10 questions for Young Legionnaire's Paul Mullen

(Image credit: Katie Anderson/REX/Shutterstock)

For anyone keen on guitar-based rock of an alternative, math-leaning persuasion, Young Legionnaire are a supergroup truly worthy of the oft-hyperbolised designation.

The line-up boasts such luminaries as Yourcodenameis:milo frontman Paul Mullen, ex-Bloc Party bassist Gordon Moakes and Dean Pearson (Vennart, Losers) on drums, and their considerable lineage is very much in evidence on second album, Zero Worship.

Zero Worship is a strong contender for alt-rock album of the year

As bleak as it is euphoric, ZW is a strong contender for alt-rock album of the year, full of the off-kilter riffs, time signature shifts and tempestuous outpourings with which Paul made his name, but with an increased rhythmic nuance and focus courtesy of his co-collaborators.

Before the band drop the album at the end of the month, we got Paul's thoughts on his most beloved guitars, essential pedals and advice for his younger self - and boy, he's got a lot of it…

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

"It was some kind of mini Encore acoustic for Xmas '88… '89, maybe. Santa knew I was a leftie. He did a good job restringing it. Well done, Santa."

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

"My '62 reissue Fender Tele - it's been on every album I've ever recorded. Bought it in '97 from a place called Grott Guitars in Newcastle. I don't think that shop is even there any more.

My Turbo Rat's been broke since the day I got it. If it fixes itself, I've lost my sound!

"It cost me £250, it's battered and bruised and seen the world with me. Probably remembers a lot more than I do. I got really lucky with that guitar and a Turbo Rat - a broken Turbo Rat, actually. I duplicated my pedalboard a few years back so got an extra T.Rat and it sounded completely different to my original. Basically, it's been broke since the day I got it. If it fixes itself, I've lost my sound!"

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

"Many. But two spring to mind. A cream/white Gibson Custom SG three-pickup beast. Used extensively on [Young Legionnaire debut] Crisis Works. Huge, huge-sounding guitar. Plus a Wurlitzer 200A electronic piano. Never used it live, but it was a great thing to have in the studio. Mainly because if you're hitting your head against a brick wall in a session you can just play the intro to You're My Best Friend by Queen and all will be well."

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

"I've always fancied a Gretsch G6128TDS-LH Duo Jet."

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

"I've never been one for widdly woos and widdly wah wahs, so I haven't had the desire to learn the more technical aspects of playing. Just write better riffs, I suppose."

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

"Practising? It would have been about two months ago for the YL tour. Relearning, reconstructing and realising parts I put down in the studio so that they work live. I've played since then, of course, but writing not practising."

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

"Neil Young. Hey Hey, My My. Greatest guitar sound put to tape. I'd dial that in, tune down to A and see what happens."

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

"My girlfriend just bought me a Taylor Baby. I think that would be a pretty nice companion. Would prefer my girlfriend, of course. But she is not an item of gear. She's a human person girl lady. Actually, can I take my studio with me? Is that allowed? [Oh, go on, then - Ed]"

Make mistakes, make shit break. Those are the little things you remember. No-one remembers a smooth gig

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

"Just the usual pedals failing, amps breaking, falling off stage. I don't look upon these as bad experiences, but experiences. Something that happens live. Make mistakes, make shit break. Those are the little things you remember. No-one remembers a smooth gig. Those who caught YL at Leeds on the last tour should remember it."

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

"Don't be afraid to make horrendous errors. Don't be scared to go with your gut feeling. Buy a Big Muff as soon as you possibly can. Never get less than 12 hours sleep. Use a different tuning for each day of the week. Play upside down more often. Remember The Jesus Lizard. You don't need a capo, ever."

Zero Worship is out on 25 November via Superstar Destroyer Records.

Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.