Dan Guts chose a Mexico-made Fender Stratocaster as a sort of anti-metal guitar, after playing a Jackson with a Floyd Rose. Defying expectations is part of the band’s game plan. Photo by Ian Coulson/IC Media
Do you see it as two instruments: guitar A and guitar B?
Dan: Yeah, like Ben said before we started, “Dan’s lead and I’m rhythm.” It’s not exactly that, but that’s the easiest way to describe it. It’s more of a tonal difference. Ben very much plays the lows and I very much play the highs. There’s the occasional showboat riff, but there’s not much shredding and there’s not much lead. It’s all just very percussive.
Ben, I was surprised to see that you play a hollowbody Gretsch. How did that happen?
Ben: My Gretsch Streamliner is fucking cool. I got into hollowbody guitars about five or six years ago, and since I bought my first one, I’ve never bought a solidbody since. I can try to justify it from a guitar player’s perspective, but I like the way they look and I like the vibe that surrounds them. For years, I had a Gibson Midtown Custom and a Gibson Midtown Standard, and those two guitars I absolutely loved. The Gibson Midtown Custom is probably one of the best things I’ve ever owned. It was perfect: It had amazing resonance, it had a huge body, it had a huge, strong sound. It was great at pinches and it sounded really aggressive. I now play a Gretsch Streamliner because I broke the headstock off my Gibson Midtown twice, and upon breaking it the second time, I thought, “If I pay to get this fixed again, I’ve almost paid for a new guitar.” So I bought a new guitar, which is the Gretsch Streamliner.
Yeah, you shine a torch [Editor’s note: That’s “flashlight” in America] through one end it shines right out. I can throw that thing around and I can slam the hell out of it and it’s just so easy to handle because it’s so light.
How do you keep feedback under control?
Ben: We don’t. When the guitars are squealing and it’s too much noise, I like that. I try to write that into our music and I try to make it part of the attitude of the music. The guy that sold me the Gretsch, I told him what I was going to play on it and he said, “Dude, you realize this is just going to scream at you the whole time?” I said, “Yeah, sign me up. Let’s do it.” I like the feedback. I don't use the neck pickup on the Gretsch, so I have that one turned down. If I really need to kill the guitar and I’m away from my tuning pedal, I just flip the switch. Generally speaking, the feedback is part of our live show. On that note, our first EP was recorded with some friends who have a home studio, and me and Dan did our guitar takes, got them straight, and then I sat down with the producer and recorded loads of different feedback and guitar scratching.
You inserted that after the fact?
Ben: Yeah, to get the tone right in the studio. The feedback wasn’t really there and I said to the producer, “I really want it to squeal when the guitars are playing.” We went back and recorded squealing. I coproduced it with him and put in squeals where they would fit.
Do you record live with everyone in the same room?
Dan: None of it is done live. We track everything. But with Flesh, the one we just released, everything was one take. Our producer said, “We want it to sound live and we want it to sound heavy, so we’re going to do everything in one take”—which is a bit daunting. We did three or four takes, picked the best from start to finish, and didn’t overdub anything except for bites [short individual sections].
Do you get your distortion from the amp, or do you use a pedal?
Dan: From the amp. I’ve steered away from the world of pedals. In my old band, I used a lot of pedals and I was tap dancing a lot on them, but our live show is me and Ben playing in the pit in front. We don’t really ever play onstage, so to have our pedals down there or far away is ridiculous if we have to use them. We both have an Electro-Harmonix POG2, which I have on all gig and all practice. I have a bit of each octave slightly lower—whatever distortion you have on, it’s just amplified by the addition of those octaves.
Ben: I use the Marshall JCM2000 and I use the distortion on the amp. I have an Electro-Harmonix POG, but mine’s not on all the time. I just use the POG to make it really dirty. The JCM2000 is wonderful. It’s really strong, it’s really beefy, it has serious body. That’s how I play a full-on hollowbody Gretsch and still make it wo… because of that amp.
Intense, chaotic, and riveting, the Guts blast through “Slipped Disco” from their recent album Flesh. And yeah, they’re smashing the fourth wall big time.