This month we get a bruising at the hands of Knuckle and take in Felix Martin, Black Pumas, Orville Peck, Greys and Angel Du$t.
Two worlds collide with this ambidextrous folk/metal maestro
Inspiration is a form of hope - and Venezuelan- born tech metaller Felix Martin has plenty of it. In his world, you can play two guitars at once. You can redesign your instrument to mirror itself. And you can seamlessly blend Venezuelan folk music with jazz and tech metal.
“There are just a lot of new possibilities when you play two guitars simultaneously,” explains Martin. “Since you don’t overlap fingers, it’s possible to play different chord shapes and other techniques that you can’t play on a regular guitar. Tapping was always natural for me, it was easier than fingerstyle, for example.”
While tapping is now more commonly associated with metal, the technique has its roots in folk and classical styles the world over - not least Venezuelan folk.
“The way I learned guitar, especially tapping, was by learning the repertoire of local folk bands while growing up,” explains Martin. “My town was really small and undeveloped, so I didn’t have access to learning material and teachers. The learning process was harder, but at the same time it helped me be more creative.”
Listen to new album Caracas and you’ll hear a guitarist finding common ground between influences like Marty Friedman and John Petrucci and the tapping leads, cascading 6/8 rhythms and exotic scales of his Venezuelan forbears. But beyond all that, it is a record with something to say - reworking his home country’s folk at a time of huge political upheaval.
“Venezuela is going through a difficult chapter right now,” says Martin. “This latest album was inspired after attending many bloody protests in Caracas in 2017. I had to leave to tour and it felt really bad to leave my people there, fighting. I wanted to make something to give people hope and inspiration.”
- For fans of: Plini, Pomegranate Tiger
- Gear: 16-string Kiesel, 14-string JP Laplante, Line 6 Helix
Soul hot-tips preparing to pounce
Guitarist and co-founder of Austin soul outfit Black Pumas, Adrian Quesada is a muted player who cuts deep with stilted chord progressions and room-y Motown-like arrangements.
“I like to serve the song and be a part of the rhythm section, it’s infinitely funner to me,” says Quesada, who blends both pick and fingerstyle in his rhythm playing. “I tend to approach it more like a percussive instrument - piano or drum sounds are what I hear - so I tend to palm mute and chop things a lot.”
Quesada has previously had professional associations with Prince and Wu Tang Clan, forming backing bands for both, so has an ear for arrangement. His new project therefore ably balances classic soul and folk influences in a post-hip hop world.
“Listen,” he says, when we ask him for some playing wisdom. “Don’t overplay just to be noticed.”
- For fans of: Dan Auerbach/The Arcs
- Gear: Gibson ES-446, Fender Deluxe Reverb
Dark tales and burnished Western dreams
You can’t miss Orville Peck’s fringe-laden costumery, but his quivering vocals and Gretsch-powered, reverberating Western twang are equally distinctive. “All my favourite guitarists, songwriters and country icons treated their guitars like extensions of their personas,” says Peck. “I can’t really picture Johnny Cash without picturing his Martin. As a cowboy, my guitar is so much more than just an instrument. It’s like a travelling companion.”
Dead Of Night is a fine example of his dreamy country sound - picturesque but slowly revealing a darker tale under the rhinestone veneer. “I’m a visual person - especially when it comes to music,” he adds. “The common thread for me is certain guitarists’ ability to transcend something musical to a visual place. Storytelling through sound - that’s how I approach the music I write.”
- For fans of: William Tyler, Ruen Brothers
- Gear: Gretsch G6119T, Fender Tele
- Who: Canadians Shehzaad Jiwani and Cam Graham
- Sounds like: an unforgivingly solid composite of Fugazi and contemporary post-hardcore compatriots Metz
- Gear: Shehzaad - 71’ Fender Mustang, Music Man HD-130. Cam - Fender Tele Deluxe and Super Bassman.
- For fans of: Metz, Jesus Lizard
- Hear: These Things Happen
- Who: Pat McCrory, Brendan Yates, Justice Tripp
- Sounds like: a talented supergroup (feat. members of Turnstile and Trapped Under Ice) updating classic melodic punk sounds
- Gear: Pat - Jazzmaster, Fender '68 Twin Reverb Custom. Brendan - Stratocaster. Justice - Telecaster
- For fans of: Violent Femmes, All
- Hear: Big Ass Love
- Who: Jonny Firth
- Sounds like: a blues-y, garage rock core, further roughed-up by sandpaper riffs and acerbic, witty lyrics
- Gear: Fidelity Oxblood Double Standard, Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
- For fans of: Idles, Pulled Apart By Horses
- Hear: Life Is Hard When You’re Soft Inside