Guitar + amp + human. It's a simple formula, but one with as many outcomes as there are people on the planet. On debut LP, Higher Power, The Dirty Nil guitarist Luke Bentham has found what, to GTA fans, can only be described as the Trevor Phillips of guitar tones.
"Much to the dismay of the engineer, I insisted on standing in the room with the amp to maximise feedback," recalls Luke. "I think the amp is 50 per cent of the instrument and that interaction is something a lot of people discount when they record. Also, I really like feeling the sound coming from the speakers. But that's just because I'm an asshole!"
Luke started on this path after hearing Pete Townshend and Kurt Cobain and vividly recalls the first moment he saw You Know You're Right crash onto his TV screen. "I heard that tidal wave of distortion that ushered in the chorus - and how much it upset my parents - and I thought, 'This is something I need to look into!'"
Sheet metal shaking
Later Link Wray, J Mascis and more were added to the mix. "My favourite guitar players of all time are Mick Ronson and James Williamson," explains Luke. "Both of them played the same guitar, so I wanted a Les Paul Custom really badly and I saved my beans and got myself one."
All of the above are now swirled into riotously grunge-y riffage of the highest order and songs such as Wrestle Yu To Hüsker Dü - all Torché-esque, open-string-ringing distortion - invoke the kind of involuntary movements that make us glad we don't operate heavy machinery. We can't say the same of Luke, though, who pairs his 'Paul with a Super Lead and two Pro Co RAT distortions.
"I'm happiest with the most aggressive, displeasing-to-others sounds," says Luke. "The tone on No Weaknesses, I liked because it sounded like sheet metal shaking! I'm more interested in battling it, so that the sound is a collaboration between you and the instrument. That way you always surprise yourself."
The final piece in his mad tonal trifecta comes from mods to Luke's guitar.
"I took the Ian McKaye cue and swapped all of the pickups out for [DiMarzio] Super Distortions," adds the guitarist. "I also disconnected the tone knobs. If you're playing Super Distortions through two RATs and a Super Lead, subtlety is not your strong point!"
- For fans of: Milk Teeth, Dinosaur Pile-Up
- Hear: Wrestle Yu To Hüsker Dü