These are interview outtakes from an upcoming GP article on the Beyman Bros., a.k.a. Christopher Guest and David Nichtern. Nichtern is best known for having written the classic “Midnight at the Oasis” while he was Maria Muldaur’s musical director. Guest is a world-renowned writer, actor, and filmmaker, but he’s best known for his portrayal of legendary Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel, the most famous fictitious guitarist of all time. Look for the full story in the June issue of GP. Here are some additional quotes about the making of their record Memories of Summer as a Child [Dharma Moon].
How did you do the slide parts?
Nichtern: Chris has this tradition of giving me guitars for my birthday, and I play a little Papoose acoustic that he gave me for that slide part. I have this habit of playing bottleneck on that guitar. Slide is one of my favorite things ever, but I never thought I could do it. Four or five years ago I started doing it without really knowing how and, every once in a while, to give a certain flavor to a melody I’ll whip out a bottleneck.
Did you mic the acoustic guitars or use pickups?
Guest: I prefer to mic them, even though my Collings has a Sunrise soundhole pickup, which I think is the best, as far as those things go. I like old Neumanns, the 84 and 87. At home I have some Shure mics, a KSM 32 and a 44, which are surprisingly good for acoustic instruments, although I don’t know if they were really designed for that.
How many tracks of mandolin are on the song “Triad”?
Guest: God, if I knew that I wouldn’t need talcum powder. It’s a combination of mandolin, synth, and guitar. The idea was to make it less congested rather than more. We had a big discussion, David and me, as to whether this would be purely acoustic, and my position was that if the synths were done correctly, they would provide a pad and a sustain that you can’t get with acoustic instruments. I think and I hope that we created something that wasn’t too dense.
Nichtern: Chris is the most purist for the acoustic instruments, CJ [Vanston, keyboardist] likes to use his palette, and I was somewhere in the middle. At a certain point we moved it back to a more acoustic vibe.
How would you decide when to work in electric guitars?
Guest: I brought in a couple of things that I started at my house, like “Hidden Passage,” because I like this particular sound that has a little delay on it. That was a Music Man guitar that Sterling Ball made for me. I play those almost exclusively. That was again recorded direct. I have great amps at home, mid-’60s Fenders, but I typically go straight into the computer. I have a few choices, some things in Logic, I have this massive TC Electronic pedal thing, and I also use Guitar Rig.
The intertwining mandolin lines on “Triad” are reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore.”
Guest: By Led Zeppelin, you’re referring to the rock and roll band?
Yes. Not the mode of transportation.
Guest: I see. I’ve heard of them.