10 questions for Broken Witt Rebels' James Tranter

First guitars and onstage mishaps

10 questions for Broken Witt Rebels James Tranter
Broken Witt Rebels (left to right): James Tranter, Danny Core, James Dudley and Luke Davis
(Image: © Simon Davis)

They may be a new name, but Broken Witt Rebels are already a well-oiled machine. The band's new EP, Georgia Pine, is all about big, chunky guitar tones and rootsy riff-led swagger, amplified by frontman Danny Core's fervent vocal delivery, which recalls the urgency of early Kings Of Leon.

Throughout the five-track release, lead guitarist James Tranter plants his fingers firmly in Southern-rooted solos and licks that are so authentic, you'd expect them to come from Birmingham, Alabama, not Birmingham, UK. Here, James gives us the lowdown on lusted-after guitars and dirty birds…

1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?

"My first guitar was a cheap Fender acoustic, which was given to me by a family friend. I got it when I was about 10 years old and spent countless hours playing it. In fact, I still have it at home and play it regularly. It's been battered and bruised over the years, but still sounds great and has a huge sentimental importance.

"I actually wrote a lot of the chord structures and riffs to a number of Broken Witt Rebels songs using it, and still do to this day!"

2. The building's burning down – what one guitar do you save?

"It would have to be my Epiphone Casino. Not the greatest guitar in the world, but it's so important to me. Over the years, I became accustomed to using just one guitar live, the Epiphone! Furthermore, it's a signature part of the Broken Witt Rebels setup, and the group wouldn't be the same without it."

3. Is there a guitar, or piece of gear, that you regret letting go?

"My Gretsch, which I sold a few a few years ago on eBay. Not the easiest instrument to play - and extremely hard to reach past the 12th fret - but it looked beautiful and sounded even better.

"However, it taught me an important lesson: you can never have too many guitars, and no matter what financial situation you're in, you should never sell a guitar, because you'll regret it at some point down the line."

4. And what's the next piece of gear you'd like to acquire?

"For about six months, I've been after a Gibson ES-345 with Maestro vibrato; however, I'm yet to find the perfect one for me. I don't believe in buying a guitar for the sake of it - it has to be right for me, especially when there's a lot of money involved. Hopefully, soon one will jump out at me. I'm still checking local music shops regularly as well as online."

5. Is there an aspect of guitar playing that you'd like to be better at?

"I'd like to improve my fingerpicking techniques. Recently, I've been taking inspiration from Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham (particularly from his songs Never Going Back and the acoustic version of Big Love). I'm inspired by how he plays three different guitar parts on one guitar - it's genius. I'm definitely improving, but there's still a long way to go."

6. What are you doing five minutes before you go onstage?

"Before I go on stage, I tune my guitar religiously for a few minutes - there's nothing worse than playing the first note to our new single Low on an out-of-tune guitar. After that, I'll make sure I have three guitar picks on me (two in my pocket and one in my hand) before necking a pint to relax myself."

7. ...And five minutes after?

"Along with the rest of the band, I like to go into the crowd to say thanks to everyone for coming. We're not one of those bands who believe in hanging around backstage because we think we're better than everyone else - we love to have a good chat with everyone who's taken the time to come and watch us play. The Rebel fans are the best fans in the world!"

8. What item of gear would you take with you to a desert island?

"It would have to be my latest purchase, my Gibson J-200 acoustic. So far, I haven't had much time to play it, so would love to dedicate more time to such an amazing guitar."

9. What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you onstage?

"When Broken Witt Rebels first started gigging, we played outside at a small festival. After about five minutes of playing I realised that a bird had shat on my head. When I say 'bird', I mean one that flies, not a crazy fan… that story is for another day!"

"Anyway, they say that's supposed to be good luck, and I suppose it was, because we played an amazing set. Thanks, bird!"

10. What advice would you give your younger self about playing the guitar?

"Practise a wider range of chords and scales daily - you can never know too much. Also, keep at it always, because you're going to be all right."

"Finally, don't sell that bloody Gretsch!"

Broken Witt Rebels release their 5-track EP Georgia Pine, featuring Low, on 15 April. The band are on tour in the UK in April and May.

London The Water Rats, Saturday 2 April
Birmingham Sunflower Lounge, Friday 15 April
Sheffield Rocking Chair, Saturday 16 April
Bedford Esquires, Saturday 30 April

Glasgow Oran Mor, Thursday 5 May
Manchester Academy 2, Friday 6 May
Birmingham O2 Institute, Saturday 7 May
London Shepherds Bush Empire, Sunday 8 May

Head over to Broken Witt Rebels for more info.