Very rarely do I stumble across a band in the very early stages of its existence. I’m usually very late to the party. In this case, I discovered Green Lung shortly after their debut album release and I couldn’t be happier. I take that back, they’re releasing a second album this year, and I am very excited to hear it.
Scott Masson of Green Lung was kind enough to participate in Part 4 of the ever growing series. He goes into great detail about writing music and I hope he teaches you as much as he taught me!
Tone is something that is constantly being chased after. I feel you guys have a really awesome guitar tone and overall sound. Songs like Lady Lucifer, Ritual Tree and Templar down stick out in my mind as a perfect example of how you mastered it! What amps are you currently using to achieve these sounds and do they differ from studio recording to live?
Thanks! To be totally honest, I’ve never been a big gear hound – I spent most of my musical life just plugging into whatever was lying about. I’m a firm believer that tone is in the fingers and I’m as comfortable playing through a shitty solid-state amp as I am a JCM800.
I think making sure that the guitar sits well in the overall band mix is much more important than any other aspect of the guitar sound. Making sure that the guitar is present where it needs to be, while giving space to the bass, cymbals and vocals makes the sound of the band more powerful, which will always make your guitar sound better.
The gear I use tends to surprise a lot of people. I’ve never got on with fuzz pedals and the woollier sound of the kind of vintage Matamps etc usually associated with the genre. I prefer a sharper, brighter and clearer sound, probably due to all the years I spent playing thrash and crossover.
Lead parts were all a Marshall JCM800 with a Marshall Guv’Nor and an EQ pedal just before the amp to really boost the higher frequencies and make it squeal…
The majority of rhythm guitars for the Woodland Rites album were tracked through a Vox AC30 with a treble booster in front of it – while not very doomy at all, I really liked the articulation and clarity it gave me in the hi-mids. Lead parts were all a Marshall JCM800 with a Marshall Guv’Nor and an EQ pedal just before the amp to really boost the higher frequencies and make it squeal.
Live is an interesting one. I used to use a stereo rig with two amps set up on either side of the stage. However, this resulted in too much stage volume and a lesser Front of House mix as a result. As I mentioned, making sure the cohesive band sound is good is much more important than anything else. Having two blaring 100 watt guitar rigs in a 300 capacity venue is a sure fire way to fuck that up!
These days I use Kemper’s with profiles of the actual rigs and signal chains we used for recording. I’ll always love tube amps, and still rehearse and play with my real amps for fun, but when playing live shows, the consistent sound, as well as clarity and versatility of Kemper’s makes my job so much easier.
In an ideal world, I’d love to have the budget to have multiple amps and signal chains isolated off-stage like, for example AC/DC does. But for now my Kemper will be the closest I get!
There is an endless amount of pedals out there. What pedals are you currently using and do experiment and change often?
I used to be really into pedals, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I prefer simpler signal chains. An overdrive into an already breaking up amp usually puts me in a good mood!
We recorded album II back in November. For that, I used an Ibanez Tube Screamer into a first generation 5150. I added a Chase Bliss Brothers pedal used on the boost function to further shape the EQ and saturate the sound a little bit more. That is an insane pedal, with multiple fuzz, OD and boost circuits with you can stick it in series/parallel and all sorts of stuff.
Like the luddite I am, I just used the dirty boost, but good God, it is a powerful tone shaping pedal. Other fun pedals we used during recording was a Talk Box and a weird old 80s phaser that we used on a triple-tracked solo to great, otherworldly effect.
Last but not least are the guitars! What guitars are you using and do you have a preference in single coil, Humbucker, P90 or active pickups?
I currently use an ’81 Greco Les Paul Custom Lawsuit-era copy which I bought off of Ric from Orbital Junction (great band, check em out). It is a remarkably convincing Les Paul Custom copy that sounds and feels so good that I ended up selling my real Gibson Les Paul as I never played it!
I also use a Brian May Red Special Replica, as it has three independent single coils that you can engage in any combination – rather than the traditional blade switch you’d find on, for example, a Strat or Tele. Even better, you can switch the pickups in and out of phase. It’s a really unique and versatile guitar. I much prefer the glassier sound of single coils for cleaner tones and for more effects heavy psychedelic sounds. For meat and potato overdriven sounds I like humbuckers.
My Laney GH100L. It was the first tube amp I ever owned…
Do you have a guitar, amp or pedal that you have had for a long time and will never part with?
My Laney GH100L. It was the first tube amp I ever owned, having used the 5 watt practise amp that came with my £100 Argos guitar set well into my late teens! I’ve gone through a good number of amps ever since, but despite it being really cheap and really old, something about that Laney amp is very special. As is often the case with tube amps, other GH100Ls I have played don’t sound anywhere near as good! I guess I just stumbled on a special one.
You guys have one EP and one Full length album under your belt. I hear a new album is on its way. That’s exciting. What is your writing process like and how to you keep creating new and unique ideas?
The writing process used to be quite prescriptive on my part. I’d write all the music and then the guys would play it. Tom would write all the vocal lines and I’d occasionally chip in with a melody or two. With the new album, we made it more collaborative. I’d send over guitar tracks and let the guys write their own bits. To make it cohesive I’d then go back and arrange it all.
This is a much more fruitful way to work. The way Joe (bass, saxophone, backing vocals), John (keys) and I approach melody and harmony is very different. So they contributed lots of amazing moments that I would never have created. Giving Wiseman, our drummer, more room also meant he contributed lots of more interesting rhythmical approaches and many little moments that really make the songs come alive.
Green Lung is a fairly new band, only around a few years now. What are some struggles you’ve had starting out and how have you overcome them?
Being a DIY band and having a normal life in tandem is difficult. Until this year we still sent out our merch and dealt directly with fans, which was quite tiring – having to man a brimming email inbox can be a bit overwhelming. We were spending much more time on admin and logistics rather than making or playing music and I think it burned me out a bit. Outsourcing all that stuff will hopefully make it much easier.
Often I find I play a cool sounding riff only to listen back and hear how terrible it was and get discouraged. I’ll then just continue playing what I already know how to play. What do you do for inspiration if you’re having an off day or to keep from playing the same things over and over?
Interesting question! Actively learning new stuff is a great way to expose yourself to different musical ideas. The act of physically learning, rather than just listening, then anchor those ideas in something tangible which you can call upon. This can be anything from different modes to chord voicing’s or cool ways of playing around with metre.
During the March lockdown I decided to learn one new solo every day, and record and publish on my Instagram page Lockdown Shed.
by the end of the 28 days, learning 28 new solos by some of the greatest players to live, I was a much better player…
It was a real challenge – learning iconic solos such as Van Halen’s Beat It solo or The Sails of Charon by the Scorpions in a single day was real brain & finger melting work. However, by the end of the 28 days, learning 28 new solos by some of the greatest players to live, I was a much better player.
It’s this exposure to different ideas that is so important – this is especially true for guitarists that don’t have a great knowledge of music theory. The ability to audiate (aka imagine in your ‘minds ear’) an idea and then be able to translate that to your instrument is super important for writing coherent, well formed music. However, it can be hard to audiate outside of what you already play if you don’t know what they are.
Do you have a song or even part of a song you’re particularly proud of writing?
Truth be told, I hate listening back to stuff I have recorded or written! In pre-production for album two we listened to Woodland Rites for reference – it was the first time listening to it since before it was released. I was shocked at how differently I play some songs now – I guess they just naturally change over time.
In terms of pride, I’m quite happy with my playing on the forthcoming album. I wanted to experiment with double tracking solos and lead parts to achieve more interesting tone blends and make it overall sound bigger and thicker – kind of like Randy Rhoads used to. I’m quite proud of how well that came out sounding.
I wanted to experiment with double tracking solos and lead parts to achieve more interesting tone blends and make it overall sound bigger and thicker…
I really appreciate it! Is there anything else you would like to add?
In the last couple of days The Black Heart in London has announced that, due to the obvious pressures the last year has had on venues and bars, they are at risk of permanent closure.
The Black Heart is probably the most important venue for underground music in the whole of London and the South East of England. From hosting touring foreign bands, to Desertfest, to giving new bands a place to start out, it has been an important part of so many bands’ careers.
If anyone reading this has had an awesome night at The Black Heart and would like those nights to continue after the pandemic, please consider donating on their Crowd Funder they recently set up.
Interviewed by: Josh Schneider