DATE OF INTERVIEW:
7th May 2009
METAL DISCOVERY: With an album obviously full of instrumental tracks, did you find it difficult in naming the individual tracks or are there distinct ideas behind each of the titles reflected in the music?
JIM DAVIES: Nah! Thatís the easy bit! [laughs] Iíve just got a lot of silly names! The thing with me is Iím a bit of a history buff, so Iím massively into Ancient Rome and all these sort of things, so I just tend to read all stuff like that. Iíve just read that book ĎRubiconí by Tom Holland and that stuck in my mind. I think thatís the easiest bit, just finding names. Some of the names are a bit silly butÖI remember reading an interview with someone who was playing with Jeff Beck saying he was staying awake at night worrying about the names of his instrumentals, but I donít think you need to worry too much unless you call them something absolutely ridiculous.
(Jim Davies on developing his electronica-rock fusion playing style)
"I suppose thereís not many guitarists out there that know how to play over dance music. Itís not as easy as it sounds...Because the frequencies are so low youíve got to play high stuff, and that sort of changed how I played."
Jim Davies - uncredited promo shot, 2008
Photograph supplied by, and used with permission from, Karl Demata at Eleven PR
Interview by Mark Holmes
MD: I think some are a bit ambiguous but tracks like ĎRockers Vs Raversí is kind of like you know what to expect from that, and when you listen to it youíre like, oh, yeah, yeahÖ
JD: But thatís funny; thereís a story behind that as well. Back in 1995 I did a gig with The Prod in Ireland on New Yearís Eve, and we went out shopping, and I found this t-shirt that said Rockers Vs Ravers, and I was like, ah, Iíll have that, so thatís just something thatís always stuck in my mind and then, when I did that tune, I thought thatíll fit that tune quite well.
MD: Fourteen years later!
JD: FourteenÖah, donít! It makes me feel old!
MD: Do you ever hope, or think it would be possible, to get out there and play the music live, using lots of backing tracks obviously.
JD: It gives me anxiety attacks just thinking about it! But it could be done. I just think Iíd have to be really, really honest about it and say thereís absolutely no way I could play every single sound on this album. Thereís just no way I could do it but, if I did it in an honest way and said look, I can only play what I can play, there are certain parts that I can play, you know, Iíd have to work out what the main, most important parts were and play them. I think as long as you donít go in there and pretend youíre trying to play everythingÖbut you know what itís like, youíre gonna get guitar geeks there who are going, ah, heís clearly not playing that. So youíve just got to be honest, and say Iíll play what I can, what I canít play is on the backing and there you go. But I got a scary phonecall from the bloke atÖone of the head boys at Ibanez who has put me forward to do a festival in Germany and thatís a possibility, so thatís sort of kicked me up the arse to think, maybe you can do this live. It is scary because when I was writing the album, I wasnít really thinking about how I was gonna do it live, it was more just having fun creating all these different textures and sounds without thinking youíre not going to be able to do it live and then doing something easier. So I think itís doable but, like I said, it gives me a panic attack!
MD: Obviously an idea in its early stages, but what kind of lineup would you envisage?
JD: Me and a laptop! [laughs]
MD: Just yourself?
JD: Yeah, I was thinking about that, and I think if you try and get a band together it would be a nightmare because youíre gonna have drummer and Iíd need about fifteen guitarists! I think the easiest way to do it would be to just have a laptop and me playing what I can. I actually went to see a guitaristÖdo you remember Jennifer Batten?
MD: Yeah, I saw her recently in the middle of March up here in Lincoln.
JD: Yeah, me too, and I thought that was really cool.
MD: She had the laptop and a backdrop of projections; the videos.
JD: Yeah, thatís right, she was playing along to a laptop - that was quite inspiring; I thought that was really good. I think Iíll just do something like that, to be honest.
MD: Apart from the farting song, I found that a bitÖ
JD: Yeah, the farting song was a bit weird!
MD: Yeah, it was just a bit like, no, donít, donít do that! That was just too surreal!
JD: [laughs] No-one really got it, did they?!
MD: No! There was no laughing or anything!
JD: Friends of mine just left at that point! I think they just felt really uncomfortable and left!
MD: She looks quite old now - how old is she now actually?
JD: She does look old, yeah. I used to quite fancy her actually!
MD: I remember she had this old footage of her bad hairdos from the past and pointed out she had some bad hairdos, but I thought her hairdo now is not too great!
JD: No, and the farting song wasnít good; I wouldnít be doing with that!
MD: Do you use an E-bow on the album at all because it sounds like you do at certain points - like the haunting tones in the background ofÖparticularly ĎEmpireí?
JD: No, but I know the sound you mean. Thereís a sound Iíve got thatís called a Fuzz Sustain; itís one of these endless sustain sounds thatís a really sort of fuzzy smooth sound. I know what you mean; I do know exactly what you mean. Itís using that neck pickup so itís a nice smooth sound and then just using an endless sustain sound.
MD: Youíre often credited as one of the pioneers of electronica-rock fusion guitar playing - do you regard yourself as that and do you hope the new album will kind of consolidate that tag?
JD: Ahh, thatís scary! Itís not really my style; it feels kind of uncomfortable because Iím not really that sort of person. I tend to keep myself a little bit to myself and I never think of it like that. I mean, I think I was there in the right time at the right place and got into the electronic music at the right time at the right place when everything was crossing over. I sort of picked up on what The Prod were doingÖtheyíre the main pioneers really, and I sort of picked up on what they were doing on ĎÖJiltedÖí and the same as Pitchshifter, I think they were pioneers as well, obviously I came into the fold. But I donít know, maybeÖI donít want to say yes or no really. I suppose thereís not many guitarists out there that know how to play over dance music. Itís not as easy as it sounds. You do have to completely changeÖthe way I play is shaped around dance music because I play over drum n bass and breakbeat stuff that you canít do certain stuff. You canít do really chuggy low stuff because you just wonít hear it. Because the frequencies are so low youíve got to play high stuff, and that sort of changed how I played. I think if you stick your average metal guitarist in a room and go, right, play over this beat, a lot of them would just look at you like a confused puppy and go, no, Iíve no idea how to do that. Thatís why Iíve been inspired by the sounds in dance music and just listen to how they come in and how theyíre used. Thatís why I use a lot of filters; envelope filters; wah-wahs and sounds like that, and just try and emulate that. So I donít know. Itís a very, very flattering thing to say but Iím too level headed to agree with you!
MD: Whatís your current main setup effects-wise? I think I read you use a lot of Line 6 effects.
JD: Yeah, Iíve got a Guitar Rig 3, thatís my thing at the moment. I use that on my laptop and thatís been revolutionary really for me with all the sounds you can get on that. Iíve started using a lot of Blackstar amps. I donít use a lot of proper amps if you know what I mean - I tend to DI a lot of my stuff. I donít really tend to mike it up because Iíve just always done that. When I started playing there was no room to mike up Marshall cabs so Iíve just always gone out of the back of my effects units and that, without me knowing, constituted getting my own sound. It helps when you play over dance music to DI stuff because it gives you that really harsh, abrasive sort of sound, you know, it really comes through. Iíve done a few gigs recently with just a laptop. Iím not doing that many gigs at the moment, but the ones Iíve done, with DJs and stuff like that, I had to stick the sound out my laptop and Iíve got Guitar Rig 3 on there, and it sounds amazing.
MD: And do you just use Ibanez guitars?
JD: Yeah, yeah.
MD: What ones out of interest?
JD: Well, Iíve never been really fussy aboutÖIím not one of these guitarists that you have to have a certain type of rosewood, and it has to be a certain gauge of strings. Iíve always like Ibanez because thatís what I grew up playing, and Iíve got an endorsement deal with them, but I was always quite good with that - I didnít try to just blag as many guitars as I could. I always used to approach them for a guitar when I actually needed a guitar. Most of my guitars are like RG550s, old ones. Iíve got a Prestige Ibanez that I use quite a lot. But I wouldnít say this album was done usingÖI donít know, itís hard to explain, but the amp side of things, and the effects side of things are probably more important to the sound than the guitars. Obviously if I used a Strat youíd hear the difference in tone butÖIíve always just liked Ibanez, and Iíve never been much of a guitar geek, to be honest. You know, Iím still absolutely shit at changing my strings! Iím still rubbish!
MD: Was that a bit of a ĎPassion and Warfareí thing that inspired you to play Ibanez?
JD: Yeah, yeah. And it was Paul Gilbert really with his pink RG550.
MD: I fell in love with Ibanez when I saw the pictures on the cover to ĎPassion and Warfareí. Iíve still got one of the original RG560s.
JD: Yeah, Iíve got one of them as well. If you look carefully on the back of the album, thereís a little picture from inside the studio and thereís a bright yellow Ibanez, and thatís one of the ones that I wouldnít dare take out these days, but thatís from that era, one of those original ones.
MD: And you said you have an endorsement deal with Ibanez?
JD: Yeah, I have, yeah. Iíve always beenÖwith Ibanez, like I said, Iíve always only asked for guitars if I actually need them rather than just try and scamÖbecause people are clever and they work that out very quickly. Iíve been doing this now for quite a while and thatís important because you can then go back to them when you actually need something. When I endorsed them if I was just like, ďI need ten guitarsĒ, and maybe they might have given them to me, but then they might not have given me anything else ever again, so I always try toÖ
MD: You donít want to push it.
JD: Yeah, I stick with the people I likeÖlike Blackstar, Iím using them a lot; Iíve got a really good relationship with them, and just donít take the piss and then theyíre far more open to helping you out and giving you stuff when you actually need it.
MD: Thatís a good idea, yeah. You mentioned earlier about Guitarist magazineís Guitarist of the Year competitionÖI think I read on your MySpace you started playing at sixteen but three years later you were in the finals of that - did you practice intensively when you began, or was your talent more kind of natural than that?
JD: No, I practiced a lot. I was a geek! I didnít use to go out very much; I just practiced. Not loads but I used to run home from school, play for an hour in my dinner break, then run home again and, you knowÖrubbish with girls. I never got anywhere with girls. Thatís the reason I got into guitar because I wasnít getting laid! So as soon as I got a guitarÖ.it took a long time, butÖ! [laughs] My mateís laughing at me now!
JD: Yeah, but I did really go for it; I did spend a long time practicing but then I got to that point where I thought, hang on a minute, Iím alright, Iím quite good, but Iím gonna go with this. There are loads of guitarists out there who are good rock guitarists, but I got a little bit fed up with it. Thatís when I started looking for different inspirations and got into electronic music which changed everything really. But yeah, I did properly go for it.
MD: Kind of in between your rock and electronic stages, you mention Steve Vai as an influence on your MySpace - were you inspired by tracks like ĎAlien Water Kissí and his more effects based pieces?
JD: Yeah, and this is what people donít realise about Steve Vai. Everyone just saysÖobviously heís an amazing shredder but they donít realise, if you listen to ĎPassion and Warfareí on headphones and you listen to all the sounds and layers and everything thatís going onÖI mean, I like Joe Satriani, but if you listen to him heís a bit more of a bread and butter rock n roll guitar player - thereís a guitar, thereís a bass, and thereís drums.
MD: Yeah, and losing a lot of cred at the moment by suing Coldplay!
JD: Yeah, exactly. And I like that, but itís sort of Ödonít get me wrong, itís not simple, but when you listen to it you hear drums, guitar and bass, but when you listen to Vai youíve got so much else going on, and when you think thatís all come out of his head, itís amazing. Heís a big influence on me because when I write something Iím thinking about the other layers and not just the main lead parts. But heís definitely a big influence.
MD: If you had to name one track from ĎPassion and Warfareí then, what would be your favourite track?
JD: ĎThe Riddleí.
MD: Ah, a different kind of answer, everyone seems to answer that ĎFor the Love of Godí.
JD: Yeah, but I did that at a school concert actually
MD: You played that?
MD: Seriously?! Wow! Note for note?
JD: Sort of! Just about!
MD: Thatís an amazing track, I think. But ĎThe Riddleí - awesome too.
JD: Yeah, when it kicks off in the middle, I love that bit, when it all breaks down, and then it just roars off again. I love that.
MD: ĎThe Audience is Listeningí as well, thatís pretty amazing.
JD: Yeah, I love all of them; the whole album.