tête-à-tête: frodo

i met matt “frodo” kidd a couple years ago when we went out on tour supporting robbie seay. frodo plays guitar. quite well, i might add. i still remember the first show we did. he started playing and i immediately got jealous. for real. he’s good.
frodo really understands how a guitar should sound and how a part should be played. and he’s funny. if you haven’t gotten a chance to see him play with the robbie seay band, i suggest doing so. he will also be playing guitar for ben rector this spring. they are opening for some band called needtobreathe. so i’m sure some of you will be seeing him play soon enough. enjoy.
________________

Hi Frodo.

Hullo.

What are you doing.

Typin’

The new Robbie Seay Band just came out.

ANOTHER band?!?!

Don’t start, Frodo. Are you happy with the record?

This album represents a culmination of two and a half years of finding my identity as a guitarist and an individual in this band. I’m happy with how we, as a group, gelled and yet had our own voices. What? Too braggy? I’m happy with the parts that came naturally. I’m unhappy with the things I over thought. I’m glad Rich and Poor is what it is. It has a “face”. I’d do things different next time though.

Do you play a solo on it?

Well as is, I play a few little ditties. I actually played a few things that didn’t end up making the cut. (sweeps… okay, no sweeps… some gnarly slide and slapback though)

Why Frodo?

Because I wanted to see some Youtube versions of them. I was hoping we could do some guitarmony sometime too.

I actually meant why did you chose to go by the name “frodo”?

‘Cos people think I look like Elijah Wood and call me Frodo. I actually didn’t choose it originally but I now embrace it.

Guitar solos are weird and hard to write. Right?

Guitar solos are a strange thing. People love them or hate them it seems. Why do so many songs have them? Was there another period in history that a single instrument needed to get noodled on to dazzle the listener. Some people are more fun to watch solo than hear solo. I’m not good at solos in the studio. I prefer parts. I prefer unity over a “hero”…. Unless it’s you. Then I’m like *HEAVEN* YES! PTL… Or if it’s Jerry Douglas (DOBRO). Then i silently smile and jump up and down.

Yeah They are hard to write. Let’s called them GuitHARD solos.

GuitHard. I like that. Remember that big beard you had?

I have a mini beard now.

You are probably my favorite guitar player in our little island/area/part of the music world. You have amazing sounds and are super solid all the time. I hate you for that. What’s your secret?

PUHLEEESE! (I’m smiling and jumping up and down right now)
I appreciate when you say that to me. I feel undeserving. People probably google your name WAY more than mine. You are JamesTHEduke. (I took “thejamesduke” and rearranged it… also I just called you a duke because it’s your name AND your title)

I don’t know man. I think Frodo probably gets googled way more than James Duke. 

He’s probably not usually playing in a christian rock band though, right?

I wouldn’t presume to know or understand what Frodo does with his free time.

I was home schooled. When I first started playing, my mom yelled at me constantly to “do my work” instead of playing the guitar I borrowed from my friend. I would play for like 8 hours a day at first. I would go to my friends houses under the guise that I wanted to spend time with them, secretly knowing that in their parents closet, an out of tune Yamaha guitar could be found lying between luggage (and a box of Halloween costumes?).  I played 90’s rock and Metallica… STP, bro. Don’t even ACT like you don’t know.

Don’t tell me about the 90’s. I’ll tell you about the 90’s. I was home schooled too. Gross.

Gross? Bad experience for you? There are surprisingly a lot of us in this “industry”.I think maybe it’s wasn’t a great idea. But who knows.

I learned a lot from playing in church. Worship teams… Hillsong… you know….?

Yes. I know all about both of those. I got started playing in the Jr High Youth Band! There was really no difference between the Jr High and High School youth group. We all went to the same place. But the JHYB as we called it (we didn’t call it that) was where they stuck the little kids that couldn’t play but wouldn’t shut up about wanting to play in the YOUTH BAND! We played every 8 weeks probably. But it was my life. We practiced Sunday afternoons at the church, and it was my favorite thing in the world. My poor parents had to drive me because I was 14. Which meant they drove to church 3 times on Sundays. I would cry (literally) if I thought for one second I wasn’t going to be able to go to Jr High Youth Band (JHYB) rehearsal. That’s where I got my start. JHYB FOREVER!

I steal others’ secrets when I can. I stole how you use your feet. You turn pedal knobs with your feet. *light comes on* BRILLIANT. You have a fantastic knack for filling a room or a track with like… ONE AWESOME GUITAR PART and a kick ass haircut.

I do turn knobs with my feet, bro. I also tend to steal secrets… I played with Hillsong once. Way back in the 1900’s. The guitar player (forgot his name) told me he had a compressor (Carl Martin. It was super popular then) on all the time. He said it was important and that I should get one. I went the next week and bought a (much cheaper) MXR Dyna Comp. I didn’t even know what it did. It’s still on my board and never gets turned off.

I’ve learned a lot (like many who may read this) from Taylor Johnson, RSB’S old guitarist. He is an extremely melodic player with a keen ear and more grease in his fingers than a Raising Cane’s in Kentucky. I learned a lot about the sacred relationship between the amp and a guitars volume knob from that man. (Hi Taylor)

Hi Taylor.

I learned some theory stuff and how to phrase things not stupidly from a guy named Jimmy Ingram of the band SPUR58 (now Aaron Ivy Band)

Joel and Jonathan Camey. They play guitar and drums at Lakewood church. They taught me about pocket and feel.

When I got over ESP guitars, I listened to Eric Johnson quite a bit.
TRUE STORY. I Sold him an ac30. His first one from what he said!
I have a video of him playing on my old amp in a guitar shop in Austin… Just crazy to sit there and watch….

There are several local guys I’ve picked up things from… YOUTUBE…

Going back to phrasing guitar parts. Can you talk a little more about that? What is your approach when you are writing parts. What did Jimmy Ingram teach you exactly?

Hmm… He opened my eyes to chord theory which leads into all that mode/scale junk, which can be very useful. It’s all heady at first but soon enough you forget it and really does become , as they say, “colors”. Before beginning to learn the “palette”, I was just guessing in the dark across the fretboard. Snobs can say what they want about theory; It’s just the grammar of what I believe music is, a language. He also showed me some stuff about note expression. So much “tone” can come from attitude. I good, well placed, nasty vibrato, just makes a Telecaster sing. RIGHT?!

I agree. One thing I notice about a lot of guitar players is that there isn’t enough attention spent on very basic things like vibrato. That’s such an important element to playing guitar.

Lately, I’ve been recording my own little “sound sketches” and putting them on Soundcloud. I call them sketches because I approach recording them like you’d approach a pencil and paper, only, my paper is a list of tracks. You know in those art school books where they show you how to sketch a face proportionately? They start with shapes, then they draw guide lines for the features. Soon enough lines become a nose, ears, eyes, a mouth… . Now I’m sure after many years of doing this a good artist no longer uses this method. Also my process isn’t always so linear so maybe it’s a bad comparison. Anyway, I often lay down my parts in order of how I feel lead creatively. I’ll start with some basic ideas. It could be specific melodies that are not totally refined but get my creative juices flowing. Sometimes I start with a simple bass line. Sometimes a drum groove. I may add something at the very end and skip back to the beginning. Sometimes I do it more “start to finish”.

When people send me tracks to play on remotely I approach it the same way. Most sessions, however, I don’t always have the luxury of solitude and time. I guess It really is a luxury too. Sometimes it’s a group of people sitting in the room with you and a totally different type of collaborative creative energy is floating around. The ARTIST in me wants to own every little note but… I’ve learned is best to compromise instead wanting to be “the hero”…  In fact it can be much better. The RSB guys had a lot of great input on this record. For one track on the new album, Chase Jenkins (Our keys guys) and I tracked together. That was very rewarding.

Sometimes, however, the guy producing just tells you things that are abstract and discouraging about a take. Some people won’t just let ideas bloom. It’s funny how the same reference can mean something totally different to anyone.  (More poppy, more bluesgrassy, less bluesgrassy. more nasty, more black)…. Please tell me you’ve experienced this…

I definitely have. I remember recording the new JMM album Economy and I thought I was playing so wonderful and after the take the Producer said, “Cool. That’s pretty Nascar.” That was cool to hear. I also love it when Producers use words like “Swirly”. For example, “let’s use a different DI. That bass tone is a little Swirly”. I usually tell a producer that I haven’t worked with before that I work a little slow sometimes. I used to be insecure about it taking me a while to come up with parts, but I don’t care anymore. It’s not easy. If it takes me a while, it takes me a while. Sometimes I knock something out quick. But I’ve learned it never works the same way twice. I’d rather be happy and take an extra hour.

You have a pretty interesting pedal board. You use blenders and have all sorts of interesting little things/secrets you do. You seem really thought out and deliberate. Which is exactly the opposite of me. I can’t even remember to make sure my pedals are on the right settings before we play. What’s the process? Can you explain your board a little?

My board is a perpetual work in progress. I started small. Went big. Went smaller. Went bigger. went really small. Big. Medium. etc… etc… Do you do that, or just make a lot of boards?I really don’t change a whole lot for my live board. I am typically always running a Tube Screamer and a Compressor (usually a Dyna Comp). I stack other overdrives like a JHS Morning Glory and a Timmy.  I’ve been using some pedals from Walrus Audio and really like them a lot. Then I run a few Delays and crap. I don’t know… Lately I hate the way I sound. Anyways… Back to you. GO ON FRODO.

My main board typically works under three basic principles.
1. 50lbs or less (airline fees and I’m weak)
2. Lowest noise floor possible. I don’t like a lot of hiss or hum (so clean power too)
3. Get a lot of sound when needed and completely clean tone when needed

Though I may do weird things that seem complicated. I actually prefer simplicity. I want my “effects off” guitar tone to sound as much like I’m just plugging it in directly to the amp with just a single clean boost as possible… But I also want omnisphere at my feet. I want Dean Deleo to meet Mark Byrd; Daniel Lanois to meet Blake Mills.A for instance on “complex simplicity” (complexiplicity?) is blending. I’d blend my DL4 with an Xotic blender because the pedal alters tone when plugged directly into. Even a Keeley or JHS modded one will change tone. Yeah I’d say it alters/changes it more than “sucks” it. It also adds hiss. The blender fixes these things very well without a fancy sparkly paint job. Turn the mix to 100% on the DL4 and you have two signals, a completely pure DL4 one and a completely pure guitar one. Well, at least more pure than through the DL4. Once thrown in the blender you can true bypass it with the switch and control the mix with the big knob. JAMES DUKE STYLE.

Here’s my “extra board” with the DL4 in an Xotic stereo blender I had custom made (COOL)

Also when you use blenders you can put more than one effect in “wet” side. I have the RV-5 in the loop with the DL4.The yellow thing is a Lehle D-loop. Lehle makes amazing true bypass boxes that are STEREO. (COOL)

Here’s my current board (kinda)

I’m blend crazy right now. I blend an RC booster. Clean tone and wacky eq tone. Gets some great results.
I compress with the Tone Press. Blending is built into the circuit. “Parallel compression” as they call it. I compress more with single coils or for slide junk. The Sparkle drive has a blend built in (COOL) but is pretty much always blended clean. It really just adds some MOJO. The POG2 is blended for several reasons. No tone altering, less hiss, EQing options, and mix control on the fly for a wider range of “presets” The three pedal on top are all made by the same people: Strymon. Well… The Glass Nexus is Damage Control… which is a company that basically renamed itself Strymon.I guess I should say this. The one way I feel we are very different… and I really love your tone…. is that I can’t stand stacking overdrives. I literally NEVER do it these days. In fact… I rarely use pedal overdrive. I push the amp…. I just always prefer it… Are you mad????

No. I’m not mad.

Also underneath is a Lehle Sunday driver (an amazing buffer) and two power supplies. Pedal Power 2 and a CIOKS DC10.

What is the best pedal?

Strymon pedal. ??? Oh hey… back to pedal overdrives… what OVERDRIVE PEDAL should I get?

You hate overdrive pedals. Remember?

Oh yeah…. Guess I’ll get another delay….

I first heard Robbie Seay when the Thoughts of You album came out. That was such a beautiful, fresh sounding album. Really different for the time. It is still is one of my favorites. So when we toured with you guys it was really cool for me to get to meet him. How did you meet Robbie and start playing in the band?

Texas is a unique and magical place, a lot of Christian artists came from it. A few came from Houston or Dallas. I think they’re still coming actually. We’ve got Lakewood and Woodlands church, both nationally known or whatever. Chris Tomlin used to lead at a United Methodist church in a suburb just 30 minutes north of Houston back in the day. So did Todd Agnew. Crowder used to live not very far in Waco. Shane and Shane live in Dallas. This area has quite a pool of churches that pay money to musicians. You basically have a culture of guys growing up playing in front of people every week and getting paid alot to do it, at least in the grand scheme of making money playing music (which is beautiful and terrible at the same time but that’s a different convo)… So, the Houston Christian music scene is small. When I meet a new person we usually have at least a few friends in common.

I heard about Robbie Seay in like… 2005? Or something… He was a “local christian celeb” of sorts. I played his songs here and there at churches. I’d met Taylor Johnson years before I meet Robbie. I chatted with him about gear or music a few times. I worked with Ryan Owens on a project. Harold Rubens, our sound engineer for the past few years, had engineered for some studio sessions I played for. Also, my wife (girlfriend at the time) works for the RSB so I had that “in” as well.

Though, Robbie leads worship at his brother Chris’s church often so sometimes other guitarists play for him on Saturdays/Sundays. They could easily be the next player if  I break my hands off or something. There is a large community of talent here.

How long have you been playing the axe, man? When did it get serious?

I’ve been playing since I was 16 and I’m 28…. so…. 12 years-ish. I got serious about 5 years ago when I quit my other jobs I guess.

What were those other jobs?

The local library in my hometown.
Jack In The Box.
Kroger.
I also taught guitar lessons for a small music store for a couple of years.

Do you listen to christian/worship music?

MUSIC CAN’T BE CHRISTIAN… kidding… I listen to some I guess. I just listen to stuff I like. I certainly never search for new christian artists just because they are Christians. I feel no obligation or alignment to any side. Music is universal.I don’t like a lot of what’s popular but I’m sure I sound like a snob/hipster. Oh well. It’s just true. I gotta ask though… am I the only one confused by Christians who constantly feel they need to publicly complain about how “uncreative or dishonest” Christian music is? I’m sure you could argue that things won’t change until people speak up but I just don’t know if that’s true… It seems like we, as artists, not as “Christians” should just create from an honest place and not worry about what group is doing the most unique or “real” stuff. I dunno…

I love JMM though. Carbon ribs is brilliant poetry. Lordy.

I really like your ATBL stuff. It makes me think. That music is saved right?

Probably.

I dig this new Sarah Groves record actually.
I like Audrey Assad.
Always love me some Derek Webb and/or Sandra Mccracken.
How’m I doin?

You are doing brilliant, Frodo. Good job, Buddy.

I love Jon Foreman.
I love Thad Cockrell’s “To Be Loved”
I dunno some others. What christian stuff do you like besides yourself?

Oh. Well, as far as Worship style stuff I love this group out in Kentucky called The Embers. I love Jonathan Helser. I love Kevin Prosch, Delirious, Brian Doerksen. I don’t listen to a lot of the more current stuff… not for any particular reason… I just don’t. I do love the new album my friends at Elevation Church just put out. It’s totes good.

What’s the hardest thing about  your job as a guitar player?

Being original. Also not completely defining my life with it. Also having consistent income.

Is there any music you are super freaked out about right now!?!?
I really like this singer song writer from Nashville…

I can always listen to Hammock.I love and am freaked about by Andrew Bird.

David Grey’s “A new day at midnight” has been goin’

My wife and I wear out the Cardigans “Long Gone Before Daylight”

Union Station.

Oasis’s “Dig out your soul”

There’s this band called “Brian Lee and His Orcestra” That is great

The band Greylag and the lead singer Andrew Stonestreet

Man… I know you are gonna think I’m a  freak but I am so fascinated by this video.

Yeah… it’s TOOL… The frontman of the band, Maynard, wrote this song from the perspective of angels watching us humans, with our gift of higher thinking and free will, squander it with fighting and killing. Obviously this guy would butt heads with my beliefs but man is this an intriguing piece of art…

My favorite is Bobby (Dylan)

Thanks for being so specific.

You’re welcome.

Bye Frodo.

Bye James… I’ll leave you with something my wife showed me that I have to pause and listen to from time to time… (Thanks Lindsey)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0OdNY8Aybw
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8 comments

  1. This is great, I would have never thought that you guys would have been homeschooled. I was too! O happy day! By the way I love these conversations. Appreciate it.

  2. I just wanted to say thanks for these conversations. I really appreciate the depth, topics, and often lightheartedness of these discussions. They provide some great inspiration as I try to be an aspiring song writer and musician/gear junkie. Thanks, and I am looking forward to a Mighty Raucous Evening in Nashville!

  3. I’ll second Jerod’s comment. James, these are really helpful and provoking for me as a guitar player. Thank you! Much better than the million blogs where people talk about their gear for a while and then run out of stuff to say, I know I would have 4 or 5 posts and then not have much else to offer. Thanks again!

  4. This was a breath of fresh air. It’s nice when you get to read something that isnt 3 paragraphs and is very informative!

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