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Conrad Mach: Self Evident

06 Apr Interviews | Comments
Conrad Mach: Self Evident

If you haven’t guessed yet, I definitely have a type. Weird time signatures, progressive structures, polyrhythmic feels, and sweet riffage. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise I love Self Evident. Fortunately for us, Conrad Mach, the guitar player / singer was willing to take a moment and chat music.

What bands do you currently have, and what bands have you been in previously?

I play guitar and sing in self-evident. With the exception of a few little asides, S-E has been my focus since 1997. Before that, I played in a handful of high school bands.


Is guitar your primary instrument?

Yes.


What instruments do you play?

I can tinker around on drums, bass guitar, and piano, but guitar is the only instrument I’m a little clever at.

How long have you been playing guitar?

24 years.

Did you take any lessons growing up? (guitar or other)

I took two years of basic lessons with Kim Bloom when I was 11-12 years old.

What impact did that have on you as a musician?

I was always terrible about practicing, but I learned the circle of fifths and how certain notes and chords can work together. The biggest thing for me was learning how to feel different rhythms; the most fruitful lessons were those spent sight-reading and tapping out rhythms with a pencil rather than actually playing the guitar.

Do you have an understand of scales and music theory?
— How does that impact your songwriting?

No. I play almost completely by ear. It can be frustrating at times trying to work out a part during practice and not being able to speak the language, but the other dudes tolerate my lack of knowledge well enough. I only play in DADGAD tuning, and obviously that informs the chord voicings and intervals that I use – lots of ringing open strings much of the time.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

I listened to a ton of Rush in my teens. As far as my playing style specifically, the big eye-opener was seeing Faraquet in 1998. I’d been playing in S-E for maybe a year, and we hadn’t really figured out our “sound” yet. When I first saw Devin Ocampo play and sing, I kinda went “OK, so THAT’S how it’s fucking done – wear the guitar up high, sing with your speaking voice, and play as many notes as possible as quickly as possible”. Totally took a cue from that dude, and I don’t think it’s any secret.

Do you still practice instruments, beyond when you’re writing for your band(s)?

Not so much, though I wish I could set aside more time for playing. Usually when I pick up the guitar, I’m either running songs for an upcoming show or trying to write a new song. I don’t sit around trying to work on arpeggios or pick attack or whatever.

Do you still attempt to push forward by learning new instruments or applications?

I’m more interested in writing a better song than the last one. The idea for us is always to write the most clever, challenging parts disguised as pop songs, and I still think we’re getting closer to the ideal every time.

Do you have have a method for songwriting? How does it usually happen?
– Prefer bringing a skeleton to practice, or build as a collaboration?

I’m nearly incapable of improvising, so I prefer to have my guitar parts worked out ahead of rehearsal. Usually I’ll try to have 3-4 different connected ideas to bring to the table, and Tom and Ben will then change and improve upon them until we realize we’ve got something special or it’s time to try something else. I’d say our songs our born by collaboration, but most often they are conceived on guitar.

What is your electric guitar rig these days (if you’re willing to divulge the secrets)?

Live, I mostly play a ’97 Gibson Les Paul Classic through a ’70s era Sunn Model T. In between the guitar and the amp are a DOD digital delay and a vintage MXR distortion+ (“MXR” in script lettering). I also have a ’75 Gibson SG that was my main guitar for years, and a mid-’90s Fender “Evil” Twin that I used to use live and still use for recording (alongside the Sunn – most of our last record was different SG / LP / Sunn / Fender combinations doubled or tripled). I always play on the neck pickup, always preferred that warmer, bluesier tone than what you tend you get with the bridge pickup.

Does gear impact your songwriting / performing?

I think it’s important to be able to set up at gig having the confidence that your drums and amps will sound awesome, regardless of the PA situation, that your gear will work the way it’s supposed to 99% of the time. Whether you’re playing a basement show or a large venue.

Any advice for students who are trying to find success in the music industry?

The best advice I ever got was from S-E’s great friend and champion Brian Herb: all you gotta do is not quit. We haven’t quit, and we’ve managed to write better records and tour more widely each time around. I never dreamed I’d be playing original music to excited crowds in Japan and Europe. It’s still partly luck, of course, but persistence helped us out for sure. Don’t get me wrong – by “success” I mean – I don’t ever expect to earn a living playing music, but to me that has never been the point of playing music.

Any Advice for life on the road?

Plan ahead and save up some cash, brush your teeth and change your socks daily if possible.

Do you prefer recording, or live performances?

Live performances. When we record, we book a week at the Mousetrap in Norman, OK to get everything tracked. We always have a blast but I’m always a little nerve-wracked about my voice holding up, getting the perfect take, etc. I love the electricity and sheer volume of playing live, when minor mistakes are quickly forgotten, if noticed at all.

How do you like to prepare for recording?

For the last record, we actually put together a spreadsheet detailing every last guitar/amp combo and overdub idea for each song in advance, which proved immensely helpful. Also we always practice like crazy until the instruments almost play themselves.

What have you been listening to lately?

I’ve been listening to Electric Hawk (Chicago) nonstop. I’ve also been listening to TTNG a ton – we’re supporting them at their Minneapolis stop on their US Tour on April 24th. Beyond that, the usual Cocteau Twins, Everything But the Girl, Elvis Costello, Sade, XTC, etc.

 


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