“We intended to make an acoustic album,” explains moe.’s Chuck Garvey, who co-founded the progressive jamband nearly a quarter-century ago. When the acoustic vision didn’t materialize, moe. cut a muscular electric affair with an acoustic flair appropriately titled No Guts, No Glory [Sugar Hill].
Intriguingly produced by hip-hop mix master Dave Aron (Snoop Dogg, Notorious B.I.G.), No Guts, No Glory features stomping, kick-in-the-teeth rockers (“Annihilation Blues”), Zeplike acoustic riffs and snarling slide solos (“White Lighting Turpentine”), and psychedelic textures (“Silver Sun”). “Billy Goat” closes moe.’s 11th studio effort in epic fashion with inspired lead breaks played alternately by Garvey and his longtime guitar-playing companion, Al Schnier.
Can you sum up your guitar partnership with Schnier?
Al and I can cover a lot of similar ground, but we try to either support or contrast the other person’s tone and style. Our shared influences include Frank Zappa, the Grateful Dead, the Who, Rush, and King Crimson—I especially liked the Discipline band with Adrian Belew. Our pop influences include Steely Dan and Elvis Costello. But one difference is that I played tenor sax when I was young, so horn players such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis also influenced me.
Is there a rule of thumb for identifying who’s playing what on the new record?
For the most part, my rhythm guitar is on the left, and Al’s is on the right. Leads might pan more towards the middle.
Do you feel a similarity to any other guitar duo?
I’ll mention the Allman Brothers Band, but only because it’s two guitar players that sometimes link up in harmony. However, moe. is an improvisational band first and foremost. Our technique is not heavily studied. We react in the moment.
What are your primary stage guitars?
I’ve been using Becker Retro Series guitars almost exclusively for three years. The necks and bodies are typically made from matching mahogany. The first one I tried felt really fast with an immediate attack and lots of sustain. I wound up going with a darker mahogany selection for my main guitar. It is reddish-brown with a striped horizontal flame, and it feels a bit gooier with a darker vibe, as opposed to the fast, transient sound of a hard, dense wood.
The Retro’s offset shape is a little bit like a Fender Jazzmaster. The contours make it feel comfortable standing up or sitting down. It’s a joy to have a light, compact guitar when you’re playing over three hours per night. My main Retro has Lindy Fralin humbuckers with coil taps. I actually use a single-coil sound about 80 percent of the time in conjunction with a treble boost.
I’ve also started using a Collings I-35 LC onstage. Its laminate construction produces a very even tone from bottom to top, and it rejects feedback a bit better than a solid top.
What treble boost do you prefer?
I’ve been using Analog Man’s Beano Boost for almost a decade. I can roll back the guitar’s volume to achieve an almost acoustic chime, or turn it up for a progressively thicker tone that approaches fuzz.
Is it a germanium circuit?
Yes—but it’s not the NKT275 everyone loves for old Fuzz Face sounds. It’s some G.E. transistor that I tried out and preferred.
How do you get such a gnarly wah sound?
I use an old Real McCoy RMC3, and I’ve tuned the circuit to sound pretty satanic. There are a bunch of DIP switches inside that control the sweep, and I’ve achieved a huge envelope. I love its giant, barfing, auto-wah kind of sound.
How do you apply different delays?
I use Analog Man’s Dual Analog Delay with its AMAZEO sidecar pedal to control tap tempo and modulation. I use it on “Same Old Story” for an eighth-note slapback. On “Silver Sun,” I set the bottom delay short while the top one is very long with lots of regeneration and volume.
Do you employ dual overdrives as well?
Yes. I use a gold Klon Centaur in conjunction with a Klon clone made by ARC Effects. I set the Klon for a mild boost with a tiny bit of overdrive. I set the clone for more of a loose, broken-up rhythm chunk. That has more of a scooped sound, whereas the original Klon has a pleasant midrange bump. In general, I use the ARC Effects for rhythm, and the Klon for light leads. Together, they produce a ripping sound capable of sustaining big notes.
What’s your amp of choice at the moment?
I have two Tony Bruno amps. In ’97, I bought an 80-watt tweed Twin clone. I enjoy the headroom. I bought an Underground 30 with a 3x10 cabinet from Marshall Crenshaw years ago. It’s my backup onstage, and is great in the studio.
I also use a little Matchless Lightning to drive an old Fender Vibratone for a Leslie-like effect when I want to comp like a keyboard player. I customized a road case with side-hatch doors that I use as an isolation cabinet with a pair of condenser mics. I use either Sennheiser MD409s or e609s.
Does moe. essentially record live in the studio, and then add a few overdubs?
What’s the guitar story behind the first cut, “Annihilation Blues?”
I actually wrote that on acoustic guitar for what was supposed to be an acoustic record, but it was easily adapted to the rock-band format. The heavier we played it, the more excited I got. I overdubbed the riff on a 1930s resonator. I cut the main track and the solo on a Becker Retro through the Bruno Underground 30.
There are a couple of wicked guitar breaks with a raunchy tone that sound like overdriven harmonica.
It’s a talk box. Peter Frampton performed with us years ago, and after the show I mentioned all the talk boxes I had blown up in the past. He told me that his company Framptone made a bomb-proof talk box, and then he gave me one. I’ve been using it ever since, and I still haven’t blown it up.
“Silver Sun” starts out as a guitar instrumental with a floating, minor vibe in the vein of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” The middle is full-on Beatlesque vocal psychedelia, and then it morphs into a rollicking, Pink Floydlike ending section that brings “One of These Days” to mind. How did that song come about?
Al wrote “Silver Sun” for a psychedelic-themed Halloween party, so its inspiration was drawn from different elements of late- ’60s rock, including Pink Floyd, the Beatles, and the Allman Brothers Band. I used the Vibratone for the Leslie sound in the beginning and middle sections, while Al did a lot of the soloing. I took the heavy outro solo, manipulating the RMC3 wah quite a bit.
“White Lighting Turpentine” starts with Page-ish acoustic riff, and features some nice slide work.
I initially tracked the fingerpicking riff at the front on an electric guitar, but then I overdubbed it using Al’s Martin 12-string acoustic to achieve the kind of chime you can’t really get from an electric guitar. It may sound like an open tuning, but it’s actually standard. I started my slide solo at mid-power, and then I manipulated the RMC3 wah to kick it up screaming. I use Silica Sound’s blownglass slides. They have a nice artistic touch and feel, and they’re very straight and true, which is probably hard to do by hand.
“Billy Goat” is an epic, ten-minute track with lots of guitar breaks that end the record almost like a live show.
Exactly. It’s what we sound like live without an audience. Al and I improvise the solo parts, but the arrangement remains the same. He plays first break, I play the second, and then we do the same thing again. We split the third break. My tone is a perfect example of the Becker Retro’s split-coil sound with the Beano treble boost.
You’re on the road heading towards the band’s 25th anniversary How do you keep it together?
Our whole organization has a real family vibe. That’s a big part of what keeps moe. together, and the audience is in on it as well.