The Pineapple Thief's Bruce Soord: top 10 guitarists
“Throughout my life I’ve had an on-off relationship with my guitars,” admits The Pineapple Thief's mastermind Bruce Soord. His back catalogue with the British band proves it's been very much a fruitful relationship though, with their new album Magnolia (out September 15) further expanding a progressive sound that would appeal to fans of Radiohead, Porcupine Tree and Muse.
“As a teenager, I was growing up with the shredders,” adds Bruce, “smack bang in the middle of the ‘Vai versus Satriani’ heyday. As a new guitarist, I didn’t have a clue how to make my guitar sound like them. Saving up my paper round money to buy a Boss ‘HM2’ heavy metal pedal, I couldn't understand why it sounded like a chainsaw when I plugged it in.
Thankfully, Bruce found his way to become the accomplished musician we meet today; “As I matured as a player and a songwriter, the guitar evolved into an instrument for songwriting, and my obsession with shredding soon evaporated (just as well, as I was never any good at it) - the humble acoustic guitar became the most important weapon in my arsenal. I learned to be able to hear the chords in my head before I played them, and over the years my mind, voice and guitar began to behave as one. ‘Humming and strumming’ has been the basis of all my best songs.
“When I started out, if I couldn’t fret the chords I needed, then I’d just retune the guitar accordingly. I’ve also experimented with various open tunings but soon discovered that they weren’t necessarily always the solution to the dreaded writers block.
“Having said this, quite often when I get into my studio, my 'hum and strum' foundation may take a completely different course. For Magnolia I found my Kemper [profiling amp] to be an extremely creative tool. It sounds great, but what I love most about it is that I’m able to dial in the sounds I’m imagining quite easily, which in turn inspires me to take my ideas to the next level much quicker. It's a remarkable tool, both in the studio and live. Like most gear, it's easy to make it sound terrible, but if you find the right profiles – and I only use three or four – it sounds absolutely world class.
“I actually think I have the Kemper to thank for my re-deploying the guitar as the main instrument in our music. It features a lot more prominently on ‘Magnolia’ than on previous albums, and takes more of the ‘top lines’ than I’ve allowed it in the past. It seems that I forgot, as a songwriter, that the guitar is more than capable of providing the hook!”
It's this focus on melody that has informed Bruce's pick of his ten favourite guitarists. Read on to find out who and why he chose each one on an eclectic list, along with personal song recommendations.
"When I was in in my teens, Blood Sugar Sex Magik was the album my band was listening to every day. Hearing John's playing, I realised what a Strat was and how it could be played. Check out 'Funky Monks' (Blood Sugar Sex Magik). It's all about the riff...
"Quite an obscure one this. He is most famous for his work with legendary engineer and producer Alan Parsons. He’s technically brilliant but most importantly for me, he’s utterly ‘sing-along-able’. Check out the solo from this song…"
"Actually it was his work with Longpigs that influenced me the most rather than his more recent solo work. Check out Blue Skies from the album Mobile Home. The inventive and melodic guitar work totally makes this song."
"Hearing his creative use of pinch harmonics was a defining moment in my guitar life. Cue 1000’s of hours attempting pinch harmonics in my bedroom. Check out Middle Man from Vivid."
"The best modern riff composer out there for me."
"I do enjoy a bit of King Diamond, a dressing room favourite. And I can still sing along to his solos, even when he’s going at a million miles an hour. Check out any of the multitude of solos from At The Graves."
"Ok, he's not known primarily as a guitarist, but his acoustic guitar compositions on albums like Sea Change are outstanding and have been extremely influential to me. Check out Round The Bend – simple chords lead to a beautiful song."
"Very similar in style to Ian Bairnson (they are both associated with Les Pauls, although Ian now plays a PRS). Brilliantly melodic. Check out anything from Mirage."
"He spawned countless dreary copycats in the prog world, but I’ll forgive him."
"I couldn't complete this list without a bit of ‘shred’. Flying in a Blue Dream was my guilty pleasure. More melodic than Vai to my ears...."