Photo by James Richard IV

Charles Moothart: Infinite Riffage

You play in a number of different bands with the same group of people. Is your role different with each project?
The roles are always different. With Ty’s band, for example, he wrote and recorded all the music—except for the Slaughterhouse record—so in that way I was essentially just playing his songs, although he always gives us the freedom as a band to do whatever we want. It’s fun. I know for Ty it was fun to start doing Fuzz, where I have more of the song ideas and he’s able to play drums and throw in his input. I think all of us enjoy taking on different roles, whether it’s sitting back a little bit more or sitting forward a little more. Everyone gets to share.

Fuzz is definitely a riff-oriented band. How do you approach creating great riffs?
I really enjoy playing guitar. I can sit there and play guitar for hours. Sometimes I come up with a riff that I like, that feels right to me, that feels good to play, even on acoustic guitar, and I can play it over and over again and it’s fun for me. When I come up with something I either record it on my phone or sometimes I record it on my 8-track and see where it goes. Every riff is different. Sometimes I have a riff in my head for six months and one day I’ll think about it—it will click and I’ll be able to hear it in a different way, which leads me to adding a part or just what may come next. To me it’s just about the emotion and the feeling of what it sounds like and feels like to play.

Do you do a lot of jamming?
We definitely did for this record. We tried to play a few times a week for a couple of months leading up to the record, to go through songs and see where they took us. Jamming was a new territory for us. We’ve been able to work that out, see what it feels like to just let things go, and have more of an unspoken communication between everybody. It’s definitely something we’ve been trying to hone in on.

Meaning that in the past, the band was primarily learning songs you’d already demoed?
Yeah. For the first record it was a lot of that or a lot of Ty and me writing songs. With this last European tour—even going through this whole second record—it was an intense process that we really didn’t expect. I think we were trying to figure out, “What are we trying to do?” and, “What is our sound?” That was always in the back of our heads.

Many of your riffs and leads go beyond the blues scale. Have you spent time learning different scales, chords, and practicing more schooled aspects of music?
I guess I do more than I ever thought I did. I definitely try to figure out weird scales to have them in my pocket. There are times onstage when I don’t want to play the classic blues scale. But I never sat down and thought, “I need to learn the minor scale,” for example. Playing guitar and wanting to find different modes of expression, I tried to figure out my own version of whatever. To me, playing guitar is just like raw expression. But it’s like having a limited vocabulary, you don’t want to feel tongue-tied while you’re trying to play guitar.

Charles Moothart’s Gear

1978 Fender Mustang (stock)
Warmoth Jazzcaster (with Mustang tremolo and Seymour Duncan P-Rail pickups)
Gibson Firebird VII (non-reverse)

Music Man HD-130 4x10 combo
Modded Fender Twin (converted into a head) into an Acoustic 4x12 cabinet

Death By Audio Fuzz War
Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner
German-made no-name “Analog Delay” pedal

Strings and Picks
Ernie Ball Power Slinky
Gray Dunlop nylon .78 mm

How did you practiced when you were first starting out?
In the beginning, I always leaned more toward wanting to come up with my own stuff. I took guitar lessons when I was a kid—I had a really awesome guitar teacher, he was this older English dude and he was kind of a trip—he would try to get me to learn other songs. But I never wanted to practice a cover song over and over again. I would always end up trying to play strings of chords that sounded good to me that weren’t just a song. In my opinion, the best way to learn any instrument is to learn how to play what you like. It’s got to feel right to you—that’s the only way you’re going to dive into what an instrument is capable of. I always tried to write my own music and even in early bands I started, we never really attempted to do cover songs. We were trying to write songs. They were not good, but at least we were trying.

Talk about your vibrato. You don’t use a whammy bar, though your guitars are set up with one.
I use the Mustang tremolo with my palm. I’ve never been good at holding a whammy bar—it feels restricting to me. Going to the bridge with the side of my hand is a raw expression moment. I don’t want to have two steps or one step between me deciding that I want to do this and it happening. It’s easier for me to strum a note, move my hand over, and lay into the tremolo.

How do you generate your massive tone?
The two amps I use are the Music Man HD-130 4x10 combo amp and a Fender Twin that was chopped into just a head that I run it into an Acoustic 4x12 cabinet. I think a lot of people are using Music Man these days because it has a different type of breakup. I really like the mixture between the Music Man breakup and the Fender breakup. I try to keep the Music Man more on the mid zone and the Fender a little bit cleaner and a little bit more on the bass and treble side. I try to keep away from a super classic rock-sounding thing, although it’s also just the setup I stumbled into and really liked.

Do you travel with your amps?
I travel with them in the U.S. I actually almost shipped out my Music Man amp to Europe—to me that is the real secret weapon. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bring it over to Europe.

And you use the Death By Audio Fuzz War as well?
Yes. I love that pedal. I don’t see myself using any other fuzz pedal any time soon.

How do you use it? To generate your main fuzz tone and as a boost for solos?
I don’t have any boost pedals or anything. I just have fuzz and clean. On the record I started using a ’70s Morley Fuzz Wah that gets a pretty nasty fuzz tone. Sometimes I would layer the Fuzz War and Fuzz Wah on top of each other, but I have yet to experiment with that live.

That’s it? Just one pedal and a tuner?
Yeah. I also use a delay pedal mostly for effects. I don’t like to rely on it too much. I like to keep it simple. I don’t want to think too much about what’s on the ground because I want to think about what I’m playing. But the delay pedal has become more of a staple.

Which delay is that?
I was using an Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy until it busted. On this last tour I bought this really funny, super-cheap pedal that’s called “Analog Delay.” Apparently it’s a German company that takes Boss pedals, repackages them in a cheaper plastic box, and sells them for cheaper. I don’t remember what the company is, but it’s a pretty funny little pedal.

Do you use the same pedal setup in other bands too?
I’ve used the same pedal setup in Ty’s band and Fuzz for the last three years or so.

Do you tune down or play in standard?
Just standard.

Really? So that’s proof you don’t need to tune down to sound badass.
Yeah. I’ve flirted with the idea. Ty was trying to get me to do some stuff in a lower tuning. But again, I like to keep it straight and I don’t want to go too far toward Tony Iommi’s style.