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Photo by Rachel Martin.
Speaking of work/play processes, how do Dot Hacker songs typically develop—do you guys just get together and jam?
Clint Walsh: It’s some of everything. Josh writes stuff and brings it to us, and we react to it. I’ll write stuff and do the same. Sometimes songs are born out of jams. There’s no real rhyme or reason. The only caveat is that you have to hear what somebody brought in—everything deserves a chance to be heard.
Klinghoffer: Sometimes the amount of time we get to spend together dictates how much certain things get worked on, but in the end hopefully they all wind up sounding like this band. Like, I’ll listen to songs that were born out of a jam that sound more constructed and worked on than a song that took five years to complete.
Walsh: Josh is also really good at cataloging. I don't think I've ever been in a band with somebody so on top of rehearsals. Listening to your practices helps so much. I’m really thankful that part is there.
Klinghoffer: Yeah, we record everything. We spent all of the last two weeks rehearsing for this tour, and I’m kind of kicking myself for recording, like, 90 percent of it. But just in the little bit I listened to in order to catalog it in the computer, I heard things that I couldn’t really pick out at practice. It helped me know how to approach the song the next time we played it. I don’t know how—because time is going by very quickly these days—but there are still pieces of music we jammed on at the beginning of the band’s existence that I know will someday be a song. Also, when we jam there are a lot of lyrics and song ideas vocally that I have to dig for and listen to. I’ve become very … “anal”—is that the right word?—about my recording and cataloging. [Laughs.]
Walsh: No, “diligent” is a better word.
Both of you also play keyboards. How does that dynamic work, and how does it affect your guitar roles?
Walsh: Josh is much more proficient as a piano player than I am. We both kind of allow each other the space to do whatever we want to do on whatever instrument. I tend to favor certain types of keyboard sounds and use them more as either a counter-melodic instrument or with a pad-type approach. I think both of us are different musicians on the different instruments that we play, too.
You mean the different form factor—the different physicality of the instrument itself—makes you approach music differently?
Klinghoffer: Writing songs on piano or coming up with progressions on the keyboard is a lot more exciting to me, because I’m far less familiar with it than I am with the guitar. It still has a really exciting, unknown aspect to it.
Walsh: Yeah, I'd agree with that. It takes you out of your comfort zone.
Klinghoffer: People have been saying it for a long time now, but anything that you can do to change or even slightly modify a general rock-band format [is great] … I mean, we are essentially two guitarists/keyboardists, plus bass and drums. When I come in with a song that’s on piano and Clint looks at the guitar or keyboard, it’s a bit of freedom. If I want to just do one note on the synth and twist a couple of delay knobs, there’s freedom to fill a lot of different kinds of space.
Josh, do you use the same guitar rig you use with the Peppers?
Klinghoffer: Absolutely not, because I would never set that up myself. No, no, no—that rig is built for higher volumes and more arm strength than mine. [Laughs.]
We did a Rig Rundown with your Chili Peppers tech a couple of years ago, and I’m pretty sure you had more pedals than anyone we’ve ever talked to. Was it, like, three or four different pedalboards?
Klinghoffer: I think at that time it was three. I don’t know what I was thinking [laughs]. Not too long after you guys filmed that, I wound up breaking my foot and was sort of confined to a chair and in one place onstage. Since I could only use one foot, we shrunk down to one board and Ian [Sheppard, RHCP guitar tech] controlled a couple of things that were only used in one or two songs from a controller offstage. After that, we realized how much signal I was losing by going through all those pedals. I didn’t really need all of it. A lot of it was just hung over from past Chili Peppers songs that required a certain thing, or from a recollection of a jam that sounded great when I first started playing with them, but that I wound up never using again. I made it through the rest of the tour with the one board I’d shrunk it down to. The next time we go out of town, I’m really going to try and use just what we need.
With Dot Hacker—because we don’t often get the luxury of soundchecks, or because we’re loading the gear ourselves—I really try to have my shit as tight as possible. I use one amp, preferably as small as it can be while still sounding big and good. I try to use as few pedals as possible. I even kicked myself for throwing two extra pedals that I felt like I didn’t need on my board last weekend. I really try to have as little gear and as few cables as possible.