In Search Of Tone: Jake Leyland Of Beggar

I’ve learned about so many new bands in the last six months. It’s amazing how many are out there and how much amazing music is created daily. If you don’t believe me, check out the graph Jake added below. I feel lucky to be a part of the Sleeping Shaman because I wouldn’t have heard of these bands or had the ability to learn from these outstanding musicians. Jake Leyland from Beggar is a prime example.

Jake Leyland / Beggar - Live At Buffalo Studio
Jake Leyland / Beggar – Live At Buffalo Studio

Beggar have been around for 10 years, releasing a few EPs and after signing with APF Records, they released their first LP, Compelled To Repeat at the start of the pandemic. The timing was tough for Beggar but Jake is optimistic, wise and proves that Beggar will stand out among the over 6 million releases in the last 6 years.

I’ve been listening to Compelled To Repeat and I feel it’s appropriately named. It’s a fantastic album and worthy of repeat listens. What is your writing process like to create these songs and do you concentrate on individual tracks or consider the album as a whole?

Thanks! We wrote the album track by track. Many of the songs were nearly fully formed a long time before we released it. But this same approach is what led us to just push out a bunch of EPs over the years, as opposed to waiting for enough material for a full length, so we were determined to have everything in place this time! Some of the tracks, including the title track, were still being hashed out with only a few weeks left before the recording session but that was cool to just see what we ended up with.

I can’t imagine using anything other than the Orange now for Beggar…

When we put ideas together, we do it almost entirely as a four – we come from different musical places so it’s most interesting this way, I think. For example, Bert [Sautier] is a grind drummer, but I’d hardly listened to any grind-core before meeting him, so it was a cool puzzle getting what are essentially two blues guitarist work with that, or vice versa – getting a blasting drummer to groove. That was the most satisfying kind of technical element with this album for me. Having said that, there are a few tracks which were fully one person’s creation, like Matryoshka Brain, or maybe even Anaesthete for example.

Blood Moon is a great song and I really like that riff! What amps and cabinets are you using to get this heavy distorted sound and are you using any distortion direct from your amps or a straight clean tone?

Thank you! Yeah that is a fun riff indeed. I switched to an Orange TH50 recently from a Laney GH50L – which is a mean amp by any standards – but I can’t imagine using anything other than the Orange now for Beggar. I don’t use any other distortion pedals, except an EQ with a boost – so it’s a pretty simple set up. Cab wise for the session I think we used a big fat Matamp cabinet and something else at Wayne Adam’s studio, Bear Bites Horse. Bass tones ran through a huge Ampeg rig so it was a pretty conventional but huge sludgy, stonery kind of set up. Some of the tones on the album though were created using this weird and sparkly Traynor YGL 3 amp that Wayne has. I think it’s like a discontinued Fender Twin spin off, but it sounded brilliant for some of the overlay sections.

Jake Leyland - Beggar
Jake Leyland / Beggar – Guitar & Amp Rig

I love a song that has a dreamy delayed intro with heavy riffs mixed in. Custody Of The Eyes checks off all those marks for me. What pedals are currently on your board to switch through these tones?

I got that sound with a single analogue delay, EHX Memory Boy, and in-amp reverb from the Traynor. So when playing live it’s easy to dial in because I barely have to tread on any switches to get in and out. I’m not a fan of complication, because it leads to risk for me. I sometimes put cables in the wrong places and things quite literally blow up.

The Monson is a real beast of a guitar…

Lastly, we have reached the guitars. What kind of guitars do you have? Do you have a favorite or an arsenal of guitars to choose from?

We have arrived! I have a Gibson Les Paul 60s tribute model from 2013 and a Monson Guitars Palehorse. The Gibson has been modified with a Bareknuckle Nailbomb bridge pickup which has hugely cranked output but retains that Les Paul quality. The Monson is a real beast of a guitar. It weighs one hell of a lot and looks like an antique table, which is exactly how I like it. It’s really special: Walnut body, Oregon myrtle top, Lace Nitro pickups, slightly extended scale length. It’s got a huge neck for my oversized hands too, which makes a big difference. Brent Monson who made it, has made axes for Mike Scheidt and the guys from Enslaved so I feel lucky to be endorsed by him. It’s definitely the crown jewel! I’ve also got a beautiful Fender Strat 60s Original, that has been custom shopped by John Berrington, and a Sandberg California bass.

Jake Leyland / Beggar - Monson Guitars Palehorse
Jake Leyland / Beggar – Monson Guitars Palehorse

There are a finite number of notes and an infinite amount of music. How do you create unique music without repeating yourself or others?

I don’t think repetition is a bad thing! It’s essential to progression – it’s rare that someone comes with something completely and unintelligibly new – so there are always new avenues to explore with old maps, in my mind. Having said that, I wouldn’t ever want to release material that ‘sounded like the old stuff’, even if that old stuff was really damn cool. So I guess it’s about finding something essential to you or your music that you can take with you. A great example is a band like Ulver. If you check out Bergtatt from 1995 and then listen to Flowers of Evil from 2020 you are hearing two completely different things, but their trajectory makes total sense. I love that.

it’s rare that someone comes with something completely and unintelligibly new…

One day I’ll play something on guitar, then the next attempt to play again and it will sound terrible. I’ll get discouraged and stop playing for a little bit. What do you do when you’re having off days and how do you get inspired to play again?

Yep I know the feeling very well… when I’m looking for inspiration I go to the periphery of my musical taste. I sometimes get really inspired by super simple folk songs, or melodies in pop songs that would just sound absolutely mahoosive run through a colossal sounding rig. Like three notes and pedal tone beneath it. I also really like to learn new exercises for dexterity, even though I’m not really a shredder or anything. I love chromatic finger exercises, and last year I got into chicken pickin’. But they don’t play a significant part in our music… yet.

Beggar ‘Compelled To Repeat’

Do you have a song or even part of a song you’re particularly proud of writing?

Proud of the nice big bouncy riff in Blood Moon you mentioned earlier, but I’m most proud of a sense of cohesion when we manage to make something work in an unusual manner – like in Trepanned Head Stares At The Sun, the way a nuts 200+ bpm blast beat opens out into a psych riff. Those moments are damn fine, to me at least!

I vow never to sell any of the three guitars…

Do you have a guitar, amp or pedal that you have had for a long time and will never part with?

I always think about this! But then I end up selling some old beaut of a guitar that I shouldn’t have sold to buy something else. But from this day forth, I vow never to sell any of the three guitars I mentioned above. They are unique, like children, except you can write huge riffs with them. I also have a Tanglewood Sundance parlour guitar – I got it second hand in Bristol a long time ago and it’s got such a rich and beautiful sound, despite its modest proportions. I hope never to be tempted to sell that.

What advice would you give to a new band starting out?

Don’t worry about social media, unless you’re touring or releasing an album – focus on the music first. I found that the preoccupation with online metrics about who follows you; how many listeners you have, how many sales you make in a week etc., can be crushing for your confidence when what you are actually doing is writing and playing music. It’s a difficult time to be releasing music these days because of the saturation of bands… (check this insane graph out)…

New Music Recordings Graph

….and the spotifisation of musical output, so focussing on what you are writing and nothing else would be a good start. Also be nice to people, because there are so many good folks who want to support bands, so make sure you recognise that support.

Your album was unleashed just as the world went into lockdown, meaning any planned shows to support its release were cancelled, how did this effect the band?

It was really grim. We have been a band for a decade, and have really come into our own in the last couple of years so yeah it was awful. We had all the momentum from the pre-release work, an album launch tour, so many cool shows lined up in the UK and in Europe, and plans to write a second album already in the works with studio time booked. So yeah it was heart breaking to be honest. But I suppose we can take solace in the fact that we aren’t alone in this experience, and there has been a real surge of support online from our fans which has been amazing.

Beggar have just released Live At Buffalo Studio, a pro-shot video that’s  available to watch on YouTube and is the nearest the band have come to playing a gig in over a year. How did the session go? Did it all run smoothly or were there any hiccups along the way?

It was a real trip doing that session! We had a window of like 4 days given COVID restrictions and availability, but we managed to make it work. It turned out to be absolutely awesome thanks to Sam Finney’s brilliant camera work (he did the whole thing on his own with 5 cameras!), and thanks to JB Pilon for the studio space. Of course we got the audio sent via Wayne at Bear Bites Horse and he did a real number on the music so I think it has come out extremely well. It felt necessary after a year of silence.

We had a window of like 4 days given COVID restrictions and availability, but we managed to make it work…

Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thanks so much for offering to talk to me! It’s amazing to get the chance to speak about our music, and be featured on your site alongside people like Aaron Turner. Also I just want to put it on the record that Andrew from APF Records has been a real hero this year – go check out the bands on the label if you haven’t already!

Compelled To Repeat is out now via APF Records.

Label: APF Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Interviewed by: Josh Schneider