Robert Quine - Guitar Heroes A-Z

Sure, Robert Quine was the lead guitarist for iconoclastic punk pioneers Richard Hell & the Voidoids, as well as guitar texturalist extraordinaire for the genre-defying rebel leader of the avant-garde, Lou Reed—and true, Quine is one of the only guitar heroes you can think of whose surname starts with “Q”. But the real way Quine earned his way into this exclusive alphabet of the guitar elite is by making the challenging task of crafting killer guitar parts seem so damn easy. Quine’s near-supernatural skills at riff-craft perhaps result from a brain that seems to be wired completely backwards from those of most guitarists. Simply stated, it seems the more Quine casts aside traditional guitar technique, proper intonation, “good” tone, extra notes, and conventional applications of effects, the more powerful his playing becomes.

“In some ways I have really limited technique, but I do have enough technique to put some real emotion across,” said Quine in the January ’86 GP. “I try to operate on a very intuitive, unconscious level, because that’s where the good stuff is.”

A good example of Quine’s less-is-more mojo is the warped, warbling diads he added on Reed’s “Waves of Fear” (from The Blue Mask, 1982)—which, like those in Ex. 1, swim around in the key of D major. “The first time I heard the song, I knew exactly what I would do,” says Quine. “I got out the Fernandes Strat copy, the Electro-Harmonix Memory Man, the little Peavey Bandit, got that scary chorus sound, and played these Chuck Berry things up and down the neck. It just fell into place.”

An even better example is the song’s gritty and warped solo, which finds Quine sounding as few as one or two notes per bar, as in Ex. 2. On the surface, this excerpt looks insultingly simple to play, because it’s just one note! The challenge, though, is to—as Quine does on “Waves”—make this lone note as interesting and electrifying as a lightning bolt. Use fretting-hand vibrato, wild amp settings, delay and other effects, and any other mojo you can conjure to give this pitch some power.