When I interviewed South African acoustic guitar virtuoso Guy Buttery, he provided more material than I could fit into the print magazine, so some outtakes are posted below. Read the print Artists feature in the May 2010 issue of GP.
Can you detail how you produced your guitar sounds?
Engineer Howard Butcher and I spent a hell of a lot of time (at Peace of Eden Studios) on mic placement, and deciding exactly which mics to use. We ended up using a matched stereo pair of Neumann U89s in a cardioid pattern. We close-miked the guitar, and placed one of the Neumann’s about 10" from the bridge, and the other about the same distance above the 12th fret. The mics were offset at precisely 90 degrees to cancel out any phasing issues. We then ran an AKG D19 in the room a few feet away from the guitar for a bit of ambience, which we used sparingly in the mix. An Ultrasound DI Plus provided a really clean signal from my guitar’s onboard pickup. We ran the signal through MCI and Allen & Heath preamps with dbx compressors.
Can you explain how you wound up collaborating with Piers Faccini on the title track?
My good friend and long time collaborator, Nibs van der Spuy, met Piers Faccini in Italy whilst he was on tour with Ben Harper. Nibs and Piers hit it off right away, and the next minute there was a tour planned for the three of us back in South Africa. Piers and I got on like a house on fire. We both love West African music, and old folk records from the ’60s. We chatted about Toumani Diabate, Dylan, and Andrew Bird albums right through the night. I later approached him about playing some dulcimer and tampura on the record, and emailed him the tune. “Fox Hill Lane” always had this temple-like quality about it, and I figured Piers’ touch and instrumentation would work beautifully. He recorded all his parts at his home studio in France, and we brought them back to mix in South Africa.
“Tones” is a lovely acoustic guitar and pedal-steel guitar composition. Can you shed some insight on that song?
“Tones” is dedicated to South Africa’s finest exponent of the steel-string, and one of my all time guitar heroes, Tony Cox. The tune was inspired by Tony’s folky harmonies and homey ballads. “Tones” was written the same day that I heard folk legend John Marty had died. It came together in about 15 minutes. I wanted the character of the guitar to be as warm as possible, hence all the palm muting and the low-strung tuning. We ended up getting this beautiful low-end sound by setting up very close to a carpeted wall that created bass reflections, and by close-miking the guitar. For the pedal-steel, I tried to re-create Jimmy Page’s gorgeous electric slide-guitar sound on Zeppelin’s “That’s the Way.” With the use of a Leslie cabinet and loads of reverb—I think we got pretty close.