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more... ArtistsJuly 2008Marcus Eaton

Northwestern Exposure: Marcus Eaton Interview


Could you tell us about some of the guitars you’ve been using lately?

One is the Veillette 12-string baritone, which I discovered while I was playing with Tim Reynolds. I was looking for a 12-string but I wanted something different, with different tonal options. At first I thought I would just transpose songs onto it, but once I started playing it, it sounded so different and ethereal that it inspired me in a completely different way. I use it mostly with the band – you can hear it on tracks like “Disposable.”

What other acoustics are you slinging?

I’m using Baden Guitars, mostly their Astyle. I use a number of different wood combinations – the mahogany model for recording, the rosewood for solo stuff and their maple model for band gigs.

Northern Exposure What do you like about those?

I really like the intonation on the Badens, plus they have a great cutaway, which is essential for me. They also have the new Eclipse Aura pickup from Fishman. They’re so powerful and they do a great job of driving my effects. Most acoustic guitarists are using electric effects, after all, and the Fishman system just gives your signal a little more power.

I would guess that you’re probably pushing your signal through more effects than the average acoustic player. What kinds of pedals are in your rig?

Right now I have the Boss Loop Station, the RC-20. I use a Line 6 Echo Park Delay, which has some really great sounds. I have an old DD5 Digital Delay from Boss, as well as their Pitch Shifter, which I use for doing bass loops when I’m playing solo. I also have a custom switching box, which is a stereo A/B switch that enables me to send my loops in stereo back to the soundman – once he has them, he can turn it up or down and effect it, which is really cool. At the end of my effects loop I use Radial direct boxes. Having high quality direct boxes at the end of the chain helps keep the EQ the way that I like it.

I also have a volume pedal on my board at all times. I’ve been experimenting with different brands, as they keep getting messed up, in terms of the volume pots. Most recently I’ve been using a Goodrich, which is actually designed for pedal steel. I’ve also used models from Ernie Ball and Boss – the Boss pedal is actually really nice because it’s tiny and it’s light, and I’ve been flying everywhere lately. The last pedal in my rig is a Tech 21 Killer Wail wah. They’re not making them anymore, but they’re badass for acoustic.

What makes it perfect for the acoustic?

The pedal has three settings – high, extended and deep. The high setting moves the wah to the high-end; it’s almost like a funky envelope filter. The deep setting, which is actually a low-pass filter, works well with the acoustic, because it picks up and tracks things a lot better.

I should also mention that I’ve been doing a bit of beta testing for Fishman’s acoustic effects, like the AFX line. It’s very cool stuff – I got to help tweak the pedals, which was really fun, and I’ve been using the AFX Delay live. The delay in particular is awesome because you can actually loop on it. If you have it running right, you can tap in your tempo and run loops in stereo.

What’s great is that there is so much stuff you can do by combining effects – dotted quarter delays and things like that. It’s actually becoming a lot of work for me. I’m going to have to get some sort of system worked out where I can memorize my delay settings, just to keep things moving along when I’m in-between songs with the band.

We’ve been touching on looping a lot throughout this interview, and you’ve mentioned that you have the Boss Loop Station on your board. How did you first discover the technique and what does it enable you to do?

When the Boss pedal first came out, I attended this tiny clinic with Victor Wooten. I saw Victor loop something and I had always, even in my first band in high school, wished for an easy way to record myself and play over the top. Lo and behold, someone obviously thought of that long before I did. When it came out, I just had to have it. At first it became the best practice tool on the planet, because instead of having to play with somebody else, you could lay down chords and figure out how you were going to approach your solos. It gives you a huge advantage as a musician, just in terms of being able to practice effectively. So that was really my first exposure to the idea.

When the Lobby was playing, I would lay down rhythm parts because my rhythm is so strong most of the time and my guitar is EQ’ed pretty powerfully, so if I drop out of a song it’s pretty noticeable. I used it at first to create more of a rhythmic feel, like there was a fourth musician in the band. When I started doing the solo thing I began looping all sorts of stuff, like percussion parts on the guitar – hitting the pickup and using the guitar as a percussive instrument. I learned some bass techniques from Victor Wooten that almost sound like drum and bass stuff.

Can you explain those “powerful EQ” settings further?

Generally speaking, in acoustics a lot of the power lies in the midrange, but that’s also the frequency range that’s most likely to feedback at high volumes. 99 percent of the time I’m not playing with an amplifier – I usually run direct into the board – and when you add delay to an acoustic guitar, that also tends to create feedback.

So I usually hand the power over to my soundman and he EQs a lot of the lowend and midrange. We don’t EQ anything out – we actually add, if anything. We accentuate the midrange because, rhythmically, that’s where it really pops. And that’s why I’m playing the acoustic.

Sometimes I hear people mixing acoustic guitars with a lot of high-end, so you can hear the slap of the pick against the strings, but that’s really all you can hear. I use really big chords, as many notes as I can and lots of stereo effects, so it’s important that you can hear everything. That’s why we tend to accentuate with EQ instead of take away.

Northern Exposure Do you own any other acoustics? Are there any specific guitars you would love to get your hands on?

Oh, I would love to have a Martin dreadnought. I have a Taylor that I played for years that has become a really great guitar. I played it so much that I had to have it refretted, and I only bought it in 1999. I had a Guild Peregrine for a while, and I’m also starting to get back into the electric.

Are we going to be reading about Marcus Eaton’s switch to the electric anytime soon? You did have a fleeting encounter with Bob Dylan, after all.

I love the acoustic – I love it for its percussive qualities. I mean, the electric is a blast, it’s a lot of fun to play, but they’re about different things. With the acoustic you’re always pushing the rhythm and telling the song where to go. Electric guitar is all about sustain; you can kind of lay back and just hit a chord here and there and let it sustain.

Do you play with a pick or more of a fingerstyle technique?

I kind of float between both, actually. I change my techniques all of the time. A lot of the time I’m holding the pick with my right hand between my pinky and my ring finger. So I’ll be playing with three fingers, and then I’m able to grab the pick. A lot of times I’m holding it in my mouth when I’m doing the Latin stuff, when I’m playing on my fingertips – it’s back and forth a lot. The 12-string baritone is almost all fingerstyle; there are so many strings on there that if you play with a pick you get lost.

What’s in the future for you?

Really just getting my music to more people and improving upon it. I want to learn from other musicians and guitarists – guys like Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Victor Wooten and Béla Fleck. And I’m not locked into guitarists either; there are so many drummers and pianists I’d love to work with, because they’re all inspirational in different ways. So, really, what’s next is just pushing this as far as it can possibly go.

Marcus’ Gearbox
When Marcus plugs in, here’s what he’s looping on.

Baden Guitars a-style acoustics
Veillette 12-string baritone
solidbody acoustic
Taylor 514ce
Boss RC-20 Loop Station
Boss DD-5 Digital Delay
Boss PS-5 Pitch Shifter
Line 6 Echo Park Delay
Fishman AFX Delay
Tech 21 Killer Wail Wah
Custom switching box
Goodrich Model 120
Volume Pedal
Radial direct boxes

Click below to listen to some of Marcus Eaton''s latest tracks.
Standing Still
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Story of Now
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Who You Are
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Marcus Eaton
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