Jasper Verhulst’s bass of choice is a vintage Hagstrom that’s all original except for the bridge and the finish, which has been sanded off for a natural wood look. He plays with .73 mm Dunlop Tortex picks. Photo by Mylène Pinelli
How much time do you spend working on arrangements?
Verhulst: Sometimes it’s instantaneous. We decide this song might be cool, give it a try, start jamming on it, and the arrangement is instantly there.
Rider: But we sometimes change it around until it gets good. There’s a song on the first album, “Şeker Oğlan,” which we’ve now completely rearranged again. I actually prefer the version we’re doing now compared to the one that’s on the album.
Verhulst: It’s easier to play live. The album version was more like an electronic experiment. We did it all on click, with a lot of copying-and-pasting. Now we’ve made a version that works organically as a band.
Aside from the saz, your instrumentation is basically standard rock ’n’ roll. Do you use vintage instruments? And what are you doing to get those ’70s-era Turkish psych sounds?
Rider: We adapt to whatever the song might need. We do use some old instruments. Jasper’s bass is from the early ’70s, and my guitar is as well. We’re using old fuzz pedals, like a 1968 Schaller Fuzz, and I’ll use a wah pedal to make those nasal sounds. Listening to those old records, there’s some weird tones, some really strange sounds, and sometimes we try and get that by freaking out with effects pedals.
What’s an example of that?
Rider: I often use the wah, left at one position and going into a fuzz, to get the lead sounds. I use an Xotic AC Booster to make thicker tones—when you boost the bass on the AC, it makes the Schaller Fuzz go all crazy. The AC is also great for a little gain, especially when I use the neck pickup with the tone rolled all the way down and the bridge pickup with its tone on full. You get these great nasal tones similar to the lead guitar in the song “Ince Ince Bir Yağar” by Selda Bağcan. The [Electro-Harmonix] Small Stone phaser is an important part of my rhythm sound, combined with the Xotic SP compressor—which is pretty much always on—to keep levels fairly constant and to add a bit more attack, which is great for the funky bits. I also often make swells by holding the left switch on my Strymon [El Capistan] delay, which puts the feedback on full until you let go.
Verhulst: We also use late-’70s synthesizers. And when we were recording the album, we only used analog for delays and reverbs, and we recorded it directly to tape.
All to tape—no Pro Tools, nothing?
Rider: Eight-track tape. Our sound guy, Jasper Geluk, has a studio called Tone Boutique where we went to record the album, and he had a bunch of old echoes, tape machines, and spring reverbs. But no computers. No Pro Tools. It was all the way they used to do it.
Do you show up well rehearsed and lay it down as-is, or do you do a lot of overdubbing?
Verhulst: We did a couple synth overdubs and vocals, but the rest is basically live.
Rider: You can hear that there’s a mistake here and there, but that to us doesn’t matter at all. It’s about the feeling. If the groove is good, then we take that take. Sometimes you’ll hear my fuzz pedal being clicked in or something. It’s not polished, but that’s not what we’re going for anyway. To prepare for this album, we rented out a place—a small cottage in the countryside in Holland—and spent a week together, playing and rehearsing new ideas. We had a whole bunch. We didn’t end up using all of them, but the ones we chose we did rehearse as much as we could. In the end, you always end up doing something different in the studio, especially being inspired by the sounds that you’re using. For example, I went straight from my guitar into the input of a German tape echo, a Dynacord Echocord Mini—not using the echo part, just the preamp—and going straight into the [recording] desk. It made a certain sound that inspires you to play a certain way.
Jasper, your bass looks like a bit of hybrid. Were the neck and body from different instruments?
Verhulst: Only the bridge is not original, although the color is not original—someone shaved it to the natural wood color. The body and the neck belong together. It’s a Hagstrom—I don’t even know the type. [Editor’s note: Based on photo evidence, it appears to be an HIIB.]
And Ben, your guitars are an Epiphone Casino and a Gibson SG?
Rider: Actually, that’s Jasper’s Casino. I just borrowed it. But now I’ve got my own guitar, which is an Aria SG[-style]. It’s a Japanese, pre-lawsuit guitar from the Matsumoku factory from around 1974. It was made with a lot of care and love. You can feel that it’s good wood, good pickups, a good tremolo. I was actually going for a real Gibson SG, but they are way too expensive, and I don’t know if it’s worth it. This one I found online, like on a thing similar to Craigslist, but in Holland.
Is it stock or did you modify it?
Rider: I changed the electronics so one of the tone buttons is a push-pull that activates different combinations of the pickups. I’ve got more pickup combinations, so if you play around with the tone on one pickup, it will keep the tone on the other pickup, and you get this weird nasal, phase-y sound, which is great for the type of music we make. Especially with a bit of gain on it, it sounds like one of the Selda Bağcan guitar sounds.