On their latest album, Everything Is [Interscope], Nine Black Alps’ short list of stateside heroes includes the Ramones, the Pixies, and Neil Young.
“I write a lot of punky, riff-based songs,” says Forrest. “And, being a two-guitar band, we’ll add a layer of what I call ‘hyper-sludge,’ a‘la Crazy Horse [Young’s venerable backup band].”
“If Sam is playing a chunky chord pattern, I’ll grab different groups of notes in a higher register to create these big, magic-sounding voicings,” adds co-guitarist David Jones. “For example, the arpeggios in the middle of ‘Ironside’ were layered that way. But don’t ask me to explain what we’re doing, because I haven’t a clue! We just mess around until we find a sweet spot. Sometimes, great parts come from happy accidents. Sam might tell me to play an F#m, and I’ll hit the completely wrong chord shape, but it’ll sound cool anyway.”
Instead of adhering to traditional lead/ rhythm roles, Forrest and Jones divvy up parts based on personal style.
“David is an angular, Thurston Moore-type player, while I go for more chordal stuff,” says Forrest. “The beginning of ‘Unsatisfied’ is a perfect example. He’s doing those high, echo-soaked, 16th-note repeats, while I play arpeggios underneath.”
“I actually nicked a trick directly from Thurston when I crammed a drumstick underneath my strings as a moveable bridge,” confesses Jones. “You can hear it during the noisy breakdown on the title cut.”
To track Everything Is, both guitarists auditioned producer Rob Schnapf’s gear collection. Forrest found a ’56 goldtop Les Paul and a Dr. Z combo to his liking, and Jones settled on a Fender Telecaster or a Guild Polara into an Orange AD30. As they were tracking, the two guitarists also discovered what they deemed “the ultimate feedback-generation formula.”
“We tried all sorts of combinations to get that sustained whine during the verse of ‘Not Everyone,’” explains Forrest. “And we finally found it by running a semi-hollow Guild Starfire III through a cranked Ibanez Tube Screamer into a wide-open amp. We attempted it live, and it worked a little too well. Let’s just say it got a bit out of hand!”