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Sean Lennon: Ghosts of Music Past, Present, and Future

Sean Lennon finds momentum in his psych-rock project with partner Charlotte Kemp Muhl.

Sean Lennon shows off his trusty Jazzmaster (and a sweet hat) at a July 2014 show at the DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He says he prefers the tone of a Jazzmaster to any other guitar: “Their pickups are very special and have a full, beautiful, rich tone that is the best I’ve ever heard.” Photo by Chris Schwegler / Atlas Icons

One look around Sean Lennon’s home studio explains why Midnight Sun, the new record by the Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger (aka “the GOASTT”), is a veritable lesson in sonics. Modern preamps sit next to classic UREI 1176 compressors. New Moog synths occupy the same space as old Norlin-era Moog rack effects. A digital Memotron sits in the shadow of an actual Mellotron M400. A bag of new Electro-Harmonix products sits only feet from his dad’s old Electro-Harmonix Mini Synthesizer. The floor is littered with classic effects, new boutique noisemakers built to replicate them, and assorted cheap stompboxes.

Nowhere in the room are you more than a few inches from a guitar, be it a classic Fender Jaguar or an aluminum-neck Wandre from the ’60s. It’s more of a mad scientist’s lab than museum though—everything is being used regularly to make music, except maybe the stuffed toy monkey hanging from the chandelier.

Even though Sean is the son of Yoko Ono and John Lennon, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that he’d enter the family business. He appeared on his mother’s album, Season of Glass, at age five and co-wrote a song with Lenny Kravitz at 16. But the commitment to a life in rock only came at age 21, when he joined the art-pop band Cibo Matto on bass. A year later he released his debut, Into the Sun, on the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal label. Many collaborations and a second solo record followed, culminating in the formation of the GOASTT with his longtime girlfriend, multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Kemp Muhl. What seemingly started as a Francophilic acoustic pop duo has become a full-blown psychedelic juggernaut, delivering headphone candy production and top-notch riffs. On the eve of a Japanese mini-tour, Lennon sat down with Premier Guitar to explain how it all came together, and why it’s finally okay for him to have a good guitar.

“Everyone was shredding and tapping, and I was just like, ‘Eh, I’m just over here writing songs!’”

I’ve seen you play other guitars, but you seem to favor Fenders these days.
I’ve played guitar most of my life, but for the longest time I had this sort of guilt [about owning expensive guitars] and felt I didn’t need a great one. I was really interested in Silvertones, Danelectros, and weird, cheap Italian guitars. I don’t own a good Strat. I don’t have a fancy Les Paul. I bought my first Jazzmaster, because the Strats, Teles, and Gibsons were just ridiculously expensive. I missed the market on those guitars. At first I was collecting different Guilds, like the S100, which is great. I got into those because friends of mine were buying them. [Soundgarden’s] Kim Thayil played one.

Then finally I found the Jazzmaster. I played it and thought, “Wow, this is just incredible.” I can get so many different sounds out of it, and it’s so lush. It feels like I’m driving a Rolls Royce rather than a Pontiac or something. Jazzmasters were fairly cheap at that time, but they aren’t anymore. I remember thinking, “Wow, I can get a Fender guitar from the ’60s for that price? Are you sure?” It felt like I was getting away with something. Jaguars had already gone up in price because of Kurt Cobain, so I bought some Jazzmasters and that was it—I never looked back. In the studio, obviously, I like to switch between guitars for different sounds, whether it’s a 12-string Rickenbacker, or whatever. But live, I feel most comfortable with the Jazzmaster—the only fancy guitar that didn’t make me feel guilty.

The guitarists of Television and Sonic Youth tell a similar story about how Fender offsets were even cheaper in the late ’70s. They were $75 to $150. I guess you probably came in when they were still under $500.
I was lucky enough to get my first one for so little money. It was a ’64 that was really beat up. That was my introduction, and I stuck with it. Now I have a slightly better one that Nels [Cline] recommended I get. It’s a ’61. You’re right, though, Thurston [Moore] was always playing Jazzmasters. Lee Ranaldo has this purple Jazzmaster that I’ve always wanted to buy from him. I’ve never seen him play it onstage, but it’s always in the rack! We used to tour together, and I’d be like, “Dude, are you sure you don’t want to sell that?” Now that I know Nels, who is a Jazzmaster aficionado, I took his advice, and made my guitars even better, with things like the Mastery Bridge and tremolo system that Woody [John Woodland] is making in Minneapolis. That’s changed everything.

Now that I’m older, I feel I’m accepting myself as a professional guitar player, and it’s okay to have cool pedals and guitars. When I was younger, I was more interested in recording, songwriting, playing drums and bass. A cheapo just seemed right, because I didn’t think guitar was my thing. I mean, the people around me when I was growing up were so good at guitar. Everyone was shredding and tapping, and I was just like, “Eh, I’m just over here writing songs!”

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is at its best when performing live, says Sean Lennon: “Once you’ve published a song and sung it 100 times, you feel like you finally start to understand it.” Photo by Pablo Anwar

Do you have any go-to guitars for recording?
I have quite a few guitars, but usually play the Jazzmaster out of laziness [laughs]. It’s a workhorse and, along with my pedalboard, I can get quite a lot done. I do have other guitars, other amps, and other pedals that aren’t on my board that I use, though. If I’m motivated, I’ll try anything. On the new GOASTT record, I had open-tuned acoustic guitars strapped to amps so they would resonate to certain notes, and then those would go through some pedals to another amp.

I do all sorts of wacky shit in the studio, but ultimately the main guitar will be the Jazzmaster through any decent Fender amp that has gain and a spring reverb, and then my pedalboard. I’m not the guy who shows up with 18 guitars, though I know people like that. I think it’s ultimately because I end up playing drums, bass, and other instruments too, so I’m not just thinking about guitar entirely. Today I have to go record seven songs. I’m playing guitar, bass, and drums on every one, so I’ll need to move fast, and trying out different guitars won’t be possible.

What guitars do you write on? Do you prefer acoustic or electric?
I write on the most recent guitar that I’ve been playing. Around the house, I tend to write on acoustics, but in the studio I write a lot on electric. I like old Martin acoustics for the most part. I have a Martin, the mahogany ... 00-18? It’s a late ’40s one, and really nice. It’s simple, with no trim or anything, and I got it when I was really young, maybe 10 or 11. I bought it because of this hippie woman at my summer camp who taught me fingerpicking. That’s how I learned “The Claw.” She always had that guitar [model], so of course I thought it was cool. They record great.

You know, it took me years to realize that recording acoustic guitars is not always about having the biggest, lushest sound. Maybe if you only have acoustic guitar on the track, then it’s cool to get a big Johnny Cash sound or something, but I finally realized that a small sound might be better if there are other instruments on a song. You’ve got to fit everything on the shelf, so every book can’t be the size of the whole shelf! Another guitar I have that’s quite cool is a Martin Terz. It’s from the ’20s. It’s also called a “5.” It’s really small. Not a parlor guitar—it’s like beyond parlor. It’s my favorite guitar to write on now. I don’t take my old one on tour, but they make new ones. I’ve been collecting acoustics for much longer than I’ve been collecting electrics. Those I felt like I should have, because it seemed like a “songwriter’s instrument.”

Sean Lennon's Gear

1961 Fender Jazzmaster (with bridge and vibrato by Mastery Bridge)
1963 Fender Jazzmaster (with bridge and vibrato by Mastery Bridge)
Late-’40s Martin 00­-18
Martin Terz

Fender Hot Rod DeVille
1950s Fender Deluxe
Vintage Fender Bassman (belonged to John Lennon)

Danelectro Back Talk
DOD Phasor 201
Pro Co Rat Distortion
Sarno Music Solutions Earth Drive
Electro-Harmonix POG
Electro-Harmonix Memory Man
Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail
Ibanez AD-80
Ibanez FL-301
Fulltone Supa-Trem
Dunlop Zakk Wylde Cry Baby Wah
EarthQuaker Devices Arpanoid

Strings and Picks
D’Addario and Ernie Ball .010s and .011s string sets
Dunlop Ultex 1 mm picks

Was that the one you played on the Friendly Fire tour?
That was the 00-18, not the Terz. You know, the Terz is supposed to be tuned up to G. I tune it down [to standard], so I put on heavier strings. Now I have to get it fixed, because the heavier strings are pulling off the bridge.

Outside of GOASTT, what partnerships have influenced you musically?
Well, I’m one of those people who like to collaborate. I have roommates, and I’m always living and working with other musicians. I’ve learned a lot from everyone I’ve ever been close to as a musician. The Beastie Boys, especially Adam Yauch, really opened up to me when I was young. He signed me for my first deal. Hanging out with the Beasties made me more of a multi-instrumentalist. They would all just switch off between drums and bass and make loops of their jams to make songs out of later. It was incredible to see them do that. That was how I met Money Mark, their keyboard player, who is also a tech nerd. I think his dad was an engineer. Mark influenced me so much. He taught me about things like hitting the tines on the Rhodes, or pulling the case off a Wurlitzer and hammering the reeds, which makes the most amazing sound. He used to rig a quarter-inch cable to be a button, and use that as a track mute, and he’d go back through certain tracks and manually mute a drone track with some rhythm. He plays trumpets with balloons. You know that Maestro guitar thing [Rhythm N’ Sound]? He uses one with a trombone. He sings through it while he’s playing drums. He was one of the first people to open up my eyes to that kind of experimentation. Every time I’ve done sessions with him, I’ve learned something new about recording. The first U47 that I ever used was Money Mark’s.

Then I met Yuka Honda [Cibo Matto], who became my music mentor. She taught me how to read chord charts and what a flat 13 was. She’d been married to Dougie Bowne, and was friends with John Zorn and everyone in the New York avant-jazz scene—or punk jazz, noise jazz, whatever you call it. I got to meet all these super high-level musicians and hang out with them. One of the first sessions I did was playing bass with Marc Ribot on guitar and Dougie Bowne on drums. Meeting Marc Ribot was a huge eye-opener. He invited me to play bass on a record he was producing for a Japanese artist. Seeing Marc, with all of his weirdo guitars and his unique playing style, was definitely inspirational. Then Yuka met [her current husband] Nels Cline. The first time I saw him, it was a revelation. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. I saw him play [Funkadelic’s] “Maggot Brain”with Mike Watt at SummerStage, and I just remember feeling like, “Aww man, this almost makes up for not seeing some of the guitarists I wish I’d have been able to see in the ’60s,” because he’s so good. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way, either. I felt like I was experiencing something visceral that I’d felt through albums, but never seen live in that particular way. Then we became roommates. He’s definitely opened my eyes to guitar a lot. He’s friends with Julian Lage. When I saw them play their first duet, I felt like aliens had come from the future to give me a glimpse of the potential of the human brain, and what things are going to be like. I had never felt that way before at a performance before. Not to criticize the Knitting Factory scene, but I remember people playing saxophone mouthpieces into bowls of water and all this crazy shit. Yeah, it was cool, but when I heard Julian and Nels play, I really felt like this was the next level of guitar playing and harmony.

They re-thought the instrument entirely?
I’m not even sure they re-thought it. I mean, they thought about it—or maybe it just happened. When you see Yngwie Malmsteen, or Steve Vai on a three-necked guitar or something, you feel a kind of self-consciousness. I don’t want to put down Steve Vai or Yngwie in a guitar magazine, because they’re obviously talented—Vai played with Zappa!— but the reason they didn’t make me want to go out and finger tap was that it felt like there was a sort of artifice going on. When Julian plays, it seems like it just feels good, even though harmonically 90 percent of people on the planet might think it’s dissonant. In order to push limits, you’ve got to push harmony. I got Julian to do a session for my mom on the last record. Just being next to him when I played improved my skills. Sometimes that’s all it takes with people who are that talented: physically being in the same room. I hadn’t grown up with any real guitar mentors. Unfortunately, I’m mostly self-taught. When I was younger, I had a few lessons from a session guy named Bob Mayo, who taught me the basics. I wish I had more guitar mentoring when I was younger. I think I’d be a better player now. But those encounters changed everything.

Lennon brings a backup Jazzmaster on the road, a 1961 tobacco burst that Nels Cline helped pick out. “It is technically a ‘better’ guitar,” says Lennon. “They say ’61 is one of the best years for the Jazzmaster. But as awesome as it is, there is something magical about the ’63 goldtop that I can't get enough of!” Photo by Chris Schwegler / Atlas Icons

You’re a great, versatile player!
Thanks. I feel like I already play too many solos though, so I don’t need to have anything encouraging me to do more of that.

Obviously bands change and morph into new things. GOASTT started out as chamber pop, but became decidedly psychedelic. Was Le Carrotte Bleu the turning point?
Actually, Carrotte Bleu was kind of a mistake. We didn’t think people would hear it. We were going on tour in France, playing with Matthieu Chedid. He’s known as “M.” He’s like ... beyond. He’s the most famous rock star in France and a guitar hero. We got on his stadium tour, but we had no merch. We thought “Let’s just put together an LP for France,” and we called it La Carotte Bleue, figuring it would just be merch for the French tour. Then suddenly everybody’s like, “Oh, this is your second album!” It was literally discarded, half-baked demos that we thought would end up in the hands of maybe 100 French people. We hadn’t realized that the Internet Age would essentially make it a global release. It wound up representing us in some way, though it really wasn’t meant to. It certainly wasn’t our intention. There’s some stuff on there I like, but it was really a throwaway.

It wasn’t so much of a shift, though, because we’d already been recording tons of psychedelic music when we were touring the acoustic pop stuff. It’s not like we evolved into that—it’s that we sort of weren’t allowed to do it at first. Our manager was like, “You can’t start out as a rock band. There are so many rock bands. This acoustic stuff you have is so unique. Put that out, and we’ll follow it up the same year with your rock band.” We figured okay, and we put out the acoustic thing. Then it was like, “Well, now Conan wants you to play. You have this tour.” We never wanted to be an acoustic band, though. Not because I don’t like playing acoustically—it’s just really hard to rock out live on acoustic guitar, you know what I mean? So we didn’t transform into a psychedelic band. We just got way better at being one.

What guitars have you brought on tour?
Our tour is a van tour. We’re loading in and out every night, so I’ve got a Jazzmaster and a backup Jazzmaster. That’s it. Just in case something explodes onstage. Obviously I would be psyched to take a rack of guitars, but our percussionist is also our only tech, so he’s got a big job. There can’t be extra guitars at this point.

What did you put together for a pedalboard?
It’s different in the studio, where I have lots to pick from, but live I don’t use fancy or vintage stuff, because I can’t have things break. I’m stomping on them every day. There’s mud being slung in the air. If I have the most recent models of everything, they’re easily replaceable, so everything I use live is pretty much new. I go from a Boss tuner pedal to one of those Danelectro [Back Talk] reverse delays to some kind of phase pedal. I’m still not settled on which one I like, but I’ve been using the DOD [Phasor 201], which works great. I use a couple of distortions before the wah. If you put a wah before the distortion, that’s cool too, but it’s more subtle. I use the reliable Rat, and usually some boutique thing. I really like the [Sarno Music Solutions] Earth Drive, which sounds like an amp—more like an overdrive than a fuzz. Oh, and I like distortion before some kind of harmonizer, like the POG or the HOG, or even just a ring-mod or octave pedal.

“In order to push limits, you’ve got to push harmony.”
You put octave effects after distortion?
I use it to expand the harmonic range of the distortion. Then I put the wah, and then two delay pedals, one set to slap and another set to a long delay. That way I don’t have to bend over too much. I use the long delay for really crazy sweeps and stuff, and I leave the slap on for a percussive thing.

Which delays do you prefer?
I’ve been using the new, smaller Memory Mans, because they take up less space. But my favorite delay of all time is the pink Ibanez [AD-80] delay. I have, like, 10 of those. Every time I find one, I get it, because they always break. It’s the darkest delay. Not the other Ibanez that came out later, which looks almost the same, only it’s pale pink, and it takes one 9V battery. It has to be the 18V one. It’s the same series as the yellow flanger [FL-301], which I also use on drums all the time. I won’t bring that Ibanez delay or flanger on tour, because I want to preserve them. From there, I go into the [Fulltone] Supa-Trem. I like that to be at the end because it can cut everything off—make it choppy. Then, finally, a Holy Grail [by Electro-Harmonix] at the end, which is still my favorite reverb. I haven’t done a mix without using a Holy Grail in like 10 years, since the first one came out.

What wah do you tend to favor?
The [Dunlop] Zakk Wylde. I sometimes throw other things on the board too, like the [EarthQuaker Devices] Arpanoid pedal, although that fucked everything up because I’d always switch it on by accident [laughs].

If it’s not a backline situation, and you get to pick the amp you’re using, what do you like?
I tour with a couple of Fender DeVilles. That’s my live amp, but I wind up using those in the studio quite a bit. It’s a workhorse, and I know exactly what it’s going to sound like every time. Having said that, if I’m going to be in the studio and I have the energy to really focus on guitar, I have an old, crusty Fender Deluxe from the ’50s that still has the original speaker cone. It only has volume and tone controls. If I put it up at 12 o’clock, it’s the most distorted thing that you’ve ever heard. That’s my favorite distortion, if I’m not going to rely on pedals. I have a Fernandes with a built-in speaker that I like to use for solos. On my first record [Into The Sun], a lot of my solos were done with it. I like using [Smokey] cigarette amps, or modding things that shouldn’t be amps. I definitely like experimentation. I’ve got a Champ. I like old amps, but I don’t require them.

You just like sounds?
If they’re old and fucked up, I’ll definitely try them. It’s interesting: The only amp I have from the old days was my dad’s Bassman. Those weren’t used so much on bass, but I actually do use it on bass. Sometimes you don’t want such a big bass sound. It has those 10-inch speakers, which are really good for a punchy bass sound. It was made for bass, right? I was always using the [Ampeg] B-15, which is great, but it’s soft and doesn’t punch like that. It doesn’t get edgy. I often use [the Bassman] for guitar, and I run all my synths through it, too. If I have a [recorded track] that doesn’t sound nice, I tend to re-amp it, loud, like twice, just to get some of the room in there. In fact, anything that’s in-the-box, like a soft-synth, I always run through the Bassman into the room. I kind of have this superstition about sounds never being sent through the air. I want sounds to have been in the world, and I want you to hear things that have been in the world.

So when you’re taking your songs and playing them live, do you feel like it’s necessary to replicate the record?
No, the opposite. I always feel ripped off when I see the band and it sounds exactly like the record. In fact, not to sound like a brat, but I remember seeing Michael Jackson playing a lot of songs on the Victory tour, and loving them, but I thought it was so slick. I felt like the live version should be more raw, and I remember being critical of that, even when I was young, and even though he was the greatest. I love him, but I could have just listened to the record! Live sound isn’t—and shouldn’t be—perfect. Besides, the environment is not conducive. There are people talking, drinks spilling. People spend six hours soundchecking to get a guitar tone. I just feel like there’s no fucking point. Live is not a pristine environment. Maybe the PA sucks. Even if it’s good, it sucks [laughs]. You’re not in the studio, and you can’t control things as if you were. You should just enjoy yourself, and the audience will be happy. So we don’t focus on those things. I think we’re better live, personally, and I much prefer our songs live, just as I do with other bands. Once you’ve published a song and sung it 100 times, you feel like you finally start to understand it. Our band is made up of really good musicians, and I love to hear them play. We have to distill everything, though. We have to represent many keyboard tracks with just one guy, and I have to represent many guitar tracks with just two guitarists.

You obviously give GOASTT guitarist Robbie Mangano a lot of free rein to interpret the songs however he wants.
It’s been hard for me as a guitar player to do that in the past, but with this guy it’s like, “Hey, whatever you want to do.” Obviously, I have input. [Charlotte and I] have parts we’ve developed, but he’s just one of those guitar players—and it’s true of Jared [Samuel] too, as a keyboardist. Their instincts are fucking great.

You’ve worked with a lot of great guitar players. How do you find them?
Friends of friends. Cameron [Greider, guitarist on Friendly Fire] was friends with Brad Albetta, who was playing with Martha Wainwright, and we were all friends. I met Robbie through Jared. I saw Robbie and was like, “That’s the dude!” He had to be the guitar player. We didn’t get together immediately, but I remember seeing him at that moment and thinking that if I was going to play with one guy, that would be it. We just lucked out. It’s probably because our music is getting cooler, so it probably attracts cooler people or something [laughs]. You put the energy out there and meet people appropriate for a project. Cameron really fit well with Friendly Fire. The guitar playing I was doing then was more about counterpoint and parts. Now it’s more about textures. Robbie and I tend to play in unison a lot, whereas I used to be more interested in complexity, which doesn’t always come across live.

When you play with others artists, whether it’s your mom or anybody else, do you like assuming the role of the sideman?
I really love it. When I DJ, for instance, and it’s a really fun night and people are excited about the songs I pick, I feel like, “Man, why do I even play music? This music is so much better! Why do I spend time writing songs? It’s so much harder!” I feel the same way being a sideman. There’s no pressure. Well, there is pressure, but it’s just to play your part well. The burden’s not on you to make sure that it’s a nice night. I actually love that, because it’s all the good parts of playing shows and touring without having the responsibility that if the show sucks, it’s your fault. That’s not really true with your own music. The burden’s mostly on the lead singer to make it fun. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy doing that too, but it’s a lot more pressure.

You mentioned you were recording today...
I’m working on a film score with my friend Jordan Galland, for whom I’ve done two scores already. I have a lot to do today because GOASTT is headed to Japan this weekend, and we only have three days to add half an hour to our set, because the Japanese booker wanted a longer show. I basically have to finish this film score today, and there are something like 25 cues. It’s a lot!

YouTube It

Sean Lennon and the GOASST came armed with interpretive animal dancers for this primetime performance of “Animals” from Midnight Sun.

Saber-Tooth Sideman

Sean Lennon’s sideman guitarist, Robbie “Sea Hag” Mangano, isn’t even 40 yet, but he’s appeared on more than 40 albums, composed music for CBS Sports, served as a music tech advisor on a film by Soprano’s creator David Chase (Not Fade Away), and toured with legends. We picked his brain on all things guitar.

When did you pick up guitar?
Actually I started by “playing bass” on a classical guitar when I was 9. I got a real, Westone bass and was a bass player though my teens. I switched to guitar later, and after playing around for fun in some bands in New Jersey, I moved to New York City to go to NYU. While I was there I formed my first “real” band, called Wrong, around ’97. It was funny: Half of that band was “real musicians,” and the other half wasn’t as serious about it, but we had the best time. I got a job transcribing for Guitar World magazine around that time, too. After college I started playing on and off with alumni of Frank Zappa’s band, like Napoleon Murphy Brock, Don Preston, Ike Willis, and Ed Mann in the groups Project/Object, and the Grandmothers of Invention. I’ve toured with Tom Morello and Boots Riley, playing bass and guitar. But the longest running thing has been playing with my friend Pauly Sosnowski in Old Rugged Sauce. Dave Dreiwitz, who was in Ween, plays in that band, and Jared Samuel from the GOASTT sits in when he can.

Is that how you ended up in GOASTT?
I play in Jared’s band Invisible Familiars. I’m playing with them tonight, in fact. [Drummer] Tim Kuhl, from GOASTT, also plays with him. Jared was playing with Sean already, so when he was looking for a guitarist, he suggested me.
Who are your influences?
When I was younger I was really into Randy Rhoads. Hendrix, of course. I love Robbie Krieger and Neil Young. But my number one influence is Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers—he changed everything for me.
What are your main guitars?
I have a ’94 “Foto Flame” Fender Strat loaded with [Seymour Duncan] Hot Rails, and a 1999 ’59 Reissue Gibson ES-335. I string them with Dean Markleys, mixing light tops and heavier bottoms [.09, .011, .017, .026, .036, .046 on the Strat; and .010, .013, .017, .036, .044, .052 on the 335]. Fender recently gave me an Olympic White 60th Anniversary American Standard Strat.

With so many sounds on the GOASTT record to reproduce live, I imagine you need a well-stocked pedalboard. What do you have on it?
A Vox wah, Keeley Compressor, Fulltone Supa-Trem, [Electro-Harmonix] Small Stone phaser, GuitarSystems’ Fuzz Tool Jr. [silicon and germanium Fuzz Face clone], an MI Audio Crunchbox for distortion, the Keeley Seafoam Chorus, a Boss DD-7 Digital Delay, a ZVEX Channel 2, a WrightSounds Fuzz-Stang, and one of the small-box Holy Grails for reverb. At the end of the chain is a Boss OC-2 Octave Pedal.

You use the octave pedal at the very end of the chain? Isn’t tracking an issue? Doesn’t it get glitchy?
Sure, but I consider it a feature [laughs]. I use it in a non-traditional way, for emphasizing low notes and getting an “exploding amp” sound. The more messed up, the better, really. Live, I use it in “Animals” and “Midnight Sun,” and we’ve added intros to songs, so it works for those. It can give me a crazy, synthy sound. In the middle of the last tour, Sean and I started doing more double guitar stuff, and it’s just great for that. I change out pedals on my board often though, so it can change at any moment.

And, like Sean, you’re using a Fender Hot Rod DeVille?
Yeah, we both use those live. Outside of the band I use an old Music Man RD 112.

That’s a total sleeper amp, but they aren’t the bargain they used to be.
I love it. The bass boost on it is great, and it just gets really deep with the octave pedal setup.

Last question: Every sideman needs a nickname, but how did you get “Sea Hag?”
I watched tons of Popeye as a toddler, and the Sea Hag character gave me nightmares. I remembered these dreams, years later, when I was 22. They seemed funny to me at that age, and I remembered that my grandfather looked like Popeye and the old Italian ladies in my neighborhood, dressed in back, looked like Sea Hag. In 1997, everyone in NYC wanted to be a DJ. I wasn’t one, but I started introducing myself at parties as DJ Sea Hag, and eventually people started introducing me as that onstage. Sometimes, people actually think it’s my real last name. Like, “What kind of last name is Seahag? British?”