6 fresh guitar artists you need to hear in December

(Image credit: Ben Berzerker)

We check out Rise Of The Northstar [pictured], John J Presley, Dilly Dally, The Primals, Estrons and Lala Lala.

John J Presley

Darkness and dynamics from a new light in British blues

The guitar is a fine tool for exorcising anxiety, but sometimes it’s worth reminding yourself of its capacity for nuance. UK bluesman John J Presley started off in a flurry of Black Keys-ian fuzz riffs, but after a stint as Duke Garwood’s guitarist he has learned to admire subtlety, too.

It’s more about touching the string than hitting it. Stroking the strings rather than strumming

“I think the first thing is space and drone or sustain,” he tells us of his technique. “You know if you’ve got a really fuzzed-up sound and you absolutely hammer it? You almost hear the percussion of it? I think I’ve lost that and it’s more about touching the string than hitting it. Stroking the strings rather than strumming. That’s what I do now: quite high gain fuzz and pushing the pre amps and the power valve, but then just touching it gently and letting the string do the work.”

That’s not to say Presley isn’t capable of a punching blues line, it’s just there’s room for both ends of the dynamic spectrum in his playing. Recent single True Love Waits resonates with thundering hum, before the clouds burst into a rather scorching - but tastefully brief - solo section.

“I used my Telecaster on that,” recalls John. “It’s a actually a really weird Telecaster. It’s got a hollowfeeling body and it’s incredibly resonant. It’s got a Monty’s PAF in the neck so it’s pretty honking! It’s quite a high gain setting - going to a WEM with the boost on and just glancing the strings.”

The first taste from an album due early next year, True Love Waits was recorded as it was written - another example of Presley’s innate desire to push his playing and writing.

“I didn’t feel any pressure at that point to do anything,” John contemplates. “I wish I felt like that all of the time. I wasn’t trying to sound like anything. It was just very natural and true.”

  • For fans of: Duke Garwood, Black Keys 
  • Gear: Hofner President, WEM Dominator, Selmer Zodiac

Dilly Dally

Canadians making heavenly punk hits

Liz Ball and Katie Monks, the guitar duo at the heart of Toronto’s Dilly Dally, have been on a mission to make a positive punk record. Their sound has been likened to the Pixies, but second album Heaven is punk with big cracks in it that, as fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen would put it, let the light in.

“Everyone is tired of being angry all the time,” says Katie. “The world has become so dark, that the album is really presenting a fantasy, or an escape from all of that noise.”

Liz offers the darker, reverb-heavy balance (“bendy stuff and shit” as characterised by producer Rob Schnapf), while Katie’s bright chords come courtesy of a Jackson Rhoads - an oddity in indie circles.

“Be yourself,” reckons Katie. “Just because we don’t make hair metal music, doesn’t mean we can’t play a Jackson!”

  • For fans of: Weaves, Big Moon 
  • Gear: Fender Reverb, Earthquaker Devices

Rise Of The Northstar

Around the world in hate-y ways

If your main issue with French hip hop/ hardcore crossover bands is that not enough of them are channeling Japanese street gangs and manga influences, then we’ve got good news for you. 

Rise Of The Northstar offer a purposeful, powerful blend of all the above, merging Biohazard riffs, RATM groove and some great thrash-tinted soloing courtesy of lead guitarist Eva-B. Their second full-length (due 19 October) The Legacy Of Shi has been produced by Gojira’s Joe Duplantier and is packed with piercing, harmonic distortion tones.

“Working with Joe was really rewarding,” Eva-B tells us. “He confirmed the fact that a big part of the tone comes from the rhythm hand, and the way you hit the string. He also pushes you. When you think you’ve mastered your riff, he will ask you to play it even better.”

  • For fans of: Biohazard, TRC 
  • Gear: Jackson Mansoor Juggernaut, Axe-FX II

The Primals

  • Who: A new guise for Darkest Hour man John Henry 
  • Sounds like: Fuzzed-up and thrashy Nirvana-isms, full of DC hardcore bounce and scathing power-pop hooks 
  • Gear: 1996 Gibson SG, Orange AD30, Vox 4x12 
  • For fans of: Nirvana, The Explosion 
  • Hear: Hello Cruel World


  • Who: Welsh alt-rocker Rhodri Daniel 
  • Sounds like: Someone dropped a tray of glasses in a DIY venue. Shard-like, gained up clean tones, beer bellied bass rumbles and melodic misdirection. 
  • Gear: Fender Stratocaster, Boss DD-7, ProCo 
  • For fans of: Marmozets, Demob Happy 
  • Hear: Jade
Matt Parker

Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.

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