{Xarriviewz II} DIMESLAND: Guitar duels of ‘Psychogenic Atrophy’

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{INTRO} NOLAN COOK BEFORE DIMESLAND: FROM TX> RVA> BAY AREA> WORLD TOURS>  ‘PSYCHOGENIC ATROPHY’   unnamed (7)

When I first saw you with kill/joy in Richmond, Virginia, I had not really seen cymbal grabs, tight stop start riffs and instrumental punkrock before…some of these elements were presaging what the local scene would be all about in next 5 years… How did you guys come up with that sound which would be further directly evolved in your sequel to that style in the band Loibon? The instru~metal elements in KJ reappeared as Loibon (which I think had partially the same rhythm section?

Hmm, you’re reaching back to when I was a teenager. So right out of high school I moved down to Richmond and before long started to play with two dudes who, along with me, became the trio Kill/joy. We played mostly-instrumental (or instrumetal), experimental post-hardcore with a bit of psych in there. It was in that band that I started writing fully-formed tunes, and I learned the ropes by watching guys like Greg Ottinger, Tim Harris, and Pen Rollings. There were definitely some growing pains (ever changed a string onstage in front of a packed house who were there to see the Butthole Surfers?) but I emerged from that band a more informed and confident player and writer. At that point I co-founded and continued experimenting with heavy rock in a group called Plate, which released a cassette (yep!) that got some good reviews in mags like Maximum R&R, Option, Factsheet Five, etc. Plate had two distinct line-ups, the second of which was another trio and we really took the writing way out, long form, and we would have guests come up and do vocals and other strange things. Wow, what fun. My final project before moving out west was, as you mentioned, Loibon. That band had the same drummer as kill/joy and the great bassist Greg Labudde. We were very tight and strange. Loibon is the group that really should have made the leap but alas, the drummer destroyed the whole thing. Put a band together, write some great shit, and then watch it all fall apart. I know that many of you are familiar with this modus operandi. It was my fate with bands for a long time.

How, from the inside/onstage perspective did the instrumental rock thing happen in RVA. Was it a conscious decision to bail on singers, a friendly competition between local guitar/bass/drum~slingers, or a type of organic thing that just happened? It seems like you were sort of 1 step ahead and just off to the side of those trends, culminating with your ability to land the gig with the Residents later in SF. Was knowing a portion of the Snakefinger solo & Residents releases like divine providence or master plan on your part?

We ask because those are not easy parts to learn, and the idea of being chosen as main guitarist for the Residents must have seemed the last thing on your mind when learning it? How did you connect the dots and has that experience touring the world with them for a decade or so sort of re-influenced your own playing & writing style in Dimesland

 

Master plan? No. How could I possibly have foreseen that turn of events? And to tell you the truth I didn’t actually learn a ton of Residents stuff before I joined them, it was more of a listening experience for me, and I did do quite a lot of listening…and viewing. I guess I may have fooled with a few Snakefinger things just to get an idea of what he was doing on guitar. I’ve always been a fool for art that goes outside the lines, so over time a lot of that Rez/Snakey material provided me great joy and altered my sensibilities in a number of ways. unnamed (5)

 

Has that experience touring the world with them for a decade or so  re-influenced your own playing & writing style in Dimesland? I just remember seeing you sitting on your practice amp playing the white PRS for hours anytime I stopped in your place back then when i was in a band w/ your housemate. How much ‘moonlighting’ did you do seek out outside your own style such as sitting in onstage for some gigs of avant~dub locals Jive Farmer

 

As for my long and ongoing stint as a collaborator (or sideman, if you like), the whole experience has been just incredible. The Cryptic Corporation producers have allowed me to explore other sides of my playing in a fantastic string of settings and environments and contexts. It has been a dream job for me and has certainly allowed me to grow artistically.

However there is not a lot of common ground between what they do and what Dimesland does. They are pretty separate worlds.

 

At what point did you switch from an Gibson SG to a PRS 24 to a Jackson Soloist guitar? Do ebony fretboards assist in focused tone? Were you early on in switching to active EMG pickups to enhance quick, crisp “turn & stop on a dime” (~Ed- sorry could not resist) song sections or were a holdout on passive humbuckers till later on? Do Boogies get the job done for you? Their amp designs are known for quick ‘attack’ envelope of each note…Do amps matter more or does the instrument? Is gear really crucial for what you do, or can you execute your style on any old style vintage guitar?

Time for some tech talk, is it? Guitars and amps, topics certain to thrill your readership. My long ago SG was played to death by me. Oh how I loved that thing. I wound up bowing the neck due to too much bending of it (pushing the neck forward to get a certain kind of vibrato). I ruined it. I then started using guitars with vibrato arms (whammy bars), starting with that white PRS, which is now also dead. Thanks again, Turkish airline! I don’t know too much about ebony fretboards and tone, really; I ain’t all that scientific. But they do play smooth. EMG pickups I got it into when I heard Pen Rollings playing his Telecaster with one in the bridge position. Yeah, they are known for quick, tight attack. I like an EMG 85 in the bridge spot. I had a couple of Mesa amps years ago but I eventually started using a VHT Pitbull for metal and I’ve stuck with it. I think gear is pretty important. Sure, one can create and express themselves on any instrument but gear plays a part in the character of your sound.

Bonus question: How and in what direct musical ways did the Minutemen double album Double Nickels On The Dime help you get your songwriting, arranging, guitar playing and lyric ideas together? Why was this a watershed for you and many forward thinking musicians in the punk/postpunk scene. Was there ‘econo’ spirit of making every note, beat and word count, the anti-rockstar presentation, and overall musical originality all part of your musical DNA?

 

Man, everything the Minutemen did was absolute gold to me. They are another example of a group blasting me with ideas. I was but a lad when I got my hands on Double Nickels and I bet you I listened to it 500 times at the outset. The same goes for Gluey Porch Treatments by The Melvins right around the same time. Again, people who push against the boundaries of a given genre or medium and twist it into something else altogether are the greatest to me. Double Nickels is the very epitome of that idea. Losing D. Boon like that when we did was heartbreaking.

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