“Alice In Chains showed me how you can do more with less”: How Klone successfully go unplugged with their prog  

Klone band
(Image credit: Klone)

Mathematically twisting different shades of Tool, Porcupine Tree and Karnivool into their own breathtaking cocktail of noise, progressive rock quintet Klone have become one of the most respected French guitar bands of the modern age – following in the footsteps of acts like Gojira and Alcest. After a celebrated UK run with Devin Townsend last year, they've returned to these shores this week as special guests to Riverside, on this occasion armed with acoustics instead of electrics. 

It’s not the first time they’ve performed like this. Klone's 2017 album Unplugged saw them reimagine some of their most popular tracks in the same way alternative giants like Nirvana, Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam famously did back in the '90s. For guitarist Guillaume Bernard, who is currently overseeing mastering sessions for the follow up to last year’s Meanwhile album, the jaunt will provide a welcome break and enjoyable challenge switching things up from the electric sets his band are best known for...

“We are all very excited about this tour,” he tells MusicRadar. “It will actually be our first time playing acoustic in the UK. The dates with Devin Townsend went really well, the response was so good. We can’t wait to see people’s faces again.

“One of the venues we’ll be doing with Riverside is the Koko in London, which we played around 10 years ago opening for Gojira. I’ll never forget that night! It’s one of the most beautiful venues we’ve ever played, so it’s nice to come back all these years later. When you get to play bigger places like that, it can be fun and challenging at the same time. Of course, this time round it will be with lower volumes on stage… which means we will try even harder to get people’s attentions. And we supported Riverside in Mexico not long ago, they’re really nice people.”

As he goes on to explain, the seeds for these kinds of stripped back performances were planted back in 2016 by a French promoter who proposed Klone should open for Dutch singer Anneke Van Giersbergen in Paris, albeit in a much quieter and more intimate way. The performance was recorded and then released the following year, showcasing a band that were more than capable of breathing new life into their music without losing any of its sense of depth or impact. So how exactly do they go about transforming songs that are loud and layered, with all kinds of effects and echoes, into something more minimalistic, vulnerable and subdued?

I remember my hands were trembling before we went on

“When we first tried it out, I would say it actually felt relatively easy because I often use acoustics to compose,” smiles the guitarist. “It wasn’t hard to find a way to make it sound natural and good. But playing like that can leave you feeling a bit naked on stage, because you don’t have all that distortion to rely on. So we were really anxious about that show and I remember my hands were trembling before we went on. It was like that for the whole band. But we went out there and played, and could see how excited people were to see us perform like this. It felt like something special for both us and them.”

You’ve spoken in the past about your electric guitar heroes, but what kind of acoustic players do you look up to?

“When I was growing up, I listened to a lot of Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. A lot of those bands ended up doing MTV Unplugged performances. So that’s what I was thinking about when it came to Klone’s first acoustic shows and I still do today. You have to make sure the song sounds clear and you convey the full emotion of the song, but with less volume and power. 

A lot of people who have come to see our acoustic shows have ended up being surprised by how heavy we can sound without the distortion

"We try to arrange both guitar parts around the voice, because that’s the first thing people hear. One thing I love about acoustic guitars is that you can actually have more dynamics in your song. They can go super quiet to extremely loud. The gap is actually bigger than when you play on an electric. I find there is more range. And a lot of people who have come to see our acoustic shows have ended up being surprised by how heavy we can sound without the distortion.”

Some might say the Alice In Chains Unplugged set worked especially well because the band often blend acoustics with electrics on their records...

“I actually picked up a vinyl copy of it not long ago, so I’ve been listening to that even more than usual. I would say I prefer the acoustic versions of songs like Would? and Nutshell to the proper electric ones. There’s even more emotion in there somehow. It’s all about finding the right approach to harmony. 

"We learnt a lot making our own Unplugged album, because it was recorded live. You only have one shot! Alice In Chains showed me how you can do more with less. Jerry Cantrell is the master of that. Nutshell has just one riff that goes round and round and yet it sounds so incredible. I love the Pearl Jam Unplugged album too, but I probably prefer the Alice In Chains one.”

I’m looking for songs that aren’t just all riffs or ones where I can try something completely different

How do you know which songs will fare better when reimagined on acoustic?

“We’ve tried a lot of different things to help choose the songs. On this tour with Riverside, we want to play a lot from our last two albums Meanwhile and Le Grand Voyage. We have to be careful with the vocals and make sure we’re leaving enough space. We also have to emphasise the dynamics between the verses and choruses. Some parts have to sound extra big, others require more of a background approach to guitar, so we will look at songs that suit that kind of balance. 

"There are some songs we’ll be playing that we’ve never played live at all! I find the songs I originally wrote on acoustic will work out best. If there’s a metal riff, I know it will be a challenge to get the same impact on acoustic. So I’m looking for songs that aren’t just all riffs or ones where I can try something completely different.”

I think we’ll be throwing in a cover too, maybe Soundgarden or Nirvana

Would you completely rewrite heavier sections so they make more sense when stripped down? 

“We’ve done that before, like with the song Immersion from our Here Comes The Sun album. The Unplugged version doesn’t have the same guitar parts. I was sat there one day and decided just a few simple chords would work better instead of what we originally recorded. It allowed the vocals to come through better and made it even easier for us to play. It depends on the song. 

"Sometimes you have to find something really different or it might be a case of simply rearranging the first riff so it sounds good on acoustic. There’s five of us in the band, so we always tell each other where improvements can be made. If a song doesn’t sound or feel great for us all, we can always choose another one. I think we’ll be throwing in a cover too, maybe Soundgarden or Nirvana. We’ve done Down In A Hole by Alice In Chains before, but this time we’re thinking Black Hole Sun, which works great on acoustic, or maybe even Heart-Shaped Box.”

Time to get nerdy. Do you use a different guitar pick when playing acoustic?

“I use the exact same one. It’s the green one with the turtle on it [Jim Dunlop Tortex .88mm]. I use my fingers a lot too, because I like the sound of that anyway.”

What kind of rig will you be running for this tour?

“I have a Fender Acoustic 100 amp, which they gave to me when we first started playing acoustic sets. It was my first time using an acoustic amp and I thought it sounded really cool. It’s very easy to use, you just have volume, reverb, EQ and phase. It’s very easy to make it sound good and I really like the sound of the reverb. 

"Another benefit for playing live is that it has a direct out on the back, which makes everything easy for the sound engineer because they don’t need to mic anything up. I also have another reverb pedal, the Strymon BluSky, for a different kind of reverb. I don’t use compression because I prefer to keep the dynamics in my sound, though maybe the sound engineer might.”

The only pedals I’ll have will be a tuner and the extra reverb... which is exactly the same as my electric rig!


And how about the guitar in your hands?

“The guitar I’m using is a Takamine TAN15C. It’s not an expensive one but I really like it. I found it for sale privately online, so I went to the seller’s house to try it and was really impressed. I don’t want too much, I just want wood that sounds good, with strong bass frequencies. In terms of action, I need versatility – so there needs to be good definition and depth, but if I need to play any higher notes, I don’t want too much tension. So I keep it kind of in the middle. 

"The only pedals I’ll have will be a tuner and the extra reverb... which is exactly the same as my electric rig! I don’t like to have many pedals on stage because when something goes wrong, it’s a lot harder to find out why. Our other guitar player (Aldrick Guadagnino) has a much more complicated rig and he tends to have more issues, because more gear means more potential problems. Checking everything mid-show is difficult as we don’t have stage techs. You are alone up there and if you can’t get it to work, there’s nothing you can do!”


Obviously you’ll be leaving it at home this time round, but what’s your main electric at the moment?

“We currently have a deal with Vola Guitars. The one I have is very easy to play. I’m also very lucky to be endorsed by them, which means I didn’t have to pay for it. They are sending us some new models soon which have been completely customised – we chose the colours, pickups and everything else. I’m very excited!”

  • Klone are currently on tour supporting Riverside. To stay up to date with the band visit Instagram and Kscope
Amit Sharma

Amit has been writing for titles like Total GuitarMusicRadar and Guitar World for over a decade and counts Richie Kotzen, Guthrie Govan and Jeff Beck among his primary influences. He's interviewed everyone from Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy to Slash and Jimmy Page, and once even traded solos with a member of Slayer on a track released internationally. As a session guitarist, he's played alongside members of Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in London ensemble Metalworks, as well as handling lead guitars for legends like Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols, The Faces) and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, G3).