wow, those are some nice things to say! I’m not sure how to respond exactly… If I can, I try to approach writing parts from a songwriting standpoint. I don’t want to play anything that will mess up the song! I must say, I have one major advantage when it comes to writing parts for songs, and that is that Chris an amazing songwriter. But it’s still a process that you always wrestle with… or at least for me it is. Sometimes, you get the sense that God has really marked a specific song with something special and so I want to be careful not to mess up what is already great about the song, if that makes sense? Like when Chris plays us a song on the acoustic or piano and you hear it for the first time and it really moves you… THAT is what I want it to feel like even when we start to arrange the song. As far as guitar parts being concise and “sing-alongable” (I’m okay with made up words. Makes me feel better about my grammar.) I try and keep in mind that at this particular moment in time, God has given Chris a lot of favor in the worldwide Church. So as a result of that, one reality is that guitar players of all ages and skill levels might be playing these songs in their Church. It’s a crazy thing to think about, but we all try and keep that in mind. Also, it’s a preference thing… I usually think if I am worshipping to this music at a Church/Conference/Concert, etc…what melody would pump me up? What would I want to hear!? I would also say that most of my favorite guitar players and guitar parts/solos are usually something I can sing when I hear the song, you know? I never considered myself much of a “solo” guy…never much of a shredder haha, but I love it when I see a band and the musicians play their parts with conviction! That’s what fires me up! I don’t want anyone to ever see us lead worship and think to themselves, “that guy looks bored.” My posture and approach to leading should mirror what we are singing about!
What is the dynamic like when you are in the studio recording a record? What’s the process for recording and coming up with parts and hooks and all that?
Sometimes the songs already have some parts that we have come up with along the way. So if we have been leading it at church or something then maybe some parts have already made their way into the songs. I try not to stay married to any of the parts we initially come up with because it’s all subject to change. That being said, sometimes your first instinct is the best one! One example would be the song Our God. We were working on some demos in the studio getting ready for Passion 2010 in Atlanta. Chris had put together a team of writers and we had all written and written and were finally demoing a bunch of those songs. So when were working on that one, Nathan Nockels and I were both on electric and I just started playing the first thing that came to me when we were running the song for the first time as a band. Nathan joined in with a lower guitar part, and the combination of both electrics seemed exciting to all of us and it just kinda stuck! haha… Seems too simple, but that was how it happened. We just played what felt natural to the song and the song just kinda took on a life of it’s own! It’s weird to think about now, since we have played it so much in the last 2 years, but it was a relatively simple process. That definitely is not always the case. This last year we were working on a song called All My Fountains while getting ready for Passion, and that was one that we wrestled with for a long time before it finally had the right personality. So sometimes it takes a while! Once again though, as far as parts go, it’s usually the simple parts that seem to win. They are the ones that fire up my bandmates the most. I try and watch their responses to guitar parts. They have great instincts so I try and trust those around me as much as I can!
How did you get to where you are today? How did you meet Chris?
I started playing guitar when I was about 14. My Dad is a guitar player and a Worship Leader as well. He was always leading somewhere and playing guitar around the house, but I never really cared until was in Junior High. That happened to be the same time that Chris started leading every summer at the youth camp that I went to with my youth group. My Dad, who was a former Youth Pastor, knew a lot of the different worship leaders and youth pastors at that camp. Chris and I grew up only a few hours from each other in East Texas, and in those parts a lot of the musicians, speakers, etc kind of all knew each other. So Chris continued to lead every Summer that I was in school. So when I got into High School I was getting more serious about guitar and had bought an electric and started playing non-stop in my bedroom. I taught guitar lessons to kids in my youth group and used the money to buy better and better gear! haha… Of course! So by the time I was going into my senior year of high school i had a decent guitar rig and was practicing all the time. About 2 weeks into my Senior year of High School, Chris called my parents (I didn’t have a cell phone then. Yes, I graduated High School without a cell phone…it was 2000. That’s how we did it then!) and asked if I could come out on the road with the band! It was crazy. I had gotten to know Chris and some of the band guys over the years at that youth camp, but it was still very unexpected since I was only just starting my Senior year! So, I hit the road with the guys and when I graduated, I moved to Houston where they were living at the time. I must say quickly that a lot times younger guitar players will ask me, “how do I do what you do?” And it’s not that it’s a bad question, but I would say that over the years I have been very encouraged by some people around me to “run in my own lane.”
Who is the best guitar player in the world, and why?
Haha! How in the world do you answer that!?
As truthfully as you can!
I guess it’s a preference thing, huh?
I mean… I guess so…
I’ve never been too interested in speed guys… I like players who lean more towards melody and tone. So I would be tempted to say The Edge. His influence is so massive that it seems too obvious of an answer, but I don’t know how not to mention him. One of my favorite players to watch at the moment is Keith Urban. Whether you like his music or not, that guy OWNS the guitar when he plays. He plays with a lot of passion and plays very memorable solos with great tone. Pretty amazing.
What was your first guitar? What is your favorite guitar that you own?
My first guitar was a ’95 Fender Strat Plus. It has the Lace Sensor pickups in it. Great guitar! I had a friend who had one and I really looked up to him so I bought an exact copy of everything he owned! haha… I bought the exact same strat…same year, same color, same everything. I bought all of the pedals he had… Ernie Ball volume pedal, tube screamer, blues driver, Boss dd-5, and some others. He also introduced me to the BBE Sonic Maximizer. It was a small half rack unit thing that he bought for his acoustic but then ended up on his pedalboard. I tried his and bought one of those as well! Ever since then, I have had one on my board. Can’t seem to get rid of that pedal! My favorite guitar that I own is my ’74 Fender Telecaster. It’s just a simple single coil straight up Tele, but it’s kind of home base for me. I use it as a control. I know exactly how it should sound so any pedal/amp, etc all get the Tele test. Also, it seems to be the first thing i grab in the studio. That thing is all over all of Chris’s records. It records really well.
What is the first thing you want to do when you get home from a long tour?
Well, being a Texan, I am passionate about my Mexican food! So I try and make it to my favorite Mexican place Nuevo Loredo in Atlanta as much as I can! One thing that I think Atlanta does really well is Breakfast, so I always hit up my breakfast spots! Flying Biscuit, Highland Bakery, etc…
You stay really busy playing for Chris Tomlin. Do you do other gigs/session stuff when you aren’t on the road or recording?
I do some recording for projects here and there. I do a lot more of that in Atlanta than I did back in Austin. Nathan Nockels produces a lot of stuff here in Atlanta so I end up getting called in to work on stuff for him from time to time. I always love any opportunity to record in the studio. I feel like it makes you so much better as an overall musician. I like seeing how different producers work too. It teaches you that there really are so many approaches that get great results. It’s fascinating.
Have you met anybody super famous or influential to your life that made you freak out and act all nervous and weird?
You’re going to make me sound like a name dropper! But since you did ask, because of an unusual set of circumstances, I got to be in the same very crowded room that Coldplay happened to be in. So there was a tiny window of opportunity to talk to Jonny Buckland and so I spoke to him! I kind of surprised myself, actually, haha. That band has played an important role in my musical journey. Parachutes came along at a time when my ears were in need of a refreshing sound and it was love at first listen for me. So because he had a massive impact on my guitar playing I felt like i had the right to tell him so!
Me – “Hey Jonny. I just wanted to meet you. My name is Daniel. I love your guitar playing. The way you play has changed the way I think about guitar. You’ve been a big inspiration!”
Jonny – “Wow, man… thanks a lot. That really means a lot.”
Me – “I don’t want to take up any of your time. Just wanted to say ‘Thanks’ for all you do. Have a great night!”
That was pretty much the whole conversation. He was really nice. And much taller than me.
That’s a good one!
I think everyone has the concert or album that totally blows his/her mind and changed the way they play and think about music. What was that for you? (it can be more than one)
Well, I sort of jumped the gun a little on this one by talking about Parachutes in the previous question. I think Delirious’ Cutting Edge album was a huge revelation moment for me.
Do you practice the guitar? If so, what kind of stuff do you work on?
The time I spend on my own with a guitar in hand is usually spent rehearsing/writing for new songs or trying out new sounds and combinations at home. I try to write a lot so most of my practice time is spent writing songs! I guess if I was going to work on something else I would pull out a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers dvd and learn some Mike Campbell licks or something. Then next time we’re at soundcheck I’ll act like I’ve always known how to play You Wreck Me.
Have you ever messed up so bad on stage that you wanted to crawl under the drum riser and cry and/or die? Any really great trainwreck/we just ruined that song stories?
Of course! It happens all the time. It’s the worst when you mess up a guitar part you have played hundreds (maybe thousands?) of times in your life. It happens though. It will occur to me sometimes in the middle of a song that I’m not thinking about what my hands are doing. And the very thought that I’m NOT thinking about what I’m doing freaks me out and I usually will short circuit for a second and mess up. One time when we were walking on stage at a conference the monitor engineer handed us all the wrong packs. So we all had each other’s mixes. It was awful. It was in Houston at a Worship Together Conference. I remember thinking of course this would happen when there are a room full of musicians listening. If you ask anyone in our band what was our worst night ever, they will all tell you about that night. Nothing blew up or caught on fire…. it’s not even a cool story. We just sounded really bad that night! REALLY bad.
What is your most favorite city?
I love New York. It’s an obvious answer, but it’s always a favorite. I love the diversity and the seemingly endless options. I also love Austin. We lived there for a number of years and it will always be a favorite for me. Especially if it’s not June, July or August.
Does your pedal board change a lot? Do you have any new exciting things on there?
It doesn’t change drastically. I am pretty much always running my Fulltone Fulldrive 2 as my main overdrive. I like having a boost option and a compressor option which right now are the Box of Rock and Diamond Compressor. I am always trying out a second overdrive. I have used the Rat, AC Booster, Hot Cake and most recently a Tube Screamer to try and fill that position. I always seem to come back to the Fulldrive though. Just feels like home for me. One thing that I have on there that is somewhat new for me (in the last 2 years) is the Line 6 Echo Park. I had been using the DL4′s for years, but I got tired of them constantly breaking on the road (and they take up so much space!) so I went out and bought the echo park and I can’t stop using it now! I love the sound it gets. I leave it on probably 80% of the time now! It has a great mod to it, and the repeats are nice and warm. I use it more like a subtle, underneath everything else kinda texture. It’s never my main delay for anything rhythmic really.
Do you love it when you are playing on stage and your signal dies and you frantically (while still trying to act casual) try to figure out which stupid pedal or cable is messed up?
Doesn’t everyone!? It’s the worst! I ALWAYS use 2 amps for this very reason! I like to know if my signal dies in both amps that I can immediately eliminate the amp as a possible suspect. I have been using a true bypass looper which i feel like keeps your problems a little more isolated. This way you can troubleshoot a little easier and bypass the bad pedal/connector. However, you can never fully be safe I guess. The worst is when a camera guy trips over the power supply to your amps/pedalboard and you lose signal and everyone in the band looks at you like “there he goes again with more pedalboard problems!” haha. There was this one time when we were playing a song at a church in Houston and the fire alarm went off in the building and IMMEDIATELY Chris shot me this glare on stage as if to say, “whatever just happened with your pedals, FIX IT!” haha… I had no way to explain to him from across the stage that it wasn’t me so I just kept playing. It was on a really soft, quiet song too. As if I would choose that moment to reach down on my board and try a cool new trick and make a really loud wacky noise! haha He looked so confused! I was young though, so the chances of me choosing the wrong moment to try a new pedal trick were a little more likely.
Lately i have been thinking of just having a couple of custom length cables just sitting loose on my board at all times stretched from my volume pedal over to my overdrive and then to a delay and that’s it. That way if something goes bad I could quickly make a tiny pedalboard. Even then it’s never fully fail proof.
What amps are you using now?
Vox AC30 TB/6 and a Matchless SC-30
Do you ever touch the volume or tone knobs on your guitars?
I almost never mess with the volume knob. I use my volume pedal to clean my signal up instead. In fact, I do this a lot! I almost never turn my overdrive off. I just pull the volume pedal down to clean it up as much as I want to in that moment. I run my volume pedal first in the chain which allows me to do that. As far as the tone knob, I actually do mess with that a lot! I almost never run my tele all the way bright on the tone. It’s such a bright guitar already so I run the tone knob pretty low to keep it from being too piercing. But it’s a tele so it’s gotta have SOME bite, right!?
Do you read? What’s your favorite book?
Not as much as I should! I usually listen to what the people around me are talking about. If they all really like a certain book then that’s how I make my decisions for reading material. I like real life books. Biography, Autobiography, etc. Johnny Cash’s autobiography CASH was amazing. I also really liked a book called Same Kind of Different As Me. That book will make you wanna buy 20 copies and hand them to everyone you know. And I also like any kind of Devotional books…I have a Tozer one that I really like.
Going back to what you said earlier about “running in your own lane”, What kind of advise can you give to musicians that feel like they are called to play music full time but don’t know how to get to the next level or even get started in that direction at all?
I guess I would say be patient! It’s important to not miss what’s right in front of you because you are looking forward to something that you think is going to be better. God has perfect timing. He’s never late on anything. I think it’s really important to be obedient with what opportunities you have no matter how “small” you think they are. Being faithful with those things is important for your overall growth and maturity. I know I always need a gut check on that one! Also I think it’s important to run in your own lane. I heard Beth Moore give a talk at Passion about that and that was how she worded it. I was totally convicted. It’s so easy to start comparing yourself to other people! We all do it. It’s a human condition to be insecure and it’s not a bad thing to look at someone else and let it drive you to work harder or become better. But you have to know that God already has one of that person. Now he’s looking at you with a different idea in mind. Your role is a unique one, whatever it is. All that being said, I do think it’s okay to put yourself out there. Take risks and opportunities. Write songs, make a band, put a demo or record together and play it for people. Just make sure you know why you are doing it! If you make it about Jesus, you’re going to be fine. It’s always a worthy investment. He is always relevant, and no matter what level player you are, He can always use your gifts. Make it about Him and He will direct your steps. Proverbs 3:5-6
a couple of months ago i started thinking about what i could do with this blog. i have been a little bored. honestly, it sort of makes me sick that people started referring to this as a “gear blog”. gag me. there are way more important things in my life than what volume pedal i’m using.
so, the thought of having conversations with other musicians came to me. we could talk about life, music, gear, worship, relationships and whatever else we felt like. i started making a mental list of people i could ask. i started to get excited. this is something i think could help people. this is something people might be interested in. i know when i was younger i would have loved to have access to stuff like this. i still would.
first up is my convo with Jeffrey Kunde. Jeffrey is the guitar player for Jesus Culture. we’ve never actually met in person, but we’ve talked for the last year or so on facebook and other internet related social media outlets. he’s really funny, which i appreciate, and he’s really part of something special with Jesus Culture.
and here we go.
Do you know who I am?
You are James.
Do you go by Jeffrey or Jeff? JK would also be pretty boss option. If, you know, you were looking for one… kind of a double entendre deal.
JK kind of makes me feel like I’m a joke… I’m not a joke… but thanks for the idea. I go by Jeffrey, but people also call me Jeef. Kind of a childhood thing that stuck. Do you have a childhood thing that stuck?
Yes. I’m really neurotic and I worry about everything. That kind of stuck from my childhood. Sometimes people call me Jims. We had a friend in Jacksonville, FL that had the most unreal surfer accent. They all sort of talked the same. I don’t even know were it came from, but once one of them started, the others were not to be outdone. Anyways, this particular friend… let’s call him Jeff (actual name), had a really spectacular accent going on. He would call me James but it sounded like Jims. But it’s actually pronounced somethink like, “jee-ims”. Then it gets southern and it becomes Jims. There we go.
What have you been up to? Traveling a lot?
Well, May was filled with a lot of travel. I did two trips with Kim Walker-Smith and her husband Skyler to Boise and to New York. Those were just local church conference things (I hate the word Gig). Jesus Culture band also played a few venues in May, the Showbox SoDo in Seattle, and then played at Nokia Theater in LA. That was fun. It was sweet to be in a legit venue for a change. We also just got back from Australia where Jesus Culture band played a few sessions at the Hillsong conference in Sydney. Other than that I’ve been working on records here and there in Redding, and I built a home recording setup so that I can track electric guitar from my home. I’ve also been finding myself wandering around the house singing “only the young can break away.. break away.. “ over and over…. Oh and my first music theory book came out in June. Its been a busy summer.
Are you originally from Redding, CA?
Oh. Cool. You play guitar with JESUS CULTURE. Who/what is JESUS CULTURE and how did you get connected with them?
Well, Jesus Culture basically was an annual youth conference that was birthed out of Bethel church’s youth group. It’s now a ministry/record label with a full time staff and band. The Jesus Culture band does a live album every year and tours. That’s probably what’s most known about the name “Jesus Culture” at this point. But it’s definitely a full-blown ministry that puts on conferences all over the world. I got connected with Chris back in 2005 when I first moved to Redding to go to the local private college up here. I had known of him and a few of the guys because my home church (2 hours away from Redding) and Bethel are pretty connected. I went to all the same winter camps and stuff as Chris and some of the dudes, but had never met them till I came up for college. Anyway, Chris and I got to know each other that year, and through him I met Ian, Brandon, Fisher and Kim. The first time I heard of Jesus Culture though was at the recording of the “We Cry Out” record. I went to that conference to hang out with my girlfriend… who’s now my wife. The next Jesus Culture conference after that they asked me to play cause the old guitar player had moved away. And I’ve been playing with them ever since.
Are you a full time musician? If so, how long have you been able to do that?
I’ve been a full time musician since I got out of college in December of 2008. In college it was more part time, playing often with Jesus Culture or traveling sporadically with Kim, Chris or Brian Johnson (worship pastor at Bethel Church in Redding). Being a full time musician for me has been a lot of session playing on different albums and then traveling here and there and playing conferences at our home church, Bethel.
What’s your favorite movie?
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. What’s your favorite movie?
“You really think it’s cool for you to hit the sauce with a bun in the oven?” The Royal Tenenbaums is my favorite movie. I’m a huge Wes Anderson fan. I celebrate his entire catalog. He makes the most beautiful films. And funny.
Yeah, I love them all almost equally. But the Zissou has my heart.
What is the songwriting process like for JESUS CULTURE? Do the worship leaders come in with the basic song and you write your own parts? How does that typically work?
Well, it’s not always the same, but always very collaborative. Often a melody or musical hook could get played during a spontaneous moment during one of our worship sets, and if it gets remembered and liked by one of us, it could be the starting grounds for a new song. We have a rehearsal spot in a bedroom of Chris’s house, and the band gets together in that room a couple times a year and we write and arrange songs… usually based off of one of these hooks or ideas that someone brings to the table. We have a “everything goes” attitude, and basically everyone just starts throwing out ideas for vibe, progressions… parts… etc, with the final goal being that everyone in the band is getting goose bumps by the end of the day. Mostly we’re in charge of writing our own parts in this kind of a setting, but everyone knows its ok to boss each other around a bit too… so it would be un fair to say that everyone’s parts are 100% their own. This full band setting is mostly for hashing out arrangement, vibe, and parts of the song. As far as lyric and melody… in the past Chris, Ian and I have had separate writing sessions where the three of us get together and collaborate/solidify the melody and lyrics of the song. “The Medicine” was such a sweet album, and I hear you all are pretty stoked about this next record. What was the John Mark band’s process for those albums?
We are really proud of how The Medicine turned out and the new record, Economy, is a nice progression. We are pretty excited about it. It’s definitely a new direction but there are still the classic McMillan moments. As far as the creative process, John Mark comes in with the basic song done. Then we work on arrangements and parts together. For the new record we spent a week doing pre production before we went into the studio so we had basic ideas of what we wanted to do. We recorded that as well, which was nice because I ended up wanting to use a good bit of those guitars on the record. A lot of times it’s the first couple of times I play a song that has the fire on it. That’s not always easy for me to duplicate. As far as writing guitar hooks, it depends. A lot of the guitar parts I write but JM definitely will come up with ideas that we will use. Or the producer has a hook that is really good. I’m not too worried about who comes up with a part as long as it’s good. We all chime in with ideas for guitars, drums, bass and piano. We are all really opinionated so there is never a lack of opinions or ideas. But we all listen to each other. We are so sweet.
You guys put out a lot of live music. I know from experience that it can be difficult to come up with decent parts for songs when you aren’t super familiar with the music. Sometimes I am pretty embarrassed when I hear a live record I was on where I had only heard the song one time during the rehearsal. That has happened more than once. Other times I don’t even know people are recording and I will get a cd in the mail. I’m usually too scared to listen to those. Do you guys do a lot of preproduction and work on parts or is it pretty spontaneous?
Haha, I’ve had that happen to me too. I actually think you and I are on a record together. It’s probably happened to you more than me though. Our Jesus Culture records are very pre produced. We plan out all our arrangements and parts, but with the mindset that we are recording a worship service.. so we try and anticipate in our production which moments of a song will most likely go spontaneous or which moments will stick to our arrangement. For instance, in our version of “my soul longs”, we planned on Kim wanting to kind of go off and do her thing after the “you’ll come like the rain” chorus. So between that and the big “let it rain” chorus, we had no idea what was going to happen. I guess we have all of our parts planned out for the different sections of the songs, but don’t 100% depend on the song going exactly as planned as far as exact arrangement or length. We’re all really used to playing with each other though, so we’ve become good at reading each others minds and knowing how to follow and anticipate each other in a set.
I didn’t know we are on an album together. How cool.
Yeah. Very cool.
Yeah, I think learning how to anticipate what each other is doing is key to making great music together. I think once you start to develop that and start preferring each other in a musical situation you can just about go anywhere with the music. I love that I know when Lee (JM’s drummer) is going to build something up and without even thinking about it we start building together. Or when Jon (bass/brother) and I play the same thing at the same time and we look across the stage at each other and smile. Chemistry is important and goes a long way.
How do you approach writing guitar parts?
I guess I approach writing parts with a what-does-the-song-need mindset. I like to pay attention to the vibe of the song and melody of vocals… and write parts that compliment that. It’s hard to say that I have a real “formula” for writing parts. I guess its more just like, asking myself if this section or that section needs anything, and if it does then I try and write a part that adds to the song and makes it stronger. My least favorite thing about music is when people play when they don’t need to play. Playing lead guitar is a lot like singing in a way… I don’t just play random notes or melodies. I have to be able to hear what I want to play in my head before I sing it, and then I sing it through my guitar. Everything I do on my instrument I want to be pre meditated. And from there it’s just experience that helps me decide what parts or melodies will work with the song and what won’t.
That’s basically my approach as well. I get a lot of questions about this topic, actually. Basically, like you said, it really comes down to listening. Listening for what you can hear in the song that might not already be there or might need reinforcing. It’s so important to not play to just to play. Especially when I’m in the studio. I’d much rather not have something there than having something that didn’t need to be there.
I also think it’s important to consider my role as a “support” to the song and to the leader, especially in worship music. I want to make the song sound better. I want to make Chris’s guitar sound bigger. I want to help Chris and Kim feel as comfortable and free as possible, so I try and bounce everything I do off of that mindset. In a way I guess I try and play very controlled, and almost predictable… but then at the same time I’m always trying to push myself to be more creative. I guess there’s a fine line between “controlled creative playing” and “out of control creative playing”
Exactly. What’s your favorite song to play live?
“Come away”. I think the guitar part is pretty cool : )… and I love the message of the song. I feel like it’s a real appropriate song for the church right now. What about you?
It changes a lot, but with JMM I think it would be new songs called “We Have Seen A Darkness” or “Murdered Son”. For one, it’s nice to play new songs, but he also writes the most amazing lyrics and I never get sick of hearing them. “We Have Seen a Darkness” is really fun to play as well.
When did you start playing guitar? What was your first guitar? Lessons or self taught?
I think I was 12. I started playing my uncle’s Yamaha acoustic. I was in a pretty much Christian-music-only family, so I starting learning by listening and playing along by ear to my favorite albums, which were at the time probably The Supertones and Five Iron Frenzy and stuff like that. I started to get real serious about the guitar at about 13 or 14 because I wanted to lead worship, cause cool guys play guitar and sing. So I started a junior high worship team at my church, and that was my first band experience. Since then I got stoked about playing guitar and I was in and out of bands in High School. I guess I’m self-taught, but I kinda chalk my self-taught-ness up to being classically trained on other instruments before I started playing guitar. So after learning simple chord positions and stuff from my mom, I just started playing by ear those albums. I had gotten pretty good with music theory from piano lessons by then, so it was pretty easy for me to start learning the fret board and how to build chords and rhythm and stuff. My first guitar I bought was my ’91 Gibson SG Celebrity. Its black and white and gold… and makes me look like Angus. It’s battle worn, and definitely cooler than me. What about you? When did you start playing and all that?
I think I was 12 when I started as well. I played my dad’s acoustic that was always around. I took lessons from the guitar player at my church. His name was Rick Bryan and he was my hero. He taught me a lot about theory and stuff but he also taught me a lot about playing in a worship setting. I wouldn’t be where I am without him. I got my first real guitar when I was 14. It was a White American Standard Fender Stratocaster. My guitar teacher, Rick, drove me to Orlando to buy it. I still have the receipt. I love that thing. That is the main guitar on the first 2 John Mark records.
Have you ever heard of The Edge?
I’ve heard of John Mayer… same guy?
Not really. Which guitar players have influenced you the most?
I think I’m more influenced by songs or albums as a whole that I love, than by actual guitar players. I wasn’t old enough to grow up with the influence of guitar shredders of the 70’s and 80’s, and my Dad didn’t play classic rock around the house very often. So once I really started getting into guitar and buying my own albums, it was all indie stuff. I think some albums that really helped push me forward and changed the way I think about playing guitar towards the end of my high school years were like, Pedro the Lion “Control” or MeWithoutYou “Catch For Us the Foxes”. Just like anybody else probably, if I think an album is cool and has nice arrangements, it ends up affecting the way I play. I’d be lying though if I didn’t say that you’ve definitely influenced the way I play : ) I used to sit at home with a friend when we were young and watch the “Open up the Earth” dvd. I thought you were the coolest. I loved those Jason Upton albums. I think they are super anointed. I also love what you’re doing with John Mark. The guitar playing is pretty fantastic.
Well thank you very much. I didn’t play on Open Up The Earth, but I played on some of his other records, so I will take that compliment.
Ahh. Well it was definitely you I was watching. But… I guess it probably wasn’t that album. I get album and song names wrong constantly.
Thanks man. I appreciate that. I learned a lot playing with Jason. He’s a really amazing person.
Ok gear time. What guitars do you use? What about amps?
Well, as far as guitars: a ’91 SG Celebrity, a ’03 Fender American Tele, a ‘0-something Gretsch Duo Jet (I think its an older one, as it has a bigger headstock than most), and a ’82 Fender American Strat. I also have a Collings 00 mahogany 12 fret acoustic. As for amps, I have an early 90’s Vox Ac30 6TB (UK made) with vintage 30’s. I also have a Jackson Ampworks Britain 3.0. I really love both amps, maybe equally. I also often play a Matchless DC30, but it’s owned by Bethel.
Any cool new pedals? Is your pedal board constantly changing?
Haha, yeah. Always changing. Possibly every three months or so I get stoked on something new, and something has to go. I’m pretty happy with what I have right now, but I definitely have thoughts of a remodel going through my brain right now… and it involves having a bigger board. You can check out my fake sissy blog at http://jeffreykunde.wordpress.com for a run down on my pedal list. I did just get a new power supply for all my pedals from The Gig Rig that I’m very happy with. Its cool cause it powers ALL my pedals, even my weird voltage ones.
Do you ever Google yourself?
Bummer question. Don’t we all? I try not to more than once a day.
You are such a loser! Just kidding. Everyone Googles themselves. Except me. I did google you the other day. Then I googled myself and was immediately jealous that nobody talks about me.
Ok. Gonna go start a James Duke chat/forum/online thing today.
Someone just started a James Duke page on Facebook. It has 21 members, most of whom are my friends, and they just joined to laugh at me. Still counts though.
What music are you into right now?
Well, The National “High Violet” and Brandon Flowers are both getting some heavy rotation on my iPod lately. But one of my favorite bands is Mew, and especially their latest album has some amazing guitar playing on it that I’m very into. I’m also a sucker for soft music, so a few albums I’ll pull out regularly are stuff by Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Kings of Convenience or Magnet. Every once in a while I like to listen to classical music too, most of the time classical piano. I guess its all those college classes coming back to haunt me.
High Violet is an amazing record. Bloodbuzz Ohio kills me. What a great song.
Yeah… no kidding. Chills.
I’m also addicted to the early 90’s currently. The Gin Blossoms and Pearl Jam have been on repeat. I love the 90’s.
How long have you been married? How do you juggle your busy schedule with JESUS CULTURE and your family? Is it hard to be gone?
Kathrine and I got married in August of ’09. So two years. We are young and in love and cool. It’s been a little tough to navigate how to be gone and still stay connected. Skype and FaceTime have definitely helped. But Jesus Culture doesn’t travel more than two weeks at a time usually, so I’m not the typical touring musician husband I guess. One thing about being apart that’s cool is that you really figure out how much you love someone. I feel more in love with my wife when I’m gone, just because I miss her and I realize how much fun we have together when I’m home. Sorry I’m getting all mushy… I guess it might be a different game though when I have kids. I hear it makes being gone that much harder. True?
Yes true. I grew up with my parents traveling a lot. They are missionaries and have literally traveled all over the world. Both of their fathers were in the military and traveled a lot as well. So it’s sort of in our blood. We are travelers. We travel. So that’s always what I’ve done as well, playing music though. It was an adjustment after I got married. I’d just take every job somebody would call with and not even think about it. I started getting a little more particular about what I did, just because I can’t be gone constantly. I guess I could, but my family would suffer and that sort of negates what I do and why I leave in the first place. So figuring out how to be gone and make sure my wife feels supported and prioritized is the goal. I’m still learning. What I realized is that while I grew up dreaming about traveling all over the world with my guitar, Jacki grew up dreaming about getting married and having a family. Me not being home every night wasn’t really in that dream. I don’t think it’s in most girls dreams. They usually aren’t wired that way. So it’s definitely something we work on. I think it’s sort of gotten easier on Jacki and harder on me. I really hate leaving now. I dread it. I’m usually ok once I leave, but the leaving part is tough. I really depend on my wife.
Leaving is the worst. I totally dread it too. But coming home is so amazing.
That’s true. I actually have this conversation a lot with younger musician friends that are getting engaged and wanting to know how to make it being a touring musician. I ask them how their fiancé feels about them traveling. They always say, “oh she’s totally fine with me being gone.” I then tell them while their significant other might actually believe that when they say it, it’s usually not going to be the truth. You don’t get married to be alone. It’s hard to be left home while your husband or wife is out doing whatever it is we do. It’s important to be there for them while you are away. It’s definitely something I have to constantly work on.
Yeah, It gets tough. It’s good to have a wife that supports and encourages what I do… but I’ll always have to guard my marriage, and constantly re-assess how much is too much.
Cool mood I’ve just created. I’m gonna go hug my wife and listen to “Faithfully” from Journey all night long.
So you mentioned you have a theory book coming out? You are so grown up! What kind of stuff are you hitting on in the book? Where can people buy that thing?
I do, well I did.. It came out in June. It’s called “Music Theory for the Music Industry” and is basically a 30 page pamphlet on basic music theory. It’s geared towards people who play in bands or on worship teams but don’t really know what notes are in the chords they are playing, or what chords belong in what key signatures.. that sort of thing. It just helps people understand the music they are playing. So its very introductory level, and teaches people how to build the major and minor scales, what a key signature is, and how to play the right notes and chords for that key signature. And through explaining all that stuff, it ends up teaching people how to use The Nashville Number system. All stuff that is really important to know if you’re in the music industry. People have mostly been buying it off of my website www.jeffreykunde.com. Soon it’ll be available on www.jesusculture.com .