Reine Fiske plays his main guitar—a Strat assembled from various vintage parts—at a gig with Motorpsycho at the 2013 Krach am Bach festival in Beelen, Germany. Photo by Rainer Knpper.
A contemporary psych-rock renaissance is currently underway, producing exciting new guitar music. Among the groups contributing to the new canon of experimental, psychedelic grandeur is Sweden’s the Amazing, a three-guitar beast that lives in clouds of tape delay and wispy acoustic guitars. The group spins richly layered albums that engage the deep listener while remaining approachable and digestible. Infused with both a prog-rock twist and a hearty folk infusion, the band’s latest, Picture You, is a delicate tapestry of classic sounds and imaginative songwriting.
Reine Fiske, perhaps best known for his work with psych-rock cult heroes Dungen, is the Amazing’s lead guitarist and self-professed chaser of sounds. Fiske is an anomaly, in that he eschews the guitar heroes usually associated with his chosen genres in favor of world musicians and relatively obscure Nordic artists. We spoke with him about creating Picture You, his affinity for the classic Klemt Echolette tape delay, and the influences that set him apart from his peers.
Picture You has an incredibly warm, almost ’70s-like quality. How did you achieve that?
The studio where it was recorded is not a state-of-the-art place. It’s totally analog, with an old mixing desk and old microphones. I guess everyone in the band sort of prefers vintage stuff. If it can be classic yet still different from everyone else, that’s where we want to be.
Did you play a role in the production?
I’ve never really worked in that field, but I’m fascinated by how things sound, and with getting those sounds when we make a recording. We like to seek very specific sounds. I know what certain mics do and how to place them to get those different sounds, but I’m not exactly a producer. We wanted a big, open sound, so everything was recorded live in a pretty big room. My guitar amp was in a room with the door half open, and everyone was standing in a circle so we could watch one another as we played.
There’s a lot of exploratory playing and open space in the songs. Was that improvised or planned?
Not to say that this recording wasn’t free, but it was much more structured and arranged than our previous records. We actually rehearsed the songs a couple of times before we recorded them. Before, Christoffer [Gunrup, the group’s vocalist] would just call and say “Hey! We’re going to record this week!” and everyone turned up. We drank a lot, and we maybe went through the songs once or twice and did some overdubbing. It was a bit hazier, and we created a certain atmosphere because it was so loose. This time we went in with more of an album-minded way of thinking.
What guitar equipment did you use this time?
The only amp I used was a vintage Fender Super Reverb. I think it was a ’73, but it wasn’t mine—it belongs to Fredrik [Swahn], our other guitarist. It’s an amazing amp! It’s really loud, and there’s just something incredible about the type of gain it gets. Together with the tape echo it really creates an amazing sound.
I’ve seen you use a Klemt Echolette in photos. Is that still your echo, and do you use it live?
Yeah, usually. But we haven’t played live that much yet, so I haven’t used it much in that context. I always use the same two settings: a slapback thing, and a more triggered, triple-echo sound. It also makes for an amazing preamp. You can use any shitty amp with it, and it usually still sounds good. The echo certainly changes the quality of the tone, but if you can use a vintage Fender or an old Marshall, it’s a supreme combination.
Is there a reason you still use an authentic tape echo unit when there are so many great modeling pedals?
I think some of them are okay. I’ve used Catalinbread’s Binson Echorec-based pedal lately—not for guitar, but for the Mellotron—and it’s actually really good. I understand that it’s really hard to produce that particular sound in pedals—you need actual tubes and transistors and everything to really make that sound, in my opinion. I mean, today’s technology is just crazy, but I still think you can hear the difference in pedal form. They just don’t always behave in the way I want them to behave. Usually it’s a problem with the gain structure: There’s either too much gain and the sound becomes too compressed, or it’s the other way around, and there isn’t enough gain. Sometimes I record overdubs with an extra delay pedal or something, but there’s something that’s created in the sound with the old tape echoes that I can’t really emulate with anything else.
Do you use any other effects?
I use a pedalboard, but I can never really decide on the pedals I want to put on it. The pedals I use most are a Strymon Flint, a Creepy Fingers fuzz, a ZVEX Fuzz Factory, a vintage Fuzz Face, and some others. I have a lot more from people who build me stuff that don’t always make it on the board. I have a lot of fuzz pedals, boost pedals, and preamp-type things. Normally, I always use my old Fuzz Face and just a Cry Baby wah. A new find is this Carlin compressor pedal, which is one of the most radical pedals I’ve ever stumbled upon. There’s actually a clone made now by a guy named Moodysound, and it’s really good.