10 questions for Pelican's Trevor de Brauw

Instrumental metal titan on guitar-string snapping and rejecting theory

10 questions for Pelican s Trevor de Brauw
Pelican (Trevor de Brauw far left)
(Image: © Mark Dawursk)

Uncompromising masters of the art of the riff, Pelican have been staking their claim as instrumental metal innovators for over 15 years now.

2013 saw the release of last full-length Forever Becoming, which showcased the Chicago four-piece at the top of the their game, and the band will be bringing their brutal brand of atmosphere-laden heavy to the UK and Europe over the coming months.

As he gears up for the tour, guitarist Trevor de Brauw found time to let us in on his cautious gear philosophy, shunning theory and snapping strings before the gig's even begun…

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

"It was a Fender Squier, I must have been about 13 years old. It was the cheapest guitar at the store by my house - I think about $200. It was my go-to for many, many years to come."

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

"No question, my Gibson SG. It's been my go-to instrument since I bought it in 1998, replacing the Jackson I had been playing up to that point in some attempt to be a semi-legitimate metal guitarist. At this point, the SG just feels like a natural extension of my body, though perhaps my playing might not sound like it!"

I have almost no expendable income, so I try not to think too much about gear acquisition

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

"Not one that I regret letting go, per se, but I had a pedal that I regret misplacing: the MXR Blue Box. It's a pretty bizarre fuzz-octave pedal and I used to get some very distinctive sounds out of. I'm not sure whatever happened to it; I used it for several shows with my improv band Bionic Rat, then I set it aside for a while because it's not useful for most applications. By the time I was ready to revisit it I couldn't find it.

"Bonus round: my favourite delay pedal was once the Boss DD-6. I burned through a couple of them during our relentless touring days, but by the time I'd killed my second one, they'd discontinued the pedal. The delay pedals Boss released before and since are just not the same."

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

"I have almost no expendable income, so I try not to think too much about gear acquisition. One of my dreams is to one day own one of those Dan Armstrong lucite guitars, but they're pricey. No real way of knowing if or when that would ever be a realistic possibility."

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

"Practically everything! I'm not a very technical guitarist - I've only just started feeling confident with my playing in the last couple of years or so, but I'm always looking to improve."

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQtzU1Cxc6g

6. When did you last practise and what did you play?

"I'm practising Pelican songs tonight trying to get ready for the tour. These songs have a lot of fucking riffs."

7. If you could have a guitar lesson from one guitarist, dead or alive, who would it be?

"I've never been into 'lessons' per se, but I would love to sit down and jam with some of my guitar heroes: Blake Schwarzenbach from Jawbreaker, the Kadane brothers from Bedhead, Chris Hannah from Propagandhi… I think it would be more educational to just try and jam and play music with them than taking a proper lesson."

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

"Since the desert island most likely does not have electricity, I'll bring a Martin acoustic and hope the humidity or lack thereof doesn't kill it!"

I wish I had realised how much great punk music was rooted in discipline and theory

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

"One time in 2005 or so we opened for ISIS at the Metro in Chicago, a really nice 1000-cap room with one of the best PAs in the city - the show was sold out and it was a huge night for us. We went out to open our set with March To The Sea, an epic 11-minute song. Somehow, my low string broke during the feedback before the song, and I had to improvise my way through the first 7 minutes, which are almost entirely focused on the lower register of the guitar. There's a break about two-thirds into the song, and I somehow whipped out a new string and restrung in time for the song's climax, but those were the longest seven minutes of my life."

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

"I wish that I'd been disciplined and taken the time to practise more and learn theory and all that stuff, but when I was younger, I was invested in this naive theory that punk ideology necessitated some sort of rejection of discipline. I wish I had realised how much great punk music was rooted in discipline and theory, but my early years on guitar were far more indebted to, say, Screeching Weasel than The Clash. I'm trying to make up for lost time now, but old habits die hard."

Pelican tour the UK and Europe in April/May 2016:
28/04/16 – Desertfest @ Astra – Berlin, DE
29/04/16 – MTC Club – Koln, DE
30/04/16 – Desertfest @ Electric Ballroom – London, UK
01/05/16 – The Fleece – Bristol, UK
02/05/16 – Audio – Glasgow, UK
03/05/16 – Gorilla – Manchester, UK
04/05/16 – Le Grand Mix – Lille, FR
05/05/16 – La Maroquinerie – Paris, FR
06/05/16 – Dunk! Festival – Zottegem, BE
07/05/16 – Young Team Festival @ Les Trinitaires – Metz, FR
08/05/16 – Rote Fabrik – Zurich, CH
10/05/16 – Arena – Vienna, AT
11/05/16 – NOD – Prague, CZ
12/05/16 – Hafenklang – Hamburg, DE
13/05/16 – A Colossal Weekend – Copenhagen, DK

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