Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Jesse Quin has some interesting and unexpected things to say as he talks about his approach to playing his various instruments, how he finds inspiration when songwriting, what he’s listening to and working on these days, and how he became a member of Keane. He even offers a bit of advice on how to make it in your chosen field. And oh yeah, pedals!
What kind of pedalboard do you have and what is your signal chain?
I have actually recently dismantled my pedalboard as I’ve mainly been recording and that has meant discovering new things that I’d like to be able to recreate live. I generally favour a simple set up. Tuner, something for basic crunch, something for lead, tremolo, delay. Sometimes more than one of each. I pretty much always use an amp with a spring reverb. I also have the odd wild card like a Guyatone backwards thing that’s pretty cool and also this great box by Audio Kitchen called Big Trees. I suppose the real difference between studio guitar sounds and live guitar sounds is that live I use pedals for distortion and in the studio I use more amp distortion.
When you first started out with Keane, you were on tour as a roadie. Could you tell us how you became an official member of Keane?
Well it’s a long story, but basically I knew the crew from a backline hire place I worked at years ago in London. When I left there I had a month without any work and happened to speak to my friend Dermot who was Keane’s production manager at the time. He asked if I’d like to come and do a three week arena tour as production assistant. I had no idea what that involved and was pretty useless at it but through doing that tour I ended up playing with Laura Marling who has the same (most excellent) management. When Keane decided to try working with a bassist I was the only person that the whole team knew who could play. So I was lucky! I guess the moral of the story is that as long as you keep taking opportunities in your chosen field you can probably get where you want to in the end!
What inspires you to start working on songs?
I’d say most of the time I just noodle on instruments and little ideas pop out. I’m terrible at sitting down and finishing things but I like to have a TV on in the studio with old films playing. The album I’m just finishing has had The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman going on in the background on a loop for a couple of months. Needless to say, the album has turned out pretty depressing! I also just bought an old marimba which is actually a great instrument to write on!
How do you think differently when playing drums vs. playing guitar?
When I’m playing drums I try to make sure that I keep it simple but interesting. I think that sometimes the hardest part of drumming is how great an effect the part you play has on whether a song feels fast or slow. I don’t mean the actual tempo. I mean you can play two really different parts at 120bpm and one makes a song feel fast and one makes it feel slow. It’s the most important thing to get right. When I’m playing the bass I think about how the bass will be supporting the melody and which notes will be most important to lock in with while still sitting with the kick and snare. When I play the guitar I’m usually much more interested in sounds than parts. I usually think of a part and then decide which instrument to play it on. If it’s guitar then out come the pedals. I like sounds that aren’t too static so I’ll use subtle settings on two phasers chained together and things like that to keep the sound moving. Piano and keyboard stuff I think a lot about how much a chord voicing or inversion or whatever can affect how things feel like they’re rising up or backing down.
What projects are you working on right now?
Well I’ve just finished this solo record that I’m really happy with and I’m also working on a weird electronic album as well. In a couple of months we start recording the next Mt. Desolation record so I’m demoing a lot of songs for that. I’ve also been doing a lot of production stuff including some interesting things with a couple of the guys from Noah & The Whale and lots of new artists.
What current bands should we be listening to?
I’m not very good at keeping up-to-date with new music! This week I’ve been listening to the most recent records by Tame Impala, Wye Oak and Sharon Van Etten. They’re all very good!
To get the latest news on Jesse Quin’s new album and more, follow him on Twitter here.