RICHARD: I’ll ask another generic question and we’ll go one by one. This generic question is: can you tell me about your instruments? And like… what it is, do they have a name… what is your relationship with your instrument?
KIERA: Oh god!
AXEL: Like my guitar specifically? Oh… well I use two guitars in Rag ‘N’ Bone. They’re both Fender Jaguars and they’re both Japanese.
Originally I was gonna get a different guitar for a second guitar and went into the shop and played some teles and a couple of arch tops and stuff, and then played another Jag and thought “What am I doing? I’ll just get two of the exact same.” Lots of people have hung shit on me for getting two of the exact same guitar, but…
RICHARD: But one is red.
AXEL: One is red, that’s true!
RICHARD: And one is like… sunburst.
AXEL: But they’re both fucked.
SARA: It depends on what he’s wearing that day…
AXEL: I’ll go through this one first.
JAPANESE SUNBURST FENDER JAGUAR 2007 (Kate Bush) (DETAIL: MASKING TAPE)
AXEL: This is the sunburst one, it’s 2007 I think. I’ve had this one for the longest. As you can see, it’s covered in tape and there’s lots of little marks on it. So it’s been well-loved and well played. It’s completely broken. All the switches are broken. It’s only wired to one pickup, so some of the knobs don’t work. The whammy bar is completely stuck in there and often falls out while I’m playing. [He demonstrates, jamming it back in.] The input is completely munted so I keep trying to change that.
But… I love it! I can’t see myself playing any other kind of guitar. You know how instruments sort of form around your hands? When I got this when I was eighteen—everything else that I played on guitar beforehand was null and void. And I learned how to actually play on this guitar. There’s certain chords that you play on this guitar and it just resonates better than on any others.
JAMIE: I couldn’t picture you without it, mate.
AXEL: Yeah, see? There you go. I call this one Kate Bush, sometimes, because I’d just love to play Kate Bush.
JAPANESE HOT ROD RED FENDER JAGUAR (Amber) (DETAIL: HUGE CRACK IN BODY)
AXEL: And then this one… the red one’s called Amber, after my girlfriend.
SARA: [laughing] I didn’t know that…
AXEL: As you can see, I’ve fucked this one up again. We had a particularly bad gig and I threw it around and now it’s got this huge crack in the body that I haven’t really fixed. But I dunno! It still sounds good. The intonation’s fucked, but everything else is okay. I use this one mostly for open tunings in Rag ‘N’ Bone.
I always use a Fender amp, and then I’d say the only other major piece of gear that I’d like to put people onto is the Blue Box by MXR.
RICHARD: This toy here.
AXEL: It’s a octave divider that the more you turn up the blend knob, the more fucked up it gets – but I usually just use it as a fuzz box.
RICHARD: Wanna tell me anything about your instrument?
JAMIE: … Yeah. My drums… I’m kinda playing like, a Frankenstein kit at the moment.
KIERA: [loud laughing] I love that!
JAMIE: I scored a $200 Remo kit and it’s just… big, big drums, normally someone will play a 12” and a 16” tom, these ones are 14” and 18”. It came with a big kick drum but I put a hole in it, and now I have to use my backup which has a big daisy on it.
KIERA: Which he painted himself.
AXEL: I reckon it looks like an egg.
JAMIE: Or an egg…
RICHARD: It’s beautiful. It looks like one of those big poisonous flowers in the Amazon.
KIERA: It reminds me of Thumbelina.
JAMIE: Yeah, and just going back to the scunge thing, I picked up a really filthy sounding cymbal, this one with the holes in it. [He hits it, to a low, dirty, quickly diffusing smash.]
AXEL: I miss the other scunge cymbal.
JAMIE: Yeah, because I had another scunge cymbal that just cracked so much. But that thing was from the 60s or something, and it was just so dirty and fucked and awesome. So I had to replace it with that.
KIERA: It was like concrete… just really really thin, and you could throw it on a hole… and that’s how it sounded.
JAMIE: That’s exactly how it sounded.
RICHARD: How’d you put a hole through it? Just a regular kick too hard?
JAMIE: Yeah, half-way through a gig, half-way through a song, kicked through it. I hadn’t changed it since I bought the kit so probably had it coming. Being the cheap guy that I am I didn’t replace the skin, I just used my backup drum.
RICHARD: [Skooches over] I’ll talk to you now.
KIERA: Um! I don’t really have much to say about vocals!
RICHARD: If I wanted to sing like you, how would I do it?
KIERA: I try to breathe deeply! Um… and I try as much as I can to warm my voice up because I feel like I’m belting a lot, and I’m competing with a lot of sound. But then I also feel like controlling when to be loud and when to be soft is a big thing.
I used to actually sing really quietly, and I went to this singing teacher and she taught me this thing where you go ‘brrm brrm brrm!’, like you just do weird exercises for projection, and I learned how to project my voice. But the biggest break-through I ever had was copying other singers, particularly jazz singers like Esperanza Spalding, even – extremely, definitely – Kate Bush and trying to copy their sound, because the way they sing is so effortless, and they can tap into the high range without sounding strained, so when you finally figure that out it’s like “Oh wow, I can sing up there without actually hurting my voice!” So yeah, it’s definitely taken a lot of work, but I also like to not be too strict on myself, growl a bit, scream a bit.
Sara’s Coil Cable
SARA: [defensive] You know what I play.
RICHARD: That doesn’t mean I know the ins and outs of it. I know that you have a really… beast cable that you’re super proud of…
[Mass laughter from band]
AXEL: Oh you used your coil cable last time did you!
SARA: Yeah I tried it out…
AXEL: Let’s take this to vote: are you pro or anti coil cables because I just hate the things.
KIERA: Well I am totally with you on that!
SARA: You don’t like them?
SARA: I haven’t used it enough to really know if I like it or not so I’ll see.
AXEL: Yeah, well I’m sure it sounds fine, it just looks like shit!
KIERA: Yeah, it looks like a fuckin telephone cord!
JAMIE: Yeah it looks like a telephone cord…
SARA: Sorry, my band doesn’t approve of my gear choices!
RICHARD: A number of guitarists I’ve seen get tangled in their cables and trip over them, but the coil ones don’t…
AXEL: Oh, yeah…
KIERA: Yeah I’m sure they’re much better like that…!
RICHARD: Yeah, rather than snaking up all over the place…
AXEL: I would rather fall over and die than stand there with a coil cable!
RICHARD: … and Sara will just be standing up there like, ‘shoulda bought a coil cable.’
KIERA: You know what’s worse than a coil cable? A fuckin FLURO coil cable! That’s the worst.
AXEL: But go ahead, throw your money away!
RICHARD: … but apparently it sounds really good.
KIERA: It’s so Sara can move around the stage at least three times without ever having to retrace her steps.
AXEL: Anyway, sorry Sara… tell us more about your bass. [grins]
SARA: Yeah… it’s a Fender American standard jazz bass.
RICHARD: It’s got a gorgeous plate there.
SARA: Yeah, I actually wanna change that.
KIERA: Have you ever changed it?
KIERA: Oh really! I thought it was like, standard like that…
SARA: It was white when I bought it.
AXEL: You changed the pick guard?
SARA: I was young, naïve, stupid…!
KIERA: Oh! It just looks like ‘yours’, so I didn’t think much of it.
SARA: Yeah, I’d like to put just a plain colour on it.
JAMIE: Put a mirror on it and we’ll go full Thin Lizzy.
SARA: But yeah! Standard jazz bass. To be honest, this bass represents a bunch of shit decisions that I made five years ago at uni. So like… the maple neck. Because everyone had rosewood, and I wanted to try something brighter and less ‘farty’, so I tried maple and…
KIERA: … god…
SARA: Which, to be honest, I would like a rosewood bass neck now.
SARA: BUT I really appreciate the gloss because it’s easy to clean…
SARA: I bought a Jazz bass over the Precision… I like Fender basses, but the reason I bought a Jazz bass was because I liked the versatility, and the range of tonal control you have with these is a lot better. So like, Precision basses are cool because you have, like, they’re sort of like one-sound basses I think, but that sound is really versatile. So that sound is used from like, jazz to punk bands, to metal bands, anything, whatever. Whereas this thing sorta has the tonal control to be a bit of a chameleon. Which I liked, because I was playing jazz for school and then coming home and playing like… this! Anything else…
Sara’s Head (Ampeg B2R)
RICHARD: Anything on your head there?
SARA: Yeah, okay! So I like Ampeg stuff, and this is the cheapest one!
RICHARD: I can dig that, that’s fine.
SARA: So I got this one with a 15” Ampeg cab. My dad bought it for me for my 18th birthday! I’m pretty sure I set fire to the 15” now and I can’t use it any more. But I suppose it’s like, I always wanted to have a Fridge – so like the huge 8 x 10 things they have at Big Day Out – because they’re fun, though completely impractical, but a friend of mine about a year ago had this one for sale, so it’s a 6 – so not as ridiculous as the 8 – and it certainly packs a punch which is fun. It’s got the tweeters built in which I never use when I play… just lay it on its side. So yeah, just the Ampeg 6 x 10 and the B2R.
The reason I like this one is the EQ: while most of the other ones don’t have that, and a tuner, that’s nothing fancy.
Oh, and I use the Vox Coil Lead… [Band laughter] … as of Thursday. Much to the band’s disapproval. I’m rebelling!
KIERA: Dude, I’m okay with it because it’s—
SARA: I’m gonna buy you a coiled mic lead.
AXEL: Fuuuuuck oooooofff!
SARA: And I’ll find a way to incorporate coils onto Jamie’s kit.
KIERA: I don’t really own any equipment for vocals except a loop pedal and a microphone and a lead.
RICHARD: I’ve already taken about half an hour of your time now. Would you like to stop there, or push on to more trivial questions?
KIERA: I don’t really mind, whatever! You’re the one who has to edit it.
RICHARD: Yeah, I have to transcribe all this…
Okay, okay. Read the rest of this interview in Part 1, Part 3 and GAPE Fanzine.
Special thanks for this part go to Rachael Barrett Photography for use of her pictures from Rag N’ Bone’s performance at the Rosemount Hotel’s Not So Silent Night, December 2015. Commission this girl!