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Besides the Fulton Webb, do you use any other amps?
Oh yeah. I have a Fender Tremolux from the ’60s that I used for its nice clean sound. I also have a little tweed Champ that I can crank for sustain. I also have an old tweed Bassman I used a lot, too. There are also tons of amps at Engine. I used an old Vox AC30 and Cambridge Reverb. There were a couple of blackface Fender Twins, a Super Reverb, and a ’67 Marshall Super Lead. I plugged into each of these at some point.
Do you mix it up with mic setups and techniques?
Brian Deck showed me a great mic’ing technique— a Shure SM57 dead center on the speaker cone and a Beyerdynamic M 160 off axis, but pointing at the cone. We used that setup on almost all the guitar tracks.
A lot of times, mixing genres yields horrible results—like country rap. But your work doesn’t sound incongruous. As a guy who got noticed as an acoustic player, what inspired you to start incorporating synths?
Well, just because I played acoustic guitar for the past several years doesn’t mean I haven’t listened to [pioneer- ing English electronic duo] Autechre and Radiohead and all that shit. I love all that stuff. I grew up in the ’80s in America, not on a mountain in Tibet! We dabbled with synths on the previous album, and this time we just figured, “Screw it—let’s do an album that’s mostly synth.”
Beam onstage on March 20, 2008, with a vintage Gretsch hollowbody and a
Taylor acoustic waiting in the wings. Photo by Benjamin Millar
What keeps you working with producer Brian Deck?
Well, he likes me, and I like working with people that compliment me constantly [laughs]. We are friends, and he is a great person to bounce ideas off of. He tells me what he likes and what he doesn’t. We also have similar subversive ideas about what pop music should be.
It’s interesting that you say “subversive,” because the weird synth sounds you used on the album do seem to go against the usual stripped- down singer-songwriter troubadour norm—except for Beck.
[Laughs.] Yeah, Brian and I both like different types of music, so we try to fit it in there, one way or another. I really feel like I can take the songs and put whatever texture I want on them. If you believe in your melody, you can do whatever you like.
Sam Beam's Gearbox
1957 Gibson ES-125T, Jerry Jones JJ Original Shorthorn reissue, Gibson ES-335TD, early ’70s Fender Stratocaster, 1972 Gibson SG Standard, Taylor acoustics
Fulton Webb 30 Watt, blackface Fender Tremolux, tweed Fender Bassman, tweed Fender Champ, Fender Hot Rod Deville 212
Moog Moogerfooger, Boss DD-3 delay, Boss TU-2 tuner
Strings and Picks
Elixir .010-.046 sets, “Whatever pick’s in the studio”